The film opens with a victim family member saying, “These were the worst of all”. Ofra Bikel, Frontline documentary film maker, investigated the stories of 5 Colorado males sentenced to a life term in prison after committing crimes before reaching majority age. This documentary offers viewers a look into the perspectives of parents, child perpetrators, victim’s families, and the attorneys/legislators involved. This documentary will help us understand the workings of the state and federal courts, as well as the sentencing process. Listening to the perpetrators’ stories and perspectives about being in a desperate situation or caught is a great way to learn more.
Bikel seems to have chosen Colorado because the state used to have a progressive juvenile-justice system that emphasized saving even the most troubled child. Bikel chose Colorado as his model because of its progressive juvenile-justice program that focused on helping even the most troubled kids. Maureen Cain, a defense attorney, said “These courts are founded on the idea that we do not care what the children did. We only care how they ended up in court”. In 1993, this all changed with the so-called ‘Summer of Violence.’ As a result of the constant fear that they would be killed each time they left the house, the community began to lash out. The legislature was soon convinced by this and changed the system. In the movie, an attorney argues that “youths committing adult crimes must be treated as such”. “Just as adults can be sent to prison for life, youths also deserve the same.” The legislators changed it so that prosecutors determine whether or not juveniles are treated as adults.
A victim’s relative says at the beginning of this documentary that these people are the “worst”. Children rapists or torturers. Terrorists. Mass murderers. These are the “worst” of the worst. The film shows that they are not the worst criminals but rather hardened criminals whom our society considers as dangerous to society. I say that because it is difficult to assess the circumstances of these young boys, whether they are victims of sexual or physical abuse, have poor judgement, were in the incorrect place at an inappropriate time, etc.
Bikel portrays these men as hardened criminals. Word Reference defines this term as a person whose life has been dominated by crime to the point that it’s become normal. The term “hard-heartedness” is used because no prisoner leaves the same. I thought he looked lost the moment that camera focused on Jacob Ind. To me, Jacob seemed to be in some sort of daze or trance. It was as though he didn’t understand what he was doing. Jacob’s words in the movie really struck me. Bikel spoke to him and he said “All that he wished for was an end.” He went on to say how he had no idea the significance of their deaths. He said that he honestly did not believe anyone was affected. He seemed to be disconnected from everything.
Bikel attempts to tackle both sides. The parents of a young person sentenced to live by association as well as the victim’s mom. I sympathized with her when she said that some parents can see their convicted children for Thanksgiving while others have to go to a cemetery. I agree that the sentence/punishment should be appropriate, but as I said earlier there were some extenuating factors in this case. Although two of the three men were not directly involved in the killings, they received life sentences due to their bad timing and association.
This documentary was very informative. It helped me understand life better and appreciate it more. It was fascinating and sobering to see how children are no longer seen as innocents when they commit crimes. To the society, children who commit heinous crimes are no long considered to be children.