Lloyd Broncheau, a young Native American prisoner, was killed in the Washington State Penitentiary for a twenty-five dollar debt. Three days later, a prison guard, Sgt. William Cross, was killed during a fight with Indian inmates. This led to the longest lockdown in Washington State history and an inmate class-action lawsuit against the state.

George and Jimi Simmons were charged with first degree murder for the death of the guard. The state sought execution by hanging.

Jimi "Dexter" Simmons had been raised by the state, institutionalized as a youth and imprisoned as an adult. “Making the River” is a film about tragedy transformed.