Distinguished Professor Emeritus And Professorial Fellow, Rutgers University
- The results did not show positive effects for juveniles that participated in prison visitation programs.
- Seven of the ten studies the researchers analyzed reported group program failure.
- Juveniles that participated in the prison visitation program had an increased record of criminal offenses when compared to juveniles in the untreated group.
In the article, “Well-Meaning Programs Can Have Harmful Effects! Lessons From Experiments of Programs Such as Scared Straight,” Finckenauer and his co-authors examine the effectiveness of prison visitation programs, which aim to increase juvenile awareness about incarceration and deter at-risk and troubled youth from future crime (e.g. Scared Straight). To conduct their study, the researchers analyzed ten randomized trials from prison visitation programs to determine the crime outcomes for their participants. The studies the researchers drew data from was collected in multiple states from 1967 to 1992 with a diverse group of juvenile participants ranging from age 15 to 17. The results did not show positive effects for juveniles that participated in prison visitation programs, but instead, it showed negative outcomes for participants. The researchers also found that seven of the ten studies they analyzed reported group program failure. Juveniles that participated in the prison visitation program had an increased record of criminal offenses when compared to juveniles in the untreated group. In conclusion, the authors note that more rigorous evaluation is needed to understand prison visitation programs especially as evidence indicates harmful effects on juvenile participants.