Virtually Free

Every year about 300,000 kids are confined in juvenile detention in the US. 70-80% percent of those detained will be re-arrested within 3 years. Richmond, Virginia’s families, police, judges, artists, and activists have united to change this in their own community.  Virtually Free is a documentary about unlikely allies who partner to transform the juvenile justice system and stop mass incarceration.

In the film, we meet Sid, Taee, and AR, three teens currently being held in a Richmond, VA detention center who are offered the chance to become activists speaking truth to power. Participating in a local arts organizations’ program, Performing Statistics, they are taught by different artists to deliver their powerful, authentic messages to the public, law enforcement, and government officials using their art, including a virtual reality jail cell they’ve helped create.


With Virtually Free, the focus of our outreach efforts will be on reaching audiences beyond traditional film distribution such as police departments, underserved communities, community arts programs, and legal justice advocates.  We’ll be working with our partners to create the tools and experiences to go along with the film.  Our ultimate goal for the impact campaign is support the movement to stop incarcerating kids and for communities to instead create alternatives to incarceration.

The scalable program allows different audiences to engage as they wish.  Components include:

  • Virtually Free Documentary Film
  • Installation created by teen participants (includes VR, interactive, and physical elements)
  • Police training curriculum created by Performing Statistics
  • Teacher and school resource officer training materials
  • Standards-based curriculum to assist teachers in using the film in the classroom
  • Discussion guide for youth audiences as part of Shine’s IGNITE program


Winner Richmond International Film Festival
Winner DC Black Film Festival
Winner Montclair Film Festival
Winner Jury Award for Impact in the Social Impact Media Awards
Shortlisted for the IDA Short Documentary Awards

Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Chicago Media Project


Directed by
André Robert Lee

Produced by
Susan MacLaury
Alexandra Blaney

Executive Producer
Albie Hecht
Dawn Porter
Hiry West

Edited by
Nick Clark

Brendan Hall

Co-Produced by
Graham Raubvogel, Charlie Sadoff

Rick Witkowski

Whitney Hudson

Sean Conrad