Boot Camp Debate

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