23 September 2014
The Cycle of Re-incarceration in Beecher Terrace
The documentary Prison State provides a thorough investigation into the cycle of re-incarceration in the community of Beecher Terrace, KT. In 2010, the state of Kentucky issued a series of reform programs intended to shorten the sentences of non-violent criminals and grant an earlier parole to those who qualified. However, even individuals released early from prison have high risk of returning within the year due to monthly fees, parole dates, employment expectations, and inability to freely move to other towns to pursue more wholesome endeavors. The conditions imposed upon released convicts create a sense of pathos on behalf of those not necessarily deserving of prison yet are statistically destined for it because of their association with Beecher Terrace. Prison State constructs this emotional appeal through the primary and professional accounts of Keith Huff, Charles McDuffie and Michelle Alexander, the rhetorical strategy logos, and specifically designed film elements and techniques devised to direct the audience towards a targeted emotional response. To construct a foundation of pathos in regard to the obtrusive rules and restrictions imposed upon freed convicts, the documentary Prison State focuses on the primary accounts of Keith Huff and his counterpart Charles McDuffie. Keith Huff exemplifies how the parole conditions placed on released criminals negatively affects their re-acclamation into society and how these laws ultimately send these people back behind bars within a year of release. He was put under the strict guidelines that forced him to live in temporary housing with other recently released criminals in transition instead of moving to a more stable environment. Given no aid to promote his acclamation into society after over 25 years in prison, Keith was unable to meet the high demands of his parole. With no money and no job prospects, he stopped taking his medication and missed consecutive meetings with his parole officer. His counterpart Charles McDuffie was given proper rehabilitation treatment after his release and was able to make a smoother transition into society because of this additional aid. Both men were incarcerated for relatively similar crimes, yet their outcomes were drastically different. Keith Huff was eventually returned to prison, whereas Charles McDuffie completed his rehab and remained clean. The rules and restrictions placed upon Keith Huff put him at exponentially higher risk for re-incarceration than Charles McDuffie. The film Prison State appeals to ethos through the professional account of Michelle Alexander, a Professor of Law at Ohio State University, by turning the focus to the “destiny” that those incarcerated and released will eventually return to prison. In the filmed discussion with Alexander, she stresses the importance of the pronoun “you” and the repetition of situations seemingly beyond individual control. She uses multiple phrases such as: “your parent,” “you’re likely to,” “just like your father…your brother…your uncle,” “your destiny,” etc. to emphasize the shared feeling of predestined re-incarceration in Beecher Terrace. Her parallel sentence structure is seen in her repetition of expressions such as “where (situation) leads to (fated consequence)” and her implied cradle-to-grave mentality. Michelle Alexander’s voice is authoritative and commanding because of her expertise in the topic, yet she manages to come across delicate in tandem with her firm stance. In addition to presenting pathos through the primary and professional accounts of Keith Huff, Charles McDuffie and Michelle Alexander, the documentary employs the rhetorical strategy of logos by applying national percentages and statistics of Beecher Terrace in order to achieve a more solid emotional foundation in Prison State. From 1999-2010 Kentucky quickly become the “epicenter for prison growth in...
Cited: “Prison State.” Frontline. Dir. Dan Edge. PBS, Apr. 29, 2014. PBS.org. Web. Sept. 3, 2014.
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