WFLD Channel 32 - Scared Straight! (Part 1, 1979)
Here's Part 1 of the controversial documentary Scared Straight! as aired on WFLD Channel 32. This Academy Award-winning special program, which dealt with a group of juvenile delinquents at a three-hour session with actual convicts serving life imprisonment at Rahway State Prison in New Jersey, was directed by Arnold Shapiro and hosted by Peter Falk. This airing was of an "encore presentation."
A side note: The nationally-syndicated Scared Straight! also aired in New York City on WFLD's future sister station WNEW (now WNYW) Channel 5 at the same time period as this airing, four years before WNEW's then-parent, Metromedia, Inc., assumed control of Channel 32.
Opening comments from WFLD's own Kathy McFarland, starting off by commenting on the massive response to the previous showing of March 11th and with respect to questions whether Illinois would have a program similar to the one in the film, promises to have these questions answered with a Q&A after the encore presentation coming up, as well as answering criticisms levelled towards the film.
Next comes the opening credits:
This program has been approved by The National Education Association
This program contains explicit and coarse street language. It is not intended for childrens' viewing. Parental guidance is advised.
Shots of outside of Rahway State Prison with voice of inmate saying what he thinks when he wakes up in the morning and then asking, "Is that paranoia?"
Shot of cell door closing with inmate inside and title zooming into screen at impact of door closing
Hosted by Peter Falk
Shot of teenage delinquents (aged 15, 16 and 17) being marched into prison, with narrator Falk explaining what the purpose of their going in is - a three-hour session with hardened criminals (known as "the Lifers," serving a combined aggregate total of 1,000 years in prison) explaining the consequences of the routes they took in life and why they got there, in order to save future lives - and to make juvenile delinquents go straight, as part of a unique rehabilitation program.
Falk, outside the prison, says that on the face of it this program is "too good to be true," but was intrigued enough to sign on to the project to see for himself - and then warns about the strong language to come, mentioning how there's no way to edit out the inmates' comments at key points without affecting the program's integrity.
The film then cuts to an inmate who's serving time for murder, robbery, armed robbery and conspiracy; another inmate who speaks of his sexual desires; yet another inmate who declares "I don't like nothin' in the first place, and I don't like you!"; a fourth inmate challenging one of the delinquents to punch him as a test of his "macho"; and finally, a fifth inmate demanding the camera be cut, leading to the zooming Scared Straight! bumper.
"This film isn't pretty and is not very polite - but we think it's worthwhile."
This aired on local Chicago TV on Sunday, May 20th 1979 during the 10:00pm to 11:30pm timeframe.
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