There can be no good reason why a healthy, athletic 14-year-old boy should enter a state-sponsored boot camp and end up on a stretcher fighting for his life three hours later. Yet that happened to Martin Lee Anderson of Panama City, who died hours after entering the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp last week.
State officials, who promised reforms after boot-camp violence two years ago, now say the state will review its policy of allowing physical force at the camps. That's not enough. The state has tried reforms and failed. The camps should be closed down altogether, as state Rep. Gustavo ''Gus'' Barriero, R-Miami, is suggesting.
Some people think that beating up on children can produce good results. They believe that boot camps are just an organized extention of the concept, ''Spare the rod; Spoil the child.'' They are wrong. These camps have mastered the art of bullying, intimidating and badgering children into submission. They neglect to mentor, teach and counsel their charges.
Florida doesn't need camps that demean children and break their spirit when there are dozens of other programs, such as Outward Bound and Vision Quest to name just two, that build pride and self-esteem in children through coaching, teamwork, respect and positive reinforcement.
DJJ's own records show a 62 percent recidivism rate for boot-camp boys. Social science experts who have studied the camps say flat-out that they don't work. Scaring and frightening children doesn't change their behavior. State lawmakers should pull the financial plug on boot camps. They mustn't wait for another child to die while being "scared straight.'' email thisprint this
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