In 1983, the first Juvenile Boot Camp was opened in Georgia. These Juvenile camps have become a very popular answer in controlling the behavior of our youths. The adult system was using boot camps for a few years before the juvenile system did. The reason the juvenile system did not use them right away was, because there were questions about their appropriateness for delinquents. Due to the increase population of juvenile offenders, the facilities started to overcrowd. Therefore, the correctional officers had to turn towards boot camps as an alternative.
But what exactly is a boot camp? Boot camps are military training that concentrates on discipline, and unquestioning obedience to orders. The most important goals for these programs are instilling morals and values, to make certain the offenders that they are accountable for their actions, and to increase academics (Austin, jones, bolyard, 2). Boot camps are not so much being used as a punishment for juveniles but rather a correctional facility.
This program sounds so worthwhile but how effective are they, what kind of juveniles particularly get sent to boot camps, how much do they cost, how many are there in the country, what are the procedures and what they do at the camps, in what ways do they help the juvenile straighten up, and finally what other alternatives are there out there instead of boot camps? The answers to all of these questions are quite interesting.
One aspect of Juvenile boot camps is whether they are effective or not. Studies have shown that boot camps help overcrowding and prison costs, but they fail in reducing recidivism rates of a program. If a program is working, it helps ease the impact of cost by taxpayers by showing them that their money is being used for an effective facility. However, data from around the United States show that boot camps have not produced a decrease in the number of boot camp graduates who are rearrested for other crimes (Bourque national survey, 7). There was a study done on Oklahoma and Georgia, the first two states that started boot camps. In that particular study, researchers found that in Oklahoma, a group of graduates versus non-violent offenders sentenced to the Department of Corrections that at the 29 month mark, almost half of the boot camp graduates had went back to prison while only 28 percent of the other group had. Meanwhile, in Georgia researchers found very little difference between the two programs (Salerno 151). According to Bourque, there have been a high number of dropouts in boot camps, and a large proportion of those who enter boot camps, drop out for medical, personal, or disciplinary reasons. Those who drop out typically end up serving longer terms of imprisonment (Bouque ns, 8).
After juveniles have graduated from boot camps there is a program called aftercare. The sites differed widely in the type of aftercare services they offered their graduates. Bourque explains that the programs mainly are used to build on the individual’s behavior, attitude, and education that the boot camps wished to generate. But without the 24-hour surveillance that the boot camps offered, the juveniles went back to their same old behavior patterns. Moreover, the programs did not maintain the intensive discipline and regimentation of the boot camp phase, the withdrawal of which was associated with the breakdown in graduates’ focus and motivation. Another reason for this comes from the graduates not being, involved in activities anymore to keep them busy and out of trouble (bourque b.c. j.o., 7). Research has shown that with more time spent on aftercare, recidivism rates will decrease, making juvenile boot camps that much more appealing.
Not all juveniles get sent away to boot camps. The majority of the programs are only for youthful offenders, but there are some exceptions. In New York, juveniles cannot exceed the age limit of 39 and for New Orleans 45 years of age. Most programs prefer to select first time offenders convicted of non-violent or drug related crimes like, property, or other felony involving no injury and relatively small dollar loss.
(Austin, 3). According to Austin, youths with prior incarcerations were less likely to survive in aftercare (Austin, 3). After several years of having boot camps, many of them have two basic processes in which an offender is selected. First, the sentencing court has the most power when it comes to admitting an offender into a boot camp program. Sometimes the program staff is recommended by the courts to consider certain offenders. Second, the program staff verifies that the offender meets the admission criteria by screening them. After the offender fits the criteria, a recommendation is made to the court to sentence the offender to the boot camp program. Finally the juvenile has to be physically capable of joining a boot camp, but in some jurisdictions the sentencing judge can order boot camp commitments directly (Austin, 6). However, as Parent (1989) points out, it could be argued that the decision to enter a boot camp program is really not as voluntary as it seems when an offender is offered the choice of a few months in boot camp versus several years in prison.
An important aspect in determining if boot camps are worthwhile is the price of the program. Researchers have a rough estimate for daily costs for this program, which range from 66 dollars to 75 dollars per youth, depending on the city. This is clearly proven to be somewhat cheaper than alternative state and local facilities (Bourque B.c.j.o., 8). Therefore, boot camp programs have important implications for the cost savings potential of the program and the requirements for the aftercare supervision. The longer the camp, the more difficult it is to realize savings from reductions in the number of days institutionalized. However, the shorter camps may require aftercare in the community that is longer, more tightly supervised, and therefore more costly (Bourgue b.c. j.o. 8). The current boot camp approach normally places offenders in boot camps for shorter periods of time than if they had been sent to prison. By holding these offenders for shorter periods, the resulting bed space will mean reduced crowding and lower prison confinement costs. According to a survey done, the length of the residential boot camps ranges from several weeks to six months (Bourque bc jo 8).
Boot camps have been growing rapidly since 1985 to present. One of the first programs that started in Georgia obtained only 50 beds. Early growth in the use of this alternative was slow, by January 1987 only four boot camp programs existed. However, boot camps began to multiply later the same year. A recent survey done in 1993 counted 52 programs in 32 states, with more then 1,000 beds in Georgia and New York. While three more states were seriously considering implementation (Bourque National, 8).
On of the major driving forces contributing to boot camps expanding has been the significant level of political interest in establishing them, ranging from the local politician to the highest levels of Federal Government. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, for instance, allocated $24.5 million in competitive funds for boot camp construction and operation (Parent 1). Most of the juvenile boot camps are located on existing or closed military installations that are chosen by agencies in one or more states. Then it is consulted with the secretary of defense and if they agree that the site is appropriate then they administrate the program (website).
Each boot camp has slightly different procedures when it comes to running the program, but they all have the same purpose. All the sites start with a 90 day residential program daily, starting at 5:30 or 6:00am and not ending until 9 or 10pm, that put juveniles through a forceful workout of military drills, physical conditioning and disciplining them. The sites also include educational skills, counseling, and substance abuse education, and other health and mental health problems (Bourque b.c.j.o., 5). Not all programs offer all the components, but overtime, as boot camps continue to grow, they change. The very first programs emphased firm military training, physical training, and hard labor. Even though, these components are still very popular in every program, many boot camps are starting to concentrate and increase the time they give to treatment and education (Zachariah 23).
By using all these techniques and procedures, the programs try and help the juvenile straighten up. Boot camps used the military model to teach the juveniles socially acceptable behavior while concentrating on the consequences of deviance (Bourque b.c. 5). Using the military model and physical training also teaches the youthful offender discipline. The camps design classrooms where they teach educational subjects to the offenders. This helps the offender, because he/she most likely hardly ever attended school or missed a lot of days of school. The classrooms are also there to provide counseling to the juveniles so they can figure out why they are deviant and try and change their behavior. The program also builds strong morals and valves. Having these ethics helps the juvenile to think twice about committing an act of delinquency. The juvenile might think about their family and how it will hurt them or even think about what committing the crime would do or how it will affect themselves. Boot camps are designed to make the individual stronger and make them realize that they do not “rule the world.”
Some people say that boot camps are not helping the juvenile but instead are abusing them. In December of 1999, CNN reported that a 15-year-old boy was abused and assaulted while attending a Maryland boot camp for one day. He had accused the military guard of breaking his wrist. This has brought about similar reports of abuse at this particular Maryland Boot Camp. Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, whose responsibilities include oversight of the juvenile justice system, said that an investigation is underway and if convicted, guards will be fired (CNN). Marks explains how officials across the country are re-examining their “get-tough” policies against juvenile offenders (Marks, 1). Another example why people say that boot camps are abusing the offenders is that in South Dakota a 14-year-old girl died from dehydration during a long distance run. Critics say boot camps have been rife with the potential for abuse right from the start. They say the reevaluation is long overdue and hope currently scrutiny signals a swing toward more therapeutic approaches that focus on drug treatment, education, and vocational training (Marks, 1).
Boot camps have been a way to treat the juveniles but there are plenty of other alternatives too. There are correctional institutions that are both long term and short term. One of them is a long-term institution called training school or reform school. The first training school opened in 1846 in Massachusetts. In most states, the state government runs training schools. This program has very high security with fences. The reason training schools are long term, meaning an average length of nine months, is to “harden youths” away from delinquency and toward abiding by the law (coffey, 196). Sending a juvenile away to training school is to treat them by increasing severity of behavioral problems.
Halfway houses are another form of a correctional facility. They are usually a residential center in which the juvenile resides. Halfway house means that it is halfway between a correctional institution and parole (coffey 201). This program usually lasts for about six months and it combines education, counseling, and Guided Group Interaction for the juvenile and their parents.
Youths who are involved with the Juvenile Justice System require an individualized approach that takes their strengths and needs into account. All programs should be family centered, including the family in all decision making about a child. Boot camps are thought to fulfill a variety of important goals for both offenders and correctional agencies, but the most important goal is rehabilitation, and there appears to be considerable agreement concerning this goal among system-level officials, facility administrators, and drug treatment and education supervisors. There is also recent growing evidence that boot camps, as alternatives to incarceration, can constitute an effective cost saving approach to dealing with offenders, but they must be carefully developed and managed. The demonstration’s aftercare programs need to be rethought and possibly restructured. The transition from boot camp to aftercare should be less abrupt, building on the structure, discipline, and experiences of the residential stage.
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