Through the Wire (1990)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Social History  |   Run Time - 77 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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This documentary unveils a particularly disturbing facility within the U.S.'s vast prison system, which now houses a larger proportion of that country's population than any in the world (a topic which is virtually never discussed publicly in the U.S.). The facility in question, the "Female High Security Unit" in Lexington, Kentucky, was designed to house political prisoners. The film exposes the inhumane conditions under which three women were kept, and shows that the avowed intent of this treatment break the women's will, preparatory (no doubt) to "reeducating" them. Schizophrenically, the prison's officials denied that there was anything inhumane about their treatment of the prisoners, but admitted to having the intent to break the women's will. The three women were politically motivated to commit some violent crimes. Their sentencing and subsequent treatment in prison is markedly different than that meted out to violent offenders whose motives were not political. The conditions they endured rival tales told about the famous Lubianka Prison in Moscow, and include their not being permitted to sleep for long periods of time, random and repeated "cavity searches" by male officials, and more. For a brief time, a U.S. court held that this form of incarceration was unconstitutional, and the prison was briefly closed. That ruling was overturned, and in the ten years since this documentary was released (1989), it is reported that 16 similar facilities have been built.