Boot Camp cadets put a fresh face on West SideFirst-time offenders repair, landscape building
West Rehoboth — Paint and new landscaping has put a fresh face on West Side New Beginnings in West Rehoboth provided by the cadets of Sussex Correctional Institution’s Sussex Boot Camp.
The boot camp program in the words of Cpl. John Smith, gives first-time offenders a chance to reduce their sentence. An inmate with a two-to-three year sentence can enroll in boot camp and, if they complete the six-month program, they gain early release with a year’s probation, he said.
“We get them out in the community and they give back to the community,” Smith said. “It’s a chance to turn these gentleman around before they do something real bad.”
According to the Department of Corrections, the program is divided into three phases: discipline and life skills, drug treatment and community service and job-seeking and reintegration skills.
“They get an opportunity to get their lives together more quickly than sitting there counting the time down,” Lt. Brett Hamstead said. “It makes a huge difference in the cadets.”
Hamstead said the project at West Side was suggested officers from Delaware State Police Troop 7. Hamstead said work was needed to revitalize the building and the area around it.
“We like to come out to the community and give back,” Smith said. “They needed our help.”
Hamstead said besides painting, boot camp cadets also landscaped, trimmed trees, installed new toilets and cleaned up trash. They also painted two donated houses in West Rehoboth, among other projects all over Sussex County. Two crews of cadets usually go out on different jobs each day, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with a half-hour lunch break.
In addition to community service, the program allows participants to work toward their diploma or GED, attain college credits and enter into substance abuse treatment.
The boot camp is run just like in the military. Smith said PT is every morning at 5:30, with inspection at 8 a.m. Cadets have their heads shaved when they first enter the program, he said. The first and last words out of the cadets’ mouths is “sir.” They stand at attention when addressed by the drill sergeants. The cadets talk quietly amongst themselves during work.
Over the program's 13 years, Smith said, recidivism has been low. The program does not take major offenders; most of those in boot camp are in for drug charges or violation of probation, Smith said.
“We keep more people out than come back in,” he said. “It does help a lot of these first-time offenders realize, ‘Jail is not where I want to be.’”