Review: The House I Live In

Bridget Shaffrey, Contributing Writer

Many of us have grown up with the phrase “Just say no” integrated into every health class activity about drugs and every school assembly devoted to keeping our hallways clean. But for the most part, few of us have evaluated where exactly this saying came from, what it means, or the effect it has had on our society. “The House I Live In” provides a brutally honest explanation for the importance of this saying and its history. “The House I Live In” is a documentary film that accounts and analyzes the United States’s War on Drugs and how it has affected our society, our economy, and our attitudes.

First coined by Richard Nixon, the War on Drugs quickly began to serve not necessarily as a nation-wide dilemma but as a political platform for presidents like Ronald Reagan and George Bush. This platform, unfortunately, was built on fear, paranoia, stereotyping and propaganda. By examining the history of drugs prior to Nixon’s official War on Drugs, the viewer realizes that it is much more sinister than it seems. The majority of the film is devoted to exploring the implications of the War on Drugs. Many of us, myself included, are unaware of the exact impact that drugs play on the minority population. It seems easy to just say that we would never sell, buy, or associate ourselves with drugs, but the movie reveals that for many people, especially minority communities, drugs became a means to make ends meet.

“[It was a] great movie. [It] perfectly described the ‘ultimate choice’ that many people need to make,” said Mick Leonard, a private practice attorney in Muncy.

Leonard, who has represented those convicted of drug crimes, said his only problem with the movie is that it did not represent the gang problem prevalent in many prisons. The film also emphasized the importance of prisons, showing how much our society has come to rely on inmates and drug arrests for sources of political and economic gain. The United States leads with the most inmates per-capita, and the United States alone has spent over $1 trillion on the federal prison system. Not surprisingly, 25 percent of incarcerated individuals committed non-violent drug crimes.

The focus on prisons raises an important question about our own community—one that focuses on our own local prison, Lewisburg Penitentiary. The prison is one of the major sources of economic income for many Central Pennsylvania residents. The president of the Lewisburg Prison Project, Karen Morin, said that while most of the inmates are from outside the area, a majority of the employees live here.

The Lewisburg Prison Project, which was established as a way to protect human rights in prison, examines many of the socioeconomic implications of not only the Central Pennsylvania area, but of society in general. Morin believed that the film did an excellent job of linking the many issues of the prison and our society together.

Overall, the movie had a very important, if not heartwarming, message, and it is important to examine how little our communities really know about the War on Drugs. Beyond the message, the film was cinematically enticing, well-paced, and well-structured. I suggest that everyone interested in amending our societies go see this film.

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