A group of four inmates being housed at the Deerbolt Young Offenders Institution in Barnard Castle came together with  Care UK to create a new anti-drug and alcohol DVD aimed at discouraging abuse and misuse among young people. The idea for the DVD came about as a result of the institution’s previous VHS presentation no longer being usable.

Care UK operates the prison’s medical facility as part of its ongoing mission to provide health and social care to those most in need. One of their workers employed at Deerbolt proposed making the new DVD to replace an old VHS. She advocated including four inmates as a way of giving names and faces to the reality of drug and alcohol abuse.

The four are all serving time for alcohol-related convictions. Each one told his story and encouraged those who would eventually view the DVD to avoid alcohol abuse and misuse. Care UK is hoping the DVD will be used by a multitude of young offender programmes and prisons throughout the UK. It hopes it will be a motivational tool that will convince young people to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

Less Intimidating ‘Scared Straight’

Though specifics regarding the content of the DVD were not disclosed, it appears as though the intent was to create a video presentation that acted as a less intimidating form of the ‘Scared Straight’ programmes common in US prisons. The prison-led programmes are an offshoot of a 1970s era film that showed juvenile delinquents being harassed and berated by lifetime inmates in an attempt to discourage them from engaging in behaviour that could land them in prison.

Despite the popularity of the film and a number of subsequent TV programmes, there is some evidence suggesting such programmes are largely ineffective in keeping youth from pursuing lives of crime. However, the research is far from conclusive. Those who favour these kinds of motivational programmes say they are worthwhile even if the success rates are minimal. It is better to keep of small number of youth on the right path than to lose all of them, according to proponents.

Where drug and alcohol use are concerned, tools like the Care UK DVD introduce young people to a reality that many of them have not even considered. It is the reality that persistent drug and alcohol abuse often leads to addiction which, in turn, can lead to criminal behaviour in order to support that addiction. It is not a huge leap to start out as a casual alcohol user only to end up a drug-addicted inmate at a notorious prison. Sadly, it happens all the time.

Use Whatever Works

There are plenty of people who hope the Care UK DVD achieves great results. Moreover, even if the results are minimal, it matters not. Whatever works in any given situation is what you do. If the DVD only motivates five out of every 100 viewers to avoid drug and alcohol use, then it has proven successful to those five individuals. Then it is a matter of finding out what will work for the remaining 95.

Unfortunately, there is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution that will prevent alcohol and drug abuse among a hundred per cent of our youth. Combating the problem requires a combination of strategies that reach various youth in whatever place they find themselves. For some it might be a DVD, for others it might be an in-person visit to a prison. Still others might require comprehensive counselling and family intervention.

Whatever it takes to change an individual life. That is what we should be doing for our youth.

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