On Wednesday, July 12th, Sol Collective hosted a film screening of the Netflix documentary “They Call Us Monsters”  The film features  three boys, Jarad Nava, Juan Gamez, and Antonio Hernandez, who are all facing life sentences for murder or attempted murder and work together to write a screenplay about their lives before they were incarcerated.

 

The screening at Sol Collective was so filled with people Wednesday night that some of the audience had to stand up in the back of the room just to watch the documentary.

 

Despite the moments of comic relief in the film, it appeared difficult for some viewers to grasp the severity of the boys’ crimes until the trial at the end of the film. Nava was sentenced to 200 years-to-life, Gamez was sentenced to 90 years-to-life, and Hernandez was also sentenced to 90 years-to-life at the age of 14.

 

“If they tell me I’m never going to get out again I don’t know what I’m going to do,” 16-year-old Nava said in the film. “There’s nothing to look forward to, there’s no hope.”

 

The film addresses a very serious question regarding criminal justice: should minors be charged as adults for serious crimes?

 

A young woman named Yesenia was confined to a wheelchair for the rest her life after Nava shot her in the back during a drive by shooting.

 

“When they arrested him, I was relieved,” Yesenia said in the documentary. “I don’t want him to be dead or anything, I just want him to pay the price.”

 

Yesenia said she didn’t want Nava to spend the rest of his life in prison– just fifty years or so.

 

Anti-Recidivism Coalition member Carlos Cervantes, who participated in a discussion after the film, has first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be in a prison like the boys were–in fact, he was once in the very same one.

 

“We see these kids and we’re laughing but these kids have no choice but to thug it out,” Cervantes said after recalling his own experiences before he joined ARC.

 

Outside of the film and the screening, Nava had an interview with PBS from prison and said he’s become “a better man”.


I’ve since chosen to leave the criminal lifestyle in my past and serve my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Nava said. “I haven’t done drugs in three years [as] opposed to getting high every day. I got married to a beautiful amazing woman and we have two daughters, one’s three, the second a [little] over one year.”

 

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/juan-jarad-they-call-us-monsters-send-update-letter/