Parents Fight to Keep Juvenile Boot Camps Open

Jacque Toledo is among many parents who say one of the state’s boot camp programs turned her son’s life around.

Seventeen-year-old Mark was on drugs and running with a bad crowd when the Polk County Boot Camp changed everything.

Jacque says, "They literally saved his life. Like I said, he was spiraling. My husband and I didn’t know what we were going to do next."

One after the other, sheriffs and instructors involved in boot camps are telling lawmakers the videotaped beating of Martin Anderson does not represent the good work that goes on in the state’s four other programs.

SGT Bobby Bowden with the Polk County Boot Camp says, "That’s first and foremost to me, to make sure those kids are safe and to provide them an environment where they’re going to learn."

But lawmakers have a tough balancing act. It’s hard to weigh even the strongest words of praise and positive examples against the death of a child.

Even boot camp supporters sat grim-faced as noted pathologist Michael Baden told lawmakers by conference call that he believes the treatment Martin Anderson endured at the hands of boot camp guards cost him his life.

Dr. Michael Baden says, "They thought they were doing the right thing, which makes it even more horrible. That’s why they did it while on camera."

Legislators now have to decide whether to spend millions of additional tax dollars to save the state’s boot camp programs, or find another way to help kids that others can’t seem to reach.

Dr. Baden says Anderson likely died because he couldn’t breathe as deputies covered his mouth and stepped on his back while restraining him.