16 Bars is a feature length music documentary that offers a rare glimpse at the human stories — and songs — that are locked away in our nation’s jails and prisons. The film follows a unique rehabilitation effort in a Virginia jail that invites inmates to write and record original music. In the jail’s makeshift recording studio, four men collaborate on an album with Grammy-winning recording artist, Todd “Speech” Thomas, from the hip-hop group Arrested Development. As the creative process unfurls, each of these men must unearth painful memories from the past, which hold a key to a new chapter in their lives. With the U.S. locking up more of its citizens per capita than any other nation on the planet, the music of 16 Bars serves as rare testimony to the raw and messy truth behind the criminal justice system‘s revolving door.

“I got some pain up on my name

And it’s waiting to crush me.”

Anthony Johnston “I’m TOO used to this”


“Lock a dog in cage and mistreat him

What you think gon’ happen

once you release him?”

Teddy KANE



“Dead in the water, I went wrong

I’ve been driftin’ way too long”

Garland Carr

“Freedom wind” 


“So listen to these words

When you’re feelin’ like life is over…”

Devonte JAMES

“broken chains” 

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