“Scared Straight” was a 1978 Academy Award winning documentary directed by Arnold Shapiro and narrated by Peter Falk. The production was filmed at Rahway State Prison and showed a controversial method of showing at risk youth the reality of prison life. “Lifers” berated the youth visiting the prison, with the purpose of “Scaring” them straight.The documentary was aired on television in 1979, and locally here on WTCN-TV. Introduced by then station manager Bob Fransen, the program contained an advisory of “coarse street language”. In fact it was the first time some of the words were aired on broadcast television.
As shown on WTCN, the documentary’s commercials were PSAs from then Senator Dave Durenberger, St. Paul City Council member Ron Maddox, Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser, and St. Paul Mayor George Latimer among others.
The documentary itself is available commercially through Amazon, so I will not be providing that, what is available to view is the introduction, wrap around segments, a discussion with Dick Cavett, and WTCN’s Town Hall Meeting that discusses the effectiveness of the Scared Straight Program.




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