HAGERSTOWN, Md.—Maryland and California prison officials said Friday they have suspended youthful offender diversion programs featured on the television show “Beyond Scared Straight” after the U.S. Justice Department warned they could lose federal funding.
The A&E series, which started Jan. 13, is produced by Arnold Shapiro, maker of the Emmy- and Oscar-winning 1979 television special, “Scared Straight.” Like that show, it documents visits by troubled teenagers to prisons where intimidating inmates deliver in-your-face lectures about the harshness of life behind bars.
The Justice Department says a study of nine such programs concluded they don’t deter teenagers from offending. In fact, the youths were more likely to offend in the future, according to Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson and Jeff Slowikowski, acting administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
“In light of this evidence, the U.S. Department of Justice discourages the funding of scared straight-type programs. States that operate such programs could have their federal funding reduced if shown not to have complied with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act,” the federal officials wrote in an op-ed piece published Monday in The Baltimore Sun.