What first began as a sense of helplessness, turned into a driving motivation to avert the human cost of incarceration and keep families together.
As a young woman, Rebecca Grace watched helplessly as a close family member was denied desperately needed drug rehab and was instead sent to prison for a drug-related crime. The situation was all too common, but the outrage of such backward problem-solving followed her for a decade.
A filmmaker and storyteller at heart, she decided to use the power of storytelling to introduce more context into the legal process. Rebecca, her husband John and their daughter began traveling on weekends to interview defendants awaiting sentencing and their families on camera.
Across the board, interviewees expressed a deep sense of powerlessness and an overwhelming feeling of being voiceless in our current system.
They often broke down and cried when conveying how appreciative they felt knowing that at last there was this small chance that their full stories and circumstances would be conveyed to the court.
While it was a hardship on many levels for Rebecca and her family to travel so much and to dedicate so much time to helping these families, with each new story it became increasingly clear that there was an urgent necessity for the humanizing video portraits they were creating.
To more authentically describe the lives
and experiences of the defendants we
are working to humanize, we believe
it’s imperative that we champion the
voices of previously incarcerated film-
makers of all genders, ethnicities, sexual
orientations, faiths and levels of socio-
economic status. Their perspectives are
a critical ingredient to the rescinding of
simplistic, stereotypical characterizations.
As a non-profit organization, they can focus on creating these videos for underprivileged people who otherwise would not have access to this resource. While it is not their primary mission to save the government money, one important by-product of the reduced sentences is substantial savings to taxpayers, -- money that is much better spent on education, drug rehabilitation, housing for homeless and mental health care.
A little over one year later, Rebecca and John were overjoyed to discover that their first six videos were instrumental in achieving a collective prison time reduction of 235 months for the six defendants. Realizing just how effective and powerful these video portraits are in giving judges the information and confidence to proceed with more humane sentencing, Rebecca and John founded Complete Picture.
In an effort to help reduce the bias and stigma that formerly incarcerated individuals face when they re-enter society and seek employment, we often hire recently released inmates to be a member of the crew on every sentencing video project we embark on. Our hope is that they will receive more employment opportunities as a result of their time working with Complete Picture.