A documentary about juveniles who are serving life in prison without parole and their victims’ families.


“Lost for Life” is a rather amazing documentary by Joshua Rofe. We open on Brian Lee Draper, who’s calling his mom from the county jail. It turns out that Brian killed a co-ed classmate who is laying out now that far from him. Then, we get hit with some basic facts and a collection of fellow kid inmates who’ve committed crimes on par with Brian. There’s a lot of time given to victims of these crimes as well as relatives of the perpetrators. The same feelings of loss are heard across the board. When someone goes away for life, everyone loses.

Youth incarceration is often bullshit and rarely do we get a legit look at the forces that put kids away for life. However, we also see how some kids can pushed by circumstances beyond their control into acting out. Whether it’s gang life, religious pressures, bad parenting or just the desire to escape abuse; nobody gets away clean. I’ve read similar coverage about this documentary where people commented on how articulate these kids were in their interviews. Of course, they were! They killed people, they didn’t flunk the 9th grade.

The screener I watched didn’t have any special features. But, the content of the documentary made me do further research. After a 2012 Supreme Court decision, it became illegal to give minors life sentences for high crimes. However, individual states can warrant different punishments based on the severity of a crime. While that is little comfort for the troubled kids that are tossed away without a thought, at least it means that they won’t get the chance to repeat these acts. Man, this has to be one of the most depressing documentaries I’ve watched this year.


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