The Documentaries
On February 12, 2020, 23 Crew Members, including Academy-Award nominated Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto, Grammy-Award winning producer Fritzi Horstman, Producer Monica Chiapa, producers Vivianne Nacif and Ted Kamp began filming the documentary “Step Inside the Circle.” This short film examines the pervasiveness of childhood trauma, one of the key factors behind America’s high levels of incarceration.
Portrait of caucasian incarcerated male
Our filming goals include more short films and a full-length documentary. These will contain:
  • Interviews with Trauma Experts, Doctors and Neuroscientists who will give us the game-changing information about how trauma affects the brain and body
  • Interviews with men and women who are currently incarcerated
  • Interviews with commissioners, wardens, correctional officers, formerly incarcerated men and women and other leaders in corrections, rehabilitation and prisons.
  • Filming the Compassion Trauma Circle in a women's prison
  • Filming the Compassion Trauma Circle with correctional officers, first responders and other community-based organizations
  • Interviews with Correctional Officers to learn about the challenges they face day-to-day
  • Interviews with CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) leaders
Filmed at a maximum security prison in Lancaster, California, the focus of the day was the Compassion Trauma Circle where 235 incarcerated men stepped inside the circle for each traumatic event they experienced in their childhood.

The questions were based on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) survey created by Dr. Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Many incarcerated men and women aren’t aware of their Adverse Childhood Experiences, viewing their childhoods as “normal.”

The Compassion Trauma Circle is one of the ways we raise national awareness. We educate about how the brain, body and spirit are impacted when somebody is traumatized before the age of 18.

What naturally follows is an urgent call to action; a change in the way we treat and care for individuals who are traumatized, especially the incarcerated population. 95% of those who are incarcerated will become our neighbors and community members again. Let’s help them while they’re incarcerated so we can support their reintegration back into society with acceptance, understanding and compassion.

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Those who experience the Compassion Trauma Circle and learn about the symptoms of trauma feel a sense of relief, self-forgiveness and community support. It has given them awareness about their past and has opened a doorway to new levels of understanding, compassion and healing.

Step Inside The Circle

Step Inside the Circle is a call to action: to spread the word about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). It is a call to recognize the physical, emotional and social impact ACEs have wrought upon society and to stress the importance of care (not punishment) going forward in the prison system.

Honor Yard

Our second short film, Honor Yard, explores the impact of childhood trauma by examining the symptoms of trauma. We witness some personal sharing by the men living and healing in a prison yard in California.

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Fritzi Horstman

Founder and Executive Director


Fritzi Horstman is the Founder and Executive Director of Compassion Prison Project. She is a Grammy-award winning producer for her work on “The Defiant Ones”, has been a producer and post-producer on dozens of television projects and documentaries and has directed several films. She believes it is urgent to bring humanity and compassion to those living behind bars and these acts will help transform our society. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Vassar College.

The Documentaries