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Miami Sunday News, Florida, 16 June 1957
Probe Lad's Beating By Youth Hall Guard
By Jane Wood
An official investigation is under way in the beating of a 16-year-old boy by two 200-pound male attendants while he was jailed in Youth Hall, the Miami Daily News learned yesterday.
The boy, Jim Oakley, in Youth Hall on the charge of stealing three motorcycles, was beaten with a board paddle by Ed L. Kimbrough, superintendent of the hall, as a disciplinary measure.
A teacher, Ned Brown, held the boy's arms as he lay across a bed while Kimbrough gave him 12 licks with a taped fraternity paddle about 18 inches long, six inches wide and half-inch thick.
"It happens all the time," Judge Walter Beckham, juvenile court judge, said. "We can't let wild boys take over. There is nothing unusual about this boy. He got the same kind of punishment you would give your boy in your own home. This is not an unusual situation.
"You serve no good purpose by stirring this thing up. Children have to be disciplined here and at Kendall. It happens at Kendall, and in all institutions where there are children. It doesn't happen very often."
State Attorney Richard Gerstein said corporal punishment of adults in Florida jails is prohibited by several laws and by Section Eight of the State Declaration of Rights which forbids "cruel and unusual" punishment.
However, he says that Youth Hall is not legally a jail or penal institution. The Juvenile Court and Youth Hall, he says, operate under a statute that gives the court the same rights that the courts have given parents.
Parents, Gerstein says, can paddle children. Paddling a child reasonably, he says, would not be cruel and unusual punishment. Thus, though adult prisoners may not legally be beaten, juvenile offenders in Youth Hall may.
The beating was given, Judge Beckham said, because the boy "went berserk." After he was beaten, he was taken to the psychiatric unit at Jackson hospital. There he broke leather straps to restrain him and was taken to jail.
"When the boy was brought back he was very docile," said the Judge, "and he apologized."
Judge Beckham says that he does not consider the beating of children jailed in Youth Hall by staff members there to be cruel or unusual punishment.
He says such beatings with a paddle are approved by regulations set up by a visiting board, which frames rules for running Youth Hall. He appointed the visiting board members, he says.
Staff of Youth Hall, the county's jail for juveniles, is under the supervision of W. Ira Hazlitt, chief probation officer. He hires and fires personnel. Hazlitt's office reports that he is ill.
Kimbrough is on vacation, Judge Beckham says.
Judge Beckham said he would not allow a reporter to talk to the boy, and added, "If his parents want you to talk to him and you come with his parents, you can see him."
Berlin Oakley, the boy's father, said, "I won't talk about it. I don't know anything about it."
Judge Beckham said he would not permit a photograph of the paddle to be made because "it would serve no useful purpose."
Jim Smith, probation officer at Youth Hall, gave an eye-witness account of young Oakley's beating, at the request of Judge Beckham:
"He is a big boy, a weight-lifter. He was arrested and was in Youth Hall for stealing three motorcycles. He barricaded himself in his room, put his bed and dressing table before the door, and began to try to make a deal with the staff members.
"He wanted to see his mother and his dad, and his girl friend, and his girl friend's mother. I told him we couldn't make any deal with him, and I got him to take the barricade down. I went in and talked to him about 35 minutes, and he quieted down.
"Then Kimbrough explained to him that he had broken the rules and would have to take his punishment. Brown, one of the teachers, held Oakley's arms while Kimbrough gave him the beating with a fraternity paddle. I counted 12 licks. He took his punishment like a man.
"Then, a few hours later, he threw a fit and we had him taken to the hospital. There, I understand, he broke the straps they put on him to restrain him, and had to be taken to jail."
Earlier, Kimbrough, after paddling an 11-year-old girl, was ordered by the visiting board not to beat girls anymore.
Kimbrough has been on Youth Hall staff since it opened in 1950. Before that he worked for the Humane Society. He is also a horse-trainer.
Oakley is now waiting, says Judge Beckham, for transfer to the state institution at Marianna, where he has been sentenced for stealing the motorcycles.
Judge Beckham said that members of the visiting board who, among other things, frame regulations covering corporal punishment, are:
Mrs. Florence Greer, chairman; Hazlitt, W.R.E. Myrick, Mrs. J.C. Womble, Mrs. Rose Weiss, Mrs. H.W. Grier, Mrs. E.L. Thayer, Kimbrough, and Mrs. Mary Dial.
In regard to punishment by use of a paddle, Petteway said: "I don't know much about the circumstances and I'd rather not discuss it. I've been on the board only about a year."
"The problem of corporal punishment has come up many times before the visiting board," Myrick says. "The visiting board decided from the beginning of Youth Hall that everything would be done to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents with a homelike atmosphere.
"Strict rules are posted. When a child is incorrigible, doesn't behave, tries to strike an attendant, or runs away, we have decided that he should be paddled.
"Many of the attendants at Youth Hall have been beaten unmercifully by juvenile delinquents, and we have been much concerned. Mr. Kimbrough is a rough-looking man with a heart of gold. He is far more interested in those boys than their parents. It hurts him to whip them.
"I can assure you that a child has not been paddled who didn't deserve it. In every case the boy has benefitted by being paddled."
Myrick said that he had frequently asked Kimbrough how much he paddles a child, and Kimbrough has replied, "I paddle them until I know they've got enough."
Myrick was chairman of the visiting board for a number of years. Other board members could not be contacted.
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