Americans’ opinions about crime and justice are more often shaped by media coverage than by scientific evidence. A prime example of this phenomenon is Arts and Entertainment (A&E) Network’s Beyond Scared Straight program—a show that has achieved strong ratings despite the large body of empirical evidence demonstrating the ineffectiveness of inmate–juvenile confrontation tactics. To understand the complexity of American citizens’ opinions toward this program, we conducted a qualitative analysis of the online responses to the television series Beyond Scared Straight. The themes that emerged center around beliefs about the effectiveness of Scared Straight, the level of brutality displayed, its inspirational and emotional content, and its authenticity. We discuss these results in terms of the need for scholars to more effectively communicate social science information concerning what does—and does not—“work” to the public and to correctional policymakers.
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