Lockdown, USA (2006) Poster


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dances around the topic
anner24634 May 2006
I saw this film at the Tribeca Film Festival. I was a bit disappointed. The film talks about the fight to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The laws take the power out of the judge and give mandatory sentences of 15yrs-life for drug chargers. The problem with law is that the power should be in the hands of the judges and be dealt with on a case by case basis. The film brings up this point up only a couple times, but focuses on Russle Simmons's campaign to over turn the drug laws because he "wants to bring families back together." The point is not to just let people out of jail who where arrested for this, but find ways to make our judicial system more fair. The word rehabilitation was only mentioned a couple times in the film, and they focused on the story of a man who was falsely imprisoned on a drug charges, and his fight to be released. Fighting to release Innocent people is another topic all together. They should have focused more on rehabilitation people who are on drugs instead of putting them in jail for 15-life and getting them proper representation in court. Just releasing people who were imprisoned for drug use is not going to solve the problem of drug abuse in our society.
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Rockefeller Drug Laws should remain in tact.
Tode16 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I watched the movie/documentary "Lockdown, USA" on IFC. While I have empathy for Mr. Best, IF he was convicted of a crime that he didn't commit... I got the strong notion that the viewers were only given Mr. Best's side of the story, and that the viewer wasn't given all of the information that was provided to Mr. Best's jury.

After watching this film, I came to the conclusion that the "Rockefeller Drug Laws" should NOT be reformed or rescinded, just that they should be more enforced against all segments of the population. Prior to seeing this film, I was 50/50 on the topic of the "Rockefeller Drug Laws." Now, I'd have to say that I'm 90/10 in FAVOR of keeping the "Rockefeller Drug Laws" in effect.

I agree with a prior comment that rather than focus on the "Rockefeller Drug Laws," the film seems to focus on Russell Simmons' campaign to overturn the drug laws because he "wants to bring families back together." The film focused too much on Mr. Best. Fighting to release allegedly innocent people (of which I still question) from prison is totally separate topic from overturning the "Rockefeller Drug Laws." The film should have focused more on rehabilitation of people who are on drugs and trying to show how drug rehabilitation may be a better option than putting them in jail for 15-life and getting them proper representation in court. Releasing people who were imprisoned for drug use is not going to improve the problem of drug abuse in our society.
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A confusing, seemingly pointless look into efforts to change the Rockefeller laws
pomonabrian19 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this movie at Silverdocs, and thought that it was a decidedly mediocre look at efforts to reform the Rockefeller drug laws in New York State. The movie follows the reform efforts from three people's perspectives: Russel Simmons, the hip-hop mogul; comedian-turned-activist Randy Credico; and Wanda Best whose husband is serving fifteen years in prison for a questionable drug conviction.

The movie suffers badly from a lack of focus on any one issue. Simmons comes across as either comedic in his antics (he frequently blows up and storms out of rooms over seemingly trivial slights) or sad in his naiveté. In the end, it seems as though he is used as a pawn by larger interests at work in Albany. He seems to be someone who honestly wants to help people, but does not understand how the system works to reform laws.

Credico, on the other hand, has been working on the issue for nearly ten years and understands quite well how the system works. His problem is that he doesn't have the political clout, connections, and money to get anything done. Had things gone differently, the movie might have been able to show an interesting coalition formed between Credico with the political knowledge and Simmons with the clout and money, but they never manage to gel together. The result is that the profiles of these two men's efforts wind up looking like two ships passing in the night.

The Best family, on the other hand, seems to have an entirely different issue to deal with. The problem here seems to be a criminal conviction despite the apparent innocence of the accused, and not a problem with the drug laws per se. In other words, the profile of Mrs. Best, who works with Simmons to get her husband freed, is not related to the story that the rest of the documentary is trying to tell. Her story is touching and indicative of many problems with the criminal justice system, but is not the best illustration of the problems with the Rockefeller drug laws.

Throughout the movie, there are cuts to cartoon illustrations of statistics about the enforcement of drug laws in the United States. The statistics come across as childish both in their presentation and in fact. They seem too simplistic to illustrate the problems with the drug laws. The filmmakers might have been better served to include some narration to provide more detailed and informative background information. Even a more focused interview with Credico probably would have accomplished this, as he seemed to know his facts quite well.

Overall, the movie never really comes together. It has three separate stories that only tangentially overlap, and in the end, nothing gets done. While it may serve as a monument to the futility of reform, it is perhaps better seen as a cautionary tale about making documentaries where you don't know what the outcome of events will be.
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