'Inside Out' Prison Documentary Unveiled to Help Curb Youth Dropout Rates Across U.S.


May 07, 2007, 01:00 ET from O2 Ideas

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A documentary filmed
 in two Alabama prisons debuts Monday, May 7 to kick off a nationwide
 campaign to slow down the nation's high school dropout rate.
     "Inside Out" is a 52-minute documentary that features prison inmates
 promoting education as the only way for youth to avoid a life behind bars.
 It is the creation of Shelley Stewart, Chairman and CEO of Birmingham-based
 marketing firm O2 Ideas, and his business partner John Zimmerman, the
 company's President and Chief Creative Officer. It is a production of the
 Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to
 promoting literacy and the curtailment of the dropout rate nationwide. The
 Foundation is named after Stewart's mother, whom he witnessed being killed
 by his own father at the age of five in 1939 in Homewood, Alabama.
     The Inside Out documentary presents a stark look at prison life -- with
 inmates telling their personal stories of regret for not pursuing an
 education and graduating. Stewart compassionately interviews the inmates
 and unveils their genuine hope to give others the chance they no longer
 have, to avoid the pitfalls of dropping out of school. All of the inmates
 interviewed are either serving life sentences or life without parole.
     "What we are hearing these inmates say is that they want to keep young
 people out of prison," Stewart said. "We want to tap into this growing
 desire of a sizable portion of the prison population to communicate that
 education and graduation from high school is the only way to avoid having a
 life wasted behind bars." Stewart added that a shorter, 34-minute version
 of the documentary will be available for classroom viewing.
     "We originally thought Inside Out would be a PSA campaign, but it
 quickly grew into something much bigger than that," said Zimmerman. "As we
 filmed these emotionally charged interviews with prisoners, we realized we
 were working with the stuff of life itself. The passion and decency of the
 prisoners filmed in this documentary will have a life-changing impact on
 everyone who sees it," he said.
     U.S. Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL) said, "The prisoners in the film
 Inside Out are essentially sending a 'message from the grave' so to speak.
 They are speaking from the end result of not getting an education. Yet, at
 the same time, we see Shelley Stewart 'speaking from the mountaintop' --
 the end result of leaving the valley to pursue education and working hard.
 I believe young people, who typically don't realize they will face harsh
 consequences until they have gone too far, will listen to both perspectives
 and hopefully make the right choice. I fully endorse the mission of Inside
 Out and The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation and believe it has national
     Borders Group CEO George Jones said, "The Inside Out documentary
 delivers an emotionally powerful and effective message -- dropping out of
 school is linked to dire consequences. Once a child sees this film, they
 will understand the stark consequences of dropping out in a personal and
 moving way."
     Stewart said the documentary will rapidly be made available in the
 state's schools, churches, youth clubs and community groups throughout
 Alabama and across the country. The state's Department of Education and the
 U.S. Department of Education are already cooperating to endorse and promote
 viewings of the documentary. "We are grateful for the way that State School
 Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton and Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen,
 viewing the film at the same time, immediately embraced it and pledged
 their support for what we are doing," Stewart said.
     "Each day we keep our children in school and increase their formal
 education skills, we are making an investment in all of our futures," said
 Dr. Morton, Alabama Superintendent of Education. "The teaching message in
 Inside Out is clear: A life lost to prison is a life lost to a family, to
 relatives, to friends... to all of Alabama. We must do all we can to stop
 the loss of these lives. This documentary has application for everyone who
 sees it, regardless of age or social position."
     Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen said, "We
 support the Inside Out documentary's message of education as a crime
 deterrent. We also appreciate the film's portrayal of some inmates in our
 prison system as human beings of worth who just happened to have made
 unfortunate choices and are now living with the consequences. We, like
 those inmates depicted, trust that others will learn from these mistakes.
     "We are also grateful to Shelley Stewart and John Zimmerman for taking
 this cause as their own, and encourage others in the private sector to
 support the film and get behind efforts to reduce the flow of inmates into
 the system. The DOC stands firm with the Alabama Department of Education in
 making sure the maximum number of young people, as well as other citizens,
 see this film."
     Stewart said Inside Out will also be taken to Washington to show
 federal elected and agency officials for a potential rollout in schools and
 communities across the U.S.
     To see a preview of the film and videotaped comments by Congressman
 Davis, please click on http://www.inside-outmovie.com/.
     About the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation
     The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation (MCS Foundation) was established in
 honor of Dr. Shelley Stewart's late mother, Mattie C. Stewart. Dr. Stewart
 survived witnessing his own mother's murder, suffering abandonment as an
 infant and severe abuse as a child. His mother and father both were
 illiterate -- the primary driver behind their tragedy. The goal of the MCS
 Foundation is to enable corporate and individual philanthropic giving to
 fund initiatives that are designed to keep young people in school until
 they graduate. The MCS Foundation partners with local schools, law
 enforcement and other community organizations that place a special emphasis
 on nurturing the growth of our children to the end that they stay in school
 long enough to graduate. The MCS Foundation is headquartered in Birmingham,
     About O2 Ideas
     O2 Ideas, based in Birmingham, AL, is one of the fastest growing multi-
 faceted multicultural communications and retail branding companies in the
 United States. O2, headquartered in Birmingham, AL, has offices in Chicago
 and in Greenville, SC. Current clients include Borders, The Home Depot,
 Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, Intuit, Meijer, Verizon Wireless Midwest
 Area, Verizon Wireless GA/AL, Captain D's, BI-LO and Bruno's Supermarkets,
 Alabama State University among many others -- as well as numerous "pro
 bono" clients including The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 16th Street
 Baptist Church, bewhoyouwannabe.com and others.
     For more information on O2 Ideas, visit the web site at