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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Military to help young offenders
Teenagers exercising
Exercise and education are key elements of the courses
Military bases will open their doors to young criminals and children who are at risk of offending for voluntary day and weekend camps next year.

The venture aims to help youngsters aged between eight and 17 get their lives back on track.

Three pilot projects, run by the Youth Justice Board and Ministry of Defence, will include exercise and education.

Organisers say the format is expected to be similar to Outward Bound courses rather than harsh American boot camps.


Participants will have to behave, obey orders and will be under the instruction of military staff.

It's amazing how much a self-esteem boost can change the trajectory of a young person's life
Youth Justice Board
But unlike America, children will not wear uniform or shave their heads and the courses will be run over a series of days rather than intense, six-month stays.

A spokeswoman for the Youth Justice Board (YJB) said: "It's amazing how much a self-esteem boost can change the trajectory of a young person's life.

"This project is an imaginative way of dealing with these kids.

"Taking advantage of the resources the armed forces have is fantastic.

"Some of the young people we deal with have never been away from their estate or a very small area.

"But they will not be forced to attend and the courses are not part of a court sentence."

Survival skills

The YJB oversees the youth justice system on behalf of the government.

American boot camp
American boot camps are more intense than the pilot projects
Its outreach workers will identify young offenders aged between 10 and 17 who would benefit from the courses.

The same staff, during multi-agency discussions, will also identify children aged eight to 13 who have not committed a crime but are at risk of offending.

A spokesman for Rethinking Crime and Punishment, an independent think tank, welcomed the scheme.

He said: "The emphasis has to be on building self-esteem by giving new experiences and opportunities."

Full details of how the camps will run on a day-to-day basis are being formalised with the MoD at the moment.

Camping and survival skills, as well as team-building and leadership exercises, are likely to be included.

Workshops looking at reasons for offending and the effect on victims are expected to be included.

The cost has not been revealed but they are free for the children to attend.

The pilot projects will be run at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire, Croydon Royal Navy Sea Cadet Corps and the Devon and Dorset Regiment of the Army.

Youngsters will receive a certificate on completion of a course.

The MoD set up a youth policy unit to work with the community in such projects.

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