Boot Camps Effectiveness in Dealing With Juvenile Crimes

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The concept “boot camp” denotes a military training center that aims at disciplining and enforcing orders individuals who commit any form of crime (Christopher et al, 2013). Research has shown that boot camps have largely been used as a political tool by numerous governments to crack down crimes committed by youths. Correira (1997) observes that juvenile delinquency has become a common problem especially in developed countries. Taking a case study of US, he highlights that youths at time become rebellious, a situation that requires appropriate intervention. From a careful analysis of literature, it is definite that delinquent behaviors interfere with youths’ social, academic and personal life (Anonymous, 1998). Such behaviors include drug abuse, theft, robbery and other forms of violence. Besides this, academic performance is heavily affected. In this case, Juvenile boots comes have been regarded as an option to instill discipline among the youths. However, the effectiveness of boot camps have largely been questioned by scholars (Anonymous, 1998). Some of the crime analysts who specialize on juvenile matters argue that boot camps are not very effective in curbing deviant behaviors among youths. Nonetheless, there are those individuals who argue that juvenile boot camps are effective. It is against this backdrop that this paper will examine whether boot camps are an effective way to deal with juvenile crime.

History of boot camps

From a careful analysis of literature, evidence has shown that the first boot camp was established in Georgia, America in 1983. Doris et al (2001) acknowledge that the camp was first used to control adult behavior where majority of the victims were gun killers who hunted the new breed of juveniles who were perceived as super predators. This scenario was common in the era between1986 to 1993, where a significant number of juveniles were killed. Nevertheless, in as much as there were renowned juvenile delinquents, they were not taken to the camps. This is due to the fact that the appropriateness of using the camp for youths was highly questioned. However, the camp was later perceived to be a popular solution for controlling juvenile crime. From a careful review of history, Doris et al (2001) highlight that juvenile delinquencies rose by 5.2% in 1989 as compared to the previous year. Since then, an increase by 4% of violent crimes was reported in developed countries such as Britain, Canada and other countries in the West.

It is also important to note that the idea of using the camp for delinquents gained momentum due to increased offenses committed against the youths. During this time, industrial revolutions and urbanization were at their pick (Christopher et al, 2013). These factors also led to an increase of delinquent crimes. Consequently, this raised the need to establish more boot camps. The other need that boosted the establishment of more camps it the fact that the previous one was very crowded and could no longer accommodate more victims of juvenile crimes (Jones-Brown & Hanriques, 1996). It has drawn my attention that there were long-term goals that were set prior to establishment of boot camps. The major goal was to use the program to instill moral values among individuals by making them feel accountable for their delinquent acts. In other word, the camps were meant to impose punishment to juvenile offenders (Reid-MacNevin, 1997). Therefore, as a correction facility, the camp has been perceived to be worthwhile and effective especially because there are minimal cost incurred. It is important to note that juvenile camps are not widely spread. However, there are those that are private and others are public. Taking a case study of US, these camps are commonly used to deal juvenile offenders. To some extent, youths with deviant behaviors have been taken to these camps to offer a temporary relief to the parents or guardians.

Since their establishment, boot camps have been used to engage youths in behavioral and physical activities that are meant to influence their altitudes, impact moral values and realize their potentials (Christopher et al, 2013). Recently, statistical records have shown that there has been an enormous decline in crime cases among juveniles ranging between the ages of 10 to 17 years. For example, Bottcher and Michael (2005) present survey evidences illustrating that between 1994 and 1995, juvenile cases reduced by 3%. In this case, empirical evidence has shown that at this time, life of juveniles was no longer threatened by police and other attackers. Remission of such threats to the youth is one of the factors that completely spread the wave of artificial juvenile crimes. Bottcher and Michael (2005) point out that in 1997, reported homicides committed by juveniles were higher than those of 1980s, a factor that makes the effectiveness of juvenile camps to be questioned.

Functions of boot camps

It is important to note that juvenile delinquencies ranges from mild to extreme. Examples of such crimes include drug or substance abuse, violent robberies and other child-related crimes. Notably, the delinquencies do not take place in a vacuum but within the society. The crimes not only affect the society at large but also the families of deviant youths (Jones-Brown & Hanriques, 1996). Consequently, strict measures are deemed necessary in order to curb the spread of juvenile crimes. Therefore, boot camps have great assertion on training. This ensures that delinquents comply with rules and regulations as they engage in vigorous routine activities. Christopher et al (2013) note that within the camps, children are forced to undergo training to develop leadership skills, confidence and teamwork. Some of the boot camps that are private or governments sponsored provide rehabilitation services, job training and peer education to juveniles. Strict discipline and punitive multiple approaches are used to deal with severe crimes (Anonymous, 1998).

Empirical research has shown that not all juveniles taken to the camp are guilty of crimes. Instead, youths can be taken to such camps for protection or to ensure physical safety. From a careful analysis, one of the major causes of juvenile crimes is due to alienation or isolation where majority of the youths gang up with their peers to create sense of belonging. Due to the undying desire to achieve recognition, social status, self-worth, power and excitement, members in juvenile gangs influence each other. Consequently, they end up committing numerous crimes Bottcher and Michael (2005). Therefore, boot camps acts as an effective tool of separating victims from such gangs where they are protected form brutality and assaults that are part of the initiation rites. Study conducted by Correira (1997) has shown that individuals who belong to juvenile gangs are likely to commit more violent acts as opposed to those who operate on personal basis. This is due to the fact that such gangs might have gone to an extent of acquiring lucrative weapons such as handguns that enable them to commit violent acts such as shooting and all sorts of theft. Correira (1997) sensitizes that boot camps involve juveniles in paramount exercises thereby diverting energy which they could have used in crimes into constructive activities.

According to Jones-Brown and Hariques (1996), boot camps have effectively been used for commercial purposes where parents pay money to ensure that their children get confined for numerous reasons. For instance, parents often panic due to the deteriorating performance in academics where they fear that their children could be engaging in deviant behavior. In this case, they take the children to private boot camps to seclude them from unsafe activities. At this juncture, it is obvious that choice of privately-run camps differ from those of public ones due to several factors. For example, private boot camps offer special privileges for delinquents who have not even committed any form of crime. Since this is a private enterprise, a certain amount of money has to be paid for the privileges depending on the realistic choices made by the parents. In this case, children are admitted to the camps by the virtue of the fact that they will fit in a particular program. Contrastingly, government boot camps accommodate juveniles who are victims of aberrant behaviors. In most cases, juveniles taken in such camps are derived from urban streets and are therefore in the program at no cost (Christopher et al, 2013). Instead, it is the government that incurs cost by providing facilities to run the program.

Why boot camps are effective in dealing with juvenile crime

It is important to emphasize that despite the numerous critiques on the effectiveness of boot camp, their benefits are acknowledgeable (Christopher et al, 2013). It is worth noticing that typical boot camp makes punishment of deviant behavior to be a swift and immediate activity (Reid-MacNevin, 1997). This makes the camps effective by the virtue of the fact that a deviant behavior is dealt with once it is elicited. Nevertheless, punitive activities adjudicated in juvenile camps differ from those of adult camps. Usually, juveniles are exposed to hard labor; they are also expected to follow command and participation in ceremonies within the camps. Notably, there are ceremonies organized within he camps such as graduation events where juveniles are expected to adhere to strict orders, responds to staffs appropriately and follow rules given (Butts & Mears, 2001). Consequently, these youths have their behavior reformed in a manner that they become responsive to rules and regulations hence they are able to follow orders. In most cases, experiences within the camps foster retention of moral values and standards that benefit both the victims and the society.

Butts and Mears (2001) contend that juvenile camps are more humane since they have more redeeming environment when compared with traditional prisons. In fact, recent survey results have shown that boot camps have managed to help youths to reform and overcome emotional problems. One of the most challenging issues is on addiction to drugs and abuse of other substances (Christopher et al, 2013). Evidence have shown that a significant proportion of juvenile offenders who commit numerous crimes for the first time have high chances of getting reformed. This implies that there are high success rates of reforming behaviors of individuals who are beginners than those who have prior adjudications. In fact, Styve (2000) notes that boot camps are best suited for first-time offenders. From this assumption, it is arguable that these camps are also effective in enhancing a Short-term change of ones altitude. It is worth to note that majority of criminal cases conducted by youths result from negative altitudes toward certain events and circumstances. For instance, truancy and drug abuse are some of the crimes committed due to negative altitudes toward school life.

Cost effectiveness

Evidences derived from statistical surveys have shown that boot camps are cost-effective unlike other institutions. For instance, their operational costs were found to be less compared to those of traditional lock-up institutions (Styve, 2000). At this point, the cost-effectiveness can be determined by the amount of costs incurred to learn the program and the expected returns (Sheldon, 1998). It has been noted with concern that boot camps not only punish juvenile offenders but also provide an opportunity to learn some basic life skills. This is one of the aspects that make them to be more effective especially when youths benefit from other constituent programs. It is important to note that there are wide range of programs and activities where youths can be involved and this makes them to become all-round individuals. In other words, youths in the camp gets an opportunity to develop diverse skills that yields more benefits to the society after they leave the camps.

Youths benefit from Inclusive Academic education through life skills courses

It is imperative to note that the main aim of confining juveniles in boot camps is to boost their own potentials for their wellbeing and to succeed in future (Simon & Chung-Ron Pi, 2002). Therefore, imposing punitive measures to them is for a good motive to develop the desired life skills. Therefore, there are academic programs that are implemented in line with physical activities in order to equip the youths with life skills tips. Since drug and substance abuse are some of the major vises affecting the youths, they are equipped with basic knowledge of how to overcome addiction. Moreover, they are able to get first hand information that enables them to understand and overcome the negative effects associated with such vices.

Evidence from research has shown that the participants in juvenile camps are recruited on the basis that at some point, they have emerged as victims of vices that affects the youths in the past. In this case, a significant proportion of the staffs have experiences on serious personal challenges such as dependent abuses, substance abuse, family ills and financial constrains (Simon & Chung-Ron Pi, 2002). This is deliberately done to ensure that these staffs become empathetic with the victims. Moreover, this ensures that they lead the youths using their own personal experiences, a factor that makes the camps’ programs more effective. In line with this, youths get first hand information of how to deal with peer influence in future. This helps them to learn how to choose good peers, a factor that minimizes the likelihood of committing juvenile crimes.

Other life skills gained in boot camps include leadership, decision-making and teamwork. Through the general education provided and vocational preparation for youths they are able to develop life skills (Jenson & Howard, 1998). Notably counseling, guidance and medical rehabilitation are some of the services that make boot camps effective in dealing with juvenile crimes. This is due to the fact that some crimes are committed due to lack of proper parental guidance. Moreover, one should note that there are juvenile-related crimes that require both educational and medical interventions. For instance, youths who are victim of assaults such as bullying and rape might succumb injuries that need to be treated. This is one of the factors that demands that health professionals should be recruited in order to perform such duties. The other factor that portrays the effectiveness of boot camps in dealing with juvenile crime is the fact that youths are closely monitored and thus they are not likely to commit these crimes within the camps. Pointless to say, Jenson and Howard (1998) observe that the youths are grouped using specific criteria such as the level of severity, experiences and forms of crime committed.

Intensive after care

Simon and Chung-Ron Pi (2002) elucidate that boot camps provide juveniles with after-care services enabling them to completely reform and transmit back to the society. Arguably, boot camps act as transmission tools within which individuals get back to the society. According to study conducted by Doris et al (2001), other than imposing the victims into vigorous activities, their progress is being evaluated in order to monitor their reform rate. In this case, even after they graduate from the camp, camp staffs offer close supervision to individuals to ensure that they cope to societal life effectively. Besides this, boot camps are responsible in providing employment assistance to individuals (Simon & Chung-Ron Pi, 2002). This ensures that they are able to utilize skills gained and to discourage idleness which might force them to revert to the previous delinquencies. This could be one of the reasons why majority of the world states have adopted the use of boot camps to as the best sentencing option for juvenile offenders.

From a careful survey of activities within the amps, evidence has shown that more than 75% of youths have excelled due to hospitable environment provided in the camps. In fact, recent statistical surveys have shown that more than three quarters of the youths complete the tasks assigned to them. Moreover, better results are realized in terms of their wellbeing and performance in academics. Evidence has shown that schools can also establish boot camps to reinforce discipline and to curb delinquent behaviors (Trulson, Triplett & Snell, 2001). However, the level of effectiveness in enhancing academic performance is determined by the age of juvenile. The younger the individuals the more they are likely to reform quickly and resume to their normal academic progress. Concurring with this hypothesis, Trulson, Triplett and Snell (2001) elucidate that staff members in the camps are charged to execute assistive services to juveniles in order to meet their educational needs. A case study carried out in Franklin, Ohio which is one of the juvenile centers have shown that there are staffs’ body that provide fulltime instructions for diverse subjects such as English, sciences, mathematics and social studies (Christopher et al, 2013). Within the camps there are superintendents, councilors, tutors, correction officers and managers who act as overseers in all the programs offered (Butts & Mears, 2001). However, despite the fact that boot camps have been proven to be effective in dealing with juvenile crimes, some scholars have done research and outlines myriad reasons why the programs are ineffective.

Similar recidivism rates to traditional prison setting

From a careful analysis of literature, Butts and Mears (2001) sensitize that there are diverse shortcoming associated with boot camps and this make them inappropriate in handling juvenile delinquencies. One of the ineffectiveness includes recidivism, a concept used to denote the tendency of an individual to repeat a deviant behavior (Doris et al, 2001). In line with this, recidivism rate is the number of times an individual is likely to repeat the same behavior or offence within a given period of time. Traditionally, recidivism has been used to determine the effectiveness of prisons and programs used to control deviant acts (Sheldon, 1998). As a matter of fact, one of the reasons why there has been a continued existence of juvenile camps and military schools is due to their inability to eradicate recidivism among youths. From a psychological perspective, use of punishment to suppress unwanted behavior is ineffective because there are high chances that it will recur in future (LaVaughn, 2010). In this case, punishment does not cure or eliminate undesirable behavior. Instead, it suppresses it for a short time only to be repeated again.

Nevertheless, comparing boot camps with other detention centers in terms of performance, it is definite that the former has fewer cases of recidivism. To support this claim, Joseph, Abigail and Mark (2013) present a case study conducted in New York, America where less cases of recidivism were reported. Nevertheless, the likelihood of juveniles being arrested while committing crime in boot camps is very high and the scenario is inevitable, a factor that disqualifies the effectiveness of such institutions. For instance, a study conducted in 1991 in Ohio revealed that 25% of inmates were exempted from the camps due to frequent arrests (Joseph, Abigail, & Mark, 2013). During this time, high rates of recidivism were registered, a factor that support the fact that boot camps are not best suited to curb juvenile crimes. The issue of recidivism has largely been debated upon with majority of scholars acknowledging that they are only suitable for short-term benefits. In fact, Correira (1997) refers to statistics released by Mental Health America which highlights that these camps do not reduce recidivism. To some extent, scholars have argued that performance of boot camps, prisons and other reformatories is good barometer to measure success (LaVaughn, 2010). However, other criteria should be applied to measure the effectiveness. For instance, the effectiveness of boot camps and other reformatories should be determined using juvenile retention rate (Sheldon, 1998).

Failure of boot camps to recognize background factors that are root cause for juvenile crimes

The other reason that makes boot camps ineffective in dealing with juvenile crimes is that most of them fail to address background factors that facilitate emergence and spread of juvenile delinquency (Bottcher & Michael, 2005). It has drawn my attention that numerous vices particularly related to mental health issues and substance abuse occurs due to roles played by background factors. For instance, mental health issues might be genetic and hence confinement of juveniles in camps might not provide a lasting solution for consequential crimes (Kupchik, 2007). On the same note, majority of juveniles involved in drug and substance abuse are influenced by their parents and peers. In most cases, parents abuse drug, engage in domestic violence and this makes the youth to copy such vices from them. Therefore, it is apparent that the staff members in camps should consider these factors before imposing punishment to youths. This will help in canceling and guiding them until they reform (Reid-MacNevin, 1997). In most cases, boot camps do not look for ways to address the root cause of the crimes. After the youths graduate from the camps, they get back to interact with the unsafe environment and this increases chances of the former behaviors to recur (Stincomb, 1999). Recurrence is also caused by anger, anxiety and frustration about life-related issues.

In-depth research conducted by Bottcher and Michael (2005) has shown that deviance among youths is causes by other minor factors which include inadequate of social support, estrangement, poor social bonds or relations in the society. It is important to note that these factors can affect anyone irrespective of race, gender, social status or sex thereby influencing them to deviance. Correira (1997) has noted with concern that some of the complex roots of juvenile crime include inadequate education, peer influence and acute levels of poverty. Therefore, it does not make any logical sense to ignore these factors while addressing juvenile crimes. In this case, Correira (1997) suggests that boot camps should use multidimensional approaches when implementing rehabilitative programs. This will ensure that education, counseling, mentorship and guidance offered to youths have a long-lasting solution to the identified crimes. Moreover, to overcome prevailing challenges, Trulson, Triplett and Snell (2001) recommend that the government in any country should largely support strategies that can be used to increase the effectiveness of boot camps.

Failure rates in boot camps are high

Evidence has shown that boot camps are concerned with short-term effects of positive altitude change a factor that prevent them from achieving long-term effects. Moreover, some of the agenda are complex and often acts as hindrances for rehabilitation (Stincomb, 1999). For instance, mixing military drills and physical activities with clinical treatments might interfere with the rehabilitation process. Notably, approximately 30-40% of boot camps fail due to overshadowed intentions to include numerous programs at once for the good and success of youths (Kupchik, 2007). Evidence to support this claim can be derived from the fact that numerous camps have been established in USA in order to solve larger issues affecting the juvenile justice system (Stincomb, 1999). However, what is important is that these camps should aim to focus on problem related to authority and conformity hence an appropriate dose should be administered to youths through training, drills and physical activities. The other cause of failure is the strict environment that creates a gap between the youths and staffs. Lack of adequate and trained staffs can also lead to failure and diminish effectiveness due to inability to deal with real factors behind juvenile crimes (Doris et al, 2001).


Boot Camps are military centers that are used as tools to enforce discipline among people who commit diverse offences. The first boot camp was established in Georgia, USA in 1983 and was used to enforce orders and discipline among adults who committed unlawful acts. Later on, juvenile boot camps were established to deal with crimes committed by youths such as violence, bullying, drug abuse and truancy. Since then, the idea of boot camps has spread in most parts of the world including countries in Europe. However, the effectiveness of boot camps in dealing with juvenile crimes has remained questionable for decades. As a matter of fact, the camps are perceived to be effective since they help in developing short-term altitudinal changes, life skills, and confidence and curb deviant behaviors. However, there are scholars who question their effectiveness arguing that the rate of recidivism is high. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that programs involved do not consider the background factors that are root cause for juvenile crimes. Besides this, cases of failures have been reported due to numerous hindrances such as inadequate staffs, hostile environment and complex programs that interlock each other. Evidence from research has shown that despite the shortcomings associated with boot camps, they play a significant in curtailing juvenile crimes. Therefore, it is reasonably beyond doubt that boot camps can be more effective in handling juvenile crimes if only appropriate measures can be implemented to overcome the prevailing limitations.


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