(CBS4) – A new film goes inside Colorado’s oldest prison, the Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City. The film “These Walls” premieres Monday May 2 at the Sie Film Center — and it’s already sold out.

The film was devised, written and performed by artists incarcerated at the prison last year when Colorado Territorial marked its 150th year. It was co-produced by the University of Denver Prison Arts Initiative and the Colorado Department of Corrections.

(credit: These Walls)

Based on the true story of a former warden’s mother who opposed the death penalty and secretly wrote to men on death row, urging them to appeal their cases, the retrospective draws from historical accounts and from the personal narratives of today’s inmates.

Eric Davis who is now free after serving behind bars for 34 years, including time at Territorial, is assistant director of the film. He described the first viewing of the completed film by inmates, and lauded Colorado Department of Corrections Director Dean Williams for giving men and women inside prison more avenues to explore to rebuild their lives.

“It was one the most impactful things I’d ever been at. Because they saw their thing, and they saw something that they made while they were incarcerated… Watching as individuals who have struggled and made really poor decisions feel like they can take control of their lives again and create something good and meaningful.”

(credit: These Walls)

“This is one more step in the road that we have been on to humanize, normalize the prison environment. It’s about changing the prison culture.” Corrections Department Director Williams said, “One: Ninety, ninety-five percent of the people in prison are getting out, who do you want to be your neighbor? And two: nothing good comes from making prison more punitive than it already is.”

Clare Hammoor directed the film and said, “The way that we found to share humanity was through personal stories. So a number of the guys’ personal stories are interwoven throughout.”

(credit: These Walls)

The management team at Territorial reached out to the DU Prison Arts Initiative Director Ashley Hamilton last year to collaborate on an endeavor to mark the facility’s 150th year.

“When we started in early 2021 we had no idea what the project would end up being, and Dr. Hammoor, Eric and their team in Territorial did an incredible job,” Hamilton said.

You can learn more about the DU Prison Arts Initiative here: liberalarts.du.edu/prison-arts

Anna Alejo