Some Parents Think Sending Kids To See Prison Is Only Way They'll Learn

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — For parents, identifying a teen who needs some tough love can be a tough decision. Some are forcing their kids to stand face to face with hardened criminals, hoping they’ll clean up their act.

CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff recently followed them on their “Journey to Jail.”

The Long Island teens were sent to jail – not by a judge, but by their parents. Parents like mother of two Lisa Hernandez.

“I did it because they do get into fights, they do seem to hang out with some people that get into trouble. So I kind of wanted them to see what it would be like,” Hernandez said.

What it would be like to be confined to a 9-foot by 6-foot cell.

The Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead gives teens a glimpse of what their future could look like and gives their parents the hope that their kids won’t ever want to return.

Like hundreds of kids before them, they were brought to the prison by their parents to feel the sting of incarceration, and meet the 900 inmates, who are in for every imaginable crime.

The teens came face to face with the prisoners, who dished out a strong dose of reality about how their own bad decisions led them there.

“The theory is that anybody who gets a taste of jail, even as a visitor, comes away very impressed and not in a good way,” said Eugene O’Donnell of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

O’Donnell said there are programs like this across the country, and they do deter juvenile crime.

“For some young people it’s going to be a jarring memorable experience that may change their life,” O’Donnell said.

The Long Island teens told Gusoff the experience was a disturbing wake-up call.

“It was intense in there,” one said.

“Definitely don’t want to end up here,” another said.

So what about the Hernandez brothers? They heard the following from one inmate:

“You better wake up and tell your mother how much you love her because I would give anything to tell my mother that I love her. Wake up both of yous because you are going to end up here,” the prisoner shouted.

After coming face to face with their possible future, both boys actually thanked their mother for time well served.

“It was rough enough to make me think, stop what I’m doing in the streets, stop hanging out with the wrong crowd,” Tyler Hernandez said.

“I’m going to do everything I can to never be here again. I’m going to try so hard,” Kristian Hernandez added.

Parents interested in bringing their kids to jail can contact the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. Tours are also offered to school groups.

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