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Shock Incarceration: Definition & Programs

Instructor: Janell Blanco
One type of incarceration is shock incarceration and this lesson will define exactly what that is. The lesson will also discuss the different shock incarceration programs available to offenders.

Shock Incarceration Definition

Have you heard of maximum or minimum security prisons? You probably have and you may have heard of work camps and boot camps, too, but shock incarceration may not be a familiar term to you.

Shock incarceration, often referred to as 'shock' is a boot-camp, military style prison that focuses on giving the offenders independence and structure as well as promoting responsibility in a learning environment.

The reason you may not be as familiar with shock incarceration is that this type of incarceration is fairly new. In January 1991, federal prisons started their first shock incarceration with 42 inmates. Shock is very similar to a military boot camp but with a twist. The twist is that the offenders have time for academics and education. Let's take a closer look at an example of a daily regimen in a shock program.

Daily Regimen

The offenders have a strict and rigorous schedule each day. The schedule includes drills, education, networking, counseling, and even time for community service or working on the prison grounds.

There are instructional programs that the offenders have to take part of while in shock. What do you think these educational programs include? How about programs that focus on life after shock incarceration. The programs include topics like:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Anger management
  • Substance abuse
  • Parenting
  • Self-esteem
  • Leisure skills
  • Any area that the offender needs help with

We should also note that the offenders can receive additional educational programs once they are released from the program. This depends on the state or the federal program that the offender is a part of. We can discuss a couple of the different shock programs as a comparison.

Facilities and Programs

As stated earlier in the lesson, the federal shock program started in 1991. They have 2 different programs. One of the programs is for male inmates and the other program is for female inmates. Only first-time offenders are eligible for the federal program, because the Bureau of Prisons views shock incarceration as a rehabilitation tool for first-timers.

The federal program also requires the offenders to be under the age of 35, have no medical restrictions, have a sentence that ranges from 12 to 30 months, and be a minimum security risk. The federal program varies between some state programs. Just as a comparison and for another example, we will take a look at the shock program in South Carolina (S.C.)

The shock program in South Carolina is a 90-day program that is considered a therapeutic environment for offenders.

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