In the United States, there are over 6.8 million people in prison, in jail, on probation or parole. That is 1 in every 35 adults. Perhaps even more alarming is that women are the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population, increasing at nearly double the rate of men since 1985.
In 2008, Seattle police officer Kim Bogucki walked through the gates of the Washington Corrections Center for Women, intent on asking a group of mothers for permission to work with their school-aged daughters in a Girl Scouts Beyond Bars troop for girls with incarcerated parents. On that day, Bogucki asked the mothers a critical question: “If there was something someone could have said or done that would have changed the path that led you here, what would it have been?”
For one of the inmates in particular this question struck a chord. Renata Abramson was a repeat offender serving a nine-year sentence. In the days that followed, Renata took it upon herself to answer that question in writing, and invited her fellow prisoners to do the same. When Bogucki returned to prison a month later, Renata handed her a stack of raw and poignant essays and The IF Project was born.
The voices that came forth told heartbreaking stories of abject poverty, neglect, drugs, and physical, emotional and sexual abuse. For the first time in many of the women’s lives, the essays gave them a chance to express themselves and be vulnerable without judgment. For the first time, Renata saw that a police officer genuinely cared about her, and about ensuring that her children could avoid the seemingly inevitable road to incarceration. An unlikely relationship between cop and convict was forged.
The “If Project” is a feature length documentary that follows this extraordinary police officer and four of the women in the program through their journey as they are released, reunited with their families and faced with life on the outside.
For more information about The If Project organization, please click below.
About 700,000 inmates are released from federal and state prisons each year, and approximately two-thirds will reoffend within three years. How we rehabilitate and reintegrate former prisoners back into society will have a great impact on the future of our communities and our nation as a whole. The answers to the IF question as brought to life in the documentary show us that we are returning people to our communities broken and unprepared.
The outreach we are building is a multiple city, advocacy and engagement effort to increase awareness, political will, support and innovation around the idea that we must stop the endless stream of people sent to prison AND create the conditions for productive and meaningful life after prison. In each city, we will partner with local governments, police agencies, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions to host one or more screenings of the film, followed by town hall-style panel discussions including formerly incarcerated women and local leaders. In addition, we will hold film screenings, discussions and writing workshops inside women’s prisons in each location.
We are in an important moment in time for this conversation. The topic of mass incarceration is constantly in today’s headlines. At the same time, criticism of American policing is the highest it has ever been. The IF Project demonstrates that both populations can serve each other and ultimately, our communities as a whole.
We are hopeful that the conversations started across the country as part of this project will influence policy and practice on a variety of topics: addressing social issues that lead to incarceration; improving policing practices; increasing support for successful transition to post-prison life; increasing access to employment and housing for felons through “ban the box” initiatives; and reinstating voting rights for felons nationwide. By putting a human face back on these inmates, telling their stories in an intimate and rarely seen way, The IF Project documentary lays the groundwork for change.
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PREVIOUS FESTIVALS/SCREENINGS + AWARDS
Seattle International Film Festival – awarded Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision & Special Jury Award
Brooklyn Film Festival
Cayman Islands Film Festival
Mission Creek Corrections Center For Women
Justice On Trial Film Festival
Global Peace Film Festival
Port Townsend Film Festival – awarded Special Jury Mention – Best Documentary
Flickers Rhode Island Film Festival – Riving Eye International – Winner Best Documentary
Abuja, Nigeria – US Embassy, Abuja Film Festival, Universities
Nasarawa, Nigeria – Keffi Old Prison
Lagos, Nigeria – Royal Film Academy, Doc Film Festival in Freedom Park, US Consulate
Port Orchard, WA
Santa Rosa, CA – AFJO Conference
Monterey, CA – Women Leaders in Law Enforcement
Troy, Alabama – Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers
Sheffield, AL – Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers
Monroe, NC – Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers
Jackson, MS – Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers
Hapeville, GA – Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers
Roswell, GA – Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers
Atlanta, GA – HHS
Harvest, Alabama – Limestone Mens Correctional Facility
Tuscumbia, AL – Juvenile Detention Center
Richmond, VA – Richmond City Jail and Community Center
Portland, OR – Coffee Creek Correctional Facility
New York, NY – Fordham Law School
Seattle, WA – North Seattle College
Seattle, WA – Meaningful Movies
Myrtle Beach, SC – Horry Technical College
Greenley, CO – University of Northern Colorado
Santa Rosa, CA – Santa Rosa Junior College
“Amid a heated national conversation about the militarization of police and the often toxic relationship between cops and civilians, the film could hardly be more timely.”
“An important piece of media that every American should see as soon as possible”
“The IF Project is required viewing”
“It’s got the story thrust, colorful characters, nuance, and gradually unfolding structure of a great narrative fiction feature”
“Thanks to Bogucki, Abramson, Horan and all of the people profiled here, we are able to share that emotional journey, and emerge equally transformed.”
Kathlyn Horan has been working as an independent director, producer and photographer for over 15 years. Her passion for social justice has led her to use the documentary medium as a way to bring stories to light that elevate awareness, connect communities and ignite discussion. She specializes in working in an embedded journalistic capacity with her subjects in order to allow the viewer an intimate journey into often unseen worlds.
Kathlyn co-directed a feature length film entitled “A Voice for Choice”, documenting the pro-choice “March for Women’s Lives” that took place in Washington DC on April 25th, 2004. The documentary includes interviews with some of the nations leading politicians, activists and artists such as Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Sheryl Crow, Bill Maher and more. Horan also produced and directed a short documentary, “What is Zen?”, which examines the lives of four Zen Buddhist monks in different stages of their practice.
In work as a producer, she has most recently completed two award winning short films; “Past Due” for the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and “The Lull Breaker” for the Toronto International Film Festival Talent Lab.
Her most recently completed film, One Lost Day follows Grammy winning duo Indigo Girls as they head to Nashville to record with a young and untested music producer, Jordan Hamiln. Filmed over the course of a two week recording session, we are allowed an extraordinarily intimate look into how they work together, their history and what their future holds. The film had it’s premiere at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
Horan’s current documentary, “The If Project” follows a group of inmates incarcerated in a maximum-security women’s prison who are part of a writing workshop co-created by a Seattle police detective and a repeat offender serving a nine-year sentence. The workshop challenges the women to answer, in their own words, a simple question with a difficult answer: What if things had been different? The film follows three of the women in the program through their journey as they are released, reunited with their families and faced with life on the outside.
In an effort to use visual storytelling in its most impactful way, Horan co-founded The IF Project organization along with Seattle police detective, Kim Bogucki. The organization is a collaboration of law enforcement, currently and previously incarcerated adults and community partners focused on intervention, prevention and reduction in incarceration and recidivism. The work is built upon–and inspired by–people sharing their personal experiences surrounding the issues of incarceration. http://www.theifproject.com/
Ben Daughtrey is a multi-talented show business veteran. His accomplishments include producing and editing the 1998 Official Sundance Selection feature film 100 Proof. Daughtrey’s extensive television editing credits include Reno 911,Intervention and The Bachelor, just to name a few. Daughtrey has been nominated for the Emmy in television editing three times – the PBS documentary If I Can’t Do It, the 2002 Academy Awards and Extreme Makeover- Home Edition. Daughtrey also produced, directed and edited a
series of post-Katrina documentaries for Arnold Advertising and Southern Comfort entitled New Orleans Stories. More recently he served as the Executive Producer on the docu-series Bordertown Laredo for the A&E Network, and Breaking Point for Discovery I.D. The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, a film Daughtrey edited, was an official selection in 2009 at multiple film festivals including Tribeca and the L.A. Film Fest. It is now widely viewed on Showtime,Netflix and other media outlets.
While not busy working on television and film, Daughtrey found time to star as Khalid the Sensitive Jihadist in the irreverent operetta The Beastly Bombing which went on to win “Best Musical of 2006” at the LAWeekly Theater Awards. Daughtrey’s musical accomplishments include touring the globe and playing with the legendary bands Squirrel Bait, False Prophets, The Lemonheads and Love Jones.