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The Reality Check Program (DVD) Review

 
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At A Glance...
 

Genre:
 
Length: 67 minutes
 
Final Score
 
 
 
 
 
3/ 5


User Rating
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We liked?


Gives an unfiltered view of what life in prison is really like to kids at risk.

Not so much?


Audio and video issues detract a bit from the message.


Final Fiendish Findings?

The Reality Check Program DVD is a solid choice for parents worried about the path their kids are taking (or may take) in life. With the realities of prison presented in a straightforward and honest manner that kids can relate to, Larry Lawton delivers a message that kids need to hear. The DVD unfortunately suffers a bit from less than professional level video and audio, but it is still worth watching for the message alone.

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Posted May 17, 2013 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings?
 
 

Do you need a reality check?

Lawrence Lawton is a tale often told. He grew up in a rough neighborhood in New York, where crime was rampant, and he quickly fell into a life of petty crime. After a stint in the Coast Guard, Larry went back to his old ways with a vengeance, participating in organized crime and eventually becoming one of the most notorious jewel thieves in America. Of course, a life like that is bound to derail, and Larry Lawton was sent to his prison for his crimes.

Eleven years in some really tough prisons will change anyone – for better or worse – and Larry was no different. Luckily for some youth on a really bad course, Larry decided to use his experiences for good. The Reality Check Program is fairly unique, in that it is not loud, or accusing, or humiliating. Larry generally meets with kids who have already made some really bad choices and are in real danger of going to prison, and tells them what prison is really like – no holds barred. From hiding shanks in anal cavities, to vicious rape, to the inevitable deaths that occur, young people who attend Larry’s classes will leave with a real understanding of how life in prison plays out, and it looks nothing like what they see on tv.

Larry Lawton is a big guy. With his shaved head, goatee, heavily tattooed arms, and ever present sleeveless shirt to show them off, he is the picture of the tough guy you might expect to meet in prison. But when he opens his mouth, he is the gentle mentor who really just wants to help you out of a bad situation. Using shocking stories from his own time in prison, as well as photos and stories of some of the people he met there, he simply tells young people what happened to him in a calm tone. He then goes on to offer kids strategies for how to get back on the right path, from getting a job or joining a sport to keep busy, to considering if your friends are true friends, to valuing your family relationships. Finally, Larry goes so far as to tell kids that if they can’t find someone to help them, they can email him and he’ll see they get the help they need.

It’s a powerful one-two punch, the realities of prison and a viable plan for staying out of it, and that – combined with Larry’s calm, no-nonsense approach – has made The Reality Check Program a popular tool in and around his home in Florida. Troubled kids likely won’t listen to their parents, their teachers, or even law enforcement – but they’ll listen to Larry, because he’s been there. While his face to face program is ideal, he’s just one guy, so a DVD release was the inevitable next step to taking his message to a broader audience. Because the message in the DVD is meant for teens and young adults, I had my two (admittedly rather straight and narrow) teenage sons watch with me, in order to get an adolescent point of view.

The video itself is Larry Lawton, telling his story, just like in his programs. His words are obviously heartfelt, and his message is in turns shocking and encouraging, if a bit repetitive. However, it does suffer from amateurish audio and video. The audio really needs to be cleaned up, as there is near constant background noise. The majority of the film is Larry Lawton, speaking in front of blue screen – and while it is good that there isn’t distraction from his message, it is somewhat distracting in its own right, making it resemble, in the words of my fourteen year old “like one of those educational films they show in school.” Videotaping LArry actually giving a session would have likely made for a more natural and enjoyable talk.

By no means do these make The Reality Check Program not worth watching – Larry’s message and the way he delivers it is well worth hearing, especially for teens at risk. Proactive parents may even prefer to show it to their kids well before they stray from the path, as a warning that there are consequences to every action. When I discussed it with my boys, both agreed that, while they never thought of prison as a country club before, the reality of it is so much worse than they had dreamed. They also just enjoyed Larry, and his way of speaking. Being relatable and likable to the people he is trying to help is an invaluable tool that Lawton uses well.

The Reality Check Program DVD is a solid choice for parents worried about the path their kids are taking (or may take) in life. With the realities of prison presented in a straightforward and honest manner that kids can relate to, Larry Lawton delivers a message that kids need to hear. The DVD unfortunately suffers a bit from less than professional level video and audio, but it is still worth watching for the message alone.


Amy

 
U.S. Senior Editor & Deputy EIC, @averyzoe on Twitter, mother of 5, gamer, reader, wife to @macanthony, and all-around bad-ass (no, not really)