Army to run teens' boot camps

BY MARTIN KAY
Last updated 11:23 03/03/2009

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The army will run boot camps to keep the worst teenage offenders on the straight and narrow under youth justice provisions to go before Parliament tomorrow.

Forty of the most serious repeat offenders each year will undergo three months' military training as part of 18 months' intensive supervision under the plans.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the boot camps would follow six-month residential programmes and be followed by a further nine months' supervision.

National promised the boot camps before the election, but it was not revealed till yesterday that they would be run by the army.

The Defence Force is in discussions with the Social Development Ministry on how the camps will run.

Ms Bennett said she wanted them to include mentoring and self-esteem building as well as physical activity.

Prime Minister John Key said a further 175 young offenders a year would be subjected to supervision orders that included an element of military-style training.

However, those schemes would be provided by community groups, such as iwi, and would not be run by the army.

None of the military training would include firearms.

In all, 1000 of the worst young offenders would be subjected to tougher youth justice measures, including doubling the maximum residential custody sentence to six months, followed by up to a year's supervision. The changes would cost $35 million a year.

Maximum supervision with activity orders which can include drug and alcohol treatment will double to six months, with supervision for a further six months.

Young offenders serving community-based sentences, or on bail, could also be subjected to electronic monitoring through ankle bracelets.

The offences for which 12- and 13-year-olds can be sent to the Youth Court will be widened to include robbery, assault and firearms offences, and other serious crimes.

The court will also be given powers to order parents of serious young offenders to undergo parenting courses.

The move to introduce boot camps was criticised by Labour leader Phil Goff and Kim Workman, the project director of lobby group Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

Mr Workman branded them "correctional quackery" and said they were motivated by revenge rather than rehabilitation. Mr Goff said he scrapped correctional training when justice mnister in 2000 because it had a more than 90 per cent recidivism rate. "The main problem with boot camps is you tend to turn out faster, fitter young criminals with the same bad attitudes."

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But Mr Key said National would tie the boot camps to intensive programmes and supervision over many months.

"The standard view about a boot camp being unsuccessful, we accept that where it's in isolation for a short period of time. We don't accept that where it's part of a much more comprehensive approach."

 

- The Dominion Post

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