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Series / Beyond Scared Straight

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Beyond Scared Straight was an A&E reality show that followed state-sponsored programs that sent at-risk teens into prison to get a glimpse of what their lives would be like if they continued down the paths they were on. The series, which aired from 2011 to 2015, was based off the famous 1978 documentary, Scared Straight!

This show provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Various examples from both the teens and the inmates they meet.
  • Angry Black Man: A good eighty-six percent of the inmates are this.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: The female teens almost always start out as this.
  • Break the Haughty: The whole point of the program. Most of the teens come in thinking they're tough, but they end up learning otherwise the hard way and changing their ways after they see the harsh realities of prison.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Even as early as the 1978 special, it's been highly suspected that the inmate participants seen in these shows were probably already reformed and were trusted by the camera crew. Many suggest that they were just putting on an act to put fear into these kids. The reasoning usually posits: "If they were truly as dangerous as they tried to appear, would they have even been allowed to be in the same room with kids?"
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  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Sending prospective jail-bound teens/young adults into the very place they may one day end up? Genius.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The inmates talk like this.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Most of the inmates have this.
  • Delinquents: Every teen in the Scared Straight program start off as such and are in it, because of how close they are to serving actual jail time.
  • Downer Ending: Whenever it's revealed that any of the teens ended up in jail anyway post-filming. Or worse yet, dead.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Kids whose only crime is using marijuana are treated just as harshly and get just as much camera time as kids who rob, gangbang, abuse their parents and grandparents, or commit grand theft auto.
    • One episode included a teen who had flipped over his mother's car while driving drunk and as a result killed an infant. Also in the group was a stoner kid. Guess who got the harder treatment from the inmates/guards and more camera time?
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Kids who are disrespectful to their mothers are treated "special" by the inmates.
    • Usually the older sibling(s) gets flack for leading the younger sibling(s) down the wrong path and get chastised for doing so by inmates during the program.
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  • Heel–Face Turn: In contrast to above, most of the teens are so scarred by their prison visits that they turn their lives around to focus on school, jobs, and family.
  • Jerkass: Several of the teenagers are incredibly antagonistic and still refuse to change their attitude.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Implied from each individual teenager's criminal behavior specified, which would've gotten them jailed for real if they were adults, but still convincing, otherwise they wouldn't have ended up in the jail program in the first place.
  • Large Ham: The late Deputy Sheriff Jonathan Lyle from Floyd County Jail had a particularly interesting personality when dealing with the unruly kids he was assigned to correct, compared to other prison guards from other episodes. With all those drill sergeant-esque shouting and dramatic acting and taunting, it was quite apparent that he really enjoyed his job.
  • Let Me at Him!: Sometimes yelled by the burlier inmates at some of the younger/prettier teens.
  • Mood Whiplash: After all the yelling and scare tactics are over, the inmates leading the group are matched one-on-one with each of the teens for a heartfelt talk.
    • Arguably, an in-show example as well. Watch how quickly the teens' demeanors turn from smug to grim.
  • No Indoor Voice: Many of the inmates scream like crazy.
  • Not So Different: Often revealed to the kids during said heartfelt talks.
  • Once an Episode: The show's limited premise makes it a bit repetitive.
  • Paper Tiger: Many of the Teens are established as having some kind of fighting experience or being fearless, with some even being MMA fighters, but when facing the inmates, most cower in fear, stay quiet or, at most, yell bombastically.
  • Parental Abandonment: Some inmates didn't have their parents around.
  • Prison Rape: Let's just say the issue comes up.
  • Scare 'em Straight: The premise of the show.
  • Scary Black Man: The Angry Black Men are also this.
  • The Slacker: Most, if not all, of the teens just want to cruise though life. Once they get out, many of them start focusing on school and community involvement so they don't have to turn to crime.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The teens that act all tough, but end up being afraid of the much tougher inmates count.
  • Tears of Fear: The kids will often burst out into these midway through the visit.
  • Teens Are Monsters: A lot of the kids in the program are delinquent teenagers, but there are some that continue disrespecting the inmates and cops even when they see what it's like.
  • Think of the Children!: Inverted. The guards will often force the teens to think about how their behavior is affecting their parents/guardians. Played straight if they have younger siblings.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: The program is designed in hopes of the teens turning their lives around, which many do.
  • Troubled Child: Most of the kids in the Scared Straight Program.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Inmates and Prison Guards are incredibly harsh and mean to the kids, but they want what's best for them. Well... atleast half of them do.
    • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: The other half, on the other hand... although they say they're trying to help the kids, actually could care less about them and are more interested in scaring them and screaming at them for the sake for being cruel more than anything else. The fact that the job of being a prison guard appeals to alot of sadistic and psychopathic people doesn't help.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Either in full video or text/photo format, most of the teens' stories will be followed up on at the end of each episode.


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