When her husband is sentenced to eight years in prison, Ruby drops out of medical school in order to focus on her husband's well-being while he's incarcerated - leading her on a journey of self-discovery in the process.
Winner of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Award for Directing, Middle of Nowhere depicts the emotional journey of Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), an ambitious young medical student whose dreams are derailed when her husband, Derek (Omari Hardwick), becomes incarcerated. Confronted with the sobering reality of Derek’s eight-year prison sentence, Ruby struggles to maintain her identity on the outside while being supportive of her man on the inside. Trapped by circumstance and bound by responsibility, Ruby’s life takes an unexpected turn when a chance encounter presents her with the opportunity to reclaim the life she had almost given away.
Over the past 40 years, the United States has witnessed a dramatic increase in the use of prisons to combat crime. According to the Vera Institute for Justice, the prison rate has skyrocketed, growing by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. Even more striking than the overall growth in the prison population are the ways in which incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men. This extraordinary racial disparity in the criminal justice system is described as “mass incarceration,” a rate of incarceration so high that it affects not only the individual offender, but the entire fabric of a community.
Researchers have found that incarceration’s negative consequences reach far beyond the prisoner, extending well into the lives of the wives and girlfriends of those who are locked up. Megan Comfort, a sociologist who spent years getting to know women visiting men at San Quentin State Prison makes a compelling argument that, “women whose loved ones and close acquaintances are caught in the revolving door of ‘corrections’ experience restricted rights, diminished resources, social marginalization, and other consequences of penal confinement, even though they are legally innocent and reside outside of the prison’s boundaries.”
Although millions of women experience the pains of incarceration, little is known about their stories. Middle of Nowhere director Ava Duvernay notes that she was inspired to give voice to this seldom talked about community whose lives are rarely seen cinematically: “There are women in waiting, women in this kind of middle place, and they’re disregarded, they’re invisible to us. So the goal is really just to kind of bring that out in the open and explore all the different relationships that these women are experiencing.