Criminal justice is a very important component of the legal system of any country and as such there is need for closer look at the systems that ensures perpetrators of criminal acts whether the adults or minors are properly punished and rehabilitated to avoid the recurrence of the same acts. This process however becomes difficult when it comes to the minor offenders that are taken to juvenile prisons. It’s important that the government of any country puts in place measures that can deal with cases of criminal offences that serve justice to both the offenders and victims and also encourage deterrence measures. This paper will explore the scared straight program which has become one of the common programs in the US and relates to the direct engagement with juvenile convicts with adult offenders to enhance a criminal justice system. The will particularly evaluate how it can be used to assess criminal justice system and the ethical concerns that may affect its operation.
The scared straight method gained popularity in the US in the 1970s when there was call for efforts to minimize the way wide behaviors by the inmates in the juvenile prisons. This was one of the approaches of combating more serious criminal acts by the inmates. The program mainly used direct heart to heart engagements with the juvenile in mates. This was one of the most effective way of changing the behavior of the inmates and creates a more positive perception about the prison life. The program was initially roled out in New Jersey prison but later became the norm of many jurisdictions especially across the US. This idea however became a flop in other jurisdictions with notable ones being the Jackson state prison where a six month study on the inmates indicated minimal change of behavior among those who were taken through the program and those who did not participate (Hagan, 2010).the challenges of the application of the scared straight program therefore led to a lot of brainstorming as to what could be the best way to apply it to evaluate criminal justice among the juvenile.
It must however be recognized that scared straight program is a brilliant idea that can lead to tremendous results due to its interactive nature and in this case it’s the best way of changing the behavior of the inmates and hence there is need to fully make use of the idea. This can be done through a well organized mode of application as discussed below.
A study conducted by the department of sociology and criminal justice and Bridge Water College revealed that the interventions by conducted in form of scared straight method led to more harmful results than just doing nothing and this was a clear pointer towards better methods of conducting the program to derive results. The authors of the study were still convinced that the scared straight method was still important in rehabilitation programs of the juvenile convicts and other criminal offenders. There is therefore need for rigorous research to determine the kind of treatments and interventions administered to these people leads to positive results. One of the key factors in this study was that the prisoner’s experiences and direct engagements can be an excellent way do changing their behavior and this will be lead to reduced criminal acts among the inmates. This could be achieved better through the scared straight methods. The visit by the minor juveniles to the adult prisons will clearly give them an experience of what they would expect should they continue with criminal acts and this is a wonderful way of changing their perception.
The minors who commit crime needs a lot of guidance and counseling process and this must be the responsibility of all members of the society. Apart from visits to the adult prisons where they will see the outcomes of criminal acts they must also get the services of nurses and professional counselors who should make frequent visits to them and try to show them the right things to do. One of the major causes of deviance and criminal acts by the minors is drug abuse and negative peer influence hence the direct engagement by the professional should attempt to inform them about the dangers of drug abuse and bad company. This will definitely make the program more successful.
The schools have a greater role to play in the rehabilitation of the minor juveniles and hence the school curriculum must be designed in a particular way that it addresses the causes of criminal offences. The school should particularly develop proper communication skills among the children to enable them to be free to talk about their problems at school and in their homes. Social competency and critical thinking skills will also work positively in influencing their decision making abilities and the school must set specific norms and values that will apply to all the students and they must be enforced by the teachers (Chambliss, 2011).
The social engagements must also make the police and law enforcement agents as part and parcel of the scared straight program and hence the program will be inclusive with all stakeholders given the opportunity to freely discuss the problem. The initial idea only included the minor offenders and adult prisoners but there is need for the juvenile offenders to be exposed to both sides of the divide so that they can be responsible in their future life. The main reasons why the scared straight method recorded little success is that minors were only subjected to negative experiences while the positive experiences from the police and other stakeholders could turn the table in the success of the program (Elrod & Ryder, 2009).
The harsh realities of being an adult prisoner cannot be encouraging at any cost and this can be a perfect opportunity to give the kids direct consequences of being in prison and apart from denied the freedom to travel, the brutality by fellow prisoners is an experience that no one would really want to go through. The program must therefore make to reflect these harsh realities and this will be a major deterrent factor to the minors. This process must however be rolled out to rest of the young generation at school and in homes. It’s however worth noting that minors in juvenile prisons may present lower reception levels to the experiences hence its important that this program is introduced to children before they become criminal offenders (Elrod & Ryder, 2009).
The scared straight method can therefore be effective but as discussed above it must be holistic in nature and must not be applied in isolation but needs to complement other interventions and its scope must be wide enough to cover both negative and positive experiences of the criminal life. The involvement of many stakeholders in the process will significantly change the perception. The program can therefore be major deterrent factor especially among the minors. Its effectiveness will therefore depend on the factors discussed above.
The application of the scared straight program has for several times proved to be a failure and a lot of research conducted in the US and other jurisdictions that have applied it shows negative results with Norway being another country that has unsuccessfully applied the program. The biggest concern that affects the program is the ethical issues that surround it.
Most minors that were put under the program especially those that were engaged directly with the adult prisoners were really subjected to unethical behaviors that could drastically change the perception of the children. The behaviors presented by the prisoners have been a major ethical breach that must not be exposed to the minor juvenile offenders. These acts therefore violate the ethical rights of the children who should not be exposed to such acts at a minor age. This ethical concern led to a lot of negative reaction from the members of the public and hence the program was abandoned in Norway in 1990s.
The minors needs proper guidance and counseling when it comes to issues of criminal justice and hence the conditions that the program subjects the children to have be criticized as the major causes of failure. The minors needs more friendly environment to allow them understand the real dangers of criminal act. The scared straight program has therefore seen little success since its inception due to the questionable unethical practices that it imposes on the minors (Siegel, 2008).
A youth justice system must be inclusive and cover all the stakeholders and hence a better program is needed to create youth justice and prevent crime among the minors. The scared straight method cannot therefore be used as a single program due to the ethical issues that surrounds its application.
Chambliss,J.W.(2011). Juvenile crime and justice. Los Angeles: Sage Reference.
Elrod,P.& Ryder,L.R.(2009). Juvenile justice: a social, historical, and legal
perspective.3rd ed. Sudbury, Mass. : Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Hagan,E.F.(2010). Introduction to criminology: theories, methods, and criminal
behavior.7th ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Siegel,L.J.(2008). Criminology. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.