Reviews

Benevolence is a raw and realistic portrayal of the barriers to reentry experienced by female offenders.  The film shows the viewer an in-depth examination of the experiences of women who are emerging from a system, their life plagued with abuse, struggle, and the repercussions of criminal behavior.  However, the unsung heroes that believe in second chances and continuously fight for resources for these women show that successful reintegration is possible…I think it is an excellent tool for the classroom.

Catherine D. Marcum, Ph.D., Assistant Chair, Department of Government and Justice Studies, Appalachian State University. Author (with Lisa M. Carter) of Female offenders and reentry: Pathways and barriers to returning to society.

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“Benevolence is a film that offers the audience a rare and genuine glimpse at the immediate obstacles women face directly after leaving prison.  Through the interviews highlighted in the film, not only are the personal concerns and struggles of the farm residents expressed, but a gender-specific examination of reentry issues of formerly incarcerated women.

This film also allows for an opportunity for consideration and reflection upon the concept of second chances.  A pressing issue facing women presented in this film is the invisible sentence of carrying the stigma of having been incarcerated, and the misconceptions the public has of formerly incarcerated people.  The film demonstrates, in a non-judgmental way, the general public’s misunderstanding who may be incarcerated, and of the issues that often create the pathway to women’s imprisonment. The will many women have to overcome their problems and mistakes as to return to society as a productive and contributing member is also a focal point in need of recognition. 

A strength of the programming provided at Benevolence Farm is that the women are given an opportunity to express their immediate needs and have the support of the staff and other residents to assist them during the difficult transitioning period after incarceration.  The films depicts the struggles of returning citizens related to obtaining employment, lacking resources and job-training skills, housing, disconnections from family members, paying restitutions, transportation needs, and geographic barriers.  All of which are related factors that maintain a thin existence between lawful and criminal lifestyles, and remaining in the community and returning to prison.  Essentially, the ease of returning to prison is a real threat that may result with one mishap, or stress-related life event. 

The farm work offers women a chance to begin again by learning important and employable skills, which are also essential in reducing criminality and recidivism.  As indicated by one of the residents of the farm at the end of the film, what she (and assumedly other women) is primarily seeking and needing is to be treated with dignity and Benevolence as she reintegrates back into society.

I am looking forward to showing this film in the classes that I teach for my college’s Women and Gender Studies program.”

Dr. Lisa Carter, Chair and Associate Professor of Criminology, Florida Southern College; Author, (with Catherine D. Marcum) Female Offenders and Reentry: Pathways and Barriers to Returning to Society

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“Watching Benevolence showed how difficult the transition process for formerly incarcerated women has been while at the same time showing the humanity of a population that is so often overlooked. I am glad that the film shows diverse perspectives on a problem that effects so many.

What Benevolence did not show was a group of down-trodden women with criminal pasts. It showed strong, humble, human women who had to learn to live a different life under the most taxing of circumstances in an environment that allows them to take pride in their contributions.

The film also calls into question the limited resources available to women specifically, after being released from prison. I was able to show this film to my Justice Studies students and the common consensus was that the film was engaging, timely and necessary. The film proved to be a great addition to our course discussions on women and prison/reentry. I have also recommended, that once available, our department has it on-hand for many discussions around women and criminal justice…I think it is an excellent tool for the classroom.”

Rolanda JW Spencer, EdD,  Author of Reexamining Reentry: The Policies, People, and Programs of the United States Prisoner Reintegration Systems

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“The film is an important contribution to discussions we need to have about the correctional system in the US with its record incarceration rates that have affected women disproportionately in the last two decades. The film is also a feminist statement as it creates space for unheard voices and an innovative program that hopefully finds multiplication.”

Daniela Jauk, PhD, Feminist Sociologist, Research Specialist with Oriana House