Violence Prevention Programs Move Beyond ‘Scared Straight’

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Miriam Krinsky believes that, in order to change a young life in a positive way, threats don’t work. Teens need solutions, not fear, she says, and intervention programs for teens like those featured on the A&E Network’s controversial series “Beyond Scared Straight” only provide fear.

Without “filling the void in that person’s life with a positive solution, you’re not going to be able to address the root causes,” said Krinsky, a policy consultant on youth violence prevention and juvenile justice issues for The California Endowment and a lecturer at the University of California Los Angeles’ School of Public Affairs.

“Many who end up in the [juvenile] justice system … have challenges in their home life,” Krinsky said. “They often turn to drugs or gangs as an outlet. … And if you really want to change that individual’s behavior and their inclination to engage in criminal activity, you have to try and look for a lasting remedy.” In Krinsky’s opinion, Scared Straight-style programs don’t do that.

For the third season in a row, “Beyond Scared Straight” is disregarding experts such as Krinksy and even the U.S. Justice Department, which discourages the use of the so-called prevention methods the show highlights.

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