Unprisoned Review – Shedding Light on the American Criminal Justice System

Rate this post

Table of Contents


Unprisoned is a groundbreaking documentary that sheds light on the flaws, challenges, and complexities of the American criminal justice system. Directed by Emmy-winning filmmaker David Barnhart, this powerful film takes viewers on a journey through the lives of incarcerated individuals and the ripple effects of mass incarceration. In this review, we will explore the key themes, impact, and significance of Unprisoned in fostering a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system and advocating for reform.

  1. Synopsis of Unprisoned:

Unprisoned follows the stories of several individuals impacted by the criminal justice system, including formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, and advocates. Through intimate interviews and real-life experiences, the documentary paints a vivid picture of the challenges faced by those caught in the cycle of incarceration, examining issues such as racial disparities, sentencing policies, prison conditions, and reintegration into society.

  1. Exposing the Human Cost:

One of the most compelling aspects of Unprisoned is its ability to humanize the individuals affected by the criminal justice system. By sharing their personal stories, struggles, and triumphs, the film dismantles stereotypes and highlights the complex realities of those inside and outside prison walls. It portrays the profound impact of incarceration on families, communities, and the individuals themselves, emphasizing the need for empathy and understanding.

  1. Racial Disparities and Social Justice:

Unprisoned confronts the stark racial disparities that permeate the criminal justice system. It exposes the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration on marginalized communities, particularly people of color. Through interviews with activists, scholars, and legal experts, the film examines the systemic factors that perpetuate racial injustice, such as biased policing, sentencing practices, and unequal access to legal representation. By illuminating these issues, Unprisoned encourages viewers to question and challenge the status quo.

  1. Challenges within the System:

The documentary also delves into the structural challenges of the American criminal justice system. It explores overcrowding, inadequate healthcare, violence, and limited opportunities for rehabilitation within prisons. Through interviews with correctional officers, inmates, and experts, Unprisoned exposes the need for comprehensive reform to address these systemic issues and ensure that incarceration serves as a pathway to rehabilitation rather than perpetuating a cycle of punishment.

  1. Rehabilitation and Reentry:

Unprisoned highlights the importance of rehabilitation and successful reentry into society for formerly incarcerated individuals. It emphasizes the need for comprehensive support systems, including job training, mental health services, housing, and education. The film showcases successful reentry programs that prioritize healing, empowerment, and community support, underscoring the potential for positive change when individuals are given the tools to rebuild their lives.

  1. Impact and Advocacy:

Unprisoned serves as a powerful catalyst for social change and advocacy. Through its compelling storytelling and thought-provoking interviews, the documentary raises awareness and sparks conversations about the urgent need for criminal justice reform. It encourages viewers to engage with the issue, support organizations working towards reform, and advocate for policies that prioritize justice, fairness, and rehabilitation.

  1. Cinematic Craftsmanship:

In addition to its thought-provoking content, Unprisoned demonstrates exceptional filmmaking craftsmanship. The cinematography captures the raw emotions and intimate moments of the individuals featured, immersing viewers in their experiences. The editing and narrative structure create a cohesive and impactful storytelling arc, keeping audiences engaged throughout the film’s runtime.

  1. Criticisms and Limitations:

While Unprisoned provides a compelling exploration of the American criminal justice system, some may argue that it could benefit from a broader perspective. The film primarily focuses on the experiences of individuals impacted by incarceration, potentially leaving out certain aspects, such as the perspectives of law enforcement officials or victims of crime. Including a wider range of voices could offer a more comprehensive understanding of the complexities and nuances within the criminal justice system.

  1. Calls to Action and Further Resources:

Unprisoned goes beyond merely exposing the flaws in the criminal justice system; it encourages viewers to take action. The documentary provides information on organizations and initiatives dedicated to criminal justice reform, inviting viewers to support and get involved in these efforts. It also serves as a starting point for further exploration, prompting viewers to delve deeper into the subject through books, articles, and other resources.


Unprisoned is a profoundly impactful documentary that shines a light on the American criminal justice system, exposing its flaws and calling for reform. By humanizing those affected by incarceration, the film fosters empathy, challenges stereotypes, and encourages viewers to question the inequities within the system. Through its powerful storytelling and compelling cinematography, Unprisoned prompts conversations, advocacy, and collective action towards creating a fairer, more compassionate criminal justice system. This documentary serves as a vital tool in the ongoing fight for justice and serves as a catalyst for change.

Leave a Comment