Boot Camp Remedial Education Programs: Who Benefits? Academic Article uri icon


  • This study evaluated the success of a shock incarceration (boot camp) educational program in improving inmates' academic functioning and identified characteristics of inmates who responded favorably to this intervention. Boot camp participants were significantly more likely to take and pass the General Equivalency Diploma examination than a comparison group of inmates who participated in GED classes but not in the boot camp regimen. Initial scores on the Wide Range Achievement Test-Revised discriminated among inmates who subsequently passed or failed the GED. Benefits of the GED program did not generalize to gains on the WRAT-R from admission to discharge. The importance of individualized remedial efforts and implications for potential long-term adjustment are discussed. In contrast to traditional imprisonment, shock incarceration—more commonly known as boot camp—is a structured intensive 30-180 day incarceration specifically designed for young, nonviolent, first-time offenders. Boot camp programs typically require participation in a military regimen of marching, drills, rigorous exercise, maintenance of living quarters, and various work assignments. However, they vary in such characteristics as the process for selecting participants, whether or not participation in the program is voluntary, levels of release supervision, and the degree to which work, community service, counseling services, and educational programs are included (MacKenzie, 1990; MacKenzie & Ballow, 1989). Despite the increasing prevalence of boot camp programs across local, state, and federal correctional settings, systematic study of their specific components has been sparse. In particular, there has been little identification of the program elements that facilitate favorable outcomes and the inmates who are more likely to benefit from these components. The present study sought to evaluate the success of an educational program in improving inmates' academic functioning and to identify characteristics of those who responded favorably to this intervention. Specifically, we address three questions: (1) are inmates in a boot camp program more likely to successfully complete a General Education Development (GED) program than a comparison group of inmates not participating in such a program? (2) Can boot camp participants obtaining the GED be distinguished on initial cognitive or personality/psychopathology measures from those not successfully obtaining the GED? (3) Does participation in, and successful completion of, a GED program by boot camp cadets generalize to gains on other measures of academic performance?

published proceedings

  • Journal of Correctional Education

author list (cited authors)

  • Norris, M. P., Snyder, D. K., Riem, K. E., & Montaldi, D. F.

complete list of authors

  • Norris, MP||Snyder, DK||Riem, KE||Montaldi, DF

publication date

  • January 1, 1996 11:11 AM