North Carolina Department of Correction news release

MARCH 17, 1998

IMPACT Boot Camps Build Confidence

Hoffman – Commandant John Taylor bristles when people talk about boot camp as a place where drill instructors bark orders to young offenders.

"That occurs when the probationers first arrive, but 99% of boot camp is building confidence," Taylor said while watching 25 trainees clear pine saplings, preserving a wildlife habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. "We go beyond the "give me 25" and instead work on breaking down prejudices. The minute a trainee steps out of the car, we put him in a crisis so that he’s ready to listen and learn and not be manipulative."

Psychologist Brian Bauduin thinks boot camps are more effective than prison. He has observed behavior of both, covering cases at two youth prisons as well as the IMPACT boot camp in Hoffman.

"I love the IMPACT Program because it creates an immediate crisis which motivates the trainees to change," Bauduin said. "These guys are very impulsive, and we try to get them to think first before reacting."

"Kids usually get three or four breaks before going to training school, then three or four breaks before going to prison," Bauduin said. "Boot camp teaches discipline, a strong work ethic, and manners. Understanding that there are consequences for both good and bad behavior is the best therapy for any offender."

Bauduin would like to see every offender, including those at juvenile training schools, experience 90 days of boot camp to teach them to think more responsibly. He said the younger the offender is, the better the chance of reaching him.

At the wildlife site, Drill Instructor David Schrahm called aside one of the trainees to remind him to pay attention to detail. He had failed his room inspection three days prior, was talking when the lights were out, was talking to a woman at a job site without permission, and finally, he kept swinging his ax when a trainee called out that he was coming through. Any more infractions could mean that he’d be taken off probation and sent to prison. Schrahm encouraged the trainee to do better, that they all wanted to see him graduate from boot camp.

"I was giving him reinforcement, and letting him know that I was not picking on him," Schrahm said. "These guys need more one-on-one counseling and not a day goes by that I don’t talk to every one of these guys for several minutes each. If you kick them when they’re down, they’ll stay down."

With ax in hand, another trainee, David Mitchell, said he used to be too scared to stand up for what he believed in and let peer pressure guide him. He admits he was stubborn when he arrived at boot camp and the hardest thing for him to do was say "sir" and "yes sir." Since then, he has learned discipline, a good work ethic, how to respect others and how to cope with pressure.

Discipline was the most valuable character trait, Mitchell said he learned. When he didn’t follow the rules, he spent extra time at the woodpile sawing logs or cleaning the latrine. "I’m used to hard work, but this is hard, hard work," Mitchell said.

Another trainee, Julius Jones, said he has learned how to hold his temper. Trainee David Miller, who tested below a second grade education level, said high school was irritating to him. Echoing what the other trainees said, he thought that learning discipline was the best thing about his boot camp experience.

Even thought the trainees feel badly about themselves and want to change, change is threatening to them, Commandant Taylor said. "That’s what we are about, changing their thinking, their personality and their behavior. Once the building process occurs, and the trainee has learned new skills, they say, "wow, I’m stronger now physically and emotionally. We change their behavior, and not by screaming and yelling for 90 days."