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Like Any Other Kid

Something incredible is happening behind the locked doors of the James Ranch in Morgan Hill, California, the Bridge City Center for Youth in Bridge City, Louisiana, and 162nd St. Sheltering Arms, in the Bronx, New York. Caring and committed staff are using guidance, setting boundaries, and showing unconditional love and compassion to youth offenders.

Rife with violence by both youth and staff, and proven to be ineffective in meeting the needs of youth, many of America’s juvenile prisons are failing today’s young people.  Most of today’s facilities depend on punishment, including solitary confinement and pepper spray, to treat children. For youth who have already faced unimaginable traumas in their short lives, punishment only prepares them for chaos and scarcity.

LIKE ANY OTHER KID provides a rare glimpse into the inner-workings of one of the most promising developments in juvenile justice reform: the use of non-punitive, therapeutic programs to change behavior and help youth re-enter their communities. Following the intimate relationships between incarcerated youth and staff in three unique facilities across the country over the course of three years, the film shows how these programs work. Based on the Missouri approach, where love and structure, instead of punishment, are used, these programs guide and teach youth how to take responsibility for themselves. Through scenes of conflict, vulnerability, reflection, commitment, and joy, the youth transform before our eyes. LIKE ANY OTHER KID shows us the great potential of these youth if we let them be just that: like any other kid.

'Like Any Other Kid is crucial viewing toward understanding and implementing effective interventions with troubled and incarcerated juveniles...A heartfelt, moving, and impactful experience that enables the viewer to develop empathy, perspective taking, and understanding regarding the devastating role of unrecognized and untreated trauma in human growth and development.' Dr. Kimberly Spanjol, Mental Health Provider, Professor of Criminal Justice and Sociology, Iona College

'Engaging...Not only did I learn about the model through their experiences, I felt a deep human connection to the teens - empathizing with them as I learned about their lives, celebrating with them as they succeeded, and crying with them as they gave it their all in the face of challenges...This is an excellent film for the classroom as it will educate on the Missouri model and challenge students to face their own assumptions about youth who offend, juvenile justice, punishment, and what it means to be a criminal justice professional. This film is now on my must-watch list!' Barb Toews, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work and Criminal Justice, University of Washington Tacoma, Author, The Little Book of Restorative Justice for People in Prison: Rebuilding the Web of Relationships

'Like Any Other Kid reminds viewers that kids convicted of crimes are just that - they're kids. And they typically are kids desperately in need of adult mentoring, stability and love. We owe justice-involved youth a chance at rehabilitation, and this film shows exactly what that chance can and should look like.' Cara Drinan, Professor of Law, The Catholic University of America, Author, The War On Kids: How American Juvenile Justice Lost Its Way

'I really enjoyed viewing Like Any Other Kid...Top notch...timely and relevant, and I see a high educational value. After viewing the film, I am a true believer in the Missouri approach to addressing the needs of our youth who may find themselves in the juvenile justice system. As a faculty member of a Counselor Education program, I see this film greatly enriching the learning of my students, across the curriculum of several courses.' Michael Maxwell, Assistant Professor, Counseling and Higher Education, University of North Texas

'Like Any Other Kid sheds light on factors that lead to criminal-justice involvement, the realities of providing therapeutic interventions to justice-involved youth during and after their incarceration, and the contrast between correctional and mental health approaches to addressing juvenile delinquency. This film is a conversation starter for mental health, correctional, and legal professionals and students, as well as community members.' Tracy Fass, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, William James College

'An extraordinary glimpse into America's juvenile justice system...This film serves as an excellent training tool for correctional staff, as it brilliantly depicts and teaches how to engage youth so that better outcomes will be achieved...[A] beautiful body of work.' Sheila E. Mitchell, Deputy Chief Probation Officer, Los Angeles, Retired Chief Probation Officer, Santa Clara County

'As an educator and curator of a documentary film series for teens, Like Any Other Kid was naturally appealing. It was so gratifying to witness how immediately the students in the audience connected with the film - its story, its subjects, and the empathy of its message. Despite their youth and circumstances, the teens in this film radiate humanity and demand you to see yourself in them.' Jamie Auriemma, Manager of Teen Programs, The Jewish Museum, New York City

'A powerful film...It shows how the Missouri Model that emphasizes support and treatment for incarcerated youth, instead of punishment, can make a tangible difference in their lives. This hopeful but realistic documentary is an excellent introduction to the often hidden world of juvenile corrections.' David S. Tanenhaus, Professor of History and Law, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Author, Juvenile Justice in the Making and The Constitutional Rights of Children

'The storylines pull you in, and make you extremely invested in the youth. The emotions are real and moving. This film advocates for these youth and systems. I truly believe that this film is a call to action. It makes you want to better understand as well as support the youth showcased in the film and youth in similar circumstances.' Charles H. Galbreath, Jr., Senior Consultant and Trainer, Missouri Youth Services Institute

'I've been in policing and criminal justice reform for over four decades and I've never learned of the Missouri approach and its successes with our youth. I believe that if this film can find its way into our classrooms and community meeting spaces, it will bring with it these children into our hearts. This education could ignite a shifting of much needed resources into the development of like programs from coast to coast and I would be its number one advocate.' Major Neill Franklin, Executive Director, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)

'If we have a lot of young people imprisoned, there is obviously something wrong from the beginning. Like Any Other Kid is showing us a big lesson on the principles of what nations and society has to be. Now is time to listen.' Toni Navarro, Director, The Barcelona Film and Human Rights Festival

'Like Any Other Kid illustrates both the successes and challenges associated with treating and rehabilitating youth in our juvenile justice system...It encourages critical thought about the experiences of incarcerated youth prior to, during, and following their juvenile justice system involvement...This film would be an excellent addition to classes on juvenile justice, delinquency, and corrections, and it also could be incorporated into community-based delinquency prevention efforts.' David Myers, Professor and Chair of Criminal Justice, University of New Haven, Author, Boys Among Men: Trying and Sentencing Juveniles as Adults

'I worked in Missouri in the early 1990's and the Missouri model works! Like Any Other Kid is real people telling real stories. Unfortunately, it's what youth face in many cities and towns in our country. They are expected to grow up too fast and aren't prepared for the choices they have to make to survive. Use this compelling and interesting film in your classes to guide discussions on theory, treatment, the juvenile justice system, and dispositions.' Jennifer Allen, Professor of Criminal Justice, Nova Southeastern University, Co-author, Juvenile Justice: A Guide to Theory, Policy, and Practice


Main credits

Mills, Victoria (film director)
Mills, Victoria (film producer)
Correa, Carolina (film producer)
Leichter, Kathy (film producer)

Other credits

Editor, Michelle Chang; director of photography, Daniel Carter; music composed and performed by Maxim Moston.

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