One Mistake Away from Jail

Just a Normal Teen?

"Brett thinks that drinking and smoking marijuana is not a big deal, that everybody his age does it," says the 19-year-old's mother, Janene. "I believe that that's just a gateway to something worse. I absolutely do think he's going down the wrong path."

"I think I'm pretty much just like every other teen, just party a lot and do what we do," Brett says affably. "I do smoke weed on a daily basis."

Janene gives an example of why she thinks her son is reeling out of control. "Brett does have two DUIs. He went out drinking, and hit a pothole, and flipped [the car] and totaled it. Lost his license until he was 18," she says. "He had his license back for about six months, again, and totaled another vehicle."

"I'd had nine shots of vodka and a couple beers," recalls Brett.

"He was so drunk, that he only remembers leaving the bar and waking up in jail," Janene adds. "He has totaled three vehicles. The second vehicle he totaled, he didn't get cited. I believe he was high. Part of me does worry about Brett going to jail. No mother wants her baby to be behind bars."

"My mom does think I'm going down the wrong road and that I'm going to go to jail," Brett says. "I really don't see that happening."

"You've wrecked two cars?" Dr. Phil asks Brett.

"Three," Brett clarifies.

"Where'd you get the first car?"

"It was my grandpa's car."

Dr. Phil constructs a frightening image of Brett's recklessness. "You took his car " this was at age 16 " and you had nine shots of vodka and a few beers," he says, referring to his notes. "You were doing doughnuts in a field, and your speedometer read 72 [m.p.h.] when you slammed into a ditch."

"Correct," Brett says.

"Your passenger broke the windshield with his face. You lost your license until you were 18, right?"


[AD]"Then you wrecked the second car. This was weeks after getting your license back. You ran off the road into some trees going 60," Dr. Phil says.

"That was actually the third car I wrecked," Brett says.

"Where'd you get the second and third car?" Dr. Phil inquires.

"It's my mom's car. She had gotten a Mustang."

"Did you steal it?"

"No. She let me use it to drive to work, and [run] errands and stuff."

Dr. Phil addresses Janene. "He totals the car " DUI " gets his license back, continues drinking and you give him your car to drive?" he asks, incredulous.

"Yes. At the time, I didn't know he was drinking and driving again. I thought he had learned his lesson," she answers.

Dr. Phil questions her logic. "Are you telling me that you had no idea that this young man would start drinking and driving again? Had he given you any reason to believe that he wouldn't?" he inquires.

"No, not really. I think I just wanted to believe it," she admits.

"After he wrecked the first one drunk and the second one drunk, you're telling me that you didn't see this third one coming?"

[AD]"I probably should have, yes."

Dr. Phil turns to the teen. "What gives you the right to drink and drive?"

"Stupidity," Brett offers.

"I promise you, if you ran into me drunk, you'd wind up under the jail. I would haunt you to the end of the world. I would stalk the prosecutors until they buried you for a long, long time," Dr. Phil says sternly. He notes that when Brett received his second DUI, his blood-alcohol level was off the charts at .21. "Do you have a drinking problem?"

Brett hedges. "I wouldn't call it a problem, but I would probably say I abuse it, yeah," he replies.

"As a mom, I feel really guilty. I've had my own issues in the past. I was using meth, on and off, for 12, 13 years," Janene divulges on videotape. "I am really scared that Brett is going to go down the same path I did. My kids lived through most of it. I've been clean and sober for about five years now. If I had straightened myself out a lot sooner, I probably could have stopped this from happening. My wake-up call was the threat of prison."

When the tape ends, Dr. Phil addresses Janene. "My dad was a terrible alcoholic. I have no doubt that I may be genetically predisposed to it," he says.

He turns to Brett. "Do you think you need to make any changes?" he asks.

"To stop drinking would probably be a good idea. I probably doubt that I will," Brett replies offhandedly. "Yeah, that'd be a good change."

[AD]"How about smoking the dope?" Dr. Phil probes.

"I'm definitely going to quit eventually, but in the near future? Probably not."

Dr. Phil asks Brett to walk with him to a makeshift jail cell that has been set up onstage. Brett steps inside, and Dr. Phil closes the door. "Look around. This is the size of the cell you would be in if you went to a California state prison. You would spend 18, 20, 22 hours a day in this space right here. You'd have a bunkmate, Bubba," he teases as Brett laughs. Then Dr. Phil grows serious. "What would be wrong with saying, ‘You know what? I'm smart. I'm healthy. I need to gear up and do something productive with my life,' instead of drinking and drugging? Why not define success for yourself and do it?"

"I'm 19. I've got a lot going for me, really. I can see myself having a future," Brett responds.

Brett and Chris join Dr. Phil onstage. "At this point, I don't think anybody in America right now thinks that you two, as different as you are in many respects, have a full appreciation of what's going to happen if you get put in jail," he tells them.

He turns to Thomas, the deputy district attorney. "How many times have you talked to people who, once they got in jail, said, ‘God, how dumb was I?'" Dr. Phil asks.

"All the time," he replies. "Practically everyone that I've ever spoken to who's been in custody. We've already heard that from Warren in the first segment: ‘Wow, I never should have done that.' But the problem is, a lot of times, by that point, it's too late."

[AD]"It's hard to take back stupid," Dr. Phil says.

San Quentin State Prison is one of the oldest and most notorious prisons in the country. They have designed a juvenile delinquency deterrent program called S.Q.U.I.R.E.S., San Quentin Utilization of Inmate Resources, Experiences and Studies, that pairs teen boys with inmates who have been trained by a licensed psychologist.


Dr. Phil addresses Chris and Brett. "If I was going to fly you guys up there, and let you spend some time at San Quentin and talk to some people, you think that would be of interest to you?"


The young men accept the challenge, and their families say they support the decision.