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All You Need to Know About Juvenile Boot Camps

Juvenile Boot Camp


Though some might think juvenile boot camps as a television invention, these programs, though not widespread, are real. Public and private camps for juvenile offenders exist across the United States as a way of shocking them away from delinquency and adult crime. As for what a juvenile boot camp may offer, aside from a temporary relief for parents of delinquent children, a program such as this will engage children on a physical, behavioral and attitudinal level.

As the name indicates, there is great insistence on drills and training that will force children to comply with the orders of staff commanders according to a rigorous daily routine. For all of the hardships children enrolled in boot camps must undergo, though, they are expected to learn teamwork, leadership, and confidence, among other things.

More pragmatically, according to theory, they should perform better academically and be less apt to commit a crime again. Evidence suggests that signing onto an aftercare program or other supervised post-camp treatment will enhance the long-term positive effects of these methods.


Despite numerous criticisms, and some states and countries rejecting their use completely, Government-sponsored juvenile boot camps are still in operation. In fact, these setups are provided for as far up as the Federal level. The Bureau of Prisons has oversight over a few prison-oriented boot camps, and on top of this, Federal law outlines conditions of employ for the "Shock Incarceration Program."

Individual states may also effect boot camp facilities, though, as extensions of their prison and probation programs. Georgia, North Carolina and New York are particularly notable for the strictness of their camps, the number of camps which they allow, and the number of inmates per facility.

Noting the innovative recentness of these programs, though, comprehensive studies on juvenile boot camps have not been all that numerous. Much of what is known about State-run programs has been based on reports from the small percentage of survey respondents or is simple numerical data about how many facilities are in existence and how much they cost taxpayers. All the same, State-run boot camps, as a sort of safety valve to counteract overcrowding in traditional correctional facilities, are estimated to house several thousand inmates.


For desperate parents seeking a solution to their children refusing to behave at home, doing poorly at school, and engaging in unsafe activities in the presence of peers (e.g. drug use). Imaginably, privately-run boot camps for teens differ from public options on a number of key points. First of all, private facilities are a privilege. As independent businesses, they charge fees for their services, and so some facilities may not be realistic choices for some families. Besides, some applicants may be rejected if it is judged that they would not be a good fit for a particular program.


Even when the circumstances within these facilities are not that graphic, the benefits they are supposed to offer may be rare in coming. Of course, for most treatment methods to succeed, the entire course must be fulfilled, but frequently, participants will drop out either from the main program or attached aftercare sessions.

Moreover, completion does not ensure retention of the values and standards imposed in boot camp. In the presence of bad influences in school and in their neighborhood, juvenile offenders might revert back to their old ways, and certainly will not have staff members always supervising them to make sure they are adhering to standards of good conduct. Plus, while boot camps are usually seen as cost-effective outlets for committed populations, in some cases costs over time may equal or exceed those of more secure, more prison-like facilities.

Court Assignment

Oftentimes, instead of parents making the decision to place their children in boot camps, this choice will be recommended by a probation officer. As for how courts may go about remanding custody of juveniles to boot camp, there are two major routes for this process. In front-end sentencing, offending minors will either be sentenced to boot camp for a specified period as part of an original probation order or as a consequence for violating the terms of an existing order. In back-end sentencing, meanwhile, the decision to transfer children to boot camps will occur mid-stream, either near the beginning of a sentence or after an inmate has served the bulk of his or her sentence in a correctional facility. Again, the common theme here is that children are kept out of secure detention.


Though numerous states continue to employ boot camps as sentencing options and more camps exist as run by private individuals, often one who has served the Armed Forces, the actual effectiveness of these facilities is spotty at best. In truth, some boot camp programs and children within those programs have excelled given the in-your-face environment promoted by most camps. In more successful boot camps, over three quarters of the children complete the terms of their assignment and see better results in their physical well-being and performance in the classroom. Also, boot camps may be a cost-effective solution for the states.

On the flip side of things, though, detractors have highlighted quite a few ways in which boot camps for children have failed. A major goal of boot camp facilities is to keep children from being arrested again, but evidence suggests recidivism is just as likely for participants as non-participants and aftercare programs are underutilized and prone to low completion rates.

The agendas of boot camps may also be complicated in a way that hinders rehabilitation. For one, the mixture of military drill and clinical treatments may cause one or both to be lacking in some regard. In addition, co-ed programs have proved a distraction in numerous instances, if not an unfortunate opportunity for males enrolled in the programs to abuse the situation.


The theoretical oppositions to boot camps and military schools for children as well as their failures in many cases have perhaps overshadowed the intent of the facilities trying to do children good and succeeding. The movement to create boot camps in the United States came soon after implementation of the first boot camp for adults and was a response to larger issues facing the juvenile justice system. Boot camps seek to address two major kinds of problems children have in their day-to-day lives. The first of these is problems with authority and conformity with the rest of society, which institutions treat with a heavy dose of authority in the form of drills, exercises and other training led and enforced by staff as part of a military hierarchy.

Included in the range of activities that especially benefit children with a history of bad behavior/delinquency are physical and general education, life skills, and vocational preparation. All children who enter these boot camps are also expected to undergo counseling and medical rehabilitation for the various troubles they face, both in camp and after the fact. This may take the form of group counseling, or individualized meetings with a health professional tailored to child's needs.

Recidivism Rates

The primary reason for the continued existence of boot camps and court-ordered military schools is that they will help curb recidivism of youth offenders, and down the road, adult patterns of criminality. Consequently, along with their cost factor, most boot camps are judged by this standard.

Compared to the performance of detention centers and other correctional facilities, boot camps may be better predictors of lower recidivism rates. For instance, the State of New York which operates a number of child and adult camps, has fared better than average on likelihood of being arrested from stays in boot camps and periods of commitment to secure institutions, reporting lower rates of recidivism for the former.

However, some would suggest that outperforming prisons and reformatories is not really a good barometer for success. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Institute of Justice studied the effectiveness of boot camp programs on preventing repeat offenses in children. In a 1991 study sponsored by said organizations, three camps were assessed for their retention of participants, especially against an additional arrest.

In the Ohio program, roughly a third of inmates were dropped from the program following an arrest. Of even more note, a later project examined these camps for recidivism rates of all juvenile offenders who enrolled, finding that participants in boot camp did no better or worse in this regard.

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