A Multi-State Analysis of Correctional Boot Camp Outcomes: Identifying Vocational Rehabilitation as a Complement to Shock Incarceration

By Joshua A. Jones
2012, Vol. 4 No. 09 | pg. 3/3 |


Reid-MacNevin (1997) argued that correctional boot camp and shock incarceration programs are merely a politically-conjured vessel by which proponents have constructed a façade of crime control. Furthermore, traditional boot camp programs utterly ignore the compendium of prior research which has suggested that deterrence-based criminal justice interventions are wholly ineffective. Predictors such as poverty, unemployment, abuse, and other social factors are the root causes of disadvantage. It is this disadvantage which serves as the ultimate risk factor for criminal activity and recidivism. Legislators and correctional administrators understand that there is little that the justice system can do to combat these social issues in an expeditious manner (Kubrin & Stewart, 2006). However, properly managed correctional boot camp programs can be equally as effective as more traditional intermediate sanctions (Jones & Ross, 1997). Through innovations in intensive treatment protocols, it is possible that these programs may eventually provide a cogent alternative to incarceration.

Contemporary evidence weighs heavily against the use of traditional discipline-oriented correctional boot camp programs as alternatives to incarceration and incapacitation. Many of these initiatives have historically ignored the importance of improving participants’ attitudes and employability, while focusing solely on reducing re-offense statistics. The inherent quelling of individualization and lack of intensive treatment are diametrically opposed to the goal of recidivism reduction through rehabilitation (MacKenzie, Brame, McDowall, & Souryal, 1995; Stincomb, 1999). However, this does not outright preclude the possibility that these programs may be salvaged. Rather, policy makers must determine if traditional boot camp programs can be effectively supplemented or otherwise combined with intensive treatment protocols. Unemployment remains one of the most significant predictors of recidivism (Kempinen & Kurylchek, 2003; Nally, Lockwood, Knutson, & Ho, 2012). Ergo, it is necessary to improve education and vocational rehabilitation programs as well as provide substance abuse counseling if intensive boot camp treatment initiatives are to be effective at reducing recidivism and prison overcrowding by improving the attitudes and employability of graduates.

Though it remains an obscure topic in the literature, the relationship between employability and recidivism is significant. Simply releasing offenders into the communities from which they came and expecting them not to re-offend is tantamount to a coin toss. However, contemporary recidivism data convey that non-violent offenders, particularly those of younger age demographics, have far greater than a 50/50 chance of rearrest (Nally, Lockwood, Knutson, & Ho, 2012). Nonetheless, the efficacy of employment intervention through probation agencies has been empirically substantiated. However, previous programs have not been necessarily studious in selecting participants (Hancock & Raeside, 2009). The evidence calls for a paradigm shift in the philosophy of correctional rehabilitation; one which instills discipline without sacrificing individualism and measures success through reintegration rather than through punishment.


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