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NCJ Number: 77008 Find in a Library
Title: Scared Straight! - Controversy Surrounds Inmate Program
Journal: Youth Forum  Volume:3  Issue:2  Dated:special issue (Summer 1979)  Pages:1-6,8
Author(s): J W Corrigan
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 6
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The controversy surrounding the Juvenile Awareness Project run by the Lifers' Group at Rahway State Prison in New Jersey and the television film 'Scared Straight' is discussed.
Abstract: This group of articles is intended to provide useful information and viewpoints for juvenile justice professionals and interested citizens who must make decisions about such inmate-run programs. The film introduced the Rahway program to television viewers and promoted the 'scared straight' approach, suggesting that 80 to 90 percent of the youths who participated were discouraged from pursuing criminal careers. The concept of inmates showing youths, in the prison environment, the rewards of criminal behavior had an instant public appeal for its promise of simplicity, apparent low cost, and its constructive use of prisoners whose lives have otherwise been wasted by incarceration. Critics have attacked the concept as an unrealistic panacea for a complex problem, criticized its authoritarian approach and potential for violating juvenile rights, and suggested that it might cause psychological harm. They have also expressed concern that it might be used as a justification for the existence of maximum security programs. One article explains that this criticism has been a factor in the New Jersey Department of Corrections' decision to place new restrictions on the project. Nondelinquents are now being excluded from the program, and parents are being advised of its uncertain status. The results are also reported of a Rutgers University study that showed that youths who attended the program had more subsequent trouble with the law than those in a control group who did not attend. Also presented are interviews with four program participants who found the program to be helpful in changing their lifestyles and in obtaining further community assistance. A reference list is not included.
Index Term(s): Inmate Programs; Juvenile delinquency prevention; New Jersey; Students
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