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Making Media That Matters Spring 2014 - Girls in the juvenile system

In this very first Making Media That Matters we offered, we used film to get to the root causes of incarceration among girls. We asked the question: Why are girls incarcerated in Hawai‘i? Why Native Hawaiian girls are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system? What impedes their health, economic and spiritual opportunities, relationships, empowerment, and civic engagement? How can adults be allies? What are the stories we don't know or don't want to talk about?


Making Media That Matters provided a platform for girls to tell their stories and be agents of social change through film.  Almost all of our understanding of girls in the criminal justice system is based on research about boys. Raising anything to a "problem" is a competitive process among other would-be problems. Few researchers have studied girls, and those that have almost never included their actual voices. We want to see shifts in public dialogue and how the issue is framed and discussed and ultimately in laws and the social norms that take away their human rights and render them voiceless.

Making Media That Matters has been made possible thanks to the incredible generosity and support of Hawaii Photo Rental, 'Ōlelo Community Media Kaimuki and Mapunapuna Centers, The Atherton Family Foundation,  Hawai‘i  People's Fund, the Kim Coco Iwamoto Donor Advised Fund for Social Justice , the Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women, Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, and the ARTS at Marks Garage


week 1



Making Media That Matters Icebreaker

“Our space/Our wall” agreement setting with Maddie

Kimmy and Maddie poetry sharing

Getting started


2nd icebreaker


week 2

Welcome/Check in

Talk story with our partner organizations: Pua Foundation, DVAC, Girls Court, Community Alliance on Prisons, TJ Mahoney, Opio Haku Mo’olelo

Introduction to filmmaking

week 3

​Welcome announcements

Partner Presentation: The portrait of girls in the juvenile system by Bryan and Jamie from Opio Haku Mo’olelo

Filmmaking: Process and roles led by Gemma

Social network concepts and exercises led by Aisis

week 4

​Presentation by Girls Court: How to strengthen resiliency

Debrief on presentation and activity led by Maddie

Camera work led by Aisis

week 5

​Welcome: Announcements

‘Olelo camera training with Shasta and Kala

Camera fun with Aisis

Life mapping exercise with Maddie

Work in groups to set up social media presence

week 6

Welcome and check in

Begin where we left off with life mapping and dreams

Groups: Camera work and sound

Interview workshop with Noe Tanigawa of Hawaii Public Radio

week 7

Welcome and announcements: Maker Faire

Domestic Violence Action Center Presentation led by Steph

What’s in a message?

Audio work at The Creative

Work in mentor groups

week 8

​Welcome and check in

The power of Expression presentation led by Joanne from the Pua Foundation

Group time

Work on messages and social media plan

Last week review on audio and lighting

week 9

​Welcome and announcements

Storyboarding led by Michelle

Presentation on what works by Judge Karen Radius

Choose your words poetry exercise led by Faith

Group time: Messaging, story development, work on your assumptions

Report and share out

week 10


Presentation by Lorraine from TJ Mahoney on the impact of decisions

Group time to work on interview ideas, stories, and messaging

Regroup and share

week 11

​Welcome and announcements

Turning your message into a visual medium

Working in groups with Gemma

Intro to interview techniques

More audio work

week 12

​Audio and video for interview setup example led by Aisis and Gemma

Mock interviews

Time to set up your own interview shot

More mock interviews

Regroup for show and tell with footage

week 13

​​RESPECT Campaign presentation by Brooke from the Sex Abuse Treatment Center (SATC)

Camerawork with Aisis and Gemma

Group work on project

week 14

​Check ins

Reporting to Aisis

Reflections as a group and individual

Short review on media management and editing

Work work work on your project

Deadlines introduced

week 15

​Crunch time

Media management

Interview questions + appointment set up

Production at HWF headquarters

week 16

​Free write led by Maddie

Check in with Gemma

Tech session led by Aisis

Questions writing: group work

week 17


Final edits

Rough cut showing!

the films


Today the most common offense committed by young women in detention hall (DH) is the act of running away.  In this production, we look through the perspective of girls in DH by showcasing their original art and poetry and recognizing their talents. We hope that this film will bring attention and support to creative literacy programs such as Opio Haku Mo’olelo, where young women are able to cathartically channel their negative experiences and feelings into creative work.  Programs such as these will essentially encourage women to stay out of prison by showing them the incredible potential they have in aspects of their life aside from crime. We didn’t want our film to be a slideshow of artwork. We placed the girls’ drawings in Honolulu Chinatown, a place of drugs, crime and creative outlets. Although the girls have had rough pasts, similar to Chinatown, they still have the potential to become something greater. We chose the poem “Runaway” written by a female in Detention Hall. She lived a life of crime and hate, but after self-reflection, is able to change her life for the better.  We hope that all young women in juvenile crime system can find similar realization.


Crew: Grace Schnetzler, Director; Jordyn Saito, Director of Photography; Lani Felicitas, Editor. Mentor: Gabby Faaiuaso

Beyond Bars: The Forgotten Women

This film explores the issue of the incarceration of women in the State of Hawaiʻi by revealing the women behind the stereotypes and exploring their ability to heal themselves and their communities in attempting to give both the women and those who work with them an audience and amplifier for their already powerful voices.This documentary introduces three formerly incarcerated women, who learned how to both express and heal themselves from their both before and after prison wounds through writing poetry. The women now speak to outside audiences in an effort to engage their community. These three former prison inmates are the women behind the stereotypes of drugs and knife-fights and through their own unique voices they illustrate that even prison inmates are not infallibly black and white. The documentary also interviews one of the creative writing teachers, Anita Stern, who works with incarcerated women and her experiences with both art and incarceration.


The Highlighter Films Crew: Raven director + camera; Makena producer + camera; Maile editor + sound + camera; 

Talissa editor + camera; Kristina producer. Mentor: Mayling

The Pathway

Through a first-hand perspective of female youth incarceration the The Pathway lends insight into the experience of Girls Court and the outcome of one participant. While making the film we wanted to focus on Girls Court as a whole, but then our focus shifted and we were concerned with Kai and her story and experience within Girls Court. It became about Kai and Girls Court instead of Girls Court and Kai. We wanted to show her personal story.


Girls Court Crew (GCC): Kai camera + editor; Julia director + producer; Honu sound + editor.  Mentor: Sam M.

Prisoners of Perspectives

A previously incarcerated woman, Kimmy shares some of her story which contrasts the perspectives of local high school students who share their knowledge of incarcerated women. It also presents scenarios which evoke reactions out of the students. This defies the social fabrics in society that state that every incarcerated individual is bad, when really they are just “Prisoners of Perspective.” In this film, we wanted somehow show how open the views of today’s youth on the topic are but also show that there are still stereotypical views on incarcerated women.

Crew: Paʻa Director/Producer; Crystal Interviewer/Co-Director; Shylar Sound/Main Editor. Mentor: Sam S.

partnering organizations

Teen Alert

Teen Alert assists teen survivors of dating violence and their families with crisis counseling, resources and legal advocacy. In addition, staff visit intermediate and high schools as well as youth serving organizations across the state to provide teens with education about healthy relationships and dating violence.In working with teens, we have found that by the time Hawai'i students reach their senior year in high school, half of them will know someone who has been in an abusive relationship. Thus, the mission of the Teen Alert Program is to nurture the voices of youth in our island communities and to spread the message that it takes both love and courage to end the abuse.


Hawai`i Girls Court 

The Hawai`i Girls Court is one of the first courts in the United States built on a full range of gender-specific and strength-based programming with a caseload targeting female juvenile offenders. Its all-female (Presiding Judge, Probation Officers, Program Coordinator, Therapist, etc.) staff is a uniquely powerful aspect of the program. Gender-specific programming seeks to recognize the fundamental differences between male and female juvenile offenders as well as their different pathways to delinquency and, in doing so, act efficiently, creatively, and innovatively to stem the quickly rising tide of female delinquency.


‘Opio Haku Mo‘olelo

This young program continues to bring creative writing workshops to youth within the juvenile justice system. Meaning and relevant programming can positively impact youth by providing coping skills and a better understanding of their life situations. Within the past three years, workshops have expanded beyond the Detention Home to Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility and Home Maluhia.


Community Alliance on Prisons (CAP)

Community Alliance on Prisons (CAP) is a community initiative working to develop effective interventions for Hawai’i’s offenders and to improve the quality of justice in Hawai’i. We are a diverse coalition of community groups, churches, scholars, businesses, concerned community members, service providers, families of inmates, and ex-offenders.


Pū`ā Foundation

At the Pū`ā Foundation it’s about - community healing and well-being, to reconcile the past to present, so that together as a community, we can build a better future. It is our vision that through pū`ā – the process of feeding, nourishing & strengthening, there will be the emergence of enlightened & empowered communities and society. So let us learn together, work together, & eat together. 

Ka Hale Ho‘ala Hou No Na Wahine

Ka Hale Ho‘ala Hou No Na Wahine is a community-based re-entry program dedicated to the mission of empowering women to successfully transition from prison to the community. We contract with the State of Hawaii Department of Public Safety to provide comprehensive re-entry services to approximately 100 women each year. Women live at our program for a minimum of 6 months, receiving support and guidance as they rebuild their lives, take accountability, and make the changes necessary to become healthy, productive community members.

resources on Girls and the Juvenile Justice System

Girl Trouble

Although the youth crime rate in San Francisco has declined in the past decade, the number of girls in the juvenile justice system has doubled. GIRL TROUBLE, an intimate documentary by directors Lexi Leban and Lidia Szajko, goes beyond the statistics and chronicles four years in the lives of three teenage girls struggling to free themselves from San Francisco's complex and flagging juvenile justice system. 

Mothers of Bedford

Mothers of Bedford follows five women as they attempt to "parent" their children from prison. The film examines the struggles and joys these five women face as prisoners and mothers. It shows the normal frustrations of parenting as well as the surreal experiences of a child's first birthday party inside prison, the cell that child lives in with her mother, and the biggest celebration of the year, Mother's Day in prison!

Films By Youth Inside

Films By Youth Inside (FYI) is a nonprofit organization that empowers young people affected by the juvenile justice system to improve their lives and become self-reliant. Through the art of cinema, media literacy and the creative storytelling process, youth find their voice and develop valuable skills that can be applied to all areas of their life. 

NPR: All Things Considered: Girls and the Juvenile Justice System

Girls and the Juvenile Justice System is a new five-part series focusing on the harsh and difficult realities young girls face as they battle the complex justice system in the United States. It begins with a look at the Florida Institute for Girls in West Palm Beach. The state opened the maximum-security facility three years ago, after seeing a sharp spike in the number of girls committing violent crimes. The detention center, which focuses on high-risk females with intensive mental health issues, is the last stop in the juvenile justice system before prison, says director Jacque Layne. "Girls call it the last chance ranch, " Layne says. " If they can't make it here, they're not going to make it." Many of the teenagers at the center committed serious violent crimes: car-jacking, armed robbery, aggravated battery, manslaughter. Some have been in and out of juvenile delinquency programs for years. Broken homes, drug and alcohol abuse, dropping out of school and a family history of criminal activity are the norm. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports on some of the girls' stories.

Girls at Greater Risk in Justice System

Boys who commit serious crimes are the focus of the juvenile justice system in this country because the system, quite bluntly, is designed to protect adults from out-of-control thugs. But new research indicates we may be concentrating on the wrong sex. Girls, according to studies out of Ohio State University in Columbus, are actually at higher risk than boys for venturing down the wrong path later in life. That's because the problems girls face are very different from those confronting males, and the justice system is failing to address that, according to Stephen Gavazzi, professor of human development and family science at Ohio State and co-author of a study to be published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior.

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