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Scared Straight program shows teenaged girls where their actions could lead them

11:34 PM, Aug 19, 2003   |    comments
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  • Teen girls who are on probation for juvenile offenses went to the women's prison in downtown Cleveland on Tuesday. They met several inmates, including one who's doing a life sentence for murder. "You said to me she attacked you so you attacked her back. He attacked me and I attacked him back and I killed him. And I meant to do it," said convicted murderer Karen. "And now I'm doing 18 years to life because of it because I had no right to do that." In the old Scared Straight programs, inmates got up in young people's faces, swearing and yelling at them about how horrible prison life is. This program is different. "It's our feeling that the Scared Straight programs were more entertainment and less effective," said juvenile judge Peter Sikora. "It's our belief that interaction and sharing does more to help them stop and think about changing the behavior they're exhibiting." Assistant warden Valerie Aden ends the sessions by calmly telling the girls that she fully expects to stay employed and see some of them as inmates later in life. "But quite frankly, if we can have an impact on just one, where they stop their course of action, then it will be well worth it," said Sikora. The Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court System recently started sending girls to the program. It has not done a formal study yet on how effective it's been in keeping youngsters from becoming repeat offenders.

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