FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 25, 2021
CONTACT: San Francisco Public Defender’s Office – Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org – (628)249-7946
Adachi Project Releases From Inside – A Documentary Short About the Psychological Impact of Being Caught in the County Jail System During COVID
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the Adachi Project released From Inside — a short film featuring raw, candid interviews between public defenders and their clients as they recount the isolating fear and anxiety of being incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Set in San Francisco County Jail and framed by disorienting graphics, fractured visual fields and the virtual reality of video-conferencing, From Inside is the third release of DEFENDER-Vol. 00 — the Adachi Project’s inaugural work — and a vivid mindscape of the unsettling reality faced by people locked inside during the pandemic.
“It is impossible to explain — to anyone — the psychological impact of being in county jail, waiting months for a backed-up criminal legal system to get to your case, not knowing when or if you’ll go to trial, or go home, and making it more likely that you’ll plead guilty just to get out of jail rather than fight your case,” says Hadi Razzaq, Managing Attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and a core member of the Adachi Project. “Now, imagine adding the pandemic to that reality and being packed into small, controlled spaces and dealing with the fear we all face of getting infected, possibly dying, and not knowing when or if this will ever end.”
From Inside grew out of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office concern for the acute danger the COVID-19 pandemic posed for people in crowded, congregate settings — especially jails, prisons and immigration detention facilities. As the Public Defender’s Office worked with city agencies to decrease the jail’s population, their clients began to speak out about the physical risks they faced due to the pandemic, but also the compounding mental effect of being further “caged” and isolated by COVID-protocols, including indefinite incarceration due to court delays. The Adachi Project, understanding the critical value of bringing this to light, began documenting the situation, led by its creative division and founding partner, Even/Odd.
“The anxiety that these people were expressing created a tension that was hard to capture solely with words. By incorporating design, animation and sound that reflected the distorted pace of a racing mind, we tried to convey a more accurate feeling of the lived reality of being incarcerated during the pandemic,” said Mohammad Gorjestani, Founding Partner of the Adachi Project and Founder and Creative Director of Even/Odd.
As of May 2021, many of the nation’s jails remain precipitously overcrowded and although San Francisco County has worked with the Public Defender and other agencies to reduce its jail population during the COVID-crisis, it remains over 20 percent above standards recommended by public health experts. The Public Defender has long advocated for a reduction in all jail populations to avoid humanitarian crises such as what are happening now, but also in support of more humane policies that recognize the radical effect incarceration can have on individuals, especially in creating or exacerbating mental health issues.
“From Inside puts a spotlight on the lasting psychological impact on individuals in jail,” says Mano Raju, San Francisco Public Defender. “The pandemic has forced us to ask crucial questions about why we have so many people in jail, and the human impact on them, their families, and communities. And, on this one year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, we must ask ourselves the question — what is the value our criminal legal system puts on human life?”
About the Adachi Project and its First Series of Work, DEFENDER
The San Francisco Public Defender, with partners Even/Odd and Compound, founded the Adachi Project in memory of late-Public Defender and filmmaker, Jeff Adachi, with a goal to use creative media to reveal how our criminal legal system has evolved to inherently dehumanize the very society it seeks to represent. From Inside is one example of this, but it is not the only example. We see this every day, often hidden from public view, and typically represented in micro-realities of the “system” that don’t make it into the larger public narrative regarding systemic injustice. But, these smaller realities — such as being locked in county jail under conditions we should wish on no person — are what combine to create a system that ultimately regards some people as less than others, and less deserving of true justice. We do not see the world in that same light. We believe justice is not “just” if it only applies to some, but not all, people. And, our mission with the Adachi Project is to show how this happens — to stop it from happening again. – Santhosh Daniel, Founding Partner
About the Partners
San Francisco Public Defender’s Office
For 100 years, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office has provided effective and zealous legal representation to people who are charged with a crime and unable to afford an attorney. Led by elected Public Defender Mano Raju, the office provides legal representation to over 25,000 indigent people charged with crimes each year, while also fighting for systemic change outside of the courtroom. The Adachi Project coordinating team for the office is made up of Deputy Public Defender Hadi Razzaq, SF Policy Director Carolyn Goossen, and Public Information Officer Valerie Ibarra.
Even/Odd | Creative Direction and Production
Even/Odd is an award-winning San Francisco- and Los Angeles-based creative studio, research team, and production company whose role is to lead the Project’s creative direction and production of content. Led by Mohammad Gorjestani and Malcolm Pullinger, the studio has earned a Cannes Lion, The Tribeca X Award, 4 Webby Awards, The Grand Jury Prize at SXSW, Clio Awards, and has been featured by outlets including The Guardian, New York Times, The Atlantic, VICE, The New Yorker, and more. They are a proud, minority-owned studio with industry-leading inclusivity practices providing a platform for diverse and urgent voices, and Gorjestani and Pullinger bring over 20 years of collective creative multi-disciplinary experience to their role with the Adachi Project.
Compound | Communications and Impact Strategy
Compound is a San Francisco- and Seattle-based creative strategies studio whose role is to manage and direct the Project’s communications and impact strategy. Led by Santhosh Daniel, the studio’s current and past partners include Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Virgin America, Medium, U.S. Department of State, Smithsonian, Oakland Museum of California and Umpqua Bank; and productions such as the Open Account podcast and films Bloodline and Liquid Flow. Daniel also brings experience as former head of The Global Film Initiative; advisor to media funds such as the California Documentary Project and California Arts Council Public Media Grants; board member of California Humanities and Found Sound Nation; and advisor to the Quentin Cooks professional program at San Quentin State Prison to his role with the Adachi Project.