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"Scared Straight" and Other Juvenile Awareness Programs for Prevention Juvenile Delinquency

NCJ Number
Anthony Petrosino; Carolyn Turpin-Petrosino; John Buehler
Date Published

This review assesses the effect of “scared straight,” and other similar programs on criminal behaviors by juvenile delinquents or children at risk of committing crimes.


This document summarizes findings from nine experimental studies conducted in the U.S., with a total of 946 participants which included juveniles and young adults between the ages of 14 and 20 years. The review assesses the effect of “scared straight” interventions, and other similar programs, on criminal behaviors by juvenile delinquents as well as children at risk of committing crimes. Results indicated that “scared straight” interventions caused more harm than lack of action did. The authors report that the nine studies examined provided no evidence for the effectiveness of these intervention programs on subsequent delinquency, and analysis of seven of the studies showed that the intervention significantly increased the odds of both first offenses as well as repeat offenses. The authors conclude that these intervention programs are likely to have a harmful effect and increase delinquency compared to doing nothing, and “scared straight” programs cannot be recommended as a crime prevention strategy.