Scared Straight Analysis

Document Type:Research Paper

Subject Area:Criminology

Document 1

Empirically, it is still unclear whether the juvenile awareness programs are effective in the reduction of recidivism and prevention of criminal behaviors. The purpose of this research article is to determine whether there is sufficient empirical evidence to show the efficacy of these programs in crime prevention. The investigation entails a comprehensive review of literature that has examined scared straight as one of the juvenile awareness programs. Description of scared straight Scared straight involves organized visits by juvenile delinquents or other at-risk kids to the prison facilities for purposes of deterring them from delinquencies. The programs consist of confrontational rap sessions in which the adult inmates narrate graphic stories relating to the prison life to the juveniles. The participants get a chance to visit the inmates, interact with the adult inmates and get to observe first-hand prison life (Hale, 2010). these programs have become increasingly popular in various parts of the globe. Other methods that are less confrontational and more educational include includes the inmates sharing life stories with the juveniles and describing they made in their lives that eventually led to their imprisonment. The main aim of the scared straight program is to deter the individuals at risk by revealing the reality of incarceration to them. The basic premise behind these juvenile awareness programs is that juveniles who get an opportunity to observe prison life will be deterred from violating the law in future, in other terms, ‘scared straight'. However, the program lays emphasis on severity of punishment but neglects two critical components of the deterrence theory, namely, swiftness and certainty (Mears, 2007).

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Background In the 1970s, inmates who were serving life sentences in a prison in New Jersey started a program to ‘scare’ delinquent or at-risk children from having a future crime life (Petrosino, Turpin-Petrosino, & Buehler, 2003). The program which became known as scared straight featured an aggressive presentation by inmates to those juveniles visiting the prison facilities as its main component. The presentation depicted the life of adult inmates brutally and in most cases, included exaggerated stories of murder and rape. In 1979, a television documentary on the same program aired. It provided evidence that about sixteen to seventeen delinquents who were interviewed in the film were law-abiding for a period of three months after attending the program, and this was a 94% success rate. The program received favorable and considerable media attention and in a short time, it was replicated in over 30 jurisdictions in America and this resulted into special congressional hearings on the film and the program by the House Subcommittee on Human Resources of the United States.

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The underlying theory of the juvenile awareness programs such as scared straight is deterrence. Program advocates along with other proponents are of the opinion that the presentations by inmates and the realistic representations of life in prison would deter juvenile offenders or those children at risk of developing delinquent behaviors from any further participation in the crime. Even though the harsh presentation in the earlier version of New Jersey is the most prominent, inmate presentations are at times designed to be more educational rather than confrontational but having an akin crime prevention goal. For instance, juvenile delinquents were brought on a tour in Carson City, Nevada to an adult state prison in Nevada. One of the youngsters claimed that the part of the tour which made the most impact on him was the adult inmates calling them for sex and fighting over their belongings (Petrosino, Turpin-Petrosino, & Buehler, 2003).

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U-CAN (United Community Action Network) had its own program known as Wisetalk, in which the juvenile delinquents are locked up in jail cells for over an hour with about four to five paroles. Their assertion is that of the three hundred youths exposed to such an intervention, only ten were rearrested. In 2001, several guards, ostensibly without the administrators’ knowledge strip-searched students in Washington D. Interestingly, it reported similar results as those of the 1979 film. However, the 1999 version revealed that of the twelve juveniles who were attending the program, ten remained offense-free in a follow-up that lasted for three months. Just like in the 1979 documentary, no data on comparison or control group of the youngsters was reported. Positive descriptions along with reports of Scare Straight programs have been reported in other parts of Florida and Germany, though it is at times entrenched as a component in a juvenile intervention program that is multicomponent.

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Various researchers have found out that Scared Straight and other similar interventions typically increased crime rates by 1-28% as compared to no-treatment control groups (Petrosino et al. Additionally, studies with pre-delinquents and/or delinquents were incorporated. • Form of intervention Studies that featured a visit to prison facilities by program participants were included. Most of these programs included presentations by inmates that ranged from educational (Cook 1982) to graphic (Finckenauer1982). At times, the programs featured tours to the facility or orientation sessions (being a prisoner for at least eight hours). • Kinds of outcome measures The studies to be included in this review had to include no less than one outcome of the ensuing offending conducts, as measured by indices like contacts with police, arrests, self-reported offenses, and even convictions. Most of these included unpublished literature like government reports and dissertations and also published works.

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Searches were conducted online using the available university resources or other databases that are freely searchable through the internet. The bibliographic databases along with the years searched included: • Current Contents (from 1993 to 2015) • ERIC (starting from 1996 to 2017) • Criminal Justice Abstracts (between 1968 and September 2013) • Political Sciences Abstracts (1975-2018) • Education Full text (1983-2016) • Dissertation Abstracts (1981-2016) Apart from the previously mentioned databases, the search was extended to: • Criminal Justice Abstracts • ERIC (specifically pro-quest) • HeinOnline • Academic Search Premier • Google Scholar • Sociological Abstracts • SCOPUS Science Direct Furthermore, forward searches of all previous narrative and systematic reviews, as well as included studies, were carried out using Google Scholar for the identification of studies that referenced the original pieces of literature. Data Collection and analysis A specifically designed tool was utilized in the extraction of data from the six main study reports.

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The data collection tool includes items like type of document, year published, location of study, evidence about the success of the randomization, any randomization problems, number of participants in the treatment group, number of individuals in the control group, the type of prison environment, study attrition problems, percentage of people of color in the study, severity of participants’ previous offence record, average age of subjects in the study, types of collected outcomes: criminal or non-criminal (such as health and educational), total follow-up measurements of the outcome variables, as well as specific crime outcome information for both the control and experimental groups at every interval. There was diverse racial composition across all the six studies with the percentage of whites ranging from 36-84%. Nearly 700 young adults or juvenile took part in the experimental studies.

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Most of the studies focused on delinquent youths who had already been in contact with the juvenile justice system. Except for Vreeland (1981), all the other experiments involved simple two-group experiments. Only Cook and Spirrison (1992) used quasi-random alternative approaches in assigning participants while the remaining studies claimed that they used randomization even though a few were explicit on how the assignments were conducted. He also pointed out that program participants committed more grave criminalities. On the other hand, Lewis (1983) reported that 81% of the participants were arrested in comparison with 67% in the controls. He also revealed that the program performed poorer with serious delinquents. Locke et al. involved delinquents aged 14-19. Considering the string suggestions in these studies that the Scared Straight and other juvenile awareness programs have harmful effects, a dilemma is raised for the policymakers.

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The programs resulted in augmented misery to the ordinary citizens coming from the additional criminal victimization they created as compared to doing nothing. For these reasons, policymakers should enact measures to establish a research infrastructure in their jurisdictions that will evaluate criminological interventions rigorously to ensure that they cause no harm to the citizens they were meant to help. Conclusion Based on the juvenile awareness programs and Scared Straight experiments that were conducted in the six studies, one cannot say with certainty all such programs will be unsuccessful or even worse, have harmful impacts on the juvenile participants. However, prior evidence shows a greater probability that there will be more harm than good. Overall, Scared Straight interventions are not only ineffective but also potentially harmful to the juvenile delinquents. References Aos, S.

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Phipps, P. Barnoski, R. Lieb, R. Lilienfeld, S. O. Lynn, S. J. Ruscio, J. Buehler, J. Scared Straight and other juvenile awareness programs for preventing juvenile delinquency: A systematic review of the randomized experimental evidence.  The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 589(1), 41-62. Petrosino, A. Turpin‐Petrosino, C.  The Oxford handbook of crime prevention. Oxford University Press. Studies Cook, D. D. Spirrison, C. Locke, T. P. Johnson, G. M. Kirigin-Ramp, K. C.  Evaluation of JOLT as a deterrence program. Program Bureau, Michigan Department of Corrections.

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