Boot Camp Incarceration Essay, Research Paper
With the ever rising prison population in this country, something has to be done rehabilitate criminals rather than just lock them up. Many feel that the “new” prisons, boot camps are the answer (Champion 1990). I will give a brief overview of boot camp institutions, specifically, about the operation and structure of these, the cost involved with both juvenile and adult facilities, and how effective they really are with regard to recidivism.
Boot camps or shock incarceration programs, as they are also called, vary greatly around the country. At the start of 1997, 54 adult boot camp facilities operated in 34 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, with a total of 7,250 inmates. Most include physical training, hard labor, military drills and ceremonies, and summary punishment (immediate punishments like pushups for disciplinary infractions). Many feel that the rigid discipline of a boot camp promotes positive behavior (Mackenzie and Hebert).
Boot camp programs have the potential to reduce institutional crowding and costs, provided they are large enough. This assumes they target offenders who would otherwise have served a longer sentence in another institution, and keep enough participants from returning to correctional facilities. Some boot camps offer rehabilitative programs such as drug and alcohol treatment, life skills training, vocational education, therapy, and general education classes. Some also provide intensive community supervision after release. For example, New York’s “shock incarceration” takes a therapeutic approach with six months of intensive incarceration in a military style boot camp that also focuses on treatment and developing life skills. Six months of intensive community supervision follows graduation.
New York, which operates four facilities with a capacity of over 3,000 inmates per year, has the largest boot camp program for sentenced felony offenders in the country. This program will be used to illustrate boot camps’ structure and daily activities. The program accepts non-violent offenders under age 35 who are sentenced to prison and eligible for parole within three years. Participants, in lieu of incarceration, spend six months in a boot camp and six months under intensive community supervision. The following is an example of a typical daily schedule taken from a boot camp.
Daily Schedule for Offenders in New York Shock Incarceration Facilities A.M.
5:30 Wake up and standing count
5:45 — 6:30 Calisthenics and drill
6:30 — 7:00 Run
7:00 — 8:00 Mandatory breakfast/cleanup
8:15 Standing count and company formation
8:30 — 11:55 Work/school schedules
12:00 — 12:30 Mandatory lunch and standing count
12:30 — 3:30 Afternoon work/school schedule
3:30 — 4:00 Shower
4:00 — 4:45 Network community meeting
4:45 — 5:45 Mandatory dinner, prepare for evening
6:00 — 9:00 School, group counseling, drug counseling, prerelease counseling, decision making classes
9:15 — 9:30 Squad bay, prepare for bed
9:30 Standing count, lights out
While in boot camp, participants spend 31% of their time on facility and community projects. 30.3% of all people incarcerated attend substance abuse treatment programs, and other programs teaching responsibility. This includes self-responsibility, responsibility to others, and responsibility for the quality of one’s life. 10.7% all time is spent on academic education; 10% on drill and movement; 9.3% on physical training; and 8.7% attending to personal needs such as meals, religious services, visits, personal care, and homework. Substance abuse treatment is emphasized because many of the participants have a history of drug use.
After six months, participants engage in six months of intensive community supervision provided by the Division of Parole. Parole officers work closely with inmates, the inmates’ families, as well as community service agencies to develop residence and employment programs prior to release. Parole officers perform home visits, curfew checks, and drug testing.
The Division of Parole also offers a number of opportunities and programs in the community to improve the graduate’s chance for successful reintegration in the community. Graduates have priority access to community services such as educational and vocational training, employment opportunities, and relapse prevention counseling (Cronin 1994).
Cost is the next issue people really question with regard to these boot camp programs. The cost of building the facility is more. The Colorado boot camp facility costs 71.5 million for construction, alone. Furthermore, a typical adult offender in a maximum-security facility costs about seventy-nine dollars a day. A Colorado boot camp program costs approximately ninety dollars a day (Witkin 1996). It should be noted that the costs presented in this paper include the cost of counseling and the cost of the programs the inmates are involved in.
The cost is significantly higher and raises the question of opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the willingness to give up one thing to fund another. With the rate that states need to build facilities like this, one must examine what you would have to give up. The first thing usually given up is education and road projects. Are we willing to give up on the future of children to rehabilitate criminals? Some argue that we should spend the money on children to begin the prevention process, so this problem will eventually work itself out.
As noted before, boot camp programs vary around the country and so do their recidivism rates. Some states view their programs as a success. Colorado’s boot camps have a 35% recidivism rate and annual savings of $1.8 million. The state believes its aftercare programs, which require greater expense, reduce recidivism rates. South Dakota opened a juvenile boot camp in the fall of 1996 and early results in 1997 showed a 14% recidivism rate (Allen 1997).
Some states, however, recently discontinued their programs. Arizona’s program began in January 1990 but closed in the fall of 1996. The annual cost of the program was $1.5 million more than a traditional state prison and 70% of the 1,253 participants during the first three years were back in custody within four to seven years. Boot camps have also shut down in California and New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s program, which began in 1990, shut down because of a lack of inmates. Its recidivism rate of 37% was similar to that at New Hampshire’s prisons. According to the state’s Department of Correction, the small state population and competing sentencing options made the camp ineffective (Allen 1997).
To test the effectiveness of boot camps, the NIJ funded a study of boot camps in eight states: Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. The study compared boot camp graduates with demographically similar offenders who were eligible for the programs but instead served time in conventional prison. The study, released in 1996, reached the following conclusions.
The first conclusion that they arrived at was that boot camp incarceration had a positive impact on the attitudes of participants compared to regular inmates during incarceration. The findings were consistent across the sites despite differences in the programs. The authors concluded that the change in attitude is likely a result of the camp atmosphere and not the additional treatment or therapy in some states.
Second, Boot camp graduates did not adjust to community supervision more positively (with the exception of one state) than offenders who failed at boot camp, were released from prison, or placed on probation. Demographics, offense characteristics, criminal history, and supervision intensity were more closely related to positive adjustment.
Thirdly, the common boot camp components did not reduce recidivism. Some of the statistics varied due to different measures of recidivism, lengths of follow-up, and supervision intensity but the authors concluded that the impact on recidivism was negligible. In five states, no difference in rates could be attributed to the program. But in Illinois, Louisiana, and New York graduates may have had lower rates on specific recidivism measures such as new crimes in Illinois or technical violations in New York. Each of these states has intensive community supervision programs that may explain the difference. It is unclear which boot camp components are critical to reducing recidivism (Mackenzie and Souryal 1996).
Although the NIJ study found little evidence that boot camps, including New York’s, reduce recidivism, the New York Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) views its program as a success. In its 1998 annual report, DOCS “unequivocally states” that shock incarceration (1) graduates are more likely than comparison groups to remain in the community after one, two, or three years and (2) reduces prison bed space and saves money despite greater program expenses (New York DOCS 1998). DOCS calculates a total of $542 million savings on inmate housing costs because shock graduates were released an average of 11.7 months before their court-ordered minimum period of incarceration. For the first 17,938 releases, these savings amounted to $452.2 million in operating costs plus $89.8 million in savings from avoiding prison construction. These figures are somewhat suspect because DOCS did not include the additional costs of intensive parole supervision (New York DOCS 1998).
There is no definitive word on the success of boot camps at reducing recidivism rates. Like the programs, recidivism rates for boot camps vary around the country. The cost will also vary around the country, but it consistently higher than traditional incarceration. The cost might be accepted in a greater fashion, and the opportunity cost may be acceptable if the recidivism rate were better. In conclusion, the boot camps provide an alternative to traditional incarceration and may prove to be the wave of the future.
Allen, “Boot Camps Fail to Pass Muster,” Governing, Nov. 1997
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Cronin, Roberta. Boot Camps for Adult and Juvenile Offenders: Overview and Update. National Institute of Justice Research Report presented October 1994.
Jacobs, Nancy, Jacquelyn Quiram, and Mark Siegel. Crime: A Serious American Problem. Wylie, TX: Information Plus, 1996.
Mackenzie and Souryal, “Multisite Study of Boot Camps,” Correctional Boot Camps: A Tough Intermediate Sanction, February 1996
MacKenzie, Doris and Eugene Hubert. Correctional Boot Camps: A Tough Intermediate Sanction. National Institute of Justice Research Report presented February 1996.
NCJA. “Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency.” National Criminal Justice Association. http://sso.org/ncja/juvenile.htm (Nov. 14, 1997).
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New York DOCS Division of Parole, The Tenth Annual Shock Legislative Report, 1998
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