Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice: Diversionary Programs

The issue of juveniles in trouble with the law is an unfortunate circumstance in society. However, there are programs in place that aim at curtailing the outcomes of this issue such as the A&E program, “Beyond Scared Straight.” This diversionary program serves to traumatize at-risk youth to deter them from criminal behavior and ending up in prison. Many people favour these types of programs, no doubt, because they feel if the kids are scared enough about the possible consequences of crime, then perhaps they will not commit crimes and turn their lives around. However, according to an article in The Baltimore Sun, this tactic does not work, even though the television network portrays that it does. Research studies show that youth participants in programs like “Beyond Scared Straight” are actually 28% more likely to be criminal offenders. In addition, research reported this type of program could cause harm, as many of the youth reported being sexually harassed or victims of theft while participating in the program (Robinson & Slowikowski, 2011). Moreover, a New York probation department suspended their ‘Scared Straight’ program. This was due to findings that this type of program violates the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act of 1974, which stipulates adult inmates must be housed separately from juvenile inmates, and in the program they were not (Flatley, 2013).

Another diversionary program similar to the “Scared Straight” program is called “Take Charge” and it attempts to deter youth from crime through “job training, outreach, leadership, behavioral modification, financial literacy, family strength and other resources” (Gross, 2013, para. 7). This program was developed in response to a number of youth deaths from criminal violence. The characteristics of this program are likely more effective than just trying to scare kids into submission, which is violence in itself. Diversionary programs should not focus on violence but on positive distractions and rewards for going to good route.


Flatley, D. (2013, March 28). Jefferson County suspends ‘Scared Straight’ program. Retrieved from Watertown Daily Times:

Gross, D. J. (2013, April 12). Prince George’s leaders divided on youth violence solution. Retrieved from The Gazette Online:

Robinson, L. O., & Slowikowski, J. (2011, January 31). Scary — and ineffective. Retrieved from The Baltimore Sun: