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Beyond Scared Straight
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this reality doc features troubled youth participating in prison inmate-run programs designed to frighten them into making better choices in their lives. The strong content featured here, which includes cursing ("bitch," "s--t"), threatening, and discussions of criminal behavior, is offered within the specific context of helping young people. That said, the U.S. Department of Justice has come out against some of the intimidation methods featured in the series and some states have shut these kinds of programs down in response. Parents may want to watch with their teens to discuss some of what they see here.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
BEYOND SCARED STRAIGHT, a documentary series inspired by the award-winning film Scared Straight, follows troubled tweens and teens as they participate in intensive inmate-run intervention programs designed to keep them from ending up in prison. Cameras roll as teens spend a day at a maximum-security penitentiary, where they are confronted by hardened inmates, spend time in cells, and talk to convicts about the negative choices teens are making and where those choices will take them. At the end of each episode, viewers learn whether the experience has had a lasting and positive impact on the teenagers’ lives.
Is it any good?
The series offers viewers a chance to see how inmate-run Scared Straight! programs from around the country use confrontation, information, and communication strategies to give adolescents a harsh reality check about what the real consequences will be if they continue to engage in behaviors like doing drugs, fighting, stealing, and other inappropriate and/or criminal activities. It also shows how even people behind bars can give back to their community.
The tough talking and unapologetically threatening behavior, violent images, and candid discussions about criminal activity featured here may be hard to take in, but it is offered within a very specific context. In the end, it shows how a disturbing but educational experience is being used in an attempt to change the lives of young people for the better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Scared Straight! Program. Do you think programs like these really help kids make better choices? Why do you think inmates participate in these programs?
Documentaries often deal with difficult topics and inappropriate behaviors. Is offering details about things like underage drinking, violence, and drug use always necessary to make a point? Are there alternatives? If so, what are they?
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