JROTC Program Provides Discipline, Leadership in a Correctional Setting

Article excerpt

In November 1993, the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice took a big step forward in providing more effective rehabilitation for juveniles committed to long-term correctional institutions. The DJJ worked with the United States Army to activate a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps unit at Birchwood High School in Columbia, S.C., the first JROTC unit to be housed in a correctional setting.

JROTC is not shock therapy or a boot camp. It is a military-style program that promotes citizenship and teaches teambuilding, discipline and leadership skills. The DJJ is already seeing improvements in participants' attitude, self-concept and behavior.

Launching the Program

In the spring of 1993, Kenneth L. Moses, DJJ's deputy director for operations, called on the agency to improve the quality of education and enhance extended day programming. In a brainstorming session on how to accomplish these objectives, a committee included JROTC on a wish list. Ellen A. Cauthen, superintendent of education, spearheaded the effort to implement the program, which was launched last fall.

The application process was somewhat complicated because military officials had numerous questions and misgivings about running the program in a correctional setting. At the same time, the downsizing of the U.S. Army has officials looking for ways to expand JROTC so some personnel can be reassigned rather than forced into early retirement. This made Army officials more willing to take a chance on this project.

The JROTC program is housed at Birchwood High School as part of the DJJ's special school district, which is certified by the South Carolina Department of Education. Birchwood High School serves approximately 400 incarcerated juveniles in grades 9-12 housed at three facilities on DJJ grounds.

Staffing

JROTC is a 24 hour-per-day, seven day-per-week program, so it is conducted in two residential units. The original unit is located in the John G. Richards Facility and is served by one social worker, 10 juvenile correctional officers and a supervisor. The instructors are trained in a system that emphasizes courtesy, respect, responsibility and service to one's country. These men and women serve as positive role models for juveniles both in the facility and when they return to the community.

A new unit opened in February at the Birchwood Facility. Although the Department of the Army only subsidized three instructional staff persons, these residential units are staffed primarily by retired military personnel. The 10 juvenile correctional officers lead the participants in extended day activities that build on instruction in the educational setting as well as physical training, drill and ceremony.

The residential units that house JROTC cadets have a lower staff-to-student ratio and a more structured program than most other units. In JROTC units, the ratio is 40 cadets to one social worker. Other residential units have approximately 60 juveniles to one social worker.

Participant Selection

Cadets are selected for the program based on a comprehensive application and screening process. Applications include a written statement of interest in the program and a recommendation from a social worker, teacher and juvenile correctional officer.

Applicants are interviewed prior to selection by the senior Army instructor, the Army instructor and the social worker. Factors such as conduct, merit, academic ability, potential to benefit and criminal history also are considered in the selection process.

Program Curriculum

The curriculum of the JROTC program is the standard "Leadership Education and Training" model used in JROTC programs throughout the United States. The four-year course teaches communication, leadership, first aid, drug abuse

prevention, map reading, history, citizenship, career opportunities, technology awareness, current events, consumer education, budgeting and human relations. …