Beyond Scared Straight

Behind The Bars: Week 9

Paul J. Coyne, Co-Executive Producer

When Teens Attack

By Paul J. Coyne, Co-Executive Producer

Well, here we are at the end of the first half of Season Three. More to come later this year! We will return with what I think are our best episodes yet toward the end of December. Nothing says Christmas like a trip to jail!

We finish this batch of episodes in Hampton Roads, Virginia, with the answer to a question that is posed to me quite often:

What would happen if a teen finally attacked an inmate?

Well, tonight, you get to find out. One of the youths brought into the jail, RJ, is not someone who likes to be pushed around. When inmate "Nasty Nard" pushes him just a little too far, RJ lunges for this enormous inmate and seemingly every deputy in the jail comes down on both of them.

This shows once again that as filmmakers, we just never know what's going to happen in the jail. It took everyone by surprise, especially our camera crew, who scrambled to make sense out of the chaos that ensues. When things like this happen, it becomes a mix of concern for the teen, the safety of everyone involved, and needing to get the shot to tell the story.

I hope you enjoyed the first half of Season Three as much as we enjoyed bringing them to you. So much hard work goes into each and every episode and it's gratifying to read your messages of appreciation. I love that a forum exists for the filmmakers and the viewers to come together and talk about something so life-changing. The show really does reach a wide range of people.

As more people become aware of our series, parents from all over the country are reaching out to the various juvenile intervention programs we have profiled. Our first episode, which will air in late December, shows what happens when a mother in Texas sends her three defiant teenage daughters to an overnight program in Richland County, South Carolina, a place we have visited before.

In the history of our series, we have never come across three teens that fight back as much as these three. The teens threaten inmates and deputies, insult their mothers, scream throughout the tour and seem to be beyond help. One deputy even comments, "I don't think this is going to work out."

These deputies prove so invested in these teens that after the tour, they drive a thousand miles to Texas to follow up with the teens, trying one more time to show them that the path they are on can only lead to jail.

It's an explosive way to begin the next half of our season.

We will also air an episode that our fans have been requesting for a long time. I am constantly asked if we follow up on teens even after an episode airs. As best we can, we do check in months, and now years after they have experienced the jail. We have become close to many of them and share in their successes and failures, always offering whatever support we can. For many of them, they have moved on and are living productive lives. For others, they have fallen back on bad habits.

We are putting together a very special episode that re-visits many of our favorite juveniles, checking in to see how they are doing. Did the program work? Are they staying clean? Are they worse than before?

Some of the stories are shocking and heart-breaking. Some will melt your heart.

In one of our very first episodes, we met 13-year old Sahn, an adorable kid whose "passion for fashion" led him to an early life of shoplifting. When we went back a month later to shoot an epilogue with him, he was in a juvenile facility due to an earlier charge and we could not get a full update. Now, three years later, that little kid is a young man with a deep voice and an incredible story of survival and redemption to tell.

Another teens tells the tragic story of what happened to him soon after the jail tour. It is a story so gut-wrenching and unexpected that I promise you it will bring you to tears. I have watched the piece at least a dozen times and it still gives me chills.

It's going to be the episode that every fan will want to see. It the one that makes me most proud, because it shows the lasting impact of these jail tours on the teens.

So don't go away. The best is yet to come.

And thanks for watching, fellow cellmates.