That is hardly conclusive evidence of the program's success, but it was enough to convince the state legislature to vote in January to spend another $3 million to launch New Jersey's second correctional boot camp, for young adults between 18 and 30 years old.
In April, the state Department of Corrections quietly opened the new facility in Woodland Township, Burlington County with 70 inmates and without the spotlight that shone when the first boot camp opened. There was no visit from Gov. Whitman, and no media tours of the grounds have been permitted.
Corrections officials say the boot camp is not yet in full swing. The facility, located on the grounds of the New Lisbon Developmental Center, eventually will accommodate 120 cadets - as the youthful inmates of the camps are known, said Department of Corrections spokesman Bob McHugh.
The Woodland facility is modeled after the first juvenile boot camp in Tabernacle: two months in an ``indoctrination'' unit that serves as a transition to the military lifestyle, about six months at the boot camp itself, then an average of six months in the intensive aftercare supervision program.
Like the juvenile camp, which houses offenders 14 to 18 years old, the young-adult camp is voluntary. Participants are largely nonviolent offenders incarcerated at the state's adult correctional facilities. Most are at or near parole, McHugh said.
The facility opened at a time when enthusiasm for correctional boot camps, once touted as a solution to prison overcrowding and high juvenile-crime rates, had dampened nationwide. A 1996 National Institute for Justice study said boot camps appealed to politicians and the public but lacked definitive proof of success.
``In general, there haven't been any dramatic results in terms of successes across the country at boot camps, and I would suspect . . . that New Jersey's likely to find the same thing,'' said James Finckenauer, a professor at the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice in Newark.
A 1996 study by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention found that boot camps in Cleveland, Denver and Mobile, Ala., did not reduce recidivism - former participants committing new crimes. That study also said a pivotal factor in a boot camp's success is aftercare, which is similar to parole but involves more intensive supervision.
In New Jersey, aftercare also includes mentoring, job placement and coordination of such social services as drug and alcohol treatment, said Beth Kuhles, spokeswoman for the state Juvenile Justice Commission. Aftercare programs are individually designed for the boot-camp inmates before they are released.
The young-adult boot camp will have a similar setup, McHugh said. But Juvenile Justice officials, while somewhat believing that the first camp has been successful, concede that the jury is still out.
``I think we have some reason to be optimistic,'' Wilcenski said. ``I think it's too early to tell conclusively how well we're doing in aftercare, but I think the first platoon seems to show promise.''
The Juvenile Justice Commission is conducting a two-year study of the boot camp, analyzing cost, recidivism rates, the effect on overcrowding, and other issues. The state legislation that permitted the boot camp required the study, which is slated for completion by February.
In the meantime, justice officials point to statistics as initial proof of success.
Of 177 juvenile inmates who have participated in New Jersey's boot camp since its inception, 139 have graduated. Of those, 34, or 24.5 percent, have returned to jail or are in the process of doing so. About one-quarter of the 34 who returned were sent back because they had committed a new crime; the rest had violated their parole.
Those numbers compare with an overall 65 percent recidivism rate in the state's juvenile-justice system, although that number is an estimate and is not based on recent data, Kuhles said.