Two Oscar-Nominated Films Show the Need for Compassionate Reentry and Diversion Programs

Heroine Film Full
Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader. Image Courtesy Netflix; Heroin(e) (2017)
Both films make a compelling case for compassion in how we dispense justice and fairness.

Human dignity—and the importance of providing hope and opportunity in the face of such challenges—also informs the story behind Knife Skills. Knife Skills documents the hectic days leading up to the opening of a new Cleveland-based French restaurant called Edwins. Edwins hires formerly incarcerated people and teaches them the very basics of French cuisine—everything from the art of julienning to creating successful wine pairings. The people hired through Edwins’ Leadership and Training Institute have never had any kind of culinary experience. Yet, in Edwins, they find an outlet that supports them in their reentry efforts. Some forge ahead until the end of the six-month program to see graduation day, while others do not make it through—with a handful of people coming back into contact with the justice system.

Many factors can reduce the success of reentry for individuals who are formerly incarcerated, especially within the first year—one of them being lack of employment opportunities and steady income. Indeed, with more than 650,000 people released from prison each year and an estimated 9 million people released from jail, reentry can be an incredibly daunting challenge, especially for those who lack a support system.

Both Heroin(e) and Knife Skills do not shy away from the fact that there may be setbacks to people’s recovery. In fact, they embrace this fact and use their stories to offer a hopeful and redemptive counter-narrative that highlights their triumphs—making a compelling case for compassion in how we dispense justice and fairness.

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