This past weekend I suffered a trauma. I have no one blame other than myself. I was the one who chose to watch a marathon six episodes of “Beyond Scared Straight”.

You know the show, right? People hand their hellion children over to authorities who then take them on a tour of the jailhouse. Perhaps, ‘tour’ is the wrong word.  Essentially, the aim of this prison guards, police and inmates is to scare the badness out of the hellions with a dose of reality.

Now, as a grown 40-something woman who has never been in trouble and has no children, you’d think I would have been able to watch the show without being affected. Well, nope. I was affected. I was very affect.

Each episode profiled bad children. Yes, I said bad children.  I know some experts will object to children being labeled bad, and guess what? I don’t care. The hellions profiled on each of the episodes were BAD!!!   I’m not going to speak to the why’s and why nots and all that other jazz.  I personally do not take mental health issues and other similar issues lightly. But, when you learn the backgrounds these particular children come from, you probably will agree with me.

Among the Hellions were boys and girls (because that is what they are in fact) ranging from 13 to 17 year of age whose families were tired of being called by the school and police to hear  about their kids being promiscuous, thieving, lying, drug dealing, fighting fools.  Were any of these kids already 18 years old, they would be in jail.  But, the love of their families must greatly outweigh how tired they are with their kids to sign them up for the Scared Straight program as well as appear on television for all to see. What I saw was stuff that didn’t go well for everyone for various reason…

All the Hellions arrived at the jail thinking it was going to be the usual fun and games. Well, let me tell you there was none of that!

The official residents of the Official Jailhouse Residents (aka ‘criminals’) were no joke! They took their role in providing the Hellions with life changing lessons seriously. This meant crude descriptions of the beating and ‘other things’ that happen in the cell both day and night; Residents begging the guards to ‘let them at’ the hellions as some seemed to believe a ‘hands on treatment’ might be the best deterrent; and language!

If you’ve read my blog over the years you’re aware that I don’t like swearing, so rarely do it. Well, Official Jailhouse Residents do not share the same sentiments I do about foul language.

Just picture it: there I was sitting on the couch already feeling traumatized by the show when all of a sudden a bunch of Official Jailhouse Residents burst into the room on the screen.  As the herd of oversized and terrifying looking criminals entered the room screaming for the Hellions to stand up and remove their shoes (I can’t even write the language they used here or anywhere else! ), I myself began rubbing my feet together rolling down my socks.  Then I stopped. What was I doing?

I’m not and never have been a Hellion at any point in my life.  But, the fear I felt was real. The impact the inmates, parents and officials wanted the show to have worked on me.   Sadly, it was obvious that not all of the kids were similarly affected.

There was one boy who I’ll call Big-Man who is probably now in jail, if not prison. Big-Man stuck in my mind because he actually tried fighting two of the inmates.  What made Big-Man want to start a fight with two hardened criminals (one who warned him that were they in a fight Big-Man would be speaking to Jesus in less than 2 minutes)?  He felt that the inmates were being ‘disrespectful’ to him by screaming at him and invading his space.  Were Big-Man to spend more time in school instead of on street corners selling drugs, he might have understood the true word of ‘respect’.

Apparently a month later Big-Man was still up to no good. I hope Big-Man isn’t still committed to his path of not going to school and doing everything it takes to become an Official Jailhouse Resident. If Big-Man does end up in jail I know he will finally learn the meaning of the word ‘respect.’ He will quickly understand that the warnings he was giving during the Scared Straight Tour were real when he tries and fails to respectfully decline some of the less the desirable request of his cellmates with the words, “No thank you, I’d rather not.”


Mantha Baby