Last week, the fourth season of the A&E TV show “Beyond Scared Straight” followed two young sisters to the adult jail in Douglas County, Ga., where one inmate tells one of the sisters how she could beat her up “and make you not so pretty no more.” Plenty of critics pan the show, saying it publicizes a discredited, harmful practice, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.
Neither Georgia nor the federal government will fund such jail tour programs, citing both evidence that it doesn't work and the liabilities jails take on when they invite minors to meet with inmates. Nancy Gannon Hornberger of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice said there's not a shred of evidence that scared straight-type jail tours work. Anthony Petrosino of WestEd, who has studied “Scared Straight,” said, “This program doesn't have any positive effect and it may very well hurt the kids that are in the program.” Prof. Del Elliott of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado said, “We've got a real serious ethical [problem] here. We've got a TV production that's promoting a program which is doing harm to our children.” Elliott called for the show to be taken off the air.