A struggling rural community deals with the consequences of banking its future on a new prison in this documentary. Susanville, California was once a thriving town dominated by farming, sawmills and dairy plants, but as family farms began to collapse under competition from larger corporate agricultural firms, work became scarce in Susanville. In the 1990's, it was proposed that a prison be built in Susanville, and while many locals objected to its presence, city fathers believed it would provide needed jobs, and now three prisons call Susanville home. However, years later many local residents contend the economic windfall they were led to expect has never arrived, and the damage to the community has outweighed any economic benefits. In addition to examining Susanville and its prisons, Prison Town U.S.A. puts a particular emphasis on three local residents -- two men who were forced by economic necessity to leave jobs elsewhere in town to become guards at the prison, and an ex-con who, after serving sixteen months for stealing $40 worth of groceries to feed his family, is out on parole and is looking for work in a city where corrections is the only game in town. Prison Town U.S.A. was originally produced for broadcast as part of the PBS documentary series P.O.V..
by Mark Deming synopsis