Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Group Plans Another Showing of Prison Documentary

15. November 2004 • Rob Goodspeed
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(I also posted this on my personal blog)

After an overflow crowd turned out for a November 8 screening of a documentary about the criminal justice system, the U-M chapter of Amnesty International has organized another free screening of the award-winning prison documentary “Juvies”.

The group will show the documentary Juvies on Thursday, November 18 at 7 p.m. in the Vandenberg Room of the Michigan League.

I interviewed director Leslie Neale for this website before the first showing. During her visit to Ann Arbor earlier this month, Neale answered questions after the screening of her film and participated in a joint event with the Prison Creative Arts Project, a U-M program where students work with Michigan prisoners to create artwork.

On Nov. 8, the U-M Amnesty International group says “over 50” people were turned away after the 210-seat screening room filled to capacity. The Michigan Daily covered the event with a lengthy story, which included this excerpt:

... “Every warden I have talked to has said juveniles are the most rehabilitatable group among violent criminals.” [Directory Leslie Neale] then made an analogy between sending adolescents to adult prison and “feeding coal to a furnace.”

She emphasized the financial implications of sending young people to prison as opposed to rehabilitating them and letting them return to society.

“It costs one million dollars to lock a kid up for life,” she said.

LSA student John Smith, said the film was illuminating. “It’s absolutely shocking what they did to those kids – the sentences are egregious,” he said. He blamed the phenomenon on overzealous politicians and a public that has been confused by an alarmist media.

At the film’s end, the pedestrians who said they were in favor of juvenile criminals standing trial as adults were told what [juvenile offender] Ta had done and asked what punishment he should received. The pedestrians, who seemed to agree on a sentence of several years, were in disbelief when informed that he had been given 35 years.