CENTREVILLE, Md. (WUSA)- Since the start of this year, 9 News Now has been putting a spotlight on the issue of underage drinking and drug use, and the destructive place to which they can lead.
9 Wants You To Know about a unique program that offers young offenders the opportunity to turn their lives around and wipe their criminal records clean, before it's too late.
It's taking place in Queen Anne's County, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
"You now belong to the Queen Anne's County Detention Center," said Cpl. Brenda Sandford, a corrections officer.
Beyond the razor wire and thick metal doors of the facility are convicted murderers, rapists and drug dealers. And on this night, teenagers.
"You are now mine," said Sandford. "I'm now your Mom, your Dad, your sister, your brother, your doctor, whatever, your preacher. I am now it. Got it?"
Most are 18 and 19 years old, one just 14. Caught with alcohol or marijuana, this is their second chance.
"I never really thought of the idea that marijuana is illegal, until I got arrested for it," said one young man.
A crackling noise fills the air and Cpl. Sandford is holding a shield in front of her.
"That's 50,000 volts and I'm not afraid to use it. And I have a warden that knows it will only be used when necessary," she said.
Behind bars, anything can be a weapon-even a plastic food tray.
An inmate slams a metal folding chair with an empty tray. Another inmate declares, "This ain't no joke.That's somebody's head."
The female inmates taunt the teens as they walk past their holding cell, loudly pounding the glass windows. Moments later, they'll come face to face.
Said Sandford, "I would rather deal with 900 men than one female. And you're gonna find out why right now."
A teenage girl whispers to her friend, "I want to go home."
"We're not trying to scare them. What we're trying to show is exactly what's going to happen if they continue on the path that got them placed into this program," said Terry Ober, of RESET.
Ober said the RESET program is intended to motivate the teens to reset their attitudes and behavior.
"Having an opportunity to learn from a mistake without having a criminal record to follow you is huge," said Ober.
The female inmates enter the detention center gymnasium and bark out orders to the teens.
"Y'all need to stand up! Stand up! Stand up!"
The teens obey the commands and two girls start to cry. An inmate hugs one of them.
Another female inmate talks directly to one of the teenage girls.
"I have more years than I was even old. You wanna do that? For some marijuana? Cause you wanna smoke some weed?"
Said another female inmate, "I'm missing out on my life. Because I chose to do stupid things and make wrong decisions."
The inmates say their lives unraveled because of alcohol and drugs. And they've allbeen abandoned by the friends they -thought- they had.
"Those friends will be the same ones that won't be there, or the same ones that will testify against you in a courtroom so they don't have to go to jail," said a female inmate.
The RESET program also offers a glimpse of a typical meal in jail, and a lesson in what a strip search entails.
Said Cpl. Sandford, "You're gonna get butt naked. He's gonna make you bend over, grab your ankles, spread the cheeks of your butt. He's going to make you lift up the family jewels."
"Once you get in this system, it is so hard to get out," said a male inmate, gripping his head with his hands.
The male inmates offer straight talk about how their lives of partying came to an end.
"This is the worst feeling," said a male inmate who breaks out in a dance, swiveling his hips and gesturing with his arms."You used to party, you used to party and then one day, it stops." He punches his fist into his other hand.
The teenagers appear shell-shocked.
"I know I wouldn't make it in here. I know I wouldn't. I don't want to be here," said one young woman.
Said another, with tears in her eyes, "You see me? They would just kill me in here."
A male inmate askeded a teen, "What you in here for, man?"
"Marijuana possession," he replied.
"Marijuana possession? You think smoking weed is cool?"
The teen replied, "I used to."
Another inmate put it bluntly,
"You come here, you lose everything."
The experience is eye-opening for the teens.
"Me here, I couldn't hide that I was scared. I couldn't do it," said the youngest of the group, a 14 year-old girl.
Said another teenage girl, "I thought I was invincible. Driving around, cops everywhere, I don't care. And then I got pulled over."
They -say- they'll change their ways, if not for themselves, maybe for a little brother.
"I'm probably his biggest role model and I don't want to be a bad one," said one teen, with tears welling up in his eyes.
Said Queen Anne's County Detention Center Warden Lamonte Cooke, "We can't save all of them, but we have saved a certain number of them and steered them in the right direction."
As night falls, one last experience: a chance to try out a detention center mattress.
"You gonna drink? You might as well feel it," an inmate shouted.
The kids shake hands with the inmates.
"I'm telling you. You don't want to be in here. Because I promise you, I'm not gonna let you like it," an inmate said to a teen.
At least for now, the inmates will return to their cells. The teens, to their homes.
The visit to the County Detention Center is just one element of the four night RESET program. Although many of the teenagers are referred by the court system or their own parents, the class is available to anyone under the age of 21 for a small fee. For more information, please go to:
Written by Andrea McCarren
9NEWS NOW & WUSA9.COM