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Review of “Prison Kids: A Crime Against America’s Children (2015)”

Prison Kids offers an in-depth look at the country’s broken juvenile justice systems. It examines how the United States incarcerates children at a higher rate than any other developed country and travels across the country to look at the stories of kids who grew up behind bars.

The video focuses on mentally challenged children and how the school and juvenile system in those jurisdictions lack the resources to deal with such vulnerable people. One of the stories about the troubled child, Zion, was having minor troubles at school, which the school did not know how to deal with except by calling the police. Which, in turn, only know how to process criminals. The solution to Zion and children in the same situation was establishing a specific school for them. The school was built by a federal judge who has seen that the juvenile justice system has been unjust for mentally challenged children. The school is equipped with personnel and a curriculum that is suitable for troubled children.

A frequent issue in the video is the waiver to adult court. The video has many cases of waived children for minor offenses. Being a repeat offender might be one of the main factors in the mentioned jurisdiction. One reason might be because those jurisdictions do not know how to deal with repeat offenders, and the only solution they have is to send them to adult courts because the criminal system is more equipped in dealing with such offenders. According to the cases in the documentary, anybody can be sent to adult court if prosecutors or judges decide to do so without any challenge to their decisions.

Many of the young adults in the video who have spent many troubled years with the justice system seem to be repeat offenders because they lack opportunities. A solution to this problem can be coaching and guidance at the detention centers. The juvenile justice system should work as a parent for those children who apparently do not have a parent figure in their lives who can guide them and support them. Juvenile justice was built on the concept of Parens Patriae, where the government takes care of troubled children.

The documentary’s focus is the lack of mental care services for distressed children, and that mental illness is the one to be blamed for the majority of children processed in the justice system. As with the example of the particular school, this establishment seems to help, but not many other services are available for mental health support. Another example in the video is using potent drugs to control troubled teens, worsening their conditions, or making them addicted to illicit or prescribed medications.

The federal government and states should be involved more in every jurisdiction’s juvenile justice system. It was frequently mentioned in the documentary that the jurisdictions lack resources and supervision. The involvement of higher authorities in supporting smaller jurisdictions financially or professionally would positively impact juvenile justice.

Prison Kids: A Crime Against America’s Children (2015)

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Fahad Hizam alHarbi, PI