Deadly Jails: An Oklahoma Mental Health Crisis

An investigation into how a state like Oklahoma is ill-equipped to handle mentally ill people in incarceration, sometimes with tragic consequences.

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Funding Initiative
Short-Form Series and Special Projects
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Producer/Director

Julianna Brannum

Julianna Brannum is a documentary filmmaker based in Austin, TX. Her first film, The Creek Runs Red, was selected to air on PBS’s national prime-time series, Independent Lens. She later co-produced a feature-length documentary with Emmy Award-winning producer, Stanley Nelson for PBS’s We Shall Remain– a 5-part series on Native American history. The Show more episode, Wounded Knee, chronicled the siege of Wounded Knee, SD in 1973 led by the American Indian Movement and had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and later won the ABC News VideoSource Award for Outstanding Use of Archival in a Film. Ms. Brannum was selected as a Sundance Institute/Ford Foundation Fellow and has been awarded grants from the Sundance Institute’s Native Initiative, National Geographic, Women in Film, ITVS, the Oklahoma Humanities Council, Vision Maker Media, and the Sundance Documentary Fund for her public television documentary LaDonna Harris: Indian 101. She was also awarded a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Tribeca Film Institute in support of the film. The film aired nationally on PBS in November 2015 and was Executive Produced by Johnny Depp. Ms. Brannum most recently served as Series Producer on the PBS series, Native America, produced by Providence Pictures. This epic, 4-part series focuses on the civilizations of the Americas. Native America will air nationally on PBS in Fall 2018. Ms. Brannum has also produced programs for Discovery Channel, HGTV, DIY, A&E, and Bravo and is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma where she was awarded the 2008 Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the Quahada band of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma. Show less

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The Film

Christina Dawn Tahhahwah of the Comanche Nation suffered from mental illness and died in an Oklahoma jail. Brittany Weide, who was bipolar and suffered from addiction, after being incarcerated for sleeping outside and carrying illegal drugs, committed suicide in her cell. Like many states, Oklahoma has no mechanisms in place for handling or treating incarcerated people with mental illness. This investigative short looks at how advocacy organizations like the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma are trying to change the way these counties handle urgent mental health situations.