RETURN TO SENDER is a documentary film that explores the public policy and practical challenges of providing real world services to prisoners as they prepare for re-entry and reintegration into society. At the heart of the film is the work of the Crime Prevention Institute in Austin, Texas, a small non-profit community-based organization founded in 1992 to reduce criminal recidivism.

The Crime Prevention Institute administered an innovative treatment model designed to provide what research has shown to be among the most effective approaches to helping former prisoners rebuild their lives. Over the course of a year, the cameras witnessed the collapse of this nearly 20-year old agency as funding cuts and instability forced it to close its doors in October. At the same time, the filmmakers documented the efforts of the CPI social workers as they prepared prisoners for release and developed the trust necessary to help them overcome rejections and barriers to successful reentry.

As hundreds of thousands of prisoners are released in the U.S. each year, the public has grown increasingly aware of the chronic social problems that lengthy and serial incarcerations visit on children, families, and entire communities. The decades-long war on drugs in America has contributed to a nationwide prison boom. Criminalized substance abusers often spend years of their adult lives incarcerated, where they acquire few life skills needed to resist addictive behaviors and live as productive citizens.

Fueled by high rates of recidivism, the prison boom now requires a community-based response to the needs of returning prisoners who have committed to making real positive changes in their lives. RETURN TO SENDER, an hour-long documentary designed for national public television or cable broadcast will spotlight an innovative reentry program doing just this kind of work; outline the common obstacles faced by former prisoners; and educate viewers about the most up-to-date research into what works to effectively reduce criminal recidivism in America.

Contributions to the film will help us cover the cost of producing and videotaping interviews and documenting unfolding events. Thank you for your support!

RETURN TO SENDER is a fiscally sponsored project of the Austin Film Society. You can make a donation to this project using the form below. You will receive a letter acknowledging your gift to the Austin Film Society on behalf on the project. Since AFS is a non-profit organization, your donation may be deducted from your taxes as a charitable contribution under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code.

About the Filmmaker

SUSANNE MASON – Susanne Mason lives in Austin, Texas where she has produced and directed documentary programs about the criminal justice system, the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs, the history of Austin, and the Texas prison system. Mason’s feature documentary WRIT WRITER was broadcast nationally on the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens and received the prestigious Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association. She has received grants and competitive funding for her work from a variety of organizations, including the Independent Television Service, National Endowment for the Arts, Latino Public Broadcasting, Humanities Texas, Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media, and Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund. She has been involved in several television documentaries as either archival researcher, associate producer or co-producer, including THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS; WHEN I RISE: THE BARBARA CONRAD STORY; ARE THE KIDS ALRIGHT?; STRUGGLE IN THE FIELDS; SONGS OF THE HOMELAND; GO BACK TO MEXICO!; and the upcoming OUR BOMBS.

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