The documentary series “First and Last” premiered on the streaming service Netflix on Sept. 7. This Netflix original highlights inmates at Gwinnett County jail located in Georgia during their first and last days at the facility.
Captain of the Gwinnett County police force M. Thomas explains that Gwinnet is one of the biggest detention facilities in the country with an area of almost a million square feet. He states “you could put 20 full-sized football fields and put it inside the square footage of this place.” Gwinnett County Jail is classified as a pre-trial detention center. Between 35,000 and 37,000 individuals come through the jail’s doors during a typical year.
The show opens with a series of scenes of individuals being removed from cop cars, getting mug shots taken and entering solitary cells, most of them vocally protesting with sadness. Some of the first individuals the audience is introduced to in the show are a group of three men who arrived at Gwinnett claiming to be innocent.They were pulled over for the tint on the driver’s car being too extreme, and drugs and weapons were found after a thorough inspection. The 18-year-old, Alex, “Slim,” claimed that he only wanted a ride to get his hair done. Later on in the first episode, Alex is told that he must pay $11,400 for bond. A hefty sum of money like this is difficult for an 18-year-old going to college in the next month to come up with.
“First and Last” also tells the story of a 31-year-old woman identified as Velma S. who has been to the jail six times. The most recent charge she had received was for driving with a suspended license. She was at Gwinnett for 78 days. The audience was shown her last day at Gwinnett. She was apprehensive about returning home to her mother, because she was afraid of getting in trouble with the law once more and ending up back at the jail yet again. Another individual named Shantee G. shared her struggles with addiction, saying she abused substances ever since she was six years old. She explained that her mother had her at the age of 15 and took her to parties with her as a child.
It is interesting to see in depth how the judicial system works for the people at Gwinnett. Some of the facilities residents are guilty, while others are innocent. This series is an eye opener to the reality that some individuals repeatedly find themselves in jail over misdemeanors and probation violations. Others are innocent, but get caught at the wrong place and wrong time.
“First and Last” is another addition to Netflix’s collection of original documentary series about the lives of prisoners. Other shows include “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons” which follows a man who travels around the world and experiences a day in the life of extreme jails, and “Girls Incarcerated: Young and Locked Up” which delves into a female juvenile detention center and the backstories of the adolescents that attend there. A more eerie series revolving around prisons is “I Am a Killer,” in which criminals on death row give their first hand accounts on the crimes they have committed.
There isn’t much press coverage on “First and Last,” but I believe it deserves more attention. There isn’t a confirmation of a season two but I hope there will be. It is important to be informed of the lives of prisoners in America, seeing as there is furniture that was made in prisons on St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s campus.