Rock and a Hard Place – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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For those of you familiar with the movie Major Payne from the 90s, imagine all the comedic elements stripped and Payne being part of a reform school. This documentary strongly resembles the hardline efforts you might remember in that movie as various men and women try to not only give these young cadets second chances but make them into men.

Characters & Storyline

38 young men, all older than 18 but no older than their early 20s, are given a 2nd chance[note]One even a 3rd chance[/note]. The opportunity is that they can go to this book camp for a few months and experience some form of rehabilitation with their punishment or they can be in jail for years, maybe decades. Now, some take the opportunity seriously and despite the usual drill sergeant yelling and them trying to break these kids, they tough through it because years of jail time would be so much worse. However, for some others, the yelling in their face and ear, the opportunity of freedom in two cases, it breaks them and they get their full sentences. But for those who make it through, there is a change, there is hope in their family members’ eyes and we very well may be presented an alternative to what the current system gives.

Highlights

Not Your Generic, “Family Abandoned Me So I Found a Life of Crime Type Stories”

One thing that is made clear with this group is that these aren’t your generic sob stories of how crime found them because their daddy died or they were in the foster care system. These kids, no matter if they are Black, Brown or white, made mistakes. The type of mistakes which, based on their rap sheets, were incredibly stupid, but it doesn’t mean their lives should be over and they should be written off.

In this program, they get humanized and you are reminded that even from what looks like functioning family environments, kids can still make horrible decisions.

Criticism

You Don’t Necessarily Learn the Reasons They Ended Up in The Program – Besides What Crime They Committed

But here is one problem with this documentary: You aren’t sure what reason these kids turned to crime at all. Their pasts are not talked about and their families are all shown in a positive light. So we are just left with these kids who did something stupid. Of which, for the handful the program focuses on, it tells you straight up what their crimes were. So the lack of reasoning from the cadets when it comes to doing what they did, it nags you a bit. Especially when it comes to those who don’t give any lip to the drill sergeants and you truly question, “How did you end up here?”

On The Fence

The Complicated Balance of Breaking These Kids Bad Habits But Not Destroying Their Hopes In The Process

The threat of sending your child to military school is so old it is basically a trope, but to see it in action is something else. For watching as these grown men and women yell, scream, and straight up insult these kids into submission or force them to be on the defense, it is something to watch. However, you are sometimes left questioning, how does this actually help them? They explain it to you, teaching them discipline, endurance in the face of adversity and all that, but there is something about the methods used which just seem questionable.

Which isn’t me being wishy-washy, or some form of politically correct, after all these kids were convicted of a crime and babying them and their parents’ tears obviously didn’t have its intended effect. However, even with the weekly anger management classes and the drill sergeants, when the kids aren’t around, seeming to care, and towards the end really complimenting them, you may feel like questioning these methods. For while there is data saying it does work, there is just something which seems toxic, maybe even triggering, about literally referring to someone as trash in an effort to make them a better person.

It’s like the idea that if you don’t whip your child they will eventually end up whipped by police. Commonly it is thought of something which works, at least in the short term, but does it really do any good in the long term? Outside of being smarter about evading what got you caught and whooped in the first place?

Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)

I don’t know, something about the methods used just bugs me. That alongside us not learning the reasonings behind the crimes committed. Well, besides one saying it was because they were high. With that, while you get the idea about this documentary is highlighting an alternative to just locking kids away for a certain amount of years, releasing them, and somehow expecting them to keep their noses clean, it doesn’t really make the program seem like something that can and should spread nationally.

Now, granted, I don’t have any kids so I don’t know what it is like to feel at the end of my wits with someone who came out of me and I raised, but even with the results we see, so comes the question if this is a viable route. So, with all that said, this is being labeled mixed since while it does a good job at exposing the program, it doesn’t necessarily lead you to believe this should be something congress should make an option nationwide. Plus, story-wise, without learning the reasoning behind why the kids did what they did, there is this missing piece which takes away from fully understanding the journey these kids made from convicted to reformed.

How Would You Rate This?

Negative Mixed Positive

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