Beyond Scared Straight

Behind The Bars: Week 26

Behind the Bars | Season 5, #2: Toby Becomes An Inmate

Toby Becomes An Inmate

By Paul J. Coyne, Executive Producer

Here it is!!!

The episode that I never thought would be possible, though certainly inevitable if we stayed on the air long enough, has finally arrived. (Thank you all for that, by the way.)

Back when this series began, we were so focused on bringing you compelling television each week that we seldom considered how things would change for the production if we were on the air for a number of years. How would it change the way we make our series and interact with our teens? How would the teens on our series change after they had experienced it on television already?

And what would happen if a teen that we featured on a previous episode didn't succeed and wound up as an inmate in a future episode? Well, that's what you are about to find out.

On October 10th, at 10pm on A&E, we return to Floyd County Jail in Georgia. Almost a year ago we featured another episode set in Floyd. You'll remember Floyd County as the program that featured the colorful and loud Deputy Lyle who boasted, "If they act stupid, I'll act stupider. If they act pleasant, I'll act pleasanter."

In that episode, Lyle came face to face with defiant teen Toby. They went after each other throughout the episode. At the end of the episode, when we checked in a month later to see how Toby was doing, he was just as defiant. His mother warned him, "If you don't shape up, you'll end up in the custody of Floyd County's finest."

"They'll have to catch me first," Toby smirked.

Well, they did.

Toby returns for the new episode, but this time as an inmate having to face the wrath of a frustrated Deputy Lyle on a daily basis. Toby speaks to the new group of teens and what he has to say is something you won't want to miss. For anyone who doubts the sincerity of our series, Toby is proof that we never know what's going to happen. We only learned that Toby was an inmate just one day before we showed up to film the new episode.

As our crews have traveled across the country and visited dozens of jails and prisons, we have featured hundreds of at-risk teens. As we witnessed in a follow-up episode in Season 3, there are hundreds of successes and dozens of failures. Since we pride ourselves on documenting truth, we have shared both the victories and losses with you. That's what happens in real life.

There are many differences between how we produced our series in its initial stages and how we produce it now.

For one thing, when we began, the teens we encountered had never seen an episode of Beyond Scared Straight, so they genuinely did not know what to expect when the jail day began. Some of them even thought this was some kind of prank show. One teen that we had been shooting with for several days finally turned to a producer and asked, "Is this really going to be on TV or something?"

These days, most of the teens we interview have seen the series and many of them are even fans. We like to incorporate that into our series to show how real it is. These teens universally boast that now that they know what's going to happen in jail, there is no way they will get scared or cry.

And usually, those kids are the first ones to shed tears.

We also have earned the trust of jails, social service agencies and law enforcement departments across the country. When we began, it was a lot of work to convince prisons and jails that we would present truth and not sensationalize anything. What happens is what we show. After we started to air, jails realized we weren't a "reality show," but were instead a non-fiction series. That trust has created some amazing working relationships, allowing us to return to some very powerful juvenile deterrence programs.

Most of our production office staff, editors and film crews are the same folks that began this series five seasons ago. That is something relatively unheard of in the television business. I think we have assembled a talented group of people who not only appreciate a steady paycheck, but, more than that, are honored to be part of a production that changes lives for the better. That's also relatively unheard of in the television business.

When we learned that Toby had become an inmate, we were of course crushed that one of the teens we met had failed so tragically. We always want the best for our teens. We consider them part of the family. Still, we saw it as an opportunity to convey what can happen to a person if they fail to accept the reality of what they are presented with during the jail tour.

Toby thought he was above it, that he would never get caught. I've never met another inmate who didn't believe the same thing.

In addition to the new Floyd episode, you can also view a special shortform video about Toby's Beyond Scared Straight journey at http://www.aetv.com/beyond-scared-straight/video/sneak-peek-floyd-county-ga-46665283641. On October 14th, A&E's Beyond Scared Straight marathon will feature both the original Toby episode, when he was touring the jail, and the new episode. You can watch these back-to-back and witness the before and after.

I look forward to reading your comments on Facebook, Twitter and on this page. Talk to you soon.

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