“After 36 years, most of them spent behind bars, the man whose seven successful prison escapes earned him the nickname of Florida’s “Prison Houdini” was granted parole by a state board on Thursday.
But Mark DeFriest is far from free. Although the Florida Commission on Offender Review granted his parole effective July 26, DeFriest next must report to prison in California, where a four-year sentence awaits for infractions he committed while housed in that state’s correctional system.
(…) DeFriest advocate, filmmaker Gabriel London, say DeFriest’s actions were those of a panicked man who felt cornered. “He also has multiple gang rapes, and he also has multiple beatings by guards,” Middleton says. “What would you do?”
Five out of six court-appointed psychiatrists judged him mentally ill. The sixth said DeFriest was faking it; he was deemed fit to stand trial and convicted.
Years later, that dissenting psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Berland, reversed his position, says London, who spent 13 years investigating his subject for the 2014 documentary The Mind of Mark DeFriest, available on Showtime on Demand and via streaming on DeFriest.com.
Says London: “He had a bad reaction essentially to being in harm’s way, and so he lost hope and got in some trouble…This is the best we could have expected by far.”
“Mr. DeFriest will come up for release again in August only if completes the six-month practical skills course intended to help convicts avoid committing crimes again…The film’s director, Gabriel London, has become one of Mr. DeFriest’s strongest advocates, testifying on the inmate’s behalf at the Wednesday hearing…’It is one of the cases you look at and you can see the whole prison world through that lens,’ London said. ‘You can understand how the prison-industrial complex in the U.S. is built up. And it’s around people like Mark.'”
“After London’s film came out, he embarked on what he calls “the court of public opinion tour,” allowing viewers to vote on what should happen to DeFriest. He presented those results to Florida officials last year.
‘The court of last resort is the audience itself,’ London said. ‘People really came together to write a happier ending for Mark, and we’re still at it. It’s not over yet.’”
“A ground breaking documentary about his life saw a record 70 years knocked off his sentence last year and with it, his first chance at legitimate freedom in 36 years. But that chance was snatched away on Wednesday when a Florida parole board voted not to release the 55-year-old for another six months…However, filmmaker London’s part-animated 2014 documentary The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest has started to change opinions around his case. The film focuses on claims that DeFriest is a high functioning autistic which contributed to his inability to follow prison rules…Following the award-nominated documentary, a parole board in Tallahassee agreed to reduce DeFriest’s release date from 2085 to March 2015 – cutting a record 70 years from his sentence.”
“DeFriest has been held out of state for his own protection since testifying against guards in Florida who beat a prisoner to death in 1999. He was placed with low risk prisoners in work programs in New Mexico when the parole commission erased decades from his sentences in 2014. It moved him to Oregon to be closer to his wife in preparation for his release. Instead, Oregon prisons classified him as a high-security lifer, London said.”
New York, NY – Found Object’s campaign Veterans Operation Wellness (VOW) for Spike has recently been nominated for two Cynopsis Media Social Good Awards. The Awards recognize media companies and industry professionals that give back to the public through media and branding campaigns, including social and environmental impact campaigns, awareness initiatives, and corporate/nonprofit partnerships.
Found Object’s VOW: Civilian Military Combine, is nominated for best spot and showcases the enduring benefits that veterans enjoy from competing in the strength and endurance competitions of the same name. The VOW: Celebrity PSA is nominated for Best Public Service Announcement and asks viewers to make their own vows in support of veterans’ health.
New York, NY – After 35 years behind bars, Florida’s most infamous inmate, Mark DeFriest, may finally have the opportunity to experience life outside the prison system. DeFriest, the subject of a new documentary film chronicling his exploits as an escape artist through a harrowing prison journey, has since gained international exposure, spurring a movement to free him and a nationwide dialogue on mental illness in prison. Now, on February 24, DeFriest, who last year gained parole, faces what appears to be his final hurdle: convincing a three-person Tallahassee commission that he is worthy of release.