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Scared Straight?

Post by Kim Bradford on Dec. 3, 2006 at 6:52 am |
December 3, 2006 6:52 am

I turned up a curious little tidbit in researching today’s editorial on crime prevention among inmates released from prison.

Crime isn’t just bad; it’s expensive, both to victims and the taxpayers who must pay for prosecutors, police, prisons, etc. Lawmakers, social workers, criminologists and lots of other people are eager to find out what strategies actually work to prevent crime.

Te Washington State Institute for Public Policy summed up what works and what doesn’t in an October report (open the pdf and see page 9 for the list). For convicts to be released from prison, education is very effective, as is intensive supervision, counseling and drug treatment.

But there’s one strategy that isn’t effective: Scared Straight – a fad fueled by a 1978 movie, and adopted in various states, in which juvenile troublemakers are marched into jails or prisons and yelled at and lectured by hardened inmates in an attempt to scare them away from crime.

Not only does this not work, the Institute for Public Policy found – after reviewing the research – that Scared Straight actually increases crime. Not good. So much for another great idea that can’t fail but just happens to be precisely the wrong thing to do.

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