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An experimental study of a therapeutic boot camp: Impact on impulses, attitudes and recidivism


Two hundred thirty four adult male inmates entering prison were randomly assigned to an early release program in either a correctional boot camp or a large, traditional prison in the Maryland state correctional system. Boot camp releasees had marginally lower recidivism compared to those released from the traditional prison. A pre-test, post-test self report survey indicated the boot camp program had little impact on criminogenic characteristics except for a lowering of self control. In contrast, inmates in prison became more antisocial, lower in self control, worse in anger management, and reported more criminal tendencies by the end of their time in prison. Criminogenic attitudes and impulses were significantly associated with recidivism. The impact of the boot camp diminished to non-significance when antisocial attitudes or anger management problems were added to the models predicting recidivism. Implications for jurisdictions considering whether to operate correctional boot camps are discussed.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Although women were eligible for the boot camp, there were too few women in the program to permit a quantitative study of their recidivism.

  2. 2.

    During the study period, no inmate that was offered a contract turned it down.

  3. 3.

    One of these inmates was dropped from the BC because physical problems prohibited him from participating in the rigorous physical activities.

  4. 4.

    The difference is that the Weibull distribution includes a parameter to represent change in the shapes of the distribution of failure, whereas the exponential assumes that failure hazards are roughly constant over time. However, if the shape of the failure time identified in a Weibull model is, indeed, constant rather than changing, then the model simplifies into an exponential distribution regardless of whether we specified a “Weibull” or “exponential” model in the actual estimation process. However, if we estimate the “Weibull” model during the actual mechanics of running a program, when, in fact the equation is going to simplify into the same values as found in the exponential model, then we waste degrees of freedom because some power was used to estimate the extra ‘shape’ parameter within the Weibull model that contributed little to our understanding of the process at hand. Thus, it is desirable to test whether the addition of an extra parameter adds anything to our models that justifies the loss in parsimony and the loss in statistical computing power. The same can be said of other potential distributions which are increasingly elaborate in terms of additional parameters (Schmidt and Witte 1988; Yamaguchi 1991).

  5. 5.

    Individuals who failed to answer 20% or more of the items for any scale were excluded from the analysis for that scale. For those with less than 20% of the data missing, we replaced the items with the mean of the non-missing items and calculated the scale using these values.

  6. 6.

    Reliability analyses for all scales relied upon the full sample of Time 1 participants (n = 230).

  7. 7.

    Adapted and reproduced by special permission of the publisher, Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc., 16204 North Florida Avenue, Lutz, Fl 33549, USA, from the STAXI-2 by Charles D. Speilberger, Ph.D., Copyright 1976, 1986, 1988, 1999, by Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc. Reproduced by special permission of PAR, Inc.


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Correspondence to Doris Layton MacKenzie.

Additional information

This project was supported in part by 2003-DB-BX-0004, awarded by the US Department of Justice. The Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, Coordinates the activities of the program offices and bureaus. Points of view or opinions contained within this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the US Department of Justice.

Funding was provided by the State of Maryland, Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, BYRN-2002-1286.

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MacKenzie, D.L., Bierie, D. & Mitchell, O. An experimental study of a therapeutic boot camp: Impact on impulses, attitudes and recidivism. J Exp Criminol 3, 221–246 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-007-9027-z

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  • Anger management
  • Antisocial attitudes
  • Boot camp prisons
  • Correctional boot camps
  • Correctional treatment
  • Corrections
  • Recidivism
  • Self-control
  • Shock incarceration programs
  • Therapeutic prisons