In 1997, Delaware joined a number of other states in creating a boot camp, geared toward giving young, first time offenders a chance to turn their life around, but like many of them, today, Delaware announced the boot camp program has been shut down.
"Since this program is not meeting their needs, it's not meeting our needs," said Robert Coupe, Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Corrections, speaking frankly on the closure.
The DOC is finally putting the boot down on boot camp, after years of poor results and failed attempts.
The first evaluation was done in 2001. That's when the department of corrections learned more than 60% of the graduates from the first class had re-offended.
Commissioner Coupe says "they brought in a stronger educational piece, substance use disorder treatment, things like that so they incorporated that into the program and they saw some initial success."
But the boot camp couldn't keep enough first-time offenders to make it cost effective, with many opting out of the six month military-style program, choosing to serve their already short sentences. To bring in more bodies, the requirements changed. Instead, the new recruites had serious rap sheets, some with more than 15 felony arrests, and some took advance of the system.
"If a drug dealer had a sentence, maybe 3 to 4 years they were facing, if they come through the boot camp, follow all the rules, they can shorten that sentence to 6 months on the inside, so an offender with that mindset could take advantage of the system, yes," says Commissioner Coupe, "so that changed the success rate of the program, and actually, the success declined."
By the end, more than 70 percent of boot camp cadets found themselves back in handcuffs.
A dormitory style building was constructed specifically for the boot camp at Sussex Correctional Institute. Now, Corrections is working to figure out other ways to utilize the space, which can house up to 150 people.
the DOC is also evaluating a number of other programs, including its drug treatment initiatives.
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