Death Spotlights Youth Boot Camps
By Alisia Blackwood
Associated Press, July 6, 2001
PHOENIX (AP) - The death of a 14-year-old boy this week at an Arizona desert boot camp for delinquents is just the latest episode in the troubled history of these grueling programs.

Boot camps use military discipline to try to turn rebellious youngsters' lives around. But over the past decade, as the popularity of such camps has grown, so have abuse allegations, lawsuits and deaths.

Many such camps are state-run, and the youngsters are sent there by the courts under close supervision. But there are an untold number of other such camps around the country - like the one in Arizona - that are privately run, and are for unruly teen-agers sent there by their parents.

And these private boot camps are often subject to little or no regulation.

``It's a situation that lends itself to abusive conditions,'' said R. Dean Wright, a professor of sociology at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. ``Any time you have someone use lock and key, the person who has the lock and key has the power to abuse, and they often do.''

Anthony Haynes died Sunday while attending a five-week boot camp 40 miles west of Phoenix operated by the America's Buffalo Soldiers Re-enactors Association, where the regimen includes forced marches, wearing black uniforms in triple digit temperatures, in-your-face discipline and a daily diet limited to an apple, a carrot and a bowl of beans.

The youngsters were supervised by 17- and 18-year-olds, and there were no medical personnel on hand, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.

Unidentified former drill instructors at the camp told The Arizona Republic that youths were kicked and forced to swallow mud. At least one person who attended the camp said that a counselor stomped on his chest and poured mud down his throat.

On the day Haynes died, the mercury climbed as high as 114 degrees. The teen-ager's mother, Melanie Hudson, who had sent the boy to the camp after he slashed her tires and was caught shoplifting, said she was told her son had vomited mud before he died.

Authorities removed about 50 youngsters from the camp Monday and returned them to their parents.

The sheriff's department is investigating the boy's death and the abuse allegations. Authorities were awaiting autopsy results Friday.

The organization that runs the camp referred calls to a lawyer who did not return messages.

``There obviously should be some sort of oversight,'' Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said Friday. ``I mean, we even regulate day-care centers. There should be some type of oversight, and perhaps this case will be the one that prompts some action in the Legislature.''

In South Dakota in July 1999, 14-year-old Gina Score died after a forced run at a girls boot camp operated by the state. Two staff members were acquitted on child abuse charges in the death and other alleged problems, including making girls run in shackles until their ankles bled.

In 1998, 16-year-old Nicholaus Contreraz died at the privately run Arizona Boys Ranch boot camp. Charges of murder, manslaughter or child abuse against six staff members at the camp were dropped by prosecutors.

There have been at least three other deaths at boot camps in the past decade and numerous abuse allegations across the country.

The first juvenile boot camp opened in Orleans Parish, La., in 1985 and led the way for others modeled on prison boot camps for adults.

Many parents praise the camps and the positive changes they say they have seen in their children.

A 1998 study by the Koch Crime Institute, a nonprofit research center, found that juvenile boot camps around the United States are no better than traditional methods at deterring crime. The recidivism rates for graduates of juvenile boot camps was between 64 percent and 75 percent, compared with 63 percent to 71 percent for traditional programs for juveniles.

Wright said parents often send their children to the camps unaware of the potential for abuse. In Arizona, for instance, the law regulating juvenile facilities specifically excludes private camps that do not run year-round. The camp where Haynes died ran for five weeks.

``Many parents are just simply exasperated,'' Wright said. ``So many parents feel they have no control over their child and they want something that's going to work.''

Haynes' father, Gettis Haynes Jr., said he wishes he had known more about the camp before sending his son there.

``I'd advise anyone who would send their kid to a boot camp to investigate it as deep as they can before they ever do anything like we've done,'' he said.

Return to this Newsroom date
Return to Boot Camp For Kids: Torturing Teenagers for Fun and Profit
Select other Newsroom date range
Go to Project NoSpank Table of Contents