Amid Continuing Controversy, Beyond Scared Straight Set to Begin Second Season

Print More

beyond-scared-straight_320The second season of “Beyond Scared Straight” begins Thursday night and with it come renewed questions about its effectiveness. The reality program follows at-risk teens as they are threatened, screamed at, and harassed by prison inmates in an attempt to get them to change their ways. The show was A&E Network’s most watched debut in its history with 3.7 million viewers.

As JJIE reported at the time of the show’s debut in January, juvenile justice experts are concerned the show may be sending the wrong message. They point to studies that say scared straight-style programs are not only ineffective, but also counter-productive.

Joe Vignati is the head of justice programs at the Governor’s Office for Children and Families in Georgia. In January, he wrote in an op-ed on JJIE.org that “the research is clear, once the trauma of Scared Straight has worn off, meta-analysis shows that this intervention actually INCREASES the odds of offending compared to a no-treatment control group.”

scared_straight_seriesThe program's producer, Arnold Shapiro, claims the studies are wrong. He says current scared straight programs incorporate counseling along with the yelling making them more beneficial.

“Academic studies don’t work,” Shapiro told JJIE in January.  “It’s all about follow-up.  I’ve done more follow-up than anyone. Scared Straight: 20 Years Later is the longest study ever done.”

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges issued a statement in January claiming, “’Beyond Scared Straight’ misrepresents the effectivenesss of such interventions with youthful offenders . . . It is clear these types of interventions as portrayed are neither developmentally appropriate nor trauma-informed.”

3 thoughts on “Amid Continuing Controversy, Beyond Scared Straight Set to Begin Second Season

  1. Effective is more effort from parents to give their children the right message in the first place. There are positive programs that involved leadership, team work, and love…..

    • A quote from the Baltimore Sun article:
      “In contrast to the claims of proponents, Mr. Petrosino and his colleagues found that these programs did not deter teenage participants from offending; in fact, they were more likely to offend in the future. Across the evaluated programs, participants were up to 28 percent more likely to offend than youths who didn’t participate.”

      Statistics can be made to say anything. I would be interested to know the previous records of the kids that participate versus those that don’t. Would those kids have been more likely to re-offend anyway? Keep in mind, the kids that are participating in these programs are kids that have repeatedly offended in the past, and other attempts to change their behavior haven’t worked. How is it determined that the program makes them more likely to re-offend, as opposed to that being their propensity in the first place?