NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Britain Offers Young Inmates Military Choice

January 27, 2000

Britain has launched a small pilot program aimed at turning young offenders into soldiers. A nine-week inmate course, sponsored by Britain's Prison Service, is open to males in their last six months of sentencing -- except those convicted of race, sex, drug or violent crimes.

  • Officials say it differs from prison "boot camps" launched some years back in the U.S., in that it doesn't aim at punishment -- but rather seeks to give the youths a head start.
  • Nor is the program intended as a recruitment effort, even though Britain is having the same problem filling military ranks that the U.S. is experiencing.
  • Some officials fear admitting inmates into the army will stigmatize it and discourage non-criminal youths from signing up.
  • The would-be soldiers take courses that include weapon safety, physical fitness and administration.

Some experts doubt that such a program would work in the U.S. because Britain maintains lower educational standards for enlisted service members. They say few offenders could be brought up to U.S. military standards.

Source: Marco R. della Cava, "Britain Grooms Inmates for Army," USA Today, January 27, 2000.


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