Transcript
 

(PCOM 7/523)

FOR THE IDLE lad in his later teens the
corner of a street is even more dangerous than
the middle of a street for the aged and
preoccupied.
Here, in a hundred cities of England and Wales,
gather daily the men and lads who are already
unemployed and in danger of becoming unemploy-
able. Their desultory conversation hovers around
horses rather than football, and crime rather than
cricket.

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Five hundred lads each year are handed over by
the Courts of England and Wales to the care of the
Prison Commissioners, that they may receive this
Borstal training and grow to be decent men. A
fascinating task, but only to be attempted by the
optimist. Desires must be balanced and controlled,
and inhibition must be strengthened. The good
must be developed to beat the bad, and a clear and
effective knowledge of right and wrong introduced
into an impulsive system. What is this training,
based on what theory ; what ideal inspires it, in
what form does it operate? Nearly every vice
is represented in this straggling army. There is
scarcely a depth of depravity that one or other has
not probed in curious or precocious moments. Yet
strangely true is it also that every virtue is to be
found among them. One is loyal albeit dishonest,
another is truthful though of ungoverned temper, a
third picks pockets but loves music, a fourth main-
tains his honesty untarnished though he behaves
like a beast. In the great majority, moreover, there
is a social sense which enables them to follow a lead,
to respond to the appeal to support their small
community, particularly if it engages in friendly
competition with another small community. Borstal
training is based on the double assumption that
there is individual good in each, and among nearly
all an innate corporate spirit, which will respond to
the appeal made to the British of every sort to play
the game, to follow the flag, to stand by the old
ship.

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The first impression that a visitor receives is that
of rude health. Most of these lade were born in the
darkest homes and broke every law of health till they
came here. But now they traverse with cheery faces
and robust bodies a daily programme from 6.0 a.m.
to 9.0 p.m. Four simple but abundant meals, cost-
ing the taxpayer barely six shillings a week, regular
hours, hard work, and physical exercises are fitting
them for manhood. Every day they work in shop
or kitchen, on the farm or at unskilled labour, for
eight hours, broken only by dinner time.

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Work and exercise and
education nearly fill the day. There follows a short
interval for recreation, when the intelligentsia play
chess and the proletariat argue about the Spurs.

The purpose of a Borstal Institution is to teach
wayward lads to be self-contained men, to train them
to be fit for freedom. It is impossible to train men
for freedom in a condition of captivity.

The task is
not to break or knead him into shape, but to stimu-
late some power within to regulate conduct aright,
to insinuate a preference for the good and the clean,
to make him want to use his life well, so that he
himself and not others will save him from waste.

Further it requires that each lad shall
be dealt with as an individual and shall not be
regarded as being the same as any other lad, re-
quiring the same universal prescription.