The research behind Scared Straight programs focuses on creating an intended deterrent for those who experience them as well as opportunity for the participants to receive some harsh guidance. The programs are enacted as an attempted means of lowering juvenile crime rates, but some research suggests that programs actually produce negative results.
Research behind Scared Straight programs focuses on the effects of deterrence, a concept that means that when a person is aware of the potential consequences of their negative actions, they act to avoid these consequences. The National Institute of Justice claims that when a youth engaging in criminal activity experiences the consequences of these actions firsthand, they have a more realistic understanding of what happens if they continue to exhibit problem behaviors. Additionally, the programs hinge on the idea that the program participants are lacking some structured guidance at crucial points in their development. The Scared Straight program is intended to be a behavioral intervention in a harsh way, as an attempt to reach youth that may not receive this type of guidance elsewhere.
Research outcomes have not always reflected successful attainment of these goals, however. The U.S. Department of Justice and National Institute of Justice have both found, through separate research, that participants of Scared Straight programs actually were more likely to proceed with future criminal behavior than those who did not experience the programs.