“Concrete and Sunshine” documents the social impacts of this massive prison expansion, showing complex connections and consequences inherent in this alarming social trend. Arguing that a central component of prison is isolation, the film begins with interviews of prisoners housed in solitary confinement in California's first super-max prison, Pelican Bay. These men have been labeled by the state as the "worst of the worst" yet her they are presented as citizens, who despite being incarcerated, still have valuable testimony to offer the society in which we live.
These interviews are inter-cut with conversations with urban and rural community members who speak out about the impacts the state’s prison system has had on their lives and their communities. They discuss the economic isolation they experience due to loss of industries, lack of job opportunities, inadequate schools and ongoing racism.
Continuing the theme of isolation, the film demonstrates that prison cannot be seen as an isolated institution, but needs to be recognized as an integral part of society, and considered in relation to the broader political climate of the state. Social geographer Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore gives a tour to key locations in California that reveal the socioeconomic shifts that contributed towards the creation of California’s prison industrial complex.