St. Clair County jail featured on A&E's "Beyond Scared Straight"

10:48 PM, Dec 14, 2011   |    comments
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By Courtney Gousman

St. Clair County, IL (KSDK) - A Metro East jail is in the national spotlight. This summer, cameras with A&E Network went inside the St. Clair County Jail to show some troubled teens where they could end-up if they don't straighten up. The show is called Beyond Scared Straight and NewsChannel5 got a sneak peak of the upcoming episode and talked with those involved.

In July, seven area teens went inside the St. Clair County Jail, where they came face to face with a number of inmates that may very well have changed their lives. And now their encounters have been documented on cable television.

It's the show that uses in-your face scare tactics to reach out to troubled teens. It's done from the other side of jail bars. Beyond Scared Straight is now in its second season on A&E, with an episode featuring the St. Clair County's Jail airing Thursday night.

Michael Wills of Cahokia says he's been in and out of this jail more than 30 times, mostly for stealing to support his drug habit. Now he uses his life story to open the eyes of problem kids.

"It's a few of them that had family members come here and their parents will call me out on a visit and be like, 'I don't know what you said to my son, but thank you! He's doing good,'" Wills said.

There's also 19-year-old Danielle Washington of East St. Louis, in for first-degree murder. She was five months pregnant when she was locked-up. Now she's giving advice.

"I just enjoy doing it. It's just a joy to my life and it makes me smile in a place like this," Washington said.

Even before producers of the hit show called, these inmates were participating in the jail's Scared Straight program, which attempts to rehab troubled teens. Captain Matthew Scott says some of the teens from this episode were stealing, fighting, and skipping school. By the time they wrapped their day-long visit, many were in tears.

"From what I'm understanding, several of the kids have changed significantly, doing better in school, showing respect to their parents, teachers," says Scott.

The show's executive producer tells NewsChannel 5, this episode is one of his favorites of the season--- so much so, Scott says the show's crew is already making plans for a second visit.

"The sheriff is very excited about it. I'm extremely pumped."

This hour long episode of Beyond Scared Straight airs Thursday night on A&E at 9 p.m.

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