True Films

Scared Straight!


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In 1978 a bus-load of cocky juvenile delinquents are given a day off from school and sent to visit a federal maximum prison for an afternoon as a field trip. They are locked up for in a cell a half an hour. Then the designated “lifers” in jail proceed to scare the air out of the kids with a most graphic, explicit and X-rated picture of what awaits them inside and what their lives will be like if they stay on their current path. The kids, all hardened punks by 17, come out shaking. Like the documentary The Farm, it’s a picture of what to avoid. But unlike most films, it doesn’t stop there. The filmmakers return 20 years later. They track down each of the 15 kids and all of the convicts lifers and re-interview them to see what effect this encounter had. It is simply astounding that all but two of the kids turned their lives around 180 degrees after that one afternoon. It was the most important hours of their lives. Each person attributes the fact they are still alive to that brief meeting. It changes the lifers too. Even those who backslid have remarkable stories about what happened in those few minutes. The film is moving. It gives hope. And the movie itself is almost as good as a visit by lifers. Show it to a kid at risk that you know.

– KK

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Scared Straight!
Directed by Arnold Shapiro
1978, 90 min.
$11, DVD

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Posted November 11, 2005 at 5:00 am | comments



Comments
  • Ed

    There is more follow up to this. In the year 2010, Angelo Speziale was convicted of the rape and murder of his neighbor, Michele Mika, which occurred in 1982. Angelo was a participant on the original Scared Straight! film; the murder occurred some five year later. Angelo’s conviction was based on DNA evidence obtained after a shoplifting conviction.

    Clearly, there is no silver bullet for juvenile delinquency, and this unusual conviction shows the Scared Straight! model was a bit less effective than we originally thought.