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Scared Straight! (1978)

 |  Crime, Documentary  |  1978 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 580 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 9 critic

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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Credited cast:
Himself - Host
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Doug Cronin


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 <>

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Crime | Documentary





Release Date:

1978 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


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 »


Ali: I'm here for murder, kidnappin', robbery, armed-robbery, conspiracy, breakin' the dude's jaw and breakin' his fuckin' woman's both her gottdam arms! But fuck what's happenin' to me! It's whats' happenin' to juveniles we're concerned about.
See more »


Referenced in Anything But Love: Scared Straight (1989) See more »

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User Reviews

Powerful and Disturbing...
17 August 2003 | by (Portugal) – See all my reviews

I first watched Scared Straight when i was 15 - it was a powerful experience, the level of profanity wasn't what disturbed me, but the raw honesty of the convicts' words...

Scared Straight is about a group of teens who've had trouble with the law and are considering taking a life of crime as a future career - at the beginning, they're all interviewed, and it's sad and pathetic to hear them boast about how they steal things, beat people up, drink a lot and take drugs - and all in a very relaxed, self-indulging tone, like they're actually proud of it...

They give an image of tough kids who can survive the streets, get beaten and strike back ten times worst, capable of murdering to survive even... at first they don't take seriously their trip to Rawhay, a Penitentiary, where they'll visit convicts and see things teens so young shouldn't have to see ever... they mock the convicts at first, talking how they're going there just to skip school for one day and have a good laugh with the poor convicts...

That changes when they get in Rawhay - in their first minutes, they're subjected to convicts who shout and insult from their cells at them, making sexual proposals and threatening to kill them... that's their first experience in jail...

Scared Straight reaches its heights when the kids are confronted with several convicts who are doing 25 years or more, in a room... then they're all alone, and we see each convict having their time telling them about life in jail...

It's not pretty - rape, murder, theft, spanking, loneliness, humiliations, degradation, the use of people as property to buy and sell, and can be worth only on cigarette; some convicts have to live alone least they get killed out of some petty revenge, others have to kill to survive... the guards won't help; if you ask for their help, you'll get hit even harder next time... and you have always to wake up knowing that that day you might have to kill someone...

As if all this weren't enough to impress the kids, the convicts use abusing language to make their points - they're not there to amuse the teens: and they understand that immediately...

At the end of the docummentary, the change is almost immediate - the teens aren't that though anymore - many agree they wouldn't survive in a place like Rawhay...

Having been made 20 years ago, Scared Straight still holds the same powerful effect on its viewers even today; what's reassuring to know is that statistics prove that this program is successful, and for those who watched Scared Straigh! 20 Years Later, they'll know how just about every kid minus one changed their ways... even if only one decided to change, that would be good enough...

9 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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