Why Boot Camps Do Not Reduce Crime

The penitentiary system offers a number of solutions to such problems like overcrowding of prisons and bad sanitary conditions in overcrowded institutions for keeping the prisoners, but the leading problem that has to be solved is the level of crime. Boot camps are specially equipped and modernized institutions that are meant to keep the incarcerated people physically busy and establish a specially developed program of development. The problem is that boot camps that were created with the aim to reduce criminal behavior do not actually perform this function.

Boot Camp Definition

Boot camps are strict disciplinary institutions that were created especially for young criminals that would be placed and kept under severe militaristic conditions. The belief was that a stay at a boot camp could significantly reduce the risk of the imprisoned young people to be committing crimes repeatedly after their release. The practice of wide usage of such boot camps is predominantly popular in the USA. At the same time, the representatives of other countries think over some additional tests that can be provided with the aim of testing the results of such camps before implementing such institutions into active use by their penitentiary and crime preventive systems.

Within the course of time, a number of researches have shown negative results that drew in some new facts and reasons that determine the failure of positive influence upon young criminals that were kept in the tested boot camps. The research results were compared to the data of traditional methods of penitentiary systems of the USA, but they did not show the slightest positive figure. The analysis of received data proves the fact that boot camps do not change the level of crime positively; moreover, the number of recidivistic actions of the former prisoners is significantly higher compared to statistics of traditional penitentiary institutions.

If to speak about the relevance of the topic of research, the problem of finding the most preferable solution in order to prevent recidivism in modern conditions is topical and needs taking the most effective steps. The issue attracted the attention of domestic and foreign scholars as well as practitioners. Currently, the most important task is to find the optimal forms of transformation of the social environment with the presence of people that have a tendency to recidivistic actions. One of such chances, accompanied with methods and means of their treatment, were used in the boot camps.

The individuals in boot camps become concerned, despite the fact that they were previously punished for their actions; they have a negative impact upon unstable convicts, including people of young age, and easily involve them in criminal activities. They often tend to act as organizers of criminal gangs. Sustainable growth trend acquires the number of serious crimes. The research shows the increasing number of former prisoners that have become more qualified to execute crimes.

Any measures and programs that were applied in a number of boot camps practically did not reduce recidivism, which is the core of the entire crime. However, many aspects of this complex and important issues, including the prevention of recidivism in correctional boot camps, still need a thorough study of the matter. This is explained by a significant proportion of such crimes and heightened social danger of people committing them (Latessa, Listwan, and Koetzle 68).

The urgency of preventing recidivism after correctional institutions like boot camps is due to features inherent in recidivism and related mainly to the persons condemned, their social and psychological qualities which leave their mark not only on the actions that lead to preparation to commit crimes, but also upon their behavior in general.

Increased risk of crimes committed by the prisoners is that they are made mainly in groups with extreme insolence and cruelty, causing great physical, moral and material damage. Statistics indicates that on average, every third or fourth offense is committed by convicts.

To enhance the effectiveness of educational influence on the convicts, there was proposed a set of measures including continuous training of their increased knowledge and outlook in various fields. Psychological individual monitoring and its results, participation in amateur organizations of the convicted, cultural and sporting activities, adverse influence of alcohol, drug addiction, substance abuse, mental abnormalities among convicted by their treatment give the picture that the situation has a tendency to worsen (Cole, Smith and DeJong 61).

The tendency of the leading force that is directed by the criminals that form small groups that later grow to become significant criminal structures has become deep rooted in the results of implementing the practice of boot camps as an alternative to ordinary penitentiary institutions.

In order to create a change in a vector of socialization towards humanization of thinking and formation of positive behavior in the forefront respect for the law, it is important to promote respect for human and civil rights through interviews, workshops, classes in amateur organizations and combine them with the use of psychological methods of influence. Despite a set of measures for the prevention of criminal activity after the boot camp program, the number of crimes involving young people increased as well (Travis 74).

Most often, teenagers organize a theft of personal property. There are registered facts of robbery and possession of drugs. The main reason of the wrongful behavior of young people is their parents disengagement from education to trusting (Latessa, Listwan and Koetzle 89). Moreover, getting into the company of peers, every young person is trying to express himself or herself and gain credibility. At the same time, this can be achieved by behaving in the wrong way and even through committing a crime. Important reason is also self-interest, as sometimes, people of the same communication group can be from different social classes, and they are forced to determine their power and influence by committing wrongful acts.

In order to get the best image of the situation within the boot camps and to see the reasons why they do not reduce the level of crime, it is important to discuss the whole system in detail. To start with, it is necessary to mention the fact of strict discipline. The term discipline is understood like a solution for these institutions, but the question about its effectiveness remains (Cole, Smith and DeJong 72).

Recently, boot camps have become commonly used as alternatives to various probation terms and other kinds of imprisonment both for young people and for adults, especially in the USA, Canada, New Zealand and other developed countries. A typical boot camp presents a well-organized institution as a kind of military-oriented camp with a strict and rigorous daily schedule of tasks that have to be performed, activities, physical training, required uniforms and tough punishment for any cases of misbehavior. Beyond this, the content of the correctional programs can vary greatly at the country level as well as between different countries. For instance, programs can also contain all kinds of academic education and schools or therapy sessions (Travis 81).

Controversial System of Boot Camps

Despite the increasing popularity of the system of boot camps and of the mentioned method, it remains controversial and discussed at the international level. The claim that the strict discipline contributes a lot to positive changes of behavioral characteristics of the young people, thereby reducing the chance of their relapse into criminal behavior, remains unsolved. Critics, however, are convinced that the main danger of the boot camps is that they may actually lead to the increase of the antisocial behavior and possible criminal activities of participants.

The researchers also claim that the rigorous discipline and strict punishment for disobedience reduces the chances of any programming that was created with the therapeutic aim to be a success. By providing a thorough literature research for the paper, it is possible to study the effects of boot camps and their applied militaristic programs on recidivism based on a meta-analysis of the outcomes of the related studies.

The only visible and easily noted fact is that boot camps differ neither in a worse nor to the better side from prison, and this is the leading fact that determines the negative answer to the main problem of the given research paper. Previous boot camp participants are just the same level likely to react violently as other previously sentenced offenders to relapse into criminal behavior. This research thus concludes that boot camps as a whole have neither a greater nor a lesser effect on recidivism than all of the alternatives combined or taken separately (Latessa, Listwan and Koetzle 118).

At the same time, there is an indication that was done on the basis of the three studies that the participants of the boot camps are more likely to be noted committing a new crime or behaving wrongly if compared to the figures of the same tendency that belong to any kind of alternative probation. The boot camps are the same level ineffective for all misbehaving representatives, not depending upon their gender, age or family status.

The authors of the research conclude that usage of boot camps can find a number of arguments for that, but the information that boot camps reduce the number of committed crimes cannot be used for that. Moreover, the studies show that if the boot camp does not have any therapeutic activities or does not include counseling, it can influence negatively the younger generation of people who happened to become the convicts and were determined for boot camp participation.

More effective and useful information could be achieved with the help of the detailed and thorough investigation of the psychological state of every particular participant of the boot camp. This would make it possible to see the global interpersonal changes for every person depending on the level of the crime severity and other important facts. However, the general statistics and reviews do not give objective information about the relevancy and the boot camp effectiveness, as they do not provide the facts about the problem.

Another issue is that boot camps are different and they follow various aims starting from physical activities that are organized for the participants during the day at a camp and finishing with special psychological sessions. Most of the boot camps of the USA are not monitored effectively and do not present enough statistics to form the final summary as to their effectiveness in reducing crime level in the country (Cole, Smith and DeJong 84).

Boot Camps with Militaristic Environment

For this research paper, the information was taken for the boot camps that follow the physical training and militaristic environment, where all the system of actions and behavior within the organization was realized on the basis of rigorous physical activity. The program was set in a way to engage the participants into military actions and keep them extremely busy all day long from early morning until late in the evening with constant physical training, tests, drills and ceremonies.

One more interesting detail about the boot camps includes the punishment segment. Punishment is provided for even minor offences and is immediate, severe and strict as it involves physical activity. This methodology acts as a vise versa for stabilization aim of such institutions, as instead of making the prisoners calm and keep their behavior on the direct route, extreme punishment sessions make them angry with the system, thus provoking negative thoughts towards the government and the camp direction (Travis 95).

This situation cannot positively influence the future behavior of people after their term ends at the boot camp. Moreover, such military style boot camps make people stronger and give them power that was not available for them earlier. Thus, the boot camp organizations determine the solid chain of consequences including the stronger and more aggressive people that were trained and kept in the atmosphere of punishment and pain combined with constant physical exercises.

Such institutions also have positive elements that include the intellectual development of the incarcerated young people. Most of the boot camps for younger people have a number of educational programs and let them get the higher or specialized education even not being able to attend the actual educational institution. Young offenders that are kept at the specialized boot camps usually have an access to online libraries and archives as well as to the therapeutic sessions. It is also important to mention a negative side of it here as well (Benda 112).

The process of globalization and technological development has gone far and made it possible for the offenders to organize, plan and realize their crimes within the Internet. It is important to mention that Internet offenders are perfect calculators and can simulate the final result of every possible variant of actions. They also can choose the best one and make it work from the boot camp server making people of the rest of the world suffer from the negative consequences.

That is why studying should be well monitored and provide the latest and fresh information about the students success and any possible derivations of these actions.

As for the actual and relevant results that occur in the boot camps of America, Canada and other countries, it is important to mention the figure of 120,000 people that were monitored on the question of recidivistic actions performed after the incarceration in the boot camp. The aspects include arrests, sentences as well as imprisonments and other results of bad behavior. The research was conducted during three years period (Cole, Smith, and DeJong 25).

All the boot camps under investigation were military oriented. The research covered the significant number of assigned participants and provided actual number of total cases of imprisonment, fines or other negative consequences of bad behavior. The results of the research are incredibly similar for different aspects of improper behavior. The answer remains as the level of cases of return imprisonment turned out to be the same as for traditional methods of civil punishment.

In case of comparing young people and the older offenders, statistics remains the unchanging, providing the information that proves that boot camps and traditional punishment institutions have equal number of cases of repetitive crime (Benda 43).

The recommendations for the future research on this problem are that the programs that are applied for the boot camps should include detailed content and more specific information on the methodology of their implementation. This would make it possible to see the tendencies and monitor the individual progress and reaction to particular features of the boot camp and the program that is used in it.

The exceptional result that can be taken from the boot camp investigation is that they are the same level effective for reduction of crime level as any other penitentiary institution. There is no significant difference for the general crime situation in the country and separate regions between the boot camps and ordinary penitentiary institutions.

Boot camps are determined for young offenders and adults who committed the crime for the first time, and the short-term period of intensive physical practice has to make the level of crime lower. In fact, the level of crimes does not rise or fall as a result of research provided on the basis of the boot camps in the USA (Welsh and Farrington 58).

It is necessary to mention that most of the boot camps inmates had a better experience of incarceration than their traditional prison associates did. The situation and the moral state of the boot camp prisoners differed positively as the young people were more optimistic about their future; they learned how to get up early in the morning. Besides, they experienced a better variant of incarceration and had an unforgettable military practice that helped a great number of the offenders to feel more comfortable about their current situation and to be sure in their future work possibilities and opportunities.

Additional Penitentiary Service

Boot camps produce the desired effect upon the first time offenders and change the way people think about life. At the same time, they see the other side of life and realize that committing a crime will never be forgiven without a significant payback. The most important thing about the boot camps is that they give person a chance to see the other life and to decide which road to choose. Boot camps are not easy, and they are not the hotels but military institutions that make the young boys real men that have to be responsible for their actions (Cole, Smith, and DeJong 53).

Boot camps also function as the additional penitentiary service that was determined to make the standard prisons not so crowded as they are. As a matter of fact, boot camps make the level of crime neither higher nor significantly lower, but their main aim is to show the offenders the possibility to pay back for the committed crimes and offers them an opportunity to change the way they considered life to be before the crime. The positive change in the rates of recidivism for those who were the boot campers is significant on early stages of evaluation, and the difference diminishes within the course of time.

It is important to mention the fact that the recidivism rates become even higher among those who have been to the boot camp rather than among those who were spending the punishment in a traditional prison. The negative effect of such statistics is that boot campers are military trained and have more power to commit severe crimes compared to what they were able to do earlier and compared to those who were incarcerated in traditional penitentiary institutions.

In general, in order to give more specific information about the reasons behind such statistics, the programs of boot camps of the USA must be more detailed and available for the researchers use (Welsh and Farrington 79). The punishment sector has to be modified in order to make it easier for the offenders to control their behavior and reduce the number of additional punishment acts. The boot camps have to be divided according to the specifics of their work, and people who stay there have to be aware of the leading principles of their work. Shocking conditions that are created in the boot camps resemble the organizations of traditional penitentiary, and influence the offenders negatively (Benda 34).

Every young person that comes to a boot camp has to be tested by the medical workers in order to determine the level of affordable everyday loads; this would reduce the number of deaths among the boot campers due to their health problems and the inattentiveness of their trainers and leaders who are not able to notice that something wrong is happening to a person and to stop the training session.


Boot camps are a good alternative to traditional penitentiary organizations as it has a number of positive moments compared to a standard way of incarceration. At the same time, the research shows that such camps do not have a significant positive alternative for people in the question of repetitive crime and recidivism in general. Moreover, some researches show the controversial results that prove the growth of crime level among the former boot campers compared to the former traditional prisoners. The problem needs further and deeper investigation and leaves a number of unsolved questions.

However, it is evident that boot camps have the same level of effectiveness as the traditional penitentiary services in the question of the crime level and its growth after the time spent there. Boot camps serve as the additional penitentiary institution that is meant to make the traditional prisons less busy and provide an alternative influence upon the first time offenders and those who committed crimes unwillingly or unintentionally. The boot camps give a general view of the prison but let the former offenders look into the future and be more optimistic about their further actions.

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