Boot camps 'will not be soft option'

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The Independent Online
The head of the Prison Service yesterday insisted that the Government's new American-style "boot camps" would not be a soft option after leaked documents revealed that young offenders would be given special incentives, including a shorter sentence, to enter the scheme.

An internal Prison Service document, details of which were published on Wednesday, disclosed that, under the proposals for two trial "boot camps", inmates would enjoy a surprisingly liberal regime. Plans to include a large amount of education and rehabilitation as well as exercise follow pledges by the Prime Minister that teenage criminals were in for a tough time at the camps.

Nigel Evans, Tory MP for Ribble Valley, yesterday wrote to the Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, to protest. Mr Evans said: "I am very disappointed with the proposed scheme. I believe that we need a system designed to give a short, sharp shock, and this is not it.

"I have written calling for a much more rigorous regime where habitual offenders will learn to respect the rule of law."

Among the proposals, which have been drawn up after consultation with the Home Secretary, inmates will be awarded prizes for the achievements in jail and each prisoner will have a personal "mentor".

Derek Lewis, the director general of the Prison Service, said yesterday: "I don't think there's going to be anything soft about this at all." And he denied the inmates would have to volunteer for the scheme, but said they would be carefully selected by the Prison Service to ensure they were suitable.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Officers of Probation, George Barrow, welcomed the report, calling it a surprisingly bold and sensible experiment.