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The children destined to spend their lives behind bars

Maximum Security Inmates in the Juvenile wing at Wabash Correctional Facility, Indiana Photo: Wild Pictures

A new ITV documentary goes behind the scenes of a US teenage correctional facility, where many of the inmates will never get out.

Kids Behind Bars gives an insight into the lives of the incarcerated youths, many of whom are serving life for murder.

We have several in there right now, who have seen a parent kill the other parent. And then we wonder, you know. It’s almost heartbreaking in some ways, some of the things these young little kids have gone through.”

– Aleta Burnett

Seventeen-year-old Jesus Macedo Perez was sentenced to 65 years for shooting another teenager dead after an argument. He will be 49 before he is considered for release.

17 year old Jesus Macedo-Perez in his cell at the Maximum Security Juvenile wing of Wabash Correctional Facility, Indiana Credit: Wild Pictures

Talking about the shooting, he said: "Me and him didn’t get along but damn I just took his life, what the f---? What did I just do?

"I hate myself for what I did and I understand people hate me. I get it. I hate myself too."

Blake Layman, who has just celebrated his 18th birthday behind bars, is serving 55 years after a homeowner dead during a botched burglary.

“My biggest regret about that day is the whole day. I mean, hell, I should have just went home," Blake told the programme.

The unit is home to 40 teenagers serving jail terms for crimes including murder, armed robbery and battery.

A Child convicted as an adult looks out of his cell at the Maximum Security Juvenile wing of Wabash Correctional Facility, Indiana. Credit: Wild Pictures

Casework manager Aleta Burnett, the "mama" of the unit, says most of the boys do not like to displease her but she tries to be "firm, fair and consistent."

These kids are not coming from a healthy place, period, so they may feel like the whole system, the whole world has given up on them long before they even got there, and that wouldn’t surprise me. You know, what I like to say is our children aren’t throwaways, you know, we need to get them back out and [to] be healthy.

– Aleta Burnett

America tries children in the adult justice system when they’ve repeatedly reoffended in the youth system, or their crime is considered so horrific that an adult maximum security prison is deemed the only answer.

Watch Kids Behind Bars on ITV at 9pm on the 5th August