Juvenile Court Judges Blast “Beyond Scared Straight”

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scared_straight_seriesThe National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is calling on the A&E network to present the facts about the new show called “Beyond Scared Straight.”   The judges are joining a chorus of experts who warn that Scared Straight tactics do not work on at-risk kids, and may actually harm them.

The  show debuted on the A&E cable network in January. It is the fourth incarnation of a theatrical film and television series that takes children inside adult prisons in an attempt to scare them away from a life of crime.

JJIE.org has interviewed national experts and reviewed at least ten research studies that say Scared Straight programs are ineffective and a waste of money.

Here’s the full statement from the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges:

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is concerned that the A&E program "Beyond Scared Straight" misrepresents the effectiveness of such interventions with youthful offenders. Although advertisements for the show claim Scared Straight! is "an effective juvenile prevention/intervention program," social science research clearly demonstrates the opposite. In fact, research strongly suggests Scared Straight! and similar programs have a harmful impact on youth and are associated with increased risk for continued delinquent/criminal behaviors. Further, it is clear these types of interventions as portrayed are neither developmentally appropriate nor trauma-informed.

The NCJFCJ joins the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and other leaders in juvenile justice and child welfare to call on A&E to provide a meaningful opportunity to present the facts around Scared Straight! and similar programs, and to help inform the public about evidence-based practices and programs for youthful offenders.

Catch up on the controversy, and read what producer Arnold Shapiro says in this full report from JJIE.org.

One thought on “Juvenile Court Judges Blast “Beyond Scared Straight”

  1. Let’s say you are making an important decision-
    Buying a car, refinancing your house, choosing a personal care physician.
    Choose any of these.

    How does one proceed?
    You collect the pertinent information, you weigh your options, and being a logical person, you choose what makes sense so that you get your desired outcome in the most efficient, effective way possible.
    In short, you do the best to put yourself in a position to make an informed decision.

    Would you trust your automobile to a mechanic who only fixes cars 10% of the time?
    Would you knowingly choose a mechanic who not only doesn’t fix the leaky radiator but also damages the engine?

    That is what you are doing by choosing Scared Straight programming.

    This approach does not work with children.
    Scared Straight makes it MORE likely that they will offend.
    This is not an article of faith, it is a statement of fact.
    And it is important to share the full story with the public.
    Here are the ALL facts and allow them to make an informed decision.
    The Beyond Scared Straight show is not giving the viewing public the full story.

    Children are different than adults.
    The law (and science) recognizes this fact and provides for differential treatment.
    Scared Straight programming flies in the face of that knowledge.

    Please don’t just take my word for this.
    Consider the just announced position taken by the national organization of family and juvenile court judges:

    National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

    http://www.ncjfcj.org/content/view/1372/347/

    1/27/11 — The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is concerned that the A&E program “Beyond Scared Straight” misrepresents the effectiveness of such interventions with youthful offenders. Although advertisements for the show claim Scared Straight! is “an effective juvenile prevention/intervention program,” social science research clearly demonstrates the opposite. In fact, research strongly suggests Scared Straight! and similar programs have a harmful impact on youth and are associated with increased risk for continued delinquent/criminal behaviors. Further, it is clear these types of interventions as portrayed are neither developmentally appropriate nor trauma-informed.

    The NCJFCJ joins the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and other leaders in juvenile justice and child welfare to call on A&E to provide a meaningful opportunity to present the facts around Scared Straight! and similar programs, and to help inform the public about evidence-based practices and programs for youthful offenders.

    Why would jurists (whose job it is to see to the rehabilitation of children while protecting public safety) take this position unless there were serious problems with Scared Straight?

    Most respectfully,

    J