What Is Shock Incarceration?

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Established as an alternative to traditional imprisonment, shock incarceration is typically reserved for nonviolent offenders who have not been in trouble before. These boot camp style facilities provide a variety of rehabilitative programs, such as academic education, substance abuse education, psychological treatment, job training and community reintegration skills.

Shock Tactics

Although shock incarceration programs can differ among jurisdictions, there are many common characteristics. Many programs, like those in Ohio and South Carolina, last for 90 days. In contrast, New York's shock intervention program lasts six months. In the federal system, the program can also last up to six months. Modeled after military basic training, offenders are subjected to strict discipline and a regimented schedule of hard labor, physical training, drills and ceremony in addition to the rehabilitative programs they may be participating in.

Read More: How to Obtain a Petition for Shock Probation


Not every offender is eligible for shock incarceration. Although eligibility criteria can vary among states, those who qualify are often younger than 40, eligible for probation within a certain period of time, have not committed a violent or sex crime, and have not been previously imprisoned. For example, in South Carolina, an offender cannot have been convicted of a violent crime, is eligible for parole in two years or less, is between 17 and 29 years of age, and has not been previously incarcerated in state prison. In New York, an offender must be 35 or younger, not convicted of a violent or sex crime, not previously sentenced to prison, and eligible for parole in three years or less. Additionally, both men and women are usually eligible for shock incarceration and must be physically and emotionally fit to participate in the program.

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