Youth Boot camps
First established in 1983 prison "boot camps," or "shock incarceration programs," are programs that are modeled after military training to purportedly encourage discipline and self-respect in participants(1 ). We aren't talking about a nickel and dime endeavor. SunTrust Equitable Securities in 1997 in a report called "At-Risk Youth ... A Growth Industry". An estimated annual public spending on youth services at 50 billion dollars(2).
Are these programs effective? From the hype they seem to be a cure all. But...
A researcher who did a study for the Department of Justice, Dale Parent, who is a senior research analyst at Abt Associates Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. said, "There are a lot of people running around saying they work and they're cheap," and he also said "We don't know whether they work and they're clearly not cheap."(3).
Greg Kutz, who has led an investigation into youth residential programs for the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO), said that these programs use deceptive marketing practices. He played before congress of a tape recording he made of an undercover call he made to a referral agency for a boot camp. The referral agency for the camp told him to hide information about the camp from the child mother saying she might "freak out", they told him "I want you to tell her that it's a college prep boarding school. ... If she thinks that you want to send her daughter to a place where there are drug addicts and people that are all screwed up, she will look at you and say 'no way.'"(4 ).
In 2002 a study of boot camps in California showed no reduction in recidivism among juvenile offenders(5 ).
Other research has shown no difference between boot camp graduates and others who where given probation with no prison time(6 ).
When a difference is shown the effects on recidivism are marginal, and savings were limited(7 ).
State Rep. Toby Goodman, an Arlington Republican and chairman of the Texas Legislature's Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee said, "In eight years of chairing juvenile justice in Texas, none of the facilities have produced any information to show me that they do better than standard corrections,". Pamela Ward the Austin, spokeswoman for the Texas Youth Commission, the agency that oversees the most serious youthful criminals said, "But all the national research has shown it takes more than a kick in the pants and someone telling you to march, march, march to really change your thinking and change your behavior," (8 ).
Edward Latessa, professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati, has said that the impact of sending inmates to boot camps makes them bigger and stronger felons(9 ).
Researchers also said about boot camps "[IT]here is no persuasive evidence that boot camps have a measurable or long-term impact on the recidivism of program participants." When it does have an impact the impact seems to disappear over time(10 ).
When done alone boot camps may actually increase recidivism because they have difficulty maintaining discipline without supervision (11 ).