By Paul J. Coyne, Executive Producer
Welcome back, cellmates, to the final Beyond Scared Straight episode of this season, airing Thursday, November 21 at 10pm, only on A&E! This week, we visit Dougherty County Jail in Georgia and I think we've saved the best for last!
In the past, we've met some teens with pretty uncommon names and this episode is no exception. Meet brothers Nard, 13, and Blue, 12. Nard smokes pot and is frequently suspended from school for fighting. Of course, Nard's younger brother Blue is following in Nard's footsteps and because Blue sees Nard get away with it, Blue is even more fearless.
Shafique, 14, is a teenage criminal who has already established a set of rules for his thievery. He doesn't steal from school, only steals small (but expensive) things from stores, and has no issues stealing things from his family, including his mother's wedding ring. As Shafique says, "stealing from home is just borrowing."
Finally we have Chavez, 15, who likes to fight, smoke pot and steal. Chavez is also a self-made artist who likes to hand-paint provocative phrases on his own t-shirts. On the day of the jail tour, he showed up with a handmade shirt that read "Scared Beyond Straght." It was pretty funny to just about everyone but Chavez when one of the deputies pointed out that he hadn't spelled "Straight" correctly.
Once again, viewers turned out this season to support our series and make it one of the most discussed topics on Twitter every time we air. I never get tired of the conversations that take place out there in Internet-Land, seeing the moments that made you cry, laugh or become infuriated.
While shooting and editing the show, we feel the same thing on a daily basis.
As we near Thanksgiving, 2013, I want to personally thank every one of our faithful viewers for tuning in each week to see lives changed and families rescued (for the most part). Of course, to thank every one of you personally would take the rest of my life, so allow me to thank you impersonally.
At this point, we have filmed with about 450 teens and the rate of success is something I am truly proud of. Although these juvenile diversion programs would happen whether we were there or not to film them, the fact that you watch our series means that we stay on the air and millions of people will be touched by the stories we tell.
I also want to thank the many law enforcement and social services personnel we have met over the last few years who have made it possible to enter their facilities. In most jails we visit, the officers who take part in these programs do so on a voluntary basis. They don't receive extra pay or benefits to deal with rebellious teens who would rather be hanging out at the local park causing trouble.
After the death of someone very close to me, I asked her cancer doctor how he dealt with all the sadness of his profession. He said, "My goal is for there to be no need for my job." I think the deputies feel the same way. Preventing teens from going down the wrong path means fewer of them will end up behind bars.
Although it seems odd in light of the crimes many of them have committed, I want to thank the inmates in the various jails we have filmed in. I never forget that these are not socially upstanding people. The inmates are murderers, thieves, gangstas, pimps and drug dealers. They aren't saints.
However, there isn't an inmate that we have met who hasn't truly wanted to change these teens for the better. I'm not sure why. They don't receive special treatment for taking part in the jail tour. Not an extra piece of bread nor an extra five minutes during visitation. Personally, I think they are seeking their own form of redemption. They have already destroyed their own lives and the lives of their victims but now they have a chance to improve a life. I imagine it ignites a little spark of hope in their hearts.
I want to thank the families who have opened up their homes and dysfunctional lives to our cameras and to a national audience. They place an enormous amount of trust in us to depict their lives and experiences with sincerity. We couldn't do this series without the parents' belief that we are all on the same team.
Of course, I have to thank my talented, tireless and passionate staff and crew. Our producers, editors, cinematographers, audio engineers, loggers, production assistants and every one else on the series work together in such a seamless way that it makes the experience much more than a job. It's a family adventure.
Of course, none of this would be possible without our supportive executives and promoters at A&E, the greatest network on television. From the very beginning, they agreed with us that the true power of our series would come from honesty. In my experience, the greatest story has always been the truth. A&E allows us to be honest in a TV landscape that doesn't always embrace that.
On a personal note, I want to thank my family and friends for coming along on this journey. I come from a small town in Massachusetts, and a career in Hollywood was certainly not a dream everyone from my hometown would attempt. I recently returned to my hometown to attend the funeral of a classmate and I had the chance to reconnect with so many people that I had grown up with but had barely kept in touch with. We all greeted each other as equals, and as friends. It was a heartbreaking yet heartwarming event. I've said many times that I make shows for the kinds of normal, average people I grew up with, and I was reminded of that meeting with them. I was also reminded that there really is no such thing as normal!
Although I am always raving about the quality of our series I really think we've finally got this thing perfected. We've already finished several of the episodes that will air next season, and I know you're in for a heck of a ride. We really aimed to showcase jails that offer a new diversion experience.
You won't be disappointed. See you in a few months!!
And Happy Thanksgiving.