News

RISE: Documenting the Struggles of Ex-Prisoners

by Office of Marketing | April 25, 2013

In November 2012, Rich Jacobs (an educator at The Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution in Graterford) reached out to Valley Forge Christian College, looking to work on a documentary project that would highlight rehabilitation programs within the prison system. VFCC responded by assembling a production team under the leadership of Ben Franco, professor of digital media, along with six digital media students (Emily Artkowsky, Nico Giampietro, Timothy Jackson, Bethany Jenkins, Benjamin Keller and Nicholas Meo).
 
However, after connecting with ReIntegration Services for Ex-offenders (the acronym RISE, for which the film is named) and being profoundly impacted by personal testimonies, the documentary soon transformed into a project that seeks to expose the difficulties of re-entrance into society after incarceration.
 
Such a project is not necessarily common within Christian circles; at best, it receives little attention through church prison ministries. In light of this, Franco says, “To be perfectly honest, this is an issue that I never thought about before this project…Naivety is a terrible excuse. As Christians, we need to be informed of difficult issues and we need to strive to be part of the solution.”
 
Franco and his team of students are taking this opportunity to be informed and to get involved. As high-quality video production has never been more achievable, they are looking to use video to shed light on the issue.
 
Franco says, "These men and women are legitimately trying to make sure they never return to prison. The vicious cycle occurs because they have nothing when they return to society…They become discouraged when they are unable to find work and this leads them to provide for their families through wrongful means, so the cycle continues. We need to break the cycle. It takes an amazing amount of courage for them to fight against the negative stereotypes placed on them by society. They are willing to earn your trust and respect, but too often they never receive the opportunity. We need to give them a chance to redeem themselves.”
 
RISE is expected to debut online toward the end of May – at no cost to viewers.
 
For more information and project updates visit the RISE website. You may also connect with RISE on Facebook or Twitter.