Alternative Incarceration:Are Boot Camps An Effective Form Of Incarceration? Introduction & Overview Of The Problem.

4890 words - 20 pages

Over the past decade, crime -- and how to cope with it -- has emerged as one of the most important public policy issues in the United States (Krisberg, 1994). Given that males aged 18 to 24 comprise the single largest "criminal element" (as measured by number of offenses, arrest rates, convictions, etc.) in American society, particular attention has focused on the problem of youth crime (Krisberg, 1994; Simon, 1995; IACP, 1996; Finckenauer, 1982). Experts agree that the juvenile justice system -- which deals with offenders as young as 12 and as old as 24 -- is badly in need of reform (Davidson, Redner, Amdur, Mitchell, 1990; Schwartz & Barton, 1994). On any given day, more than 18,000 young people are held in the nation's public juvenile detention centers (Schwartz & Barton, 1994, p. 1). The majority of these youth are simply awaiting trial; thousands more are already jammed into overcrowded long-term detention centers, training schools, and, increasingly, adult prisons. As part of the effort to deal with the dual problems of rising youth crime and an overwhelmed juvenile justice system, a variety of "alternative" programs have been proposed and/or tried. These include diversion from the justice system (to "outward bound" type programs, restitution programs, etc.) and simple probation (Davidson, Redner, Amdur, & Mitchell, 1990). While both public policy opinion and empirical research tends to support the use of such alternative diversion programs for first-time, non-violent offenders as well as for the youngest offenders, both the public and national policy makers support the use of stronger, "get tough" measures for the older (i.e., over 18 years) and repeat offenders (Curriden, 1995; Krisberg, 1994; Schwartz & Barton, 1994). "Get tough" sentiments notwithstanding, simply shifting the older youth offender population into the adult justice system does not appear to be a viable strategy. The adult prison system faces even bigger problems of overcrowding and under-funding than the juvenile system (Simon, 1995; Schwartz & Barton, 1994). During the past 15 years, prison boot camps, also known as "shock incarceration programs" have emerged as a potential alternative to prison aimed at dealing with the problem of prison overcrowding and satisfying public demands for severe treatment (Morash & Rucker, 1990). In the decade since they were first introduced in Georgia and Oklahoma in 1983, boot camps were set up by 30 states, 10 local jurisdictions, and the federal government (Simon, 1995, p. 26). Bates (1995) notes that by mid-1995, there were some 67 boot camps being operated by various entities of government (p. 49). Boot camps enjoy enormous public support (Krisberg, 1994; Simon, 1995; Curriden, 1995; Osler, 1991). As Osler (1991) observes, the military-style discipline of the penal boot camp "caters to popular desires for a quick fix to crime through harsh punishment, discipline, and deterrence" (p. 34). Prison boot camps also...

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