New film sounds the alarm on those caught in the so-called school-to-prison pipeline

For Anna Deavere Smith's film "Notes From the Field," she interviewed 250 people on their experiences with educations and the criminal justice system.
7:00 | 02/24/18

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Transcript for New film sounds the alarm on those caught in the so-called school-to-prison pipeline
They're port rates of brutality that gripped a nation. Crying moms whose son's lives were cut smohort. I just want answers from the police department. For people of color these stories are jarring and moved many to action including an's DI vrks E a Smith from TV she spent most of her life on stage becoming real life characters who have experienced major events. In her one woman shows tackles issues like the race riots in Los Angeles. One thing everyone's talking about why did it take 56 baton blows. Now. What is the number one civil rights issue of the day. It is impossible to talk about the criminal justice system without talking about education. In her provocative new field "Notes from the field" Anna sounds the alarm on those caught in the nation's school to prison pipe. Can't wait for the leaders to make it better we have to make it better. Too often kid who's are poor get kicked out of school and then end up in juvenile hall and then into cycles of prisons. And then the pipeline meaning they are kicked out of school brand you know it. Right. She discovered those kids are often students of color and stunningly black students are system pended and expelled at rate threes times higher than white students. The numbers are alarming. A black public school student is suspended every four seconds of the school day with a black child being arrested every 68 seconds. So Anna took her cameras and outrage across the country interviewing 250 people with their experience in education and the criminal justice system like this inmate in a life after drug addiction. They just kicked me out of eighth grade. And this woman who boldly took down the confederate flag and was put under arrest. Even if I didn't make it down the statement would still, you know, be made. You are in the legacy and the mantle of Thoroughgood Marshall. Anna sliding into the persona of 18 of those real life people. Like Kevin Moore who used phone to film the brutal arrest of a 25-year-old black man who fell into a coma while in police custody. I'm like dude they're tazing him. By then he was all bent up face down on his stomach, you could see the pain in the man's face. Freddie grey would die a week later. Was he shocked at the impact the video had. I don't think he knew what impact that video was going to have. I just felt like we need to record it, get the word out, this thing is happening. It's history. This is the oechnly weapon we have, the camera, it's the only thing we have that can protect us that's not illegal. During the eulogy at grey's funeral the pastor gives a rousing call to action. This is not the time for us to be walking around with our pants hanging down past our behind. This is not the time for no respect for our history and legacy. One Anna mirrors in the film. Get your bloody self up and change this city. The film also shining a light on the harsh reality of police intelligen brutality of students of color where a student is seen violently thrown a crocross the room for not putting away cellphone. These violent acts against children because they're perceived as being out of control. 18-year-old Kenny shot it on her cellphone. I could not believe this was going often. Is nobody going to help her. Somebody record this put it on Snapchat. Authorities charged Nia with disturbing school and she was later released. Has the cellphone been a game changer. It's huge. It's making real that people don't believe it that someone Americans are victim to harassment. But other students sent to prison continue to remain there. According to the bureau of justice statistics more than 56% incourse rated are black or hispanic and nearly 70% never received a high school diploma inmates like Dotson who was in prison nearly two decades. My former boyfriend shot and killed a guy who tried to rape me. They didn't consider it accomplice I got the same charge he did, first degree murder. As I sat there her calm thoughtfulness kind of made me feel like I was sitting with a guru. I guess I can say I just wasn't connecting to everything because I wasn't given enough information to know that we all are connected somehow to every living breathing thing. She said I'm here for first degree murder. And I said well do you think that's fair. She started to cry. And she said. I think it's fair. You talking about somebody's life. The film ultimately ends with hope and redemption with words of wisdom from congress John Lewis. Like Dr. King is a we going to redeem the soul of America we first have to redeem ourselves. How did that interview affect you. Major. John Lewis is evidence of grace in the world. Hold on. Never give up. That beautiful language of John Lewis to say to my audience. Never give in. Never lose faith. Keep the faith. For "Nightline" I'm Deborah Roberts in New York. Our thanks to Deborah. "Notes from the field" airs Saturday night on HBO.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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