Juvenile justice reforms would save money and spare nonviolent youths

In the 2013 documentary Kids for Cash, director Robert May told the stories of several young offenders from Pennsylvania whose lives were up-ended by the dysfunctional juvenile-justice system.

Presented in the young offenders’ own words, their stories are compelling.

They will also make your blood boil.

Judges, seemingly without much thought of the lifelong consequences, unnecessarily exposed these children to the system as adolescents, putting them at risk of being trapped in an endless cycle of crime.

Among the young offenders profiled in the documentary is Justin Bodnar. In December 2001, when he was 12-years-old, Bodnar got into trouble when he hurled obscenities at the mother of another student.

Despite his colorful language, which his mother tried hard to curb before this particular incident, Bodnar is an intelligent and talented young man. His mother consented to having him arrested in hopes that it would put a stop to his frequent profane speech and prevent any future embarrassing incidents.

To her surprise, Justin was charged with making “terroristic threats” and sentenced to a juvenile-detention facility. Over the next seven years, Bodnar would spend time inside the juvenile system, where he tried marijuana and heroin for the first time.