An Exercise in Failure Punishing “At-Risk” Youth and Families in a South Los Angeles Boot Camp Program

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Race and Justice

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Juvenile correctional boot camps seek to transform youth labeled “at-risk” into productive members of society. While these military-style programs have been in decline since the early 2000s, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), one of the largest agencies in the country, continues to embrace them as a key disciplinary practice and vestige of the “get tough” era in U.S. juvenile justice reform. Contemporary transformative programs have been linked to Progressive Era juvenile social control, and scholars are beginning to show that, historically, racial exclusion has been a central function. The goals of this research are to interrogate the treatment of boot camp participants by police and demonstrate how racial exclusion remains central to juvenile social control. Drawing on collaborative ethnographic fieldwork, this study shows how police stigmatize Black and Latino parents, adopt the role of disciplinary authority in the family, and infuse formal control processes into domestic life. Youth face stigmatizing encounters through degradation and punitive physical training as part of the camp’s disciplinary regime. This research suggests that youth intervention programs built on liberal ideals are the most recent in a long line of racialized social control systems in the United States that seek to stigmatize and confine youth of color.


Copyright (2016) Sage



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