It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It: New Prison Movie Addresses Issues of Criminal Justice

The US criminal justice system has no doubt failed us all. But film producer Madeleine Sackler is trying to change that with her latest documentary It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It. The film premiered a few days back at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It addresses the problems related to mass incarceration in America’s prisons.

It's A Hard Truth Ain't It - Tribeca Film Festival
It’s A Hard Truth Ain’t It – Tribeca Film Festival

What Is… It’s A Hard Truth Ain’t It?

It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It is all about the changing the orientations of both the people and the government concerning mass incarceration.

In the documentary also directed by Sackler, 13 prison inmates in Indiana take part in the film. They are all imprisoned for murder or attempted murder. Each is given a video camera to videotape themselves while being interviewed by one another.

Through this opportunity, inmates can determine the sequence of events that transpired to land in prison in the first place. They contemplate what they could have done differently.

Inmates Tell Their Own Stories in Documentary: It’s A Hard Truth Ain’t It

At the Pendleton Correctional Facility, a prison inmate asks Rushawn Tanksley to tell his life story up to the point of being incarcerated. Imprisoned for murder and aggravated battery, Tanksley could only sum up his life in two words:

What if?

It's A Hard Truth Ain't It: Madeleine Sackler and Ike Randolph
It’s A Hard Truth Ain’t It: Madeleine Sackler and Ike Randolph. Image Source: Zimbio

In this sense, Tanksley is saying:

  • What if he had grown up someplace else outside of Memphis, TN?
  • What if he had engaged in legitimate businesses instead of drugs?
  • What if situations had caused him to remain in the streets, or even dead?
  • What if he could make his life choices all over again?

Since prison inmates have lost the abilities to decide on most things for themselves, the opportunity to interview themselves gives them the power to tell their own stories.

Although the interactions of the inmates structured the central message of the prison documentary, the inmates at a point chose how they desired to be portrayed.

Jeffrey Wright in O.G. Prison Documentary
Jeffrey Wright in “O.G.” Prison Documentary. Image Source: Indie Wire

New Orientation for Compassion Is More Beneficial Than Punishment

Before filming the It’s A Hard Truth Ain’t It documentary, Sackler approached 15 different prison facilities to be given access to their inmate populations. All of them, except Pendleton, rejected the idea of giving recording cameras to the prisoners for the film project.

Even the inmates were wary of the idea. But Sackler she showed them screened documentaries of “Murderball” and “Grizzly Man” to convince them. These are popular prison documentaries she also directed.

Sackler was also able to convince Tennessee prison authorities to allow her teach filmmaking to the inmates. So she taught them film production and editing among other things.

In an interview, Madeleine Sackler said she undertook the It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It prison documentary project to bring reform to the criminal justice system. She revealed that retribution and punishment has not worked for criminal justice. But care and compassion will do much better.

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Charles Omedo
Charles Omedo has a degree in Mass Communication and a PGD in Digital Communication. He worked as a newspaper/magazine reporter and editor for many years. Now, he writes daily news articles for private clients. Charles has written for US/UK/Canadian/Indian clients on various niches. He currently writes prison news for loved ones of inmates on the Prison Rideshare Network.