‘Beyond Scared Straight’ Renewed for Second Season

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“Beyond Scared Straight,” a popular and controversial cable television reality show that was criticized by Department of Justice officials for depicting a program that repeated evaluations have shown doesn’t work, will return for a second season.

The series, which shows groups of youths who are taken to adult prison in an effort  to scare them away from misbehavior and delinquency, will resume on Aug. 18, the A&E cable network announced on its website yesterday.

Scared straight programs first garnered national attention in 1978 when Arnold Shapiro, who produces the series for A&E, filmed a documentary about the strategy.

But research has shown that scared straight programs are not effective in curbing errant juvenile behavior, and in some cases has been connected to higher rates of delinquency. When Shapiro’s current series premiered in January, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice criticized the cable network A&E for airing the program.

“There is absolutely no basis for pointing to it as a helpful approach,” CJJ Executive Director Nancy Gannon Hornberger said at the time. “The idea of scaring youth into good behavior has been soundly disproven. We urge A&E to point, instead, to productive approaches that truly address and eliminate causes of delinquency.”

In late January, two Justice Department officials - Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Laurie Robinson and Jeff Slowikowski, acting administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention - published an opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun saying that scared straight programs are ineffective and may put states out of compliance with federal standards on juvenile justice.

By February, two of the three states involved in season one – California and Maryland – had stopped permitting scared straight programs.

The A&E announcement does not mention the states’ programs will be featured in season two, except to note that the season premiere will take place at the Mecklenburg County Jail in Charlotte, N.C.