Lessons from A&E TV: ‘Beyond Scared Straight’



Published on December 30, 2011

Growing up, many of us have made countless mistakes; some ten times detrimental than others.  Even so, the chance for change is always possible.  But how does one come to the decision to make this change?

On A&E’s television show, “Beyond Scared Straight,” they follow a group of kids who made such mistakes that landed them in the hands of the law.  The “new approach” to keeping these teens from continuing life on a downhill includes scare tactics.  Leaded to a penitentiary with CO’s for guides, protection, and “harsh love,” most of the inmates yell, scream, and threaten of rape and violence to incite fear into the juveniles.  The show has become a hit because of its unruly presentation.  But is it effective?

It is commendable to see many of the inmates step up to the plate to speak on their life choices and their regrets.  It’s definitely a frightening experience and heartbreaking to hear many of the stories, but the question remains whether or not the experience is strong enough to hold a lasting effect.

The show, which sets out to change lives, has a debatable approach.  While the horrible food, the threatening company, and the lack of freedom may scare many of the teens, for those who are already immersed in a violent and threatening environment, it can serve as a reinforcement for the stubborn that they could survive there too, if needed.  It’s for this same reason, including reinforcement of violence, that many State bootcamps have been outlawed and disregarded.

At the end of each show, it gives a month’s notice update after their encounter.  While most of the participants at the time report of change, it’s apparent through their year-long follow-ups online, that the show may not be nearly as effective as advertised.

To truly change a life, one must surround their self around those who have or are striving to as you.  For these teens, the missing tactic from the equation may be putting them in contact with an ex-convict who has already reached success and is dedicated to reform.  Possibly, they’re lacking an active role model.  If you surround yourself around someone similar to you, who has overcame what you are battling, the true victory comes from knowing it’s possible to leave the life you currently live.

‘Watch the company you keep’ is a saying that goes for all.  Even if you have never been near a police precinct or even in a detention hall, if you keep yourself around like-minded individuals who are determined to win legally and rightfully, there’s no greater gift.  Motivation from friends and family is a huge factor in one’s success.  Try to move beyond being scared straight; strive to be living beyond expectations.

Do you find the show effective?  What would you recommend for anyone on a downhill spiral?

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