"The criminal justice system is broken," Jeffrey Deskovic, an executive producer of the new documentary "Survivor's Guide to Prison," told AlterNet in a phone interview. He should know. At the age of 17, Deskovic was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl and sentenced to 15 years in prison — despite the fact that his DNA didn't match the perpetrator's. After his release, Deskovic founded the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation and dedicated his life to exonerating and preventing wrongful convictions.
Producing and participating in the film complements the foundation's work, and is "an opportunity to start a national dialogue around what needs to change in the criminal justice system," he says. The film focuses on the stories of wrongly convicted men and women, with additional context from criminal justice experts and commentary from actors like Susan Sarandon, Danny Trejo and co-executive producer Adrian Grenier.
Deskovic hopes that the celebrity connections will help spark discussion and meaningful policy change. There's a lot riding on it.
Every day, thousands of Americans languish in prison due to wrongful convictions. Advocacy group the Innocence Project estimates that anywhere from 40,000 to over 100,000 people in U.S. prisons have never actually committed a crime. According to the National Registry for Wrongful Convictions, the average time served for the people in the registry is more than nine years.
So far, those connections are starting to pay off. The Los Angeles and New York premieres are sold out, and more screenings are planned around the country. The documentary will be available on iTunes February 23.