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Judicial CP - March 1920

Corpun file 26138 at

The Evening World, New York, 1 March 1920, p.16

Mayor's Spanking Machine A Substitute for Jail For Youthful Offenders

Arthur C. Whitaker, Mayor of Bridgeton, N. J., Created a Police "Spanking Squad" Seven Years Ago -- Those Who Have Been "Through the Machine" Have a Humble Spirit.

Police spanking
Here are two officers of Mayor Whitaker's "Spanking Squad" cranking up the machine. The picture in the middle is Mayor Arthur C. Whitaker. After chastisement, the officers call the attention of the culprit to a sign on the wall. It reads: "This hurts us more than it does you."

There is a small town in New Jersey where the children of the 16,000 inhabitants have learned to respect the mandates of the Mayor.

The town is Bridgeton. Arthur C. Whitaker is Mayor, and seven years ago, he put into operation a "spanking machine." Since its inception more than 100 boys -- and several girls -- have felt the sting of its well directed stinger. But one lad has ever come back for more. One "boy" who was recently spanked confessed he was twenty-three years old. He felt so ashamed after the chastisement he immediately left town. No one has seen hide nor hair of him since. The existence of a spanking machine was vaguely known of in Bridgeton, both by parents, as well as their children, but it is only lately that the true nature of the machine which meted out punishment to juvenile offenders became public. Mayor Whitaker, who is "a regular fellow", has consented to tell us about it.

"Now the secret is out. The 'spanking machine' consists of an assortment of barrel staves selected to fit the particular victim's anatomy. Every boy has to take down his trousers in the old fashioned way before he starts through the 'machine,' which is well lubricated with elbow grease. The spankings are administered privately in a back room the City Hall, and I make it a policy never to make public the names the boys who are spanked.

"The 'spanking machine' savors in nowise of the old whipping post. It is not an implement of torture, but for beneficial chastisement of bad boys. I have a red-blooded boy of my own.

"I'm a friend of the boys," said the Mayor, "and when we spank them we try to make them see that it is for their own good. When I went into office seven years ago I decided that no Bridgeton boy should be railroaded through to the county jail or reformatory for some petty offense if I could help it. So when the boys were brought before me for petty crimes and thefts, I conceived the idea of the 'spanking machine' as offering the best solution for their cases. No youthful offender is ever spanked without the full consent of his or her parents. The 'machine' is 'cranked up' to fit the flagrancy of the crime.

Press cutting

"When a boy commits some offence that gets him into the hands of the police, he is brought before me, and if the offence warrants it I sentence him to the 'spanking machine'. I have nothing to do with the administering of the spanking. The police do that. After going through the machine, the boy is brought back to my office. He usually has tears in his eyes and is in a humble spirit. I talk to him and show him where he has done wrong and the effect of it. I invite the boys to come back and tell me how they are getting along and to seek my advice in any of their troubles. At times I find as high as a dozen boys waiting here at my office in the evening to talk to me about their problems -- every one of them a boy that I had previously sentenced to be spanked."

Mayor Whitaker has used the "spanking machine" exclusively for juvenile offenders, with a single exception, but he believes that if properly geared up it would be quite effective for wife beaters.

"Yes, we spank girls too, sometimes," admitted the Mayor, "but we don't spank as many of them as we do boys."

"I've had fathers come and ask me 'what kind of a machine is that you have to spank bad boys with?'" said the Mayor. "They thought it was some contraption operated by a crank or something like that. If the moral effect should be lost now that the public knows just what the 'machine' is, why, then, we will rig up a really, truly mechanical spanker to take the place of the barrel stave, and it will have some jolt to it too, on the spot where it fetches up."

Bridgeton is a manufacturing city of 16,000 population and has boys of about the average type. The number of boys committed from here to the reformatories, however, is surprisingly low. The cases of truancy are also few, as the "spanking machine" makes it unhealthy to play hookey, even in the spring when the fish first begin to bite, although Mayor Whitaker takes such things into consideration when having a boy punished. Citizens give Mayor Whitaker's "spanking machine" the credit for the exceedingly low average of commitments to the reformatories and also for the checking of truancy.

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