Boot camps and justice: a contradiction in terms?


As I speak to people right across Australia about criminal justice matters, a common response is that "young people today don't have any respect, don't have commitment, have had it too easy, and get a mere slap on the wrist if they commit an offence". What would set things right, it is asserted, would be to subject them to a strict disciplinary regime which ensures that offenders learn to work hard, obey rules, and understand the consequences of their actions. Arguments such as this find their way onto the political agenda, and following the development of boot camps right across the United States, the Government of Western Australia established a work camp in March 1995.

For our social policy to work, it is essential that there be a good understanding of theory and practice, careful planning, and rigorous evaluation of the intended and unintended consequences of policy initiatives. In this Trends and Issues, Lynn Atkinson looks at boot camp regimes in the United States and raises questions for Australian policymakers.