CHAPTER FIVEThe Rise and Fall of Juvenile Boot Camps in the United States
The Rise and Fall of Juvenile Boot Camps in the United States• Boot camps experienced substantial growth during the 1990s (after the rise of adult boot camps in the mid-1980s) only to come to a screeching halt and virtually disappear just as quickly, although a few programs still exist• Accepted with open arms by both the government, media, public and politicians• Allowed jurisdictions to obtain additional federal and state funding for treatment through the passage of the 1994 Crime Act• The decline of boot camps can be attributed to reports of staff abuses of youth and a number of deaths while the youth were in custody• Rehabilitation and reducing recidivism are very important goals of the programs
Overview of Juvenile Boot Camps• Net widening – critical issue that occurs when a juvenile, who would normally remain in the community on a lesser sanction such as probation, is instead receiving a more serious punishment simply because this program is available • Particularly relevant given the history of placing nonviolent juveniles or status offenders in detention – which can be harmful to youth• Typical juvenile boot camp participant was a nonviolent male between the ages of 14 to 18 years who was placed in the program by a juvenile court judge• About half of the boot camps were solely limited to nonviolent offenders while the other half accepted youth convicted of violent crimes• The capacities of juvenile boot camps ranged from 12 to 396 participants and the lengths of the programs varied from one day to one year• Almost all boot camps emphasized a military atmosphere with drill and ceremony, platoon grouping, and strict discipline; some even using military titles and uniforms for staff and juveniles• Programs include physical labor, physical fitness, sports activities, and challenge or adventure programming• Overall, juveniles spend one to ten hours per day in physical training, military drill, and work and about six-and-a-half hours in educational classes or counseling
Traditional Boot Camp Experience• Upon arrival, males typically have their heads shaved (females are permitted short haircuts) and informed of the strict rules• Required to address staff members as “sir” or “ma’am”, to request permission to speak, and to refer to themselves as “this inmate”• Punishments for minor rule violations typically involve physical exercise such as pushups or running, while major rule violations may result in dismissal from the program• Participants gradually earn more privileges and responsibilities, outwardly displayed by a different color hat or uniform• Between 8% and 50% will fail to complete the program• For those that complete the program, elaborate graduation ceremonies occur where visitors and family are invited to attend • Graduation can oftentimes be emotional because awards are handed out and some youth become close with their instructors and fellow platoon members
Typical Day in Boot Camp• The 10- to 16-hour day begins with a predawn wake up• Inmates dress quickly and march to an exercise yard where they participate in an hour or two of physical training following by drill and ceremony• Then, they march to breakfast where they are ordered to stand at parade rest while in line and to exercise military movements when the line moves. They are required to stand in front of the tables until commanded to sit and are not permitted to make conversation while eating. They are allowed ten minutes to eat breakfast• After breakfast, inmates march to school to attend academic classes• When the 6- to 8-hour school day is over, youth return to the compound where they participate in more exercise and drill• A quick dinner is followed by evening activities consisting of counseling, life skills training, additional academic education and study time, or drug education and treatment
Juvenile Boot Camps and Recidivism• Recidivism rates for juvenile boot camp graduates were high – over 60% of participants reoffended after release• A 1997 study found that boot camps had not reduced recidivism rates and found no overall difference in recidivism between boot camp participants and participants in other correctional alternative programs (such as probation)• The failure of boot camp programs to reduce recidivism has been primarily ascribed to low dosage effects, a hypermasculine environment, a shortage of cognitive based treatment programs, and the absence of aftercare programs• Low Dosage Effects – literature suggests that programs of too short a duration are less likely to reduce recidivism
A Hypermasculine Environment• Boot camps use the masculine military model that incorporates aggressive interaction, physical exercise, physical labor, and corporal punishment in the daily schedule• Some experts have expressed concerns of the possibility that the paramilitary structure will be detrimental to the juveniles• Boot camps reinforce hypermasculine behaviors that have been found to be the strongest predictors of criminal offending and high risk behaviors directly related to offending• Government officials have asserted that boot camp programs are both ineffective and could be harmful to juveniles• A military atmosphere in a correctional setting is not effective in reducing recidivism rates• The interaction between the masculinity in boot camps and the hypermasculine beliefs and behaviors of the juvenile offenders helps to explain the failure of boot camps to reduce recidivism
Shortage of Cognitive Based Treatment Programs• There is sufficient research to show that proper correctional treatment and therapy are central to reducing recidivism• Studies have shown that correctional boot camp programs with more hours committed to treatment and therapy resulted in lower rates of recidivism• Boots camps for juveniles should devote more time to cognitive based treatment programs that have been found to be effective in reducing recidivism• Need to incorporate treatment that replaces negative thought processes and behaviors with positive ones and focus on individual needs by hiring professionally trained treatment staff
The Decline of Juvenile Boot Camps: Deaths in Correctional Custody• Some people believe boot camps should be eliminated because the military atmosphere poses an inherent danger to residents• Some of the traditional activities, such as the exercise components that include lengthy runs, have been hazardous, resulting in a number of deaths• July 1999, South Dakota: • Gina Score (5’4”, 226 lbs) joined other girls on a 2.7 mile required run. She collapsed, began frothing at the mouth, lost control of her bladder, lost her ability to communicate then eventually became unresponsive. The staff would not allow other girls to help her, commenting that they should not make things easy or comfortable for her. They left her there for 3 hours before taking her to the hospital, where she had a temperature of over 108 degrees, dying an hour after she arrived• Reports have shown that guards shackle youth in spread eagle fashion after cutting their clothes off, chain youth inside their cells, place children in isolation for 23 hours a day, and male guards supervising the strip search of female juveniles• Two staff members were charged, but later acquitted, on child abuse charges in the death and other alleged problems at the camp, including making girls run in shackles until their ankles bled
The Decline of Juvenile Boot Camps: Deaths in Correctional Custody• Another incident occurred in Arizona in 1998: • 16-year-old Nicholas Contreraz was performing pushups when he became so dehydrated that he became unresponsive and eventually died. Signs of abuse were later found on the body, including abrasions from head to toe, bruising on his flanks and bleeding in the stomach. Autopsy results showed he died from complications from a lung infection that were made worse by physical activities• There is always a potential for abuse of authority by untrained or undertrained staff• Media presentations of such incidents have helped to develop emotional responses to programs, so that it would seem boot camps are a dangerous alternative sanction• However, before final judgments are made, these fatal incidents must be placed into context of all injuries and deaths that other in other juvenile correctional facilities• We still do not know how many youth die in boot camps – in part because some of these camps are privately operated
The Importance of Aftercare in Boot Camp Programs• One of the biggest criticisms of boot camps is that persons released from a structured or therapeutic environment are returned to the same communities where they were arrested, and most find it difficult to avoid the factors that contributed to their arrest • These factors include family dysfunction (including parental incarceration), poverty, limited employment opportunities, poor school adjustment, and harmful peer relationships• Aftercare addresses this criticism by maintaining the behavioral, social and attitudinal changes that boot camps have instilled in participants• Emphasizes community-based extension by emphasizing intervention and community adjustment• Participants are provided with rigorous programming that includes surveillance and monitoring and are supplemented with education, counseling, treatment, meaningful job skills, and the opportunity to work upon release• Also offer anti-gang programs, community service projects, mentorships, independent living training, recreation programs and financial resources and assistance
New Generation Boot Camps: The Maryland Experiment• Based on Maryland’s Toulson Boot Camp program, established in 1990• New generation boot camps devote more time in the daily schedule to treatment and education• Initial evidence suggests this may be more effective in reducing rates of recidivism as compared to traditional boot camp and correctional programs• Uses a military model with the typical components but also incorporating drug education, life skills training and academic education• The program lasts six months and is divided into three phases which each spans a two month period • Participants are in Phase One when they enter the camp – where they emphasize discipline and self control in a highly structured daily schedule that focuses on military drill, physical training, academic education and other therapeutic education programs • In Phases Two and Three, daily activities have less emphasis on drill and physical training and more emphasis on work projects• This boot camp was actually cheaper to run than traditional prisons on a per inmate cost basis because they are able to operate more efficiently• In order for boot camps to be effective, staff must be carefully monitored, a balance between military structure and treatment components must be met, cognitive behavioral treatment programs must be implemented and aftercare must be offered
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