One of the first things that Craig Knowles loved about Cleveland was the Cleveland International Film Festival.

This “hidden gem in the city” as Knowles put it, will premiere his film “Prisons for Profit” during the Ohio Shorts Program 3 on March 26th.

Knowles, who co-wrote and directed “Prisons for Profit,” wanted the audience to go through the learning experience that he had working on the film. This required challenging preconceptions about those in prison.

Get your tickets now to see the “Prisons for Profit” premiere March 26 at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Building Characters

“When you are talking about people in prison, it is often difficult, almost impossible, to generate sympathy for them,” Knowles said. But as he worked with the ACLU of Ohio to gather stories and conduct interviews with people connected to the Lake Erie Correctional Institute (LaECI), a different story came to life.

“You build up these characters in your mind about who these people are,” Knowles said.

But making the film revealed that the reality people face is often far more complex than what you first assume.

Knowles wanted to take the audience through the experiences of family members, elected officials and corrections officers who lived through the sale of LaECI to a private company.

“People usually know the answer you are trying to come to,” he explained.  “The best documentaries take you through and allow you to make your own conclusion.”

Read parts I and III in our series on Making “Prisons for Profit.”

Documenting For Profit Prisons

The rapid slide into chaos that occurred at LaECI after its sale to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) speaks volumes about the dangers of allowing private companies to make profits by keeping people behind bars. For companies like CCA, securing the bottom line can mean compromising of the treatment and safety of everyone involved with the facility.

Knowles sees documentary film as one of the best vehicles to tell a story like this. New avenues for information sharing and storytelling allow documentaries to educate people about an issue in an informative and impactful way.

See more from director Craig Knowles at Stonehaven Studios.

The process of making “Prisons for Profit” brought Knowles to his own powerful conclusion.

“You need to preserve some base level of humanity to preserve your own,” he said.