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In the 1990s, at the height of the prison-building boom, a prison opened in rural America every fifteen days. Prison Town, USA tells the story of Susanville, California, a small town that tries to resuscitate its economy by building a prison-with unanticipated consequences.
Nestled in the picturesque foothills of the California Sierras, Susanville once thrived on logging, ranching, and agriculture. Today the area hosts three prison complexes housing more than eleven thousand inmates, with plans for more to come. The inmate population is more than one-and-a-half times the number of local residents.
The film follows the fortunes of individuals and families in Susanville over the course of two years, portraying the stories of a laid-off mill worker turned guard, a tenacious dairy owner fighting to retain his contract with the prison, a paroled man who can't find a job to support his family, local businessmen with false hopes, and prison-boosting politicians.
The resulting story is one of hard choices and unforeseen outcomes. As Susanville's good-hearted country-boys-turned-prison-guards soon learn, life outside the walls is developing eerie parallels to life on the inside.
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