Teen Boot Camps

With 33,713 internet searches done on Google in the past week for Military Schools and 31,167 searches for Boot Camp, these alternative programs for getting wayward teens under control seem to be an option more parents are considering every day. The cost of these programs, and length of the programs, vary. The only free teen boot camps I was able to locate are state-funded, and can only be utilized if your teen is already in some form of corrective program (or probation) within the juvenile system. I was able to locate some short term programs starting at around $2,100 per month, and others as high as $5,280 per month. With good credit, some of these programs allow you to enroll your child and make payments as low as $200 per month.

Before you consider placing your teen in such a program or facility, you might want to consider these disturbing findings published by the National Mental health Association:

Boot camps do not reduce recidivism. Numerous studies of adult and juvenile boot camps have shown that graduates do no better in terms of recidivism than offenders who were incarcerated or, in some cases, than those sentenced to regular probation supervision. In fact, some researchers have found that boot camp graduates are more likely to be re-arrested or are re-arrested more quickly than other offenders.

Experts agree that a confrontational approach is not appropriate. Most correctional and military experts agree that a confrontational model, employing tactics of intimidation and humiliation, is counterproductive for most youth in the juvenile justice system. The use of this kind of model has led to disturbing incidents of abuse. For youth of color (who represent the vast majority of the juveniles sentenced to boot camps)-as well as for youth with emotional, behavioral, or learning problems-degrading tactics may be particularly inappropriate and potentially damaging. The bullying style and aggressive interactions that characterize the boot camp environment fail to model the pro-social behavior and development of empathy that these youth really need to learn.

Boot camps are not a “quick fix.” Most boot camps have high drop-out rates (as many as half fail to graduate in some programs), and staff in at least one juvenile program have expressed concern that too many youth lack the maturity and self-control to succeed in a military-style program. After leaving boot camp, youth are not prepared for productive lives in their communities. The Office of Justice Programs of the U.S. Department of Justice has suggested that, for boot camps to be effective, they must incorporate a full range of rehabilitative services and programs, including education, substance abuse treatment, individualized case management, and mental health care. Clearly, the idea of “shock incarceration” as a tough, low-cost alternative to more intensive juvenile justice programming has not been borne out by our 15 years of experience with boot camps across the country.

After extensive research on the internet, I have found several newspaper articles that shed a very dark light on these facilities. A “Must Read” list of the top 5 articles that every parent should read and take into very careful consideration prior to placing their teen into a boot camp type facility are:

1. Lawmakers Close Deal to Eliminate Juvenile Boot Camps
By Brent Kallestad, Associated Press, April 26, 2006

2. Pennsylvania Protection & Advocacy, Inc. Review of SummitQuest Academy:
Residential Treatment Facility

Ephrata, PA

3. State Finds Abuse at Youth Academy
Sarah Cooke ,Associated Press Writer, Helena Independent Record
January 27, 2006

4. Miami Herald Watch Dog Boot Camp Death
Boot camp inspections missed red flags

5. Effectiveness of Camps at the Center of Debate
By Stephen D. Price

Suggested Print Reading:
MacKenzie, D., & Souryal, C. (1994). Multi-site Evaluation of Shock Incarceration. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.
Peters, M., Thomas, D., & Zamberlan, C. (1997). Boot Camps for Juvenile Offenders Program Summary. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

Suggested Book:
Help At Any Cost: How Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids by Maia Szalavitz
Published by Riverhead Books (a division of Penguin Putnam). Publication date February 16, 2006

Suggested Website:
BOOT CAMP FOR KIDS: Torturing Teens for Fun and Profit
Cruelty, sadism, injury & death in locked residential facilities for troubled youth.

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