British teenager arrested for carrying a machete is locked up at one of America’s toughest prisons for a TV experiment – and quickly breaks down because he ‘misses’ his mum
- Hugh Connell, 16, has been in trouble with law for his anti-social behaviour
- He finally turns corner and is determined to see programme through to the end
- Tunde, 17, is told: ‘You like to fight boy? Trust me, this ain’t where you wanna be’
- Both will appear on Banged Up: Teens Behind Bars on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight
A youngster who has been in trouble with the law for anti-social behaviour struggles to handle life behind bars in Banged Up: Teens Behind Bars.
In tonight’s second episode of the channel 4 show, Hugh Connell, 16, from Leicestershire, who has been excluded from school and was arrested when he was 16 for carrying a machete, is just three days into the programme when he admits to struggling without his girlfriend and family by his side.
‘I woke up like it was a normal day, and then I looked around and thought f*** it, this is the last place I want to be,’ he says. ‘All I want to do is go home. I can’t wait get back and see my mum.’
The programme sees eight British teenagers sent to one of America’s toughest prisons, as part of a radical intervention programme for unruly teens.
They are pushed to their limits at Florida’s Brevard County Jail in the hope that life on the inside can change their lives on the outside.
Hugh, 16, from Leicestershire, who has been in trouble with the police for anti-social behaviour, struggles with life in prison in tonight’s episode of channel 4’s Banged Up: Teens Behind Bars.
Six males and two females are sent to the tough jail for a week of ‘radical’ intervention in the hope that life on the inside can change their lives on the outside
The first episode saw the teens have their first taste of prison life as they were put to work alongside regular inmates.
Hugh wanted to leave but was persuaded to stay, while 17-year-old Tunde’s defiant behaviour led to the entire group being punished. And at first, it seems Hugh’s feelings haven’t changed.
‘This is the last place I want to be,’ he complains to Lieutenant Stokes. ‘It’s just horrible. I just want to go home and see my girlfriend, my friends.’
But according to his mum Helen, a former prison officer, it’s typical that he’s missing his loved ones – because he relies on them so much to get him out of trouble.
‘He thinks that somebody will bail him out,’ she explains. ‘Life’s on a plate for Hugh. He says he wants it and ten out of ten times he’ll get it.’
Speaking to the camera, the teen admits: ‘I’m quite a nice guy but if you get on the wrong side of me, it’s not great.’
Two days into the behaviour programme, the prison officers ratchet up the pressure on the teens. They are put to work on the jail’s chain gang, clearing rubbish in the baking Florida heat.
‘If you ask one of my friends to describe me, they’ll be like: “This guy does not care – he just likes getting the job done,”‘ explains fellow inmate for the week, Tunde.
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
‘They say I’m ruthless. I really don’t like being told what to do. I don’t give a s***.’
‘I‘m not a criminal but I’ve done stuff which people would say is criminal – like shoplifting and biting, but I’m not a bad person.’
But it’s not long until he’s put into his place. Wanting to shock the teens away from a life of crime, Lieutenant Stokes puts them in a room with two young men, barely older than the teens, who have been charged with murder.
‘I’ve seen y’all laughing and s*** like it’s a game,’ says one. ‘This ain’t no game. Hanging around with the wrong crowd got me here.’
‘I went to a party one night and it was a big old shoot out and just happened to be in the mix. Two people got killed and my name was brought up, so now I’m facing two first degree murders. I can get the death penalty.’
The second then explains his story: ‘Every sport you can think of I played, but then I started selling drugs – crack cocaine, meth, heroin.’
Hugh Connell, 16, broke down within hours of arriving at Florida’s Brevard County Jail and his feelings haven’t changed – until the end of the episode
‘I thought money was everything. If I had money in my pocket no one could tell me nothing. Do you know what that led to? Murder. Drug deal, gone bad.’
One tells Tunde: ‘You like to fight boy? Trust me, this ain’t where you wanna be.’
He bites his tongue and then calls his mother Ola, who he reveals he used to be really close to before hanging out with the wrong people.
‘As a kid me and mum was really close and we talk about everything but nowadays I’m barely at home to speak to her,’ he says, before giving her a call.
Hugh’s mother Helen (pictured with Hugh) says of her son: ‘He thinks that somebody will bail him out. Life’s on a plate for Hugh. He says he wants it and ten out of ten times he’ll get it’
‘I don’t even care that I just told her “I love you” – that’s the way it’s supposed to be.’
Half way through the behaviour modification programme, the officers then introduce a new form of discipline.
For the morning’s physical drill, the team is put through an obstacle course usually used for training police officers in the hope they’ll work together.
Finally, Hugh turns a corner and is determined to see the programme through to the end, despite wanting to leave on the first day.
‘At school I didn’t want people to see how much I was struggling,’ he admits. ‘I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t handle myself and I was a bit weak.’
‘I always hated school and college and everything – this is making me look forward to it. I’m just going to try and do it.’
And his mother adds: ‘I think he needs a bit of pride. A bit of recognition that he is a nice boy and that he can be anything he wants to be if he chooses to be it.’
Banged Up: Teens Behind Bars on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight
Tunde, who has previously shoplifted, comes crashing down to earth when a prisoner says: ‘You like to fight boy? Trust me, this ain’t where you wanna be’
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
An aerial view of Florida’s Brevard County Jail in the city of Cocoa which is home to the teenagers for a week
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