#Series Review: Netflix’s Girls Incarcerated

I really enjoyed new Netflix’s series, because it narrated a story of real people and the way they deal with issues as severe as violence, psychological, physical and sexual abuse. Nevertheless, the real people in this story are no more no less but teenage girls. I was not able to find a video trailer on YouTube so I can’t post it like I normally do, but there is a trailer on Netflix’s site here.

This series also reminded me of one of my all-time favourite series, Orange is the New Black. The difference between two series is that OITNB is based on a true event, while in Girls Incarcerated we actually follow lives of real teenage girls in Madison Correction Facility in Indiana. We get to know them and see their story from the time they arrived to the facility until the release of main characters selected for this documentary series.

In a nutshell, this series brings hope because if these poor teenage girls could have survived so much violence and abuse and then still manage to sort their lives out, then anyone can. Some of them have been abused emotionally, some of them physically, some sexually, and some had parents force feeding them drugs. The others grew up in homes with drug abuse and in foster homes because their parents were in prison. None of them had a nice childhood and it comes as no surprise they ended up in correction facility after engaging with drug abuse, theft and violence.

What is good about this series is that we not just follow girls in the facility but we also get to know what happened once they left. In a few cases girls ended up back to custody but in many more they were actually successful and sorted their lives out. This shows the successful method of the facility in pushing girls towards completing their education but also insisting on anger management. Many of girls have anger issues due to their past and traumas they endured, and in some case they have been in custody for two years. The facility is an open plan one and girls have leisure rooms as well as park, which is what reminded me of OITNB.

I was only disappointed that we did not get to know what happened to last two girls who left the facility, even though they have been present in every episode of the series. I do hope the series continues so that we can find out whether Heidi made it and whether Najwa who was in the facility for years, because she had nowhere to go to, managed to find a placement.

The whole series is done really well, because there is a nice balance of talking with girls, guards, teachers, psychologists and there is also a nice balance of girl’s talk and leisure time when we see them hanging out. There is also a nice capturing of inner struggles girls go through. Thus, we see them smiling and hanging out in one scene and then breaking down in another when some snapshots from the past get into their heads or when something reminds them of their past. In addition, there is a nice use of previous material, i.e. when girls first came to prison and how they behaved back then.

What is more, it seems that series is making a social impact. There is already a hashtag #NajwaPollard and based on some comments her case inspired some people to offer to adopt her. The others are calling for #GirlsIncarcerated to grow further and for people to adopt other children like Najwa correctly emphasising that while Najwa is no longer a faceless child from the system there are many who still suffer.

What is particularly wonderful about this series is that it is not trying to judge. It merely explains why some young women end up in trouble and why they became who they became. It also correctly emphasises the importance of childhood influences (e.g. growing up in an abusive environment) as well as peer influences (many girls said they have always been told they will end up in prison like their parents).

Inspiring and rewarding. Definitely worth watching.

Thank you for reading.

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