Thursday, January 29, 2009

Harris County youth boot camp may replace rigorous drills with therapy

From the Houston Chronicle:

Harris County may scrap rigorous physical training and rigid military-style drills at its Delta Boot Camp in favor of a program that uses therapy to attack the emotional and behavioral problems that led the young people into crime, officials said Wednesday.

The county opened a juvenile boot camp in 1994 to offer chronic young offenders one last chance to shape up before they would be shipped off to do hard time at a Texas Youth Commission facility. Officials hoped the facility’s strong emphasis on military structure, drill and discipline would help the 14- to 16-year-old residents change from trouble-making boys into responsible men.


Juvenile boot camps sprang up across the country in the early 1990s amid a national push to get tough on crime.

However, studies soon showed the facilities did not improve recidivsm rates for youths and in some cases were detrimental to young people who had experienced violence and abuse at home, said Gaylene Armstrong, an associate professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University who has studied juvenile boot camps extensively.

Treating juvenile offenders’ problems with substance abuse, mental illness and anger management, or even just offering them a basic education, was found to be more beneficial than having them run laps and do push-ups, Armstrong said.

“Even though from a public perspective, maybe some people would say, ‘These people did something bad, let’s really punish them,’ in the long term that’s not going to do much for us as a society because they’re going to end up back in the community and their problems aren’t going to be addressed,” she said.

More here.

Fucking Jesus, it's about time! What is it about American psychology that we have to collectively fuck up as badly as possible before we start using our common sense?

Boot camps were incredibly stupid from the get-go. To the best of my knowledge, there was never any hard data at all suggesting that screaming at teens, forcing them to do push ups, humiliating them, dressing them in military uniforms, and on and on, would do anything but mind fuck kids. But the whole short-sighted "tough love" movement of the 90s literally demanded boot camps for troubled youth. Suddenly, people were getting rich on this shit. Self-proclaimed "experts" peddled cruel and unusual punishment on Oprah and Maury. Companies sprang up offering a bogus and counterproductive solution to frustrated parents.

For some reason, nobody with a public voice was willing to see the boot camps for what they are: child abuse.

It now appears that local and state governments are catching up with the sociological studies. Like I said, 'bout time. But what really irks me is that this isn't rocket science. It's completely obvious that troubled kids need massive social intervention, not further abuse. You don't need an advanced degree in social work to see that.

Maybe this is the new zeitgeist, people using their brains. I sure hope so.