1980s and 90s, and US Shock Incarceration Programmes

Such was the hope for shock incarceration programmes in US prisons that young, non-violent offenders could be diverted from a life outside the law using the same tactics successfully employed by the military to turn civilians into soldiers.  This reliance on a military atmosphere still provokes controversy over boot camp programmes, with proponents arguing that the rigid discipline promotes positive behaviour (Ashcroft et al., 2003).

Since their beginning in 1983 in Georgia (Anderson et al., 1999), boot camps had spread to half the US States by the late 1990s, having gained wide popular appeal for their ‘get tough’ policies through the use of military discipline, physical training and hard work.  Fuelled primarily by the growth in the number of offenders incarcerated during the past decade and changing views of the role of punishment and treatment in the correctional system, shock incarceration programmes, or ‘boot camps’ as they became to be called, had emerged as an increasingly popular alternative sanction for non-violent crimes.

However, by the 2000s one third of the boot camp programmes had closed as research suggested that although prisoners responded well whilst on the programmes, recidivism rates were low (Ashcroft et al., 2003).  It is argued that released prisoners suffered from a lack of follow-up support as programmes only provided very limited post-prison support (Ashcroft et al., 2003).


Ashcroft, J., Daniels, D.J. & Hart, S.V. (2003) Correctional Bootcamps: Lessons from a Decade of Research. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice.

Anderson, J.F., Dyson, L. & Burns, J.C. (1999) Boot Camps: An Intermediate Sanction. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.


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