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Criminal Justice and the Juvenile

Because the crime rate for those under the age of 17 had nearly doubled in a five year period, the General Assembly authorized a new program to deal with juvenile offenders. Camp Stop, a military-style boot camp, was opened in Milledgeville. Its purpose was to give young offenders a wake-up call and steer them away from a life of crime. Judges could order non-violent offenders to spend up to 90 days in the camp. Fourteen-year-old Norton G. explains why he was incarcerated; he followed the wrong crowd at school. Sgt Major Richard Hurt believes boot camp can make a positive difference in kids’ lives. If camp inmates can deal with the strict rules and confrontations thrown at them in boot camp, Hurt thinks they will be able to handle everyday confrontations on the outside. At Camp Stop, everyone is required to look and act the same. There is no television or radio and only one five-minute phone call per week is allowed. While life is harsh at Camp Stop, it cannot compare with life in Georgia prisons in the 1930s. Scenes from the movie I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, based on a book about Georgia prisons, show how the mistreatment of prisoners led to prison reforms. At Camp Stop, inmates attend school and are expected to apply themselves to their studies. They also are given lessons about functioning in society by participating in group therapy sessions. When one person goes astray, the entire platoon must bear the brunt. Norton G. has learned his lesson. He knows it is okay to say no. His grades have improved at Camp Stop and he looks forward to setting a good example for other kids after he returns home

Teacher tip: Ask students to discuss whether they think this is a good way to both punish and correct young offenders. The class should examine the pros and cons of other methods they propose to deliver juvenile justice.