Night driving empty road ahead. Carlos driving at night.
Every ride home is different. A lot of times when I feel like I’m used to getting up in the morning and driving, three, four hours into these prisons, the middle of nowhere, to pick up another lifer. I figured I’d be used to it by now, but I’m not.
Car dashboard and car clock
Carlos works with a ride home program started after California reformed Three Strikes – and made thousands eligible for release.
Knowing that I’m picking someone up that just finished doing 25 years, kinda takes me to how I felt back in 2002 when I was there.
Carlos arrives at the prison gates
Good morning, Sir. We’re here to pick up Mr. Stanley Bailey.
From Ironwood, or?
From Ironwood, yes.
You’ll just pull over here, wait over here.
Carlos on camera
When I was incarcerated, I was a teenager, 16 at the time. I took a 12-year plea bargain for an attempted murder. Ended up doing 10 years and 8 months. I got released when I was 27. And I’m looking at the world to kinda find that release for my brothers and sisters that are still locked up.
Carlos waits in the twilight, staring toward the prison in the distance
Being able to help someone makes me grateful. It’s like a privilege, like an honor.
Carlos waits… The sun rises, time passes… Birds fly in circles toward the sky…
VERITE: STANLEY and CARLOS greet one another
Stanley, what’s up?
Thanks for the ride.
You ready or what?
Yeah, more than ready
Carlos/Stanley get in the car and drive off
We’re gonna try and take care of the first few hours at the very least.
I appreciate that, thank you.
Stanley is among dozens of “lifers” Carlos has picked up from prisons throughout the state.
Carlos and Stanley drive.
When I do this, it’s open heartedly. I don’t know who that person is, why he’s getting out, why he was arrested, why he did all that time. But saying “you know what, regardless of what happened I’m here.”
Most of the guys that get out have families that are deceased. Most of them don’t have friends anymore. A lot of these guys are actually scared. Their biggest fear is to fail.
You know, I’m not young anymore. I gotta start a whole new career. So I’m pretty much starting from scratch. I’m gonna have my hands full just getting on my feet.
It comes with the territory you know…when I got out I had a pretty heavy burden on my shoulders. You know, I had already…I had to pay rent. And then, not having like, someone to really talk to and could relate, that… that…just tore me down.
The fear of going back, the fear of saying, you know, “this is a revolving door for you“. Being institutionalized. The emotions that you go through, you don’t know how to deal with them. You always try to isolate yourself. Sometimes I feel like I’m still institutionalized. I used to go in the bathroom, take a shower, and I used to just cry. I didn’t know how to deal with it.
The road ahead, Carlos and Stanley walk through Joshua Tree
Of all the things that everybody talked about doing when I got out, I told them, ’ Hey, I just want to sit on the grass under a tree’. I haven’t been under a tree in, y’know, 25 years.
CARLOS and STANLEY CONTINUE WALKING THROUGH DESERT…
It’s beautiful out here. I don’t have any time to waste on jail anymore.
Carlos driving, road ahead, Stanley looking out window.
Driving POV – Los Angeles Skylike and Streets.
Stanley on the side of the street.
Yeah, this is gonna take some getting used to.
It’s real uncomfortable. It’s gonna take a minute. I haven’t had a car go by me in almost 30 years.
Carlos and Stanley at a diner.
I think it’s therapeutic for me. Releasing some of that information that I know and teaching them kinda how it’s gonna be. How do you want this to end up? How do you want to continue living your life? Within those first 24 hours if you don’t have the support necessary or the belief in yourself that’s necessary for you to continue on, then you’ll struggle.
Establishing shots of Amity, Stanley walks into the building, greeted by others.
Amity resident 1
Comin’ out, it’s a lot of pressure. When I first got out I was scared. I’m not gonna lie, I was terrified.
Amity Resident 2
We give hope to other people that are behind the walls still just waiting to come out and we make this a safe place for people to transition to society. Welcome to your house, because this is gonna be your house.
Carlos hugs and welcome Stanley.
Scenes around Amity.
Three days ago, he was a lifer. His mentality was as a lifer and a lifer is I’m spending the rest of my life in prison. And then all of the sudden boom, you’re out. The $200 they give you as gate money and for them to say “OK, go live a life, go try to make it.” People never see the potential in someone, they figure that we could categorize them as they were. They are prisoners, they’re inmates, that’s what they are.
When we talk about throw away the key, lock ‘em up.
We don’t give people enough opportunities. I think that’s our biggest problem.
More than half a million people are released from prison each year in the United States.