Independent Lens Releases Stories for Justice Impact Report

Posted on June 1, 2022

Documentary storytelling programs increased understanding about the inequities in the U.S. justice system and inspired 45% of viewers to engage in local civic dialogue about reform.

Fill 54 Created with Sketch. Download Stories for Justice Impact Overview

The American flag flies in front of a brick courthouse.

Independent Lens launched its first Stories for Justice report on the multi-year pipeline of films about the criminal justice system which shows that 95% of viewers felt the criminal justice issues raised in PBS-aired documentary films and shorts were relevant to their community. Over 99% of respondents reported gaining knowledge and 45% of viewers were “extremely” likely to discuss what they learned with members of their community. Of the nearly 1,800 survey respondents, 70% did not work in the legal system or toward its reform. The topline report is available on 

Stories for Justice, Independent Lens’ multi-year initiative and public media partnership with PBS, combines the power of documentary storytelling, public television, and community engagement to shine a light on people’s lived experiences of the criminal justice system. The initiative grew out of a groundswell of interest in criminal justice issues among storytellers, audiences, local stations, and communities across the country. Polling from Gallup, Associated Press, and others shows around 90% of Americans support justice reforms as more and more people question why the United States is the most incarcerated nation in the world.

“Independent documentary filmmakers invest years to tell stories that help shape our communities,” said Lois Vossen, Executive Producer of Independent Lens. “Stories for Justice focuses our attention on the complexities of the criminal justice system and invites Americans to learn more about, and participate in, solutions to reduce the harms it causes.” 

Since the initiative's inception in 2019, Independent Lens has reached more than 27 million viewers who watched films in its Stories for Justice catalog, which included five feature films, 16 short films, and a Columbia-duPont Award-winning docuseries. Nearly 9,700 of those viewers gathered at over 190 community screening events to begin lasting conversations about issues like cash bail, policing, and the role local elected officials play in perpetuating or addressing mass incarceration.

Independent Lens has an ever-expanding catalog of Stories for Justice content. From 2022 to 2024, Independent Lens is releasing 12 new feature and short films as well as two docuseries that will follow Americans as they intersect with the system, from community-based prevention, to life behind bars, to reentry programs.

Download the report [PDF]

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