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Peer Review

Frontline: The Released



Overall Numeric Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Feb 04, 2011 by Criminal Justice Editorial Board
Overview: The question is; "What becomes of the mentally ill when they leave prison and return to our communities?" We find the answer in part as we watch "The Released," a Frontline documentary produced by PBS which chronicles the lives of six mentally ill men as they cycle in and out of the criminal justice system. We follow them as they each deal with their own illnesses. We first meet Jerry who was diagnosed as schizophrenic at age 16 and once swallowed (among other items) a Walkman Radio. He does not think he is mentally ill, he says that he suffers from "spiritual insanity." Michael is a paranoid schizophrenic and hears voices that tell him he is the "father of God." Lynn is a paranoid schizophrenic, has been arrested and released more than twenty times and has been in prison 4 times. He claims he is looking for Bin Laden in Canton OH. Benny suffers from paranoia, was arrested 10 times in two years and has been in prison 3 times. Benny has been a mental health patient for well over thirty years. William is schizophrenic and suffers from psychotic episodes. He self-mutilates himself and has been in the emergency room at least 100 times. William "wants to be good." Finally, we are told that Keith epitomizes the "failure of de-institutionalization." Keith had just finished a 2-year prison sentence, was taken to a homeless shelter, and within a month was back in jail. He was sent (again) to one of the last remaining state psychiatric hospitals in his state. It was his eighteenth admission to that facility. We are told that Keith might have spent his life in a state hospital and not prison, but with the de-institutionalization that took place in the 1970's, men such as Keith and the others went from "institutionalization to nothing." "Prison became the new asylum." Most of these clients refuse to take or stay on their medication. They are released from prison with $75.00 or so and 2 weeks worth of meds. They habitually commit crimes, are arrested and re-arrested, serve their time or are paroled, then are released from jail or prison back into their communities, oftentimes homeless. It is the old "revolving door" syndrome.
Type of Material: Case Study
Recommended Uses: In class as either a standalone video, viewed as homework assignment and then discussed in class, or individual or group discussion online or on campus.
Technical Requirements: VIDEO / GENERAL TECHNICAL ISSUES How can I watch video in full screen? You may need to upgrade to version 10 of Adobe's Flash Player. Also, make sure you have enabled JavaScript in your Web browser, as it is required to view our streaming video. Why do I only get audio, not video? You may need to upgrade to a newer version of your media player: version 10 of Adobe's Flash Player for programs from 2007 or later, Windows Media Player or QuickTime for earlier programs. If there is an interruption in the flow of data anywhere between our video server and your computer, you may get an incomplete picture or only the audio track of the program. Unfortunately, there's not much we can do about this problem. Our best suggestion is to wait a while and try again. Why is there so much video buffering? Unfortunately, there are many points between our media server and your computer that might be slowing down the process. Our recommendation would be to try back later. We apologize for the inconvenience. Why aren't more FRONTLINE programs available for viewing online? We've been streaming as many of our programs as possible, and we appreciate the hundreds of letters from viewers thanking us for this service. Although we would like to offer all our programs online, this is not possible. Internet rights cannot be obtained for some recent broadcasts, and costs are prohibitive for clearing stock footage, music and talent union rights for the older programs in our archive. We plan to offer as many of our future programs as we can. Why does this site look strange? If you're having problems viewing the FRONTLINE Web site, it may be that you're running an older version of your Web browser. We test our site in every browser we can get our hands on, but occasionally problems will arise. We recommend that you use Firefox 3.5 or later, Safari 4 or later, Opera, or Internet Explorer 8 or later. Also, make sure that you enable JavaScript as our streaming video and some other features will not work without it. FRONTLINE and PBS do send some cookies (read our privacy policy for the specifics), but the site will function even if your browser is set not to accept them.
Identify Major Learning Goals: The learner will definitely develop a deeper understanding of mental illness, how the disease impacts those that suffer from it and how the mentally ill offenders are dealt with after they are released from prison and then sent back into their communities.
Target Student Population: Undergraduate criminal justice, criminology, sociology or psychology students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: A very compelling and accurate depiction of the reality that those who are incarcerated and suffer from mental illness face once they are released from prison. Due to the fact that it is produced by Frontline, the investigative journalism series and shown on PBS, there is little question of the validity and reliability of the materials shown. The video is very current with a 2009 date and is self-contained yet flexible enough to be used in a variety of situations. Video link works and all information given is easy to understand.
Concerns: Other than the interruption every 2-4 seconds of the video streaming (which can be annoying), no real concerns.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: The video "The Released" engages learner's multiple senses using audio, video, and text. It is very effective and facilitates learning by addressing mental illness in a non-condescending manner. It creates a certain amount of intrigue in that the learner does not know what became of the men portrayed until the end of the film. Even though the video is less than 1-hour long, it is very efficient in that the learner can learn a lot about mental illness in a very short period of time.
Concerns: Fails to identify objectives

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: The video is of very high quality and is very easy to use since the video starts automatically when the learner "clicks" on the link. The video can be paused when necessary by engaging the "start" button. It is highly engaging in that the learner sees mental illness for what it really is; chronic, dangerous, disabling, yet treatable.
Concerns: Not interactive

Other Issues and Comments: One needs a high speed internet connection which is not always available, some public access computer sites block video presentations