corpunWorld Corporal Punishment Research :  Country files :  US reformatories 1931

Boys' Industrial School, Lancaster, Ohio, 1931

Credit system. - A boy on entrance was listed for a stay of 12 months. For each month of perfect conduct during his first two months he was allowed five days off his total "time". If at the end of these two months he had won five days for each month, he was given an extra 10 days off, which made a total of 20 days of his institution stay [...]

Disciplinary measures. - Cottage officers, teachers, trade instructors, and other officers who had boys under their supervision were permitted to place a boy "on line" for minor misconduct. This means that the boy was withdrawn from all the regular activities of his group and had to stand on line wherever he might be, whether in school, shop, or cottage. It was stated that no unusual strained positions were permitted.

When an officer felt that a boy required more severe punishment than being placed on line, he reported the case on a "blue slip" to the court officer [...] Complete responsibility for the administration of discipline within the limit set by those general policies was vested in the court officer, and every day he held "court". There each case was taken up and discussed with the boy in person [...]

Discipline meted out by this court took several forms. Time might be added to the period which a boy must complete before he was eligible for parole. This might range all the way from a day or two for minor infractions of rules to the entire year which was regularly added in case of an escape. Boys guilty of sodomy were required to remain six months longer. For such offenses as insolence, disobedience, persistent talking on line, fighting, and smoking, varying numbers of days were added.

It was stated that there was no curtailment of food for any offense; that is, no boys were ever limited to a bread-and-water diet. Withdrawal of the privilege of attending the occasional motion-picture show or athletic games was used as a medium of discipline. For more serious cases a discipline cottage was maintained. Boys were sent there by the court officer for specific periods to 30 days. Boys in this cottage attended school but did not do shop work. In lieu of their trade classes they were assigned to do the hardest and most unpleasant manual labor around the institution. They were barred from all games and entertainments. The discipline cottage itself was one of the oldest buildings. It had a living room and dormitory similar to those in other cottages. The living room was quite bare, stiff, and colorless in atmosphere. No talking was permitted at any time in the living room [...]

Corporal punishment was administered only on order of the court officer. Individual officers were forbidden to strike any boy or to use any physical force upon him unless the boy became violent and attacked other boys or an officer. The corporal punishment used was known as "paddling". The paddle was a flexible piece of leather shaped like a regular paddle about 6 or 8 inches wide and 12 to 15 inches long, with a stiffened leather handle at one end. The usual number of strokes was 6 to 9, though in extreme cases 12 to 15 might be given. The boy's clothing was not removed for the paddling. Each paddling had to be witnessed by the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, the physician, or the Chaplain; and this officer signed the discipline slip as witness. It was stated that boys were paddled only in extreme cases of persistent repetition of offences, sex offences, continuous insubordination, or some action regarded as a particularly grave delinquency. Among the latter were sex offences and escape from the institution -- unless they came back of their own volition.

The court often gave an order for paddling and then suspended the order so long as the boy maintained a good conduct record. The court officer believed this procedure had effectively deterred certain types of boys from repetition of offences, as he found that some of the vainglorious, would-be gangsters were "yellow" when threatened with physical pain [...]

Source: Institutional Treatment of Delinquent Boys, Part I. Treatment programmes of five state institutions, by Alida C. Bowler and Ruth S. Bloodgood (United States Childrens' Bureau Publication No. 228, Washington DC, 1935)

blob For a photograph of the strap used in this same institution 25 years later, see The Archive.

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