Boot Camps and Juvenile Crime Essay

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Boot Camps and Juvenile Crime

Five years ago, responding to an increase in serious juvenile crime, the state of Maryland initiated one of the nation's largest boot camp programs for teenage criminals. The program, called the Leadership Challenge, quickly became the model for other states. But last week, after reviewing a task force report that documented instances of physical abuse at their camps, Maryland officials appeared on the verge of conceding that the current initiative was a failure.

Military-style discipline may work as punishment at juvenile boot camps, but it has not been effective as rehabilitation.

The Maryland experience, together with problems in other states, has already led some states to close their boot camps
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It was in this atmosphere that Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend of Maryland began exploring the potential of boot camps.

Shortly after being elected with Gov. Parris N. Glendening in 1994, Ms. Townsend, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration, said she considered boot camps "a cost-effective, intermediate punishment" and included them among her priorities.

Ms. Townsend has said the idea came from visiting a juvenile boot camp in Ohio. By then, a handful of states, including Georgia, Louisiana, West Virginia and Ohio, had begun well-publicized, promising experiments with juvenile camps.

The camps, modeled after similar programs that popped up in England in the 1970's, were designed for juveniles who had committed moderately serious crimes, such as auto theft, with the goal of interceding before they moved to more serious crimes.

By 1997, more than 27,000 teenagers were passing through 54 camps in 23 states annually.

The people who ran the real boot camps, were quite skeptical. "The key reason we are successful is that we have a clientele down here that chose to be here on their own," said Sgt. Maj. Ford Kinsley, who oversees drill instructors at the United States Marine Corps' recruitment base in Parris Island, S.C. "They are not here because a judge said you should go here. Our population comes with a lot more positive attitudes."

He…

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