Two maximum-security Indiana prisons – one juvenile and one adult – are joining the growing list of lockups nationwide to allow documentary cameras behind their walls.
“Lockup: Pendleton Juvenile” by veteran Indiana documentarian Karen Grau is due to be shown over three weeks on the MSNBC cable network beginning Sept. 20. Meanwhile, camera crews from the Discovery Channel are expected next month to go inside the Pendleton Correctional Facility just up the road for a program tentatively set to be shown later this year.
Grau said the first episode of her series chronicles an 18-year-old’s transformation from gang member to future soldier. Another episode tells the story of a 19-year-old prisoner whose childhood was filled with abuse.
“I think it’s probably the most detailed look inside a juvenile prison that viewers have ever seen,” said Grau, a former broadcast journalist and aide to former Gov. Evan Bayh.
Grau has specialized in the plight of juvenile offenders since turning to filmmaking. The Indiana Supreme Court last month gave her special permission to film in the courtroom of Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura for six one-hour documentary programs expected to air on MSNBC next year.
Two years ago, Grau filmed an eight-week reality series for MTV in Bonaventura’s court that documented the stories of 16 Indiana juvenile delinquents who wind their way through the justice system.
“There’s so much at stake for these kids. It’s my responsibility to shine a light on an area where no one gets to shine a light,” Grau said Thursday.
The Discovery Channel documentary, tentatively titled “Hard Time,” is expected to look at several aspects of prison life, including gangs and inmates segregated from the rest of the inmate population.
The high interest in prison documentaries lies in the public’s lack of knowledge of what occurs behind closed bars, said Doug Garrison, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Correction.
“People like those shows because it takes them places they’ve never been before,” Garrison said. “They’re curious, there’s some drama there, some notoriety perhaps, and for those reasons, and I’m sure many others, they are just very popular.”