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Old 05-10-2017, 10:25 AM
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Nickel Timer Nickel Timer is offline
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Question Any prison boot camp experience?

I was just thinking about this topic the other day.

The whole news media gnashing of teeth, lamenting the rise in violent youth crime across this country, perpetrated mainly by "hot-blooded" teenagers with no father figures in their lives, never taught any discipline at home, and lacking much community or social support to steer them on a righteous path either as they enter those tumultuous early adulthood years. (Even though overall violent crime rates are at near 20-year record lows in this country right now, they have been ticking back up lately, according to the most recent FBI Uniform Crime Reports...)

I actually had the "pleasure" of going through a paramilitary boot camp program myself back when I was just barely 19 years old, what are called "Riders" here in Idaho, due to the original legislation authorizing the program being a supplement "rider bill" tacked on to some other more significant piece of legislation back when it first started.

We "Riders" definitely didn't have it easy back then in the mid-90's, which became quite apparent as soon as we hit RDU (Receiving and Diagnostic Unit) at the lone maximum security prison here in Idaho where we spent a few weeks separated from the other fish going to serve actual prison time, before we were (most of us) shipped back off and assigned to lower-security facilities to do our actual time. (They wore white jumpsuits, while we wore orange; they took up two tiers in J-Block there at Max, while we only occupied one.)

From the moment we set foot inside, we were immediately treated like fresh recruits. All CO's were to be answered: "Sir, yes, sir!" and we were never to speak unless spoken to. We did exactly what we were told, as any deviation could earn us a write-up which would go in our file, so that our original sentencing judge would see it once we went back for our 180-day review, where the judge would decide whether to release us out on probation, or relinquish jurisdiction and have us serve whatever actual prison sentence was being suspended over our heads. In my case, I had 2-to-10 hanging over my head, so you're damn tootin' I did what I was told and didn't complain.

Once we left RDU we were shipped off to a minimum-security camp located in a small rural town called Cottonwood, a long all-day prison bus ride that wasn't very comfortable at all. Only one stop half-way there at a local county jail for a piss break and to pick up any other transports heading north, and a dry, tasteless bologna sandwich for lunch.

Once we finally got to the facility, we hopped off the bus and were greeted to cat-calls from the dormitory windows overlooking the central paved strip of the compound (it was a small re-commissioned Air Force base that had been sold off by the feds to the state many years back): "BLOOP! BLOOP! BLOOP!" -- the veteran Riders were making fun of us new fish. Not that they had much room to talk, considering they were pretty short-timers themselves, having arrived there not long before us, before being sent back to their original judges at their 180-day mark (or sooner, if they got into enough trouble and thrown into seg and got flopped).

We were initially assigned to Dorm 3, the closest housing unit to the front gates, and the only one behind a double barbed-wire fence. (The rest of the compound was only surrounded by a shorter single fence, but few prisoners ever dared escape, as they'd be risking an automatic 5 years tacked onto their sentence, in addition to whatever suspended prison time was hanging over their heads.) We changed out of our orange jumpsuits and into yellow scrub bottoms and tops (we'd eventually get to wear blue jeans and light-blue shirts once released from Dorm 3 and re-assigned to one of the other dorms on the compound, except for those unlucky few with too many points who had to stay behind the double-fence the whole time.) The dorm itself consisted of several 6-bunk rooms situated in pairs, with a single private bathroom (one toilet and shower) situated between them to share. (Yes, the one-hour we got to shower just before bedtime was a zoo, first come first serve, with some missing out each night -- on my second day there I got verbally chewed out by a CO for showering in the mid-afternoon, not realizing we weren't allowed. Thankfully he didn't write me up, but just gave me my first and only warning the whole time I was up there.)

Lights out at 9:00pm, no one could leave their bunks for any reason except to use the toilet, and rise and shine at 5:00am for flag detail. Yes, flag detail. Now, keep in mind, none of us had even been assigned coats yet that first morning, and it was below freezing outside up in that mountain climate in the dead of December. But we didn't say a word. We lined up single file and marched outside, and stood along the fence and stared straight forward as we were told, arms at our side (at least we didn't have to salute), as the American flag was dutifully unfurled and hoisted up the flagpole, right there along the strip, at the center of the compound. Then we said the Pledge of Allegiance.

And then we were let out onto the strip. And then we marched. For 30 minutes non-stop, clear until breakfast ("chow") was called. "Your left, your left, your left, right, left!" "Up on your left foot, down on your ri-ight!" -- one of the more veteran prison "volunteers" was picked out to step aside from the group of us in block formation to lead cadence. Now, whatever reservations we had about being forced to march were dashed pretty quickly, because we would end up having to do ALOT of it. Everytime we queued up to get ready for chow, three times a day. Sometimes for a whole hour on end, rain, snow, or shine. Clear up and down the 100-meter strip, about as long as a football field. The story of our lives.

But that wasn't the best of it. Once the weather cleared up and spring time rolled around, the "drill instructor" COs who ran Dorms 1 and 2 (on the other side of the strip from Dorm 3, just up from the chow hall) liked to compete with each other, to see how hard they could push us. Dorm 1 CO was ex-Army, Dorm 2 was ex-Marine. (Retired Marine, as he preferred to be called, as there is no such thing as an "ex-" Marine. ) Guess which dorm I was assigned to? Yup. Dorm 2. And guess who pushed us harder? Yup. The Marine. Full P/T right out there on the strip: sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, you name it. Not just the marching before chow, but working our asses off after chow, as well. I went in there a bit chubby, but I lost 50 pounds in 6 months between the skimpy meals and the rigorous exercise. Believe that.

Now, back in the 90's they didn't have too much in the way of programming. There was SAP (Substance Abuse Prevention) training that took place in the lower-level of Dorm 2, the sex offenders were housed up in the smaller Dorm 4 up on the "hill" at the top of the strip, there was a small school for those studying for their GEDs, and the rest of us either worked as kitchen workers (housed upstairs in Dorm 2) or were assigned to labor detail: grueling physical labor, usually consisting of snow plowing in the winter, and mindlessly moving one big pile of rocks from one end of the strip in a wheelbarrow to the other side of the strip, only to rinse and repeat non-stop all day long between marching and chow calls. Fun stuff. As I wasn't a drug offender nor a sex offender, but rather a property offender, I didn't get any excuse to avoid the labor. I did luck out half-way through my bid though and get "promoted" from generic labor detail to janitor for Dorm 2, which was a welcome relief. I wasn't complaining about scrubbing some toilets and deep-cleaning the showers after that business! (Dorm 2 actually had private showers on each floor and ends of the building, with semi-private 2-bunk rooms, whereas Dorm 1 was the only open dorm with group showers. Unfortunately, it also meant cleaning up a bunch of jizz, as those private showers were pretty much the only place in the whole compound where all those hormone-fueled teenagers could relieve themselves with any modicum of privacy -- but hey, at least it wasn't back-breaking "busy work" like hauling wheelbarrows full of rocks up and down the strip all day long, right? )

All and all, the time flew by pretty fast. Days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months. Weekends were nice, because we got a break from the work (but not the marching!) and could actually enjoy what few items we could buy off commissary since there was no lunch served on the weekends. Oh, and did I mention? We had ICE MACHINES! Yes, ice machines! One in each dorm. A real luxury. Nothing like relaxing on a nice Saturday afternoon in the dayroom watching T.V. after a long week of grueling work, sipping on some RC Cola on the rocks.

Eventually it was time to go home. I fondly recall the day I was called into the counselor's office just a few weeks before my 180-day mark to receive my verdict: I got the GREEN SLIP! Probation recommended. Right on! (The judges almost always went by those recommendations, so everyone tried hard to be on their best behavior at all times.) I actually had 13 "chronos" in my file, the counselor told me, which are little notes the COs can secretly jot down to remark on your attitude and behavior when you don't think they are noticing. All of mine were positive. On the day of my departure, the ex-Army CO actually called me out, in front of everyone else standing there on the strip, his whole unit standing in formation preparing to march. He wished me good luck. Told me he put in a good "chrono" for me, as that one day in winter when we were in the outside rec yard inside the double-perimeter fence of Dorm 3, those of us who volunteered to go outside to get out of that stuffy dorm were supposed to be shoveling snow, and when he looked outside from his office I was the only one actually shoveling the snow. Everyone else was tossing snowballs around and goofing off, apparently.

Good times. My original judge, of course, was quite impressed with my record and approved probation immediately, suspending my 10-year prison sentence over my head and releasing me to probation. I'd say about 80% of us passed and were granted probation, and about 20% ended up flopping for one reason or another and relinquished to serve their time.

Once I got out, I lucked out and found a decent-paying job (during that roaring "tech boom" economy of the late 90's) and was able to start paying down my $19,000 restitution in earnest, which I was able to completely dispatch within just 2 short years. I did take a few college classes part time as well, but my head wasn't really into the game back then, and I didn't get very good grades. I did manage to get a 'B' in Criminal Justice 101, which was quite an interesting learning experience. In fact, the professor who taught the class actually brought up the concept of prison boot camps and had to weigh in on what he thought of them, of course. It was his opinion that they were doing nothing more than producing "faster, smarter criminals" and that they should be scrapped in favor of more educational and programming options to improve released prisoner prospects when they got out.

While I have taken note of several follow-up studies that actually tracked offenders who were released from such programs, including the famous Wilson, Mackenzie, Mitchell (2008) study that found that across the 26 independent samples of adult boot camp participants, the mean odds ratio for total crimes was 1.05. A figure that was not statistically significant, meaning that the likelihood of boot camp participants recidivating was roughly equal to the likelihood of comparison participants recidivating. In other words, the results suggest that there is no general reduction in recidivism attributable to boot camps. I was kind of surprised, as I actually thought the military discipline did me a lot of good at that point in my young rebellious life, really "scared me straight" as it were. I never stole anything ever again after that. (Although, to be fair, I did have to complete mandatory Cognitive Self-Change programming on probation afterwards, so some of that probably rubbed off on me as well, helping me make better choices in life.)

But what about you? Any other ex-offenders out there who have gone through such a regimen? Did you pass or did you wash out? What was your take on how it either reformed (or didn't) your general outlook and/or attitude towards committing future criminal behavior? It seems like boot camps are falling out of favor, with most such programs being replaced by intense programming regimens, even here in Idaho, where Riders up in Cottonwood no longer have to march or do any physical training drills. Instead, they just focus on their "thinking errors" and otherwise modifying their mindsets to try to steer a better course in life and stay out of trouble. Whatever works better, I suppose.

Last edited by Nickel Timer; 05-10-2017 at 10:40 AM..
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Old 05-11-2017, 08:53 AM
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Oh, and I forgot to mention. In RDU, they made us all submit to a forced haircut. My beautiful, long, teenage "punk rocker" hair all had to come off. Short buzz-cut, not even "high and tight." And we had to continually keep it that short clear throughout our Rider. What a bummer. But at least it was low-maintenance.

Oh, and the boots! Those boots! Cheap little things, gave you blisters... had to wear double-socks and some improvised bandages so it didn't hurt so bad marching in them all the time. But your body adapted, eventually.

"These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you..."

Last edited by Nickel Timer; 05-11-2017 at 08:56 AM..
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Old 05-11-2017, 11:38 AM
fbopnomore fbopnomore is offline
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Boot camp allows old "former military Di's" to continue abusing kids well into their retirement years. The screamers.

Teach by fear mongering and intimidation, regular military or boot camp doesn't matter.
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Old 06-21-2017, 12:25 PM
chunghwapost chunghwapost is offline
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It is very different. In the military there is something called respect and dignity but as an inmate you do not. I don't know about it in the US but in China a prisoner do not have any human dignity. I met a cellmate who used to be in the army before, he told me being a prisoner is much worst.
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