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14 August 2011

'Beyond Scared Straight' Necessary For Parents of Teens to Watch

I don't watch too much television. But on Saturday night, after a long day at my aunt and uncle's house, I came home and turned on the tele. The first channel I tuned to was A&E TV — and "Beyond Scared Straight" was on. I just happened to tune in as the opening credits ran, and I had wanted to see the show for the longest time. 

Let's just say I've already seen five of the six episodes from last season. And the new season debuts this week. 

The series follows a group of at-risk kids who are on the cusp of lives of crime. Most are between 10 and 17 — but there are occasional 18-year-old kids featured. In each episode, a group of kids are taken to a certain prison — one episode was at notorious San Quentin in California — and are met by volunteer prisoners who are part of each prison's program designed to "scare" kids away from the lives they're living.

The prisoners are incarcerated on a variety of charges, up to and including first-degree murder. They come from all walks of life. Some are from broken homes; others aren't. But remarkably, each has a common goal — to ensure these kids don't follow in their footsteps.

Each kid reacts differently to their visits to the prisons. Some finish changed; others go right back to their lives of crime. 

But one thing is for certain, irrespective of the prison: They put on programs that truly show the deepest and darkest aspects of prison life, from shankings to drugs, to murder, to rape. 

And ironically, it's not the kids who usually demonstrate greatness — it's the prisoners.

Yes, many of them committed some of the most heinous crimes. And we never get to see how they act and react when they're not conducting thess programs. But the truth is, many truly ARE remorseful for their actions — and they're seriously working to ensure these kids get back on the straight and narrow.

For the sake of not spoiling the episodes, I won't get into specifically HOW the prisoners do what they do. But it's my hope — especially if you're parent to a teen who might be on the wrong track — that you'll watch the show. 

This is one of the most remarkable shows I've ever seen. And it helped me to grow a modicum of respect for the prisoners. They don't need to be doing what they're doing, yet they do. And not one of them gets ANYTHING whatsoever in return for their work with the teens.

There may have been a time they weren't productive members of society. But they're doing a service now that is incomparable. 

And for that they should be commended.

Should You Want to Watch New Episodes

■ New episodes debut Thursday, 18 Aug. 2011 at 10 p.m. ET on A&E. Click here for the show's official webpage.

Watch an episode preview

Photos From the Show
Inmates show the kids an outdoor bathroom.

One program leader at a prison for women screams at some of the kids to get their attention.

Two inmates scream at a laughing girl.

The kids walking from an outside yard to an indoor housing facility.

This woman, an inmate, was shocked to see her own 12-year0old daughter in the Scared-Straight episode.

These two make note of the physical appearance of most of the inmates.

The woman shown here speaks to the teens from a small hole in her cell. She is in ad-seg (solitary confinement), has been there for three years and will be for four more years.


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