TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner called upon Attorney General Peter Harvey to examine more effective alternatives to the State’s boot camp program for juveniles during today’s budget hearings.
“We’ve used boot camps for over ten years and recent studies have questioned their effectiveness as a rehabilitation tool,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “Dr. Robert Johnson, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at New Jersey Medical School, has said these boot camps have ‘a toxic effect’ on children. There has to be a better way of spending $4 million each year to rehabilitate these youngsters.”
The Department of Law & Public Safety is requesting $4 million in Fiscal Year 2006 for the “Life Skills and Leadership Academy,” a boot camp-style program which includes drill sergeants and platoons. The program serves 75 juveniles each year at a cost of about $80,000 per child.
“Given the deep concerns recently expressed by the Child Advocate, Kevin Ryan, and other experts that juveniles needing psychiatric treatment are wrongly placed in detention centers, we need to make sure that the entire juvenile justice system is as effective as possible. With this in mind, we need to find a better use of boot camp facilities in the treatment of psychiatric needs of juveniles.”