In 1975, Rickey Jackson was 18 years old when he was sentenced to death for a murder he didn’t commit. Before a witness recantation led to his immediate exoneration and release, Jackson spent four decades in prison. He is the longest-serving exoneree in U.S. history.
“I never broke the law in my life,” Jackson says in Lonelyleap’s stunning 360° short documentary, Send Me Home. “But nobody cares or believes that you’re innocent in prison. You’re here. You’re 144061 and you’re a killer.”
The immersive film transports the viewer into Jackson’s experience-on death row, in solitary confinement, and then, finally, to his reclaimed life as a free person with a family and a deep appreciation for art.
Cassandra Evanisko, the director of the film, told The Atlantic that the 360° film format allowed her and her team to experiment with the juxtaposition of abstract spaces from Rickey’s past, including the dream spaces he created in prison, with the tangible places he exists in, peacefully, today. “The goal was to create an experience that allowed participants to feel as though they were moving between being a guest in Rickey’s home to being a guest in Rickey’s mind,” Evanisko said.
Rather than draw upon the true-crime tropes that the subject matter invited, the Lonelyleap team decided to omit the details of Jackson’s sentencing and exoneration in favor of focusing on his present life. “We were more interested in creating an intimate, experiential companion to the press clippings,” said Evanisko. “We wanted to create a simple, human portrait that compelled viewers to question the structures that failed Rickey and consider the continued impact felt by countless others currently navigating our criminal-justice and prison systems today.”
“It was a struggle every day to maintain being Rickey Jackson, and not be this other person that everybody has elected me to be,” Jackson says in the film. “My mom would tell me, ‘You have a choice of the kind of person you want to be. You went in there as Rickey Jackson, you better come out of there as Rickey Jackson.'”