I looked up the ratings for each episode of the show to see what, if any impact the controversy may have had on the ratings.  What I found was that compared to other shows during the Thursday night time slot, Beyond Scared Straight was unfailingly fairing well.  It was consistently being ranked as being one of the top ten shows for the night.

I also noticed that ratings have been dropping with each new episode.  For example, Season 1 premiered with 3.7 million viewers, Season 2 premiered with 2.7 million and Season 3 premiered with 2.1 million viewers.  I do not believe this is necessarily in relation to the controversy.  I believe there are other outside factors that could explain for the drop in ratings.  It simply could be that the show is no longer a “new” concept and people have somewhat “grown tired” of the show.

After speaking with several fans of the show, I discovered that most people tuned in every week because they enjoyed watching the teens break down.  After getting a short introduction to each child at the beginning of the episode, they were curious as to how the program would effect each teen.  None of the fans were aware of the controversy and were somewhat shocked to hear that states were taking steps to suspend the programs.  Each person I spoke with felt that the program did more good than harm and that these at-risk teens needed to get such “harsh” reality checks because obviously more subtle means had proven less successful.  None of the fans I spoke with agreed with officials wanting to pull the plug on the programs.  They all believed that the show has proven that the programs do offer high success rates and that even if one teen was saved, it was worth the time and effort of all those involved.

Though there are many arguments for and against the program, government officials have decided that the programs have proven ineffective and such programs should cease running.  The government relies on studies and select organizations/individuals to advise them in policy making.  An overwhelming number of studies have shown that such juvenile awareness programs do more harm than good for teens and our society.  Studies show that the programs actually increase recidivism, decrease deterrence and may encourage deviant behaviors.  Studies have also found that such programs cause emotional and mental harm.  Juvenile advocacy groups have gathered together and created petitions asking A&E to cancel the show.  They believe airing the show helps promote a program that does not work and encourages people to invest in programs that they shouldn’t.

I believe the main factor that has pushed states such as California and Maryland to suspend their programs is the fact that the programs may violate federal laws, which prohibit court-involved youth from being detained, confined or otherwise having contact with adult inmates in jails and prisons.  Funding is very important to correctional facilities.  If they do not obey federal laws, these facilities may face fines and a drastic cut in funding.  In fear of losing funding, I believe states have begun suspending the scared straight programs and turned to conducting meticulous evaluations of such programs.


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