Boot camp program promotes discipline, improves self-esteem.

Author:Lewis, Richard
Position:Valdosta Correctional Institution in Valdosta, Georgia - Stemming the Violence

When Warden Leland Linahan steps into G-building during his weekly inspection at Valdosta Correctional Institution in Valdosta, Ga., he receives an unusual welcome. The immaculately groomed inmates shout in unison, "Welcome to G-building sir, number one in the nation." Then they perform a military-style drill.

Throughout the dormitory, the beds are perfectly made, shoes are lined up military-style and the floor is buffed to a high sheen.

This might not sound like a typical correctional dormitory, but then Valdosta is not a typical correctional facility. From its Intensive Therapeutic Program (ITP) to its mental health program to the general population dormitories, the same theme resounds: discipline, self-pride, uniformity. This is the code of ethics for the entire institution.

City and State magazine named Valdosta "most outstanding prison facility for 1993," in part for the ITP, a 30-day boot-camp style program for hardened offenders that was begun four years ago. Warden Linahan started the program in an effort to reduce the high number of disciplinary infractions involving violence and to reduce the number of inmates who repeatedly served segregation time. The program's first participants were 10 inmates on one side of the segregation unit.

Inmates are placed in the program at the recommendation of the classification committee. Those who are referred to the program are the most troubled inmates, the ones the committee thinks would benefit most from the self-control and discipline ITP teaches. Many inmates also have volunteered for the program, which takes them on a space-available basis. The program currently is operating at capacity with 80 participants.

Inmates entering the ITP program receive regulation hair-cuts, and ITP officers conduct one-on-one program orientation to go over rules and regulations. During the first few days the inmate is in the program, administrative and security staff strongly reinforce the program's standards and rules, sometimes speaking roughly to the inmate. The purpose of this confrontational treatment is to break down the inmate's defenses to pave the way for rebuilding the person's ego in positive ways.

Program Structure Evolved

The first step in establishing the military-style program was to develop a highly structured, highly supervised work program. ITP has participants doing ground maintenance and beautification projects on the facility's property where staff easily can monitor job performance...

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