The Third Strike Review: A Documentary Offering Hope to Three-Strikes Law Cases

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There is an upcoming documentary film titled The Third Strike that deserves some attention.

Not to be associated with the baseball term after which the nuisance law is named, The Third Strike comes from first-time filmmaker Nicole Jones and offers an inside look at the devastation wreaked by the "three-strike" laws.

For those unfamiliar with the term, the three-strike laws add another layer of punishment to felons who have been convicted of felonies three times.

Edward Douglas and Cory Booker

There is a federal law, housed under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and state laws can be found in about half of the states, and most came into existence between 1994 and 1995.

The federal law addresses triple federal convictions for serious violent felonies or drug-related trafficking offenses.

States vary by whether the law applies to felonies, misdemeanors, or both; the specific crimes that fall under the law, and the severity of the punishment.

It's the federal law that's under examination in The Third Strike because of it's notable inequity with regard to drug offenses.

MiAngel Cody

Not only does the law affect African Americans more severely than other races, but the severity of the punishment often finds men convicted of relatively minor drug offenses swept up in the law and serving more time than rapists and murderers.

The Third Strike uses The Decarceration Collective as its launching point.

As stated on its website, The Decarceration Collective is a small -- but mighty -- team of women dedicated to fighting to free people sentenced to live in prison for drugs and end the policies that put them there.

The film introduces us to five such incarcerated men: Alton Mills, Ismael Rosa, Edward Douglas, Eric Wilson, and Tyrie Bell and the hero dedicated their freedom, Federal Defense Attorney and Collective founder MiAngel Cody.

MiAngel and Edward

Cody works with fellow attorneys Amanda Bash and LaSheda Brooks as well as Community Architect Bella Bahhs throughout the film and their unwavering dedication and impressive results are awe-inspiring.

These women may not be lauded (before now) as publicly as others who also support the cause, but their actions deserve commendation.

Perhaps you heard of the seventeen people who got their sentences commuted by President Trump after Kim Kardashian urged him to take a look at their cases.

She didn't come to that conclusion on her own, and MiAngel Cody and the Collective were instrumental in many of those cases.

Shanise Douglas

As if the women at the core of The Decarceration Collective aren't heroic enough, through The Third Strike we learn about their motivation for joining the fight, and it's often personal.

The film delves into their personal and professional connections, sharing some of their deepest fears that came true thanks to the unjust laws and what kind of impact their families suffered as a result.

When law fails to take into consideration mitigating factors with regard to crime, many are left suffering in the wake of the punishment. For repeated drug possession, children lose fathers, women lose husbands, and men never see freedom again.

The Collective's goal is for others to recognize incarcerated men as whole human beings rather than the sum of their crimes.

Clemency Now

The Third Strike does an admirable job of getting to the foot of the issue by following the earlier mentioned convicted men on their journeys to freedom.

Joining one of the men, Eric Wilson, on an ordinary trip to a local convenience store shows just how much of life has passed these men by for crimes that are now legal in some states.

Wilson marveled that changes sustained during his incarceration. Even things he once loved that endure are slightly different from Kentucky Fried Chicken becoming KFC to how to ride the bus without cash to the elimination of payphones and the new flavors of his favorite snack, Cheetos.

It proves that even when their prayers are answered, there is a lot to relearn upon their release as they have to undergo social rehabilitation to catch up to current philosophies.

LaSheda Brooka

It's through interviews with those men and their families that the true tragedy of the laws unfolds, and it's eye-opening.

Although the topic is heavy, The Third Strike offers hope to anyone who has suffered due to the three-strike laws and introduces them to the possibility of redemption and a brighter future.

If you're a believer that the laws are in the best interests of society in general, I'd wager that you'll find a story in this moving documentary that will make you rethink your stance.

I'll end the review with one of my favorite quotes from the film, "It's not a disgrace to have been a criminal. It is a disgrace to remain one."

The film premiered at Cinequest on March 7 in San Jose, California, and has been nominated for other festivals prior to release.


Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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