What are the disadvantages to shock incarceration?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Disadvantages to shock incarceration include the quick fix mentality, potential for abuse, and wide disparity in programs.

Shock incarceration is the use of short-term, boot-camp like incarceration for youth and nonviolent or minor offenders.  The idea is that through rigid structure and discipline, bad habits will be broken and recidivism rates will be reduced.

The greatest disadvantage to shock incarceration programs is the idea that they are a quick fix and inmates will be “cured.”  In reality, there are many reasons that even non-violent offenders find themselves in the justice system.  While some studies have shown reduction in recidivism (doc.state.ok.us), the reduction has often been small.  This is because there is no quick fix for complex problems.  A little bit of structure can go a long way, but inmates do not always experience lifestyle changing epiphanies while there.

Due to the nature of shock incarceration, the potential for abuse is huge.  Programs focus on physical rehabilitation, discipline, and harsh lifestyle.  In the case of minors, there is a potential for physical and emotional abuse at the hands of well-meaning or power-hungry staff.  These programs require extensive oversight to ensure that they are meeting expectations and maintain a safe and structured environment.

The current research….gives a mixed picture of the effectiveness of such programs …. due … to the vast differences in shock incarceration programs. (doc.state.ok.us)

Finally, there is a wide disparity in programs (doc.state.ok.us).  Since programs have different methods, it is hard to paint them all with the same brush.  Some programs are consistently successful in reducing recidivism.  Others are less successful.

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