Reform School is supposed to help troubled children reform and teach them to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately in the past it has often done the exact opposite. This is presumably not nearly as bad as it used to be but there still needs to be more attention drawn to it so that those schools that haven’t fixed these problems will be reformed and so that the public can better understand how violent criminals became that way. There are several mass murderers and spree killers that went to reform school and later told of serious abuse that went on their including Charles Manson and Gary Gilmore. These claims have been partially confirmed in several ways. There has been a lot of research to indicate that violence brings out more violence and some psychologists have studied the behavior and found that escalating trouble at the time of Charles Manson’s most serious claims of abuse fit the pattern. It is not uncommon for abused children to strike out even more after being abused at home or in reform school and this seems to be what Charles Manson did. The same pattern of abuse has also been confirmed by other former inmates of reform school in several widely reported incidents. There are almost certainly many more schools that have had problems in the past and in some cases still have problems now.
Ideally it would be better to get to troubled children as early as possible before they even get to reform school. If they receive the attention they need when they are in early grade school then in many cases they can be addressed earlier and they may never need to go to reform school at all. If they do need to go to reform school there should be close scrutiny to make sure they are not abusing each other or that the teachers and care givers aren’t abusing the children. There needs to be some kind of out side scrutiny to check up on this with discretion. There should be no need to publicize the troubles of these children in most cases. If there are exceptions it should only be to avoid further violence. Everyone involved should receive the appropriate training and they should understand that beating children into submission doesn’t work in the long run. It may seem to work to some people especially if they have been raised in a violent environment as well but in the long run the children only become angrier and more violent.
Exposing the problems in reform schools will have an enormous impact in the long term crime rates especially violent crimes. This will be much less expensive than dealing with the problems after they escalate.
Here are some examples of reports of abuse at reform school. I’m sure this is a very small sample and the majority of this is going unreported due to denial.
first posted on tripod on 1/7/10