A Kind of Order

A Kind of Order PosterNoel Schwerin has written, produced and directed award-winning films, including two national PBS primetime specials: Bloodlines, which was used by the U.S. Senate, the National Association of Women Judges and the Federal Judicial Center, winning top honors at the National Association of Science Writers and the Association of Women in Communications; and the two-hour A Question of Genes, which won a special citation in CPB’s Report on Public Broadcasting and The Needs of Minority and Diverse Audiences, and is excerpted at San Jose’s TechMuseum and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

A Kind of Order follows a warden, a white separatist and a black gangbanger for seven years as they struggle to move beyond the stark reality of America’s locked down racial order. Challenged for the first time by a U.S. Supreme Court desegregation ruling and a novel mixed race program, their stories reveal the institutional nature of racial hierarchies and the hope and hidden risks of transformative change.

A veteran Warden now embraces integration, believing segregation undermines safety. Yet staff and inmate pushback, budget woes and an escape attempt sorely test his commitment. “We may have shot ourselves in the foot when we started this whole thing.”

For white inmate John, segregation means dominance. “For us, it’s power. The courts have taken away our freedom so we strike back amongst ourselves.” In for murder, John is “shotcaller” for the whites. “We live by a convict code, and when rules are broken, it gets violent.” But John’s accidental participation in the workshop is challenging. Can he give up power to coexist?

For black inmate Sam, the path is clear. Convicted of a gang murder, Sam eventually became a model prisoner: “The person that sits here is not the same 18-year-old kid. I wasn’t a man by no measure at 18.” Sam values integration but it is also a Catch-22. If he resists integration, he faces parole denial. If he disobeys his group’s rules, “Prison justice will find me.”

America’s criminal justice policy is driven and perpetuated by fear. While fear governs, little meaningful discussion, analysis or change is likely, for institutions, communities or individuals. A Kind of Order draws people past fear to experience prison directly, to bear witness to the impact of policies, and to invite scrutiny about the role of race and power in our “locked down” society, where one in 99 Americans (one in three African American males) spends time behind bars, and where millions of women, children and families (one in 50 Americans) are left behind.

April 15, 2015: Oxford College of Emory University, Oxford, GA
April 16, 2015: Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC
April 18, 2015: Creative City Collaborative, Pompano Beach, FL
April 20, 2015: East Tennessee State University, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, Johnson City, TN
April 22, 2015: Indie Memphis, Memphis, TN
April 23, 2015: Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts, Auburn University, Auburn, AL