Scared Straight, COVID-19, and Prisons

Scared Straight, COVID-19, and Prisons

For many years, we have been involved in a teen program called Scared Straight. The idea was that we could take a teenager who was obviously headed for a life of crime and let them see what it would be like to be incarcerated. Several ex-cons and prisoners have been involved in this very successful program. Unfortunately, the pandemic has put it on temporary hold.

The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas has just released data on COVID-19 in Texas prisons. COVID-19 took the lives of 231 prison inmates and staff during 2020. Nine who had been approved for parole died before they could be released. Positive tests for COVID-19 among prisoners was 490% higher than among the Texas general public. Prisoners taking our correspondence courses tell us about over-crowding and conditions such as lack of masks, hand washing, and sanitation, making them more susceptible to the virus.

It is important to note that these numbers are for state prisons and do not include federal prisons or immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. Those of us who go into prisons to present programs, teach classes, or meet with inmates look forward to the time when we can resume. To keep young people out of prisons, we need to reinstate programs like Scared Straight. Jesus commanded people who help those who are in prison. (See Matthew 25:36)

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data source: Walking in the Light newsletter from King’s Crossing Prison Ministries, December 2020.