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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?


lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I was under the understanding that these are not actually juvenile detention centers where courts send teens, but the camps where parents send them. Was anyone else under that impression?
flutterpie flutterpie 9 years
its kinda sad that these are not common sense things and that the federal government has felt the need to get involved, and while i agree that this should be a state thing, if the states had regulated themselves there would of been no need for the feds to get involved.
stephley stephley 9 years
"They said they were laying out minimum national standards, and it was up to the states, within three years, to come up with their own standards and enforce them for all programs." from the linked article
Meike Meike 9 years
"withholding water, food, clothing, shelter or medical care" Wtf...I don't even think they do that sort of thing in basic training at real military camps. The only related experience I have with the sort of military style boot camp were my Army ROTC FTXs, freshman year of college. And despite the rigorous and exhausting physical training, for sure, I have been well fed and cloth. As for shelter, not so much, haha! I remember freezing at night in our little tent city (I wore the sleeping bag wrong, though, lol) and get 4 to 5 hours sleep max. I was 18, not too far off in age from those who were sent to juvenile camps. If you're well fed, clothed, sheltered to a degree, and have medical care, boot camps are perfect for curving troubled teens' attitudes and discipline. The camps responsible for the abuses definitely need to be held accountable. Juvenile boot camp != the Navy Seal.
sugarbean sugarbean 9 years
States should be in charge of this -- the problem is that citizens get frustrated with state government (or decide they'll just one up everyone and "show them" by going to the federal gov't) and don't hold people accountable. Florida is a brilliant example. The proposed federal standards? I still say it's a state issue, but for the sake of argument, let's say they were approved by the senate and signed into law -- even if they'd been implemented and in full-force, they almost certainly would not have prevented the death of Martin Lee Anderson (the cluster, er, debacle of case out of Panama City, FL in the not so long ago past) Citizens need to hold states more accountable before running to the feds -- that's actually kind of a fundamental principle of the way the country was set up. who knew!
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
There is a "bootcamp" for teens at Ft McCoy in WI. It's run and governed by the military base there. The kids are closely monitored, but it is similar to a boot camp. Many of the kids tha go through the camp turn their lives around. Unfortunately, many fail and are kicked out.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
As for Federal standards vs. State... Here are my questions. 1.) Who has the ability to sentance these kids to the camps? If it is a Federal court, then I see why they would need Federal standards. If it is only lower level courts that make these rulings (for non-violent offenders, non-felonies, etc), then I could see keeping it as a state's decision. 2.) Is there any "interstate" sentancing going on? If so, I think Federal standards would have to apply. For example, if a child is sentanced in Conneticut, but Conneticut doesn't have a camp, and the minor goes to Georgia instead, I would think that crossing state lines would bump it into the Federally regulated arena.
nicachica nicachica 9 years
Ha! My mom would give us this MEAN look and she would start counting to three verrrrry sloooowly. She ummm...never got to three. ;)
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
No, I don't think I ever had a teacher that gave that look, lol.
syako syako 9 years
ooooh was it the teacher look? my mom gives some mean teacher looks. :scared:
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
LOL! My mother could have had a second career at one of these camps. All she had to do was give one look and that enough for us.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
"There are a few neighborhood kids running around that I would LOVE to send to one of these camps." Amen to that!
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 9 years
There are a few neighborhood kids running around that I would LOVE to send to one of these camps. Tough love can be effective, but it does cross the line at some point. It seems like states tend to set child abuse policy, so they probably should take care of this themselves.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I still think 35 is more than enough MindayH. I do not want to play the game of how many pedestrians need to get run over before we put a signal at an intersection with our youth.
nateshatesh nateshatesh 9 years
If parents can't do it to their child why in the H311 whould the state allow for someone who is not their parent to do it. I understand punishment but NOT mistreating someone's child. If it was the parent giving such "punishment" that parent would be in BIG trouble!
MindayH MindayH 9 years
I think that they will still find ways to abuse the kids without withholding water, food, clothing, shelter or medical care - but yes this is a state issue. And I am sorry but "Since 1983 more than 35 youths have died in camps like these" should maybe strike me a little harder but that is 35 kids in 25 years? What about statistics from recent years?
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
A little bootcamp never hurt anyone. ;)
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
The problem there liliblu is not that the State approved such actions. The problem is that in most cases there is no oversight to approve or disapprove.
liliblu liliblu 9 years
Not allowing to child to have food, water, clothing, shelter, or medical care is abusive. The federal guidelines were put in place because some states were allowing this to go on. In past there were states that allowed prisoners to be stacked to the ground; in extreme heat with the sun blazing. Should it have been allowed to continue because the state approved it?
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
No, camps should not be allowed to administer what ever punishment they deem necessary. Our children are not guinea pigs for testing the tolerances of punishment. The fact that 35 youths have been lost makes it clear that a standard of enforceable guidelines is necessary. Now whether that standard is set by the Federal, the State or a voluntary coalition of Juvenile Camp Operators makes no difference to me the point is it needs to be done. Juvenile camps are an instrumental tool and in some case a last hope for some parents and the judicial system to save our youth from reaching a criminal mind set. I’m all for the military style of discipline but the standard should not be set at what the physically exceptional can handle. It should be set somewhere in the middle especially if you’re dealing with youth.
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
Hellz yeah Cab! :highfive: This is a state issue, as most things where the federal government gets involved.
syako syako 9 years
because states ate stoopid :nerdgirl: ;)
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Why exactly would states knowingly allow abuses?
liliblu liliblu 9 years
It needs to be on the federal level to end the abuses that some states would allow.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Federal oversight and hefty fines to make sure that kids aren't denied "water, food, clothing, shelter or medical care" would be a good thing, I think... :ponder:
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