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A Boot Camp program is available to select individuals sentenced, upon conviction, to a Pennsylvania state prison.
The State Correctional Institution program is similar to the military drill-and-routine format for which it is named.
About three-quarters of participating inmates complete the program, according to officials running the program in Clearfield County.
Those who complete boot camp re-offend at half the rate of inmates paroled from traditional prison sentences.
So, who is eligible for the program? What is a typical day like? What contributes to the lower recidivism rate?
Three high-ranking officers from the program recently addressed those questions in a presentation to Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman’s staff.
Who is eligible? What crime(s) were they convicted of?
Typically, offenders aged 18 to 40 and sentenced to minimum terms less than three years are eligible for consideration.
However, certain crimes are automatically excluded, including: murder/manslaughter, sex crimes involving Megan’s Law registry, robbery, residential burglary, kidnapping, and arson.
There are exceptions, with approval from the sentencing judge and district attorney’s office.
A participant serves at least a year in traditional prison before transfer to boot camp.
How long is the boot camp program? What is a typical day like?
Boot camp is a phase-format program that extends between seven and nine months from acceptance to completion. That means an inmate can be released, at soonest, in about 1½ years from their commitment to prison.
Participants wake at 5:15 a.m. and lights are out at 9:30 p.m. There are meals, physical trainings, work duties, classes and group sessions throughout the day.
Participants with substance-abuse issues are eligible for a Vivitrol program and other treatment/peer assistant groups.
There is very little leisure time and few television breaks. Participants have no access to commissary items aside from hygiene products.
Phone calls are extremely limited.
Is it successful? Why?
Boot camp instructors pointed to a few statistics to illustrate how participants adjust upon release.
About 67 percent of parolees from state prison facilities re-offend, the officers said during the presentation.
About 35 percent of those who complete boot camp re-offend.
The officers insisted that boot camp offers a “recipe for change.”
Much like a military boot camp structure, participants hold each other accountable and learn respect for their supervisors/instructors, the officers said. Those who are not committed to the program and its required behavior are failed out.
The strict program does not permit much down time – such as “yard” at traditional prisons – with the goal being a more focused inmate working on self-improvement.
District Attorney Stedman’s office considers boot camp as an option in all qualified cases. However, an assessment is made of each case/defendant before a referral is approved.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @BrettHambright