MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Months of uncertainty plagued Florida’s only rehabilitation boot camp. The impression was the camp would close because the city wanted to cut its $4 million budget to save cash.

Well, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez found a “one-time revenue” to save the Miami-Dade program and now the camp’s cadets get to graduate on time.

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The October 1st graduation was not only special for more than two dozen  cadets, but also marked the reinstatement of the program following the budgetary concerns.

Wednesday’s graduating class consisted of men and women between the ages of 14 and 24, who took boot camp over prison time.

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Cadet Mujica was facing up to 10 years in prison. Cadet Gabet likely the same. These two teens were among the group of young convicts given a second chance.

“it was hard but we all fought and as a team we got through it,” said Mujica.

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Cadets go through a 16-month military-style schedule with special education programs designed to transform them from criminals to model citizens.

The graduation took place at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom 4-1 of the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building located on 1351 NW 12 Street.

As the inmates celebrated with their families, the boot camp directors and the judges that offered one last reprieve.

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“We don’t have a lot of successful stories in the justice system, unfortunately, so it really gives us a moment to think we are doing something that is going to benefit the community,” said Miami Dade Circuit Court Judge Nushin Sayfie.

After 19 years this successful program was close to becoming a thing of the past  due to budget cuts.

CBS4’s Jim Defede brought attention to the possible suspension of the program and those who run it are thankful he did.

“You’ll find when they go to this boot camp only one out of ten maybe will actually go back to crime,” County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson told CBS4’s Jim DeFede in September.

That is an 11 percent recidivism rate for boot campers, which is a stark contrast to the 27 percent of prison inmates who go back to jail.

“The Boot Camp program is one of our success stories and a source of enormous pride,” said Judge Sayfie. “When these young men and women leave Boot Camp, they are completely new individuals – respectful, confident, law-abiding, proud of themselves and thankful for the chance they have been given.”

The families, judges and the cadets themselves are also grateful they will not be the last graduating class and said being sentenced to the boot camp program is the best thing that could have happened to them.

“The program separated me from a little boy to a man. I know have discipline and can obey my family and my mom no questions asked,”  said Cadet Kahalil Gamble.

On Monday, the Cadets will complete the third and final phase of the program which will take another ten months.  Last wee, they welcomed the next group which will go through the same program.


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Marybel Rodriguez