Juvenile boot camps according to Hutchinson & Richards (2013) are short-term programs that use the paramilitary basic training styles for correction of juvenile offenders. The correctional boot camps exist in several states across the United States, and they employ drills, physical exercises, work and vocational education in an effort to instill respect and discipline in juvenile offenders. This essay will look into at least two juvenile boot-camp organizations in an effort to investigate whether or not juvenile boot-camps have been effective in reducing recidivism.
Examples of boot camps include Cornell Abraxas Leadership Development Program in Pennsylvania and Patrick Henry Brady Boot Camp in South Dakota (Koch Crime Institute, 2000). Cornell Abraxas Leadership Development Program is a fifteen-day residential program that was established in 1994. The program only accepts juveniles adjudicated for other crimes except for murder, and the state funds the program. Patrick Henry Brady Boot Camp in South Dakota, on the other hand, is a 120 days residential program that accepts medium and low-risk juveniles. The program is also funded by the state. For these boot camps to be effective in reducing recidivism, they have aftercare programs as well, though they are limited to a period of between 6-12 months.
There have been controversies on the effectiveness of such boot camps in reducing recidivism. Many researchers have claimed that these correctional programs have poor evidence to support their effectiveness in reducing recidivism (Bergin, 2016). Their arguments are that the changes the juveniles demonstrate in the boot camps are not replicated when they return back to their communities. According to researches done by several researchers in the year 2001, the boot camps have substantial benefits as the military vocational training can foster respect by the juveniles to their seniors. However, in a systematic review conducted on 32 studies, the researchers could not find statistical recidivism differences between those offenders that attended boot camps and those who did not (Wilson, MacKensie & Fawn, 2008). The findings were that the offenders who had not been to boot camps did not have lower or greater recidivism rates than the non-participating offenders. The researchers concluded that military training components like drills and exercises did not have any effect on recidivism.
Others researchers argue that teen camps are appropriate for managing and treating troubles teenagers. There is also the issue that the program is ambiguous once the juveniles are realized from the boot camps. According to a review by MacKenzie et al. (2001), boot camps lack the necessary modules for long-term therapy and the six months treatment period is too short to change the bad behavior of a teenager. As a result psychiatrists and doctors do not see it surprising that the program is not effective in the correction of offenders. In this regard, aftercare programs are required because without follow-ups, the teens are likely to fall back to criminal activities. It is because of the lack of aftercare that boot camps have poor records of reducing recidivism among teens.
Though boot camps have benefits, their low recidivism rates among other controversies make it inappropriate as an intervention program. However, MacKenzie (2006) believes that if other treatments are added to the boot camps, then boot camps might become appropriate for treating juvenile offenders.
Bergin, T. (2016). The Evidence Enigma: Correctional Boot Camps and Other Failures in Evidence-based Policymaking. Routledge.
Hutchinson, T., & Richards, K. (2013). Scared straight: boot camps for Queensland. Alternative Law Journal, 38(4), 229-233.
Koch Crime Institute. (2000). Juvenile Boot Camps and Military Structured Youth Programs. Directory, p. 41-42.
MacKenzie, D. L. (2006). Aftercare following a correctional bootcamp may reduce recidivism. Criminology & Public Policy, 5(2), 359-362.
MacKenzie, D. L., Gover, A. R., Armstrong, G. S., & Mitchell, O. (2001). A National Study Comparing the Environments of Boot Camps With Traditional Facilities for Juvenile Offenders.
Wilson, David B., Doris L. MacKensie, Fawn Ngo Mitchell, (2008), Effects of Correctional Boot Camps on Reoffending. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 2003:1, p. 12.
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