Arnold Shapiro defends Beyond Scared Straight’s programs against criticism

A&E’s Scared Straight concludes its first season next Thursday, having debuted to record ratings in mid-January. Following the show’s debut, there was controversy: two of the three states featured on the show have suspended their programs, and the show and the programs it features have been criticized.

The series, which takes at-risk teenagers into prisons to see the reality of prison life, is fascinating, though after a few episodes, it sometimes feels a bit repetitive, and inmates and officials seem to frequently over-rely on scaring the kids with threats of prison rape. Two Justice Department officials wrote an op ed arguing that research shows “‘scared straight’ is not only ineffective but is potentially harmful.”

I talked to its executive producer, Arnold Shapiro, about that criticism, and also to the researcher who examined programs’ effectiveness, and the result is this Daily Beast story, in which Shapiro defends the programs and says the research doesn’t apply, though the researcher, Anthony Petrosino, told me that the data finds that they’re pretty universally ineffective.

It’s an interesting debate, though I found one of Shapiro’s arguments to be fascinating, because he says that as a filmmaker, he has better evidence than researchers did: “The only accurate studies that are actually being done on 21st-century programs are mine–are my shows,” he told me. Read the full story for more from him and a Department of Justice official.

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.