corpunWorld Corporal Punishment Research   :   Country files   :   USA: Osborne Assn   :   Chehalis, WA

The Osborne Association

1938-43 Reports on reformatories


Demerits-- A standard list of demerits has been formulated for use by detail officer, who is the only one authorized to withdraw merits. Part of the list is as follows:

Escape or attempt to escape: loss of all merits
Aiding or abetting another to escape: ditto
Rioting or inciting a riot: ditto
Burglary and theft: minimum of 500 demerits
Immoral acts of any nature: 100-500 demerits
Throwing food or utensils in dining room: 50 demerits
Petty theft: 25 demerits
Possession of tobacco or matches: 25 demerits
Tattooing: 10 demerits
Passing food or utensils between tables in dining room: 10 demerits
Discourteous conduct in chapel: 10 demerits
Destroying or defacing property: 5 demerits
In possession of unauthorized articles: 10 demerits

A boy who receives demerits over a specified period of time is automatically removed from the honor roll and is thereby rendered ineligible to receive extra privileges or bonus merits until he again gains good standing by satisfactory behavior.

Boys are required to maintain silence while in ranks, while entering buildings, during toilet lines, when washing, bathing and changing clothing, on sick call line at the hospital, at detail and recall periods, during meals, and from the time of entering the dormitory at night until returning to company quarters in the morning. A company work detail may be placed on silence by the employee in charge at any time deemed necessary by him.

Punishments - Corporal punishment is permitted by law and, it was said, is only used as a last resort. A leather strap, measuring approximately 3 feet in length, 2½ inches in width, and three-eighths of an inch in thickness, with rough welts on one side, is administered to the clothed buttocks of a boy by the detail officer. An average of three "spats," by which strappings are called, are given, and the maximum number is ten.

Segregation is not used as punishment.

Delayed release is used as punishment through the workings of the credit marking system.

Other punishments include the withdrawal of privileges, such as attendance at athletic games and motion picture shows. Boys may be given a fifteen-minute period of deep knee bending, known as "bouncing." They may also be required to do "extra duty" such as cleaning up the grounds for a fifteen-minute period daily for a few days. "Standing at attention" may be imposed as punishment for minor offenses within the company and may continue for a duration of not more than thirty minutes at any one time. If a boy does not stand his period at attention properly, however, he may be required to stand another period, and still another, or a maximum of three continuous periods or an hour and a half.

Persistent bed wetters are punished by the imposition of demerits and at times are also referred to the physician for examination.

Restriction on the writing of letters is ordinarily not used as punishment, although it may be imposed on boys who attempt to run away.

Members of the staff are supplied with a book of disciplinary report forms. For an offense considered reportable, a statement of the matter is written on one of the forms and dropped in a metal box located on the lawn, from which they are collected by the detail officer. The detail officer then calls the boy to his office and passes on each infraction. The substance of the report is then transcribed to record card kept on each boy. On the following morning the detail officer submits a list of offending boys with a word on their infractions and the punishment imposed, to the superintendent.


In explaining the use of the leather strap for punishment, the superintendent remarked that students would rather receive "spats" than a written report because no loss of merits is involved in the acceptance of such punishment. He added that the efforts of the administration and staff to maintain "morale" can go only so far and it is then necessary to use the strap because "boys must realize that the school is the authority." The students must be shown, he stated further, that the strap is no mere ornament, but will be used when the detail officer considers it necessary. Although he stated that corporal punishment is used only as a last resort, a review of a fair sampling of reports reveals that strappings are by no means an infrequent occurrence. The fact that a boy can avoid losing merits for an offense considered serious enough to warrant a strapping by taking the strapping itself is also further proof of the meaninglessness of the credit marking system.

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