The Coalition for Juvenile Justice, a national association of governor-appointed state advisory groups, is critical of the A&E series “Beyond Scared Straight,” which began airing last week. The series highlights an intervention that purports to turn children and youth away from delinquent and criminal behavior. In fact, such approaches, the coalition said, have been shown to have the opposite of the desired effect and to increase delinquency. Started years ago with good intentions, 'Scared Straight' approaches have now been well-evaluated and shown to have a damaging rather than positive impact, said David Schmidt, chair of the coalition and president of the New Mexico Council on Crime and Delinquency.
Schmidt said that, “research makes it clear that youth exposed to adult inmates, particularly in prison or jail settings, are at heightened risk of emotional harm and anxiety and receive harmful messages that lead to increased potential for them to commit delinquent offenses.” The broadcast industry trade press reported that premiere of Beyond Scared Straight was watched by 3.7 million viewers, becoming the most-watched original series premiere in the network's history. Nancy Gannon Hornberger, the coalition's director, said that A&E had not responded to requests to talk about the organization's objections to the series.