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Boot camp closing its doors

Posted on March 26, 2010 3:00 AM EST

The often publicized and highly successful boot camp program has lost its funding due to the budgetary problems in the county. With a lack of funding, the county manager has determined that the boot camp will close its doors on April 2, 2010. The boot camp program has a long standing tradition of helping rehabilitate youthful offenders. Judges and prosecutors alike would always desire to give troubled youths an opportunity to succeed in life rather than go to state prison where criminal tendencies are enhanced. Youthful offenders charged with serious offenses such as armed robbery, cocaine trafficking and home burglaries were many times offered boot camp as a means of rehabilitation. Miami criminal defense lawyers have often pursued boot camp as part of a plea agreement on behalf of their clients.

The Miami-Dade County Boot Camp began operation in 1995. Since its inception, 2,225 youthful offenders have been offered the opportunity to turn their lives around. With a recidivism rate of less than ten percent, the benefits of the program are obvious. The boot camp was an intensive 18 month program. Offenders spent the first 6 months residing in a military type environment. The second six month period allowed the offenders to leave the grounds during the day to work and return at night. The third six month period allowed the offenders to reside at home, but report to the program on a daily basis. Many of the offenders facing long prison sentences with mandatory/minimums for armed robbery and drug trafficking were able to not only significantly reduce the amount of incarceration, but also trained to get jobs and even attend college.

Defense lawyers reaped the benefits of the program by greatly reducing their clients' exposure under the regular State of Florida Sentencing Guidelines. Along with that benefit, attorneys were able to see their clients turn their lives around which is a nice bonus. Not only were defense lawyers fond of the program, the state attorney's office was a big proponent of boot camp. The office had big incentive to reduce the number of repeat offenders coming and going through the state criminal court system. In fact, the state attorney's office sent a representative to meet with the county manager in an effort to advocate for the program. Six judges also attended the meeting in an effort to save the program.

The program itself only cost the county $1.8 million per year. It seems a low price considering the savings over the long haul. Successful rehabilitation reduced court expenses, as well as, saving the tax payers for housing the offenders for longer periods of time in both the local jails and state prisons. If Miami-Dade County can ever straighten out their budgetary problems, youthful offenders, defense counsel and the community will once again be able to benefit from the highly successful program. Over time, the lack of this program will be reflected and the statistics and hopefully be reinstated someday.

Miami-Dade Boot Camp Gets the Boot, NBCMiami.com, March 26, 2010.
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