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Scared Straight and Other Juvenile Awareness Programs for Preventing Juvenile Delinquency: A Systematic Review of the Randomized Experimental Evidence

Anthony Petrosino, Carolyn Turpin-Petrosino and John Buehler
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 589, Misleading Evidence and Evidence-Led Policy: Making Social Science More Experimental (Sep., 2003), pp. 41-62
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3658560
Page Count: 22
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Scared Straight and Other Juvenile Awareness Programs for Preventing Juvenile Delinquency: A Systematic Review of the Randomized Experimental Evidence
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Abstract

Scared Straight and other programs involve organized visits to prison facilities by juvenile delinquents or at-risk kids to deter them from delinquency. Despite several research studies and reviews questioning their effectiveness, they remain in use and have now been tried in at least six nations. The authors report here on the results of a systemaic review of randomized experimental tests of this program. Studies that tested any program involving the organized visits of delinquents or at-risk children to penal institutions were included. Each study had to have a no-treatment control condition with at least one outcome measure of "postvisit" criminal behavior. Using extensive search methods, the authors located nine randomized trials meeting eligibility criteria. After describing the studies and appraising their methodological quality, the authors present the narrative findings from each evaluation. A meta-analysis of prevalence rates indicates that the intervention on average is more harmful to juveniles than doing nothing. The authors conclude that governments should institute rigorous programs of research to ensure that well-intentioned treatments do not cause harm to the citizens they pledge to protect.

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