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Boot Camps for Children in Illinois

author image Michelle Leach
Since 2000 reporting and writing has taken Michelle Leach to Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, D.C., Chicago, London and Sydney, Australia. Her stories have appeared in various media outlets including NBC's "The Today Show," Reuters, Chicagoland dailies and network affiliates across the United States. Leach has a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor's degree in journalism/politics from Lake Forest College.
Boot Camps for Children in Illinois
A teenager climbing a wall at a military boot camp. Photo Credit Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you have a troubled child that has a problem with drugs, alcohol, violence or a lack of respect for others, a boot camp or similar organization may be able to help. The Illinois Department of Corrections operates a juvenile boot camp facility, and there are alternate systems employing the same principles for the same ends scattered throughout the state.

Youth Boot Camp History

Juvenile boot camps emerged from adult ones, which first presented themselves as a type of rehab for nonviolent offenders in the early 1980s, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. The idea is to change behavior through the regimentation, discipline and structure akin to what you might expect to see with a boot camp for a soldier.

Illinois Youth Boot Camp

Illinois’ only youth boot camp, the state-run center in the southwestern city of Murphysboro, opened in 1997—a dozen years after the first such youth camp opened in Louisiana in 1985. It was during this time when the number of juvenile offenders soared 35 percent, even though the number of young people fell 11 percent, according to the Department of Justice.

Program Information

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections site, the Illinois Youth Center is typically home to 75 young men, with an average age of 17. The center has the capacity for many more teens—more than 180. Typical boot camp programs last 90 to 180 days, according to the Department of Justice, and IDC reports that the inmates live in a military environment where they wake up at 5:30 a.m. and go to bed at 9 p.m. The focus, IDC reports, is on self-control and self-esteem and exercises that stress working as a team.

Law Enforcement

There are far shorter boot camps operated by county sheriff and police departments throughout the state. Children who participate in these day programs are identified as at risk for drugs, gangs and violence, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s website. These children are usually referred to local departments from school officials. Teens selected for the program are subject to a military model of discipline akin to what is offered at IYC, with activities to promote healthy self-esteem, leadership and teamwork. Camp ends with a graduation ceremony with the head of the respective law enforcement agency in attendance.

Alternatives to Boot Camp

There are programs that use some of the same means to get the same ends—to rehabilitate the young offender. Faith-based Abundant Life Academy reports there are six boarding schools in the state; of those, the Glenwood system—with facilities in Glenwood and St. Charles—are most similar to the services offered through IYCM. The facility offers education and treatment in a home-like setting to youth who come predominantly from low-income homes with one parent, according to the Academy’s website.

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