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A Description of Speak Outs in Oklahoma Prisons

by Philip D. Holley & Dennis Brewster Abstract This research describes the speak out programs as they existed within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, as they evolved from and represented differences with the "Scared Straight" program of the 1970s. Speak outs referred to formally organized and planned encounters between prisoners and members of the public--either at a correctional institution associated with a tour or in settings where inmates traveled outside the prison--wherein the prisoners spoke about their criminal past, life in prison, life choices, and related topics with a primary motivation being to prevent the listeners from going to prison. Included is a discussion of the prevalence of such programs within the department and the frequency with which sessions were held. Also described are the number of session participants, demographic characteristics of the participants, physical location of the speak out, duration of the program, program format, program structure, presentation themes, presentation topics, styles of presentation, and types of recipient groups. The research found active speak out programs in most department facilities. While there was considerable diversity within the programs at the various institutions, most programs had the same presentation themes, topics, and styles.


In the mid-1970s, a group of lifers at Rahway (New Jersey) State Prison began the "Juvenile Awareness Program." It was designed to bring juveniles in trouble with the justice system into a prison setting and let them "see" prison first hand. The experience included subjecting the youth to explicit and sexually graphic language, swearing, and threats. Although similar programs, some with less threatening approaches, had been in place at other prisons in other states from the previous decade, that program received acclaim for its reported success, later dramatically portrayed nationally in the documentary, "Scared Straight!" Criticism of the confrontational style and challenges to the reported high success rates were soon voiced (Finckenauer, 1982). Discredited as a panacea, the controversy led to dramatic changes in those programs. Even though significantly affected by the controversy, the programs would not and did not die. Today there appears to be public misunderstanding regarding the continuation of confrontational programs, as well as controversy regarding their benefits. However, strong support for military-style, boot camp programs has certainly existed in many states, and especially in Oklahoma (Holley & Wright, 1994). Even today, scare tactics connected to harsh punishment are not unknown in parent-child discipline as well as in society's effort to maintain social control. Many have believed that "iron therapy" has been effective (Ervin, 1996, p. A-9). While inmate- and prison-based prevention

programs have by no means considered panaceas, they have continued to serve as weapons in society's arsenal in the fight against crime. The program using inmates to talk or "speak" to troubled and non-troubled youth, and adults, has continued and typically has been known in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) as "Speak Outs." Speak outs refer to formally organized and planned encounters between prisoners and members of the public--either at a correctional institution associated with a tour or in settings where inmates traveled outside the prison-where in the prisoners spoke about their criminal past, life in prison, life choices, and related topics with the primary motivation being to prevent the listeners from going to prison. Little information about the specific types of speak out programs found in ODOC as well as the delivery methods used in these programs was available. The ODOC 1994 Annual report asserted that the programs were found in several facilities and were "considered to be effective" (1994, p. 36). However, neither examination nor review of speak out programs, as they were structured and managed within ODOC facilities, had been conducted in the past. The purpose of the paper is to examine the types and the nature of speak outs found in ODOC facilities. An overview of those programs will be provided. Included will be information regarding the number of speak out participants, pertinent demographic characteristics of speak out participants, physical location of the speak out, duration of the program, program format, program structure, presentation themes, presentation topics, styles of presentation, and types of recipient groups.


The Scared Straight program (herein referred to as the "SS" program) began in 1976 at Rahway State Prison in New Jersey by the Lifers' Group. Known as the "Juvenile Awareness Project," the SS program provided the inmates with an opportunity to be ". . . useful . . . even though locked up in a maximum-security prison" (Finckenauer, 1982, p. 67) and to ". . . deter or scare delinquency out of kids" (p. 68). The program gained considerable attention and acclaim as a result of the Academy Award documentary film by the same name, which was shown on television around the country for the first time in 1979 ("Does 'Scaring' Work?", May 14, 1979; Cavender, 1981). (In Oklahoma, the film was shown on public television, introduced by, then, Governor George Nigh, who apologized for, yet justified, the graphic language.) The SS program consisted of small groups of (often delinquent) juveniles visiting the prison for about three hours, taking a tour of a cell block and an isolation cell, and a "rap session" with about 20 of the Lifers' (Lundman, 1993). During the tour and especially during the "rap session," the juveniles were exposed to graphic street/prison language, explicit verbal depictions of sex and violence in prison, and "shock-confrontation treatment" (Finckenauer, 1982, p. 70). In a policy statement addressing this program, the American Correctional Association described it as consisting of "attack treatment" and

"scare tactics" ("Scared Straight," November/December, 1979, p. 40). The program consisted of threats, intimidation, and terrorization, all of which resulted in controversy following the film's nationwide showing (see Finckenauer, 1982). The theoretical framework was that of deterrence, asserting that the "fear of punishment" would deter delinquency (Lundman, 1993, pp. 150, 151; see also Albanese, 1993). According to Finckenauer, the SS program used an ". . . aversion-type of behavior modification technique" (1982, p. 70), whereby the Lifers' were real and living examples to the delinquents of lives gone bad. While the Rahway program garnered public attention from the film's showing and related media events, it should be emphasized that similar programs existed in other states (Finckenauer, 1982; Homant & Osowski, 1981). Finckenauer indicated over 20 states had begun those types of programs during the 1960s (1982, p. 46). Some were comparable to SS, while others had incorporated varying degrees of scare and confrontation. The other programs included California's San Quentin Utilization of Inmate Resources Experience and Studies (SQUIRES), the Michigan Reformatory Visitation Program, Michigan's Juvenile Offenders Learn Truth (JOLT), (Virginia) Insiders Juvenile Crime Prevention Program, (Texas) Operation Teen-Agers, (Tennessee) Operation Crime Prevention, and (Illinois) Prison Profiles (Finckenauer, 1982; Homant & Osowski, 1981; Lundman, 1993). Programs existed in other states as well, including Wisconsin's Project Aware (Dean, 1982), in Colorado (Finckenauer, 1982), a program at Norfolk Prison Colony in Massachusetts (Finckenauer, 1982), and in Lawrence County, Tennessee (Presbury & Moore, 1983). Other programs included Stay Straight (Hawaii), Juvenile Awareness of Institutional Life (Idaho), Save the Youth Now Group (STYNG) (Canada), and See Our Side (SOS) (Prince George's County, Maryland) (Champion, 1992; Jensen & Rojek, 1992; Mitchell & Williams, 1986). According to Welch, there was much less utilization of the confrontational strategy today, including at Rahway, where the program was ". . . a prison tour and a low-key discussion" (1996, p. 256; see also Lundman, 1993). In the researchers' estimation, shock techniques had remained in corrections, albeit as boot camp programs. Gowdy recently confirmed that view when she asserted that the roots of shock programs were set within Scared Straight (1996). Minimal published information has been available regarding speak out programs in operation in the various correctional systems. Available literature provided some information on two such programs. Mississippi had a program known as "Project Aware," which was described as a "five-hour, prisoner run, non-confrontational juvenile delinquency deterrence program" located at Mississippi State Penitentiary (Cook & Spirrison, 1992, p. 91). The format was an "educational" one instead of "fear arousal" (p. 91).

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) had two programs presently in operation. One was known as the "Operation Outreach Program," which consisted of small groups of volunteer or court-ordered juveniles spending part of a Saturday in prison. The emphasis was on "education through real life experiences to combat drugs, crime, peer pressure, and solve family and communication problems" (Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Operation Outreach Program, no date, no page number). Inmates at five TDCJ facilities ". . . attempt to educate young adults through discussion aimed at dispelling misconceptions about the 'easy life'" (No page number). Activities included inmate presentations, 30-45 minutes of field work, group discussion and juveniles ". . . paired with inmates for one-on-one discussion" (No page number). Originally developed in 1960 as Operation Teenager, Operation Kick-It most recently enabled panels of offenders to travel outside the prisons in which they were incarcerated to speak to high school groups, ". . . church groups, civic organizations, drug abuse workshops, juvenile institutions, college campuses, and military installations" (Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Operation Kick-It, No date, p. 1). Unlike the earlier effort, that program did not rely on "audience intimidation and scare tactics" (Scott, Hawkins, and Farnsworth, 1994, p. 209). Officials estimated inmates--while wearing prison "whites" and escorted by security and other prison staff--had made about 1,000 appearances per year and had spoken to between 200,000 and 300,000 people (Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Operation Kick-It, no date, p. 1). Male and female teams were made available for presentations. Officials had attempted to match ethnicity of the speakers with that of the audience (Scott, Hawkins, & Farnsworth, 1994, p. 209). Presentations further had been described as "small group discussion," "rap sessions," and "one-on-one" (p. 208). Inmates ". . . deliver their personal message . . . in an effort to prevent poor decision making, drug and alcohol abuse, and juvenile crime" (Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Operation Kick-It, No date, p. 1). With programs lasting about an hour, inmates spoke, then afforded the opportunity for members of the audience to ask questions. While traveling around the state, inmates were housed at night in local jails. ODOC Speak Outs: Institutional and Legal Frameworks The Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) consisted of 17 correctional institutions, seven community corrections centers, and 15 work centers located in approximately 30 different communities around the state (Oklahoma Department of Corrections, "Facts At A Glance," June 28, 1996). One of the numerous programs within the department, and known to have existed in at least some of the institutions, was the "Speak Out Program." It was described in ODOC's "Program Description Guide" as follows: This particular type of program involves offenders being taken to communities, schools, churches, etc. to speak with groups regarding behaviors which result in incarceration. Communities, schools, churches, etc. may also make arrangements to come to the facility for a speak out. One of the main topics presented involves the use/abuse of any substance and the path which one travels when this process begins. Their [sic] goal is to curb the

rising tide of juvenile delinquency, youth involvement in gangs, and drug/alcohol abuse among our youth. These groups attempt to inform community youth/parents/adults, etc. about the evils of crime, gang involvement, and life in prison (Oklahoma Department of Corrections, No date, No page number). In addition to official recognition and support of speak outs from ODOC, prison tours were strongly encouraged by legislative action. The 1994 Oklahoma Legislature, in "Student Visits to Correctional Institutions" (O.S. Supp., 1994), provided legal authorization for children visiting correctional facilities in order to learn "the seriousness of conviction for criminal behavior" and "the harmful effects of incarceration on the life of the inmate." The statute authorized "at least one visit per school year for (public school) pupils in the eighth grade or higher to a state correctional institution" (O.S. Supp. 1994). Transportation also was authorized for these field trips for children in public schools (O.S. Supp. 1994, Title 70, Section 1210.231.B). Further, ODOC was required to "provide for the safe conduct of tours," but might "prohibit, delay, or cancel tours" for security reasons (O.S. Supp. 1994, Title 70, Section 1210.232). While not specifically mentioning speak outs, one might have assumed that speak outs (SOs) would contribute substantially to those goals.


Descriptive data presented in this paper were drawn from a larger research project. The research project--carried out in the spring and summer of 1996 for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections--utilized multiple research methods in providing a description and evaluation of speak outs in Oklahoma prisons. The methods used included field observation, focus groups, face to face interviews, and telephone interviews. The investigators began with the observation of speak outs and the focus group activities. Although initially planning to observe fewer speak outs, the authors eventually sat in on speak out programs sponsored by 11 facilities. Bill Johnson Correctional Center (CC) was observed by the second author alone, necessitated by a conflict in the first author's schedule. Nine of the speak outs were held on the facility grounds and also involved a tour of the institution. The authors accompanied the entourage on the facility tour in seven of the nine events. Two of the speak outs were held outside the institution. In both cases, the authors arrived early at the institution, accompanied the inmates, security staff, and sponsors in the van to and from the speak out site, and observed the speak out program. While the authors schedules during the research period determined the specific events to be observed, the authors sought to attend speak outs with as much diversity as possible by requesting permission to attend a certain presentation if choices were available to us by institutional staff. Speak outs were observed in all ODOC regions, in both male and female facilities, and at all security levels except work centers. Table 1 provides a brief description of the facilities. The institutions where SOs were observed appeared well representative of ODOC, especially since speak outs were observed at nearly half (44%) of all correctional institutions and community corrections centers.

Recipient groups (RG)--defined as individuals or groups which experienced formallyorganized speak outs--included junior high school students, children in a summer youth camp, juveniles in detention facilities, juveniles in programs or in diversion programs, adjudicated juveniles in treatment programs (e.g., Lloyd E. Rader Center in Sand Springs and Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh) and in other specialized youth programs. Sizes of the RG's ranged from one to about 25. The inmate focus groups had been arranged at the time of the initial telephone call requesting permission to observe the speak outs. The authors requested permission to visit with the inmates following the speak out. With only one exception, it was possible to interact with the inmates as requested. In addition to the focus groups carried out following the speak outs, the authors also organized focus groups consisting of speak out teams in three other ODOC facilities--Oklahoma State Reformatory, Jackie Brannon Correctional Center, and William S. Key CC. In those cases, the choice was to schedule the focus group despite the lack of a speak out available for observation. TABLE 1 Characteristics of ODOC Facilities Where Speak Outs Were Observed Institution Bill Johnson CC Security Minimum Gender Region* Male NW On

Clara Waters CCC Community Male Eddie Warrior CC Minimum Enid CCC

Central On On Off On On

Female NE NW NW NE

Community Male Male Male Male

James Crabtree CC Medium Jess Dunn CC Joe Harp CC Lawton CCC Lexington CC Minimum Medium

Central On SW Off

Community Male Medium Male

Central On

Mabel Bassett CC Maximum Okla. State Pen. Maximum

Female Central On Male SE On

[*Regions as they existed prior to the 1997 reorganization--Ed.]

A total of 39 (34 male and five female) inmates participated in the 13 focus groups. The focus group discussion was guided by a series of open-ended questions. The questions related to history of the program, speak out structure and organization, inmate selection and supervision, previous experience with speak outs at other institutions, goals and objectives of the program, perceived benefits, descriptions of a "typical" and an "ideal" speak out, and perceived problems and disadvantages of these programs. The authors also discussed the inmates' reactions to the just-completed speak out. The focus groups lasted from 15 minutes to about an hour, though typically lasting about 30 minutes. The authors surveyed the entire population of institutions within the ODOC, including 17 correctional institutions, seven community corrections centers, and 15 work centers. Making the contacts by telephone, the authors requested to talk to the person in charge of speak outs or in some cases the warden's assistant. Many of the same questions asked of inmates regarding the speak out program were asked of ODOC staff. The authors also asked about the inmate selection procedure and regulations regarding continued participation in the program. Inquiry about the types of RG's which visit their facility or for which they travel was also made. Interviews took from 15 minutes to about an hour, typically lasting for about 30 minutes. Lastly, telephone interviews of sponsors of 25 recipient groups were conducted. While it was not possible for the authors to say that those groups were completely representative of all such groups, the diversity of the groups and the content of their responses indicated a meaningful theoretical sampling was obtained. Several of the groups were visitors when the SOs were observed at various facilities, while others were identified in the ODOC staff interviews. Still others were surveyed based on the nature of services provided by the agency, as well as convenience and accessibility to the researchers. The authors interviewed sponsors from public schools (e.g., Edmond), police agencies (e.g., Tulsa Police Department), detention facilities (Tulsa), delinquent treatment programs (e.g., Foss Lake Adventure Program), probation services (e.g., Cleveland County), juvenile bureau intake services (e.g., Oklahoma County), and colleges (e.g., DeMarge*). A judge who court-ordered juveniles to speak outs was also interviewed. The questions asked pertained to the type and characteristics of their group, objectives in scheduling the speak out, and their reactions to the speak out program. In summary, 11 speak outs were observed, 13 focus groups with 39 inmates were held, and approximately 75 interviews with ODOC staff, inmates, sponsors from RG's, and others were accomplished.


Overview of Speak Out Programs in ODOC Facilities This section will provide a brief overview of speak out programs in ODOC, serving as an orientation to the subsequent material. See Holley and Brewster (1996) for the findings of the larger research project.

The research found speak out programs to have existed in nearly 75% of ODOC facilities (29 of 39 facilities). Those facilities reporting no speak out program variously indicated that: (1) they had done speak outs in the past, but were not doing them at the present time; (2) though there was no organized speak out program, inmates were made available to groups upon request; or, (3) they planned to implement a program in the future. Specifically, the work centers were least likely to have had a speak out program, directly relating to lack of staff and other resources necessary to manage such a program. Institutions varied greatly with regard to the frequency of speak outs. Half of the facilities averaged less than one speak out per week, while the other half held more than one a week. A few institutions had been heavily involved. Oklahoma State Penitentiary estimated they had held about 200 speak outs per year. Facilities having held the most frequent programs appeared to have had strong administrative support, unique programs (e.g., Female Offender Regimented Treatment (FORT) at Eddie Warrior CC), or unique facilities (e.g., OSP). They tended to receive numerous RG requests, had formal and ongoing arrangements with certain RG's, and were located relatively accessible to the RG's. Speak outs were held either on the facility grounds associated with a tour, or the inmates were taken to an outside location, escorted by security and other institutional staff, where they made their presentation. Medium and maximum security institutions were not permitted by ODOC policy to take inmates outside the facility for that purpose. Some lower security facilities reported that most of their speak outs were held within the facility, while others reported that most were traveling speak outs. The authors estimated that approximately 75% of the speak outs within ODOC had been held within facilities. Program goals overwhelmingly emphasized crime prevention for juveniles and adults. Participants were well aware of the public relations benefits for the facility and for ODOC, as well as the potential cathartic benefits for inmates. Most of the speak out programs at ODOC facilities were well-organized within a club or other organizational structure, and typically categorized as an institutional "program." Routine and effective supervision had been provided by dedicated ODOC staff, including the warden's assistant or speak out sponsors. Typically inmates had been carefully selected for the speak out program in order to best achieve the crime prevention objectives. Description of Speak Outs This section provides descriptions of speak outs using the following variables: number of speak out participants, demographic characteristics of SO participants, physical location of the speak out, duration of the program, program format, program structure, presentation themes, presentation topics, styles of presentation, and types of recipient groups. Other features will be presented. Number of Participants

Speak out teams consisted of: (1) one person; (2) a few, between two and five participants; or, (3) a lot, with six or more presenters. James Crabtree CC, with its exclusive use of a "one on one" encounter, had one inmate per speak out. Most of the programs had a few--two to five--participants. Lexington CC operated with two-man teams. At other facilities, four or five inmates may have spoken, depending on the amount of available time (e.g., John Lilley CC). Other programs involved numerous speakers. In the cooperative effort between Clara Waters Community CC and Kate Barnard Community CC, the traveling speak out team consisted of eight persons, four men and four women. Usually the facility had a larger pool of speak out members, so that the speakers were selected for individual speak outs on a rotation basis, by special request of the RG, or matched to certain characteristics of the RG members. Demographic Characteristics of SO Participants Given that all ODOC facilities, with the exception of Tulsa Community CC, were single gendered, most speak outs involved either male or female presenters. Tulsa Community CC balanced by gender. As mentioned above, two Oklahoma City facilities cooperated to provide an equal number of male and female panelists for traveling speak outs. With rare exceptions, panels consisted of a combination of Blacks and Whites, and, where possible, Hispanics and American Indians. A conscious effort was made, with considerable success, to include younger offenders, and those with gang affiliation and drug histories. While a few of the panels the authors observed were homogeneous--older, White long-termers--most were heterogeneous. Physical Location of Speak Outs Most institutions had nowhere near ideal conditions--quiet, no distractions, appropriate arrangement of seats--for a speak out. Conference rooms, the chapel, the gym, the visiting room, a classroom, and program rooms might have served as the location of the speak out. Space was often a premium, and speak out programs were forced to use lessthan-ideal, available space. Most of all, the meeting locations tended toward extraneous activity and excessive noise. The speak out at Joseph Harp CC was held in the chapel, with visible and distracting foot traffic continuously moving through the room. In addition, seating RG members in pews was hardly conducive to interaction with panel members. The program at Lexington CC utilized a classroom. While not ideal, that location appeared more manageable. When inmates traveled outside the facility, they were required to utilize the location provided by the RG, whether it was an auditorium, day room of a juvenile detention center, or classroom. While some of those offered better arrangements than others, neither inmates nor their sponsors had been in a position to approve or disapprove the location. Duration of the Program

The standard time for speak outs was between one and two hours. Institutional schedules, RG schedules, along with time involved on the facility tour dictated maximum available time. Tours and speak outs worked around count time, meal time, and movement routines. Recipient groups usually had either mornings or afternoons available, further limiting available time. If there had been a tour scheduled, it might have taken from 3045 minutes so that the actual speak out time was perhaps an hour. With traveling speak outs, there might have actually been more time available to speak, if for no reason than a tour was not involved. Required travel time to and from the location was unrelated to time available for the presentation. Some institutions provided for a lengthier institutional visit. Mack Alford CC conducted programs which began at 10:00 a.m. and were concluded by 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. That visit consisted of a tour, speak out, lunch with the inmates, and presentations by institutional staff. Program Format The authors discovered three speak out formats within ODOC. They were individually or in combination: (1) "one on one;" (2) inmate presentations followed by small group; or, (3) informal interaction. One facility--James Crabtree CC--accepted court-ordered children who sat at a table, accompanied by parents, with one inmate for an informal dialogue. The most common type of speak out--held within a facility or traveling-involved inmate presentations followed by questions and answers. Inmate presentations took one-half to three-fourths of the allotted time, with the remainder of the time devoted to questions and answers. In contrast, a few institutions provided a time for the RG members and the inmates for small group and informal interaction. Program Structure By program structure, the authors mean the framework within which the program was given. Two structural conditions existed: (1) a fixed presentation; or (2) presentations adapted to the requests of the RG sponsor, descriptions of RG needs by the RG sponsor, and overall perceived needs of the RG. The authors referred to them as: (1) "canned" or (2) RG driven, respectively. Findings indicated that about 25% of the programs had "canned" presentations. That meant that the presentations were given uniformly, regardless of the nature of the RG. Those were illustrated by the speak outs observed at Kate Barnard Community CC, James Crabtree CC, and Mabel Bassett CC. For example, the approach at Mabel Bassett CC of brief individual introductions by SO members followed by questions and answers was unrelated to the specific RG at the speak out. The authors observed about 75% of the programs to be RG driven. Here the RG sponsors informed the SO team of unique characteristics of the RG and its members and their needs while on the tour or some other time before the speak out began. During the presentation, RG sponsors might have asked leading questions intended to inform the SO team of special concerns. SO team members initially asked questions of the RG members and structured their subsequent remarks based on the replies they received. Those

programs were directly responsive to not only youngsters with "attitudes," but also to RG members who were identified or perceived as drug involved, gang involved, victims of abuse, etc. Presentation Themes The theme of most presentations--about 80-90%--was that of crime prevention. That was not unexpected, given the nature of the RG's which were described later. Almost all of the topics dealt within the sessions related directly to deterring the listeners--including those not identified as having had a delinquent or criminal past--from behavior that led to prison. Even when the RG consisted of a college group or church group--presumably less in need of crime deterrence--speakers perpetuated the crime prevention theme. (The canned programs described above tended to reflect this theme.) Other minor themes included physical and sexual abuse intervention, and the education of college students considering careers in the criminal justice field, including nursing, law, law enforcement, corrections, and probation and parole. Jackie Brannon CC inmates had addressed the ODOC correctional officer academy, speaking about inmate "games," thinking, and behavior. Presentation Topics Several topics were discussed within the context of both themes mentioned above. First, inmates almost always told their "stories." At least brief reference was made to one's crime, sentence, and how much time had been served and was left to serve. Inmates then described their past involvement in crime, including motivations and social conditions to which their crime was attributed. Often included was a testimonial that one had made a dramatic change or was seriously working on making such a change. Inmates sometimes gave detailed analyses of the "injustices" of their cases, even though prohibited by staff sponsors and policies as matters not consistent with SO objectives. Second, experiences with and concerns about drugs and alcohol received special attention. There inmates talked about experiences with using drugs and alcohol as well as drug distribution-related activities and the negative consequences of these experiences. Third, were inmates with gang affiliation and gang-related crimes--"drive-bys," weapons possession, drug distribution--deal with the negative side of gang life. Fourth, inmates described what it was like to do time in prison, particularly at the higher security levels. If located in a minimum or community security institution, the inmates would contrast with the medium and maximum security institutions. They described daily routines, detailed institutional rules and regulations, and the lack of privacy, as well as the emotional consequences of incarceration for themselves and their families. They depicted inmate games, gang activities, violence, and sex, including rape in male prisons and homosexuality in female prisons. Included in the presentations of long-termers was a contrast with prison today and how it used to be (in the 1970s) or how it was in other

systems (Texas), variously saying that some systems were worse than others and time was more difficult to do during certain periods than others. They also discussed indifferent staff, the lack of rehabilitation and other programs in prison, and in some cases griped about the criminal justice system in general and the ODOC in specific, despite efforts to prohibit gripe sessions. The Tulsa Community CC's Speak Out Information stated: "S/O is not the place to criticize DOC, or to proclaim your own innocence" (No date, no page number). Fifth, the importance of education was stressed. Juveniles were encouraged to stay in school, and work hard. Rewards which came from participation in athletics were occasionally highlighted. Sixth, there was a strong emphasis on decision-making and life choices. Inmates typically indicated they had choices at the time they committed their crime, and made the wrong decisions. They discussed making the tough choices, even in the face of "peer pressure" and drug and gang influences. Emphasis was placed on the unintended and intended consequences of personal choices. Seventh, the theme centered on the problems of audience members, and was intended to provide some degree of application of previous themes. There was the discernment of the RG members' attitudes and life problems, along with inmate characterization of and reactions to them. The approach began essentially with questions such as "Why are you here?" or "Do any of you use drugs or alcohol?" or "Why are you disrespecting me and wasting my time by not paying attention when you should be?" This topic related directly to acquisition of information about RG members in order to tailor the presentation to the audience and/or analyze the RG member's problems. To the extent that confrontation was found in speak outs, it was commonly embedded in this theme. Styles of Presentation Program participants, including ODOC staff and inmates went to great length to distinguish their program from SS. One ODOC staff person told the investigators that their warden did not "believe in Scared Straight." One RG sponsor told us he "did not want SS," but rather wanted the juveniles to see what prison was like. It was unclear if there was any direct familiarity with the original SS program and documentary or any similar programs, or if staff, inmates, and RG sponsors were relying on imagination, rumors, or caricatures of the program. The research did not uncover any Scared Straight programs in existence in ODOC. However, differences between SS and SO were both subtle and qualitative. The meaning of a "dose of reality" or a "reality check" might have either been informative or persuasive. The authors described the informative approach as the typical SO style, while the persuasive style was best illustrated by the classical SS program. The informative style was most common when inmates traveled. It was not likely that an audience of 500 would have been ready subjects for scare tactics, although inmates in

prison denim and chains and shackles made a startling impression. Likewise, even when inmates spoke to juveniles at detention facilities, the actual experiences the juveniles have had with the juvenile facility might have been more "scary" than words about adult prison used by the inmates. Furthermore, confrontational activities were not easily constructed in an auditorium setting or in a juvenile detention facility. In the first case, the situation prevented it and in the second case policy prohibited it. Thus, the informative style was most often portrayed in traveling speak outs. SO presentations which consisted of a brief introduction to the inmates followed by question and answer tended to be more informative. That style was also found in presentations where inmates tended to emphasize choices, decision making, and the consequences of behavior, rather than prison life. Emphasis on telling one's story tended to involve less persuasion, that was less verbal abuse, intimidation, and threats. However, the investigators found some relatively mild persuasive styles in a number of programs. A scare or shock form of presentation was included sporadically in the presentation. Inmates did not make direct threats of violence to kids. Direct personal intimidation was lacking. Extremely graphic language was not used. Rather, confrontation, if and when used, was selective rather than universal. Inattentive juveniles, those with "attitudes," and the "hard cases" might have been recipients of some form of confrontation. Certain juveniles might have been taken to the side and "counseled," not by inmates but by prison or RG staff. The "tough" approach was often at the request of the RG sponsor. For example, one judge wanted the inmates to "scare Hell out of [the juveniles]," perhaps illustrating the Oklahoma saying, "There are two things that juveniles understand--fear and pain." Even then, the inmates did not recreate the SS program. Specific strategies used in the persuasive approach included: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Inmates wearing restraints or demonstrations of restraints on a RG member; Display of real or make-believe prison weapons; Showing pictures of inmates, beaten, bloody, swollen, or dead; Requiring RG members to wear a prison uniform, such as a jumpsuit; Locking inmates in cells; Subjecting RG members to planned or spontaneous scenes on the yard during the tour where homosexual advances were made, violence was threatened, or inmate "con games" were played; and 7. Detailed descriptions of prison life (often exaggerated) of violence, theft, sex, and rape. It appeared that ambiguity existed in the descriptions of the programs, and that there was some perceived inconsistency between the program philosophy and the presentation styles. Some might have concluded, based on brief descriptions of those programs, that if persuasion was used, it was pervasive within the program. In essence, to the extent that

the persuasive style was utilized, it was intended to serve as an attention-getting device. After the juvenile's attention was gained, the approach reverted to the informative style. In that sense then, persuasive features represented only a small portion of the speak out activity. Types of Recipient Groups As implied earlier, most speak out recipient groups were composed of juveniles at risk or already in trouble with the juvenile justice system. Numerous groups visiting prisons were from middle (or junior high) schools and high schools. Those in the juvenile justice system included juveniles in diversion programs, in detention awaiting adjudication or disposition, those who were placed in day treatment programs, those in residential treatment programs (both secure and non-secure), and juveniles on probation, or in alternative schools. Other RG's consisted of college classes, church groups, juveniles in tribal programs, drug treatment programs, and mental health treatment programs. If feasible, RG sponsors sought to secure speak outs from female institutions for their females and SO's from male institutions for their males, although this was not always possible. The laudable cooperative effort--among the Tulsa Public Schools, the Tulsa Police Department, and the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office--sent the females to Eddie Warrior CC and males to either Oklahoma State Penitentiary or Dick Conner CC. Tulsa Community CC--with its coed speak out team--and the coed team formed by cooperative agreement between Clara Waters Community CC and Kate Barnard Community CC provided both female and male speakers to mixed-gender groups. It was common, however, to have seen males and females in a speak out audience at a male prison. The size of recipient groups varied drastically. The James Crabtree CC program--a oneon-one--involved one juvenile per speak out. Certain RG's had fixed program capacity, so that the RG size did not vary with repeated speak outs. The Tenkiller Youth Project, for example, had a bed capacity of 12. Thus, speak outs provided for that program by Jess Dunn CC on a regular basis were always for 12 youth. Likewise, when a speak out team visited a detention facility with a specified bed capacity, that number usually represented the number of individuals in the RG, unless the facility was overcrowded. Other RG's involved variable numbers. The speak out at Mabel Bassett CC consisted of three females, while the SO at Eddie Warrior CC had 22 females in the group. Institutions attempted to limit group size--25 or so--in order to have a manageable number for the tour of the institution, consequently, restricting the size of the speak out. Predictably, traveling speak outs had the greatest likelihood of reaching larger audiences. Some data were available regarding the numbers of individuals exposed to speak outs. One public high school, during a drug awareness assembly, reported having all 500 students present for the speak out. A SO sponsor at an institution reported on a visit to a high school with 1,400 students in the speak out encounters--consisting of presentations to combined classes--in one day. One speak out inmate indicated he had made

presentations to a total of 3,000 children at a previous facility and over 6,000 at the present facility. Oklahoma County Juvenile Bureau Probation reported significant numbers of probationers having attended speak outs. Table 2 provides those data. The program averaged over 300 per year during the last five years. The Tulsa County Detention Facility, with a capacity of 55, had one or two speak outs a month. (Total speak out audience would be at least 660 per year for one speak out per month.) The Oklahoma County Detention Facility--consistently over its 42 bed capacity--had speak outs at least twice a month. (A population of 70 for these speak outs would mean a total audience of 1,680.) The Tulsa program--Public Schools, Police Department, and Sheriff's Office-planned 140-150 prison speak outs for the 1996-1997 school year, which would likely have included a minimum of 3,000 students. It was clear that certain programs and agencies were major recipients of speak out events. It was also clear that there were many smaller programs with perhaps annual contact with the speak out program that were as important as the larger ones. TABLE 2 Oklahoma County Juvenile Bureau Probationers Attending Speak Outs Fiscal Year 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 Number 424 322 247 348 225 43

It was estimated that inmates at the 29 ODOC facilities where SO's occurred, averaged one speak out per week with 25 RG group members, would speak to 37,700 persons per year. Given the size of audiences in the speak outs held at schools and at other locations, that estimation was definitely a conservative one. It was not unreasonable to conclude that ODOC inmates might encounter between 50,000 and 100,000 audience members per year through the speak out program. Other SO Features

Other features of speak outs were worth mentioning. Essentially all speak outs took place with a DOC staff person present, as well as RG sponsors. Any exception--within the context of a one-on-one speak out--would have involved a parent, present on-site, granting such permission. At some facilities, staff members made brief presentations along with the inmates, although most speak outs involved only inmates speaking. A rare exception was the program at Mack Alford CC, where the staff did a major part of the program. Another exception was illustrated by Bill Johnson CC, where the officer in charge of speak outs devoted about half of the program to a demonstration of the facility drug dog. When the SO was held at a facility, ODOC staff had considerable opportunity to speak at the RG reception and introduction, during the tour, and in a debriefing session as the RG departs. Inmates generally claimed the speak out time as their own, although it was not uncommon for them to refer questions to ODOC staff or have them make brief comments. Institutions varied by the types of security procedures used to admit the RG. At higher security levels, typically, there was notification of relevant institutional rules, logging the RG members into the visitor's log book, and the requirement that each person in the group wear a visitor's badge. Visits to both maximum security institutions--Oklahoma State Penitentiary and Mabel Bassett CC--required all RG members, including sponsors, to be subjected to a thorough pat search. On rare occasions metal detectors and pat searches were used at medium security facilities. Mabel Bassett CC stamped female tour members' hand with invisible ink, seen only in ultraviolet light, and viewed by staff upon departure. There were occasions where speak out-like events occurred spontaneously, during the tour or immediately before or after the formal speak out. While at Jess Dunn CC, a spontaneous speak out by an inmate in his living unit when the RG came through on their tour was witnessed. In dramatic fashion, he spent 15 minutes or so talking to the juveniles. There were also times when staff made spontaneous, and what appeared to the authors to be useful, presentations. While waiting for the inmates to arrive for the speak out, a correctional officer at Oklahoma State Penitentiary made a brief, informal presentation. Likewise, an Oklahoma State Industries department head at Mabel Bassett CC made a compelling presentation to the RG members while on their tour of the facility. Institutions varied with regard to appeals for feedback and evaluations of their programs. Some programs made no attempt to obtain feedback from the RG's. Others requested and received letters from visiting children and evaluations of their sponsors. Testimonial letters from RG members (see "In Other Words," August, 1996) were predictable and not particularly useful in program evaluation, although they might have been useful for other reasons. The Lifers Speak Out Group at Oklahoma State Reformatory had sought to evaluate their program through the use of an evaluation form they had requested sponsors give to the juveniles for completion.


Most ODOC institutions had speak out programs, and those which did not would like to have been doing them. Large numbers of children and adults were exposed to SO's during the year. For the most part the SO programs were well-structured, organized, overseen, and managed. Most programs had essentially the same philosophy, presentation themes, topics, and styles. Most programs took place within facilities, included a tour, involved a few inmate speakers with homogeneous characteristics, and took about two hours. Most presentations were specifically created for the RG, emphasized crime prevention, included inmate discussion of gangs, drugs, and life choices, and had a presentation style that was more informative than confrontational. No evidence was found to support the recommendation from Lundman (1966, pp. 251, 252) that those programs be permanently abandoned. The authors were unconvinced from the research findings that they ". . . increased delinquency" (p. 252). If one argued that a two hour visit cannot perform the miracle of deterring socially unacceptable behavior (see Cook & Spirrison, 1992), it can also be argued that it was extremely simplistic to assert that a two hour visit can perform the miracle of causing socially unacceptable behavior. In fact, strong support for the speak out programs within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections as well as at the institutional level was found. Benefits of the program--for ODOC, inmates, institutional staff, the RG's, and the state--greatly outweighed the program disadvantages or problems that arose. At issue was whether incarcerated felons had a role to play in citizen education, and in crime prevention. If they had a role to play, then it was a matter of how best they could go about it. It appeared that Oklahomans had decided: (1) to incarcerate a lot of offenders, and (2) to take advantage of the incarceration of some of them in speak outs intended to achieve citizen education and crime prevention.


Albanese, J. S. (1993). Dealing with delinquency: The future of juvenile justice (2nd. ed.). Chicago: Nelson-Hall. Cavender, G. (1981). "Scared straight": Ideology and the media. Journal of Criminal Justice, 9, 431-439. Champion, D. J. (1992). The juvenile justice system. New York: MacMillan. Cook, D. D., & Spirrison, C. L. (1992). Effects of a prisoner-operated delinquency deterrence program: Mississippi's project aware. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 17(3/4), 89-99. Dean, D. G. (1982, Spring). The impact of a juvenile awareness program on select personality traits of male clients. Journal of Offender Counseling, Services, & Rehabilitation, 6(3), 73-85.

Ervin, C. (1996, May 5). Senate legislation gets tough on troubled kids. Tulsa World, p. A-9. Finckenauer, J. O. (1982). Scared straight and the panacea phenomenon. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Gowdy, V. B. (1996, February). Historical perspectives. In D. L. MacKenzie & E. E. Hebert, (Eds.), Correctional Boot Camps: A Tough Intermediate Sanction. NIJ World Wide Web: /txtfiles/bcamps01.txt. Holley, P. D., & Brewster, D. (1996, August 15). An evaluation of speak outs in Oklahoma prisons. Research Grant from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Holley, P. D., & Wright, Jr., D. E. (1994, September 15). Oklahoma's regimented inmate discipline program for males: Its impact on recidivism. Research Grant from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Homant, R. J., & Osowski, G. (1981). Evaluation of the "scared straight" model: Some methodological and political considerations. Corrective and Social Psychiatry and Journal of Behavior Technology, 27(3), 130-134. "In Other Words." (1996, August). Inside Corrections, VIII, 17. Jensen, G. F., & Rojek, D. G. (1992). Delinquency and youth crime (2nd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. Lundman, R. J. (1993). Prevention and control of juvenile delinquency (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford. Mitchell, Jr., J. J., & Williams, S. A. (1986, May). SOS: Reducing juvenile recidivism. Corrections Today, 48, 70-71. Oklahoma Department of Corrections. 1994 Annual Report. Oklahoma City, OK: Author. Oklahoma Department of Correction. (1996, June 28) Facts at a glance. Oklahoma City, OK: Author. Oklahoma Department of Corrections. (No date). Program description guide. No page number. Oklahoma City, OK: Author. Presbury, J. H., & Moore, H. B. (1983, October). Taking the 10-year-old offender to jail: An alternative to "scared straight." The Personnel and Guidance Journal, 62(2) 114-116. "Scared Straight." (1979, November/December). Corrections Today, 41(6), 40-41, 45, 49, 54.

Scott, Jr., R. F., Hawkins, Jr., R. D., & Farnsworth, M. (1994). Operation kick-it: Texas prisoners rehabilitate themselves by dissuading others. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 20(3/4), 207-215. Speak-Out Information. (No date). Tulsa Community Correctional Center, Oklahoma Department of Correction: Author. Student visits to correctional institutions--Purpose, O.S. Title 70, ' 1210.231, O.S. Supp. (West 1994). Texas Department of Criminal Justice. (No date). Operation kick-it. Huntsville, TX: Author. Texas Department of Criminal Justice. (No date). Operation outreach program. Huntsville, TX: Author. Welch, M. (1996). Corrections: A critical approach. New York: McGraw-Hill.


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