Calamari Productions

In the news

It’s one thing to decry child abuse — as we all should — but it’s another to see children being removed from their home in the middle of the night, when the evidence of parental abuse is ambivalent at best. For those who think cable news rarely covers serious topics in depth, this eye-opening documentary is a worthy rejoinder.

Calamari in print…


“Children of the Dumping Ground” in Apostrophe Magazine

“Karen Grau and Calamari Productions once again expose the madness of our country’s unnecessary, expensive and counterproductive practice of incarcerating vulnerable children and the devastating toll it takes. This movie is yet more evidence that children do not belong in cages.”

~ Apostrophe Magazine


The Chronicle of Social Change Magazine Features Calamari 

“…The other is Grau. Most of the work Calamari does is picked up and by cable networks, so the company itself sort of flies under the radar along with its owner. But Grau has opened up the Indiana juvenile and family courts to outside eyes, gaining unprecedented access from the state Supreme Court in the late 90s, and has used the access to pierce the veil around juvenile justice and child welfare proceedings.”

~ Chronicle of Social Change

Calamari Productions CEO, Karen Grau, profiled in “Behind Bars”

“A week after “Inside Teen Lock-down” airs, Mike Dempsey, the superintendent at Pendleton, is a happy man. His facility is the kind of place the public hears about only when things go wrong, and Pendleton has had its share of incidents recently—a teacher sexually assaulted by an offender, a guard dropping an offender on his head, an offender critically wounded in a fight. He knew letting Grau and her cameras in carried potential risk, but now he can exhale.

What Grau showed the world was a tension-filled hour with voice-of-God narration (this was Court TV, after all) in which Dempsey’s staff handled a crazed juvenile, squelched a potential race war, and ultimately allowed two offenders to go free after finishing their rehabilitation. It was rarely pretty, but it was real.

“I was nervous not only about the public’s response, but also the staff’s,” Dempsey says. “But I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from all sides. And I think we really owe that to Karen. Somebody could have taken that access and done some damage, but she did a good job telling an important story.”

~ Indianapolis Monthly Magazine

“Lockup: Pendleton Juvenile Extended Stay” in NUVO

“In this three-part documentary, Grau, who's made her name nationally by taking cameras into places few of us have ever seen — juvenile courts and prisons — brings us back for a third look inside the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, the address of 300 of Indiana's most notorious young offenders.”

~ Marc D. Allan, NUVO


American Bar Association Commission on Youth At Risk

“When it comes to real-world documentation of how systems of juvenile jurisprudence and corrections function, the challenges that practitioners and administrators handle on a day-today basis, and the struggles that define the lives of at-risk kids and families, nothing compares to the video library Calamari Productions has amassed since beginning its work in this arena in the late 1990s.”

~ Catherine Krebs, American Bar Association




“A show every parent should watch with their teens.” The Today Show

“More than worth watching.” Slate

“A gripping documentary.” The Guardian

“This reality show about teenagers in a juvenile detention center may sound exploitative, but instead it manages to be genuinely tragic, occasionally poignant, and, at times, even oddly funny.” New York Magazine

“Among the many initiatives that the Indiana Supreme Court has taken to advance the cause of children in need, one of which we are particularly proud—and one which has produced positive results beyond our most optimistic expectations—was our decision to authorize Karen Grau and Calamari Productions to film live proceedings in Indiana juvenile courts.”

The Honorable Frank Sullivan, Indiana Supreme Court Justice

Inside Teen Lockdown: Frighteningly Effective - NUVO Magazine

Several thoughts occurred while watching Inside Teen Lockdown, a frighteningly effective Court TV special that shows what life is like in the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility. (Yes, Pendleton, Ind.) In no particular order:

• Good for Superintendent Michael Dempsey for allowing cameras inside for the first time. The public needs to see what the worst teen offenders in society look and act like. And Inside Teen Lockdown isn’t some PR piece designed to show the facility in its best light — one section of this hour-long documentary includes security-camera footage of attacks on guards.

Whatever prison personnel are paid, it’s not enough. There’s a scene here where five guards have to carry out what’s called a “cell extraction” — getting one of the students (they don’t call them inmates) out of his cell and confiscating a broom he intends to use as a weapon. The 16-year-old’s rage and the guards’ fears are palpable as they subdue him, cuff his hands and feet and pull his shirt over his face so he can’t spit at them or bite. “The staff is incredible,” Dempsey says. “What they do is amazing at times.” Agreed.

These kids have figured out how to pass information between locked-down cells (it’s ingenious), how to stop the security cameras from monitoring them and how to create weapons from anything they can get their hands on. If they could harness their anger and energy and do something positive, who knows what they could accomplish.

Excellent work by the producers, camera people and others who were at risk in unpredictable, potentially dangerous situations. It’s chilling what they saw, and what they brought back to show us.

Finally, if you want to scare someone in your life straight, show them this. The unrelenting noise inside the facility, the destruction (one kid breaks through bricks and mortar) and the nonstop danger should be enough to make even the hardest cases pause.

~ Marc D. Allan, NUVO