Sleepers directed by Barry Levinson is a dramatic film addressing juvenile justice system at length. It also gives insight of how New York City was in 1960s. Levinson bases Sleepers on a 1995 novel by Lorenzo Carcaterra going by the same title.
According to this film, the juvenile justice system is inconsequential in the realms of justice. Justice systems are meant to correct individuals to make them better citizens who can abide to the law, not to harden them making them hardcore criminals. However, Sleepers paint the juvenile justice system as a faulty system. This is evidenced by the bestial events that occur to Lorenzo, Thomas, Michael, and John. After these juveniles kill King Benny, they are taken to Wilkinson Home, a correctional center for reformation.
However, once these four boys check in Wilkinson Home, they meet unheard brutality in the hands of Nokes, Addison, Styler, and Ferguson, guards at this centre. They are raped, abused, and beaten, an experience that dents these juveniles’ personalities to become hardcore criminals. It is at this point, where Sleepers paints a faulty picture of the juvenile justice system. If the juvenile justice system were efficient, it would have reformed these juveniles.
According to what happens in this movie, one experience can change a child so much that he or she becomes a delinquent or an adult criminal. After Thomas and John go through the beastly treatment in the hands of Nokes and the rest, they harden to become adult criminals.
Ten years after they have been released from Wilkinson, they spot Sean Nokes taking some beer in a pub down street in Hell’s Kitchen. They confront him and tell him of what he had done to them ten years ago before shooting him six times. Nokes dies in front of everyone in the pub. Therefore, it is possible that one incidence, could change a child into an adult criminal just the way Thomas and Mike changed after the torture they went through in the hands of Nokes and his co-workers.
These juveniles lived in Hell’s Kitchen in New York. The community that these juveniles are living in is very unfounded and criminal-minded. The community is unfounded because the only person who seems concerned about these boys is Father Bobby, who makes some efforts to look after the boys. The moment Father Bobby loses touch with these boys; they join a gang in the town.
The community is also criminal-minded because the only thing that these four juveniles find to do is joining a gang. If this community were founded on morals and principles, a responsible person correct these juveniles before they join a gang. This gang was at the disposal of these boys and they would join anytime they wanted hence the community pushed these juveniles to join the gang.
The friendship of these four boys contributed largely in their behavior. Before they join the gang, Mike, John, Thomas, and Lorenzo spend a lot of time together. Consequently, they find it easy to join a gang as a group. If these boys were to join the gang individually, chances are that, they would not join it. This is because when alone, a person lacks the moral support to do something.
This resonates well with the old adage that, ‘together we stand, divided we fall.’ Therefore, friends can lead or prevent delinquent behavior. If three of these boys were not involved in delinquency, chances are that the fourth one would never become delinquent.
The film Sleepers is a masterpiece that marries juvenile justice system with subsequent adult criminals. It also sheds light on how bad company can lead to delinquency and touches on the impact of community on the lives of juveniles.
Levinson, Barry. “Sleepers.” Baltimore Pictures, 1996.