Beyond Scared Straight Program “Incoherent” According to Conflict Management Expert

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scared_straight_seriesSet to air Thursday at 8 p.m., the premier episode of the new season of the controversial reality show, “Beyond Scared Straight,” adheres to the themes that made it A&E’s most watched show: A small group of at-risk youth spend the day in prison where they are yelled at, intimidated and humiliated by sheriff’s deputies and inmates alike. The screaming and threats of prison rape are followed by emotional conversations with the inmates as they describe to the teens where they went wrong and how the teens can avoid the same fate.

The episode features Mecklenburg County, N.C.’s “Reality Program,” created by Sheriff Daniel “Chipp” Bailey.

“Our Reality Program stresses education, not intimidation,” Bailey is quoted as saying on the program’s website.

According to the website, the mission of the program is to “provide the community with a program which will help educate young people about the long-term effects of participating in criminal activity.”

After watching the show, non-violent communication and conflict management expert Dr. Heather Pincock was baffled.

“There is no coherent approach in the diversion program,” Pincock said. “Most of the episode they [the deputies] were there to intimidate the youth or break the youth down or humiliate them. Then they suddenly start saying. ‘We’re your friends, we’re here to help you.’ There are very mixed messages around their role. It doesn’t make any sense.”

The scenes with inmates were also troubling to Pincock. “The way the inmates are represented, it’s complete chaos, and it is kind of glorifying or sensationalizing this idea that the people that are incarcerated there are completely out of control or inhuman.” But later, she said, the same inmates were shown having intimate conversations with the teens. “It seems highly incoherent as an intervention or a way to communicate a message to at-risk youth. It didn’t strike me as well thought out.”

Teens applying for the program must come from local schools, according to the application for the program. JJIE also obtained a release form parents must sign when enrolling their children in the “Reality Program.” The form absolves the Sheriff’s Office from any liability should their child be injured while participating in the program.

The form also states that it is a “program of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools” and others.  When asked about the school district’s involvement with the program, a school district spokesperson said they do not endorse the “Reality Program.”

Despite having no involvement with the program, spokesperson Lauren Bell said that school resource officers, some of whom are employed by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, are permitted to provide information about the program to students. Resource officers do not provide information about other diversion programs, Bell said.

“The resource officers do not endorse or discourage the program,” she said.

As JJIE reported previously, “Beyond Scared Straight” has been drawing criticism from juvenile justice experts who say the program is ineffective and a waste of money. They cite studies that show scared straight programs are actually counter-productive.

But the show's producer, Arnold Shapiro, claims those studies are wrong and too old to be relevant. He says today’s scared straight programs work better because of the added counseling portion.

17 thoughts on “Beyond Scared Straight Program “Incoherent” According to Conflict Management Expert

  1. My girls are 13%12 and they think that life is so easy my 13 acts like she isnt scared of anythin she fights me sometimes and she runs off and i cant find her had to take her to mental health twice she tried to cut her self and its a lot she showing out in school,and my 12 has a i dont care attuide and she gettin out of control ive tried gettin help trying to get them in the scared stright program i need help there dad passed may12 and im alone with all this HELP

  2. My daughter has gotten out of hand. She is smoking marijuana, having sex with different men, skipping school, that only what i know. Can you help?

  3. My child Tonyawsha needs help she will not listen always skips school and drinks and smokes alot she always says she going to kill me and runs away i need help with my child PLEASE HELP!!

    • Im so sorry your going thru that i know its a lot im kind of going thru it too but with 2 of them my 13&12 and i had to take to mental health and call the police try doing that i know it is hard but you have to hope that helps alittle

  4. My son acts out at home periodically ans it is really bad. He has put holes in my walls. He tears and throws things across the room. He doesnt have any problems in school. Hes an a honor roll student but he needs to see what its like to actually be in jail. His uncle is currently in prison. That was the start of his out burst. He was hurt alot when he left

  5. I really need help I don’t know what else to do my daughter is12 bout to be13 she stay out late night and know one no were she is and talk back to grow ups please help me

  6. I have a 15 year old child at my house that thinks life is a game. He thinks hes a bad ass and thinks he can tell me and my husbad that he is the boss. he thinks he can tell us what to do and when we go to correct him he balls up his fist like he was to hit someone. He use to do drugs and drink and steal when he was with his mother. He thinks he is a bily bad ass. that can stand up to adults. if someone gets in his face he said he will hit them.

  7. I have a Aunty whom takes care of her granddaughter whom is way out of control. She very disrepectful, hit her father over the head with a object he had stiches. She cusess her father out. My Aunty is in her 70’s with health problems, the father has heart problems hes in his late 30’s. Please tell me how we can get this girl right before shes dead or locked up for life…….She thinks she untouchable…..

  8. I live in Mecklenburg County and the crime rate is on the rise. There are gangs, a lot of drug activity, and we’ve made it on First 48. Beyond Scared Straight is an awesome way to show these kids that being disrespectful and being involved in illegal activty is not cute. I would rather my son be yelled at on one Saturday than being arrested somewhere down the line. Sidenote: what’s up with the guy he smeared his butt juices on the window?! He must me mentally ill. smh


  10. This was by far the best beyond scared strait that I have watched. I’m from Louisiana and would love something instituted here like CMSO has. My City Baton Rouge as well as New Orleans have some of the highest crime rates in the nation. Apparently the old system of holding these kids hands like babies is not working. If u can’t give your own parents respect then I think they (kids)need a reality check. I’ll say this to the staff of CMSO y’all were impressive. And to the CMSO sheriff I applaud u for a well thought out program. Because we all know respect starts at home. If there’s a broken home, no education, poverty or drugs we all know what ends up happining to our young kids. Get to them b4 jail gets to them…..

  11. Well, if you don’t agree with the approach taken on the show, Please do tell what should be done instead. I was VERY impressed with the program and the efforts of the MCSO, who I might add, VOLUNTEER their time for the program. I happen to work in that jail and see young people all the time who come in and out. I think they (young people) need to know that there are people who are meaner, more intimidating, who have already gone down the path that they are taking and what it can and will lead to!! KUDOS MCSO and the Reality Program!!

  12. I just googled “scared straight Mecklenberg episode screaming sucked” and came up with this site. This episode is horrible and the write up is on point. However, I have found almost every other episode and scared straight system on the series to be very good and they seem to have pretty good results. I think this episode and the people running the Mecklenberg program to be outrageous and not very effective.

  13. These children often have explosive uncontrolled tempers. They do not benefit in any way from being scared, demeaned and threatened by a new group of bullies in and out of uniform.
    Level headed organizations and individuals will opt for resisting not encouraging intimidation and humiliating behavior. There is too much of that in the everyday lives of troubled youths .