Boot Camps came into prominence in the 1980s. It was initially conceived as an effective tool for resolving behavioral problems of teens. This approach was derived from the military style of correcting the behavior of erring members of the military. Boot Camps are short programs that may last from 3 to 6 months. The youth offender is housed in a facility along with other youth offenders. This paper will delve on the effects, pros and cons, and background of juvenile boot camps. The Pros And Cons of Boot Camps An Overview of Boot Camps Juvenile delinquency is one of the more glaring issues facing the youth of today.
At present, the number of juvenile defenders all over the world has grown into alarming proportions. Juvenile delinquency takes place during adolescence, a period which is marked by a transition from childhood to adulthood. At this stage of their lives, they start to become independent and away from the guidance of their parents. Although the youth is acknowledged as the holder of the key to the future, it is a sad fact that most adolescents are now confronted by many issues that can put their future in peril – violence, drug abuse, prostitution. Juvenile delinquency is regarded as more of a social than political problem.
It stems from various factors such as peer pressure and family influence. However, realizing that there is a need to help these youth offenders, the government has stepped in and implemented several measures by setting up facilities that will save the future of these young people. What are Boot Camps? Otherwise known as “shock incarceration,” boot camps became prevalent in the 1980s. The concept was patterned after the military boot camps and was grounded on the principle of using military discipline in shaping youth offenders to become productive members of the society.
Compared to the overcrowded detention centers, boot camps offered reduced per-bed cost (Hanusa, 2006). Boot camps are facilities that are designed to reform delinquents by employing a military type of correction. The main purpose of these boot camps is to teach the delinquent how to respect authority, adhere to rules, and shape up their behavior at home and school. In these facilities, therapy and psychological intervention is non-existent. Instead, military exercises, discipline, and rigid physical training are used to reform the offender (Boot Camps Info, n.
d. ). There are many kinds of boot camps. Some of them are run by the state as an alternative for juvenile jail. Others are privately owned with tight security. Guards are placed in boot camps for no reason than to make sure that the inmates will follow the rules. The punishment for breaking the guidelines in the facility includes extended runs and obstacle courses. The idea of boot camps is to break the “spirit” of the adolescent and lead to corrective actions (Boot Camps Info, n. d. ). The History of Boot Camps
Due to the increasing number of adolescent youths who got imprisoned in the last ten years, as well as the different opinions regarding the role that punishment and treatment play in correcting offenders, boot camps have emerged as an alternative to incarceration. Boot camps started in Georgia in 1983. Since then, they have expanded to twenty five states and have gained fame for their military-type approach. In a survey spearheaded by the General Accounting Office, it was revealed that during its first ten years, there were 29 boot camps offering their programs in 29 states with a total population of 10,065.
Since then, Michigan and Texas have shown a drop in their population. New York and Georgia own the largest boot camps in the country. Their combined population comprises fifty percent of the national total (Parent, 2003). While the focus of first-generation boot camps centered on the military-type approach involving “discipline, physical training, and hard work,” second-generation facilities utilized rehabilitation through “alcohol and drug treatment” (Parent, 2003). Likewise, second-generation boot camps introduced new treatment methods such as pro-social skills training, electronic monitoring, and home confinement, to name a few.
By the middle of the 1990s, boot camps existing in the country started to decline. At the dawn of the 21st century, only 51 boot camps are left operating. Likewise, the population of boot camp inmates has considerably dropped more than 30 percent. Reasons Behind Boot Camps Because of the escalating number of youth offenders in the United States, more and more states are now setting up boot camps. These facilities take the place of youth correctional facilities. Most of them adopt the military type of approach in improving the behavior and attitude of the youth offender.
They use physical training and conditioning and follow a structured program. However, it is interesting to note that these facilities or barracks are not entirely for problem teenagers. There are facilities designed for the youth without any criminal record. They are no different from other camps, except that they follow strict procedures. How Do Boot Camps Work? Boot camps are patterned after military-type minimum-security prisons. The conditions are not similar to a regular prison facility and the duration of stay is much shorter which could range from three to six months.
While majority of the strategy are modeled after military training, juvenile boot camps vary considerably with a standard prison set-up. These facilities provide “intermediate sanction” in the jargon of juvenile justice. The punishment in a boot camp is more restrictive compared to probation, but not as severe as imprisonment or detention (Begin, 2002). Boot camps in the United States accept male and female delinquents between 17 to 25 years old. Some inmates were admitted to the program through the “back door” (Begin, 2002).
They were chosen by correctional officers from other offenders who were sentenced to serve a regular prison term. Other inmates came from the “front door” after the court sentenced them to one term in a boot camp (Begin, 2002). When the offender has already completed their sentence, boot camp officials would determine the method of after-care support that the community would provide. Offenders would either receive regular probation, intensive probation supervision, or electronic monitoring (Begin, 2006). The Effects of Boot Camps
According to a study conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, there is no evidence that boot camps indeed reduce the rate of recidivism. Usually, staying in a boot camp is much cheaper than detention in a juvenile center. However, the amount of money that will be saved by the offender will be determined by the length of sentence, which is commonly shorter than incarceration (Hanusa, 2006). Boot camps have shown both positive and negative effects on the individual.
The approach in boot camps is simple and that is reward for good work and punishment for violations. Most of the inmates admitted in boot camps are troubled teenagers who are either drop outs in the school where they are studying or teens who have behavior problems at home (Troubled Teens Guide, n. d. ). The concept of boot camps started in the military. All the major sectors of the armed forces run their own boot camp programs. In the military, the purpose of these facilities is to train new recruits in several aspects such as physical conditioning, using weapons, comradeship, being a leader, and others.
The participants of the boot camps stay in the facility for two weeks without sleep, communication, and food. Aside from that, the participants are made to live in diverse conditions in order to test how far they can go (Tobey, 2006). Since the inmate experience a new environment and share the facility with other participants, they learn to adapt themselves with the new surrounding away from the company of previous friends, old habits and behaviors. Since the old environment has disappeared from their system, the inmate starts to incorporate new attitudes and behaviors. Likewise, he or she learns to mingle with a new set of friends.
This is a positive aspect of boot camps (Troubled Teens Guide, n. d. ). The MacKenzie Study Recognized as the most intensive and systematic study on the effects of boot camps, Doris MacKenzie conducted a research in 1994. It incorporated programs which emphasized on supplementary programming and increased supervision when released. The research utilized control groups to make way for comparison of effects in connection with other sanctions. Likewise, the study measured recidivism in order to determine its effects on the attitude and behavior of the community (Bilchik, 1997).
The MacKenzie-Souryal study reached the following findings: 1. Although the boot camp participants concluded their term with a positive result compared to standard inmates, there was no difference between the participants and sample population as to objectively measuring the changes towards anti-social behavior while serving their term (Bilchik, 1997). 2. Boot camp graduates had a hard time coping up with community assistance when looking for a job, pursuing an education, finding a home, or being financially secured and treated (Bilchik, 1997).
Even though they served their sentence in the boot camps, the amount of recidivism in the United States did not decrease. In the three states were the incidence of recidivism reflected a drop in the rate, the program centered on rehabilitation and intensive supervision upon release ((Bilchik, 1997). In addition, the Mackenzie study proved that boot camps contribute to the possibility of extending incarceration if the charge is life imprisonment in order to take part in the boot camp program.
Using intensive supervision after completion of sentence will most likely lead to re-incarceration ((Bilchik, 1997). National Institute of Justice A team of six researchers under the National Institute of Justice also conducted their own study (Bourque, Cronin, Pearson, Felker, Han, & Hill, 1996). The research involves three demonstration boot camp projects for young re-offenders aged 15 to 18 years old. Likewise, they evaluated boot camp inmates who are in the after-case program. No control groups or long-term follow up were provided to the survey participants.
After the study, it was revealed that although there were promising results at the end of boot camp, the programs used in the study reflected increased rates of attrition as a result of non-compliance, absenteeism, and re-offense while in the aftercare phase (Bourque, Cronin, Pearson, Felker, Han, & Hill, 1996). . Moreover, the NIJ study yielded the following findings: 1) With careful planning and implementation, boot camp programs will be able to meet their desired goal (Bourque, et al. , 1996). 2) The success rate of first year boot camps were high ranging between 80 percent and 94 percent (Bourque, et al.
, 1996). 3) The boot camp programs involved in the study showed a marked improvement in the educational performance, overall behavior, and physical fitness of the inmates. Likewise, the rate of improvement in the aspect of self-discipline, respect for authority, personal appearance, and teamwork (Bourque, et al. , 1996). 4) Inmates who completed the boot camp program within 3-months and continued to receive supervision from the program for a minimum of 5 months showed positive improvement in their attitude and behavior (Bourque, et al.
, 1996). 5) Boot camps are most likely more affordable than prisons found in the State or local prison facilities (Bourque, et al. , 1996). During the early part of the 1990s, some boot camp programs started taking in female inmates. However, a study conducted in 1992 revealed that since these facilities were programmed to admit men, accepting female inmates can become a dilemma. The study revealed the following findings about female inmates (Bourque, et al. , 1996, p. 3): • They face the possibility of becoming single parents
• They are prone to experiencing physical or sexual abuse • They are inclined to exhibit a different “history and pattern of drug use” (Bourque, et al. , 1996, p. 3) • They face the possibility of becoming out of job after discharge from the boot camp What Boot Camp Proponents Say Despite of the many questions that the opponents of boot camp hurl at the program, people who are in favor of boot camps as a correction method raise several points that will prove that this kind of program helps participants become productive members of society upon their release from the camp.
In her article, Hanusa (2006) stated some of the arguments in support of the program: 1. The atmosphere pervading in the camp is ideal for fostering positive growth and change (Hanusa, 2006). 2. The program structure and control personnel foster a secured atmosphere where fighting between inmates would be avoided and would not fall victims of other youths than when they are in regular correctional centers (Hanusa, 2006). 3. The addition of military structure can foster camaraderie as well as respect for staff (Hanusa, 2006).
What Critics Say About Boot Camps On the other hand, critics of the program also raised several arguments about boot camps: 1. The confrontational nature of boot camps violates the kind of positive interpersonal relationships that the offender needs in order to achieve positive growth. They claim that this is against the aim of therapeutic treatment. The stringent policies implemented by the camp may cause the inmates to develop fear against the personnel of the camp (Hanusa, 2006). 2.
The boot camp’s focus on group activities does not provide room for addressing individual problems of the youth (Hanusa, 2006). According to Susan Colling, a former juvenile programs Director in Colorado, one of the reasons why boot camps are a failure is because it does not provide aftercare assistance. An inmate may do well inside the boot camp but once they graduate from the program and sent back to their community, they will most likely find a hard time coping up with the new situation because they got used to an environment that is controlled and structured (Hanusa, 2006).
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