Boot Camp - Shock Incarceration Programs are Useful

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Boot Camp - Shock Incarceration Programs are Useful

In the military, boot camp represents an abrupt, often shocking transition to a new way of life. Discipline is strict and there is an emphasis on hard work, physical training, and unquestioning obedience to authority. The new private is told when to sleep, when to get up and when to eat. He marches with his platoon everywhere he goes such as to meals and to training. Orders must be obeyed instantly and personal liberty is almost nonexistent. By the end of boot camp the new private has become a different person. Such was the hope for boot camp, or shock incarceration, programs in American prisons: that young, nonviolent offenders could be diverted from a life outside the law using the same tactics successfully employed by the military to turn civilians into soldiers. This reliance on a military atmosphere still provokes controversy over boot camp programs, with proponents arguing that the rigid discipline promotes positive behavior. (Clear, 1997; Cowels, 1995)

Since their beginning in 1983 in Georgia, boot camps have spread to half the States and have gained wide popular appeal for their "get tough" policies. Proponents of boot camps cite their potential for rehabilitating offenders and curbing future criminal behavior. Opponents caution that more information is needed on a variety of issues including costs and the potential for abuse of power. Research into boot camps began with a 1988 study of Louisiana's boot camp program and continued with a multi-site evaluation in 1989 (Cowels, 1995). Fueled primarily by growth in the number of offenders incarcerated during the past decade and changing views of the role of punishment and treatment in the correctional system. Shock incarceration programs, or "boot camps" as they have been more recently called, have emerged as an increasingly popular alternative sanction for nonviolent crimes.

Boot camp programs operate under a military-like routine wherein young offenders convicted of less serious, nonviolent crimes are confined for a short period of time, typically from 3 to 6 months (Parent, 1989). They are given close supervision while being exposed to a demanding regimen of strict discipline, physical training, drill, inspections, and physical labor. All the programs also incorporate some degree of military structure and discipline. They follow new strict rules that they are not use to which include the following: (1) Basic training program inmates shall not enter the rooms of other inmates.

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