Miami-Dade youth boot camp faces closure

The Miami-Dade County boot camp is one of the nation's most successful at turning around young criminals. Less than 7 percent of its graduates are re-arrested within a year, according to 2010 statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice. The national average is 55 percent.

"It really helps young kids with few or no prior criminal records who are charged with their first felony," says Bertila Soto, the associate administrative judge for Miami-Dade Criminal Court. "This boot camp is vital. It is the only youth rehabilitation program of its kind in Miami-Dade."

Now, unfortunately, Mayor Carlos Gimenez wants to cut it. "While I understand the value of the boot camp program," he says, "the fact is that we are facing a $409 million budget gap."

That's ironic, because for the past five years or so, Gimenez has championed the program. When former Mayor Carlos Alvarez tried to scrap it, Gimenez helped save it. "I have been forced to make some very difficult decisions," he says. "This is certainly one of them."

Opened in 1995, the $4.7 million-a-year boot camp — which is run by the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department — has been home to more than 2,500 criminals ages 15 to 24. They sleep in barracks, march in formation, and live a military-like existence. The 76-bed facility in West Dade employs 21 people. After the youngsters leave the camp, they are carefully monitored. Graduates have gone on to finish law school, among other achievements.

A boot camp instructor, who didn't want to give his name, recalls that prosecutors and judges have rushed to defend the camp in the past. He also questions Gimenez's about-face. "Now he is the mayor, so it's different," the instructor notes. "He ran on a platform of lowering the tax rate and making cuts."

So while Gimenez can find money in the budget to pay his deputy mayors $200,000 plus annual salaries, he can't be bothered with rehabilitating kids. "It's sad to know that because of the economy and budget woes, we lose sight of what is important," Soto says.

My Voice Nation Help

whats the phone number i need help please with my 15 years old. she is sneaking out at night smoking weed and cigg. i don't know what to do please if you can help me I'm stuck trying to raise her right but failing 


This where the rubber meets the road for citizens and our politicians. Can you run on a platform of reducing taxes and provide for the public safety at the same time? Everyone likes to hear that taxes are being lowered (or they are not going up at least). But at what cost? And for whom?

At some point, lowering taxes has consequences that all but the more financially well to do will experience.

During hard financial times, crimes of robbery and violence increase. We are more likely to become victims of crimes in our homes, businesses and on the streets. The 'have nots' will try and get what the 'haves' take for granted by any means at their disposal. And who does this affect most? The result to consumers are higher costs

Those who cannot afford private security folks to protect them and their property are the most vulnerable and will suffer the most. For these folks, the cost is high in terms of health, safety and cost of property insurance.

Who worries less about higher taxes? The more well-to-do among us for the already stated reasons! We have all heard that some of the more well-to-do pay less taxes than their secretaries. And if the taxes on their business cuts into their profit margin, then they may move their businesses out of the country where costs are lower and their profits higher.

Unprotected people who live, work and travel the streets are the most at-risk.

Who will benefit the most if they close successful crime reduction programs in our communities? No one. Who will benefit the least?

Where will we find the troubled youth, who see the American dream advertised on TV, in the movies, on billboards in their neighborhoods, go to get their slice of the American pie of wealth? The same places you and I go to every day. Not where the better-offs of our society hang out.

Closing our Boot Camp will affect most of us by placing us a greater risk of becoming a victim to a crime by someone who did not participate in this program. Apparently our politicians are willing to sell our safety for a couple of million dollars.

At what point do we say enough is enough? If someone is not paying their fair share of taxes to pay for programs like the Boot Camp program, raise their taxes. After that is done, and there still is not enough money to pay for our health and safety, then raise our taxes. The alternative is what? You won’t get the answer to that question from our politicians.

Miami Concert Tickets