Scared straight programs have been used in the past to deter young men and women who are at a crossroads in their lives to make better decisions before they end up in jail. These programs often consist of inmates and officers getting in the teen’s faces, but one sheriff’s office has come under fire for how they run their program.
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The Chester County Sheriff’s Office, which is located in South Carolina, has used their program called “Project STORM” to help at-risk young adults for several years now. The program consists of getting parental approval to keep your at-risk child in jail for the weekend.
Recently, video that was shot by the Charlotte Observer in June and January of last year showed officers forcing the youth to do prison yard exercises while they were berated by officers yelling in their faces.
Now for anyone who has ever seen A&E’s “Beyond Scared Straight,” this all seems commonplace. These officers are attempting to strike fear into these young boys and girls in order to show them what life could be like if they end up back in jail due to crimes they might commit in the future.
Child psychologist Kenneth Dodge watch the video and offered an alternative take on the matter. “It is physical abuse. This tactic would be called torture if the prisoner were a member of the Taliba.”
At one point in the video, a boy collapsed and started crying while he was forced to carry a traffic cone in front of him during one of the exercises. One officer can be heard in the video saying: “The same pain you are feeling is the same pain you are putting your parents through.”
Alex Underwood, who is a sheriff for the department, denied that he or any other officers were involved in child abuse explaining: “So these guys, they’re going to yell at them. They’re going to be real strong with them.”
He added that the sole reason for these extreme tactics was to scare the kids enough that they never want to return. Additionally, the police work with the parents to effect change as well. Parents are given a 90-minute class on how to better deal with their problem child, according to the Daily Mail.
Many parents seem to feel that the officers were in the right and have found it beneficial for their children. One mother said her 12-year-old son was acting out. “This was my last resort to get some results. He’s been acting out in school.”