Is the "Scared Straight" program child abuse?

Sheriff’s deputies pushed them against jail-yard fences and shoved them to the ground. They yelled and cursed within inches of their faces. They forced them to run for long periods, ignoring pleas for breaks, until some vomited.

Receiving this treatment: Kids and teens — one was 8 years old…

“It is physical abuse,” said Kenneth Dodge, a child psychologist who formerly headed Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy. “…This tactic would be called torture if the prisoner were a member of the Taliban.”

Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, who created the program, disputes that it is abusive. But in a recent interview with The Herald and The Charlotte Observer, he acknowledged that his deputies can be “pretty tough.” That, he contended, is what it takes to deter some youths from crimes that will lead to something far worse — prison.

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