Filmmakers are raising funds to give audiences an inside look at Missouri’s juvenile justice rehabilitation program.
The program is called The Missouri Approach and is considered by some to be one of the most revolutionary programs in the country because the importance it puts on nurturing.
The film, “Like Any Other Kid” looks at how the program provides structure, guidance and kindness to incarcerated youth. Director of the Missouri Youth Service Institute Mark Steward developed The Missouri Approach and is featured in the film. “By having a documentary like this to show nationwide how it can be, that can be really tremendous in terms of really changing the mindset of legislatures, governors, judges in some of the other states that haven’t been exposed to this kind of approach,” said Steward.
The documentary also focuses on the crucial relationship between youth and staff members. Psychoanalyst and Director of the film Victoria Mills says workers have to establish a relationship with the kids and develop a language to begin talking about feelings so that youth feel safe.
“If somebody feels like they’ve been told they are bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, forever, then that’s how they think of themselves and consequently they act that way,” says Mills.
Filmmakers note 70 percent of the incarcerated youth in the country return to jail as an adult. They blame much of this statistic on the emotional abuse and violence the youth are exposed to during their time behind bars.
Filmmakers say programs like The Missouri Approach are having success keeping America’s youth from returning to jail. Steward has worked with Missouri Department of Corrections Director George Lombardi and says his approach has helped him save money. “As he says now, the number of kids each year that the Missouri juvenile system keeps out of prison can save them (Missouri Department of Corrections) millions of dollars of not having to build more prisons,” said Steward.
“Like Any Other Kid” is accepting donations to finish the film through an INDIEGOGO campaign with a goal of $25,000. The documentary follows the relationships between youth and staff who care for them in California, Louisiana, and New York City over the course of two years.