Books Not Bars

2001, 22 minutes
Director: Mark Landsman
Co-producers: Witness, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the Rights Now campaign of Columbia University's Human Rights Institute
Distributed by Witness

A sign for the “Books Not Bars” campaign

Additional Resources


Documentary Film

Ghosts of Attica (2001, 89 minutes)
Distributor: First Run/Icarus Films
      This film provides the definitive account of America's most violent prison rebellion, its suppression, and the days of torture that ensued. Using exclusive, newly uncovered video footage of the assault, interviews with eyewitnesses speaking on camera for the first time, and footage of inmates and hostages throughout their battles against the state, this film unravels one of America's deepest cover-ups, and shows how the legendary prison riot transformed the lives of its survivors.



Herivel, Tara; Paul Wright, eds. Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America's Poor. North Carolina: University of North Carolina press, 2003.

Markowitz, Michael W.; Delores D. Jones-Brown. System in Black and White: Exploring the Connections between Race, Crime, and Justice. Westport, CN: Praeger, 2000.

Tonry, Michael H. Malign Neglect – Race, Crime, and Punishment in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995.



Books Not Bars organization
      The Books Not Bars organization was launched in 2001 as a project of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. BNB is working to expose and end the excessive incarceration of youth, to build a "bottom-up" movement that will transform the entire criminal justice system. Their aim is to "reallocate, remove, rehabilitate."

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
      The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights documents, exposes, and challenges human rights abuses within the U.S. criminal justice system. They combine policy reform, media advocacy, public education, grassroots organizing, direct-action mobilizing, cultural activism, new technology and legal services to accomplish their mission. EBC works to build "people's power" in those communities that are most harmed by unlawful police violence and the incarceration industry.

Street Law Lessons for Books Not Bars
      Six Street Law Lessons use the Books Not Bars video and participatory teaching methods to help students understand and explore difficult public policy, legal, economic, and social issues related to the U.S. criminal and juvenile justice systems. They do so while helping teachers address key concepts from standards in social studies, civics and government, economics and other subject areas. Lesson plans help educators teach public policy, economics, controversial issues, human rights, media literacy, and justice system realities.

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Full text:

UN Declaration of Human Rights

WITNESS (Books Not Bars distributor)
      WITNESS advances human rights advocacy through the use of video and communications technology. In partnership with more than 150 non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders in 50 countries, WITNESS strengthens grassroots movements for change by providing video technology and assisting its partners to use video as evidence before courts and the United Nations, as a tool for public education, and as a deterrent to further abuse.


Human Rights Video Project is presented by National Video Resources
73 Spring Street Suite 403 • New York, NY 10012
tel:212.274.8080 • fax:212.274.8081 • •
Page last updated on March 2011. Comments or suggestions please email