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Juvenile Boot Camps VS Juvenile Delinquency Programs

Updated on February 19, 2014
krsharp05 profile image

Kristi graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Human Development and Developmental Psychopathology of Children.



Recidivism: When a child habitually commits criminal offenses.

Adjudication: The term used in place of "conviction" when referring to juveniles.

Disposition: The term used in place of "sentencing" when referring to juveniles.

Boot Camp or Bust

In the juvenile justice system it's referred to as "shock incarceration". The philosophy is that children who need more discipline, structure, consistency, boundaries or who require more intrusive methods of behavior modification will receive the help they need.

Juvenile boot camps originated in the early '80s in Georgia, Oklahoma and Louisiana. What a boot camp can do that other juvenile programs can't, is to furiously subject kids to an atmosphere that forces them to work as a team, care for themselves and meet specific standards of conduct.

Boot camps typically run 90 - 180 days in length and require completion by each candidate. They can override sentences as lengthy as ten years however, if an individual fails to graduate from boot camp they are remanded to prison to serve the entirety of their sentence.

There is little evidence to support the positive affects of boot camps. Studies have shown that while the mission of boot camps is to rehabilitate, the use of aggressive tactics undermines rehabilitation for troubled kids. In many cases, rates of recidivism stayed the same following graduation. In some cases kids were re-offending at higher rates than they were prior to entering boot camp which illustrates that not only was boot camp unsuccessful, but perhaps detrimental. One specific failure is lack of aftercare. Programs that have a high graduation rate but fail to provide aftercare often have youths who are plagued by truancy and new arrests thus, the cycle of criminality begins again.

The heated debate over boot camps arises from the excessive number of deaths that have occurred since their first inauguration in the '80s. The current data for boot camp deaths is around 31 kids. Statistical data is difficult to find which is an underlying theme in all aspects of the juvenile justice system.

While boot camps make a considerable difference in expenditures because kids are not being incarcerated, they have the same financial impact as probation or community corrections which both have proven success rates.



Status Offense: A non-violent crime which is only recognized when committed by a minor under the age of 18.

Probation and Community Corrections

The characteristics of a juvenile who is placed on probation or given to the charge of community corrections (CC) are typically kids under the age of 18 who have committed a status offense and are first time offenders. Some examples of these types of crimes are truancy, running away from home, underage drinking and minor in possession of a firearm.

What makes probation and CC more successful is that they have the ability to work with each juvenile on an individual basis and cater to specific needs. Additionally, they have the ability to closely monitor youths during the disposition phase to help ensure successful rehabilitation at home, in society and at school. Many probation and CC officers have network systems setup within the community in order to arrange for different activities, jobs and volunteer programs for offenders.


Expungement: A process by which you may have criminal records destroyed or sealed from general review.

Common Misconception about expungement: In nearly every state and at the federal level, your criminal records will ALWAYS be available to government agencies and law enforcement.


Diversion is a type of disposition created for the purpose of allowing kids to avoid criminal charges, adjudication and a criminal record. It's also meant to be a relief to the court systems. Kids who are placed on diversion programs are expected to meet certain contractual obligations which can include restitution, community service hours, educational or rehabilitation classes and refraining from specific situations. If a juvenile successfully completes diversion, charges may be reduced or dropped. Oppositely, if they fail to graduate, charges against them may be escalated.

What do you think?

Boot camps for teens....Yay or Nay?

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    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Sid, thank you for the excellent response. I'm pleased that I could shed some light on your situation. Outward Bound is one of the best programs that exists for troubled kids.

      Self-awareness is powerful. Some of the most life changing and...difficult lessons I've ever learned were when I was forced to scrutinize myself. I'm glad for those changes because I became a better person but it took someone much stronger than me to force me through - someone like you who has the fortitude and insight, who could stand outside of the storm and see me through. I'm grateful for your comments. -K

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Hi KR - you've helped me understand a bit of family history. My brother, now deceased, married a woman with a young daughter who ran into trouble in her teenage years. My bother and I were not close, and I knew little of what was going on. Special schools and I think a boot camp were involved early on. Later, drugs and petty crime were involved. As best I know, my estranged niece has survived and has spent some time in prison. She had a daughter out of wedlock who is being raised by her mother, my brother's widow, who is also not in touch with us. We help out my great-niece however we can, but there is little contact.

      My own training in psychotherapy has taught me the importance of self-awareness and healing the root trauma to change behavior. At the same time, I do believe in challenge and inspiration as part of transformation. Many years ago - and perhaps now, too - there was a transformative program called Outward Bound. I believe a program could be put together that would combine the best of challenge, emotional support, and integration into society. That would call for a great deal more wisdom and resources than we are currently spending helping our youth. Then, maybe, truly, no child would be left behind.

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      teaches, thank you for reading and replying. I have a tendency to agree with you about boot camps as long as they are dedicated to rehabilitation and, like you say, they nurture when necessary. They need people like you! People who really care about the welfare of the child's spirit. Great to have you here. -K

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Interesting read and so informative on the options for juveniles needing some positive direction. I feel sorry for these children who have already been marked as pre-criminals. As long as the counselors are dedicated and nurturing, I would say that the boot camp would help some youths.

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      spartucus, thank you for taking the time to read and reply. There are major flaws and fantastic loopholes in the "justice for all" system. The problem is that there is a lack of one centralized system of methodology, implementation and data collection. There is also a gross non-existence of significant surveys which detail the progress or failure of the current programs geared to rehabilitate juveniles. While researching for my truancy hub, I visited: (the current website hosted by the federal government) and was shocked and dismayed to find that the most recent statistical data on truant juveniles was from 1997. I find that absurd.

      As a former gymnastics coach, I always had more success using positive reinforcement than any other coaching technique. Kids love to feel good about themselves and for that matter, so do adults. Glad to have you here and as always, appreciate your input. -K

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 5 years ago from Parts Unknown

      I understand the scared straight premise, and there may be instances where boot camps work for certain youths. But I think there are flaws in the system. Part of the reason for delinquency to begin with is the lack of direction and parental guidance. Even though firmness and discipline is needed, education and compassion are the best ways to deal with the problem of delinquency.

      Once again another well developed hub!