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A Thanksgiving NOT To recollect

In November of 1980, I used to be the director of Juvenile Advocates, a authorized advocacy program for incarcerated teens situated in Morgantown, West Virginia. My job consisted of monitoring the treatment of juveniles who were locked up in county jails, detention centers and what had been recognized then, as reform faculties.Maybe the most fascinating part of the job was that about each two weeks I’d drive the roller-coaster roads of the state to interview the children locked up in the various institutions from the West Virginia Industrial Faculty for Boys in Pruntytown to the West Virginia Industrial Faculty for Women in Salem and the Leckie Youth Middle, located way down within the coalfields of McDowell County.

The names “Industrial Faculty” and “Reform Faculty” were vestiges of the early 20th century reform movement. Prior to that age of enlightenment, teenagers who broke the regulation had been handled an identical to adults. They were tried in criminal courts, locked up in state prisons alongside side grownup inmates and even hung from the gallows. With the arrival of the progressive motion, delinquency got here to be thought of extra as a social problem having its roots in poverty, discrimination and household disintegration.

I might quote the great flip-of-the century social reformer Jane Adams, however I feel the Jets provide essentially the most eloquent explanation: “Dear Kindly Sgt. Krupke, you gotta perceive, it is just our upbringing upke that will get us out of hand, our mothers all are junkies, our fathers are all drunks, golly Moses naturally we’re punks.” Fairly than punish delinquents in prisons, the considering went, they must be sent to colleges to be ‘reformed,’ made extra ‘industrious.’

By the time I had arrived at the West Virginia Industrial College for Boys (initially named the West Virginia Reform School) – the facility I visited most continuously – in 1980, the lofty purpose of rehabilitation had long ago given solution to punishment, harsh punishment. The next from a West Virginia Supreme Courtroom opinion is an outline of some of these punitive practices, “‘Floor time’ was a punishment whereby the inmate apparently was required to stand stiffly in one place for several hours each day without speaking… ‘Bench time’ was a punishment that required the inmate to sit down in a specified location with arms crossed for several hours every day and for several days with out speaking or shifting.” Different draconian measures, like making a boy hold a stack of books in out-stretched arms for hours at a time or forcing a boy down on his palms and knees to scrub a ground with a tooth brush until the boy’s knees bled, had been common.

The establishment was based upon a behavioral modification remedy model the place children moved from level 1 by way of level 4 (the release level). But if you screwed up you were despatched down to Stage Zero. Each boy was assigned a special color shirt relying on his level and in the middle of each shirt was the West Virginia seal along with the state motto, Montani Semper Liberi – Mountaineers are Always Free. Word.

In-built 1891, the administration constructing where I had a make-shift office, had the appear and feel an enormous stone fortress. The boys slept in dormitory cottages unfold throughout the campus – unless in fact they committed a serious infraction – like speaking back to a CO or stealing meals, then they would be despatched to Stage Zero and a tiny windowless cell.

I began my job in April 1980 and that November, I acquired an invite to have Thanksgiving dinner at the Industrial School for Boys. Coincidentally, my mother was coming down from Lengthy Island that very same week to see me. She had not visited the state since I had moved there in 1978 and i needed to point out her the real West Virginia. What better way, than to ask her to Thanksgiving dinner at a reform school

For most mothers, particularly a Bronx-born Jewish mother, spending a vacation dinner at a juvenile prison would not necessarily be a prudent selection. However my mother was not just any Jewish mom. She was an old lefty who marched towards the prosecution of the Rosenbergs, escorted W.E.B. DuBois to political conferences and named me after Paul Robeson. I figured Thanksgiving with 200 juvenile delinquents and their guards could be excellent.

We arrived at the mess hall in the late afternoon and took our seats at a long table alongside the Warden, his wife, the assistant Warden and a priest. My mother after all sat subsequent to the priest. All along the wall, guarding every exit was a stern-faced C.O. (corrections officer). The boys silently filed into the hall (that was a rule – they needed to stroll in single file and were not allowed to talk) and stood in entrance of their place setting: a yellow plastic plate, plastic water glass and plastic spoon and fork – no knives in fact. Every boy stood in whole silence until all of them had been in the corridor and when the word was given, they sat down at the identical time – nonetheless in silence.

As she regarded up and down the rows my mother whispered to me that they looked really skinny and sickly. She was anticipating brawny, powerful wanting thugs however all she saw have been scrawny pimply-faced children with clean expressions. stone island italian website Earlier than the boys sat down, all of us rose and the priest gave the benediction. Even in reform school, you’ve to present thanks. As we sat down, the room was full of an excellent flourish of plastic forks clapping towards the arduous plastic plates and huge whooshing slurps and lip smacks. 200 hungry teenage jaws chowing down creates its personal unique din.

I referred to as my mother the other day to ask what she recalled about that Thanksgiving stone island italian website meal. Two issues jumped out – the mashed potatoes had a slightly inexperienced tinge to them regardless that they had been made from powder and the cake had a bright pink frosting. All I remember is the turkey swimming in a translucent brownish gravy and trying to chop it with the side of a fork. My mom and the priest engaged in polite chit-chat, however for the most part she seemed shell-shocked. For her, the sea of lonely, young faces was overwhelming. As quickly because the pink cake was eaten, we left. It was a Thanksgiving not to recollect.

I used to be never invited again to another Thanksgiving dinner. I am fairly sure it needed to do with the fact that over the subsequent 3 years I used to be continuously filing lawsuits against the establishment as well as every other reform faculty, forestry camp, detention middle and jail within the state that violated a teenager’s rights. On account of the these efforts and those of other juvenile rights attorneys, the West Virginia Industrial Faculty for Boys eventually was closed down in 1983.

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