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C4 bangs up UK teens in US jail

Channel 4 in the UK has commissioned a series in which wayward teens will be sent to one of the toughest jails in the US in a bid to divert them from a life of crime.

Ian Dunkley

Banged Up (working title, 3×60′) will see eight 15- to 17-year-olds spend a week living and working in a tough Florida jail, in a supersized version of an existing American programme called Behaviour Attitude Modification.

It marks the first time British teens have taken part in such a scheme and comes after the recent revelation that youth knife crime in the UK has gone up 64% in the past five years. Britain’s prison population is also the largest in Europe.

The six male and two female teens will experience the reality of life behind bars at Florida’s Brevard County Jail under the watchful eye of Sheriff Wayne Ivey, a man with robust views on law and order.

Home to around 1,600 inmates, Brevard County consists of male, female and juvenile wings and houses a mixture of inmates charged with crimes ranging from theft and prostitution to multiple murders.

Among other things, the participants will hear cautionary tales from alleged murderers and former gang members before taking a trip to the police morgue where they’ll witness real-life murder victims.

The series is a production of BriteSpark Films, part of Argonon Group, and was commissioned by Ian Dunkley, Channel 4 commissioning editor for factual entertainment. The executive producers are Nick Godwin and Bill Erfuth, with Matt Rudge directing.

“The series poses an intriguing question: at a time when knife crime and youth offending in the UK is on the rise, could exposing wayward teens to the harsh reality of prison life act as a deterrent to them spending a life behind bars?” said Dunkley.

Godwin, co-founder and executive producer at BriteSpark Films, added: “It’s never been more important to look at new ways of keeping at-risk youngsters out of prison and out of the cemetery. We’re hoping this will be a compelling and thought-provoking addition to the debate.”

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