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Matthew Pillischer graduated in 2000 from Bennington College with a degree in filmmaking. In 2010 he graduated from Temple University Beasley School of Law and is now a licensed attorney in PA and NJ. Matt worked as a staff attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, helping people with problems due to their criminal records. In the 10 years between college and law school, Matt worked in various jobs as a restaurant and retail worker, a farmhand, and a social worker. An artist at heart, Matt always created movies, plays, paintings, music, and other art on the side. Duringthe lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and witnessing the poverty, police brutality, and racism living in Cincinnati, OH, Matt became deeply politicized by the events going on around him. He became an activist and worked with various groups and individuals against racism and poverty, for workers' rights, women's and LGBT rights, and against military conquest.
Matt entered law school with an eye towards understanding the legal systems that perpetuate the unjust status quo, and also hoped to use law as a way to help liberate poor and working people. Matt continued making music and movies throughout law school, participated in activism in Philly and beyond, and during his last year of law school he began work on a movie about the Philadelphia Prisons.
Through an internship with the civil rights firm, Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, Matt worked on a lawsuit against the Philadelphia Prison System for overcrowding conditions. He interviewed inmates and investigated some of the conditions in the prisons. The summer before, he had worked with PA Institutional Law Project, a non-profit that serves the institutionalized populations in PA, advocating for prisoners' rights. These experiences, along with history and political theory he had learned as an activist, focused his life's work on problems within the prison and criminal justice systems.
Matt was lucky enough to meet other students at University of Pennsylvania Law School who were interested in the issue and collaborated on the movie at various stages. What started as a 15 minute video on local overcrowding issues has become a feature documentary that takes on the entire criminal justice system. It would not have been possible without all the wonderful people who helped along the way, particularly co-producers, Neal Swisher, Agatha Koprowski, and Karly O'Krent, and the movie's interviewees.
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Director, Matthew Pillischer
Photo by Ryan Brandenberg
©2010 Temple University Beasley School of Law