Bad Teens, Smug Hacks and Good TV: The Success and Legacy of Scared Straight!
- 63 Downloads
The in-your-face approach (literally) of Scared Straight! has made an indelible impact on the shape of prison representation and the public discussion around juvenile delinquency and prison more generally. Its impact and approach have been cyclically reinforced with Scared Straight! Another Story (1980), Scared Straight! 10 Years Later (1987), Scared Straight! 20 Years Later (1999) and Beyond Scared Straight (2011–2015). After the original Scared Straight! aired, prison systems in several states initiated similar programs to discourage juvenile delinquency; the Scared Straight! model persists today despite the inaccuracies of the statistics quoted in the film and research confirming its ineffectiveness at preventing incarceration. This chapter focuses on why Scared Straight! (1978) was successful. I argue that the Supreme Court’s approach to journalists’ access to prisons, the film’s focus on black aggression and the framing of Scared Straight! as a public service, all within the context of an increasingly competitive televisual landscape, are key to understanding the success and impact of Scared Straight!
- Bernstein, Lee. 2010. America Is the Prison: Arts and Politics in Prison in the 1970s. University of North Carolina America Press.Google Scholar
- Department of Justice: Bureau of Prisons. 1972. The Official Report of the New York State Special Commission on Attica. Moving Images 129.BOP.27, 2VHS Transfers.Google Scholar
- Foucault, Michel. 1995. Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Gavin, Patricia, and James O. Finckenauer. 1999. Scared Straight: The Panacea Problem Revisited. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
- Langan, Patrick. 1991. Race of Prisoners Admitted to State and Federal Institutions, 1926–1986. NCJ-125618, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/125618.pdf.
- Lee, Margulies. 1978. “TELEVISION REVIEW.” Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File): 3, November 2. ProQuest. Accessed October 5, 2014.Google Scholar
- O’Connnor, John J. 1979. “TV: ‘Scared Straight,’ Documentary.” New York Times (1923–Current File): 1, March 8. ProQuest. Accessed October 5, 2014.Google Scholar
- Owen, Rob. 1999. “‘Scared Straight!’ Again—TV Producer Returns to Prison for 20th Anniversary of Documentary [Sooner Edition].” Pittsburgh Post—Gazette, April 14. E–5. Print.Google Scholar
- Shales, Tom. 1979. “SCARED STRAIGHT! AN Ex-Con Takes Teen-Agers and TV Viewers Behind a Few Forbidding Bars.” The Washington Post, March 8. LexisNexis. Accessed October 4, 2014.Google Scholar
- Smith, Caleb. 2009. The Prison and the American Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Surette, Ray. 2015. Media, Crime and Criminal Justice. Stamford: Cengage Learning.Google Scholar