the released

The Released Teacher’s Guide


About the Film

In the United States, more than 700,000 people will leave prison this year, more than half of them mentally ill. Typically, these offenders leave prison with a bus ticket, $75 in cash and two weeks’ worth of medication. Studies show that within 18 months, nearly two-thirds of mentally ill offenders -- often poor and cut off from friends and family -- are re-arrested. FRONTLINE’s documentary The Released follows the paths of six mentally ill inmates after they served time in Ohio’s prison system.


Watching the Film

Teachers can either assign the film for viewing as homework or show the film in class. The lessons and activities in this guide can be used in the classroom without having viewed the film. Be advised that the documentary contains disturbing images of the mentally ill who are incarcerated. Suggested discussion questions are provided.


Note to Teachers

This guide is intended for classes in social studies, civics and government, health, language arts, current events and history; grade levels 9-12. Teachers can use the guide in its entirety or select specific portions to use. Teachers should feel free to adapt this guide to their specific needs. There is a glossary included in Student Handout 3.


Discussion Questions:

This guide includes a list of questions for students to discuss after viewing The Released.


Featured Lesson Plan:

“Re-entering Society: Can Communities Meet Needs After Prison?”

Lesson Objectives:

Students will understand:

  • Evaluate mental health services in their state’s prisons and in the general community
  • Analyze the potential problems of releasing mentally ill former offenders into communities with limited services and limited housing
  • Consider how homelessness provides additional challenges for mentally ill former offenders
  • Develop alternatives to the trend of release and recidivism


Additional Lesson Ideas:
  • “What Is a ’Civil Lunatic’?"
  • “Youth Homelessness”
  • “Second Chance Act (2008)”



An annotated list of relevant Web sites and articles


Purchasing the Film:

The Released can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers. Also, teachers and students can watch the program streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE’s Web site,



This teacher’s guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Debra Plafker-Gutt, Stuyvesant High School, New York. Advisers were Ellen Greenblatt of The Bay School, San Francisco, and Greg Timmons, curriculum writer and educational consultant.

home » previous reports » watch online » about us » teacher center » newsletter »  rss feeds » email FRONTLINE » privacy policy » wgbh » pbs

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation