Whether it is looking at fragile lives of former child prisoners in Palestine, capital punishment in the United States or a ground-breaking prison therapy project in Lebanon, we highlight some of the most harrowing, uplifting and thought-provoking stories from behind bars and beyond.


12 Angry Lebanese

45 inmates in Lebanon's most notorious prison take part in a ground-breaking drama therapy project – their version of Twelve Angry Men .

 

A film by Zeina Daccache

Drama therapist Zeina Daccache made headlines by doing the impossible: she got access to one of Lebanon's toughest men's prisons (Roumieh) to work with 45 inmates on an adaptation of Reginald Rose's play Twelve Angry Men .

After 15 months of rehearsals, the good and the great of Beirut society, from the Prosecutor General to the Minister of Interior, were invited to sit in a makeshift theatre and watch a group of convicted murderers, rapists and drug dealers act out a parable about the failure of the criminal justice system.

It was a life-changing experience for the inmates and a groundbreaking project which opened the doors to a usually closed world.

The full documentary can be seen on Al Jazeera English from Friday, June 19 at the following times GMT: Friday: 2000; Saturday: 12; Sunday: 0100; Monday: 0600.


At the Death House Door

The emotional journey of Carroll Pickett who, in 15 years as death house chaplain in Huntsville, Texas comforted 95 condemned men in their last hours.

 

A film by Steve James and Peter Gilbert

At the Death House Door is a film chronicling the extraordinary journey of Pastor Carroll Pickett, who served 15 years as the death house chaplain to the infamous "Walls" prison unit in Huntsville.

During Pickett's remarkable career, he was present at over 95 executions, including the world’s first lethal injection. Before each execution Pickett was the man who would comfort the condemned man through his final hours.

Beginning in the early hours and culminating with the execution late at night, these would be days of intense emotion for Pastor Pickett. And at the end of this long, long day only one of the two men would go home, a religious Minister trying to make sense of his own feelings after participating in the State's taking the life of one of its own citizens.

Deeply and increasingly troubled over the years, Pickett found a unique way of dealing with his own emotions. After each execution, Pastor Pickett would record an audiotape account of his feelings about the hours leading up to the prisoner's final trip to the death chamber. And slowly, almost imperceptibly, these tapes record his gradual transition from advocate to opponent of the death penalty, against which he now campaigns – bringing a surely unique body of personal evidence to the lectures and prayer meetings he addresses.

The full documentary can be seen on Al Jazeera English from Friday, June 26 at the following times GMT: Friday: 2000; Saturday: 12; Sunday: 0100; Monday: 0600.


When the Boys Return

In Hebron, a small group of Palestinian youth meet weekly as they try to come to terms with their experience of imprisonment in Israeli jails.

 

A film by Tone Andersen

In Hebron in the West Bank, 11 young Palestinian men come together each week in a room in the YMCA. All have spent time in Israeli jails, just a few of the 7,500 Palestinian minors aged 12-18 who have gone through the prison system over the past 11 years.

The arrests of these youth, undertaken by the Israeli army, often come at night. The most common charge is stone-throwing and the average sentence is two years.

On release, many ex-detainees display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and almost all find it difficult to slip back into the position they occupied before arrest in their families and communities. 

"When the Boys Return" follows the Hebron group over 10 weeks as they take part in a structured course of therapy, run by counsellor Nader Khallaf, aimed at helping re-integration into normal life.

Among the group is Mohammad Jamil, 15 and newly-released from prison when filming begins, and Hamze Mahfouz, 17. Mohammad spends some days at demonstrations and some nights wandering the streets of his neighbourhood, coming close to re-arrest several times during filming. Eventually persuaded to enrol on a vocational course in car mechanics, he begins at last to settle, much to his own surprise.

Hamze is articulate and polite, but struggles with aggression, often demonstrated through physical assaults on his brother and is desperate to be the first son in his family to sit, and pass, the Tawjihi (Senior High School Exam). Mohammad, Hamze and all the group live with the fear that they could be re-arrested and taken back into prison at any time. 

This subtle, moving and well-crafted film lays bare the challenges the youth face as they try to rebuild their lives in the face of the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

The full documentary can be seen on Al Jazeera English from Friday, July 4 at the following times GMT: Friday: 2000; Saturday: 12; Sunday: 0100; Monday: 0600.


Omar

One man's story reveals the social and psychological barriers that so many low-income African-American men face in the context of prison and release.

 

A film by Tod Lending

One man's story reveals the social, economic and psychological barriers that so many low-income African-American men face in the context of incarceration and release.

A look at existing support structures and those needed to help former prisoners successfully re-enter their families and neighbourhoods.

The compelling and highly personal film reveals the individual, family, and community pathways that can lead to social change.

Read the filmmaker's view for more.

The full documentary can be seen on Al Jazeera English from Friday, July 11 at the following times GMT: Friday: 2000; Saturday: 12; Sunday: 0100; Monday: 0600.

Source: Al Jazeera