Scared for life?

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I notice with dismay your report (16 December) that Dundee City Council plans to send “disruptive” pupils for a quick dose of deterrent by visiting inmates at HMP Perth.

I’m further shocked by your editorial support, in the same issue, for this thoroughly discredited approach.

The basic premise of these programmes is that juveniles who see what prison is like will be deterred from future violations of the law – in other words, “scared straight”.

All the research evidence indicates that programmes such as these are simply not effective in deterring criminal or antisocial activity. In fact, they have often been shown to be harmful and increase delinquency relative to no intervention at all with the same young people.

Is this the only solution the education service can come up with – a discredited strategy based solely on the misplaced notion that punishment works?

Perhaps the Dundee Education Service should be asking itself why the city’s rate of exclusion is three times the national average before grasping at the intuitive, but misplaced, appeal of getting tough with unruly ­pupils. 

Tom Aitken

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