A GreenHouse Pictures film
Directed by Macky Alston
TRT: 74 min
Odds are that if you go to prison and are lucky enough to get out, you’ll be going back some time soon. When Julio Medina was incarcerated, he was a drug-dealing gang leader who ought to have died countless times. When he was freed 12 years later, he was a changed man. Upon his release from prison, Julio committed himself to becoming a different kind of leader – helping people live, instead of making people die. He created Exodus Transitional Community, a program in East Harlem dedicated to breaking the cycle of incarceration that ensnares so many people of color on the streets of New York. The trick to Exodus is that its staff knows firsthand what it’s like to go to jail. They’re ex-cons – a badass group of do-gooders who are reaching their clients like no one could who hasn’t walked a mile in prisoner’s shoes.
HARD ROAD HOME begins as Griffik Negroni, a 21-year-old Latino, wanders the streets looking for some path that is not going to lead him back to jail. His face is rough, cut up, and fierce. He’s a lady’s man, nobody’s fool, and the perfect example of a young man of color whose destiny does not look good. When he gets to Exodus, he is received with warmth and realism. In Griffik’s angry eyes, the Exodus caseworkers see themselves when they were young. Alberto Lopez is chosen to be his mentor. Alberto, who is the spitting image of his boss Julio and has been out of prison for six years, is a success story in the making. Because Griffik sees in Alberto who he too can become, he signs onto the program.
It isn’t long before Griffik is called into parole. Even as he seeks employment and education, he lives on the brink of re-incarceration or a more violent fate on the streets. Meanwhile, Julio works with his staff 24/7 to serve this high–risk, high-drama population and meet Exodus’ funding goals, a never-ending battle in today’s social and political climate.
Throughout HARD ROAD HOME, the main characters aspire to freedom and security “on the outside” while grappling with the constant challenges posed by poverty, addiction, peer pressure, suspicion, the immediate needs of loved ones, and the relentlessness of rage, despair, and the desire to escape. Just when things look good, someone you’ve come to care about falls apart. Just when you have given up hope, someone beats the odds and hangs in. This is life at Exodus. In the end, HARD ROAD HOME represents the extraordinary energy, resources and strength of character required to turn the fate around of even one person born into a cycle of poverty and crime nearly impossible to break.