Beyond Scared Straight

Behind The Bars: Week 18

Paul J. Coyne, Executive Producer

What I Learned in Jail

By Paul J. Coyne, Executive Producer

The second episode of Season Four of "Beyond Scared Straight" brings back one of the more memorable and popular characters in "Beyond Scared Straight" history, Deputy Jonathan Lyle of the Floyd County, GA Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Lyle is a Southern good ol' boy who mixes hilarity (or maybe insanity) with bug-eyed domination of the at-risk teens brought through Floyd's Turning Point Program. He's even wilder now than when previously we met him.

When asked why he uses such a unique approach to changing at-risk teens, Deputy Lyle responds, "If you act stupid, I'll act stupider! If you act pleasant, I'll act pleasanter!"

In the episode premiering June 6th at 10pm on A&E, Deputy Lyle finds numerous opportunities to act "stupider" when he faces off against Garrett, a buck wild 15-year-old. Garrett says he fights because he "likes to get hit." His mother's fiance says all Garrett cares about is "smoking weed, drinking beer and chasing tail."

Deputy Lyle also squares off against Josiah, 14, who pulled a knife on his pregnant mother. I can't imagine what brings a teen to do something so reprehensible, but hopefully Deputy Lyle will be able to reach him in his own special way.

He hollers, yodels, calls the kids "unicorns," and treats the jail tour like it's his own private circus. He even sings a song that usually accompanies the arrival of circus. You know, the one that goes something like "doot-doot-doodle-oodle-oot-doot-do-do." (You are so lucky you can't hear my singing voice. It's like Bob Dylan with a sinus infection).

After Deputy Lyle sang that tune in the raw footage, I did research to find out if we could use it in the episode. Because we don't have an "Iron Man 3" budget, in order to keep any song in the show, it needs to be so old that the rights don't belong to anyone anymore. Upon investigation, I learned that the name of the song is "Entrance of the Gladiators," originally composed as a military march by a composer named Julius Fucik in 1897. That's your music history lesson for today.

Putting a series like ours together requires unexpected research and bizarre Internet searches. Each episode is filled with street phrases I have never heard before, drug terms I am unaccustomed to, and song references that don't relate to anything on my iPod. At times, it's almost a foreign language to me.

We have a website we visit to figure out what some of these slang terms mean. I used to say I wished I were cool enough to incorporate these newfound phrases into my daily conversations, but now my job kind of demands it.

I've learned that in prison, your "honeybun" can be traded for zoo-zoos and wham-whams (snacks bought from the commissary), and by "honeybun"...I'm not referring to a breakfast cake. In jail, I've sampled something repulsive called "Nutraloaf" and my taste buds have been angry with me ever since. I still wish I didn't know such a thing existed.

Now that my mother is too old to scold me about it, I'll admit to spending one or two non-consecutive nights in a suburban city jail when I was in college. I guess I didn't always walk back to my dorm room in the straightest of lines after keg parties. I didn't learn any prison terminology during my overnight stay, but now I know about Sally Ports, Intake, the Alternative Unit and that "solitary" is now called (the far less lonely) "administrative segregation." I've learned far too many colorful and metaphorical ways of describing prison assault, not something I can readily share at my toddler's next birthday party.

If you ask me about Oklahoma City, San Bernardino County, and Detroit, I can not only rattle off several gang names, but also tell you how, where, and when they began. "Beyond Scared Straight" has given me an education I never expected.

For the documentary filmmaker, that perpetual need to discover never really goes away. It's why I got into this side of the business. Even when I was working on series such as "The Bachelor," "Survivor," and "Big Brother," I was always fascinated by the way strangers interacted, failed, and survived when put into impossible situations.

All of us who work on this series continue to learn about the struggles of our nation's youth and the challenges that culture, school, questionable parenting, and peer pressure puts upon them. I'm learning a lot but I still don't have a guaranteed answer to solve the problem.

If you've made it to the end of this blog then you are either a lover of exceptional writing, a true fan of "Beyond Scared Straight," or my mother.

Now it's your turn. I'd love to hear from you...

What are some of the things you have learned from "Beyond Scared Straight" that you didn't know before? Do you use slang or phrases you've heard on the series? Have your eyes been opened to the realities of being locked up? Is there anything you wish you could tell the teens we document on the show? Do you need a "Nutraloaf" recipe for your next "Beyond Scared Straight" viewing party?

Thanks again for tuning in and keep watching! Next week's episode is truly shocking.