Review: ‘CBS Reports in the Killing Fields of America’

The accent is on youth, Latinos and blacks, gangs, and on the senselessness of bullying and fear masked as pride.

The accent is on youth, Latinos and blacks, gangs, and on the senselessness of bullying and fear masked as pride.

But there are also ancient life-termers in Louisiana’s Angola Prison for whom , as warden John Whitley wryly observes, “Life in Louisiana is life!” It’s an incarceration-to-grave existence, with violence draining off after age 45 to 50 and with a prison cemetery awaiting them.Yet Louisiana has the highest murder rate in the country; nothing makes sense.

At one juncture, CBS’ penetrating, invasive cameras zero in on a man being called to justice for wife abuse. Not accepting the summons seriously, he even winks at the camera; he’s not winking by the time the seg concludes — he’s convicted on film. Drugs and booze, guns and money are the root of most of the trouble. The affluent aren’t pictured here; the middle class and low-incomers grab the spotlight. Punks act innocent under questioning — they’ve probably latched onto how to react coolly by eyeballing TV and films.

Incidents are dismaying. They tumble one after another as Ed Bradley, Dan Rather and Mike Wallace hit the road to talk with victims and killers in a docu bound to create comment. There seems no connection among the cases other than uncontrolled violence.

Splendidly produced, unflinchingly direct, program brings up questions that can’t be answered, yet must be.

“We can lock up every criminal and we’re taking care of the immediate problem ,” says Warden Whitley. “We’re doing nothing to stop the people who are coming up, the youngsters out there today who are going to be the prisoners tomorrow. We’re doing nothing to change their attitude.”

CBS Reports in the Killing Fields of America

(Thurs. (26), 8-11 p.m., CBS)


Filmed in Atlanta, Denver, East Palo Alto, Hartford, Minneapolis, New Orleans, NYC, Phoenix and Washington D.C. by CBS News. Exec producers-producers, Holly K. Fine, Paul R. Fine; co-producers, Margaret McEvoy, David McGloin; writer, Alex Chadwick.


Camera, Paul R. Fine; editors, Holly K. Fine, Kris Kral, Yvonne G. McGee; sound, Craig Gibson, William Yates, Merce Williams; music, Paul Christianson. Reporters: Ed Bradley, Dan Rather, Mike Wallace. All-encompassing, three- hour, jaw-dropping stare at slayings, slayers, and violence perpetrators and their victims is thorough enough to satisfy anyone anxious to catch up on savagery in the U.S. Chilling looks into killers' eyes, at bodies shot in place, and at abused women will satisfy viewers' lust for the grisly and grim. Reported in unerring, unsparing closeness, "In the Killing Fields" shows mostly how far we've gone into blood and lawlessness.
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