Food for Thought at The Linda – Chew on This: Milwaukee 53206

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On September 17, a sizeable gathering of people viewed the documentary Milwaukee 53206 at The Linda in Albany, New York, in partnership with Honest Weight for its monthly program to bring thoughtful cinema to the Capital District.

The zip code in the title of the documentary has the highest number of residents who are in prison. Sixty two (62) percent of the adult male population in that zip code currently incarcerated. No other city in the world has a higher rate.

Milwaukee 53206 chronicles the lives of several people who are trying to break the cyclical, generational chain of culture, poverty, lack of education, unemployment, and poor choices that have led to the disproportionate level of incarceration in the area.

Milwaukee is like many other cities in the U.S. that have high unemployment rates, a growing number of people who abuse substances, and inadequate social programs to respond proactively to the challenges emerging from this perfect storm of social issues. The city has relied on a justice system that uses mass incarceration, increasingly privatized, to solve these problems.

This documentary is truly food for thought. Panelists David Hureau of the UAlbany School of Criminal Justice and Karen Murtagh, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York (PLS), used the documentary as a steppingstone to a discussion of this increasingly pervasive social issue. Several upsetting facts emerged, including:

● The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of the prisons.
● The recidivism rate in the U.S. is 50% ,the highest in the world.
● The average cost of incarcerating a inmate in New York State is $60,000 a year.
● The cost of educating an inmate in New York State is $3,000.
● The rate of recidivism for inmates with college degrees is less than 10%.

The next film, scheduled for Thursday, October 19, is a repeat showing of Becoming More Visible, the story of four young adults who went through the process of becoming transgender. It was felt that the documentary was so inspiring that it deserves another showing, this time to a wider audience.

Food For Thought is a monthly evening of food, film, and discussion with a focus on films of social, political, environmental, and community interest. Held on the third Thursday of each month, the night features food samples by Honest Weight Food Co-op, music, and a panel discussion.

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Bob Ross has been a member of Honest Weight since 1979. He serves on the Nutrition and Education Committee, the Finance Committee and works with Outreach on the Food for Thought documentary series.