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The Osborne Association

1938-43 Reports on reformatories


Rules, Regulations, and Disciplinary Policies -- The superintendent is responsible for formulating disciplinary policies but the administration of discipline is delegated to the dean of boys, a young man with six years' experience in the training school in the capacities of night supervisor, detail officer, farm manager, family manager, and teacher.

No detailed rules governing institutional conduct are published but each boy's parents receive a copy of a booklet of information concerning the school which includes a statement of the rules governing visiting, writing, and other relations between the parents and the school.

Although the institution is organized as a military school and it perpetuates an antiquated merit system, discipline appeared to be administered constructively on an individual basis. There is a healthy freedom from typically institution standards of conduct and emphasis is on adjustment to normal standards rather than regimented obedience to arbitrary orders.

Written reports on disciplinary infractions are sent to the dean of boys who puts offenders on the daily "dean's list". This list is not made up of offenders alone since every boy is called out at least once every two months for a discussion of his progress and a few boys appear on it every day to receive commendation for especially meritorious achievements or notable progress. In this way the dean's list is divested of the characteristics of a disciplinary court and as much emphasis is placed upon encouraging and advising those who are doing well as upon punishing offenders.

A measure of the intelligence and breadth of view which prevails in the administration of discipline at this institution was given by the dean's answer to our regular question as to what offenses he considered the most serious. After carefully considering the question he concluded that while sexual offenses, assaulting officers, and running away were very serious and could not be tolerated, they were, after all, products of the institutional situation which would probably not be carried over into community life in the majority of cases. For that reason, he put them second to continued lying and stealing because he felt that these traits signified a generally unfavorable social attitude rather than a temporary reaction to an artificial situation.

Sex offenses are guarded against by providing careful supervision, particularly for the dormitories at night, and by maintaining a vigorous schedule of activities throughout the day until bedtime. Boys who are discovered committing such offenses have their heads shaved, are whipped, and assigned to the Discipline Cottage for a period of ten to fifteen days. The institution reports show a total of ten such offenses during the year prior to our visit.

When boys run away it is customary to send a few officers to search for them and to notify the police officials of surrounding towns. A reward of $10.00 is paid to anyone other than an institution employee who returns a runaway boy.

Returned runaways are whipped and sent to the Discipline Cottage for ten to fifteen days. The biennial report for the period ending June 30, 1936, shows a total of thirty-one runaways and eleven returns.

Punishments -- The authorized punishments include whipping, assignment to the Discipline Cottage, a loss of merits resulting in delayed release, and "standing on line". Segregation or the abrogation of the writing and visiting privileges are not used as punishments.

Corporal punishment, which may be administered by the dean of boys only, takes the form of a spanking with a leather strap 4" wide, 1/8" thick, and 2' long. It was stated that between forty and fifty whippings are administered every year.

The dean of boys and his wife serve as cottage father and mother for the Discipline Cottage. Boys are assigned to this unit for periods of five to thirty days during which time they are deprived of all privileges, including that of attending school, and are employed at unpleasant and arduous work.

The punishment of "standing on line" at this institution consists of standing under supervision during recreation periods and it may be invoked for from five to fifteen days.

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