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Boot camps (vs. confinement in state institutions)

Juvenile Justice
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated April 2018.
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Juvenile boot camps are typically implemented as an alternative to detention for adjudicated youth classified as low to moderate risk, with no previous felony or sexual offenses. Boot camps are short-term residential programs that mimic military basic training with a rigid daily schedule that may include education, work programs, physical training, counseling, and military deportment and ceremony. Youth are placed into platoons and are expected to improve personal- and team-accountability throughout the course of their training. Typically, youth receive instruction from specially trained correctional officers and full-time counselors, many with military experience.

In the included studies, the average length of stay in boot camp was five months, with up to six months of intensive supervision in the community where youth receive aftercare services (e.g., substance use treatment). In the studies in our analysis that reported demographic information, 61% of participants were youth of color and 4% were female.

In the included studies, the comparison groups were made up of similar youth who were detained in a juvenile facility for a similar length of time. Comparison group youth did not receive formal aftercare as a component of their probation.

Key Terms

Court-involved youth: Youth who are processed through the juvenile justice system but who are not ordered to a period of confinement in a residential or correctional facility. This includes populations of arrested youth, diverted youth, charged youth, adjudicated youth, and youth on probation or formal supervision.

Youth in state institutions: Youth who are confined in a residential or correctional facility when they participate in the program.

Youth post-release: Youth who are returning to the community following a period of confinement in a residential or correctional facility and who participate in the program after release to the community.

For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $106 Benefits minus costs $5,539
Participants $13 Benefit to cost ratio n/a
Others $309 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $1,737 benefits greater than the costs 61%
Total benefits $2,164
Net program cost $3,374
Benefits minus cost $5,539

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
17 5 1099 -0.003 0.125 18 -0.003 0.125 26 -0.003 0.980
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime Criminal justice system $101 $0 $301 $51 $453
Labor market earnings associated with high school graduation $6 $15 $8 $0 $29
Costs of higher education ($1) ($2) ($1) ($1) ($5)
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 $1,687 $1,687
Totals $106 $13 $309 $1,737 $2,164
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $14,406 2015 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) $3,374
Comparison costs $17,238 2015 Cost range (+ or -) 150%
We estimate the per-participant cost of boot camps using the cost of Washington’s Juvenile Offender Basic Training Camp (JOBTC) (Barnoski, 2004). Treatment cost is based on per-participant annual operating and capital costs for JOBTC in fiscal year 2015, its final year of operation in Washington. Comparison cost is the estimated per-participant cost of confinement in a JRA facility for 16 weeks, the duration of the JOBTC residential phase.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Barnoski, R. (2004). Washington's juvenile basic training camp: outcome evaluation. Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Bottcher, J., & Ezell, M.E. (2005). Examining the effectiveness of boot camps: A randomized experiment with a long-term follow up. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 42(3), 309-332.

Peters, M. (1996). Evaluation of the impact of boot camps for juvenile offenders: Mobile interim report. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

T3 Associates Training and Consulting, & Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services. (2001). Project Turnaround outcome evaluation: Final report. Ottawa: T3 Associates Training and Consulting.

Thomas, D., & Peters, M. (1996). Evaluation of the impact of boot camps for juvenile offenders: Cleveland Interim Report. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.