Public Square Media is a non-profit media company “amplifying justice in the public square”. In 2016, they premiered “Rikers: An American Jail”, a PBS documentary commissioned by Bill Moyer, and began scheduling screenings across the country. As the film toured the country, it became clear that audiences were hungry for any opportunity to engage in deeper more localized discussions about the impact of incarceration.
Mass Story Lab is a participatory storytelling experience that aims to make the stories of people impact by incarceration an instrument of justice. Create Forward partnered with Public Square Media to host a story lab in conjunction with a screening of “Rikers: An American Jail” in three cities: Louisville, KY, Columbia, SC, and Atlanta, GA. Mass Story Lab was deployed as a community engagement strategy for the film. In each city, audiences viewed the film and then were invited to return the next day to participate in a Mass Story Lab process featuring people from their own communities describing their own experiences with the criminal legal system in their state. While the film documents the horrors experienced by people in New York’s most notorious jail complex, Mass Story Lab gave audiences a chance to translate the emotional impact of the film into local dialogue and action on the crisis of incarceration in each state.