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Former inmate Anthony Dejesus climbs his first rock. Courtesy of RAAR.

Go West, Young Men

A group of Boulder activists are inspiring a documentary film about rehabilitating onetime inmates via outdoor adventures.

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A group of Front Range environmental advocates have redirected their efforts to the inner city in a project designed to motivate former inmates to right their lives by experiencing the outdoors.

The Rewilding Alternative Adventure Retreat (RAAR) recruits formerly incarcerated young men from New York City and takes them West for wilderness immersion experiences. The Outward Bound-type program introduces them to alien activities—most of these people have never left their home turf of the Bronx or Harlem—such as rock climbing, backpacking, and farming. They’ll also practice yoga and meet folks in the Rocky Mountain region whose backgrounds could hardly be more different from their own.

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The group is documenting these adventures on film and releasing them chapter by chapter as sort of an inspirational travelogue. (The “Rewilding” trailer is here.) Footage from the eight-week journey between New York to the West will eventually be edited into a feature-length documentary that will premiere sometime in 2016.

Among the Boulder-based talents behind the project are producer Doug Metzger, who’s worked on such films as Dances With Wolves and City Slickers; director Matt Corliss, who worked on Chasing Ice; RAAR founder Jesse Spiegel; and “fracktivist” Suzanne Spiegel.

With more attention being focused upon rehabilitating prisoners instead of merely punishing them, the booming Colorado documentary scene should have many opportunities to play an active and activist role in promoting these overdue changes to our crippled and overstuffed penal system.

Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.

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