Rick Rosenthal cast his real-life father as the judge.
All the actors did their own stunts.
A cinema marquee shows Halloween II, also directed by Rick Rosenthal.
Sean Penn insisted on being called the name of his character, Mick O'Brien, during production of the movie.
During the scene where Sean Penn's character first enters the reform school and walks down the line in between the prisoners, Penn encouraged the actors to spit in his face and throw things at him. On the other hand, Esai Morales insisted that the actors who played the prisoners brush their teeth and use mouthwash before they spit in his face during his character's similar scene.
The passage written on the board in the classroom is from Jack London's Call of the Wild. Presumably, this is also the novel O'Brien and Horowitz read and discuss while sitting in their room during a later scene.
To prepare for the movie, Rick Rosenthal and Sean Penn went out riding with the Chicago Police Dept. Gang Squad Unit. On the second night, Penn was mistaken for a real criminal and was assaulted by one of the officers.
The reform school was actually a set built in the Naval Armory in Chicago. The cost for the set was $500,000.