Independent Lens: The Prison in Twelve Landscapes

About This Episode


In the United States there are 2.2 million people in prison, up from only 300,000 forty years ago, yet for most Americans, prisons have never felt more distant or more out of sight. A cinematic journey through a series of seemingly ordinary American landscapes, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes excavates the hidden world of the modern prison system and explores lives outside the gates affected by prisons.

By examining the impact of mass incarceration from outside the prison walls, the film takes us to unexpected locations - from a California mountainside where female prisoners fight raging wildfires, to a Bronx warehouse with goods destined for the state correctional system, to a rural Kentucky mining town that now depends on the local penitentiary for jobs. The film visits two communities – Baltimore and St. Louis County, Missouri – bristling from racially motivated violence and rising tensions between African American communities and police, where we meet a Missouri woman who ends up in jail because she didn’t put her garbage bin lid on properly. And in New York, we meet a formerly incarcerated chess player and join family members on a dark street corner waiting for the bus to Attica.