Director discusses issues of mental illness, rape, and access to health care in prison

The need for prison reform is extreme, particularly concerning issues involving mental illness. Gabriel London, director of the documentary ‘The Mind of Mark DeFriest,’ recently met with the Huffington Post to discuss this subject. London created the documentary to tell the real story of Mark DeFriest’s experiences in prison. Sentenced initially to four years for a minor crime, DeFriest has spent thirty-four years in prison despite being consistently non-violent. DeFriest has spent 27 of his 34 years in prison in solitary confinement, described by Wayne Kramer, an activist involved in the documentary, as “cruelty on a level that’s unimaginable for regular people.” Several doctors have diagnosed DeFriest with a mental illness. The escalation of DeFriest’s punishment is believed to be a result of the prison system’s inability to treat people with mental illness, according to London. In addition to mental illness awareness, the documentary discusses other necessary aspects of prison reform, such as prison rape, and inmate access to health care. London believes that documentaries such as his are essential to sparking conversation and change around these issues. According to London, “People make a difference now, and what the film proves more than anything is that when we apply collective pressure, and we share these stories, we humanize and we then bring forward the conversations around what should happen with people like Mark.”

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Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.