Dismissal Rates

As occurs in many drug-treatment programs, boot camps may have high dismissal rates. Depending upon the program, rates vary from 8 percent (Georgia in 1989) to as much as 80 percent (Wisconsin in 1993). Offenders can be dismissed from the boot camp because of misbehavior or, in some boot camps, they can voluntarily ask to leave. Those who are dismissed will either be sent to a traditional prison, where they will serve a longer sentence than the one assigned to boot camp, or they will be returned to the court for resentencing. Thus, in both cases there is the threat of a longer term in prison for those who do not complete the boot camp.

There is very little information about how drug-involved offenders do in boot camp prisons. One study of the Louisiana boot camp examined the dismissal rates of drug-involved offenders and compared these rates to offenders in the boot camp who were not identified as drug-involved (Shaw & MacKenzie, 1992). Two groups of drug-involved offenders were examined: (1) those who had a legal history of drug-involvement (an arrest or conviction for a drug offense); and (2) those who were identified as drug abusers on the basis of self-report. In this program, offenders were permitted to drop out voluntarily or they could be dismissed for misbehavior. Surprisingly, in comparison to other offenders, the drug-involved offenders were less likely to drop out of the program.

In another study of the Louisiana boot camp, 20 percent of the participants were identified as problem drinkers on the basis of their self-reported alcohol use and problems associated with use (Shaw & MacKenzie, 1989). The problem drinkers were no more likely to drop out of the book-camp prison than were the others.

In interviews, offenders who are near graduation from boot camp report that they are drug free and physically healthy (MacKenzie and Souryal, 1994). Unlike offenders incarcerated in conventional prisons, boot-camp participants believed that their experience had been positive and that they had changed for the better. They also reported that the reason they entered the boot camp was because they believed they would spend less time in prison—not because of the treatment or therapy offered.

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