Breaking the Cycle

2017, Society  -   7 Comments

Halden Prison in Norway isn't your typical correctional institution. The focus here is on rehabilitation and normalcy. It's an approach that wields desirable results; the inmates thrive in harmony when they exist in an environment that doesn't compromise their humanity. Jan Stromnes, the deputy warden of the facility, believes that other prisons can learn and gain from their example. Breaking the Cycle follows him as he travels to prisons across the United States to urge for badly needed reforms.

Determined to view each inmate as a human being who committed a crime instead of a disposable criminal unworthy of compassion, Stromnes and his staff are shown interacting with the prisoners in auto repair shops and recreation rooms. Their relationships are built upon open communication, mutual understanding and respect. This collaborative exchange promotes a well behaved population, minimal inmate infractions and healthy growth during their periods of incarceration.

This is just one of the ideas that seems so revolutionary as Stromnes enters the gates of the infamous Attica Correctional Facility in Wyoming County, New York. Behind these walls and out in the yard, an imposing climate of fear dominates each inmate's every move. Security and self-preservation are the key focus at the expense of all else. This encapsulates the attitude towards incarceration across much of the country.

Stromnes sits with a select group of inmates in Attica and asks them to workshop their ideal prison setting. Most of them yearn for an environment that feels more akin to a campus; where educational and vocational programs can lead them to a sense of purpose and more appealing possibilities upon release.

Some American prisons - such as the North Dakota State Penitentiary - are taking the initiative and attempting to build a more fruitful rehabilitation experience. Officials there pose the same question raised by the film: are we improving the potential of those we're eventually going to allow re-entry into society?

The topic of prison reform is a crucial one, but it's plagued by baffling bureaucracy, budgetary restrictions and societal stigmatisms. Breaking the Cycle embraces the exploration of fresh ideas and meaningful change.

Directed by: Tomas Lindh

, John Stark

Ratings: 9.20/10from 35 users.

More great documentaries

7 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Jeni Gunn

    Great documentary. My only issue is the subtitles are WILDLY inaccurate, to the point of presenting an opposite context of what the speaker actually said. Please fix this. This film loses so much credibility there.

  2. Ashley Jones

    When was this documentary first published? I see 2017, but what day and month?

  3. Your Neighbor


  4. Vince Parkes

    Brillant documentary. It provides a fresh look at ways to increase the chances of a prisoner successfully re-entering society.

  5. Richard Neva

    Prisons all over are pretty much the same. I was a correctional officer for 24 years in Michigan. Good pay and benefits but you always have to watch your back and your partners back. I cannot really watch all this because it brings back some bad memories.

  6. Ian Bell

    The female correction woman at the end is an amazing woman!!! wow, such a breath of fresh air.

    1. Vince Parkes

      I agree Ian. She reminded me of a quote i recently see that said "Those who are not prepared to take risks in life will achieve nothing"