"Scared Straight" and other juvenile awareness programs for preventing juvenile delinquency

  • Review
  • Intervention




'Scared Straight' and other programmes involve organised visits to prison by juvenile delinquents or children at risk for criminal behavior. programmes are designed to deter participants from future offending through first-hand observation of prison life and interaction with adult inmates. These programmes remain in use world-wide despite studies and reviews questioning their effectiveness.


To assess the effects of programmes comprising organised visits to prisons by juvenile delinquents (officially adjudicated or convicted by a juvenile court) or pre-delinquents (children in trouble but not officially adjudicated as delinquents), aimed at deterring them from criminal activity.

Search methods

Handsearching by the first author in identifying randomised field trials 1945-1993 relevant to criminology was augmented by structured searches of 16 electronic data bases, including the Campbell SPECTR database of trials and the Cochrane CCTR. Experts in the field were consulted and relevant citations were followed up.

Selection criteria

Studies that tested the effects of any program involving the organised visits of juvenile delinquents or children at-risk for delinquency to penal institutions were included. Studies that included overlapping samples of juvenile and young adults (e.g. ages 14-20) were included. We only considered studies that randomly or quasi-randomly (i.e. alternation) assigned participants to conditions. Each study had to have a no-treatment control condition with at least one outcome measure of "post-visit" criminal behavior.

Data collection and analysis

We report narratively on the nine eligible trials. We conducted one meta-analysis of post-intervention offending rates using official data. Information from other sources (e.g. self-report) was either missing from some studies or critical information was omitted (e.g. standard deviations). We examined the immediate post-treatment effects (i.e. "first-effects") by computing Odds Ratios (OR) for data on proportions of each group re-offending, and assumed both fixed and random effects models in our analyses.

Main results

The analysis show the intervention to be more harmful than doing nothing. The program effect, whether assuming a fixed or random effects model, was nearly identical and negative in direction, regardless of the meta-analytic strategy.

Authors' conclusions

We conclude that programmes like 'Scared Straight' are likely to have a harmful effect and increase delinquency relative to doing nothing at all to the same youths. Given these results, agencies that permit such programmes must rigorously evaluate them not only to ensure that they are doing what they purport to do (prevent crime) - but at the very least they do not cause more harm than good.



現身試法 (Scared Straight) 和其他預防青少年犯罪的青少年認知計畫



評估犯法青少年 (正式判刑或由少年法庭判決) ,或尚未犯罪者 (有問題但尚未正式被宣判為犯罪的孩童) 訪視監獄計畫,是否真有使他們不犯罪的效果。


以第一作者為關鍵字手動搜尋1945 – 1993年間、與犯罪學有關的隨機田野試驗,有架構地搜尋16個電子資料庫以強化搜尋結果(包含the Campbell SPECTR database of trials and the Cochrane CCTR.)。諮詢本領域專家且追蹤相關引用文獻。


收入任何安排青少年罪犯,或有犯罪風險的孩童,訪視制裁機關計畫的試驗。試驗包含重複的青少年和年輕人樣本 (14 – 20歲) 。我們只考慮隨機或半隨機 (交替 (alternation) 分配受試者的研究。每個試驗都需要無治療之控制組,和至少一個訪視後犯罪行為的結果評估。


我們以敘述的方式報告九個符合條件的試驗。用官方資料以統合分析 (metaanalysis) 分析介入後犯罪率。其它資料來源 (例如自己回報的) ,不是某些研究沒有納入,就是缺少重要資訊如標準差。我們計算各組再犯率的OR,以檢視訪視後立即效果 (第一手效果) 。分析中,我們使用固定和隨機影響模式。




我們的結論是像 ‘現身試法’ 這種計畫,與什麼都不做比起來,可能有害年輕人且增加犯罪率。由這些結果,許可這些計畫的組織,應該立即重新評估,以確保這些活動有達到初衷 (預防犯罪) ,且至少不要弊大於利。



此翻譯計畫由臺灣國家衛生研究院 (National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan) 統籌。


像 ‘現身試法’ 這種計畫,帶犯法青少年或可能犯罪的青年參觀監獄。這些計畫希望藉由少年犯罪親身觀察監獄生活和與成年囚犯互動,使少年不要犯罪。本回顧研究指出:這種計畫並不能預防犯罪,反而引起更多犯罪行為。核准這些計畫的政府官員,應重新評估,以確保這些活動不要對官員誓言保護的民眾造成更多傷害。

Plain language summary

Juvenile awareness programs for preventing juvenile delinquency

Programs like 'Scared Straight' involve organised visits to prison facilities by juvenile delinquents or children at risk for becoming delinquent. The programs are designed to deter participants from future offending by providing first-hand observations of prison life and interaction with adult inmates. Results of this review indicate that not only does it fail to deter crime, but it actually leads to more offending behavior. Government officials permitting this program need to adopt rigorous evaluation to ensure that they are not causing more harm to the very citizens they pledge to protect.