Is your child constantly causing trouble? Are you worried that they’ll end up in jail? If you live in South Carolina’s Chester or Richland Counties, you can send your kids to jail before they wind up there themselves. Through a program called STORM (a somewhat forced acronym that stands for “Showing Teens Our Real Mission”) parents can shell out a mere $25 to have their little troublemakers cuffed and booked for a sleepover in the slammer. Parents in nearby counties have to pay $5 more. The fee covers a jail jumper, a jail dinner and some jail counseling.
“We’re going to show ‘em up front right now what jail is all about,” Chester County Sheriff Alex “Big A” Underwood told told local news outlet WSOCTV. “We need to turn these kids around.” Parents bring their kids to a parking lot behind a drug store, where they’re met by members of the Sheriff’s department and taken to jail in a police van. Some kids know it’s coming. For others, it’s a surprise.
After sending their kids off to their life changing incarceration experience, the parents themselves are required to go through a two hour workshop.
According to the Chester County Sheriff’s Office website, the objectives of STORM are as follows:
•Provide general guidance to at-risk youth.
•Promote personal and social responsibility among at-risk youth.
•Increase participation of at-risk youth in elementary and secondary education and enhance their ability to benefit from this schooling.
•Discourage use of illegal drugs and firearms, involvement in violence, and other delinquent activity by at-risk youth.
•Discourage involvement of at-risk youth in gangs.
•Encourage participation in service and community activity by at-risk youth.
While there’s no denying that a bit of the tough-love approach can have a positive effect on some kids, perhaps project STORM should also consider educating the kids about the legal process. Especially for the kids who didn’t see STORM coming, being dragged off to jail with no warning and no due process may turn out to be a harmful, rather than helpful, experience. And there’s a big difference between really being incarcerated and spending a night in jail as a drill of sorts. Kids who have it in the back of their mind that they’ll get out consequence-free after one night might just suffer through it and use the experience as a way to boost their street-cred and feeling of invincibility.
Like any treatment, STORM will work on some and not others. Before trying this ham-handed approach at scaring their kids straight, parents–no matter how exasperated–should consider their child’s individual needs and decide if perhaps he or she may respond better to a gentler form of therapy.