Jail doesn’t work. Prison doesn’t work.

Prison State

Over the past forty years, the U.S. prison population soared by 700%. Prison State documents the story of a year in one of the most incarcerated neighbourhoods in America.

In Louisville's Beecher Terrace, more than three quarters of adults have spent time behind bars. Children are jailed for skipping school. The state spends three times as much money incarcerating Beecher residents as it does educating them.

Beecher Terrace is emblematic of America’s four-decade love affair with incarceration. In 1972, there were 300,000 people behind bars in the United States. Today there are 2.3 million. The U.S. now locks up more of its citizens than any other country in the world.

Prison State is an intimate portrait of one year in the lives of four Beecher residents trapped in the cycles of incarceration. With extraordinary and unprecedented access to juvenile courtrooms, state prisons, county jails, and juvenile lockups, the individual stories are set against the backdrop of an historic new effort by the state to bring down its prison numbers.

Directed, Produced and Filmed by Dan Edge

Produced by Lauren Mucciolo

Edited by Tim Lovell

Music by Jonny Pilcher

Deputy Executive Producer for FRONTLINE: Raney Aronson-Rath

Executive Producer for FRONTLINE: David Fanning


2014, Mongoose Pictures for FRONTLINE PBS

You cannot watch this powerful film without being confronted with the futility of a system that keeps men and women in an endless cycle of incarceration…. We see troubled people trying to do better. We see nuance and ambiguity, not the starkness of right and wrong.
— The Atlantic