The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation



The CT Department of Correction will identify inmates due to be released in the first quarter of 2015. We will identify a diverse mix of inmates (different lengths of sentence, offenses, sexes, ages) who are returning to one of two or three Connecticut communities. We’ll recruit participants through re-entry counselors and outside groups with relationships with these individuals.


15 people scheduled to leave prison in Connecticut in early 2015.


The story of life on a knife’s edge cries out to be told in collaboration with the just-released inmates themselves. Through orchestrated self-filming, ex-offenders will share and try to make sense of their open-ended battle against the odds. World-class documentary filmmaking builds on, deepens, and interprets their stories. The result: an unusually intimate, emotionally riveting, uniquely revealing journey.


Post Prison Blues adds a missing dimension to the recidivism story. More than half of inmates leaving prison in 2015 will return within three years. Both parties at every level of government are wrestling with the attendant budgetary and social costs. Visual narratives of individual experience framed by reporting and analysis of trends can make these numbing statistics comprehensible and actionable.


We are seeking funding from foundations, supporters of documentary films, and a broadcast partner. The MacArthur Foundation Media Program has awarded the project $100,000.

Editorial Control

DCTV and Purple States will make all editorial and artistic decisions, in consultation with the New York Times and a broadcast partner.


  • Executive Production by John Kennedy, Cynthia Farrar, Matthew O’Neill, and Shannon Sonenstein
  • Directed by Matthew O’Neill
  • Produced by John Kennedy and Matthew O’Neill
  • Professional videography by Matthew O’Neill
  • Self-filmed footage by the ex-offenders
  • Editing, TBD


Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV) and Purple States (PS) blend their distinctive filmmaking talents with the analytical power and reach of New York Times reporting to produce a fresh, telling and engaging look at what’s working and what’s broken in America's criminal justice system. Combining first-person filming by ex-offenders and professional documentary storytelling with in-depth ongoing news coverage and contextual analysis enables viewers to accompany just-released inmates as they restart their lives -- in real time, outcome unknown – and to comprehend the human and social policy implications, as the story unfolds and after the results are in.