Girls Incarcerated

Girls Incarcerated is a new docuseries, recently added to Netflix. It consists of eight episodes made up of footage filmed over a year. The episodes introduce us to various girls who are staying Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility, in Indiana. and share their background, their day to day troubles, and (for some of them) their release. I always find these kind of shows rather engaging. Like any ‘reality’ TV series, there is drama, friendships and a whole host of emotions. Yet there was something different about this. The combination of the observational footage and the one-on-
one interviews with the girls allowed for them to bare their personalities and troubles.

The more I learnt about these teenagers, the more I empathised with them. Many were from troubled backgrounds, and had parents who had also had run-ins with the law. Some of them had been addicted to drugs from their early teens, or been part of gangs that they couldn’t easily walk away from. They are taught to adapt their behaviours and use better coping mechanisms for dealing with their angers and addictions.

Throughout the series, we’re so often reminded that these girls are still in their youth. These are no hard-run criminals that have battled the law for years on end with little hope of change. They’re teenagers, and they’re making mistakes, and they’re trying to learn how to better themselves. We see insights of the counselling sessions, their school classes and the discipline they face after disobeying orders. We see them laugh with their friends, and strive to earn their burgundy (a sign of good behaviour) and ultimately I began to understand that all of the girls inside this facility wanted to change, but they just weren’t sure how.

Perhaps the most upsetting story of the series was that of Najwa Pollard, a girl who entered the Madison Juvenile Correction Facility at 14 after recurrent bad behaviour. Pollard completed her programme and appears to be one of the most cheerful and good-natured of all the students, yet she cannot leave the facility as she has no one to go home to.

I finished the series with a feeling of uncertainty and unease. I’d grown emotionally connected to these girls, and I wanted to know how they had coped and where they were now. Despite a few repetitive moments, Girls Incarcerated will leave a mark on me for a long time.

There are few reality programmes that I have connected with as much as this one, and it certainly struck a chord with me emotionally. I will undoubtedly be wondering about the residents of Madison for the foreseeable future, hoping that they have found the strength to move forward.

Image: the richard hurd via Flickr

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