Boot Camp


After Vince does his time, he tells me, they’ll send him to boot camp. “What is that?” I ask. “Just what it sounds like, mom. Just like boot camp if I were going into the army.

“But you’re not going into the army.”

“Well I don’t know what the point is, but I’ll do whatever they want me to do to get out of here.”

Boot camp. Great preparation for army life, sure. But not for real life. An idea that sounds good, until you actually use your brain and think about it. Somebody’s ill-conceived, half-baked plan to “whip those criminals into shape.”

Boot camp seems to be the pat, knee-jerk answer to everything nowadays. Overweight? Sign up for booty-busting boot camp at your gym. Teenage son out of control? Send him to some boot camp-style ranch in South Dakota. What’s next, meditation boot camp? Colicky baby boot camp? Alzheimer’s patient boot camp?

I have never been through boot camp but my sister and one of my brothers have and I’ve seen all the movies and TV shows. My understanding is that every detail of your life, every waking moment of your day is tightly scheduled and controlled. All decisions are made for you. You have no choices except whether to stay or quit.

I have also heard the stories of young people discharged from the services, no longer with any routine or anyone telling them what to do, and they’re bored and at loose ends and don’t know how to manage their time and that’s where the drinking starts and then to your surprise they’re re-enlisting.

I in no way mean to disparage armed services personnel by saying that prison life seems much the same as being in the military. Lights on at the same time every day, sharing your personal space with lots of other people of your gender, make your bunk, meals served to you, a time for exercise, a time to make phone calls, a time to shower, lights out at the same time. No bills to pay, some routine job if you’re lucky.

Except ex-cons don’t come out as heroes. There is no GI benefit, Michelle Obama isn’t cheerleading for them, there’s no VA medical system (let’s hope a flawed VA system is better than nothing?).

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