Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O’Brien Special Report open from Adam Schwartz on Vimeo
In the still very relevant 2015 program, "Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O’Brien Special Report" from Al Jazeera America, Soledad O'Brien gives voice to the voiceless and shines a light on an under-reported story by going inside an institution for teenage inmates.
"In the hour-long special, “Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O’Brien Special Report,” Al Jazeera America was given extensive access inside a once-notorious juvenile lock-up, the J. Paul Taylor Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where the state is now trying something new: offering education, counseling, and maybe even a second chance for juvenile offenders.
The reforms come as part of a 2009 settlement with the ACLU, after a lawsuit that accused New Mexico juvenile centers of failing to protect the health, mental and physical safety of youth offenders. Complaints included locking youths in solitary confinement, abusing them and lying about the level of violence. Under a new program known as CAMBIAR, the J. Paul Taylor Center and other juvenile centers in New Mexico now provide up to six and a half hours of daily schooling, specialized counseling, and guards that double as mentors. The reforms are aimed at helping a state with one of the nation’s poorest populations of children.
"Every time I watched the interactions with counselors and the security videos of them fighting, all I could think about was how critical it is that programs like this work,” Soledad O’Brien said.
In “Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O’Brien Special Report,” Al Jazeera America examines the human impact of CAMBIAR, modeled after a similar program in Missouri with one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country. New Mexico’s Juvenile Justice Services director Sandra Stewartsays, “Instead of just warehousing kids and watching them serve their time, the kids learn to do everything together in a unit and the staff [are] trained to be more along the lines of mentors, team leaders and coaches rather than correctional officers.”
Soledad O’Brien goes inside the facility to observe day-to-day interactions in a place where, unlike other facilities, inmates are known as “clients,” solitary confinement is prohibited and juveniles even have the opportunity to remove their tattoos. And, we meet family members of some of the offenders, who express hope about the positive changes they have observed in their children.
With more than 60,000 kids under the age of 21 locked up in America, can New Mexico’s innovative new approach show that therapy, education and counseling are more effective than traditional punishment for juvenile offenders? Or will the cycle continue?"