WFLD Channel 32 - Scared Straight! (Part 2, 1979)
Here's Part 2 of the controversial Academy Award-winning documentary Scared Straight! (hosted and narrated by Peter Falk) as aired on WFLD Channel 32. This was from an "encore presentation." Includes:
Disclaimer notice on screen (with accompanying voiceover by Peter Falk):
This program contains language that is explicit, foul and brutal. It is not recommended for children.
Scared Straight! zooming title bumper, with another shot of a cell door with inmate inside closing
A guard lets Falk inside the prison walls, as he explains how nearly half of all serious crime is committed by people in the 10-17 age range, with 54% of burglary arrests, 53% of auto theft arrests, 42% of violent assault arrests and 18% of arrests for rape, all of juveniles, and then says, "Imagine yourself the innocent victim of one of these youngsters."
This leads directly to two teenagers outside, one saying he doesn't care about the victims, the other saying it's a challenge; another teenager says he "feel(s) sad about them for awhile"; yet another says he doesn't think too much about anyone he doesn't know; and a juvie with a comb over his head says any victims shouldn't have been in his immediate area at the time.
Over film footage of a fingerprinting during a booking session, Falk explains how over 2 million juveniles are arrested every year, and for them crime becomes a way of life, even before they reach puberty.
"Age 32, Convicted of Murder" explains his first time with the justice system was aged 13, with his offenses running the gamut; "Age 27, Convicted of Armed Robbery" cites his first time as aged 12, after he started hanging out with a gang to "impress everybody"; "Age 29, Convicted of Armed Robbery" started at 13-14 years old with shoplifting and it went downhill from there.
As noted by Falk, a few of the juveniles chosen to be "scared straight" started their life of crime at a much younger age than the convicts in question.
The two teens we saw in the first group of interviews gave their first times as aged 9 and 6-7; others started anywhere from 8 to 20, and one even bragged he started in the third grade.
Next we see teenaged offenders passing through metal detectors as they're about to be lectured by the convicts (as Falk's voiceover notes, these sessions take place Monday through Friday). The teens are stamped, marched single file deeper into this maximum-security prison, and then ordered to take seats by the guards. Falk explains how, as they go deeper into the prison, their arrogant smiles fade and are replaced by a mass of uncertainty and terror, as numerous inmates make varying comments about some of the youth in a manner none too flattering. They are then passed through "the hole" where prisoners are kept in solitary confinement - and along the way, make taunts to the various youth passing by. Four of the youth are placed inside a cell and given stern warnings by a guard about how they are to conduct themselves.
One of the youth, in an outside interview, brags about how he could handle the inside; two of them go on about how devious one is and how the other just goes when the opportunity arises; another speaks of learning about burglar alarms so he could disconnect them once he gets out on the street; we go back to the two teenagers who say they feel all right about committing crime; then back to the previous interviewee; then back to the juvie who started this group of interviews who says he "never killed nobody" but "sliced them a couple of times"; then back to the two teens, one of whom says "they gotta catch me first" and dismisses jail as just "something they talk about."
Inside, an inmate orders the youth to "smell the toilet bowl," and explains that a small cell with very few basics is where most violent criminals are kept.
We next see more interview snippets with the juvenile offenders, one of whom talking about how stealing leads to insurance claims that never find out how it's stolen and how "it ain't hurt no one"; followed by another who talked about the worst moment of his life (for which he got caught); yet another who speaks of two guys doing work in crime; a fourth who says he'd probably be the one to commit a crime because "everybody's doing it"; back to the second interviewee who says he wouldn't rob little old ladies; then back to the first interviewee who says he could commit bigger crimes if he tried.
Back to the prison, and more teens are marched into another cell which is closed after they enter.
More outside interviews, with one girl explaining how she "did things" while drunk; another girl saying "stealing . . . dealing . . . drinking"; yet another saying a few words and then about to smoke a cigarette; back to the second girl who says she steals "to satisfy myself" and not anybody else.
Back to a bird's-eye shot of one of the prison corridors, as Falk explains how these teens look like "the innocent boys and girls next door" - but in their case, looks can be very deceiving, as we see them being marched into another section of the complex; he cites some of the offenses they're all in for - "assault and battery; arson; auto theft; breaking and entering; burglary; purse snatching; shoplifting; vandalism; possession of stolen property; possession and distribution of narcotics; illegal possession of weapons; assaulting a police officer; larceny; and bomb threats" - which, as he emphasizes, are "hardly innocent child's play." As the teens are marched into the room, we hear the voice of an inmate explaining what's coming for the next two hours, before a guard entering the room slams the door shut.
The teens, as Falk points out, are now a literally captive audience of 20 convicted killers and armed robbers. He explains that the coming demonstration, initiated by the lifers, is all "to literally scare the crime right out of these kids," and calls it a "prison visit to end all prison visits."
More outside interviews with one juvie explaining how "they don't scare me"; a girl thinking the visit would be "great"; another thinking this excursion would be "fun" and adding he has "no worries"; and two teens none too worried about what's to come. This is followed by the zooming Scared Straight! title bumper.
This aired on local Chicago TV on Sunday, May 20th 1979 during the 10:00pm to 11:30pm timeframe.
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