By Leslie NEALE


Documentary - Completed 2006

This feature documentary looks into the eyes and souls of children prosecuted and imprisoned as adult criminals. Narrated by Mark Wahlberg.

    • Year of production
    • 2006
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • USA
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 1 - 3 M$
    • Duration
    • 66 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Leslie NEALE
    • Producer(s)
    • Leslie NEALE
    • Synopsis
    • This feature documentary explores the juvenile criminal-justice system, and the increasing controversial practice of sending youth offenders through the adult system. Focusing on a group of twelve young offenders chosen randomly to participate in a video-production workshop at Eastlake Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles (where they await trials as adults), the film compares their crimes and sentences, explores their feelings about the experience of juvenile hall vs. adult prison, and examines the media's role in affecting public opinion about youth offenders and how they should be handled. After the initial video production workshop, the filmmakers revisit these youths two years later in prison for an update on their lives.
      Among the youths we meet:
      Ishimine, 16 - Facing 3 years for carjacking with a deadly weapon and robbery. Raped at 13, she became pregnant and, too afraid to tell her mother, stole the money for an abortion.
      Santiago, 16 - Facing 10 years for murder. He caught on fast to the video-production workshop, interviewing his peers, including Richard, who faces the same sentence.
      Duc, 16 - Serving 35 to life for attempted murder. A gun was fired from a vehicle he was driving, and though no one was injured and he had no prior arrests, he was still convicted. In a tearful interview, his parents confirm he was beaten as punishment while growing up.
      Sandra, 17 - Facing 25 years to life for being an accessory to murder. Her schizophrenic mother disappeared when she was seven; meanwhile, her father was in a state penitentiary.
      Peter, 16 - Facing 12 years for robbery and assault. A first-time offender, Peter was a child prodigy (a talented pianist) before getting in trouble with the law. He fears going to state prison, explaining, "It's all racial. Either you kick it with the Mexicans... on your own... or you kick it with the blacks. I can't go into prison and stay on my own."
      Mayra, 16 - Facing life plus 25 years for attempted murder, she gave birth to a son in juvenile hall. Mayra admired her gang- member brother growing up. So when her "neighborhood" asked her to kill her best friend Lizette, she shot her twice, paralyzing her from the waist down. (In an incredible interview, Lizette explains that she understands Mayra "had to do what she had to do" and claims to "still love her like a sister.")
      Richard, 17 - Facing 10 years for attempted murder. A kindred spirit to Santiago, with whom he seems to enjoy the technical aspects of the video-production workshop.
      Jeffery, 16 - Facing 50 years to life for murder. Asked about his own prospects, he was optimistic, figuring he had a 75% chance of being found innocent.
      Elizabeth, 15 - Facing 11 years for accessory to murder. She claims her stepfather physically and sexually abused her starting at nine, and she eventually turned to drugs as a teen.
      Nancy, 15 - Facing 8 years for manslaughter.
      Efrain, 16 - Facing 3 years for robbery and assault. He looks forward to reuniting in prison with his father, whose landscaping job was a front to scope out houses for burglarizing. Going forward, he says he "wants to be a good person in society. I want to... be stable."
      Anait, 14 - Facing a life sentence for accessory to murder. The daughter of Armenian immigrants who gave her a car at 13, Anait wanted to impress the cool kids at her school, and one day drove two boys to a rival high school, where they fought and stabbed a boy to death. (At the time of filming she was awaiting trial as an adult.)
      While many of these teens face long prison sentences and will turn to sex, drugs and violence as a means of survival, even those who are released face dismal success odds, in part due to the lack of rehabilitation efforts in adult prisons. Statistics predict many will return to prison within five years, for committing another crime or for jumping bail. Even tough crime-law advocate Gil Carcetti agrees; looking back, he admits that Duc's sentence "probably wasn't right." Is there any hope for these kids? The debate continues as more teens are locked away every year.