Presentation Proposal

Beyond Scared Straight is an hour long show on A&E that follows at-risk teens during their visit at a local jail or prison.  These teens range in age from 11-19 and have been getting into trouble for drinking, fighting, doing drugs and engaging in other illegal or harmful activities.  During their visit, these teens get a first-hand look at how life is “behind bars.”  Inmates and correctional officers threaten and intimidate these teens to show them that they need to veer from the destructive path that they are on.

This show has gotten a lot of mixed reviews from the public.  On the one hand, there are many who applaud the show and the various “behind bars” programs that exist in the United States.  They feel that the show and such programs help our youth change their ways for the better.  On the other hand, there are many who feel that the show portrays a program that is not effective.  They claim that studies show that those teens who participate in such programs are more prone to a life of crime.

Do such controversies help with ratings?  I want to explore how shows such as Beyond Scared Straight gain popularity among viewers.  What makes this show so popular?  Are people simply curious about America’s prison system?  Do people enjoy watching delinquent teens suffer and squirm?  Or is the show popular because people care to learn that the lives of these law-breaking reckless juveniles get turned around for the better?  I will conduct a literature review, explore the show’s discussion boards, get fans’ perspectives and attempt to speak with producers from the show to gain more insight.

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