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WFLD Channel 32 - Scared Straight! Chicago Reacts (Part 3, 1979)

Here's Part 3 (the final part) of Scared Straight! Chicago Reacts, a local interview program hosted by Kathy McFarland that followed an encore presentation of the Academy Award-winning Scared Straight! on WFLD Channel 32. Also featuring Hon. Judge William Sylvester White, Chief of the Juvenile Division of Cook County Circuit Court and President of the National Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Includes:

Scared Straight! Chicago Reacts bumper

Kathy introduces the last guest of the night, Hon. Judge William Sylvester White, who is particularly familiar to kids who get into trouble in Cook County. He does not think that much of the film, fearing it will create a wrong impression and more mischief, and branding the approach "simplistic"; and asking why, for most teens in his jurisdiction, they aren't "scared straight" by this approach but rather have a high rate of recidivism; and what he has learned over his career about juvenile offenders runs very counter to what the film portrayed. He does say that "some things will work for some people sometime," and it might work for some teens, but no way is it a "panacea." He then adds that the "1 out of 17 went wrong" portrayal in the film was far better than what he has seen, and takes issue with the film's inference that juvenile judges have no other programs that work, noting that his jurisdiction has programs that do work and have scientific proof to back up his assertion.

In response to Kathy's questions about whether a "Scared Straight" type program has any place in this society, Judge White notes that three months is too little a time to judge its effectiveness, and says he would proceed with utmost caution before even considering requiring offending youths to watch Scared Straight!, let alone participate in such a program, which he says he has "grave doubts" about - and echoes the earlier comments of Mr. Franzen by analogizing drivers' school courses where photos of car accidents are shown.

To Kathy's point about the emphasis on fear in Scared Straight!, the topic then goes to France and beheadings by guillotine, and Judge White notes that pickpockets would do their work on the crowds seeing the beheading of another pickpocket, and cites this as but one example of why fear as a tool is not all that effective. After that, the topic shifts to how Judge White determines his punishments for juvenile offenders, and he gives examples including analysis and studying their history, and even with that he admits that "it's like playing God"; he is mystified by why, in some families, one brother does so poorly while another brother who lives in the same neighborhood with the same family is thriving and not getting into trouble. Asked if it's trouble to do what he's doing, the Judge answers in the negative, mentioning that "somebody has to do it" and giving it his best shot.

On the issue of rehabilitation and the mixed results of various programs, Judge White emphasizes there needs to be more cooperation among various agencies, schools, courts and mental health for there to be more effectiveness. As to the question of which groups have the most danger signs of becoming trouble, he brings up overrepresentation of inner cities in the mix due to living conditions, and says he "can't wait for the millennium to come" before there's a solution; he says the tools used in juvenile courts are, on balance, more effective than in adult courts, and cites examples of 600 kids accused of serious crimes, with a recidivism rate of 14% over a three-year period - meaning he had reached 6 out of 7 kids with his approach.

When Kathy asks what methods he uses to rehabilitate kids, the Hon. Judge White cites such examples as probation officers trying to get them jobs, therapy in cases of family breakdown, even a Boy Scout program which is in its earlier stages but, as he notes, is being proceeded with the utmost caution, and the structure to be laid out; but he still emphasizes discipline when administering the law, and in the case of the Boy Scout program, even he is aware this approach wouldn't work for every kid.

Kathy's take-home observations of his approach are: An individualized approach to juvenile crime with less emphasis on fear and more on teaching them to do something with their lives that is more productive: getting them jobs, getting them interested in their neighborhood - which Judge White says she's gotten right. He then asks what type of approach would work for a child who fishes in Jackson Park rather than go to school.

With that, Kathy signals the end to the interview program, and makes some final comments and observations, and invites viewers to make their input by mail (which she says would be sent to the proper authorities), with the station's address shown on the screen as she says good night.

We then go back to the film with a zoom out of the outside of the prison facility, as the closing credits come up:

Scared Straight!
Hosted by Peter Falk
Produced, Directed & Written by Arnold Shapiro
Director of Photography - William Moffitt
Editor - Robert Niemack
Sound - Franklin Stettner
Second Camera - Burleigh Wartes
Camera Associates - Robert Levi, Doug Miles, Billy Sarokin
Sound Assistants - Thomas Nelson, Lawrence Hoff
Production Assistant/Researcher - Linda Bross
Post Production Services - Dave Bell Associates
Special Thanks To:
The Lifers of Rahway State Prison
The Administration, Officers & Inmates of Rahway State Prison
Dept. of Corrections, State of New Jersey
Superintendent Robert S. Hatrak
Asst. Supt. Peter Fenton
Sgt. Alan August
Detective Sgt. Charles Martini
Honorable Judge George J. Nicola
Police Chief Anthony O'Brien
Sandy Shevack
Tony Rivera
Eric Bersh
Janet Storti (name seen very briefly before recording cuts out)

This aired on local Chicago TV on Sunday, May 20th 1979 during the 10:00pm to 11:30pm timeframe.

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This clip has been viewed 1314 times.
This clip debuted on FuzzyMemories.TV on Friday, July 19th 2013.
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