Young Drug Offender 'Boot Camp' Weighed


Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to consider putting drug-dependent teen-age offenders through a boot camp-type regimen at two Probation Department detention facilities in the Lake Hughes area to help the youths kick their drug habits.

Supervisors voted 4 to 0 to have county Probation Department chief Barry Nidorf review a military-style program for possible use at Camp Munz and Camp Mendenhall, two of the department's dozen camps for teen-age offenders. Both camps--which have a combined capacity of 250--are south of Lake Hughes in the San Gabriel Mountains west of Palmdale.

If approved, it would be the first use of a military-style program for teen-age offenders in the county.

The program would cost at least $250,000 a year, said Bob Polakow, director of program development for the Probation Department. The department sought a quarter-million-dollar federal grant earlier this year to pay for a similar program, but the request was rejected, Polakow said.

"We want to give them Parris Island for three months," Polakow said, referring to the Marine Corps boot camp in South Carolina. Polakow said probation officials hope a boot camp life style would instill self-esteem and respect for others that might help young offenders break their drug dependency.

The motion was introduced by Supervisor Mike Antonovich, but he was in Israel on Tuesday and did not vote. Jeff Dorsey, an Antonovich aide, said afterward that if the boot camp idea is carried out, "it would probably make us one of the leading counties" in seeking solutions to the drug-abuse problems of probation camp internees.

There are at least 15 boot camp correctional facilities in 11 states. Such programs are not without their critics, who say the camps are more theatrical than effective. But the idea also has highly placed advocates, including U.S. drug policy chief William J. Bennett.

Dorsey said he wants the camps to instill "old Southern" values where people "have to say, 'yes sir,' and 'no sir.' " Another requirement could be that the youngsters wear uniforms, he said.

Polakow said he also would expect the routine to involve vigorous physical training and discipline.

At present, probation camp internees work on government agency projects, such as weed-clearing and road cleaning, and take classes at school. Those activities would still be part of the routine.

Drug counseling of internees at the camps is now handled by community-based organizations, which do not have a steady presence at the facilities, Polakow said.

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