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Juvenile Boot Camps Essay, Research Paper

Juvenile Boot Camps: The Modern Alternative

Juvenile delinquency is not anything new; it is a problem that has plagued our

society for the past two hundred years. Juvenile delinquency is believed to have started

with the emergence of industrialization and urbanization. This same phenomenon later

appeared in other countries as they began to modernize as well (Bernard 6). In the past

juvenile care facilities and juvenile detention centers attempted to contain the problem of

juvenile delinquency. These past attempts have failed. The modern alternative, juvenile

boot camps, might turn out to be an effective way of combating the problem.

The Juvenile Justice System plays a major role in combating juvenile delinquency.

According to Donald J. Shoemaker, ?a juvenile is any person under the age of eighteen

who commits any illegal act whether criminal or status,? (3). It is within this system that

juvenile delinquency is analyzed by looking at the situation from outside. A perfect

example of how this system works is by looking into a pond; a person sees a fish and the

world in which it swims in, while the fish in the pond can?t see the overall world it swims

in (Bernard 11). This is how the Juvenile Justice System works. They look at juvenile

delinquency from outside to get a better view as well as a better understanding of the

overall problem.

Within the Juvenile Justice System there are five constants that have remained the

same for the past two hundred years. People may think these constants have changed

when they compare them to earlier days but over all they haven?t changed.

The first constant says ?regardless of whether crime is high or low at a particular


time or place juveniles, especially young males, commit a greater proportion of the crime

than would be expected from their proportion in the population,? says Thomas J. Bernard

(Bernard 22). The juvenile crime rate fluctuates as the juvenile population fluctuates.

While there may be a drop in the proportion of arrests that juveniles are involved with the

rate of juvenile arrests has remained relatively constant, (Bernard 23).

The second constant states that there are special laws that only juveniles are

required to obey. These laws are referred to as status laws because they only apply to

people with a juvenile status (Bernard 25). These kind of laws involve running away from

home, refusing to attend school, refusing to obey parents, drinking alcoholic beverages,

violating curfew, etc.(Bernard 26). Adults are allowed to move out of their houses or quit

school. A juvenile who commits such an offense can be punished for being involved with

the same activities and end up being sent to a juvenile institution.

The third aspect that has remained constant is that juveniles are treated more

leniently than adults when they commit the same offense. Usually when a juvenile

commits a crime the punishment isn?t as severe as when an adult is convicted of the exact

same crime. In most states a person under the age of eighteen who commits an offense is

sent to a juvenile court to be tried, many courts go on the concept of less responsibility,

therefore less punishment, (Bernard 29). This may be true in most states but in some

states there are offenses that are automatically sent to adult court. From there the

juveniles lawyer tries to argue that the offense was committed due to immaturity.

Many people believe that the current group of juveniles commit more frequent and

serious crime than juveniles in the past, meaning there is a ?juvenile crime wave,? at the

present time (Bernard 31). People have always believed that there is a ?juvenile crime

wave? going on and that thirty to forty years earlier it was never this bad. People?s

impressions of how bad juveniles are has always been the same. The major difference

between now and earlier times is the seriousness of offenses committed. The offenses


committed today are much more serious than ever before; with murder and burglary added

onto the list (Bernard 33).

Many people blame the Juvenile Justice policies for the supposed ?juvenile crime

wave,? (Bernard 34). People argue that justice policies are too lenient or that they are too

harsh. This is a belief that the Juvenile Justice System increases juvenile crime by not

having a good balance between. At times serious offenders were given lenient sentences

which almost encourages them to try to get away with the same crime again. In other

cases minor offenders may be given harsh sentences which could harden them. This could

increase a minor offenders likelihood of committing crimes in the future.

Taking into account these five constants the Juvenile Justice System came up with

a new alternative to help the problem of juvenile delinquency. This new alternative was

juvenile boot camps. The first of these boot camps was set up in Oklahoma and Georgia

in 1983 (Alleman and Gido 206). Florida and New York then followed by opening up

there own juvenile boot caps. Towards the 1990?s the idea of boot camps began to

flourish. In 1992 a survey said twenty-six state correctional systems were operating

forty-two juvenile boot camp programs. At this rate it is predicted that there will be

juvenile boot camps set up in all fifty states by the year 2000 (Zaehringer 1).

The basic set up of a juvenile boot camp involves military style training. Military

style training is one of many characteristics that intrigue people. In order for this type of a

juvenile institution to be called a boot camp it must have the military style training. The

strict atmosphere has attracted a lot of attention due to the strong visual impact. Footage

of drill sergeants yelling in the faces of young boot camp participants presents quite a

provocative image (Alleman and Gido 206).

Within these military style boot camps there are two levels of goals. These include

system level goals and individual level goals. System level goals are goals the Juvenile

Justice System plans to accomplish by using juvenile boot camps. Individual level goals


are goals the Justice System plans to accomplish within each individual offender who

enters a juvenile boot camp (Ortiz and Selke 99).

The goals of the Juvenile Justice System within boot camps vary greatly. One goal

is to reduce prison overcrowding. Juvenile boot camps are a lower level prison for

juveniles. The goal is to place the juvenile in a boot camp rather than in the harsh world of

prison life. This helps save space in prisons for serious criminal offenders. The less

violent atmosphere of a boot camp is also better for the rehabilitation of a young offender

(DiCancio 200).

Juvenile boot camps are also looked at as an alternative to long term incarceration.

The short term cycles of boot camps have proven to be just as effective as prisons.

Although they have not proven to be more effective when it comes to return offenders.

Both short term boot camp cycles and long term prison sentences have a sixty to seventy

percent recidivism rate. Although boot camps are still a modern alternative; they may

prove to be more effective once improved on.

Juvenile boot camps run on a short term cycle and therefore are less costly. This is

another goal of juvenile justice system; to reduce the cost of incarceration by having short

term cycles with boot camps. It costs around ninety-three dollars to incarcerate a juvenile

in a boot camp per day (Zaehringer 2). A ninety day cycle costs right around $8,370. For

a one hundred eighty day cycle it costs $16,740. Most other juvenile institutions run on

one or two year cycles. This makes the cost much higher. The cost differential for a year

in boot camp ($33,480), and a year of treatment at a juvenile care facility ($47,400); is

about $14,000, per juvenile, per year (Zaehringer 3). The fact that juvenile boot camps

are less expensive than other juvenile institutions; and are rehabilitating the same

percentage of people; proves that they are a better option for young offenders.

Improving the image of corrections agencies and also public safety is another goal

of juvenile justice system. Attempts to crack down on juvenile crime in the past have


shown failure. Juvenile boot camps are a way to show society that something is being

done to crack down on juvenile crime.

In the past there were various aims that each individual boot camp had for the

individual. Today almost all juvenile boot camps aim for some form of rehabilitation. The

most common forms of rehabilitation include substance abuse treatment, drill and

ceremony, and basic education. These forms of rehabilitation are a way for the boot camp

to change a person from a juvenile delinquent into a more stable person.

Camps that teach basic education are usually for those who have not yet achieved

a high school diploma. While an offender is in boot camp they are given the opportunity

to achieve their GED, which is the equivalent of a high school diploma. Another form of

rehabilitation is substance abuse. This form of rehabilitation is the most popular due to the

fact that many believe the reason for the increase in juvenile crime is due to the increase in

drug use among juveniles. These types of boot camps focus on drug and alcohol

treatment to help the juvenile get over their addiction, and educate them of the harm they

are causing themselves.

Other boot camps focus all their attention on military training. These camps

include physical training, drill, and ceremony. Here they do all the physical training a

regular boot camp would do and follow the regular drill routines. Once a person has

completed the boot camp they graduate with a big ceremony. This is to show support for

their achievements and to help boost their self esteem (Zaehringer 2).

The overall goals of boot camps at the individual level are to give the individual

direction and to avoid crime. Due to the strict military structure of the boot camps, young

offenders are quickly taught respect for authority. When an offender does not do what

he/she is told there is strict punishment that follows. This promotes discipline within the

individual. Through this strict discipline, boot camps hope to improve an offenders

confidence; and instill in them positive social behaviors.


With these goals in mind a person has to look at the statistics to see how effective

juvenile boot camps are in rehabilitating young offenders. The recidivism rate for juvenile

boot camps is between sixty and seventy percent (Zaehringer 1). This is the exact same

recidivism rate as other juvenile institutions. Over all it proves that juvenile boot camps

are lacking one key point. This key point is effective aftercare for the youth. When a

person is released from a juvenile boot camp they are either placed on regular or intense

parole (Alleman and Gido 213). The juvenile boot camps in Florida have the lowest

recidivism rates. This is believed to be result of a partnership between state and local

government; and also effective ?community transitional programs? (Cass 5).

The state of Florida develops boot camp programs through partnerships between

state and local government (Cass 1). These programs use local resources and community

involvement to rehabilitate more serious offenders. Florida?s? first boot camp in Manatee

County is a good example of the successful partnership between state and local

government. The state government pays fifty three dollars per juvenile everyday. The

Manatee County Sheriffs Office provides meals, medical services, and a computer lab.

This partnership between the state and local governments keeps the cost low while

providing a strict rehabilitative boot camp program.

The Florida boot camps are set up the same as other juvenile boot camps, with

military style training and rehabilitation programs. Although there is a second key

component that makes Florida?s boot camps differ from others. This difference is an

effective aftercare program. This program is called the ?community transitional program.?

When a juvenile graduates from the boot camp they must attend a transition

ceremony. This ceremony is to show their accomplishments; and is viewed as a new

beginning (Cass 4). Once in the community they are required to attend the aftercare

program which the graduate being taken to the aftercare facility for the day. Aftercare

facilities involve the graduate to be picked up early in the morning, taken to the aftercare


facility, and then returned home around nine p.m. (Cass 4). The graduate must attend this

program for six to nine months after graduation.

At the aftercare facility youths are involved with individual and group therapy; as

well as recreational activities. When the youth begins to show positive behavior they are

allowed to return to a local high school or a full time job (Cass 4). Of all the graduates of

Florida boot camps who have gone through this community transition program, only

sixteen percent of them were sent back due to disciplinary violations. This is far less than

the sixty to seventy percent recidivism rates of other boot camps.

Solving the problem of juvenile delinquency cannot be accomplished by coming up

with a new juvenile justice policy, it can only hope to contain it. Ever since the problem

arose in the 1800?s there have been policies trying to change peoples behaviors. This is

not the problem; the problem is within the capitalistic structure of our society. Our

society is set up so that there are winners and losers. Through this process social classes

are formed, and therefore people are ?left out.? These people who feel ?left out? have not

found their place within society. This then results in delinquent behavior. This is a big

problem that could be solved but isn?t because it is thought to be too costly. Maybe

juvenile boot camps are the answer to the problem; we will have to wait and see. For

now, it appears to me juvenile boot camps are just another juvenile institution trying to

solve the bigger problem. It is hard to say whether or not juvenile boot camps are the

solution to the problem; for now it looks as though they can only contain it.

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