America ReFramed

S8 E3 | FULL EPISODE

Tutwiler

TUTWILER takes audiences into Alabama’s only maximum security women’s penitentiary, Julia Tutwiler Prison, and explores the Alabama Prison Birth Project, helping expectant and new mothers learn childbirth and parenting skills while dealing with the pain of being separated from their children.

AIRED: May 19, 2020 | 0:45:22
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

EMILY ABBOT: How far along are you now?

MISTY: Nine months.

NATASHA DEL TORO: These women are giving birth

while in prison.

They will be forced to say goodbye

to their babies after only 24 hours.

-Just really broke my heart.

And then, like, knowing that I was

leaving him there, you know?

DEL TORO: An unforgettable

portrait of motherhood.

We're almost to the end of this.

So I'll see you soon.

DEL TORO: Tutwiler, on America ReFramed,

a special presentation with Frontline

and the Marshall Project.

♪ ♪

(door closes) GUARD: Move.

(indistinct chatter) (footsteps)

(lock buzzes) (creaking)

(keys jangling)

(indistinct chatter)

(lock buzzes)

(creaking)

ABBOT: Come on, let's go.

(door closes)

Got your seat belt on?

-Yes, ma'am. -Okay.

ABBOT: How far along are you now?

MISTY: Nine months.

Are you having a boy or a girl?

-A boy. -(chuckles)

First one? Second one?

It's my second boy.

My little boy's been getting in trouble at school.

Yeah, they're-- How old is he?

-He's ten. -Mm-hmm.

And, usually, he's good.

He's going through some stuff.

But don't let that be like--

Don't pity him to the point that you just spoil him.

I know. I can't do that.

My husband passed away four years ago.

-Mm-hmm. -And I let them

get away with a bunch.

-You know? -Yeah.

Yeah. That's where I messed up at.

-Have they been able to come to visit at all? -No.

-I wouldn't want to put them through that.

ABBOT: Yeah. I just feel bad when kids come, 'cause,

you know, they have to be searched, too, and...

When I was a little kid, I remember we went to prison

to see my dad, and it was crazy.

'Cause I had, um, Timberland boots.

Had the little metal things on 'em.

-And the metal thing kept going off. -Oh. Mm-hmm.

And I had to take my shoes off.

Yeah, we're the only prison in the Southeast

that has that program.

-I know. -I mean,

you're gonna have someone there with you,

but we're complete strangers.

You know what I mean? And-and it-it's different.

They know you on a different level,

and they can interact with you differently than we can.

(turn signal clicking)

(door closes)

-(indistinct chatter) -(keys jangling)

MAN: I know...

GUARD: All right. Y'all ready for dorm inspection?

WOMAN: Yes, ma'am.

GUARD: What time is inspection?

WOMEN: 8:00. GUARD: Okay.

So we should be ready, right?

This is a nonsmoking dorm.

We have pregnant females in here.

I mean, come on.

So, do not smoke in this dorm, ladies.

WOMEN: Yes, ma'am.

Okay?

I'm-a start at the end,

then work my way down.

Trim just a little and everything.

-Yes, ma'am. -Still got-- yes.

Okay, good morning.

WENDY WILLIAMS: Tutwiler is the only women's prison

in the state of Alabama.

But, on average, we have

between 45 to 50 pregnant women

in-in and out of Tutwiler in a year's time.

I know, at one time, we had three generations of women

at Tutwiler that were from the same family.

And, of course, we-we have that concern

every time a woman comes to us pregnant.

Is this gonna be another cycle?

(lock buzzes)

Bra.

-Shake, shake. -'Kay.

(lock buzzes)

(indistinct chatter)

Captain Rose to the dorm officer.

Uh, get Misty Cooke up, um, and send her to the shift office.

(indistinct chatter)

SARAH DOYLE: What is your current age?

MISTY: 36.

How long have you been in this facility?

Six months.

And what is the length of your current sentence?

-36 months.

-Not including your current incarceration,

have you been in jail or prison before?

-Mm-mm.

-What is your highest level of education?

11th grade.

-In the month before your arrest, were you employed?

No.

-Were you raised by someone

other than your biological mother or father?

-Yes. -Okay. Yes.

And who was that?

-Grandparents. -Grandparents.

As an adult, have you ever been a victim

of domestic violence?

Yes.

-Do you have children? -Yes.

-Two. -Yeah, two. (chuckles)

-Plus the baby. -Yeah.

You're just wanting to do the epidural

and then whatever the doctor recommends,

just go with the flow of laying in bed,

birthing on your back? Okay.

-And that's what you've done before. -I want a big cup

-of Pepsi. -A big cup of Pepsi. Okay.

Sometimes being a doula just means giving you your space.

So you are always welcome to kick me out.

-No, you're staying there with me. -Okay.

-(chuckles) Sounds good. -(chuckles)

I'm gonna be around through this.

You're not doing this alone.

-I know. -Mm-hmm.

Anything else I can help with today?

-No. -Okay.

(speaking indistinctly)

-Yeah. -Coffee? Coffee, coffee, coffee?

ERIN BROWN: So, this is the Birthing Care Group.

We're the Alabama Prison Birth Project,

and we come weekly.

We do childbirth education.

You'll get a healthy meal.

And then, if you want to be matched with a doula,

you can be matched with a doula for your birth.

WOMAN: If it's all right,

we'll just go ahead and start the lesson.

To safely hold your baby,

the baby's head is close enough for you to kiss, right?

It's not just important for the baby.

It's important for us, 'cause it's building that strong bond.

And you're more primed to bond to your baby

at that moment than any other time.

But, again, if you're separated from your baby

for some reason, you can do this

as soon as your baby comes back to you.

Even if your baby's swaddled up in a little burrito

and asleep, it's okay to undo the swaddle

and put your baby skin-to-skin.

They will go right back to sleep here.

BROWN: Um, well, let's go on and-and--

WOMAN: Erin. BROWN: Yes.

I just was... how many of us have-have had babies before?

How many of you? Raise your hands.

-Had lots of babies. -Yes. Yeah.

What I think would be good

is talk about how we're gonna raise these babies.

Like, you know, a lot of us go back and we're like,

"Breathing techniques?"

I think the focus should be, like,

your baby and how you're gonna raise your baby and keep them

and be a good mother and not have to go through

what you went through. -Yeah.

WOMAN: She there.

(women speaking indistinctly)

-And this Jamayla. -I mean, Jamayla.

(women speaking indistinctly)

(laughter)

(speaking indistinctly)

This is Antonio Jabar,

and he's in a shower.

This is me and him when he-- me and him kissing,

but he's still paying attention to the lady

that took the picture of us. (chuckles)

But that my sugar boo. -That's awesome.

-Looked like she was praying right here.

This is the...

these are the last pictures I got,

but I look at 'em over and over.

And then I take 'em out and look at 'em again

and cry and hide 'em again. -Yeah.

This is me and Tolin.

This is the day that I was with him in the NICU.

I was just praying with him here, you know,

praying that he would get better.

He had swallowed some of my amniotic fluid

whenever he came out, so he got an infection.

So he's got to take a full seven-day round of antibiotics.

but this is that day.

It was devastating,

especially finding out that he was sick the night before,

and the very next day knowing

that I had to come back to prison.

It just really broke my heart,

knowing that I was leaving him there, you know?

Um... it's very hard.

Well, this is Romeo.

You got it.

He's a week and one day today,

and, um, I guess he's still with DHR.

So I don't know where he at right now.

So, I don't know.

I don't want to talk about it.

MALONE: We're all rooting for him either way.

PATTON: Yeah, we talk about him already.

Don't cry.

It's all right.

You going to get some answers here in a little while.

NEWS ANCHOR: The Department of Justice is telling Alabama

steps must be taken to curb sexual abuse

at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

The report called Tutwiler

"a toxic, sexualized environment."

The facility in Wetumpka houses about a thousand inmates.

WILLIAMS: We had a lot of concerns at that time

about Tutwiler.

A lot of what we were hearing from the inmates

was the fact that they weren't feeling safe.

So what we had to do, and we're still working on this,

is change the culture.

(indistinct conversation)

WILLIAMS: I'm Wendy Williams, if you haven't met me already,

and I'm the Deputy Commissioner for Women's Services,

and just super excited

that we have committed stakeholders

that want to have a voice in our process.

And I know Warden Wright and Warden McClane and I

share a similar vision.

When we build a new women's prison,

there will be an area where the mothers and babies

can actually stay together from six months to a year

post delivery.

We have made a lot of great progress,

but we still have a long way to go.

We're just now entering our fourth year of implementation

with the DOJ settlement involving Tutwiler.

We were compliant with 40 of 44 provisions,

and the court report that will be filed

by the 28th of this month will reflect

that we are now compliant with 41.

Those three are going to take a little bit more time.

One of them will be accomplished with the help

of University of Alabama

and Auburn, hopefully.

And then, of course, the other two are staffing,

and that is a big challenge for us right now.

We'll look at some data behind that in just a moment.

What about the doula program?

ASHLEY LOVELL: There's been a lot of interest

in the lactation room.

I have two emails now from other facilities

wanting very specific details

on how we implemented the program here,

which is exactly what we'd hoped to see--

Tutwiler doing something that caught on,

and is giving this opportunity...

WILLIAMS: Who would have ever thought, right?

...to all of these babies in the country-- yes.

WILLIAMS: Can you say that one more time? (laughter)

LOVELL: I will, because we hear that.

The hospital breastfeeding initiation rate

where these women give birth is about 20 percent.

And since we opened the lactation room in June,

we have about a 50 percent initiation rate.

So we've surpassed the hospital initiation rate,

which is exciting.

CHRISTY REACH: I'm currently on the breast feeding program.

Every day I'm over there multiple times a day pumping.

It's very quiet over there,

and this place is never quiet.

And I read my Bible, and I pray,

and just kind of create my own little bubble,

and bless the milk so when it does get to her, you know...

It keeps you connected with your child,

keeps you focused on where you need to be

to change ourselves so we can get home to our children.

It is much harder to pump than it is to breast feed,

so I usually only produce about two ounces,

two to three ounces at a time.

I store it until they can ship it to her.

A lot of us have been abused our entire lives,

and we enter into relationships of abuse,

and then DHR wants to step in and say we can't

have our children because they're going to enter into

relationships of abuse.

Well, help us, you know?

Don't just throw us off in prison or take our children.

Actually help us.

REACH: All this wasted time.

KIM PATTON: The one bad decision that I made...

it affected everything.

JENNIFER BALDWIN: "Mama, when you coming home?"

My child tell me that, "Mama, you come home

and stop doing the things that you were doing."

To hear my child tell me that,

you gotta get your life together.

HARRIET HOLLOWAY: I just look at...

I'm so mad at myself and angry.

(cries) To...

to think about how angry that I am at me.

It makes me angry.

I'm just angry at myself for not making the right decisions.

KRISTA RYALS: We're all angry because we've put ourselves

here, you know what I'm saying?

It's not the kids' fault that we took ourself away from them.

It's helped me talk, to learn that I have to forgive myself

for the mistakes that I've made.

REACH: You know, a common saying

for being incarcerated is, "I came in here by myself,

I'm going to leave by myself."

We all had little riders with us.

(all agree)

And I've actually named my daughter Ariana Angel Rider.

(indistinct conversations)

All right, so you guys ready?

So we're celebrating baby Elijah, right?

Yay!

(applause)

He'll be here Thursday.

JANEE ROBINSON: And will be here Thursday, by the way,

so it's a good thing that we are celebrating early, yes.

Y'all ready?

INMATE: Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,

eating her blank and blank.

INMATE: Curds and whey.

INMATE: Yeah, that's what I thought it was, curds and whey.

INMATE: Ice cream and cake.

INMATE: Peter Peter pumpkin eater

had a wife but couldn't... GROUP: Keep her!

(laughter)

INMATE: He couldn't what? GROUP: Keep her!

(indistinct conversations)

INMATE: Show them your belly!

INMATE: You ready?

INMATE: You got it.

Turn around, let us see.

INMATE: All right.

(cheers and applause)

I know you so good. -I know.

(woman coughs)

You got it! -She got it too!

(applause)

We've been in here right at an hour, believe it or not.

How many people actually thought about using drugs or alcohol

while we were doing?

Is it possible for you to have activities like this

and laugh and to celebrate without using?

ALL: Yes. ROBINSON: It is.

And that's what recovery is about, seriously.

I'm happy for her. ROBINSON: I am, too.

I am, too. I am, too.

CAPTAIN SONJA ROSE: I hope that you tap into what you get here.

You're at the lowest. you're at the bottom.

And so if you can make it at that level,

you can always make it. That's the thing.

I think you misunderstand who you are, with the power

and the strength that you actually have,

and you don't need someone else to confirm who you are.

You have to confirm yourself, okay?

Let's move around, because I've got a little gap here.

There you go, there you go.

Everybody say cheese.

INMATE: Make it so pretty. (laughter)

INMATE: You can Photoshop it.

ROSE: All right-- baby!

ALL: Baby!

-Really? -Yeah.

-Do you have a boy or girl? -A little boy.

-A boy? -Yeah.

-What's his name? -Tyler Denver.

-That's a pretty name. -Yeah.

BRITTANY: When I was eight, it was the first time

I smoked marijuana.

By the time I was a 13 or 14 I was a full-fledged addict,

used every day.

The first time I got locked up, I was 14.

I've been having, I guess, a little bit of depression

and anxiety and just everything knowing, okay,

I just had a baby in prison, and now I'm fixing

to get back out to him, and what do I do from here?

You know, how do I... how do I go forward?

How do I stop making those... some of those same mistakes?

It's really hard in here.

There's drugs everywhere.

We can't even go to the bathroom, you know?

You know, if you want to try and change your life,

and you're an addict, how do you say no

when it's all in your face, you know?

They just threw us behind bars, you know,

behind the fence, basically just to live

with a whole bunch of addicts.

WOMAN: There's some peach crisp.

At this hospital, I've seen them give IV narcotics

right after the baby was born, which is something

I've never seen at another hospital.

And I've seen them offer Percocet

even to a mom post-vaginal birth.

So if you want to stay away from narcotics

for your recovering, you have to say that to them.

You'd have to say, "I'd like to try not using that."

And when we talk about fear, tension, pain,

when you relax your body, it doesn't hurt as bad

when it's contracting.

But when you're tense, and you have a contraction,

it hurts worse.

It's a poor pillow, I know.

CHAUNTEL NORRIS: As we're starting to have contractions,

the first thing your doula's going to walk you through

is breathing through it-- like, that's really important.

Because when you're in pain, we're all "Ow!"

You know, you tense up, and you stop breathing--

that's the first thing you do, right?

Take a deep breath in, relax your shoulders,

and breathe it out.

You know, where you like to be, what makes you feel relaxed.

For some of us it's the beach--

we're feeling that sunlight on our face.

And we'll close our eyes

and just relax.

In through your nose and out through the mouth.

Very good-- in through your nose, out through your mouth.

NORRIA: So what are some things, when you get home...

what are some things that you plan to do differently

so you don't have to be back?

Not to be back here?

Mm-hmm.

My goal, when I go home, I don't want to come outside for a year.

But... okay, so...

JENNIFER: But taking my baby to the doctor,

that's totally different. -Right.

So you're going to have to come out at some point.

You're going to have to take your kid somewhere.

You're going to have to go to the store.

You're going to have to, you know,

become a part of society again.

And so you need to have something in place

you know, to keep you out of trouble.

I want us to

come up with a good plan.

"When I think I want to do this, this is what I'll do instead."

And then, you know,

we'll set bigger goals, you know?

Yeah, you're right. NORRIS: Set bigger goals.

Like, when we talk about goals, our goal is to be available

to our kids, you know what I mean?

To be able to be a good mom to them, you know?

And to be present with them, you know?

(indistinct conversations)

AMY NICOLE WILLIAMS: So I picked out this book.

It's called "I Love You Animally"

and it's just going to tell you how much that I love y'all,

okay?

It says, "I love you hugely, like a whale.

"I love you shyly

like a quail."

(indistinct conversations)

PATRICIA BETH MALONE: "I'll float around

"inside my space shuttle.

"I'll eat all my food and special gadgets.

"Could I be any of those things when I grow up?

"But I don't need to decide just yet.

I can just dream of having big adventures."

Leah, I love you.

We're almost to the end of this.

So I'll see you soon.

INMATE: "Anne thought Gilbert was cheeky."

JENNIFER BALDWIN: Rodriguez, Mama wanted to talk to you today

to let you know I'm so sorry that I had to go.

I hope you come see me September the 8th, baby.

Mama loves you so much, and be good to your grandma.

Stop being bad, baby, okay?

And be good in school and make good grades, Rodriguez.

REACH: I want them to know that not a day goes by

that I don't think of you; I think of you every day.

I just pray to God that one day it can all be made right.

TORI: We're scared.

We're scared because we don't know what's going on

outside of these walls.

KIM PATTON: I wonder how much she weighs,

what she's doing.

ASHLEY: What is she doing? Does she sleep good?

PATTON: Does she sleep good? ASHLEY: Is she happy?

PATTON: Do she cry a lot?

ASHLEY: Does... is she calling somebody else "Mom"?

PATTON: What does she like to eat?

I think about all them... them questions.

This is her mom right here.

I can relate to the kids a lot

because I was born drug-addicted to crack cocaine.

My mom did drugs,

like, most of her life.

And so society says that they're throwaways,

and that there's no hope for them, or they're going to end up

in the system, or they're going to end up on drugs

just like their parents.

You know, show them the love that I didn't get as a baby--

being held, you know, being talked to.

I didn't have that, you know?

So for me to be able to do that for these children

has been like a healing for me.

When I look at her I think of me, like, when I was a baby.

And I look at me and I see her future.

Like there's hope for her.

Right, Amiya?

There's hope.

(laughs)

There's hope.

(traffic rumbles, birds chirping)

(door slams, lock buzzes)

(indistinct conversations)

ABBOTT: Thank you.

(indistinct chatter) Excuse me.

INMATE: You going to have your baby?

INMATE: You going to have your baby?

(indistinct conversations)

INMATE: Which way are we going, Miss Mims?

You having a girl?

Boy. INMATE: Boy.

(bus engine rumbles)

REACH: You don't want to give birth,

because you want to be able to at least feel them

and have them with you.

PATTON: You feel so empty.

Your heart just stop.

RYALS: It still hurts deep down inside,

because you had that bond.

24 hours to bond with a baby is not really much.

McCANN: When you were locked up your whole pregnancy

and it was just you and that baby,

and then to walk away from the person

that's been there with you,

it makes the strongest person break.

ABBOTT: I know, I'm sorry.

(gate creaking)

LOUDSPEAKER: Last call for (indecipherable)...

(doors slam shut)

ABBOTT: We have Sergeant Abbott, Lieutenant Nelson

out with J3 Misty Cooke en route to Baptist South Hospital.

What are you naming him?

Elijah. ABBOTT: That's right.

The little labor suite or whatever is way nicer

than the room they're going to put you in for postpartum.

I'm just letting you know.

Don't get attached.

They're only going to leave you in there for like

an hour after the baby's born. -An hour?

And you go back to them little rooms again?

ABBOTT: Yes, Lord.

-Thank you. -Mm-hmm.

(indistinct conversation)

PATTON: I always tell them,

I say, "Y'all go and prepare yourself,

"because, you know,

"you're talking about you're ready to go in labor,

"well, when you have your baby and spend time with him or her

"and it's over, that's, like, the hardest thing that ever done

happened in the world."

Line?

601.

(keys jingling)

(gate creaks)

(gate creaks)

(indistinct conversation)

(door closing)

(van starts)

(gate creaks)

(keys jingling)

(indistinct conversations)

GUARD: I have 315115.

(Velcro tearing)

Bye, handsome.

Thank y'all for taking such good care of my little buddy.

All right.

You are so alert.

Look at you.

Okay, all right, almost got it.

NAOMI HELLUMS: I want to get a picture.

Elijah...

Elijah.

Hi, buddy.

BRITTANY GENTRY: He's so tiny. Look at that.

Everybody's waiting to see you.

(baby cries)

Oh, okay, let's see.

There we go.

There we go.

ANGELA SPACKMAN: He is beautiful.

Baby!

Hello, you.

Look at those cheeks.

Well, welcome home.

Welcome home.

(baby cries)

Oh, my goodness.

Oh, my goodness.

Oh, my goodness.

Welcome.

(indistinct conversations)

(rustling)

GUARD: Welcome back.

-I'm going to change in here. -Okay.

-Thank you.

(keys jingling)

(indistinct conversations)

(indistinct chatter)

(gate buzzes)

ABBOT: How far along are you now?

MISTY: Nine months.

ABBOT: Are you gonna have a boy or a girl?

MISTY: A boy.

ELAINE McMILLION SHELDON: Tutwiler is a short film

that features

several women going through a doula program

within the-- inside the walls

of the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama.

Women are the fastest-growing group

of incarcerated people in this country.

And many of them come in

already pregnant, or finding out they're pregnant

once inside.

Tutwiler is a prison that's quite notorious.

I'm-a start at the end, then work my way down.

ALYSIA: And the fact that they let us in

because they were proud of the improvements

they were making for pregnant women there,

it was really rare access to get.

Very, very hard to get a prison to let you in to film.

-Yes, ma'am. -Still got to-- yes.

Okay, good morning.

I've never been able, really, to come into a prison

in this way in-in all the years I've been reporting on prisons.

Usually you get, you know, a tour,

but you don't get to actually

sit there and be with people

with the camera, get to know them,

you know, over a course of time.

ELAINE: I think

the great parts of the film were possible

because we were able to spend time

off camera with the women.

We were able to just sit there,

and they wanted to know about us,

and we talked about ourselves,

we talked about things unrelated to their babies,

they showed us pictures, and a lot of those things

weren't on camera, but those are the relationships

and the trust

that had to be built, so that the things

that did appear on camera, um, you know, could.

This is Antonio Jabar.

But that my sugar boo. (chuckling)

NORRIS: And just relax.

In through your nose... and out through your mouth.

When you're in pain, we all, "Ooh!"

You know, you tense up and you stop breathing.

That's the first thing you do, right?

ALYSIA: At the Alabama Prison Birth Project,

they started in 2016

with visits to the prison.

Their goal, though, was to expand

beyond that, and in 2018, they did.

-In through your nose... ALYSIA: They started attending

the births of the women

that are held at Tutwiler.

Prior to that, the women at Tutwiler

would give birth alone.

That's a big role that the doulas play.

It's still extremely difficult and full of heartache,

but they inject it with a little bit more kindness

and love than would have been there.

You're just wanting to do the epidural

and then whatever the doctor recommends,

just go with the flow?

I'm gonna be around through this.

You're not doing this alone.

(lock buzzes) The doulas, some of them have

personal connections to this issue.

They're mothers as well,

and they think that this is an unjust system,

and they're trying to make it more humane.

(jail door closes)

A lot of the documentaries I've seen

about mothers in prison who have given birth

focus on nursery programs, where the mother

can have the baby with them.

Uh, and those are quite rare, actually.

This film gave us, um, a chance to show people

a much more typical experience of a woman in prison

who is pregnant and gives birth in that there is a loss

that immediately occurs

when that baby is taken away.

-Baby? OTHERS: Baby.

ALYSIA: You basically

get about 24 hours after the baby is born

to spend time with that baby.

Some moms whose kids were taken by the state

didn't actually know

where their baby was as short as a week after

the baby was born.

-Well, this is Romeo. -(chuckling)

-And we love him. -Think you got it. Um...

He's a week and one day today.

And, um...

I guess he's still with DHR,

so I don't know where he at right now.

ALYSIA: An unimaginable circumstance

to not know where your child is.

WOMAN: I wonder how much she weigh.

What is she doing?

WOMAN 2: What is she doing? Does she sleep good?

I think what was haunting to us, watching it, was

this idea that, like, when you gave birth

you were actually saying goodbye.

And for most of us, that's, that's this joyous moment.

But when you're incarcerated and you give birth,

um, you no longer actually

have your baby with you.

WOMAN: Is she happy? WOMAN 2: Does she cry a lot?

WOMAN: Just, is she calling somebody else "Mom"?

There are many scenes within the film

that were a challenge. I mean, first of all,

filming inside of a prison

was a challenge.

We were only allowed to bring in

what we could fit in a small backpack.

Alysia was running a mic and had one recorder.

And I had to be super nimble,

handheld, one lens.

It was loud.

There's no air conditioning, so there's these loud fans.

It's Alabama, it's hot.

It's a muggy place. It was hard to pick up good audio.

Captain Rose to the dorm officer.

Uh, get Misty Cooke up, um...

ELAINE: It was dark a lot of the times.

I mean, all the windows have bars on them,

there's not a lot of natural light.

All of its disruptions

of loudness and uncomfortability,

those things were picked up on camera.

And so it was important that, you know, we not see those

as barriers to good sound or good video,

but actually are part of the story.

MAN: Did it smell like smoke?

WOMAN: So I'm just angry at myself

for not making the right decisions.

ELAINE: Documentary film is supposed to be truthful,

and it's also supposed to do no harm.

And I think sometimes

filmmakers can get really greedy,

um, with what they think they should capture,

what they think they should have,

and-and it's important

to listen to the people that you're filming.

(lock buzzes)

ELAINE: One of the most, um,

difficult scenes to film was when Misty returns

from the hospital without her child.

I filmed just one long shot

of her walking with no support.

(engine starts)

She had just given birth.

Resting a lot of her weight onto the porch,

holding her back, and it was heartbreaking.

That was probably one of the hardest shots

to shoot because you want to help her.

You want to let her put a hand on your shoulder,

support her in some way. She's, she's--

her back is hurting. It's just, it's heartbreaking.

And then, once we got inside,

you know, when we were about to follow her back

into the dorm, which is behind the bars,

after we filmed her check-in,

she said, "I don't want you guys to follow me in."

(sighs)

ELAINE: We knew the right thing to do

was to not put up a fight.

This is a traumatic experience.

If this is her call, this is her call.

But it was hard. It was very hard, as a filmmaker,

to have the idea of being able to follow a woman

through this whole process.

But actually, what Misty did was

provided a level of restraint

that I think the film benefits from.

As a filmmaker, I would have followed her all the way,

but as the subject and the character,

who's living this in real life, this is not fiction to her,

this is not a movie to her.

She says, "You got to stop right here."

We stopped and we showed a wide shot

and then a close shot of her going in and-and hugging,

and you see it at a distance.

Having those bars between the audience

and Misty, and these women coming to her,

is actually truer and is more real than, I think,

the thing that I was hoping to get, which was to follow in,

go inside those bars.

Because that's the final shot of the film,

and that's where we all are.

I mean, these women are still separated, um...

and there's nothing to celebrate in that moment.

But what you saw when Misty went in

was her just melt in the arms of these women

because of what she just went through.

And she knows they've been through it.

I hope that people watch the film

and see these women for who they are, which is mothers,

sisters, daughters.

But also think about the generational impact

of this particular process, of what it means

to actually only have 24 hours with your child,

and I think that maybe this is

an experience that many women

are having across the country that is going unnoticed.

So I hope we can think bigger picture

generationally about what we want for the future kids.

As for the women,

about three or four of them

we were able to meet with

when the film was just completed.

We met with them in Alabama,

and several of them have been able

to get their children back.

We were able to see them with their kids,

and several of them have not got their children back

and don't know the status of the custody.

I mean, come on.

So, do not smoke in this dorm, ladies.

ELAINE: And some of them have found themselves back in jail,

or prison.

Unfortunately, one woman has passed away.

And there's just an incredible

amount of both small triumphs for these women

and a ton of setbacks on a daily basis.

WOMAN: So, I picked out this book,

it's called I Love You, Animally,

and it's just gonna tell you how much that I love y'all.

Okay?

ALYSIA: I want people to see that they love their children

just like anyone else.

They are a lot like you and I, and, um,

I think that the film gives people a chance

to actually identify with them

and feel the feelings that they're feeling

as they go through it

and hopefully come out of it with a-a lot more compassion

for people who are incarcerated.

"But I don't need to decide just yet.

I can just dream of having big adventures."

Leah, I love you.

We're almost to the end of this... so I'll see you soon.

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