Will VICE Special On Federal Prison Sentences Provoke Outrage?


In a 68-minute report called “Fixing the System” that aired Sunday night, VICE grappled “unsuccessfully with the rather broad subject of U.S. criminal justice,” says the Washington Post in a review. The program focused on the rate at which the federal prison population has expanded since the 1990s, mainly because of mandatory sentencing for drug-related convictions. VICE accompanied President Obama on his July visit to a federal prison in El Reno, Ok., the first time, a U.S. president has made such a trip.

In the Post’s view, “not much news or insight comes of this … it's essentially a photo op.” VICE profiles some of the inmates' family members, showing some of the immeasurable ways their lives have changed since their fathers, sons and brothers went to prison; the interviews are moving, but not profoundly so, the Post says. In the newspaper’s view, the main flaw in the program is that “it lacks an emphatic through-line that would recommend reforms, amp up the outrage or tell viewers how to get involved.” The program uses most of its time “declaring what ‘Fixing the System’ is going to be about. And then it's over.”

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