Effects of correctional boot camps on offending

Additional Info

  • Authors: David Wilson, Doris MacKenzie, Fawn Ngo Mitchell
  • Published date: 2005-07-10
  • Coordinating group(s): Crime and Justice
  • Type of document: Title, Protocol, Review, User abstract
  • Volume: 1
  • Issue nr: 6
  • Title: Effects of correctional boot camps on offending
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Objectives

To synthesize the extant empirical evidence on the effects of boot-camps and boot camp like programs on the criminal behavior (e.g., postrelease arrest, conviction, or reinstitutionalization) of convicted adult and juvenile offenders.

Search strategy

Numerous electronic databases were searched for both published an unpublished studies. The keywords used were: boot camp(s), intensive incarceration, and shock incarceration. We also contacted US and non-US researchers working in this area requesting assistance in locating additional studies. The final search of these sources was completed in early December of 2003.

Selection criteria

The eligibility criteria were (a) that the study evaluated a correctional boot camp, shock incarceration, or intensive incarceration program; (b) that the study included a comparison group that received either probation or incarceration in an alternative facility; (c) that the study participants were exclusively under the supervision of the criminal or juvenile justice system; and (d) that the study reported a post-program measure of criminal behavior, such as arrest or conviction.

Data collection and analysis

The coding protocol captured aspects of the research design, including methodological quality, the boot-camp program, the comparison group condition, the participant offenders, the outcome measures and the direction and magnitude of the observed effects. All studies were coded by two independent coders and all coding differences were resolved by Drs MacKenzie or Wilson. Outcome effects were coded using the odds-ratio and meta-analysis was performed using the random effects model.

Main results

Thirty-two unique research studies met our inclusion criteria. These studies reported the results from 43 independent boot-camp/comparison samples. The random effects mean odds-ratio for any form of recidivism was 1.02, indicating that the likelihood that boot camp participants recidivating Effects of Correctional Boot Camps 3 was roughly equal to the likelihood of comparison participants recidivating. This overall finding was robust to the selection of the outcome measure and length of follow-up. Methodological features were only weakly related to outcome among these studies and did not explain the null findings. The overall effect for juvenile boot camps was slightly lower than for adult boot camps. Moderator analysis showed that studies evaluating boot-camp programs with a strong treatment focus had a larger mean odds-ratio than studies evaluating boot camps with a weak treatment focus.

Conclusions

Although the overall effect appears to be that of "no difference", some studies found that boot camp participants did better than the comparison, while others found that comparison samples did better. However, all of these studies had the common element of a militaristic boot camp program for offenders. The current evidence suggests that this common and defining feature of a boot-camp is not effective in reducing post boot-camp offending.

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