Young Kids, Hard Time (Director’s Cut)
Nelson Mandela said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
The U.S. is the nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world and the only nation that sentences juveniles to life without parole. This documentary, “Young Kids, Hard Time,” takes us behind prison walls into the juvenile cellblock of an adult “correctional facility” that houses 53 children who have been tired and prosecuted as adults.
The fact that children as young as 7 years old can be tried and prosecuted as adults in 22 states plus the District of Columbia of the U.S. is nothing short of disheartening. Children are being institutionalized and exposed to dangers that are unjustifiable, just one of many examples in which the system is failing future generations. A system in which the term “correctional facility” falls very short of what it would imply, instead of receiving correctional treatment (therapy, programs, etc.) they are forced to learn and develop survival skills when placed in this environment that are far from positive or behavior rectifying.
The film introduces us to a number of children and adults who are serving hard time in adult prisons for varying crimes. We meet 32 year old Greg who was incarcerated at the age of 15, prior to there being a cellblock dedicated to children. He was put behind bars and in a cell with adults serving up to life sentences, in the 18 years that he’s been in prison he’s yet to receive any therapy or attention concerning what brought him to murder his parents. It is easy to judge people for crimes committed with little regard to what brought the individual to commit such acts, however, the crime itself is only a minimal part of these individual’s stories.
In this documentary we also meet Colt Lundy who at age 15 was incarcerated for the murder of his stepfather with the help of his 12 year old friend who was also prosecuted as an adult, two young men who are 18 years old and being moved from the youth cellblock into an adult cellblock, and various others. These young children and young adults are easy prey for the adult population. Greg describes his experience with being placed with the adults at 15, saying the news spread like wildfire, and many of the inmates wanted to be his cellmate for all of the wrong reasons in this ugly and sick environment.
When statistics show that youths tried in adult criminal court generally have higher recidivism rates after release than those tried in juvenile court and youth housed in adult jails are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than youth housed in juvenile detention facilities, we must ask ourselves if today’s methods are acceptable as they have obviously proven themselves ineffective.