Chicano/a studies professor documents women’s prison time and their fight to regain their lives
CSUN professor hopes to change public policy with a documentary exposing the ongoing punishment formerly incarcerated women go through.
“When Will the Punishment End?” directed by Chicana/o studies and Gender and Women’s studies professor Dr. Marta Lopez-Garza tells the story of formerly imprisoned women after they have left jail.
“The students, the people I hope will learn what women go through” Lopez-Garza said after the screening. “Not that many people have the idea unless you’ve experienced it yourself or have a family member.”
Lopez-Garza added that many people do not know what “people go through when they come out of prison and they have to rebuild their lives. They don’t know all the barriers they need to overcome to try to rebuild their lives. They can’t get a job, they can’t get housing. They can’t get their kids back.”
The 90 minute documentary tells the story of a diverse group of women from the moment they are released from prison, to their struggle to regain their children and find a job and how they find help through different organizations.
The documentary was shown in the Noski Auditorium on March 16 and it was followed by a panel discussion featuring four women shown in the film.
The women were part of organizations that help formerly imprisoned women get their lives back on track some of whom were previously incarcerated women as well.
They included Susan Burton, founder of “A New Way of Life,” Kim Carter, founder of “Time for Change,” Monica Stel, Director of “Harbor Area Halfway Houses” and Dr. Marilyn Montenegro.
Lopez-Garza who collaborated with Brandon A. Lopez in the making of the film, said there were about 160 people in attendance.
Most of them were students, who were encouraged by their professors to attend.
One of them was Katie Jones, 24, liberal studies and marketing major whose favorite part of the documentary was “seeing the real-life stories of women and the way they are treated by society.”
“I think there’s a real perspective” said Jones. “I don’t know anybody who’s been incarcerated and to hear stories and how bad the perception is from a lot of society towards these women was really interesting and it was heartfelt.”
“I think that it is a film that is worth seeing” added Jones. “It serves a real education purpose. There’s a lot of information that could be useful and help change society’s attitude towards these women.”
Mary Regalado, 21, gender and women’s studies major also attended the screening as part of a class but said she had previously seen the documentary at a film festival held in Manzanita Hall last semester.
“I like how they gave solutions to the problem” said Regalado. “They had about seven different organizations that support and outreach imprisoned women.”
Regalado also thought the documentary was informative, “especially to people that don’t really know the issues, they get to see real women’s experience as they go through the system.”
Lopez-Garza said the documentary took five years and 55 to 60 hours of film footage to make. Four of them were spent gathering the data, including interviewing and filming and looking into the literature. The fifth year was spent editing.
She said she interviewed about 25 women.
Lopez-Garza said the most challenging part of making the documentary was making the film, which she learned as she went through.
“I’m not a filmmaker” she said. “(The challenge) was learning to use a camera, how to edit the footage, the software program. I am a social scientist, I write things. I write articles, I write books, I don’t make films.”
The documentary is not yet available for the general public, but Lopez-Garza hopes to have it ready for distribution by the end of spring.
“We’re still tweaking with it, tiding it up” she said.