Sheriff Chipp Bailey, of Mecklenburg County, N.C., has confirmed to JJIE his office received a $10,000 donation from the producers of “Beyond Scared Straight” following the appearance of the county’s “Reality Program” on the controversial A&E television show.
Bailey said the money, provided by Arnold Shapiro Productions, would be used to offset the costs of the food and field trips that are part of the aftercare portion of the “Reality Program.” It is unclear whether the producers have made similar payments to other programs filmed for “Beyond Scared Straight”.
The “Reality Program” is designed, according to Bailey, to educate at-risk youth on the realities of prison life and help them avoid making decisions that would land them in jail. In the initial portion of the program, teens are brought to the county jail, and dressed in prison uniforms while deputies intimidate, yell at and berate them. They are shown the jail, placed in cells and eventually meet real inmates who talk about their own lives and the mistakes they’ve made.
A month later, the teens return for the aftercare portion of the program where they can follow up with deputies and talk about the changes in their lives. Bailey says this part of the program is essential to its success.
“You’ve got to break them down first,” Bailey said, “then you can build them back up.”
Bailey said he believes Scared Straight-style programs that do no involve an aftercare program “wouldn’t be worth anything.” It’s the combination of the initial boot camp atmosphere followed by the counseling and relationship building that makes the program so effective, he said.
If it all seems harsh it’s because, “we don’t want to make jail somewhere they want to come,” Bailey said.