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'When Times Get Tough, People Make Tough Choices'

Apr 05, 2018 | 831 videos
Video by James Burns

15 years ago, Jason Bobbit was released from incarceration for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was elated to return home to his wife and five children. Every moment not spent looking for a job was a chance to be the father he couldn’t be behind bars. But employment options for ex-convicts are, of course, limited. Companies that would hire him—Home Depot, for instance—paid only $9 an hour. “I can’t take care of a family on that,” Bobbit says in James Burns’s short documentary, Revolving Doors. “One day, I just decided, ‘I’ve got to do something. I’m not going to let my kids be homeless.’ When times get tough for people, people make tough choices.”

Now, Bobbit faces up to 20 years in prison for similar charges. Burns, who met Bobbit on the set of a film about Burns’s own complicated history with the criminal justice system, spent four years following Bobbit. Revolving Doors is an emotional portal into the life of one family threatened to be torn apart by recidivism. With great sensitivity, the breathtakingly intimate film depicts Bobbit’s moral reckoning—and the fallout facing his family, who tearfully discuss the situation.

“I sit my kids down at least once a day to have some kind of conversation about personal responsibility,” Bobbit says in the film. “Nobody ever helped me think about what I was going to do in my future. Because of that, I lived in the moment. I want them to live in the moment, but planning for tomorrow. I would die if I called home one day and one of them had the same troubles that I’m having because I’m not here.”

“When they say you reap what you sow, that’s my life right now,” continues Bobbit. “I don’t know whose lives I’ve hurt by selling drugs, but now I’m on the other side watching my family go through what maybe they saw their family go through. I don’t wish that upon anybody.”

According to Burns, “the cycle can be broken if we give people a fighting chance.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.