FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A reality film is showcasing talent and helping to lower the number of people returning to prison in Indiana.
“Inmates with Talent” is a documentary filmed in Indiana at Putnamville Correctional Facility. The nearly 90-minute film narrated by celebrity Ice-T highlights singers, poets, and comedians in prison. The directors described the film as a hybrid between “The Voice” and “Last Comic Standing” meeting “Orange is the New Black.” One of the poets in the film is a South Side High School graduate from Fort Wayne, Jason Green. A life tangled with drugs eventually led Green to being sentenced to 12 years in prison for selling prescription pills, but he ended up only serving four years, getting out on good behavior and with a college degree.
However, that wasn’t Jason’s first time in jail, but it was the time that helped him turn his life around. While he said he realized how his actions not only hurt him but also the people around him, he credits his new-found craft to a relationship with a girlfriend while in prison.
“She would write me and encourage me with poetry,” Green said.
He tried writing it back and fell in love with the art. He said it helped ease the pain of being alone and incarcerated, so when “Inmates with Talent” came to the prison, he was one of the first to sign up for the talent contest. He said the stage became his new addiction.
“[Poetry] Substitute[d] the rush of being a criminal, leading a criminal life, involved with drugs, the street life,” Green said.
That was the goal of the director who is a comedian. Johnny Collins, said, “Doing a talent competition in prison with the ultimate goal of reducing recidivism,” or the rate at which someone returns to prison.
Participants also said filming the documentary helped improve prison morale. Green said at the time Putnamville was struggling with gang activity and race relations between inmates, so the talent contest helped calm the tension. Collins said they were able to include around three quarters of the 2,000 inmate prison population throughout the filming process.
“If we can make a difference that just a few convicts are steered away from a life of crime once this is released then this project will have a huge impact on society,” Collins said.
Green said poetry has helped keep him focused. He’s been working and doing poetry on the side around Fort Wayne. Next month, Green will also be celebrating being drug and substance free for two years. He will soon be sharing his poetry with students in New Haven to help at-risk youth learn how to express themselves.
“It is possible to recover and leave the past behind you,” Green said.
The documentary is in post-production, but the creators will be starting a kick-starter campaign in a few weeks to help put the final touches on the film. Then, they will select a distributor who will set a release date. To learn more or donate, click here.