David Blunkett's "Banged Up" Battles Youth Crime

Banged Up," a new U.K. reality show starring David Blunkett (the former British Home secretary who clamped down on youth crime), follows 10 unruly teens whose parents have volunteered them to be locked away. Blunkett sits Simon Cowell-like on a mock parole board. His charges are strip-searched by officers and kept in stark two- by four-meter cells for 14 hours a day. The producers have even thrown a gang of hardened ex-cons into the mix. So far, so crass. Except that Blunkett's tough-love tactics seem to be working: despite two inmates dropping out in the first episode, many of the kids have vowed to live crime-free lives.

"Banged Up" comes at a moment when the British government is once again struggling with a juvenile crisis. Following a spate of high-profile knifings, Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a $200 million "Youth Crime Action Plan" that includes such outlandish schemes as threatening parents of young offenders with eviction if they can't rein in their progeny, and making knife-toting kids visit stab victims in hospitals. Brown has been mocked for his proposals, which seem more suited for TV scripts than real life. But Brown shouldn't despair—even though he's flailing at politics, his future in showbiz looks promising.