WARNING: Scenes of explicit violence, drug use, suicide, sex, and/or abuse occur regularly. Not intended for children or sensitive viewers.
Christine ‘Chris’ Parker is a 14-year-old runaway who, after getting arrested one too many times, is sentenced to do time in a girls’ juvenile detention center, which doubles as a reform school for the girls. It is slowly revealed that Christine Parker comes from an abusive home; her father would beat her on a regular basis, which caused Chris to run away many times. Her mother is just as troubled as Chris is; unfeeling, sitting in her recliner, watching television and smoking cigarettes all day, and in complete denial as to what her husband is doing. Only Chris’ older brother Tom is aware of the abuse, but he is powerless to help Chris out, as he has his own family to care about and look after. While the movie had a morality play tone, calling attention to the harsh conditions of juvenile detention centers, it also blames society for Christine’s downfall.
Throughout the movie, Chris’ social worker Emma Lasko never realizes that her dysfunctional parents caused her to run away and the juvenile justice system focused all the blame and punishment on Christine for her bad behavior. With the exception of one dedicated counselor, named Barbara Clark, the reform school personnel were mostly apathetic and allowed an unhealthy, destructive culture to fester in the school. Despite Barbara’s attempts to help Christine talk about her problems, she is powerless as Chris refuses to open up to her or anyone else about her problems at home.
After Chris is investigated for starting a riot at the reform school after a pregnant detainee miscarried due to the abuse by the staff, she calmly maintains that she had nothing to do with any of the events that happened. In the final shot, Barbara looks on helplessly as she sees Chris, an innocent, intelligent, decent girl, now fully transformed into a violent, pathological, manipulative, vengeful and cold person, no longer having any guilt or remorse for her actions, who will most likely become an adult criminal when released upon turning legal age.