This documentary focuses on eight minors serving criminal sentences who get a chance to have their cases looked over with fresh eyes. With new evidence that has come to light, some juveniles are due for parole hearings and others may be released effective immediately. Commentary from child psychologists and criminologists helps to paint a picture of these children as they face the very adult consequences of the events in their lives.

The children locked in jail – forever

They will grow up in jail, destined to spend their entire adult lives behind bars, for a crime they committed as a child. This gripping documentary on Crime + Investigation will shock you.

Did you know – thousands of kids are jailed in America without any chance of getting out, ever, for crimes they committed as children? More than four years in the making, the striking documentary film Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole shines a light on a societal story that’s conveniently and literally locked away, out of sight.

In his eye-opening film, writer-director-producer Joshua Rofé shows the story of what happens when kids are locked away in jail, telling not just their own harrowing stories, but also showing the impact on their families and the families of their victims.

Joshua calls it an “issue film by way of a character piece”, and in it, we will meet the real human beings – the children – caught in this system. “You hear about these heinous crimes committed by these young people and you think, ‘Who are these monsters?’ and then we’re onto the next catastrophe that’s being covered in the news,” Joshua said in an interview. “This film will give tremendous insight into who ends up in those news stories … It raises all the questions that revolve around the issue of juvenile parole: How do we deliver justice when a teen commits a horrible crime? Do we believe in rehabilitation? Do we believe in forgiveness? Should a young person who murders be disposed of forever? What happened to them before they even got to that point? What kind of trauma have they suffered in their lives that lead them to that?”

Along the way, we hope to discover why America – the only country in the world with this harsh sentence – puts so many children in jail for life without the chance of parole. Who are these kids and what crimes did they commit? And is there just cause behind the justice system’s apparent belief that they can’t ever be released or get the chance for redemption?

Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole is broadcast on Crime + Investigation on channel 170 on Thursday 13 June at 20:00