The evolution of scared straight programs started after the 1978 documentary, directed by Arnold Shapiro, aired on television. It showed a group of juvenile delinquents in Rahway State Prison being berated by prisoners. The purpose of the documentary was to deter other juveniles from making bad decisions and ending up in jail amongst the awry prisoners. The director and producer thought that if the television audience saw the documentary, it would be enough to discourage future criminal behavior. After the original documentary aired in the late 1970s, three remakes aired; one in 1980, one in 1987 and another one in 1999.
According to Strategiesforyouth.com, scared straight is a program that brings at-risk youth into an adult prison where they are confronted by inmates. The program includes prison tours, personal stories from inmates and the integration of youth into the prison population (2012). The point of these programs is to scare juveniles away from crime-how officials have decided to do that is to bring at-risk youth into prisons where they can take a tour and submerge themselves into the prison life for a couple of hours. A couple of hours spent in a jail is supposed to make a big enough impression on the youth to direct them away from a life of deviancy and help them straighten their lives out.
One, if the only, biggest pro about these programs is the cost. It is very economical and inexpensive. There wasn't any recent data on the cost to run a scared straight program that I could find on the internet, but in 2001, a report by Aos and colleagues estimated that it was $51 per participant to run a juvenile awareness program (Wilson 2012). As of 2011, the Federal government refuses to give any monetary donations to any Scared Straight program or program with a similar framework. After a few big studies had come out stating that Scared Straight programs are hindering youth instead of helping, the government cut back on their financial help warning them to fix the problems before they were going to support them any further.