30 Nov 2010

First teens graduate from Govt-funded 'boot camp'

7:28 am on 30 November 2010

Some of the first teenage offenders to be sentenced to so-called boot camp have graduated from the programme.

Ten y

oung men who went through the eight weeks of military-style activity were congratulated by Prime Minister John Key at a ceremony near Christchurch on Monday.

The teenagers, aged between 15 and 17, come from throughout New Zealand and have troubled backgrounds and a long history of involvement with the Youth Court.

In the past two months they have been housed at Te Puna Wai youth justice facility in Rolleston and have been put through military-style training activities led by Defence Force officers teaching them self-reliance and discipline.

The Fresh Start programme will cost $84 million over the next four years and aims to process 40 of the most serious recidivist young offenders each year.

Critics have questioned whether there will be any lasting benefit from the programme, but organisers say many of the participants now have work lined up or further training to do.

A Victoria University criminologist, Dr Gabrielle Maxwell, says despite the success, participants have a high risk of re-offending. She says the scheme will need proper evaluation.

The Labour Party's youth justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says re-offending rates will have to be monitored over time.