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New York Prisons Offer ‘Tough Love’ Boot Camp Programs. But Prisoners Say They’re ‘Torture’ And ‘Hell.’

New York Prisons Offer ‘Tough Love’ Boot Camp Programs. But Prisoners Say They’re ‘Torture’ And ‘Hell.’

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Contributions

  • A look inside some of the last of their kind, relics of the tough-on-crime mentality that ignore the science of what cures addiction and deters crime because, well, this just sounds to some folks like it should work.

  • In theory, “boot camp”-style programs for prisoners are a great idea. They could help people get and stay sober, instill discipline (often an undervalued trait), and teach practical skills.

    However, in practice, these programs are helping more by accident than by design. Cruel guards, bad facilities

    In theory, “boot camp”-style programs for prisoners are a great idea. They could help people get and stay sober, instill discipline (often an undervalued trait), and teach practical skills.

    However, in practice, these programs are helping more by accident than by design. Cruel guards, bad facilities, and frankly stupid policies (why the hell would you make people go off their psychiatric meds? If they need those meds, they probably shouldn’t be in a boot camp in the first place) combine to make these “boot camps” more like a frathouse hazing than a training session. It’s one thing to be shouted at drill-sergeant style, and another to be hit and degraded.

    I really do think this is a great idea on paper— but the deeper failings of the prison system have to be fixed before it can be implemented in reality. At the least, there has to be much more accountability for the guards— they can get away with almost anything because there’s so little oversight. At present the prevailing attitude is too much punishment, and not enough training. Many of the “punishments” for even minor infractions look to be designed more to humiliate the person, or entertain the guard, than to teach them a lesson. The self-reinforcing culture of abuse among guards has to be purged before a program like this can work.

    Finally, and probably most importantly, before prisoners start this kind of program they MUST go through psychological screenings. Many kinds of mental illness— more common in prisoners than the general population— would negate any positive effect of the boot camp, and severely amplify the harm. Therapists should also be massively more available to prisoners in general, but that’s getting into another issue.

  • Sounds like a perfect reason to diguise bad behavior. How do the guards behave off duty?