If you have access to HBO, I highly recommend Rock and a Hard Place, a superb documentary about young criminals in a boot camp rehabilitation program.
I don’t usually recommend HBO documentaries, which hew so hard left that, when I mention them at this blog, I do so only to savage them. HBO scored a home run, though, with Rock and a Hard Place, a documentary that Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson brought to the screen. The film follows a class of “cadets” at the Miami-Dade County Corrections & Rehabilitation Boot Camp Program.
The boot camp takes in young criminals, from ages 14 to 24, who have gone beyond criminal mischief into hard-core crime. The kids who were the focus of this documentary were arrested (often multiple times) for offenses such as armed robbery or carjacking. After their trials or plea bargains, these young men were given a choice: go to prison, with sentences ranging from a few years to life, or spend four months in a military-style boot camp learning how to be responsible, decent citizens.
The program is not open to everyone. The judge, the prosecutor and, sometimes, even the victim(s), have to sign off on giving the young criminal this choice. The young criminal has to agree too. To you and me, the decision sounds like a no-brainer: 16 incredibly tough weeks versus . . . life in prison? I’ll take the 16 incredibly tough weeks, please.
However, for boys who are very close to savages, who would lack mature decision-making skills in any event, and who have the added handicap of living in a feral world based upon respect that’s earned through violence and bad attitude, the choice isn’t always so easy. You can be a big man in prison, and hope to get out in a few years, or be a lowly worm in boot camp. In the film, in the very first week, three young men decided that prison is infinitely better than being made to crawl (literally) in front of the drill sergeant.