CHASP Reel Policy Screening of HERMAN'S HOUSE
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (CST)
San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
On October 1, 2013, Herman Wallace's 1974 murder conviction was overturned, and he was released from prison after four decades in solitary confinement. Just three days later, Herman Wallace died of cancer, a free man.
Join the LBJ School's Center for Health and Social Policy for a public screening of HERMAN'S HOUSE, the award-winning PBS documentary that shines a spotlight on the injustice of solitary confinement and helped free Herman Wallace.
After the film, LBJ School Professor Michele Deitch, a national expert on criminal justice policy, juvenile justice policy, and the school-to-prison pipeline, will moderate a discussion on policy implications and questions raised by the film.
The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and registration at http://HermansHouseLBJ.eventbrite.com is required for communication purposes. Light snacks will be provided.
WATCH THE TRAILER
MORE ABOUT THE FILM
The injustice of solitary confinement and the transformative power of art are explored in Herman's House, a feature documentary that follows the unlikely friendship between a New York artist and one of America's most famous inmates as they collaborate on an acclaimed art project.
In 1972, New Orleans native Herman Joshua Wallace (b. 1941) was serving a 25-year sentence for bank robbery when he was accused of murdering an Angola Prison guard and thrown into solitary confinement. Many believed him wrongfully convicted. Appeals were made but Herman remained in jail and--to increasingly widespread outrage--in solitary. Years passed with one day much like the next. Then in 2001 Herman received a perspective-shifting letter from a Jackie Sumell, a young art student, who posed the provocative question:
"WHAT KIND OF HOUSE DOES A MAN WHO HAS LIVED IN A SIX-FOOT-BY-NINE-FOOT CELL FOR OVER 30 YEARS DREAM OF?"
Thus began an inspired creative dialogue, unfolding over hundreds of letters and phone calls and yielding a multi-faceted collaborative project that includes the exhibition "The House That Herman Built." The revelatory art installation--featuring a full-scale wooden model of Herman's cell and detailed plans of his dream home--has brought thousands of gallery visitors around the world face-to-face with the harsh realities of the American prison system.
But as Herman's House reveals, the exhibition is just the first step.
Their journey takes a more unpredictable turn when Herman asks Jackie to make his dream a reality. As her own finances dwindle, Jackie begins to doubt if she can meet the challenge of finding land and building a real house. Meanwhile, Herman waits to find out if the Louisiana courts will hear his latest appeal.
Along the way we meet self-confessed "stick-up kid" Michael Musser, who credits Herman for helping him turn his life around while in solitary; Herman's sister Vickie, a loyal and tireless supporter despite her own emotional burden; and former long-term solitary inmate and fellow Black Panther activist Robert King who, along with Herman and Albert Woodfox, was one of the so-called Angola 3 that became a cause celebre in the 2000s.
"I'm not a lawyer and I'm not rich and I'm not powerful, but I'm an artist," Jackie says.
"And I knew the only way I could get (Herman) out of prison was to get him to dream." There are 2.2 million people in jail in the U.S. More than 80,000 of those are in solitary confinement. Herman Wallace has been there longer than anyone.
With compassion and meaningful artistry, Herman's House takes us inside the lives and imaginations of two unforgettable characters--forging a friendship and building a dream in the struggle to end the "cruel and unusual punishment" of long-term solitary confinement.
When & Where
Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP) at the LBJ School
The Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP) is the home of social policy at The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs. It is comprised of a network of LBJ faculty, alumni, students, policymakers, and professionals who are passionate about tackling today’s most pressing social policy issues.
CHASP hosts multidisciplinary policy events and seminars; provides networking opportunities; and facilitates research partnerships that reach across and off campus.