When actor Mark Wahlberg produced a new documentary on young offenders, he was able to relate to the incarcerated juveniles, because it happened to him, too.
In a new documentary called Juvies, Wahlberg analyzes the impact that adult sentencing has on young criminal offenders. To get a raw look into the lives of young offenders, the filmmakers went behind bars to spend four years with the 12 juvenile offenders shown in the documentary. They hope to make the movie available for viewing at schools.
For Wahlberg, the executive producer and narrator of the documentary, the issue is personal. The star of films such as The Italian Job, Boogie Nights and the Planet of the Apes remake, Wahlberg was once an inmate himself. While still a teenager, he was convicted and sentenced as an adult for assault.
"The juvenile justice court was originally created a hundred years ago to keep kids out of the adult system," Wahlberg, 32, said on Good Morning America. "Society recognized that kids are still developing, and that most kids who get into trouble come from abused and neglected backgrounds."
But the lessons these juveniles are learning in prison are more about drugs, sex and violence than rehabilitation.
"Fortunately for me, I was able to turn my life around, but when you're doing that kind of time, most of the males turn to violence and gangs to survive, and the girls turn to drugs and sex," Wahlberg said.
Easy to Become Lost Cause
One of the most memorable juveniles profiled is identified as "Duc," who maintains that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when he got into trouble with the law. When he was 16, a gun was fired from a car he was driving. Although no one was injured, Duc was found guilty of first-degree attempted murder and is serving 35 years to life in an adult prison. He had no prior record and will remain an inmate until he is 51 years old.
Wahlberg conceded that he too would have been a lost cause if he had been forced to fulfill his sentence. "Fortunately, I was given a second chance. I only ended up doing a couple of months, but for a crime that easily could have carried the same sentence as Duc if not longer, because in my instance, somebody got hurt."
Wahlberg feels that his race and looks played a role in his second chance and went on to say that many young offenders who had committed far less crimes than himself had gotten a lot more time.
"If you look at a lot of these cases, you have to say that race plays a certain role," Wahlberg said. "Here I was, a young, innocent-looking white kid, who did a lot of bad things and a lot of violent crimes, and I was a decent actor when I got in front of the judge, but I was still there with a public defender and got let off easy and I know other kids who have done lesser crimes and gotten a lot more time, and I think each one of these cases needs individual attention."
To learn more about the documentary Juvies, go to www.juvies.net.