Sample Paper on The Effectiveness of Juvenile Boot Camp Programs


Juvenile Boot camps (also known as shock incarceration camps) programs are military like programs that act as an alternative to the traditional detention services. They have come under criticism in regard to their effectiveness since the method is highly controversial. Part of the population has been supporting the boot camp ideologies, while others differ in terms of the program’s effectiveness citing the potential abuse and lack of regulation when administering the programs. One clear fact is that the teens who are taken to the facility, may report positive changes as a result of the harsh and aggressive exposures but may not change upon release. In terms of cost, and in comparison with other correctional alternatives, boot camp programs are an expensive undertaking. The harsh conditions may also lead to the youths developing an aggressive temperament, and though effective on some individuals may lead to negative consequences including fatalities. The variation in administration may lead to different outcomes in different states thus, questioning the success of a case by case merit. Behavior change may not only be achieved through fear or force, but other alternatives can be employed which could lead to positive juvenile rehabilitation. Boot camps programs may, therefore, be effective to some teens while to others may not and may not lead to reduced reoffending rates among the juveniles.






The Effectiveness of Juvenile Boot Camp Programs to Stop Juvenile Delinquency


The juvenile justice system has many programs in place that are aimed at reducing the recidivism of the offenders who come into contact with the system. Some of these programs are effective while others are not. This is generally attributed by the fact that there exists competing principles between holding a juvenile and rehabilitating them outside the boot camps. The boot camps also known as the shock incarceration are characterized by a condition of military style habitations, separation of the boot camps’ participants from the regular prison inmates and hard labor with a perception of an elongated confinement term in prison camps (Cripe & Pearlman, 2005 p. 447). Many have praised its strict operations/habits on the delinquents while others criticize its effectiveness as well as abuses that emanate from lack of regulations and oversight. The operation of boot camps is structured to resemble the military training facilities, where the facility staff members act as the sergeants and the inmates as the recruits. The camp stay entails military drills, counseling as well as education to help curb criminal tendencies among the juveniles. Physical and psychological abuse, which at times lead to death have been witnessed, raising questions on the credibility of the system in rehabilitating the offenders. Some states have done away with boot camps while others have introduced reform strategies to govern their operation. This being the case, the effectiveness and efficiency of the boot camp facilities have been put to question, as to whether they serve the purpose that they were introduced to achieve. This paper will aim at discussing the effectiveness of Juvenile boot camp programs as a way of stopping juvenile delinquency, taking into consideration, the criticism of the boot camps, as well as the strategies that can be taken to bridge the negative effects of the boot camps.

Effectiveness of the Juvenile Boot Camps

Though a lot of negative criticism has been levied against the boot camps’ effectiveness, it is logical, though not always that the environment in which the juvenile offenders are kept creates a setting that facilitates learning and education (Peters, Thomas & Zamberlan, 1997). During the confinement, though for a short time, the research done indicated major achievements when standardized tests were offered to the youths at intake and at release (Peters, Thomas & Zamberlan, 1997, p. 22). Effectiveness of the program was evident as the youths improved in at least one level in literacy as well as in math. In the boot camps, the youths participate in smaller programs and are given personalized attention that otherwise would not have been given in the ordinary setting. Though costly, offenders released immediately to probation receive no such benefits and may, therefore not change after leaving the correctional facility. This fact therefore, shows the effectiveness of the program as some added insights are added to the participants.

Through the strenuous boot camp programs, some of the participants are likely to create value of self-esteem. This would be beneficial to their future lives in school and other programs after release. This fact, however, is not supported by material facts as after release, and with no follow-up, some of the offenders end up committing the same offenses. This is because the conditions at the boot camps harden them, making them worse. Overall, the offenders are likely to view confinement as a positive undertaking, thus developing fewer antisocial attitudes than the prison incarcerated juveniles. Depending on the nature of crime committed by the juvenile, the rate of recidivism is likely to be lower in juveniles who have been in the boot camps than in ordinary confinements. This can be supported by the fact that at the boot camp, a juvenile is advised, trained on important social issues as well as educated. This fact may lead to the offender less likely to reoffend than a similar person who was kept in ordinary confinement with no programs to stimulate change of behavior.

The study done by Peters, Thomas & Zamberlan (1997), indicated that there were positive indicators of adjustment, as a number of the confined juveniles at the boot camps enrolled back to school, others joined the GED programs, and others enrolled in full and partial employment while under supervision (p.31). At the same time, those who were employed or went back to school, or engaged in other meaningful projects were less likely to reoffend, but were more likely to engage in self-development activities. This fact explains the effectiveness of the boot camp program for the juveniles.

According to Tyler, Darville & Stalnaker (2001), many states have been trying to stem the tide of juvenile delinquency, but the results depict a negative recidivism since the boot camps are expensive means of controlling delinquency (p.445). The research done by the above scholars among others, though limited data is available does not indicate the expected effectiveness of the programs from the money and resources that are channeled into these programs (p.446). Effectiveness is measured in terms of all possible factors that could lead to effective transformation of juvenile offenders using the minimal available resources. This being the case, as compared to the juvenile probation, the boot camps are too expensive and costly (Benekos & Merlo, 2008, p. 211).

The initial boot camps were designed to cater for the adult offenders. Later on, juvenile camps were established. This fact portrays the effectiveness of the program in the sense that, the authorities either witnessed or recorded some improvements in the offender who came out of the camps. The strict programs at the facility have the capability of transforming the offenders by either direct impact, or instilling the fear of returning to the same place. It is obvious that could the boot camps have been a disaster, ineffective, the authorities could have taken stringent measures to close them down, but they opted to maintain the camps.

Negative Effects of the Boot Camps

The programs offered in boot camps vary in terms of costs, size, styles, and also the staff to inmate ratio. This being the case, the diversity of programs to be offered represents both extremes in terms of continuation of the program, stopping or enhancing the boot camp programs. This being the case, there are differences in the way the programs are delivered between cities. It follows therefore, that, different boot camp programs follow different standards ranging from the strict military style to those stressing the need for counseling and emphasis on long term problem solving (Benekos & Merlo, 2008). As such, the customization of the programs among different states may be difficult to identify whether the programs work effectively or not.

Numerous studies that have been carried out indicate that there is no effectiveness in reducing the reoffending rates among the juveniles as compared to other forms of intervention. Some studies have even found that the rate of reoffending is higher after boot camp program than in other systems since the aggressive interaction between the youths and the staffs fail to model the pro-social behavior and development of empathy that the youths ought to learn (Siegel & Welsh, 2014). Actually, instead of supporting other rehabilitative programs, it undermines, while at the same time endangers the participants by creating an atmosphere of aggression and intimidation (Muscar, 2008). The effectiveness of the boot camp is therefore not as a result of the military aspect, but other factors.

Strategies for Creating Effective Juvenile Rehabilitation Programs

To ensure that the boot camps serve the purpose in which they were initiated for, several strategies ought to be put in place. One of the strategies that ought to be formulated is the delineation of specific programs that would lead to the desired changes in the juvenile behavior. At the same time, programs should be carefully selected to cater for the target population in terms of cost, the goal for rehabilitation, recidivism and punishment. After leaving the facility, follow-up should be focused and improved since this is where the attrition occurred. Multiple agencies should be given their role to avoid conflicting the process, while at the same time; staff training and product enrichment should be emphasized.

Other than opting for the juvenile boot camp programs, other measures like restorative justice, skills building and counseling could be employed and could lead to youths being less likely to engage in reoffending activities. At the same time, education, and especially model programs can help youths with the awareness that their actions will always lead to consequences. Recreation can also help the youths by keeping them engaged, reducing the chances of committing or engaging in criminal activities.


The juvenile boot camps account for physical and discipline conditioning. These programs were developed to provide alternatives for confinement in correctional facilities and forms part of a state’s correctional systems. The operation of the boot camps can be both effective and non-effective, based on the outcome of the program after the youth is released from the program. Critics argue that juvenile boot camps are not effective in that in many instances, they do not reduce recidivism as the young person’s acquires a military stance and an aggressive behavior. At the same time, both camps require a lot of money to maintain as compared to other correctional options and therefore not cost effective. The use of confrontation and military approach is to adopt an appropriate means of transforming an individual and therefore may not lead to a willing attribute. The youths may pretend to have changed so as to escape the harsh conditions, thereby indicating the non-effectiveness of the program. Despite this fact, there are some of the offenders who end up transforming as a result of the experience at the camps, the teaching and the harsh condition as well as the nature of the offenses that the offender had been convicted with. This means that, the lesser the offenses, the more the capability of the program to achieve positive results. On the other hand, the more a person has been convicted and become a hardcore, the lesser the possibility of the program being effective. Critics also argue that there are other cost effective measures that could be employed, which could function better than the boot camp. Overall, if boot camps can be professionally managed, they may serve the interest of the youths and may derive the needed change. This therefore calls for the relevant authorities to devise alternative and appropriate strategies to address the boot camps’ question in addressing its effectiveness.


Benekos, P. J., & Merlo, A. V. (2008). Controversies in juvenile justice and delinquency. Elsevier.

Cripe, C. A., & Pearlman, M. G. (2005). Legal aspects of corrections management. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Muscar, J. E. (2008). Advocating the End of Juvenile Boot Camps: Why the Military Model Does Not Belong in the Juvenile Justice System. UC Davis J. Juv. L. & Pol’y, 12, 1.

Peters, M., Thomas, D., & Zamberlan, C. (1997). Boot camps for juvenile offenders: Program summary. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Siegel, L., & Welsh, B. (2014). Juvenile delinquency: Theory, practice, and law. Cengage Learning.

Smith, D. J. (2005). The effectiveness of the juvenile justice system. Criminal justice, 5(2), 181-195.

Tyler, J., Darville, R., & Stalnaker, K. (2001). Juvenile boot camps: A descriptive analysis of program diversity and effectiveness. The Social Science Journal, 38(3), 445-460.