Goals Of Boot Camp

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Goals Of Boot Camp

Goals Of Boot Camp


Boot camps were first established in the United States in 1983 as an alternative to traditional forms of incarceration. Most are residential facilities for juvenile delinquents or adult criminals with military-style structure, rules, and discipline. Boot camp programs are expected to reduce prison crowding and related costs. They are also intended to reduce recidivism and antisocial behavior. Finally, it is commonly believed that they can deter individuals from future offending while also helping to rehabilitate them through the imposition of discipline.

There are currently more than 75 juvenile boot camps and military-structured programs in 39 states (Rogers, 2002). Modeled after boot camps for adult offenders, the first juvenile boot camps emphasized military discipline and physical conditioning. Offenders often enter the programs in groups and are commonly referred to as platoons or squads. While in the program, they are required to wear military style uniforms and engage in strenuous physical fitness activities, educational programs, treatment programs, and military drills (Mackenzie, Gover, Armstrong, & Mitchell, 2001). Offenders sentenced to boot camps are generally young, first-time, nonviolent felons. Most states, for example, restrict participation to offenders between the ages of 17 and 25, although a few have maximum age limits of between 25 and 30 years of age.

In general, boot camps are selective about the type of offenders admitted into the program. Juveniles undergo psychological, medical, and physical evaluations to determine eligibility. In their study, Mackenzie et al. (2001) found that the majority of the juveniles are young men around 16 years of age. On average these young offenders had been only 13 years when they were first arrested. Most had previously been committed to institutions.

Pros of Boot Camp

Criminologists and criminal justice practitioners have evaluated the success of boot camps along a number of parameters. They have examined whether or not they reduce recidivism, prison overcrowding, or cost. They have also looked at the impact of military training on offenders, whether boot camps have helped inmates to adjust, and whether these institutions have had any success addressing the drug problem. So far there is no compelling evidence that boot camp participants recidivate less than the groups with which evaluators have compared them. Likewise, their effect on prison overcrowding is weak at best.


In some states (Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Arizona), as in Florida, judges sentence offenders directly to boot camp. If these offenders are denied entry or are dismissed, they are sent back to the court for resentencing. This type of decision-making structure suggests that a higher proportion of boot camp entrants are selected from those who would otherwise receive probation. Consequently, their incarceration in boot camp will have no effect on prison overcrowding rates at all.

Reduction of Cost

It is difficult to interpret the cost data from different states or to make meaningful comparisons across states because of differences in methods of accounting. However, in most states it seems that boot camps cost as much or more per day than traditional ...
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