Curriculum Builder:

"The Dozens"

Tips for effective use in the classroom:

Discussion Topics

Topic 1: A Woman Set Apart
Topic 2: Family Roles
Topic 3: The Economics of Survival
Topic 4: Women and the Criminal Justice System
Topic 5: Crime, The Justice System, and Recidivism

Where to get "The Dozens"

 "THE DOZENS is 'about' many things:

  • Being a young mother with responsibilities and needs that conflict with the ability to even make ends meet
  • A system of rehabilitation that provides few useful skills
  • Leaving behind a lover in prison to return to friends and family after a two-year absence;
  • Surviving in an urban landscape of fiscal cutbacks and emotional pressures.

"But mostly the film is 'about' Sally, a sensitive, tough and ambitious woman barely out of her teens, trying to move beyond the very real boundaries in her life... A moving portrait of a young woman's struggle to stay on top of a system which seems designed to keep her down." --Sheila Curran Bernard, "Sojourner"


THE DOZENS takes a woman set apart -- a woman in trouble with the law -- and focuses on the common needs and struggles of young working-class women coming of age in urban America.

Based on a year's research, this is the fictional story of Sally Connors, 21, who struggles to create an independent life for herself and her 4-year-old daughter after having served time for economic crimes.

Through Sally's story, the film explores not only the limitations placed on women by the criminal justice system, but also how they reflect the limits placed on women in the larger society -- in the workplace, the home, and the social and legislative systems.

This program breaks down many prevailing stereotypes and offers a realistic basis for discussing a wide range of questions and current issues.

 "THE DOZENS is an especially persuasive and well-made film. It's an excellent teaching device -- no other film explores the complex issues facing women in the justice system with such accuracy and power. And it's a pleasure to use in the classroom because it tells a very human story in an honest, completely approachable manner."
--Nicole Hahn Rafter, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Northeastern University, and co-editor of "Judge, Lawyer, Victim, Thief: Women, Gender Roles and Criminal Justice"


Sally struggles to resume her parental responsibilities, to re-establish the bond with her young daughter that was broken by incarceration.

Sally wants to support herself and her child on her own -- yet everyone expects her to reunite with her husband, even though he has barely maintained their relationship during her incarceration.

 "THE DOZENS offers unique and wide-ranging possibilities for the teaching of women's issues not only in college settings but in high schools too. The film's female protagonist possesses an evocative warmth and life-affirming defiance which highlight poignantly the acquisitive and male-dominated social norms impeding her struggle for a new life." --Joyce Berkman, Associate Professor of History and Policy Board Member, Women's Studies Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Although Sally is necessarily a worker and provider, the film suggests that society is not prepared to acknowledge her in those roles, or the economic bind in which she is placed.

Sally has a child to support, her employment opportunities are limited, and her vocational training has set her up only for traditional low-wage "female" jobs such as industrial sewing. She is caught in a vicious circle of economic dependency which typifies the "feminization of poverty" in our society today.

This program--

  1. Confronts society's lack of a support system that could respond to Sally's needs.
  2. Asks whether the increasing institutionalization of women doesn't withhold rather than provide support.
  3. Invites discussion of the reasons for the current collapse of social programs intended to help women like Sally.

TOPIC 4. ISSUES IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE -- Women and the Criminal Justice System.

Like Sally, most women inmates have been imprisoned for economic crimes such as check-passing, forgery, shoplifting or prostitution, rather than crimes of violence.

Also like Sally, most depend upon men for material survival and have few resources and little support.

There is a distinct parallel, this program suggests, between women's treatment in the penal system and the roles women are expected to fill in society generally.

 "Among the important issues THE DOZENS leads us to think about are:

  • The incarceration of those who are nonviolent
  • The effect of incarceration on women and families
  • The stigma attached to women who break the law
  • The forced dependency of women on men and institutions
  • The failure of state 'rehabilitation' programs
  • The alienation of prisoners from society at large
  • The cycles of poverty and inadequate resources that lead so many to return to prison after parole."
    --Julie Melrose, "Equal Times"

 "THE DOZENS is a rare experience -- a raw, powerful film not only about women but about all people in the lower depths of an American city. I found it moving and profoundly educating. It would provide a wonderful basis for discussion in any course -- history, sociology, political science -- about contemporary working class life." --Howard Zinn, Professor of Political Science, Boston University, and author of "A People's History of the United States"

TOPIC 5. ISSUES IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE -- Crime, the Justice System, and Recidivism.

What emerges in THE DOZENS is not only a well researched profile of the contemporary woman ex-offender, but also a reasoned picture of the operations of our criminal justice system.

With realistic detail, the film follows a prisoner's progress through a parole hearing, release, and survival on parole on the outside, where her past record continues to haunt her.

At a time of continuing public concern over crime, THE DOZENS represents a straightforward look at some of the reasons for common economic crimes and points up significant flaws in our penal institutions.

 "THE DOZENS provides me with a perfect way to conclude my course on crime and delinquency; it vividly brings to life some of the general concepts in the course. Above all, this fine film allows students to see crime as a social problem, and one that requires far-reaching social solutions." --John E. Conklin, Professor of Sociology, Tufts University, and author of the textbook "Criminology"


80 minutes, color, VHS

This award-winning independent feature film is not sold in video stores...
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Updated Jan 1 2008