Youth Prosecuted as Adults Childhood Interrupted

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Looking for a film to screen for your event? Here is a list of films the Campaign recommends about youth prosecuted as adults and about youth justice issues in general.

Youth Prosecuted as Adults

Childhood Interrupted - Get your friends and family involved in youth justice with our great new tool. It’s a short, 20-minute DVD designed to get people thinking and spark discussion about the practice of trying youth in the adult system. Also included is a Discussion Guide, which can be used to further exchange about this important issue. For your free copy of this DVD, contact us at

Juvies - (2004) is a one-hour film that reveals the shocking reality of life for juvenile offenders in America, many of whom are serving draconian sentences for marginal involvement in so called 'gang' crimes. The director, Leslie Neal taught a video production class at Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall to 12 juveniles who were all being tried as adults. Juvies is the product of that class, made jointly by teacher and students, witnessing heartbreaking stories of children abandoned by families and a system that has disintegrated into a dehumanizing vending machine of injustice.

Mario’s Story - In 1998, Mario Rocha, a young Latino from East LA, was convicted of murder and attempted murder on the basis of one questionable identification and not a shred of physical evidence. He was sixteen years old at the time of his arrest, yet tried as an adult and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. While spending over two years at Juvenile Hall waiting for his trial, Mario joined the Inside Out Writing Program and discovered his talent for writing. Today, his stories, plays, and poems are published and performed in prisons throughout the country.  This film interweaves Mario’s Story as an inmate in one of California’s toughest maximum-security prisons with the efforts of an unlikely group of people who have come together to win his freedom.

Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story - takes a hard look at some of the complex social issues concerning a 16-year-old girl who is serving a life sentence for murder. Cyntoia Brown found herself in a series of bad situations that led to her killing a man who picked her up for sex.  The filmmaker spent nearly six years exploring her life and familial relationships in order to answer a very basic question…why?

Stolen Dreams is a short documentary film made by members of YASP, an organization led by young people who experienced life inside an adult jail, and who are now leaders of their communities. The film includes interviews with teenagers who are currently in adult jail and their families, young people who have been incarcerated as adults, as well as a judge, social worker and teacher who work with youth charged as adults. on a daily basis. The young people featured in the film describe in detail the experience of being a teenager in the adult criminal justice system, from the food to the education system to the everday violence. In telling these stories, the film educates the audience about Act 33, a 1996 ammendment to Pennsylvania law that allows prosecutors to try young people 15 an older directly in adult court and send them directly into adult jail for all serious, violent charges. We hope this film will educate you, inspire you, and help build a movement to change Pennsylvania law and keep young people out of adult prisons.
"Stolen Dreams" can be purchased for $20. To order a copy, email

Young Kids, Hard Time (2011) From the producers of the award-winning “Lake County Juvenile Justice” series and “Lockup: Inside Pendleton Juvenile” comes “Young Kids, Hard Time,” a one-hour prison series that throws back the veil on the reality of young kids serving long sentences behind adult prison walls. With sweeping access inside the Youth Incarcerated As Adults (YIA) cellblock at the maximum security Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Carlisle, Indiana, “Young Kids, Hard Time” reveals what life is like for kids as young as 12 who will grow up behind bars. The YIA cellblock is home to 53 kids who are rarely permitted to leave the unit, due to the dangers posed by the adult prisoners just outside their door. But once a youth offender turns 18, they begin the immediate transition into the general prison population, where thousands of adult prisoners await. “Young Kids, Hard Time” explores post-conviction life for children staring down decades behind bars, illuminating the effects of sentencing kids to the adult prison system, and whether or not this practice leads to a safer society.

Growing Up on Lock Down – (2011) This film, featuring CFYJ spokesperson Dwayne Betts, and Samuel Harvey, and created by the National Black Law Students Association and the North Carolina Cenral University School of Law, explores the detrimental effects of trying youths under 18 in adult courts and putting them in adult jails. It focuses on North Carolina, where all 16- and 17- year-olds are automatically tried as adults for any offense but also addresses the other 11 states that automatically try all 17-year-olds as adults. It addresses the adult system’s inability to ensure the safety and development of these kids as well as its failure to rehabilitate kids relative to the juvenile justice system. The film supports the campaign to raise the juvenile age. This 20-minute film can be found online at:


Books Not Bars - is a 20-minute powerful indictment of the growing “prison industrial complex in America, a system in which youth of color are four to five times more likely to be incarcerated than educated. Examples of peer activism, youth organizing, and mobilization around prison issues provide young audiences with tangible ways to get involved with the movement to reform the U.S. juvenile justice system. In California, young activists score a victory when they convince the Board of Corrections to deny pre-approved state funding for Alameda County's effort to build the biggest per capita juvenile hall in the state. Purchase full length version [21:44] at
Close Tallulah Now! - A 25-minute documentary that exposes the toll on families and children, following a group of parents who once turned to the state for help with their children but instead found them caught in a web of ‘zero tolerance’ –criminalized and locked up in the nation’s most notorious and brutal youth prison, in Tallulah, Louisiana.  In a grassroots political campaign, they confront the state legislature with the stories of horror and abuse their children have suffered, and face the unique opportunity to shut the Tallulah prison down.

Out of Control: The South Dakota Youth Training School – (2001) offers a brief look inside one of South Dakota Training School in Plankington.  This notorious reform school had such severe conditions were so harsh and inhumane that state legislature has sense been passed to close the facility.  A maximum security approach to violence and reform was taken with extra measurements such as tear gassing youth, using 4 point metal restraints and placing juveniles in solitary confinement for days at a time.   Cell extraction teams were brought up on charges for abuse and negligence form not providing proper education and mental health facilities for youth in the training school. The Video Out of Control saw 2001 state legislature oversee the removal of such practices and an increase in educational and medical resources as the facility.  A further assessment of similar programs in South Dakota is under way at this time. Contact The Center For Children’s Law and Policy at:

These are our kids: Transforming Detention in Three American Cities (2003) focuses on the surge in youth incarceration on a national level by looking at increased numbers in three US cities including Portland, Oregon, Santa Cruz, California, and Chicago, Illinois.  Common trends among youth facilities in these areas include decaying and physically unsafe buildings, improper sanitation of facilities and a lack of programming within the system.  The entire youth rehabilitation system has lost credibility due to such perceptions of neglect.  A common belief in all places is the need for more alternatives to detention and a belief that reform in some places will see improvements in others to follow.  This has shown effective with improved facilities in Oregon and a correlating 67% decrease in admission.  The rise of incarceration has only proved effective in seeing the deterioration of the modern education system.  Contact the Annie E. Casey Foundation,

The Road to Rehabilitation and Reform (2011) – is a short film about D.C. and its most-disconnected youth. The film interviews a variety of people affiliated with the former and current juvenile justice system in D.C. including formerly incarcerated youth, DYRS staff, community members, judges, and attorneys. In focusing on the approaches of D.C.’s juvenile justice system, the film provokes a conversation on how D.C., and other communities, can best serve its most-disconnected youth while making our communities both safer and stronger. For access to this film, contact DC Lawyers for Youth at:

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