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In ‘Safe Place,’ a Night in the County Jail Leads to Torture and Death

Vicki Budd remembers feeling an odd sense of relief when she learned her son, Jerrod Draper, was in the county jail. After struggling of sobriety, he had relapsed into using methamphetamines. But at least the Harrison County Jail would be a safe place.

Or so she thought. The documentary “Safe Place,” now playing at the Indy Shorts film festival in Indianapolis, recounts how instead of keeping Draper safe from himself and others, his jailers tortured him while failing to give him the medical attention he needed. One jail employee tased him seven times in 15 minutes.

That employee’s job title? Nurse.

“Those small town jails, man — I have no idea why the nurse would have a taser,” director Samuel-Ali Mirpoorian told MovieMaker at the festival on Saturday. “They could have saved his life.”

Mirpoorian describes the film as a “microcosmic take on rural and small-town jails.”

“Those cops don’t get the training and the resources, so they’re just like going in there in their twenties and thirties without any training,” he added.

“Safe Place” has already received some of the best press attention a short-form documentary it can receive — it spent several days on the front page of the New York Times as part of the paper’s Opinion Video series.

Its screening at Indy Shorts represented a sort of homecoming for the story: The Indianapolis Star first highlighted inmate deaths in its investigative series “Death Sentence.” And Mirpoorian grew up in Indianapolis.

The 20-minute film uses court records, interviews and jail footage of Draper’s final moments to reconstruct how he died. It also includes VHS footage of his childhood, and interviews with his mother and ex-wife to illustrate some of the heartbreaks and struggles that led him to drug use.

Draper, 40, told at least one jail official that he was under the influence, and the film makes a convincing case that he should have been given medical treatment. Instead, the jail officials focused on restraining him. The Harrison County Jail ultimately settled a lawsuit filed by Draper’s estate for $1 million, which went to his teenage daughter.

The film reports that jail footage and other evidence was handed over the FBI and other federal authorities, but that no charges have been filed in the case.

The Indy Shorts festival, one of our 25 Coolest Film Festivals and 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, continues through Sunday. In ‘Safe Place,’ a Night in the County Jail Leads to Torture and Death

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