Shaquita Ogletree
Last week, Campaign for Youth Justice and DC Alliance of Youth Advocates hosted “They Call Us Monsters” screening to raise awareness and bring to light the incarceration of juveniles. The film follows three young men in a California facility that signs up for a screenwriting class and details their violent crimes, sentencing, and background. The documentary highlights the deepest end of the justice system and details the emotional story of three young men Antonio, Jarad, and Juan.

Screenwriter Gabriel brings awareness to the adult justice system reform and the practices of prosecuting youth in adult courts and incarcerating them in adult facilities through the poignant viewings of each young man’s story as they work on their screenplay. The insight of their experiences leading up to their crime, arrest, and incarceration explores trauma, abuse and neglect, violence, lack of community support and resources, and understanding of adolescent brain development.

The film also featured California debate around juvenile offenders and sentencing, where juveniles between 14 and 17 years of age can be tried as adults and receive lifetime sentencing. The young men were able to watch legislative hearings and hear the pros and cons of voting for the bill and discussed what this would mean for them if passed. California’s Youth Offender Parole law that allows a person who was under the age of 18 at the time of their crime to be eligible for parole and be released from prison did pass in 2016. Only 30 states have enacted legislation to remove youth from adult jails and prisons, limit the prosecution of youth in adult court, or revise sentencing laws.

They Call Us Monsters is now streaming on Netflix for those interested in watching the documentary. This film captures every emotion possible and is worth watching. To learn more or get involved, you can contact Campaign for Youth Justice