An Exploration of Recidivism and the Shared Experience of Incarceration Through Feature Film

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Absael Antelo


Jessica Kimmel


Hsin-I Liu


Francis Musa Boakari


This dissertation, based on reaction papers and survey data at a Texas Department of Criminal Justice unit of incarceration, focuses on feature films as true depictions of crime and incarceration, explores select feature films to modify attitudes that lead to recidivism and examines the shared experience of those serving time behind bars. This study analyzes the responses of 50 incarcerated college students to see if the depictions in three selected feature films are accurate in their portrayal of life in prison. There are a number of feature films released each year whose main characters are incarcerated, but few, if any, accurately portray the day to day life or major events of life spent behind bars. Much scholarship exists to support that viewing feature film forms anti-social attitudes and behaviors, but few studies explore the use of feature film for pro-social purposes. Ultimately, I explore the data for information to better inform educators, social workers and criminal justice experts of what it is really like to live behind bars. If most feature films use prison as a means or device to communicate a certain human struggle without much attention to the realities and meaning of a life behind bars, then the question remains. What can their shared experience behind bars tell us? Therefore, recidivism’s detrimental strain on the prison system, and the cuts in rehabilitative services within prisons nationwide, demonstrate that any inquiry into the incarcerated person’s experience that could provide some understanding of how we can reduce recidivism should be examined.

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