Scared Straight was an awareness program involving frequent visits to adult prison facilities by at-risk youth and juvenile delinquents. Despite its popularity and reliance on an intuitively plausible mechanism of action, the program was shown in numerous studies to be not just ineffective but actively harmful, making young people more likely to commit crimes in later life.
According to one meta-analysis, each dollar spent on the Scared Straight program had a net social cost of over $200 (Aos et al. 2004a: 7; Aos et al. 2004b: 112).
Aos, Steve et al. (2004a) Benefits and costs of prevention programs for youth, Olympia, Washington: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.
Aos, Steve et al. (2004b) Benefits and costs of prevention programs for youth: technical appendix, Olympia, Washington: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.