Directed by Victoria Mills • Documentary • 2020 • 89 minutes
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.