Jim Crow Juvenile Justice: Closing Youth Prisons is a Racial Justice Issue

Balestra Media was honored to produce and direct a short film on the legacy of racial disparities rife inside the US juvenile justice system.  Balestra Media filmed and edited the Jim Crow Juvenile Justice video for Youth First Initiative, an organization that works tirelessly to close these racially disparate and abusive youth prisons.  

The film draws a narrative line from the ugly history of slavery, through Jim Crow, to the modern incarceration of youth of color. The facilities themselves are old, with several dating back to the time of emancipation. The disparities at these institutions are emblematic of the Jim Crow era by the way they disproportionately incarcerate youth of color—specifically African American youth. Nationally, African American youth are 5x more likely to be incarcerated than white youth facing similar charges. Some states stand out for their disparities, like New Jersey, where African American youth are 28x more likely to be incarcerated than white youth facing similar charges.

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The Human Rights Campaign held a screening of the film and panel discussion for DC area advocates and, more importantly, the film is being screened for lawmakers and youth system administrators and staff around the country.  The film was featured in COLORLINES and Ebony Magazine, among myriad other favorable mentions. The film has also received over 40,000 plays across social media.

Balestra’s creative director Andy Stepanian co-directed the piece along with filmmaker Jeffrey Wirth of Burning Hearts Media. Christina DiPasquale, Balestra's founder and CEO, produced the piece and assisted with storyboarding while Carrie Cervantes provided color correction and motion graphics.

Please follow Youth First’s work on Twitter, Facebook, or their website.

Courtney Holsworth