A military regimen is part of Minnesota’s 18-month-long Challenge Incarceration Program for nonviolent drug and property offenders, which is marking its 20th year, says columnist Ruben Rosario of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Has the program succeeded in its core mission of saving taxpayers money and reducing the offender recidivism rate? It depends on whom you ask and how it is evaluated. The earliest prison boot camps in other states lasted 60 to 90 days with little follow-up and included some violent offenders, and some were accused of being overtly abusive. Second-generation ones added a therapeutic component, but no substantial after-release follow-up. It was hardly surprising that a Justice Department study of boot camps operating for at least 10 years in eight states found minimal long-term savings and little difference in reoffense rates between boot-camp participants and inmates who served similar sentences in prison. Another study conducted by the Campbell Collaboration found that the militaristic nature of a boot-camp program in the U.S. “is not effective in reducing post boot camp offending.”
Minnesota officials believe their program is the exception to the rule, partly because its post-boot-camp supervision and aftercare portion is among the longest in the nation. A Minnesota study found that program participants on average spent 40 fewer days in prison, resulting in a savings of about $6.2 million during the 10 years studied. Department of Corrections research director Grant Duwe believes that figure is conservative. Though not official, he believes the state has saved about $4,600 for each of the roughly 4,500 offenders who have gone through the program in the past 20 years, regardless of whether they completed it or not.