THE BLOG
08/28/2012 04:47 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2012

'Scared Straight': A Good Idea

Criminal court cases have gained popularity in today's society. Whenever you turn on the news, or open a newspaper or go online, you can hear and read about the latest murder, sexual battery or solicitation case that is going on somewhere in this world. We even hear about celebrities getting arrested and we follow their cases as if we were a part of it. We are tuned in to Law and Order, the original, and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and we hang on every DNA swab that is being handled by someone on CSI. We have many cases that are "fishbowled" by the media, which means they have become constants in our life because we hear about them nonstop and they are analyzed over and over again by tv talking heads.

When people used get their summons in the mail for jury duty they would think of every excuse in the book to get out of it, now it seems "cool" to stay on, especially if it's a high profile case, and there could be a shot at writing a book or doing an interview. The courtroom has become the theater, and the players are either adored or hated by the public. Yet, there are questions that remain, has criminal activity become glamorous? Is there any way of decreasing the amount of crime that goes on?

I think the answer to both is yes. Appearing in a courtroom, shackled, with a salacious back story makes for good news and entertainment. The female teacher who is having sex with her male student is suddenly thrust into the limelight, probably getting more attention than she has ever gotten in her life. The cheating husband or wife, who puts a hit on his or her spouse becomes a made for TV movie, and the the real celebrity that commits a crime gets extra time on Entertainment Tonight, and then gets a new gig after completing their sentence.

What can be done to deter the commission of crimes so that our criminal justice system is not overcrowded with adults and juveniles who seem to believe that nothing will really happen to them if they are caught doing illegal activity? Why do so many kids ignore the laws and feel this sense of entitlement, and still bully, talk back to teachers, sneak out of their houses and refuse to abide by the law? I think it's because they are not scared. They see easy sentences, they think they are above the law, and that they can get away with it. I don't know if there is a lack of discipline at home or at school, but for whatever reason, they don't appear to have a care in the world, even when facing a judge. I have seen it first hand, when they sashay into a courtroom and show a lack of respect for the man or woman in the black robe.

There used to be show on TV (which I think is making a comeback) called Scared Straight. They would send juveniles into Rahway State Prison in New Jersey and have them meet with the convicted felons. These convicted defendants would be in your face, screaming, cursing, and re-enacting what everyday life behind bars was all about. There were no producers telling these guys what to say, there were no cue cards, and no one shouting "make it look really bad." This was hard core reality of what it would be like for these kids to go to prison. I personally think it's fabulous. Being a part of the system, even on the prosecutors' end, gives me insight into a world that most people only see on television. The television stories, outside of a documentary, don't always truly and accurately portray "real prison life."

Some people are so arrogant, and some kids are so used to being coddled that they never believe they could end up being "in custody." They think that getting a "good lawyer" will walk them out of the courtroom and out of responsibility. They think that spending a few days in jail might look cool to all of their friends. Scared Straight would prove otherwise. It would show them that their life would never be their own again. It would show them that there is a subculture in the prison world that they would never want to describe to their family and friends,

I always encourage parents to bring their kids to the courtroom to see the "real world." I am not talking about the Real World television show which shows kids in a house together, partying and trying to get daytime jobs while the cameras roll. I am talking about real world, where one commits a crime, is handcuffed to the person next to him and is sentenced to hard time. Case in point, this week Tony Farmer, a star high school basketball player was sentenced to three years in prison for beating up his girlfriend. The videotape of him collapsing in court after the judge sentenced him is quite telling, and should be watched by everyone. He had a look of and shock and disbelief when the sentenced was handed down, and then he literally went down. Did he think because he was a "star" that he would not get any time? If he had been scared straight would he have engaged in domestic violence? Did his lawyer assure him that he would just "get a slap on the wrist?" If kids saw him in court that day they would see a life and a career literally destroyed. I believe that this would deter these kids from engaging in illegal activities that would result in an arrest. It's time to scare these kids straight. If they don't learn it now, it will only lead them into a life of crime and punishment. Bring back the convicts, bring back the show, cause it just might bring back the kids. Show the old footage in schools, make field trips to the courthouse, and take in the flavor of real time. It just might make a difference in someone's life.