"Film Making Criminology: Breaking 'True' "
L. Paul Sutton, Ph.D.
School of Public Affairs
San Diego State University
Dr. Paul Sutton is a professor of criminal justice in the School of Public Affairs at San Diego State University. After receiving his Master’s and Ph.D. from SUNY-Albany, his research and academic travels moved him from New York to the University of New Mexico to the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia, to his current home at San Diego State University.
His research and writing covers the spectrum from criminal victimization and state compensation of victims of crime, to the causes and treatment of juvenile delinquency, constitutional law, criminal sentencing, prison conditions and the and treatment of criminal offenders. The first decades of his career involved the collection and analysis of massive criminal databases and legal writing and publication. In later years, he was engaged by the creative opportunities and much more dramatic impact of documentary filmmaking.
Since 1980, he has produced two Emmy-winning documentaries about life in the New Mexico State Penitentiary—Doing Time and Doing Time: Ten Years Later. Together, the films provide a rare glimpse into the stark and often dangerous world of maximum security. In tandem, the programs garnered five Emmy’s and a host of national and international film festival awards. He continues to produce crime and prison-related documentaries using new media technology and has introduced his students to that engaging technology as they have produced their own documentary programs in his classes.
Over the past 30 years, he has introduced more than two thousand students, first hand, to the compelling realities of incarceration through a unique immersion program in which students spend a week touring eight correctional facilities across California, including San Quentin, Folsom, and the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison. He recently completed a feature-length documentary about that experience and its impact on the attitudes and perspectives of students who are a part of it. He appears regularly on television and radio—as well as in the print media—in an effort to heighten public awareness—and understanding—of important justice issues, especially those relating to prisons and criminal offenders. His classes are currently working with inmates on a creative writing project inside a prison near San Diego. They hope to produce an anthology of inmate essays at the culmination of the project.
To see a feature article (from San Diego State University’s “Minds that Move the World” series) that describes Professor Sutton’s Prison Tours, click on the following link: