LETTER : Boot camps do not work

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Sir: The announcement (18 April) of plans to establish a military- style boot camp for young offenders in Colchester suggests that the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, is more concerned with appearing tough than with taking effective action to cut youth crime.

He has ignored the experience of boot camps in the USA. This was spelt out to him in 1994 by his own officials when, after a visit, they reported that "there is no basis for this type of approach in terms of reoffending ... we have tried this approach before with detention centres and abandoned it as a failure." This view was confirmed to me by Ronald Moscicki, Superintendent of the New York State Boot Camps, during my visit last summer when he told me: "Reducing recidivism is not a goal."

There is genuine public anger at the levels of youth crime. Our youth justice system is characterised by delays, inconsistencies and a failure to take swift action to prevent first-time offenders embarking on a life of crime. Hardening young offenders into persistent adult criminals is not the answer.

Jack Straw MP

(Blackburn, Lab)

Shadow Home Secretary

House of Commons

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