Scared Straight (1978)

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Scared Straight! is a 1978 documentary directed by Arnold Shapiro. Narrated by Peter Falk, the subject of the documentary is a group of juvenile delinquents and their three-hour session with actual convicts. Filmed at Rahway State Prison, a group of inmates known as the "lifers" berate, scream at, and terrify the young offenders in an attempt to "scare them straight," (hence the film's title), so that those teenagers will avoid prison life.

The documentary aired on television in the late 1970s, uncensored; it marked the first time that the words "fuck" and "shit" were broadcast on many networks. Some broadcasters (an example being CFQC, a CTV Network affiliate in Canada) added locally produced segments in which experts discussed both the content of the documentary, and the rationale behind airing it uncensored.

The cast includes a drug dealer and counterfeit document manufacturer from Westchester County (Mikie C), a gang member from Jersey City (Jerome Watts), an arsonist and bomb builder from Bridgeport (Jon Shipiro), the son of a Mafia informant (Carlo Gallo), and a 17-year-old chop shop parts dealer and car thief from the Bronx (Jesus Rodriguez).

At film's end, the teenagers say that they have decided that they don't want to end up in jail. The film ends with a "roll call" of the teens, revealing that most were "scared straight", though a few were said to have reoffended.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1978. It also won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement-Informational Program and Outstanding Informational Program.

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