Review: 'Young Kids, Hard Time' on MSNBC

Juvenile offender Colt Lundy, as seen in 'Young Kids, Hard Time.'

Young Kids, Hard Time

10 p.m. Sunday


Young Kids, Hard Time, the latest documentary from Indianapolis-based producer Karen Grau, is going to keep you up at night, thinking.

You’ll be thinking things like: Do kids really belong in adult prison? Should we be more proactive about getting kids help before they become criminals? And, how can such innocent-looking kids have committed such heinous acts?

It's probably not what you want to have rolling around in your mind before you go to bed on Sunday, but Grau's work is that compelling. This is absolutely worth your attention.

As she has in all her documentary work, Grau uses her extraordinary access to Indiana’s juvenile-justice system to put names and faces to issues that ultimately affect everyone. This hourlong show, narrated by actor-singer Rick Springfield, takes us inside the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, where 53 kids are held in the Youth Unit for offenders younger than 18. When they turn 18, they move to the adult population, where some of them will spend decades.

Grau introduces us to, among others, Colt Lundy and Paul Gingerich, who were 15 and 12, respectively, when they shot and killed Lundy’s stepfather in 2010. (They won’t talk about the crime, but news reports from Warsaw, Ind., indicate they each fired two shots.) The baby- and freckle-faced Lundy was sentenced to 30 years. The tiny Gingerich received a 25-year sentence, which he is serving at the Pendleton Correctional Facility.

That means they’re both going to be like Greg Ousley, 32, who’s already spent more than half his life in prison for murdering his parents in Pierceton, Ind., when he was 15. He’s serving a 60-year sentence at the Miami Correctional Facility in Kokomo.

Ousley, who’s incredibly well spoken, clearly has had a lot of time to think about the potential harm done to young offenders in adult prisons. He calls prison “a sick environment” and suggests that maybe he wouldn’t be there now if people had paid attention to him.

“Where were you in school when I’m showing all the signs?” he asks. “Where were you then?”

Young Kids, Hard Time shows kids entering prison for the first time and those making the transition to adult population. It’s genuinely frightening for them and for us — even more so when you think that they’ll be inside for years, they’ll be preyed upon by adult offenders and, eventually, they’ll be released.

The kids acknowledge they deserve to be punished. As Lundy says, “Every choice has a repercussion. You just need to keep that in mind.” But the documentary asks us to think about how we handle juveniles who commit violent crimes.

“There is a child involved,” says Mike Dempsey, executive director of the Indiana Department of Correction’s Division of Youth Services. “Regardless of the offense that they may have committed.”

See: the first six minutes of Young Kids, Hard Time (via the production company's Vimeo page)


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