What am I doing here? We are talking about a six-month stay at boot camp. "How did it get this serious?"
To be a resident of Homer Salinas Adult Boot Camp you have to be lucky and unlucky, at ages 17-23. You are lucky that your delinquent record is not bad enough or serious enough to go directly to jail or prison. A judge somewhere saw a glimmer of hope to rehabilitate and educate in this second chance fenced-in city.
Jail or prison is the only alternative after boot camp. You are unlucky because this is a six months stay, 180 days or 4,320 hours. You a just a number and that is 24-7 while at the mercy of your caretaker. OK, it is not jail or prison, but a mild taste of a facsimile. It really is not a good thing to happen, but it does.
At this camp someone yells at you to get up, when to eat, when to shower, when to exercise, what you can or cannot do, when to go to sleep and if they say jump you say, "How high, sir?"
Who do we find in this camp? Residents includes jocks, nerds, rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, or any variation or combination thereof.
On the bright side, I found that there were many families who volunteered their time to mentor or tutor or help in some way to improve the future of these lost souls. There were college students and their professor who offered their services to help improve the residents' education. But, what happens after that?
I monitored the progress of one resident during a six-month period. As a mentor, I kept in contact with a specific resident during the time that he was in residence and even made a trip with his family to visit in person.
I saw progress and improved attitude and improved skills in dealing with authority and general problems in the young man that I mentored.
What motivates these residents to complete this program successfully? I really do not know. I know of one resident who slit his wrists because he could not take it. A couple of other residents jumped the fence and escaped only to be caught.
What is the alternative of non-completion of this boot camp? The answer is that you do not pass Go, you do not collect $200, you go directly to jail. Your delinquent record does not have a very good chance of getting better soon and neither does your future.
Here is the sad part that I found out on the day of graduation. The boot camp has one more class and then it is closing. The main speaker at graduation ceremonies said that the program was not successful.
I can understand. I truly believe that there has to be support system in place for the resident. I plan to be that support staff for one person as mentor. Maybe I'll send a copy of this column to the director?