NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Boot Camps Closing

April 18, 1997

States throughout the nation are experimenting with various means of combating juvenile crime.

But enthusiasm for the boot camp approach -- also known as "shock incarceration" -- is waning.

Many law enforcement officials are concluding that boot camps do not deliver the kind of results once hoped for.

  • The concept was to use military discipline to generate respect for authority and emphasize good support services once an inmate was released -- with the purpose of reducing recidivism.
  • Some states have closed camps -- Arizona and Maryland among them -- citing high costs, possible abuses by guards and the lack of effective programs to maintain whatever positive changes the camps sparked.
  • In Arizona, a study revealed that nearly 70 percent of 1,253 offenders admitted to the boot camp program during a three-year period were back in custody within four to seven years for new crimes or technical parole violations.

Some former inmates, however, have praised the camps for effecting positive changes in their lives. The federal government appropriated $24.5 million in fiscal 1995 for a number of boot camp programs.

The trend now seems to be to emphasize record-opening laws as part of juvenile justice reforms.

  • Advocates say states must pass laws which make juvenile criminals' records readily available to law enforcement officials so they can be employed as a law enforcement tool.
  • Some members of Congress want legislation which would require states to report juvenile arrests and convictions to the National Crime Information Service, which is part of the FBI.
  • Currently this database only contains information on adult criminals; but it has been suggested that states be required to report information they have on juvenile criminals as a condition of receiving federal grants.

Sources: Joe Davidson, "'Boot' Camps for Young Criminals Lose Favor as Costs, Abuse Claims, Recidivism Pose Problems," and Editorial, "Young Criminals," both Wall Street Journal, April 18, 1997.


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