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Young women and men from the Burnaby Youth Custody Centre have teamed up with filmmakers from Vancouver’s Reel Youth organization to create two raw and inspiring music videos about life behind bars.

With financial support from the Province of British Columbia through 2010 Legacies Now, the videos were created as part of a four-day literacy program. Youth at the custody centre produced the music beats, wrote the lyrics and filmed the videos – and the results offer a deeply honest, inside glimpse into their experiences, what they’ve learned from their mistakes and their hopes for the future.

“This unique collaboration between the custody centre, Reel Youth and 2010 Legacies Now has produced two tremendously powerful videos that offer insight into the lives of young men and women in custody,” says Mary Polak, Minister of Children and Family Development. “Not only has it helped them develop skills in filmmaking, literacy and music, it has also given them a greater understanding of the power they have over their futures – and the strength of their own voice in righting past wrongs.”

Mark Vonesch, director of Reel Youth, talks about how a talented group of production facilitators brought into the custody centre, helped provide a safe space for the youth to take creative risks while exploring their lives and the issues they care about most. “I knew we were doing something right when one of the girls who was being released before the program was finished, requested to stay an extra day,” said Vonesch.

With lyrics describing a range of offences including gang activity, dealing crack cocaine, violence and assault, participants demonstrate a candid understanding of why they are incarcerated. However, the most powerful message is a desire for change: “I hope for the best to get out of this mess. I’m a talk about it, be about it, breathe, believe and plant a seed about it.”

“These videos give us a unique view into what incarcerated youth feel is required for them to participate in society,” says Bruce Dewar, CEO of 2010 Legacies Now. “We appreciate the integrity and insight that the youth brought to the project, as well as their creative use of a medium that is relevant to them.”

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Artwork by Jordan Bent