Tuesday, December 27, 2005

democracy's ghosts

i just screened democracy's ghosts: how 5 million americans have lost the right to vote, an aclu documentary made by off-ramp films.

the 34-minute film features some persuasive interviews with former felons and activists, as well as lani guinier and alex keyssar of harvard, marc mauer of the sentencing project, congressman/civil rights icon john lewis, evangelist/watergate icon chuck colson, and actor charles dutton. the dvd also includes a 10-minute short version, 5 "expert perspective" segments (where i pop up briefly -- i did a quick interview in dc on my way to maryland this spring), 5 issue-specific pieces, a graphic video, and a short trailer, which you can see in quicktime or windows media player. the film is designed as an "advocacy tool," so it doesn't give much time to the perspectives of disenfranchisement defenders such as roger clegg. florida governor jeb bush is shown in clemency hearings, but i doubt he'll be using this particular footage for campaign ads.

that said, i think it could be useful in provoking classroom discussion in criminology or political sociology or racial and ethnic studies courses. i'm too close to really judge whether students would find it interesting, but the film seems lively and well-informed to me. it was nice to see some research on the issue put to use, albeit without the caveats that we always try to include in the articles. the dvd touches on the racial history and impact of disenfranchisement, the numbers affected, recidivism and reentry, and other issues that jeff, and melissa, and angie and i have studied. my quick google search couldn't find a site for the film yet, but www.democracysghosts.org should be online anytime now. i got my copy of the dvd through rachel devaney at commtemp@aclu.org.

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