Yesterday TNC-Ashley and myself, Polly-were spending our Thursday mornings how we always do, in the Juvenile Detention Center here in Minnehaha County. We have been doing this regularly for years, though we don't talk about it as often as we'd like for the privacy of these kids who trust us. Yesterday was different. The kids have been asking for a full length documentary we show-they literally can not get enough of the real life stories we tell them, and the open format we use so that they can share.
One boy we see said "it helps me you know, to see other people doing what I do, going through what I did, and maybe comin' out the other end."
As the movie played both Ashley and myself were tense and on edge. Everything about what we were showing them felt wrong, but hear us out, and why we ever pushed play. This documentary followed a drug addict that has been living on the street since the age of 12-being forced into prostitution to survive and feed her drug addiction.
There were scenes in the film where this now 18 year old was doing drugs in a McDonald's bathroom. There were scenes where she was calling her pimp and buyers with whom she was refusing to take dates...but also admitting that she needed the money for drugs. There was also the infamous scene where she ran from treatment and ended up in jail-completely lost and admitting to the movie's producer that the entire time, this whole ordeal, was "a self esteem problem" and she "never had anyone rooting for her, no one to ever take care of her."
Everything about this girl's story was not okay for teens to be watching, except the teens in the quadruple locked facility that we have to be escorted into. The facility that contains panic buttons, security cameras, metal detectors....and our group of teens who actually NEED to be watching this, or they may not survive when (IF) they return to life on the outside.
TNC is having the conversations that NEED to be had, but to be honest, are absolutely awful to execute. I, Polly, think of my own children and the fact that I would never hit play on this particular film during our family movie nights. But to these kids-it could save their life.
One girl in particular approached us after and admitted that the images of the girl shooting up with needles were triggering, but she had a revelation. Her story could be the same as the girl in the film, she could see herself in the jail's jumpsuit being filmed...but instead she got to watch this movie in group time. She admitted that in that moment-there was a wake up call. She couldn't help but think in a few months when she turns 18, her life could mirror the same film we had just watched, and she didn't like it. This teen and a staff member recall her being brought in after being arrested and having needles of her own-our "tense" feelings about showing the film were slowly diminishing as we started to realize these stores were not new to these kids.
So TNC will continue to walk through the cold, locked corridors of a Juvenile Detention Center for reasons just like this one. A film that no teen should see, but unfortunately some LOCAL teens have lived.
Prevention is in the hard conversations.
Early intervention is in the very scenes most turn away from-but TNC walks in with copies of to face the issues head on.
To see more about the work TNC is doing in the Juvenile Detention Center watch the interviews with staff below.
If you would like more information on this film, I have included the trailer below. You can contact The New Colossus directly for documentary screenings.