Prison Boot Camps:

Too Early to Measure Effectiveness

GGD-88-125BR: Published: Sep 9, 1988. Publicly Released: Oct 12, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on state-operated military-style boot-camp prisons, focusing on their: (1) effectiveness in reducing prison overcrowding, costs, and recidivism; and (2) potential use for federal prisoners.

GAO found that: (1) seven states operate boot camps, and five are developing boot-camp programs; (2) the programs typically featured brief imprisonment followed by community supervision, voluntary participation, military-like regimentation, discipline, and drill, as well as education and counseling; (3) states typically restricted program participation to young adult felons without prior criminal records; and (4) the Federal Prison System has not endorsed these programs for federal offenders, since they have not operated long enough to determine their effectiveness in reducing overcrowding, costs, and recidivism. GAO also found that preliminary data indicated that boot-camp prisons: (1) could cost as much as or more than other programs due to housing costs, increased staff, and the inclusion of participants sentenced with probation; (2) could increase prison population; and (3) did not decrease average recidivism rates among participants compared to other offenders.

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