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The Return
by Kathryn Loggins

Documentary by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie  Galloway

Winner of the  Audience award for Best Documentary Feature

"I'm yearning for freedom, even though I'm walking  free." This is the heartbreaking statement of Kenneth Anderson, a man sentenced to life in prison for a  non-violent drug offense. He said these words after he was released after  serving 14 years of his sentence. He was incarcerated under California's Three  Strikes Law, which was one of the harshest laws in the nation. It was intended  to make California safer but unfortunately it ended up putting thousands of  people behind bars for life, often for insignificant and non-violent crimes.

In 2012, California passed a law that was meant to counteract  the Three Strikes Rule and gave thousands of prisoners the chance to be  released from prison. Many people, who had expected to serve out the rest of  their days behind bars were now told they could return home.

The Return is a story about the joys of finding freedom,  but also about the difficulties people face once they are released. For many,  there is no safe place for them to return to and they fall back into their  lives of crime. For the lucky ones there are homes and programs where they get  the support and assistance they need to find jobs and make a new life for  themselves.

Ultimately, the film makes it clear that even  though it is positive that so many people are being released from prison, there  aren't enough systems in place to help the former inmates reintegrate into  normal society. Just being released from prison isn't enough. The filmmakers  open the door to the conversation that our society needs to focus efforts on  helping former inmates sustain a functioning life outside of prison and help  cater to their specific needs, so that they don't fall back into a vicious  cycle of crime.