LANCASTER – A documentary on prisoners serving life sentences without the possibility of parole at California State Prison in Lancaster will premiere on HBO Aug. 3, the premium pay cable channel announced.
“Toe Tag Parole: To Live and Die on Yard A,” focuses on the 600 men living at the Progressive Programming Facility, who seek self-improvement and spiritual growth through education, art and music therapy, religious services and participation in peer-group sessions.
According to a press release promoting the documentary:
The film features interviews with three of the inmates – sentenced to life at ages 14, 16 and 17 – who describe growing up within the prison walls.
Ken Hartman, who beat a man to death at age 19 while drunk, and has been in prison for 36 years, says, “… I’m sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. It’s not better than the death sentence, because it is the death sentence.”
Although a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found mandatory sentencing of juveniles to “life without the possibility of parole” unconstitutional, those previously convicted still have to serve their sentences. As the men of The Honor Yard say, “They will get out when they get their ‘toe tag parole,’” meaning death by incarceration.
“Toe Tag Parole: To Live and Die on Yard A,” was produced by the husband-and-wife team of Alan and Susan Raymond, who won an Oscar and Emmy for the 1993 documentary “I Am A Promise: The Children of Stanton School.”
An inmate serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole approached the warden in 2000 to request a dedicated yard for men serving life sentences intended to break the code of violence dominating prison life.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation subsequently transformed Yard A at the prison in Lancaster into the Progressive Programming Facility, which inmates call The Honor Yard.
The only one of its kind in the United States, the experimental prison yard is free of violence, racial tensions, gang activity and illegal drug and alcohol use, according to the filmmakers.
For HBO playdates for “Toe Tag Parole: To Live and Die on Yard A,” visit http://www.hbo.com/documentaries.