The Inside Peace documentary follows a group of inmates doing hard time in a Texas prison as they embark on a journey of personal discovery while struggling with society’s roadblocks and dangers.
“These stories bleed through Inside Peace, and they are crucial to it, but they’re only part of what the film is about. The men manage to take the message to heart that they have value as people – no simple lesson… This is where, for the viewer, the awe comes in.”
—Peace Behind Barbed Wire by Robert Koehler, Huffington Post
Criminal offenders with lives marked by generations of violence, addiction, and poor social conditions attend the Peace Class in a Texas prison where they struggle to discover their humanity, improve their outlook on life and rebuild their lives from the inside out. Four years in the making, Inside Peace is a feature documentary that focuses on several compelling characters who were incarcerated at Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, Texas. There, they embarked on a journey of change by enrolling in the Peace Class, one of the few self-improvement programs offered in prisons across the country that are not faith-based, but instead concentrates on the individual’s inner strength and self-worth. Trinidad, David, Chase, and Jake grew up in neighborhoods with the same multi-layered deprivation that produces most of the offenders in the United States: Lack of education, poverty, joblessness, unstable family lives and exposure to the criminal element. All had come to identify with the hardened exteriors they developed as coping mechanisms and presented to the world — a brutal street fighter, Trinidad was feared inside and out of jail — David was a small-time drug dealer, who fended for himself on the streets as a teenager trying to get by — there never seemed to be a right time or a right place for Chase his whole life — born into a family of heroin addicts, Jake abused drugs from an early age. None of them was ever taught or realized he had the capacity to make positive choices in life. While the news sensationalizes violence and tragedy, and television networks pump out “behind-bars reality” shows, Inside Peace provides a window into the hearts and minds of men doing hard time who choose to break the cycle of negativity. With a supporting cast of fellow inmates, prison officials, experts and family members, the film takes the viewer down these men’s difficult roads as they reintegrate with life on the outside relying on the personal peace, self-worth and dignity discovered at the Peace Class. If they can change the only belief system they’ve ever known and are successful in understanding their value as human beings, they just may have a chance of living better lives by making better choices. The path becomes most treacherous when released from jail and as they try to negotiate a world filled with conflict, rejection and hostility. Faced with these familiar roadblocks at every turn, they must avoid the temptation to return to their old ways—those that led to failure and imprisonment in the first place.
The Peace Class
(Peace Education Program)
“The correctional education movement began in 1789, when clergyman William Rogers first offered instruction at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Jail. The warden was worried that a riot might result from the revolutionary innovation, so he required that two guards attend the meeting with a loaded cannon aimed directly at the convict students. Everything was peaceful, of course.”
—The History of Correctional Education, Thom Gehring
Correctional education has come a long way since 1789, thanks primarily to the Correctional Education Association (CEA) that provides a wide range of learning opportunities for inmates in North America. It was through CEA that some of the earliest versions of the Peace Class first aired.
Volunteers, inspired by exposure to “Words of Peace” DVDs, saw the potential for bringing peace education to the prison population and organized grant funding for distribution of these DVDs into CEA’s telecast programming in 2007. As well, volunteers started bringing the DVDs to inmates in many countries, such as Ezeiza, Argentina, where a team reported great success at a women’s prison.
Motivated by this initiative, Roberto and Chantal Piriz brought “Words of Peace” DVDs into the Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, Texas, in 2007 and began offering live classes. Word got out, and the class concept quickly spread to other prisons and to other countries. In 2011 the director of the Zonderwater prison in South Africa, having seen the impact the DVDs had on the inmates, requested a more formalized version of the program so they could offer it throughout their prison system. By then, it was named the Peace Education Program (PEP), a curriculum consisting of 10 one-hour workshops designed to help inmates discover their own inner resources, innate tools for living such as inner strength, choice, and hope–and the possibility of personal peace. PEP is held in correctional facilities and parolee programs all across North America as well as in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
CEA continues to offer PEP, and Stephen Steurer, former CEA Executive Director says, “I recommend this program to you as an effective means to help increase the harmony within individuals and the community in which you serve.”
Meet the Filmmakers
PRODUCER/DIRECTOR — CYNTHIA FITZPATRICK | Though Inside Peace is her directorial debut as a documentary producer and director, Cynthia has been in the film business for the last 25 years and began her career at HBO as a feature script reader. She then moved on to producing and editing trailers for HBO feature films. Her editorial work has been associated with hundreds of titles, including a comedy series starring and directed by Tracey Ullman. She edited many “Behind the Scenes” for HBO as well as series for network syndication including the “The Sopranos”, “Six Feet Under” and “Sex and the City“.
WRITER/CO-PRODUCER — ROSIE LEE | Rosie Lee is a published writer and producer working primarily in the nonprofit sector on numerous documentary shorts and TV broadcasts for over 20 years. Rosie has been collaborating with Cynthia Fitzpatrick on Inside Peace since 2011.
STORY CONSULTANT — EVE GOLDBERG | She has worked as a writer, director, producer and editor in film and television for over 30 years. Her credits include: “Panama Deception”, Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary – story consultant; “Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist”, Emmy Award nominated for Best Non-Fiction Special – writer/editor; “Cover-Up: Behind the Iran/Contra Affair”, Golden Hugo Award, Prix du Public, number of other awards – writer/editor.
From the Producer/Director, Cynthia Fitzpatrick: I’ve been a professional filmmaker for over 25 years, and when I first saw a Univision piece in 2011 about offenders from the Peace Class at the Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, I knew the story about the effect the class had on inmates, reaching one fractured heart at a time, had to be told. For the last 4 years I’ve been capturing the story, with the help of a small, nimble San Antonio based crew, following the main characters from inside the prison to their return home. I hope you will be as moved as I was watching them struggle to find their inner strengths and face the challenges of re-entering a society that doesn’t quite believe rehabilitation is possible.
“Peace Behind Barbed Wire” – Huffington Post
“These stories bleed through Inside Peace, and they are crucial to it, but they’re only part of what the film is about. The men manage to take the message to heart that they have value as people – no simple lesson, especially when it comes so late in life. This is where, for the viewer, the awe comes in. You mean inner peace is… always possible?” –Robert Koehler
“Inside Peace Goes Behind Bars At SA’s Dominguez State Jail” – San Antonio Current
“When inmates look inward, something positive happens” – San Antonio Express-News
Inside Peace racks up 4 more film fest prizes (press release)
Telemundo Features Inside Peace (select English or Spanish)
After four years capturing over 200 hours of footage, we wanted to share a collection of additional compelling scenes and stories that we could not fit into the film. More to come…
The film is made. Awards have been won. Now it’s time to takeoff. Launching a film effectively takes hard work and funding. Our goal is to bring Inside Peace and its transformative story about the positive effects of peace education to audiences everywhere. We need your support to keep our work going for special theatrical screenings, community outreach, and to build partnerships broadening the reach of this award winning film. Here are some ways you can help right now:
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