A tearaway teen who was twice excluded from school and arrested at 16 was left in tears after he was looked up inside one of America’s toughest jails.
Hugh Connell, from the small town of Market Harborough in Leicestershire, breaks down on his first day inside Flordia’s Brevard County Jail.
He is one of eight troublesome teenagers locked up at the prison, which houses murderers and rapists for Channel 4 documentary Banged Up: Teens Behind Bars.
The youths, some of whom have shoplifted and been slapped with ASBOs, have been signed up to take part by their desperate parents.
It aims to turn them away from a life of crime by showing them the grim reality of what its like behind bars.
The documentary follows the teenagers – made up of six boys and two girls – as they are forced to walk in shackles and then meet other inmates.
When the boys are sent to view the maximum security wing shouts: ‘I’ll rape you’ and another screams: ‘I’ll put salt in your a***. Your a*** taste better with salt.’
Hugh Connell, now 17, broke down within hours of arriving at Florida’s Brevard County Jail
Hugh (pictured) is one of eight troublesome teenagers locked up at the prison, which houses murderers and rapists for Channel 4 documentary Banged Up: Teens Behind Bars
Florida’s Brevard County Jail in the city of Cocoa is surrounded by wire fences and alligator swampland.
The youths spend seven days locked inside, living next to the other 1,600 inmates guilty of a catalogue of serious crimes.
They are kept under the watchful eye of Sheriff Wayne Ivey, a man with the motto ‘we need to get to these kids before they get to us’.
But just hours in, Hugh has broken down, unable to stay composed as officers bark orders at him in a small bare cell.
An officer squares up against one the teens in the recreation ground as they perform press ups
Six males and two females are sent to the tough jail for a week of ‘radical’ intervention
One of the teens wear the Behaviour Attitude Modification black and white jumpsuits
‘What in tarnation are you crying about?’
Lieutenant Robbie Stokes shouts at the 17-year-old. ‘I haven’t even introduced you to an inmate yet and you’re crying.’
After arriving at the jail via bus shortly after 6am, they are booked into the facility like other inmates.
The youngsters are then forced to change into black-and-white striped prison outfits.
They are shown their cells, issued with blankets, towels, toilet paper and spare underwear.
One of the teens is presented with prison food and responds: ‘What the f*** is that?’
They are given prison food – a box of meat and mashed potato – and one of the boys says: ‘I’d rather s*** in my hands and clap than eat it.’
Lt Stokes tells the documentary: ‘When they first lay eyes on me I make sure that I let them understand that you’re no longer in control, I am in control of every aspect of your life.’
Hugh, who was excluded from school three times is later made fun of by the other youths on the programme for breaking down in tears.
A guard shouts in the face of one of the young ‘inmates’ after they change into their black and white prison outfits
One asks him: ‘How come you cried so quickly?’ He responds: ‘I haven’t had a fag, I’m tired.’
A 16-year-old called Tunde then tells him: ‘I thought it was gonna be one of the girls that cried first.’
By the end of day one, Hugh is on the verge of quitting, and in the one phone call he gets he tells his mother ‘I hate it, I just want to leave.’
On day two, Hugh is seen in tears again, as the youths begin work in the kitchen and laundry room.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Hugh said after the experiment: ‘It felt like I was back at school but worse, [with] people barking at me, telling me what to do.
‘When I panic I get upset, and when I get upset, I get angry, and then I can’t control what I’m doing.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever been so close to having a panic attack.’
An aerial view of Florida’s Brevard County Jail in the city of Cocoa which is home to the teenagers for a week
Florida’s Brevard County Jail is surrounded by wire fences and alligator swampland, and packed with 1,600 inmates with crimes ranging from theft and prostitution to multiple murders
His mother Helen tells the documentary that her son ‘doesn’t like being told what to do’ and lives a ‘charmed life’ going skiing every year, and also owns a pony.
Britain’s prison population is the largest in Europe, and youth knife crime is up 64 per cent since 2014.
Channel 4’s Banged Up: Teens Behind Bars begins on April 29.
What is Behaviour Attitude Modification?
BAM was created by Sheriff Wayne Ivey (who is seen in the series) and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.
It is designed to take youths ages 10 and upwards into a jail-like setting to give them a ‘realistic look’ of where they could end up if they chose a life of crime.
The program usually lasts for approximately 12 hours, but the Channel 4 show keeps the kids ‘inside’ for a whole gruelling week.
According to the Sheriff’s website, the programme aims to ‘encompass the consequences of poor attitudes, bad decisions, and committing crimes.
‘In this programme (sic), we hold nothing back.
‘ The programme is designed to give youth a healthy dose of realism and educate them about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol.’
The experience includes wearing a prisoner’s uniform, taking prison meals, sleeping in the cells, and even a trip to the morgue (for over 14s).