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National Study Comparing the Environments of Boot Camps With Traditional Facilities for Juvenile Offenders, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2001
12 pages
Publication Series
This national study compared the environments of boot camps with traditional facilities for juvenile offenders to determine the impact of juvenile correctional institutions and programs.
Despite the growth and popularity of boot camps in the 1990's, they remain controversial. Critics question their military style methods as appropriate in managing and treating juvenile delinquents and positively affecting juvenile behavior while confined and after release. Advocates contend that the program structure gives staff more control over the participants and provides them with a safer environment than traditional facilities. In this study, a comparison of 27 boot camps to 22 more traditional facilities was conducted to determine the impact of juvenile correctional institutions and programs. Using site visits, 14-point scale surveys of juveniles and staff in both types of facilities, and structured interviews with facility administrators, several findings were revealed: (1) juveniles in boot camps more frequently reported positive responses to their institutional environment; (2) staff in boot camps more frequently reported favorable perceptions of their institutional environments; (3) on average, both juveniles and staff perceived less danger and more components that were conducive to positive change; (4) initial levels of anxiety and depression were slightly higher for boot camp youth, but decreased over time; and (5) boot camps were more selective about the juveniles admitted to the facility. The one finding that supported the criticism of boot camps as institutions offering little to improve interpersonal relationships was the data stating that youths in boot camps more frequently reported feelings of being in danger from the staff. The results from this study suggested that boot camps are successful in the first step, creating a positive environment. However, they appear to lack the focus on incorporating components of effective therapy. In addition, a successful program needs to include the gathering of information about what happens to youth after they are released. This information is seen as necessary if juvenile corrections programs are to have a positive impact on their future lives. Graphs

Date Published: August 1, 2001