Criminology/The Pros And Cons of Boot Camps term paper 42253

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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).

Dr. Ed Latessa, a juvenile justice expert based at the University of Cincinnati, says that the big problem faced by the youth is found in their environment. Peer influence, drug addiction, and others are all just waiting to victimize the teenager (Hanusa, 2006).

According to the OJJDP study, in order for an aftercare program to succeed, it must be extensive and individualized for each participant. There should be coordination and communication between the agencies concerned such as the camp personnel, counselors, and prospective employers (Hanusa, 2006).

Recommendations for Future Boot Camps

After conducting a study on the effectiveness of boot camps, Bourque and his associates (1996) from the National Institute of Justice gave the following suggestions:

• To ensure that the inmate would not longer commit another offense when they are released from the boot camp, organizers or administrators should incorporate community reintegration and re-entry plan (Bourque, et al., 1996).

• The boot camp should offer huge time discounts to inmates who complete the boot camp and served long-term sentences (Bourque, et al., 1996).

• Boot camps should likewise provide extended programs to improve their chances of decreasing recidivism. Likewise, inmates should be provided with intensive care and must be supervised after their release (Bourque, et al., 1996).

• The NIJ likewise suggested that the designers of the program should determine the most suitable option for their jurisdiction (Bourque, et al., 1996).

In another study conducted by the Michael Peters, David Thomas, Christopher Zamberlan, and Caliber Associates (1997), the following recommendations were given

• Boot camps should veer away from programming the expected behavior of their inmates (Peters, Thomas, Zamberlan, & Caliber Associates, 1997).

• Programs must be thoroughly defined and the target population should be carefully selected in respect to their objectives for recidivism, punishment, reduction of cost, and rehabilitation (Peters, Thomas, Zamberlan, & Caliber Associates, 1997).

• Aftercare is the most crucial stage of the boot camp so the program must work on improving or restructuring aftercare programs (Peters, Thomas, Zamberlan, & Caliber Associates, 1997).

• When there is more than one agency charged with monitoring the inmates, the role of each should be completely defined (Peters, Thomas, Zamberlan, & Caliber Associates, 1997).

• Consistent and continuous hiring of personnel must be implemented (Peters, Thomas, Zamberlan, & Caliber Associates, 1997).

• More research and studies about juvenile camps must be conducted (Peters, Thomas, Zamberlan, & Caliber Associates, 1997).

Ensuring the Effectiveness of Your Boot Camp Program

After pointing out several areas where planning and implementation could provide benefits to other juvenile boot camps, the Bourque and company (1996) have laid down the following suggestions for ensuring an effective boot camp program.

 Since the objective of most boot camps is to change the behavior of the youth offender, boot camp programs must establish a solid rationale for each one of their program activities as well as a transparency of their expectations and what the activities hope to accomplish (Bourque, et al., 1996).

 The personnel as well as the inmates of the program should understand the design and objective of the program. If there are several agencies running the facility, the responsibility of each agency must be fully spelled out. They should make the inmates aware who will make them responsible for any misbehavior (Bourque, et al., 1996).

 A boot camp program should provide a balance between the military and rehabilitation aspects. The military element can provide the discipline and structure needed to change the behavior of the inmate. There are some young offenders who prefer to be treated on the premise that it is conducted on a controlled atmosphere. However, rehabilitation will not succeed if the psychological, emotional, and educational needs of the inmates are not addressed as well (Bourque, et al., 1996).

 A juvenile boot camp must carefully select the inmates who will join the program. The target population should be carefully defined. Among the previous cases that completed the program, many young offenders could cope up with the boot camp schedule. However, inmates with previous incarceration history will unlikely thrive after being released (Bourque, et al., 1996).

 The personnel involved in the program should undergo continuous training so as not to disrupt the flow of thins even after the program has ended. New programs should expect an increase in the turnover rate and include frequent training of the employees (Bourque, et al., 1996).

 The transition from boot camp to outside world can be one of the most critical issues that need to be addressed. Aftercare programs should be modified, because once the youth has graduated from the program, it will already be difficult to keep track of their whereabouts (Bourque, et al., 1996).

The Future of Boot Camps

Whether or not boot camps will be effective as a correction tool for offending youths is a big question. The study conducted by Bourque and associates (1996) was not successful in determining the long-term effect of the program in changing the behavior of the offender. Likewise, it failed to come up with conclusions about the ability of the program to generate savings for the already overcrowded juvenile justice system (Bourque, et al., 1996).

In addition, the said study was not able to determine whether or not the offender, after completing the program and being discharged from the camp, would not be arrested again for committing a similar mistake (Bourque, et al., 1996).

Headed For the Opposite Direction

With boot camps no longer appearing to be a viable consideration for reducing the number of youth offenders in the country, states are now looking into the possibility of experimenting with a different approach: small but cozy treatment facilities resembling that of the centers pioneered by the state of Missouri, and home-based multi-systemic therapy (Hanusa, 2006).

In 1970, the state of Missouri launched a pilot project that will serve as an alternative to large juvenile detention facilities. The state's Department of Corrections inaugurated several small facilities—the biggest housed only 36 youth offenders-- which are very close to the families of the inmates. Instead of punishing the youth offenders, administrators of the facilities set their sights on personal and group development. To assist the inmates after their release, the facilities initiated community-services (Hanusa, 2006).

Inside these facilities, the youth offender can look forward to a supportive and homey atmosphere. The inmates are grouped together and they are responsible for monitoring one another. By using group therapy sessions, the inmates are given the chance to express their feelings by evaluating their personal and family background (Hanusa, 2006).

This approach is bearing dividends. In 2003, 70 percent of the youth offenders who were discharged from the center in 1999 had no longer been arrested for a period of three years. The program is creating savings for Missouri. In 2002, the state's Department of Youth Services allocated $ 102 for every youth. This was smaller than the recidivism rates in states like Louisiana, Maryland, and Florida, which spends $270, $193, and $271 for each of their youth (Hanusa, 2006).

Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST)

Another new approach introduced by Missouri is the multi-systemic therapy. In this approach, the youth offender is not housed in a facility or treatment center. Instead they stay at home with their families. The assigned personnel focuses on academic, drugs, and peer concerns. The parents and siblings of the offender are entitled to services as well. The aim of the caseworker is to provide new behavioral patterns in support of the offender's rehabilitation (Hanusa, 2006).

The cost of availing of this approach ranges from $5,000 to $7,000 for every family annually. On the average, incarceration may cost $43,000 annually. The only setback of this approach is that therapists are having a hard time coping up with this method. It demands specialized training which would entail additional expenses and more time for justices and social workers (Hanusa. 2006).

The effectivity of MST and the Missouri program is proven by a 2006 report of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. According to the report, fostering an environment of support is the most effective juvenile program (Hanusa, 2006).

According to Dr. Latessa, the popularity of boot camps will gradually decrease with the passing of time. When they are certain that a military-like approach would solve behavioral problems of teenagers, the belief in the effectiveness of boot camps will slowly flicker (Hanusa, 2006).


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