Exploring the Prison through Film: A Journey with Dr. Lucien Lombardo

The film and guided discussion series is another means of fostering an ongoing conversation around the relationship between our city and the prison.  These conversations are deeply needed in our community, where so many residents work inside an institution all about force and confinement, yet completely removed from public view — an institution with a percent minority population that far exceeds that of both the surrounding community and the corrections staff.  Multiple myths about the prison are widely and often repeated locally, with little basis in fact.

We will show four films, each exploring a different theme within the context of imprisonment.  Each film will be screened and then followed with a conversation guided by Dr. Lucien Lombardo, who will place the themes of the film in context in American and world penal history, and expand on the facts illustrated in the movie.  Dr. Lombardo, an Auburn native who began his career as a teacher in Auburn Prison in 1969, went on to a distinguished career in criminal justice academia.  He retired as Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University.  His teaching and research have explored the working lives of correctional officers, prison policy processes, collective violence in prisons, the violence process: from suicide to genocide, and violence in the world of children.

  1. MANAGING A PRISON: 20,000 Years in Sing-Sing (1932) Based loosely on a book by Sing-Sing Warden Lewis Lawes, who had script approval, this movie starring Spencer Tracy and Bette Davis was filmed, in part, in Sing Sing using actual prisoners as extras.    The film was made not long after a series of prison riots around the country including Auburn and Clinton (Dannemora) in NY.
    Tuesday, October 18, 6 PM
  1. THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1970) Adaptation of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s classic novel (1962).  This film faithfully presents a single day in the life of Ivan Denisovich- superbly portrayed by Tom Courtenay – who is serving a ten-year prison sentence in one of Soviet Russia’s infamous Siberian gulags.
    Thursday, November 10, 6 PM
  1. PRISON REFORM PROCESSES: Brubaker (1980) Starring Robert Redford. Based on the real-life efforts of former prison administrator Thomas O. Murton to reform Tucker and Cummins Prison Farms in Arkansas in 1967-68.  Murton served as a technical advisor for the film.  The punishment, conditions, corruption and violence within the prison depicted in this film, based on the prison farms scandal, became the subject of the common law case of Holt v. Sarver (Arkansas) where a US Federal Court determined that the Arkansas Prison System violated inmates’ constitutional rights.
    Thursday, February 23, 6 PM
  1. THE CYCLE OF REFORM: The Last Graduation: The End of College Programs for Prisoners (1998) The last in a four-part series on the criminal justice system in the US called LOCK DOWN USA, made for broadcast on PBS.  Among the reforms that followed the 1971 uprising at Attica, prison college programs proved to be amazingly effective tools in turning inmates’ lives around.  In New York State, the recidivism rate for prison college graduates was only 11 percent, as contrasted to nearly 60 percent for the general prison population.
    Thursday, March 30, 6 PM

Program will be in Theater Mack, 203 Genesee Street, Auburn, behind the Cayuga Museum

Admission $5 Museum members, $7 non-members

*This series is funded by the Cayuga Community Fund