Movie shows fault in criminal system

Rex Sample
Staff Writer

“The Honest Struggle” captures a raw portrait of a man facing the prison industrial complex and the struggles of integrating back into society. 

Darrel “Sadiq” Davis was first incarcerated in Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 18 and spent 40 years bouncing around the prison system until he was 58.

The film showcases the everyday issues formerly incarcerated people face after being placed in the revolving door we all know as the criminal justice system. 

“The prison system is not set up to do anything from keeping you from coming back, nothing else period,” Sadiq Davis said. “They have it set up so you can learn nothing, they don’t have it so you can readjust. They got it set up where you can return to your side and do whatever you were doing and come right back.”

After being released from prison the first time, Sadiq found himself struggling to find a job because of the stigma surrounding ex-convicts, but he found it easy to get right back into his old life.

 The temptation is always present due to the fact that an inmate’s lifestyle prior to incarceration is all they know.

For Davis, he said he realized he had to be emotionally and mentally conscience of his spiritual beliefs in order to avoid weighing the temptations within his community. Davis achieved peace of mind as he found a family within the Islamic community. 

The Inner-City Muslim Action Network offered a safe space where Davis could create relationships with others who would hold him accountable and keep him on track, he explained. He said he wants to help others in the way he was helped. 

“What I’m trying to do at this point in my life is be a springboard for some of the brothers and sisters to talk to before they go to such extremes,” Davis said.

Director Justin Mashouf wanted to showcase an individual’s journey from the day they were released from prison, to the day their parole ended. 

Instead of just creating a film on an individual’s life, Mashouf wanted to offer Davis an outlet as well.

He wanted Davis to feel comfortable with his story being told in a way so as to further the conversation on re-integrating formerly incarcerated people back into the community.

According to Californians for Safety and Justice, roughly 1 in 5 Californians have been convicted and now carry a criminal record, which reduces their opportunities for employment and prevents them from moving their life forward. 

Just like Davis, ex-convicts constantly face this issue because of the lack of reform in place to help re-integrate them back into society. 

“The first thing we have to do is to let go of the scared ideas of how we see people coming out of prison,” Davis said.

We come together with any and all of the individuals who were willing to talk about solutions to help these demoralized men and women come back into an alien community, Mashouf explained. 

“We have not given them a chance to show they have bettered themselves to become a part of the community once again,” Mashouf said. 

“We have to internalize. No matter how many things they put in the community, no matter how much money, no matter what it is you feel, if you don’t start from the inside out rather than the outside in, our problems and situations stay the same,” Davis said.

Rex Sample can be reached at

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