A&E Network has ordered “Beyond Scared Straight!,” a four-hour special event executive produced by Arnold Shapiro and based on his Academy Award and multiple Emmy-Winning documentary “Scared Straight!,” that will profile unique approaches to juvenile crime prevention in prisons around the U.S. The four-hour special event will premiere in Winter 2011.
“I have seen so many teenagers turn their lives around after experiencing inmate-run prison programs like ‘Scared Straight’ that I am grateful for the opportunity to bring more of these programs and stories of transformation to television,” said Arnold Shapiro.
“Scared Straight!” has become an iconic name and cultural phenomenon over the years. The film made a huge impact – showcasing the radical and effective juvenile intervention program that took place in a New Jersey prison and, since they were created, both the prison program and the film have turned countless kids away from drugs, violence and crime. The power of the original “Scared Straight!” program has inspired dozens of inmate-run intervention programs in men’s and women’s prisons across the country; and our series will showcase some of them. Under the auspices of Arnold Shapiro, “Beyond Scared Straight!” profiles the new approach to keeping today’s kids from becoming tomorrow’s convicts.
Much like the original version of “Scared Straight!,” these youthful offender programs put boys and girls of all ethnicities, ranging in age from 12-18, into intensive one-day in-prison sessions that show them the realities of life behind bars. However, in many dramatic ways, these 21st Century programs are very different from the original because today’s youth needs a different approach. For current teens, city streets are as dangerous as the life they believe exists behind bars. TV, film and music have glorified the gang and prison experience and “scaring” teens is no longer as easy of a task. As a result, inmates have had to adapt their methods – making it more a combination of intimidation, information and compassion – and the results for the new program have proven to be equally as effective.
Each stand alone one-hour edition of “Beyond Scared Straight” will focus on a different prison program in the U.S., and will follow four or five at-risk teens and pre-teens. Viewers will follow them as they attend the program, experience their intensive one-day in-prison session and then follow up with them two-months later to see the lasting impressions the program has left on them.
In the first installment of the series, at-risk teens from Washington D.C. and Baltimore are brought face to face with the inmates of the “Inmates Making Positive Attempts to Change Teens” (I.M.P.A.C.T.) program at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, MD, in the hopes of setting them on a straight path. In this program, there is no wall between the kids and the prison’s general population. The kids eat the food, are exposed to the harsh realities of life behind bars, including entering a general population cellblock where dozens of taunting inmates surround them. Some teens are brought to tears. Others are defiant to the end. The five teens featured have offenses that include auto theft, shoplifting and concealed weapons. Stephen has a brother in prison who taught him to back down to no one, Orben is convinced he can joke himself out of any dangerous situation, and the precocious 13-year-old Sahn has already been arrested six times. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for each of the teens, one that could change each of their lives forever.
“Beyond Scared Straight!” is produced by Arnold Shapiro Productions for A&E Network. Arnold Shapiro is Executive Producer and Paul J. Coyne is Co-Executive producer. Executive Producers for A&E are Robert Sharenow and Laura Fleury.