Movie Analysis: Shawshank Redemption

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Shawshank Redemption is a movie released to the public in 1994 and the highest rated movie in the IMDb top 250 movies. This movie is meant to inform the public on the state of corruption within the walls of a prison and how the justice system fails to help prisoners in becoming better individuals after leaving the correction facilities (Dawidziak, 2019). The main character of the movie, Andy Dufresne who is a banker is sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his wife and lover. Andy undergoes the punishment involved with committing such a crime regardless of his constant claim of innocence (Dawidziak, 2019). Andy finally escapes from the prison after his efforts to seek justice for his case are hampered by the prison warden leaving an innocent man to continue facing the scales of justice regardless of his innocence. One of the prisoners, Brooks commits suicide after being released from prison on parole as he has a challenge fitting in the outside world (Dawidziak, 2019). This paper compares and contrasts the evolution of the adult and jail justice correctional system using the movie Shawshank Redemption as a backdrop.

The Adult and Jail Justice Correctional System

The jail justice correctional system is meant to punish and rehabilitate individuals who have broken laws by engaging in criminal activities. One of the components of the justice correctional system is prisons which is are institutions for holding convicted individuals to punish as well as correct the behavior of the offender (Wooldredge & Smith, 2018). During this process, it is important for all parties to respect the rights of the offender regardless of the accusations. One of the aspects that has been developed to ensure that the rights of the accused are respected is by presuming them innocent until proven guilty. Incarcerated inmates have the right to access basic resources such as food and water, security and access to medical health (Wooldredge & Smith, 2018).

However, as seen in the movie, individual rights are not respected as Andy witnesses a new inmate being beaten because of his crying and emotional reactions on his first day in prison. This inmate later succumbs to death in the infirmary since the attending doctor was not available during the night. Andy is also abused by fellow inmates with the inmate having no protection from the guards working in the prison (Dawidziak, 2019). This shows a negative prison environment where inmates’ rights are not respected as the inmate did not deserve such a beating from the guards due to his emotional reactions and had the right to access medical help just as other individuals outside the prison. These activities within prison walls negatively affect incarcerated inmates and some inmates may come out of the prisons worse than they were before that were imprisoned (Wooldredge & Smith, 2018).

Illegal Activities in Prisons

One of the major concerns affecting prisons today is illegal activities undertaken by inmates as well as prison wardens. As shown in the movie, the Shawshank prison has a mafia headed by Red who is responsible for providing inmates with anything they need at a price. This is done in collaboration with the prison guards and warden. This also shows how corruption in the jail system enables some inmates to have access to some of the illegal stuff in prison (Myers, 2016). This is dangerous as inmates can have access to deadly weapons that can be used to cause harm or injury to other prisoners. Corruption is also seen when Andy is able to access some of the privileges such as getting beers after promising to help one of the guards with the issue of paying taxes for an upcoming inheritance. Prison managers may also misuse their power and authority for wrong and selfish reasons (Wooldredge & Smith, 2018).

One of this is by denying prisoners their rights as seen when the warden threatens Andy after deciding to stop the financial schemes and sends him to a solitary cell. Andy also later receives favor form the prison warden by helping him and other guards with income tax returns and financial advice (Myers, 2016). Despite prisons having a large number of security officers, there is insecurity in the prisons which is evident when Andy is regularly beaten and raped by a group of prisoners regardless of his persistence resistance and fights. This illegal activities and abuse may negatively affect prisoners who may fail to reform and continue with criminal activities after leaving the prison. This affects the achievement of prisons’ the main objective which is to rehabilitate prisoners to better individuals in society (Wooldredge & Smith, 2018). One of the responsibilities of prisons and correctional facilities is to provide a safe environment for all prisoners.

Evolution of the Adult and Jail Justice Correctional System

One of the changes in the United States criminal justice system is the implementation of the criminal justice reform is meant to fix perceived errors in the criminal justice system that may lead to the conviction of innocent individuals (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2016). These changes are also aimed at decreasing the prison population in United States’ prisons, reducing harsh prison sentences, and policing reform. Some of the reasons behind this reform is the criticisms on the American justice system as being racially discriminatory which has been identified as the main contributing aspect in the growing prison population (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2016). Policing reforms are meant to address police brutality which is rampant in prison and outside the prison. This is shown in the movie when police beat a new inmate who later dies due to the lack of adequate medical healthcare.

Police have been put on the spot for using excessive force, intimidating prisoners, and verbal assault against inmates (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2016). This reform allows police and prison wardens to go through the legal process in the case of abuse of power as a way if providing justice to affected individuals. Another criticism of the justice system is that it perpetuates the notion that all inmates are criminals. Some of individuals entering the prison system may not have committed criminal offences (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2016). However, they still experience the consequences of direct punishment associated with the legal system. Andy who is the main actor faces full punishment regardless of his denial that he is innocent. This is harmful to innocent individuals due to its psychological, emotional, and physical impact (Nelson, 2017).

Majority of individuals who cycle in and out of prisons may also suffer from other issues such as substance abuse, poverty, mental illnesses, and an overall poor health. The conditions of the prison negatively impact prisoners who are unable to fit it again in the community. This is seen when the Brooks, the librarian in the prison is released from prison on parole. However, he is unable to adjust his life outside the prison leading him to commit suicide (Nelson, 2017). The government has developed programs to help prisoners that provide counseling services and job placement to help inmates to rebuild their lives as well as ties with the community. Red’s change in behavior is also a result of Andy’s true personality and character and not on the correctional process that he has undergone (Nelson, 2017).

The Need for Reforms in the Adult and Jail Justice Correctional System

Although the United States government has implemented different interventions in the aim of stabilizing the nation’s prison system, the rate of imprisonment has continued to increase as well as cases of abuse among prison inmates. Research has indicated about one-quarter of world’s prisoners to be held in the United States (Copp & Bales, 2018). Most of the prisoners largely comprise men under 40, minority groups, and the poor. This growth in the number of incarcerated individuals in the United States in the last decade has prompted the government to implement a taskforce to identify the reasons behind this increase and its effects to the United States economy and moral aspects (Copp & Bales, 2018).

Running a prison is a complex process since prisons serve a diverse population. This requires well-trained prison administrators and wardens who are responsible for ensuring order in the prisons as well as the provision of important resources to prisoners to head the prisons (Copp & Bales, 2018). The government of the United States has ensured this by increasing the number of prison wardens to help in heading prisons across the nation as well as providing adequate training to the wardens to manage diverse prison population (Copp & Bales, 2018).


  1. Cole, G. F., Smith, C. E., & DeJong, C. (2016). The American system of criminal justice. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning.
  2. Copp, J. E., & Bales, W. D. (2018). Jails and Local Justice System Reform: Overview and Recommendations. Future of Children, 28(1), 103–124. https://doi.org/10.1353/foc.2018.0005
  3. Dawidziak, M. (2019). Shawshank redemption revealed. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press.
  4. Myers, S. (2016, March 28). Movie Analysis: “The Shawshank Redemption.” Go Into The Story. Retrieved from https://gointothestory.blcklst.com/movie-analysis-the-shawshank-redemption-3abed452460e
  5. Nelson, F. (2017). The graying and incarcerated: Shawshank Redemption was right on target. Corrections Today, 79(4), 54–57. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=i3h&AN=123999454&site=eds-live&scope=site
  6. Wooldredge, J., & Smith, P. (2018). The Oxford handbook of prisons and imprisonment. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Cite this paper

Movie Analysis: Shawshank Redemption. (2020, Sep 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/movie-analysis-shawshank-redemption/



What do Andys rocks symbolize in Shawshank?
Andy's rocks symbolize hope, patience, and perseverance as he spends years carving them into small tools to aid in his escape from Shawshank prison. They also represent the power of human creativity and the ability to find beauty and purpose in even the most oppressive and hopeless situations.
What is the message behind the movie Shawshank Redemption?
The message behind Shawshank Redemption is that hope is a powerful thing and that it can help people through even the darkest of times. The movie also shows that friendship and human connection are essential for a happy and fulfilling life.
Who is the woman in the poster in Shawshank Redemption?
The woman in the poster is named Rita Hayworth. She was an American actress and dancer.
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