Thursday, November 30, 2006

Boot Camp for Young Offenders?

RTE’s Today show (today) highlighted how little has been achieved in some key areas of public need, despite the unprecedented Exchequer wealth generated over the past decade. Geriatric care and rehabilitation of young offenders were just two of many areas that might have featured.

Defence Minister O’Dea, as expected, rubbished the Fine Gael “Boot Camp” proposal and, when challenged by Pat Kenny re the poor performance of the current Government, resorted to their standard defence that “all Governments since the foundation of the State etc etc…”. This ignores the fact that all previous Govts were effectively broke - the current coalition has been in office for 9 years now and has probably had more money to spend than all previous administrations combined.

As for the boot camp proposal - I have no idea whether this would work or not. However, the image presented by the media and Govt commentators is some brutalising “sgt-major” regime which will turn out "super-thugs". Mary Raftery, in her Irish Times column last week, was fairly typical. She cited the objective of army training as teaching young men to kill. I doubt if anyone, inside or outside the Irish Army, would describe it as a “lean, mean killing machine”. Many of the other negative contributions appear to assume that most of these young offenders are beyond redemption.

What is clear from the debate is that some form of proactive rehabilitation and vocational training programme is required for young offenders. This might well be provided by army instructors, perhaps in a non-military environment, who might well get more respect from the offenders than the normal “screw” would.

If nothing else, this Fine Gael proposal might prompt the Govt into taking some action - at last. But not if the media keep ridiculing it as a “hang ’em & flog ’em” approach.

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