The increase in violent behavior amongst America’s youth has prompted the implementation of more effective rehabilitation methods. With the percentage of non-violent offenders on the rise, prison incarceration or juvenile detention doesn’t seem to be the right solution for rehabilitation.
In December 1983 a new idea emerged in Giorgia. This new idea was shock incarceration or boot camp. These temporary institutions were the beginnings of a trend to try and help with the rehabilitation efforts of young offenders. During the early years the majority of the juvenile justice community did not accept this idea with only four institutions existing by 1987. That trend did not last long. With the rise in juvenile violence and increased media coverage of juvenile violence that number exploded to 46 institutions operating in thirty states just five years after the idea was introduced.
Boot camps are institutions that rehabilitate non-violent offenders. In the beginning these institutions were only designed for young male offenders with ages ranging from 11 to 17. The early participants were hand selected and categorized as being the most influential or easily manipulated by his environment. Usually first time non-violent offenders were chosen for this program and completion of the program would shorten their sentence. “Boot camp programs operate under a military-like routine wherein young offenders convicted of less serious, nonviolent crimes are confined for a short period of time, typically from 3 to 6 months. They are given close supervision while being exposed to a demanding regimen of strict discipline, physical training, drill, inspections, and physical labor. All the programs also incorporate some degree of military structure and discipline, such as requiring inmates to stand at attention and respond with ‘Yes, sir’ or ‘No, sir.’”(Gowdy 1)
One of the most recent improvements in the boot camp alternative to incarceration is the “Implementation of Three Demonstration Programs”. In April of 1992 this program was introduced into three states Ohio, Colorado and Alabama. It combined a military-style environment with conditioning, rehabilitation and an aftercare program. This program catered to nonviolent youth between the ages of 13 to 18. It also has three phases that the inmates must successfully pass in order to complete their sentence. The first phase is selection (including screening and intake). This phase consisted of selecting inmates who have not been convicted of any of the following: murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, aggravated arson, felony assaults and kidnapping. All of the inmates are required to take a medical examination prior to entering the program due to the physically demanding environment. Alcohol and drug associated inmates were accepted as long as they were not addicted to these substances. ” Each program consisted of a 3-month military-like residential phase followed by a community aftercare phase of up to 9 months.” (Felker and Bourque 10) During their three-month stay at boot camp undisciplined inmates would be dealt with in several ways. “The punishments were fairly clear: for minor incidents, extra pushups or drill time sufficed; for major flagrant violations, suspension from the program and referral to juvenile court for disposition could result.” (Felker and Bourque 10) During there boot camp stay various forms of rehabilitation accured. For instance a variety of uncomfortable duties would be assigned and their attention to detail would be rewarded. Cleaning and scrubbing a bathroom with a toothbrush was one of the common daily duties. One of most prestigious jobs was cleaning the front office with little or know supervision. Usually inmates who were in there last thirty days would receive this duty. Yelling was a verbally aggressive way of getting an offender to respect authority. Many people have criticized this form of rehabilitation because it uses negative reinforcement, which contradicts the programs purpose. Educational and instructional drug and alcohol awareness as well as counseling is conducted on a daily basis. Uniforms are similar to the one’s used in the armed forces. There is strict obedience to drill instructors and other inmates. The facilities varied in structure. Most used a squabay bunk bed type formation. Most if not all would volunteer for the program so a maximum-security facility was not necessary. These facilities were usually located way out in the middle of nothing but country or woods.
The aftercare programs were positive because it meant that the inmate successfully completed boot camp and now they are going to be monitored to make sure they pursue a positive path in life. “One method employed by two sites to ease the transition from a structured environment to the community was creating a separate school for boot camp graduates to attend.” (Felker and Bourque 10)
In 1983 there were less than a hand full of boot camp institutions being ran. “In 1993, just ten years later fifty-nine programs were being operated in twenty-nine states, with a total capacity of inmates exceeding ten-thousand.” (Gowdy 2) New York and Georgia have the biggest populations accounting for half of the ten thousand.
The history of shock incarceration or boot camp has been brief compared to the history of juvenile incarceration and rehabilitation. Contrary to popular belief boot camps are not restricted to just male juvenile delinquents. There are institutions for male and female adult and juvenile. The explosion in participants can be attributed to America’s youthful rebellious years during the 1960’s. Today there is generation X whose world is more accessible at an earlier age. With the influence of television and computers generation X is in a class by itself. Boot camps can be used to help curve non-violent behavior but I don’t think it can stop it. These institutions in my opinion will lose their credibility in the future because if you look at our own armed forces boot camps, every ten years they get more and more lient on the recruits. If these juvenile institutions are supposed to mirror the military boot camps, how effective do you expect these institutions to be in the future? Another thing I believe is that if we spent more time educating the parent we could reduce juvenile delinquency just as fast as these institutions are being built. The one thing about boot camp that I can attest to is that once you graduate you will never be the same.
Bourque, Blair B., Daniel B. Felker. “The Development of Boot Camps in the Juvenile
System: Implementation of Three Demonstration Programs.” Koch Crime Institute:
1-12. Online. Netscape Communicator. 2 December 1999. Available www:
Gowdy, Voncile B. “Historical Perspective”: 1-7. Online. Netscape Communicator. 2
December 1999. Available www:
Communicator. 2 December 1999. Available www: