Boot camps for juveniles evolved from the success that were seen from adult boot camps. The first ever adult boot camp began in 1983 in Georgia and today there are more than 70 total programs that are operating in more than 30 states. Juvenile boot camps have not been able to keep up at the same rate, although by 1996 there were 48 residential camps. Only 1 of those cams had been opened prior to 1990.
Statistics About Juvenile Boot Camps
1. In 25% of the programs that were studied by the US government, participation in the boot camp had to be voluntary in nature.
2. Initial levels of anxiety were slightly higher for boot camp youths when compared to those entering a traditional facility. Depression rates, however, were found to be lower.
3. Boot camp staff are found to have a more favorable view of their employer and report better overall working conditions.
4. Boot camps have been found to have an up to 8% increase in the chances of a juvenile becoming a re-offender.
5. Girls who enter into a juvenile boot camp program history are up to 5x more likely to have a history of sexual or physical abuse.
6. For children who have been subjected to domestic violence, the environment of a juvenile boot camp can become an immediate trigger that brings trauma.
7. The average length of stay in a juvenile boot camp program: 90 days.
8. Every study that has been conducted on recidivism in juvenile boot camps shows that there is no change to the rates of offending.
9. The number of child abuse incidents that were identified by the Government Accountability Office in a 2005 audit: 1,619.
10. Recidivism rates for some juvenile boot camp programs has been found to be as high as 80% when dropout rates are included in their statistics.
11. No study has been conducted on juvenile boot camps to determine how recidivism rates could be lowered.
12. Youth in a juvenile boot camp are more likely to say that the staff of the facility care about them and the outcomes they are able to achieve.
13. Although there are many benefits, youth in juvenile boot camps are more likely to see their staff as dangerous when compared to a traditional facility.
14. According to research, all youth that are assigned to a juvenile boot camp must be able to pass a full medical exam.
15. Juvenile boot camps are nearly twice as likely to perform a psychological evaluation upon entry than a traditional facility.
16. Boot camps are the least likely to admit youth who have psychological problems or are rated to be at a suicide risk.
17. The first juvenile boot camp was developed in Orleans Parish, LA, in 1985.
18. The recidivism rate for juvenile boot camp participants in Cleveland, OH: 96%.
Why Does Juvenile Boot Camp Work?
What makes the juvenile boot camp unique is that it is patterned after basic military training. Instead of being called an “offender” while in the program, juveniles are entered into the program as part of a squad or platoon. They are given uniforms to wear that simulate the military uniform and are required to march to activities and daily needs. A rigorous program is initiated, including ceremony practice and early morning calisthenics, while hard physical activities are a common practices.
Punishments at a juvenile boot camp also tend to be punitive or summary in nature. It is not uncommon for juveniles to be instructed to do push-ups or sit-ups for misbehavior or perceived misbehavior, as is often considered a practice of the military. These programs are often quite popular, but as of late, there efficiencies and effectiveness have been brought into question. The drilling into youth of exercise routines and demanded respect is often considered part of growing up. The outcomes, however, can be quite the opposite of what is intended.
Advocates for juvenile boot camps, however, are quick to point out that the structure of the program gives a staff member more control over the implementation of a program. Instead of a child sitting in a cell or confined residential facility, they are learning life skills in an environment that is traditionally safer than what can be found in a traditional juvenile facility.
The Facts About Juvenile Boot Camps
Sometimes a child could use the skills that are learned in a juvenile boot camp. The only problem is that many of the youth who would be assigned to such a camp do not respond well to confrontation or physical intervention.
Because recidivism rates aren’t 100% anywhere, it means that there are some kids that are benefitting from these military style programs. That means that there is something that is being done correctly. By taking a closer look at the kids who are finding success with these programs, the court system, parents, and others in authority can then be able to assign children who will have the greatest chances for success.
Another key factor that would help juvenile boot camps is a well-rounded therapeutic program. Instead of focusing on marching, exercise, and authority recognition solely, a secondary therapeutic encounter that included one-one-one time with a therapist, group therapy sessions, and other support functions could give these kids even more life skills to use later in life. Some children will choose to re-offend in every program that has been created. With recidivism rates at 96% in some areas, however, it means that something must be done to fix these issues.
When juvenile boot camps are run correctly, they can lower law enforcement costs, save communities money, and help kids who need it. If the kids who will have the greatest chances for success are assigned to these programs, then they will become a more effective tool for everyone to use. Until that happens, they will continue to carry with them a level of controversy because they won’t be as successful as they ultimately could be.