A Speech on “Juvenile Offenders Should Not Go to Boot Camps”

Although there is no such rise in the juvenile crime, common people misinformed by the press as well as the politicians, insists on adapting cruel methods to punish young offenders. Younger teenagers have been treated as adult criminals for long.

In this dangerous trend boot camps are the latest addition and are going to be as ineffective as wholesale locking youth in adult facilities. The respected authorities are yet not very cautious about the fact that the juvenile boot camps are not very helpful in reducing the crime rate. They are also becoming a burden on prison costs.

 There are several voices against juvenile boot camps. One of the biggest problems is the deaths in boot camps, the use of military discipline to disguise staff mistreatment of minors, and the absence of follow-up when youth return to their communities. A sharp increase in adult court referral has also been noticed as youth who fail to complete boot camps are either re-arrested after their release are thus they are no longer eligible for juvenile boot camps. 

Boot camps could only reduce correctional costs if offenders are selected from the population already qualified for incarceration. Incarceration is only effective when we support youth to avoid their former criminal lifestyle when they return home. Juvenile boot camps are limited to “shock incarceration” and cuts down the cost by leaving aftercare to parole officers.

It’s high time that we should consider educating the public about the dangers of juvenile boot camps. Parents look for a balance of love and limits to meet their teenagers’ needs. The adult criminal system, and boot camps, fails the basic test of balancing nurturing and opportunities for independence. Every parent of a teenage offender considers that boot camps cannot be effective because they violate the basic principles of adolescent development.

Most adolescents are moralistic and intolerant of anything so it is quite difficult to manage and create a balance. They react to group punishment as unfair.

Many juvenile offenders who have been physically or sexually abused or exposed to substance abuse or domestic violence in their families react in a negative way to imposed outside controls.

There is nothing surprising about the fact that young people refuse to accept what is offered as assistance as they mistrust the adults in charge and consider everything as unfair, controlling and punitive. If this mistrust of unfair, controlling and punitive adults is subdued, it undermines the very survival technique that has allowed these youth to make it as far as they have.

Programs that are effective with serious juvenile offenders recognize that if the young offenders do not want what we think they might need, change in their lives will be negligible. No matter how well intentioned everything is, the young people will react against the structure that is imposed on them. They might have committed serious crimes, but their necessities are different from that of the adults. 

This is high time when legislatures and corrections departments should wake up and look into the matters seriously and from a different perspective. Juvenile boot camps will neither reduce crime nor save on prison costs. The more resources spent on boot camps which are unlikely to be effective, the less will be available for delinquency programs with proven success.

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