Children and youths who have broken laws are cared for, or at least instituionalized. in a variety of institutions. America referred to many of these institutions as reformatories. Briain used to refer to them as borstals. What ever the name, the institutions were in theory more geared to reforming the children, mostly boys, than the adult prisons. Conditions varied greatly from harsh discipline to a caring environment. In reality, conditions and facilities varied widely. Many were simple warehouses, keeping the boys off the streets but providing little assistance to meets the often serious needs of these children. Other facilities were well-funded and did seiously attempt to assist the boys. Many of these facilities had uniforms although this is less common today.
Children and youths who have broken laws are cared for, or at least instituionalized. in a variety of institutions. What ever the name, the institutions were in theory more geared to reforming the children, mostly boys, than the adult prisons. Gradually countries found that children and youth should be separted from adult criminals. Gradually separate courts and judicial treatment were developed for juveniles. The philospphy was that the chracter of youths had not yet been formed. In addition, the younger individulas did not fully understand what they are done and the consequences. The United states and some other countruies, because of the horrible crimes committed by youth, has begun to legally treat some particularly vicious offenders as adults.
A variety of names have been used for these facilities.
America generally referred to institutions dealing with juvenile delinquents and other difficult children as reformatories. The actual names of specific refornatories varied widely. There were no national system of reformatories, but rather each state had their own system. Many charity groups set up instituions to deal with orphaned children, but reformatories were for children who usually had parents. They were designed to handle children deamed incorigible, but not yet convicted of serious crimes. This varied as children with bekhavioral problems such as truancy might be mixed with children running away from abusive parenys or children involved with petty crimes. Or their might be some children who had committed serious crimes, but because of their youth were not committed to adult prisins. Conditions at many of these facilities were often very severe, if not brutal. One account exposes the physical abuse of the boys at Westbrook reformatory for Boys outside Toowoomba during the 1960s, describing vicious guard. [Fletcher] There are many similar accounts. The states passed laws which provided for trying youthfulm offenders in juvenile courts. This prevented many abuses, but the juvenile courts do not provide the same rights to accused iffenders as the adult couurts. Court decisions in the 1970s began to bring more enlightened regimes to these facilities. Many states have adopted group home approaches in recent years. A disturbing tendency in recent years has been the level of violence which youths get involved. This has caused many states to pass laws allowing procecuters to try especially violent youths as adults. Most American reformatories do not require uniforms.
Boys held in reformatories during the post war period were often subjected to
severe abuse. The main punishments were solitary confinement, the cane,
being made to walk a path between posts for long periods of time, and standing at
attention while facing a wall, or kneeling. Uniforms after World War II were typical of state institutions. Long sleeved cotton drill shirts with closed fronts and double breast
pockets reflected the military style after the War. This style used less fabric to make,
and Government Stores had tons of them.
The state of criminal justice in much of Canada was very much entrenched in a mode of punishment and penal servitude. A push for the establishment of a Borstal Program in
British Columbia began in the late 1930s. In 1938, the Report of the Royal Commission on the Penal System of Canada arrived calling for, among its many recommendations, the formation of a national Borstal program. This Royal Commission has been credited with initiating a shift in Canadian correctional perceptions from a "punitive", to a rehabilitative, treatment-based approach. The programs main appeal to reformers was that it proposed the segregation of young or first-time offenders from their more seasoned
counter-parts. Advocates of the Borstal System were quick to bring the success of the venture to the attention of Attorney-General Gordon S. Wismer. The result was the establishment of Canada's first institution based on the Borstal Program in
December 1937. Initially known as the BC Training School, its name would be changed to New Haven following a public naming contest held in August of 1938. The federal government in 1848 enacted a bill allowing for indeterminate sentencing and extending to BC provisions that had previously allowed for a parole board only in Ontario. Amendments were made to Section 147 of the Prisons and Reformatories Act to allow BC courts to sentence
directly to New Haven any male between the ages of 16 and 23 who was also "punishable by imprisonment in the common goal for the term of 3 months, or for any longer term".
An undated press report (probably 2000) described am interesting social experiment in Denmark. Authorities there are experimenting with household-sized communal reformatories. In Denmark this has been tried during the 1990s. They are called Miljoerne.
The facility usually consists of some four inmates and three staff (and any staff children). There are about 10 such reformatories, mostly based in farms. The farming provides a
sense of responsibility, with looking after animals and routine work; and everything is decided communally at table by the inmates and staff. The Danish consider these mini-reformatories to be a success. They are reportedly able to run on the same per capita costs as the big institutions.
Britain used to refer to their reformatories as borstals. The word "borstal" is probably best known to Americans for Irish author Brendan Behan's book Borstal Boy, an autobigaphical account of his experience as a young Irish boy imprisoned in a British borstal during WWII. Borstal refers to a series of reformatories built throughout Britain beginning in the late 19th century. Borstals were for delinquent boys aged 16 to 21 years. The idea originated (1895) with the Gladstone Committee as an attempt to reform young offenders. The first institution was established (1902) at Borstal Prison, Kent, England. The main elements in the borstal programs included education, regular work, vocational training, and group counseling. Some borstals, such as Lowdham Grange, were open, having no walls or gates. The Criminal Justice Act 1982 abolished the borstal system and replaced them with Youth Custody Centres in 1982.
India as former British colony has been stronly influenced by the British legal system. India as a colony had both borstals and reformatories. Borstals were designed to deal with youths who had created more serious offenses or were repeat offenders. The boys at borstals wear a simple uniform of brown short-sleved shirts and short pants.
Boys in a state reformatory before World War II were dressed in brown corduroy suits (jackets and long trousers). This gave broen crduroy suits rather a bad image i the Netherlands. Corduroy is called "manchester" in Dutch. A Dutch reader remembers his father telling him , "If you don't behave, I'll send you to the Manchester School". He was not aware that the Manchester School was a very respected political and economical party in 19th century England.
Conditions varied greatly from harsh discipline to a caring environment. In reality, conditions and facilities varied widely. Many were simple warehouses, keeping the boys off the streets but providing little assistance to meets the often serious needs of these children. Other facilities were well-funded and did seiously attempt to assist the boys.
Many of these facilities had uniforms although this is less common today. English borstals alwayd had a uniform, although I don't believe it was a country-wide uniform. Each borstal adopted their own uniform. Some had a some-what military look while others had more of a school look. Uniforms were less common at American reformatories.
Many of these facilities have been criticized for a variety of reasons. Some were found to be very brutal institutions imposing a harsh diciplinary regime. Some facilities made their charge available for a range of research.
Some were found to be very brutal institutions imposing a harsh diciplinary regime. Many inncidents have been brought to public attention in America and Britain. HBC knows less about other countries, but presumes similar institutions existed in many other countries.
A variety of research projects were conducted on the children institulionalized in these facilities. This correspond to research on indivisuals in many other "captive" populations such as orphanages, military stations, prisons, and other institutions.
The Sheldon body-type study is described by Heather Munro Prescott. A Doctor of Their
Own": The History of Adolescent Medicine (Harvard, 1998). The study wanted to
find a correlation between body type and juvenile delinquency, and
photographed hundreds of students from the Hayden Goodwill Inn for Delinquent
Boys. Students from Phillips Academy (an exclusive private school) were used as "controls" --i.e. to demonstrate the body types of "normal" boys. The results of the study were
published in Varieties of Delinquent Youth. They did not use phrenology--rather, Sheldon had an elaborate theory about how body types corresponded with personality characteristics. So, it was sort of like phrenology, except it studied the physique, not the head.
The Hayden Goodwill Inn, a private institution for delinquent boys in Boston, used both the Sheldon body types and phrenology in the 1950s. A Massachusetts state social worker in the 1970s reports that in the 1970s phrenology was considered a joke. In light of recent
reports, one wonders how much damage it may have done?
Quite a few movies have been made about juvenile delinquency and reform school. One classic American film is The Mayor of Hell (1934), starring Jimmy Cagney and Frankie Dauro. Humfrey Bogart of course starred in one. I know of fewer films about British borstals. Gradually our readers are expanding our list of films.
Fletcher, Al 'Crow'. Brutal: Surviving Westbrook Boys Home.
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