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Reforming juvenile offenders: beyond boot camps

By Thomas McConnelPaul Wilkinson, Daoud Mikhail and Fiona Shukri / January 4, 2000



Regarding "States fall out of (tough) love with boot camps" (Dec. 27): Extrapolating the benefits of military boot camp from soldiers destined for combat to the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders has some problems.

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Basic training with its destruction of individuality in favor of the greater, common effort is founded in the requirement for human soldiers to do essentially inhuman things like kill people and face death as part of the job.

The whole premise of offender boot camps, however is one of punishment. While some of the temporary psychological benefits of intensive training may accrue, there is no lasting benefit (like a job) which is what makes military boot camp such a transforming experience for some young men.

To make such a program viable, the "break 'em down" part needs to be followed by the real and hard work of "building 'em up," with jobs or educational opportunities to give boot-camp graduates a new sense of connection to the society they previously wronged. Perhaps too expensive and complicated a thing for those wishing quick fixes for the problems of our youth, it is key to reduction of recidivism and the ultimate success of youth rehabilitation.

Thomas McConnel Palo Cedro, Calif.

Spy report accurate

The editorial "More at stake than spying" is absolutely correct that the recent news about lax security at the Department of Energy is more than a spy story (Dec. 28). While the espionage that happened merits serious attention, so too do its consequences.

Unfortunately, the report from the Center for International Security and Cooperation you cite in your editorial fails to treat either the espionage or its consequences seriously.

The errors in the CISAC report are too numerous to catalog in a short note, but the Staff Director of the Senate Intelligence Committee has summarized them in a 13-page document available on the Internet at www.house.gov/cox/sc/index.htm

A fair reading of the CISAC report and the response will lead you to conclude that contrary to the statement in your editorial that the CISAC report "throws doubt" on the accuracy of previous Congressional findings (approved unanimously by all five Republicans and four Democrats who reviewed them), the Congressional report was, in fact, accurate.

Paul Wilkinson Washington Director of Communications House Policy Committee

Near East in a new light

While we share the Monitor's enthusiasm over recent developments in the Near East, we take strong issue with the notion that the United States and the West are bringing "one of the most backward areas of the world into the post-cold-war era of shared global values ("Bright Stars over the Near East," Dec. 20).

To refer to the Near East as "backward" demonstrates not merely a poor choice of words, but evidence of profound ignorance. While much of the region enjoys developed economies and extensive social services - hallmarks of "modern" countries - the region is often stigmatized by the West as "backward" for its resistance to adopting American culture wholesale.

With a secular government, educational and professional opportunities for women, and a developed infrastructure, Iraq has been one of the more "modern" countries of the region for quite some time.

A more useful criterion for judging foreign countries, it would seem then, is how they treat their own populations, not how well they emulate ours.

Daoud Mikhail and Fiona Shukri New York

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