By: Ramin Setoodeh
After making the 2003 independent film “Monster,” about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, director Patty Jenkins started to correspond with prisoners around the country. “I became educated in how incredibly difficult it can be for people to get out of prison — even when they are innocent, even when they are reformed,” she says. “The world brands a person a prisoner forever.”
While doing research for another project, she connected with producer Scott Budnick, who experienced a similar epiphany when he volunteered to teach creative writing to incarcerated juveniles in Los Angeles. In 2013, Budnick officially started the nonprofit Anti-Recidivism Coalition to help men and women leaving prison navigate ways to reenter society.
CREDIT: Art Streiber for Variety
ARC offers counseling, mentoring services, education and assistance with housing. It also has partnered with chains like Starbucks, Home Depot and The Cheesecake Factory to facilitate job placement. Budnick uses his connections to the movie industry when he can. “I had a few folks straight out of prison work on ‘The Hangover,’” says Budnick about the hit comedy that he produced. “They worked their butts off.”
The organization also has been educating legislators on a need for reform, including working on a bill that grants juveniles a second chance to come home. Budnick says that Jenkins has been one of his most important allies from the start. “She dove into the work and helped us, mentoring folks, visiting our housing programs,” he says. And the director recently hosted two “Wonder Woman” screenings — one at a juvenile camp for girls and one at a women’s prison — followed by Q&As where she talked about personal responsibility and empowerment.
“ARC has been a place that is setting the groundwork to give a real education and a real head start and a real chance to a lot of people who are recent parolees,” Jenkins says. “Very few people are born wanting to be a lifelong prisoner or even a criminal. When given a path out, everybody wants to be a hero in their story.”