Carlos Gimenez Looks to Cut Successful Juvenile Boot Camp

A highly

successful county-run boot camp for juvenile offenders could be shut

down because of budget cuts. "Every year, this program is on the

chopping block," 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."

In Mayor

Carlos Gimenez's proposed budget, the $4.7 million-a-year boot camp

-- which is run by the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department --

is not funded.

Last year, Gimenez's predecessor, Carlos Alvarez, had also recommended doing away with the 76-bed facility in West Miami-Dade that employs 21 people. Alvarez had also proposed axing the boot camp in 2009, 2008, and 2007. Every time, commissioners voted to fund it after criminal court judges, juvenile advocates, and graduates pleaded to save it.

The boot camp is one of the most successful in the state and the nation, Soto insists. "It really helps young kids with few or no prior criminal records who are charged with their first felony," she says, adding judges like having it as an option in lieu of a prison sentence. "It's sad to know that because of the economy and budget woes, we lose sight of what is important."

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, less than 7 percent of the boot camp graduates were rearrested within a year. The national average is 55 percent. A boot camp instructor informs Banana Republican that last year the program was spared because of support from Gimenez, who at the time was a county commissioner.

"Now he is the mayor, so it's different," notes the instructor, who didn't want to be named. "He ran on a platform of lowering the tax rate and making cuts."

Gimenez doesn't appear ready to budge. "While I understand the value of the boot camp program, the fact is that we are facing a $409 million budget gap," he says. "I have been forced to make some very difficult decisions to fill it. This is certainly one of them."

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