'Since I Was Shot' Review: Crime and Punishment

One night in May 1997, in Tacoma, Washington, Kimonti Carter machine-gunned a car he believed to be carrying rival gang members. It was...


One night in May 1997, in Tacoma, Washington, Kimonti Carter machine-gunned a car he believed to be carrying rival gang members. It wasn’t – not that it should matter. One of the five passengers in the car, a student, Corey Pittman, 19, was killed. Carter, who had just turned 18, was sentenced to life in prison.

In director Gilda Sheppard’s sympathetic documentary “Since I Been Down”, punishment is also a crime.

Filled with archival visuals of Tacoma in the late 1980s and 1990s, when crack cocaine and gang violence took their toll, the documentary’s greatest strength is its listening tour, with Carter as the main guide.

Because Carter fired from a car, he was charged with aggravated first-degree murder, which carries an automatic mandatory life sentence. (His reconviction hearing is scheduled for July 8.) He is not the only one facing harsh prison terms. Washington state’s three-stroke sentence (which abolished parole in 1984) can be particularly difficult for young offenders.

Over the decades, Carter expressed remorse, but it was his role as a beneficiary and leader of inmate-led initiatives, the Black Prisoner Collective and TEACH, or Taking Education and Changing History, that suggests a transformation.

Other inmates here share their insights, as do two former detectives, some former gang members, and the mothers of victims and perpetrators. One former inmate, Tonya Wilson, who served 17 years, is particularly insightful about the personal and societal forces that led to her incarceration.

Another prisoner said, “We say that a lot of the answers that people are looking for in society will be found in prison.

“We caused pain,” said this inmate, “mainly because we are in pain.”

Far from looking like an excuse, in “Since I Been Down”, this observation sounds like a way to take account and change.

Since I’ve been down
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Newsrust - US Top News: 'Since I Was Shot' Review: Crime and Punishment
'Since I Was Shot' Review: Crime and Punishment
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