Featuring scenes and extra footage from the nonfiction film Kids for Cash by Robert May, “Kids in the System” is a 16-minute video designed for practical use as an educational, outreach and organizing tool for organizations and individuals interested in juvenile justice reform.
“Kids in the System” tells the stories of four young people in Luzerne County, PA who were swept into the juvenile justice system for minor infractions. Arrested, shackled and locked up, Amanda, Charlie, Hillary and Ashley describe their experiences in placement while their families painfully reflect on being misled by authorities and feeling helpless. The video also provides a glimpse into the courtroom of Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, the elected juvenile court judge once celebrated for his tough-on-crime attitude. Having sentenced thousands of kids—including the four in “Kids in the System”—to juvenile detention during his 14 years as a judge, Ciavarella was ultimately sent to prison for receiving millions of dollars from a for-profit, private juvenile detention facility. Regardless of the circumstances in Luzerne County, “Kids in the System” illustrates the life-altering and, in most cases, severely damaging consequences of incarcerating children.