Documentary shows off talent of Indiana inmates - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Documentary shows off talent of Indiana inmates

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Johnny Collins is one of the comedians behind the documentary. Johnny Collins is one of the comedians behind the documentary.
Inmates at Putnamville performed for the movie. Inmates at Putnamville performed for the movie.

Emily Longnecker/Eyewitness News

Putnamville - You wouldn't think of a prison as a place of laughter, but a new documentary explores what's so funny at an Indiana Correctional Facility.

It's the last place you'd expect to find laughter, behind bars in a prison, amongst hundreds of inmates. The pilot project at the Putnamville facility aims to rehabilitate inmates with laughter.

It started with two comedians who wanted to do stand up for prisoners and turned it into a talent show and movie.

"Why don't we include the inmates? They're not going anywhere, right?" said comedian Johnny Collins.

"Everybody told me I should be a comedian instead of a criminal," said one inmate on a new documentary. "And apparently, I ain't no good at being a criminal, 'cause look where I'm at."

Collins and fellow comedian Joel Jerome made a movie about the show, called "The Redemption Project: Inmates Got Talent."

"To my knowledge, this is the first time it's ever happened at any prison in this country," said Doug Garrison, Indiana Department of Correction.

The inmate auditions and talent show were shot over eight days at the Putnamville facility nearly two years ago. Collins and Jerome shot sixty hours of raw footage at the prison.

"We're not looking to glamorize or glorify the prison experience, or give them extra treats," Collins said. "But what we're looking to do is prepare them."

They are preparing them for life on the outside. Some of the inmates featured, like one named Aaron, are already there.

"The bottom line for the Department of Correction, 'What are we doing to get them ready to come back out?' Because they're coming back out anyway," Garrison said.

"If we can recycle bags, why can't we recycle people's lives?" Collins said.

"We're just criminals all the time. You know, it gave some of us an opportunity to actually chase a dream," said an inmate in another testimonial.

"I like to think of it this way, laughter is a great dose of medicine," said Collins.

The potential healing is catching on.

"We've got superintendents that are lining up, saying, 'Hey! Bring 'em here. Bring 'em here'," said Garrison.

That means this could be the first of redemption projects to come for Indiana inmates with talent, looking for that second chance.

The Redemption Project Facebook page

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