After Innocence

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
After Innocence Movie Poster Image
Powerful docu on post-prison lives of falsely accused.
  • NR
  • 2005
  • 95 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Forgiveness, perseverance, courage. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The lawyers working to free those who were serving time in prisons for crimes they didn't commit are shown working tirelessly for little to no money. Those who have been exonerated for crimes they did not commit remain active in working to ensure that this doesn't happen to others, and that the state acknowledges their mistakes and fairly compensates those whose lives they have ruined. Crime victims who falsely identified their perpetrators work to raise awareness of wrongful convictions. 

Violence

Graphic discussion of rape. 

Sex
Language

"S--t," used in a song played in the background at the very end of the movie. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer drinking and cigarette smoking in a bar. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that After Innocence is a 2005 documentary about the lives of those who served prison sentences for crimes they didn't commit and were exonerated by DNA evidence. Many of those exonerated were falsely accused of rape, so there's frequent discussion of the specific incidents that transpired, including a woman's description of her attack. The lawyers working for Innocence Project work tirelessly to free those who have been falsely accused, and often for little to no financial compensation. The scope and gravity of the subject matter makes this best for mature teens and older, as this documentary shows not only scenes of those falsely accused leaving the courtroom as free men, but also discussing what the years (if not decades) they spent in prison did to them, and the difficulty in trying to put their lives back together in a system that wronged them. 

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What's the story?

AFTER INNOCENCE explores the post-prison lives of several men falsely accused and imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit who were later found innocent and freed due to DNA evidence. After spending years and even decades in prison, these men have few resources to help reacclimate themselves to society, are given no compensation by the state after the justice system ruined their lives, and often find their crimes are not removed from public record, making it difficult to find employment and a place to live. This documentary also shows the work undertaken by Innocence Project, a group of lawyers who work tirelessly to free the wrongly accused. The exonerated, their families, their lawyers, and even a victim discuss the devastating impact the miscarriage of justice had on their lives as they try to move on and live normal and productive lives. 

Is it any good?

This remains a powerful documentary on the lives of those exonerated by DNA evidence after serving time for crimes they didn't commit. The struggles and perseverance of these men are brought to light as they struggle to reacclimate into society with few resources, no compensation from the state, and often still with their crimes not expunged from the public record. This documentary also shows the tireless dedication of the lawyers working for the Innocence Project, lawyers who work on cases of false accusation and imprisonment often for little or no money. 

Through following the lives of these men from all backgrounds and parts of the United States, interviews with their families, interviews with victims of crimes whose eyewitness-testimony sent the wrong man to prison, what emerges is how DNA evidence has revolutionized the criminal justice system and has given back the lives of those innocent of wrongdoing serving years and even decades for crimes they didn't commit However, when these men are released, the system often fails them a second time by failing to address and make right their catastrophic mistakes. These aspects to the documentary are why After Innocence continues to remain relevant years after its initial release. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how evidence is collected. What are the ways in which After Innocence shows how DNA evidence has revolutionized the criminal justice system and has provided hope and even freedom for those wrongly accused? 

  • How is this movie similar to and different from other documentaries attempting to educate the viewer on an important issue? 

  • Did you find the documentary's arguments to be convincing? Why or why not? 

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