Boot camp graduate tells others of program's value

August 22, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

A 26-year-old Westminster man went back to the Herman L. Toulson Correctional Camp in Jessup last week, as guest speaker at a graduation ceremony.

Jason R. Barnes looked at the 28 men and one woman who had just completed the rigorous six-month boot camp for convicted criminals. Staying out of trouble isn't all that tough, he told them.

"I have a 40-hour-a-week job, I have my own apartment and I pay my bills. That's all I do," he said.

Actually, he also checks in with his parole officer; goes to counseling sessions, attends services twice a week at the Church of the Open Door; plays in the church softball and basketball leagues and, although divorced, spends time with his 5-year-old daughter.

He works long hours waiting tables at Shoney's restaurant in Westminster and is scheduled to join the management team part-time.

Mr. Barnes reminded the graduates of the incentive not to break the law again. The seven months he spent in boot camp -- including an extra month for flunking four evaluations -- "were the hardest seven months of my life," he said.

The 4-year-old boot camp program is a strict regimen of work, physical training and education patterned after Marine Corps boot camp. The idea is to give offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes a chance to change their behavior and attitudes.

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