Arts Listings

Around the East Bay: "Prison Town, USA"

Tuesday July 24, 2007

America’s prison construction boom is forging rapid change in small-town America, and small-town California is leading the pack. Prison Town, USA, a new documentary by Po Kutchins and Katie Galloway, shows the impact of a prison economy on Susanville, a Northern California town at the foot of the Sierras in Lassen County. When the last of its lumber mills closed down, Susanville faced an economic crisis and turned to the burgeoning prison industry for a panacea. The prisons promised employment and support for local businesses. But what Susanville got was far less, as the buy-local pledge was reneged, prison jobs brought unforeseen social problems, and the prisons themselves—three of them—dwarfed and began to consume the town that had opened its arms to them. The film shows at 10 p.m. today (Tuesday) on KQED as part “POV,” PBS’ acclaimed documentary series, now celebrating its 20-year anniversary.