7.9/10
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15 user 9 critic

Scared Straight! (1978)

The filmed depiction of a program where convicts tell troubled kids about the horrors of prison life.

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Himself - Host
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Doug Cronin
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Storyline

This film shows the Scared Straight program that has hardened convicts from maximum security prisons tell their stories about the truth about prison life in order to convince kids that no crime is worth the risk of being incarcerated Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@execulink.com>

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Crime | Documentary

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1978 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Was broadcast uncensored when aired on television in the late 1970s. For many commercial broadcasters, this was the first time the f-word was willingly allowed on TV. See more »

Quotes

Convict: You know if you get up and touch one of them shoes, I'm gonna break my leg off in your ass.
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Connections

Referenced in Robot Chicken: Beastmaster and Commander (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Powerful Documentary
4 September 2001 | by (Cleveland, Ohio USA) – See all my reviews

In order to get a young teen with a long history of crime and committed to a continued future in that area to completely turn around and choose to "go straight"--all within a time frame of under three hours--you know such a transformation must be very powerful, if not miraculous.

What could possibly take place within so short a time to prompt 16 out of 17 young subjects kick their criminal habits, without a hand being laid on them? Hypnotism? Some form of brain-washing technique? An invisible laser- wave bombardment?

Actually, none of these, only words . . . powerful phrases spoken often at maximum volume by volunteers from a maximum security cell block of the Rahway State Prison in New Jersey.

Without laying a hand their subjects, "hardened" convicts serving 30 year to life sentences, share the truth about prison life in harsh, gross details, leaving nothing to the imagination.

In a demonstration of emotional response, the youths are ordered to remove their shoes, which are pitched into a center pile. A volounteer inquires how the group feels when robbed of their possessions, pointing out that that's also how their robbery victims feel.

The manner in which the documentary is presented positions the viewer as a intimate participant in this moving exercise. One can feel the emotional intensity of the experience, as volunteers expose some of the terror of prison life which awaits these potential inmates.

It's not an easy experience to sit through, and the uncensored language may be too harsh or harrowing for some viewers. Too, the 50-minute documentary may seem much longer, because on the intensity of the subject.

However, the statistical 90% success-rate of this "scare-tactic" program is astounding. The volunteers benefit from their doing something constructive in helping to turn young lives around. The youths benefit from their changed attitude and altered life choices.

Academy Award Winner of Best Documentary in 1978, this Arnold Shapiro written and directed short, now on VHS, remains as chillingly compelling today as when first shown. Rahway is a model for similar potential programs across the country. The public is indebted to the gifts of these volunteers, who are completely in charge of creating and running this unique "scared-straight" program. Peter Falk is the effective narrator.


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