Monday, June 30, 2008

Correctional Boot Camps: The End of an Era

I almost forgot to post about this last week.

Georgia Boot Camps Bite The Dust:

The Department of Corrections hopes to save more than $10 million by closing probation detention and diversion centers as well as the last of Georgia's boot camps for young non-violent offenders.

The agency is making many of the moves at the behest of the General Assembly. But the department also says it makes sense because the centers and the boot camps have been under-utilized in recent years.

"When we've got open beds, it's like burning taxpayer money," said Brian Owens, assistant commissioner of the Department of Corrections.
That's the good news, regarding the ignominious failure of correctional boot camps in this state. Georgia first pioneered the concept back in 1983 and at one point had nearly 1000 boot camp beds (out of a nation-wide number of 7000).

But as the research piled up over the years showing this was more of an ideological gimmick (exploited by politicians during the "get tough" 90's) than a practical, correctional solution, the state began shuttering them in the early 2000's. As the AJC notes, the last correctional boot camp will close sometime in the next 90-120 days.

The bad news in the article, however, was the closure of diversion centers as well.

One DeKalb County judge said the closing of diversion centers - which allow offenders to work at jobs to pay off fees, fines and restitution - gives judges one less option to keep felons out of costly prison.

"This new policy very likely will cause judges to put people into prison because they don't have any alternative," said Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger.

"The Department of Corrections policy of suspending one of these programs flies in the face of what they were intended to do. It is self-defeating, you are removing judges' options that would keep people out of prison."

For those advocating for alternatives to incarceration, this is very bad news. Diversion centers offer judges an alternative to automatic carceral sentences, and they allow the offender to remain in the community, continue working, and pay their debt to society.

Now, as Judge Seeliger notes, judges may end up incarcerating more offenders, simply because they lack an option which, unlike the boot camps, research indicates does work and works successfully.

Talk about "self-defeating" indeed. As usual in corrections, we take the good with the bad.

1 comment:

Phil BC said...

Hmmm, I don't suppose the failure of boot camps has been taken up by the right wing media per chance?