Genre: Feature Documentary
Language: English
Country of Origin: USA
Running Time: 66 minutes
Medium: Digital Video

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Director: Leslie Neale
Producer: Leslie Neale, Traci Odom
Co-Producer: Page Ostrow
Executive Producer: John Densmore and Mark Wahlberg
Editor: Paul Westmacott
Narrator: Mark Wahlberg
Poetry: Read by Mos Def
Cinematographer: Christopher Komives and Nicholas Hay
Distributor: Domestic – HBO International – Horizon
Producer’s Representative: Ostrow and Company


“…a moving documentary about kids in prison.” – Parade Magazine


From award-winning documentary filmmaker Leslie Neale (Road to Return) comes this riveting look at a world most of us will never see: the world of juvenile offenders who are serving incredible prison sentences for crimes they either did not commit or were only marginally involved in. For two years, Neale taught a video production class at Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall to 12 juveniles who were all being tried as adults. Juvies is the product of that class, which was a learning experience for both students and teacher – and becomes a learning experience for all of us, as we witness the heartbreaking stories of children abandoned by families and a system that has disintegrated into a kind of vending machine justice.

Narrated by actor Mark Wahlberg, himself a former juvenile offender, Juvies follows the lives of a group of young people who will serve most, if not all, of their lives behind bars. The kids talk about the mistakes they made and what they would do if they had the chance to do things differently. They exhibit courage in the midst of the most despairing conditions. And they force us to ask, “Why is this happening? Why have we allowed it to happen? And what can we do now to change laws that are nothing less than draconian, that we as a citizenry have allowed to be enacted?”

Interspersed with the kids’ stories are interviews with experts in juvenile justice and gangs, and with well-known faces, like former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, who, in an incredible scene, admits that sentences like the one Michael Duc Ta received – during Garcetti’s own tenure as D.A – are unfair and should never have happened.

What has gone wrong with our juvenile justice system? And can it be changed before more young lives are destroyed forever? Juvies offers no easy answers, but it will make you think long and hard about what democracy and justice really mean.