A week after “Inside Teen Lock-down” airs, Mike Dempsey, the superintendent at Pendleton, is a happy man. His facility is the kind of place the public hears about only when things go wrong, and Pendleton has had its share of incidents recently—a teacher sexually assaulted by an offender, a guard dropping an offender on his head, an offender critically wounded in a fight. He knew letting Grau and her cameras in carried potential risk, but now he can exhale.
What Grau showed the world was a tension-filled hour with voice-of-God narration (this was Court TV, after all) in which Dempsey’s staff handled a crazed juvenile, squelched a potential race war, and ultimately allowed two offenders to go free after finishing their rehabilitation. It was rarely pretty, but it was real.
“I was nervous not only about the public’s response, but also the staff’s,” Dempsey says. “But I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from all sides. And I think we really owe that to Karen. Somebody could have taken that access and done some damage, but she did a good job telling an important story.”