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Tough Love or Abuse? House Sets Juvenile Boot Camp Limits

This week, the US House approved a measure implementing national standards on juvenile boot camps intended to rehabilitate troubled youth.

The bill passed 318-103, and would nix excessive "tough love" practices like withholding water, food, clothing, shelter or medical care. The new law would allow physical restraint only when the safety of the child or others is in peril, and it would allow residents reasonable access to a telephone.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) said of the decision, "Today we are taking an important step toward ending the horrific abuses that have gone on far too long in the residential programs for teens."

It's not a slam dunk, however. The White House has indicated they're against the plan as it expands federal oversight, and the Senate still has to vote. To see how many claims of abuse have been reported,


About 20,000 to 30,000 teenagers attend juvenile punishment boot camps. An AP survey has identified more than 13,000 claims of abuse in juvenile correction nationwide between 2004-2007, though only 1,343 cases were confirmed stemming from the combination that some residents make up stories, while in other cases they're pressured not to report abuse. Since 1983 more than 35 youths have died in camps like these.

If the bill becomes law, it will allow the Health and Human Services Department to impose fines of up to $50,000 for every violation. Is federal oversight a good idea? Should camps be allowed to administer whatever punishment they deem necessary?


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