From the producers of the award-winning “Lake County Juvenile Justice” series and “Lockup: Inside Pendleton Juvenile” comes “Young Kids, Hard Time,” a prison series that throws back the veil on the reality of young kids serving long sentences behind adult prison walls. According to the Campaign for Youth Justice, an estimated 250,000 youths are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year across the United States. In twenty-two states as well as the District of Columbia, children as young as seven can be prosecuted and tried in adult court.
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.
MSNBC producers spoke to kids between the ages of 12 and 17 who are serving up to 35 years in adult prison, comparing the lack of services provided to children sentenced in the adult system with that of the rehabilitative services offered to kids who are kept in the juvenile system instead. According to the Department of Justice, America’s juvenile justice system is better-prepared to deal with youth offenders than the adult prison system, which offers few opportunities for counseling and rehabilitation. “Young Kids, Hard Time” documents one of the darkest corners of society and explores how life behind bars truly is—straight from the kids who now call prison home.
“Young Kids, Hard Time” is produced for MSNBC by Calamari Productions. Michael Rubin is Vice President, Long Form Programming, MSNBC. Scott Hooker is Senior Executive Producer, MSNBC. Elise Warner is Senior Producer of “Young Kids, Hard Time,” as well as “Lockup,” MSNBC. Karen Grau is Executive Producer, Calamari Productions. Calamari Productions has been creating, producing and directing child welfare & juvenile justice documentary programming for over a decade. The company has previously won the prestigious national Edward R. Murrow Award and more than 16 national awards for television documentaries, writing, reporting, and efforts on behalf of children.
MSNBC and Calamari Productions give special thanks to the Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana Department of Correction for the extraordinary access granted to film this series.