Adolescents are fairness fanatics. Running any adolescent group care program is difficult because adolescents are very sensitive to anything they perceive as unfair, particularly anything that applies to the whole group. Adolescents reject imposed structure and assistance. Adolescents respond to encouragement, not punishment. Although they may change their behavior to avoid punishment, their attitudes and behaviors do not change in response to punishment. The implications of these three factors are that youth will defend themselves against what they see as unfair, regardless of the motivation of the adults who are caring for them, and will reject what may be offered as assistance because they do not recognize the providers of that assistance as being part of their support system. Dr. Beyer suggested that this rejection of assistance is positive. It is the way youth have survived poverty and adverse conditions. If this natural inclination is subdued, it will undermine the very survival technique that has allowed these youth to make it this far. According to Dr. Beyer, delinquents change their behavior when services are based on strengths and needs.
If youth are only offered what adults think they need, they will not accept assistance. Effective services will help youth set up their own notions of what they need and then make it possible for them to meet their needs through nondelinquent behavior. The services developed should be based on the individual strengths of the youth. It must also be asked whether juvenile boot camps, in both their residential and aftercare components, meet common needs of youth, such as the need to be competent at something, to feel a sense of belonging, to feel in charge (especially for those who have been victims of discrimination and abuse), and to feel a connection to their families.
Dr. Beyer reiterated that punitive programs driven by imposed structure, group practices, and services that are not individually tailored to each young person’s strengths and concepts of his or her own needs will not be effective, no matter what they are called. The confrontational model is full of potentially abusive situations and is antithetical to the development of the kind of healthy, productive relationship with an adult that a youth needs to develop maturity. The suitability of boot camps for introducing therapeutic intervention was questioned, and it was also pointed out that the confrontational model is difficult, if not impossible, to monitor.
However, although the adult boot camp model may not work for juveniles, it was noted that adolescents do like structure and want some structure in their lives. Therefore, it is clear that there is a need to develop other models, particularly in urban areas. Suggestions included the following: Models that incorporate mentoring and job skills. Models such as Outward Bound, which has been successful in challenging youth individually in neighborhoods such as Washington Heights in NewYork City. Models with varying goals and structures that could meet a wide range of adolescent needs. Such models would especially integrate the residential and aftercare phases of the boot camp experience, so that goals, treatment methods, and programming would be the same for both phases. Coordination with all levels of the aftercare agencies during the planning and execution of the residential phase would partially ensure this desired continuity. Aftercare issues Aftercare is the last phase before total release from juvenile court supervision. Dr. Altschuler asserted that reintegration into the community is the key to boot camp success.
Continuity between the residential and aftercare phases of the boot camp experience is paramount. In general, proper reintegration requires adequate funding for both the boot camp and aftercare programs, management that is coordinated throughout the entire program, and graduated sanctions and incentives. The Intensive Aftercare Program (IAP) model of Altschuler and Armstrong, described in Intensive Aftercare for High-Risk Juveniles: A Community Care Model, stresses overarching case management as fundamental to successful reintegration. Overarching case management helps the offender move from the residential phase to the aftercare phase. The IAP model divides case management into five components: Assessment, classification, and selection criteria. Selecting youth at the highest risk of recidivism requires appropriate assessment and classification measures.
These measures give weight to justice system factors, such as age at first offense, and to need-related factors, such as substance abuse. The accuracy of the measures chosen is directly related to the success of other design choices: for example, staffing levels, the size of the inmate population, and the boot camp as a whole. Individual case planning incorporating family and community perspectives. Individualized case planning should address how the special needs of the youth are linked to his or her social network (e.g., family, close friends, and peers in general) and community (e.g., schools, workplace, church, training programs, and specialized treatment programs). To ensure continuity from the residential phase to the aftercare phase, an aftercare counselor should be involved from the beginning of the residential phase. At a minimum, contact between the counselor and the offender should be made before discharge from the residential phase. A mix of intensive surveillance and services. Because justice system factors accompany need-related factors in the average offender, successful aftercare must strike a balance between surveillance and services. Neither one alone will suffice. Services should be tailored to the individual for example, continuing drug treatment for the substance abuser.
Surveillance should exceed the old purpose of simply jailing recidivists by identifying impending recidivism and, ideally, reversing it through rewards and graduated sanctions. A balance of incentives and graduated consequences coupled with the imposition of realistic, enforceable conditions. Positive reinforcement can induce healthy behavioral change. On the other hand, overly burdensome parole conditions can undermine healthy change or even contribute to recidivism from a psychological effect or merely from increased contact with those who record acts of recidivism. Service brokerage with community resources and linkage with social networks.
The workload that results from trying to create better conditions and from the growth of boot camp populations makes it impossible for the aftercare counselor to succeed without help. Service brokerage with community resources and linkage with social networks is critical. Service brokerage helps to meet the needs for job training and education, among others. Linkage with social networks helps to heal those common divisions exhibited by high-risk youth in the areas of family relationships, peer relationships, and school.
Conclusion At this point in their development, boot camps do not appear to be the panacea that many hoped they would become. Nonetheless, boot camps do appear to offer certain practical advantages and future promise that warrant continued testing and examination. As an intermediate sanction, boot camps are a useful alternative for offenders for whom probation would be insufficiently punitive, yet for whom long-term incarceration would be excessive. As such, under certain conditions, boot camps can free bed space for more hardened offenders, thereby reducing the financial burden on correctional budgets. Future research must focus on the kinds of questions that have been raised here to provide the information needed to enable the justice system to maximize the benefits of boot camps as an intermediate corrections option.