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Michigan’s First ‘Boot Camp’ Prison Opens

March 8, 1988

FREESOIL, Mich. (AP) _ The first inmates arrive Tuesday at Camp Sauble for 90-day terms of hard labor and military-style discipline that officials hope will keep the young offenders out of the prison system.

It is Michigan’s first experiment with a probationary program that has caught on in other states. The so-called ″boot camp,″ one of about 15 such programs in seven states, is a last stop for young, first-time felons who otherwise would have been sent to prison for at least a year.

″A lot of the people put into the corrections system have never been held accountable for anything in their lives, and as a result, have never had any pride,″ Deputy Warden Stanley Adams said. ″Here, we hope they’ll leave with a sense of accomplishment because they’ll be held accountable for everything they do.″

″Everything″ includes how their hair is trimmed to how their beds are made and how their uniforms are buttoned.

The first dozen of an eventual 156 probationers are expected by the end of the week at Camp Sauble, a former state Corrections Department minimum- security work camp tucked away in Manistee National Forest in northeast Michigan. Inmates must be between the ages of 17 and 25 and never have been in the prison system before.

The inmates will rise at 5 a.m. each day and prepare for an inspection of bunks and uniforms. After breakfast, they will fall in for an exercise period before heading out for about seven hours of unpaid work in and around Mason County.

Before dinner, there will be more physical training and calisthenics, and after dinner inmates will attend academic or substance-abuse treatment programs. One hour will be allowed nightly to write letters or watch television news before lights go out at 10 p.m.

Military protocol will be enforced strictly. Inmates will be required to stand at attention when in the presence of an instructor and will receive demerits for violations.

If an inmate commits a serious crime, such as the assault of a staff member or fellow inmate, or if he receives three misconduct charges, he will be returned to the judge who sentenced him, likely resulting in a prison sentence.

If a candidate passes the program successfully, he will be freed on probation.

Some say the program is an effective way to jolt first-time offenders into straightening out. Others claim it is a ploy by politicians who want their constituents to believe they’re tough on crime.

One such critic is Jerry Miller, executive director of National Alternatives to Incarceration.

″The people in these programs are usually from families where yelling and screaming and putting down are day-to-day occurrences, so a program like this isn’t going to scare them,″ said Miller, whose non-profit organization, based in Alexandria, Va., studies programs that keep offenders out of prison.

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