The Boot Camp Debate
In any of today’s society no matter where you look there will be some evidence of crime present. This statement derives from a sociologist theory that says no society can exists without crime. The government is constantly looking for new ways to deal with these reoccurring problems. The focus has been placed upon the government to look into young offenders and the style used to punish them. Weapons possession is quite common among the youth, at least in urban Canada, between one-third and one quarter of students surveyed indicated that they had carried some form of weapon at school over the previous year. Data drawn from Statistics Canada has revealed that the number of reported incidents of violent crimes by males aged 12-17 have risen 64% and more than doubled for females during the decade beginning in 1989 and ending in 1999. A study conducted in Southern Ontario, exploring student perceptions of violence in schools, revealed significant levels of fear relating to possible victimisation. It is these more serious crimes involving young offenders that the government has been forced to deal with. Many suggestions have been made and many bills have been voted on but still no “sure fire” solution to the problem exists. The latest idea brewing in Parliament is the use of boot camps to punish young offenders; however others believe sending young offenders to boot camp is not the answer and there are more efficient ways to correct their negative behaviour.
The newest “brain-storm” that politicians have dwelled upon is sending young offenders that commit serious offences to boot camp. The first question that comes to mind is what is a boot camp? A boot camp is an alternative place to send youths between the ages of 12-17 who commit serious criminal offences. Boot camps have five basic goals: (1) incapacitation, (2) deterrence, (3) rehabilitation, (4) reduction of prison costs and crowding, and (5) punishment (Colledge ; Gerber, 1998). These facilities are designed to resocialize the “bad-boys” and “bad-girls” into citizens that will be accepted back into society. The plan is to use a military style to punish the kids and in return teach them discipline and transform them back to law abiding citizens . “Punishment ranges from rigorous exercise – running extra laps around the barracks with a pack on, combinations of sit-ups, chin-ups and pushups – reduced meals or meals outdoors, and work detail, such as digging a whole alone outside for a week” (Simpson, 1996, p. A1). The government feels that with these military style boot camps the percentage of violent crimes by young offenders will begin to decrease.
On the other hand, there is another group of people who do not support the idea of installing a boot camp system into the criminal legislation. First of all the idea of boot camps was instituted in Britain. The results were not even close to what the British Government expected. There was barely even a change in the reduction of the percent of young offenders involved in violent crimes. This raises the thought of what will make the results in Canada any different from those found in Britain. The people against boot camps seem to be believers in the fact that jail and boot camps aren’t the best way to punish a young offender. “Instead, they said, there needs to be a stronger focus on discouraging conditions which lead to criminal behaviour through school and neighbourhood programs. And when a crime is committed by a 12-17 year old, there should be alternative punishments to jail” (Honywill, 1996, p. N1). The critics of boot camps also believe that to stop crime there has to be a lot more attention paid to prevention and nothing else. “Dr. Mark Sandford of McMaster University, said anti-social behaviour takes many years to develop and cannot be solved by quick solutions such as jail or the so-called boot camps, where young people are forced to do strenuous labour during a period of incarceration” (Honywill, 1996, p.2). The decision the critics have come to is boot camps are not the right way to go and there has to be other options open for the punishment of young offenders.
In relation to the alternatives for young offenders, places such as Custody Centers are an enhanced option to consider for the process of rehabilitating younger kids. “The Prince George Youth Custody Center is a secure facility providing a full range of programs to allow youths to make maximal constructive use of their time while in custody” (<http://members.pgonline.com/~pgycc/). The P.G.Y.C.C. is located in British Columbia and is responsible for the custody arrangements for all the interior regions. All youths that are admitted into this center are between the ages of 12 and 17. The residents are responsible for their chores, laundry and personal hygiene, and on weekends school is replaced by a variety of programs that emphasise upon special events involving outside community groups. The Center also has many programs that the youths are to take part in. Some examples of these programs are Teen Drug/Alcohol Awareness, Violence Prevention, Psychological Counselling, Arts and Crafts, and Recreation. The programs are designed to help the young offenders in the specific areas that the youths seem to be lacking in mental and physical development. Help of this extent is not available in jail or boot camps; therefor the teenagers will have a lot of one on one counselling and most likely will be properly rehabilitated. Overall the Prince George Youth Custody Center presents a much better atmosphere in order to correct behaviour and resocialize the young offenders back into the community once their time in custody is completed.
There are other alternatives for the rehabilitation of young offenders rather than shipping them off to prison or boot camps. The boot camps and prisons do not offer the youths the proper treatment needed to transform a person from a criminal back to a normal citizen of society. Places such as Custody Centers offer a more controlled and logical process of programs developed especially for the special kids sent to these places. It is believed that a program such as the P.G.Y.C.C. will ultimately be more effective in correcting the behaviour of young offenders and in conjunction lower the rate of youth crime around the country.
Colledge, D. and Gerbert, J. (1998, June). Rethinking the assumptions about boot camps.
Federal Probation, vol. 62, issue 1, p.54.
Honywill, B. (1996, Nov. 20). Boot camps not answer: panel: Must discourage
conditions leading to youth crime. The Hamilton Spectator, p. N1.
Simpson, L. (1996, Oct. 5). Academy targets troublesome teens: Military-style school
for boys costs $20,400 a year. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A1.
Prince George Youth Custody Center. WWW document. (n.d./ 2000, Mar. 22).
Category: Social Issues