by Jody DiPerna
On March 11, City of Asylum will show the film ‘Calls from Home,’ followed by a conversation with film director Sylvia Ryerson moderated by the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.
The film shares the stories of the families and friends who connect with their loved ones incarcerated in the prison system of Central Appalachia through WMMT-FM’s weekly radio show, also titled, ‘Calls from Home.’ The film highlights the painful distances created by a system of mass incarceration and the drive to maintain human connection from both the inside and outside of prisons.
WMMT is the non-commercial, community radio service of Appalshop, Inc., a not-for-profit multimedia arts center in Whitesburg, Kentucky. WMMT’s local radio signal reaches numerous jails and detention centers in the area, including Wallens Ridge State Prison and Red Onion State Prison, both in Wise County, VA, two of six prisons that were built in Virginia between 1995 and 2000.
Directed by Sylvia Ryerson, a former DJ for the show, ‘Calls from Home’ is an intimate portrait of rural prison expansion in Central Appalachia.
There will be a discussion after the film with Ryerson and a panel discussion on incarceration in Western Pennsylvania with Robert Wideman, a certified community service worker and contributor to “Life Sentences: Writings from Inside an American Prison” (Belt Press, 2019); Tanisha Long, Community Organizer for the Abolitionist Law Center and the founder of Black Lives Matter Pittsburgh; Richard Garland, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh whose research centers on working with troubled youth, especially those involved in gangs and gun violence; and Brittany Hailer, Director of PINJ.
[photo of Wallens Ridge State Prison in Wise County, Virginia]