The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.
I am pleased that so many of you are using this blog to communicate with one another. If you have photos you would like me to post, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
Click on the above link to view a 27 page history of the BIS/FSB from 1862-1954. I have posted this for the sake of those who want to learn more about the history of the institution than is available in my book, Central Ohio’s Historic Prisons. While most of the buildings have been razed, a few still remain standing, although their future is tenuous. They are controlled by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. However, the business of ODRC is operating prisons, not museums. The hope is that these historic structures can be deeded over to a preservationists group such as was done with the Ohio State Reformatory. Unfortunately, this will require hundreds of thousands of dollars. I feel the more people who know about the institution, the better. Maybe Stephen King will write a story about it, Hollywood will come calling, and it will develop into a popular tourist attraction. We could call it Shawshank Jr.
When I was a deputy superintendent at Training Institution Central Ohio (TICO), Trooper Don Whipple was our assigned Ohio Highway Patrol investigator. This meant he was called in whenever we had reason to believe a crime had been committed within the institution, whether by staff or inmates, day or night.
I had known Don for several years and had lobbied hard to keep him when OHP top brass decided to play musical chairs. What set him apart from the other investigators I knew was he actually enjoyed the institutional part of his job. Most of them would have preferred to do anything else than wade into the murky waters of a juvenile correctional facility, but Don relished it. (Later, he would become chief of security for the Department of Youth Services, a post he held until his unexpected death.)
Now, Don had been told by numerous youth that they were being physically abused by the staff. However, the youth were not regarded as good witnesses for many reasons including the fact they were adjudicated delinquents who were already on record as being untruthful. What Don needed was a reliable witness – himself and someone else.
Don hatched a plan to break into TICO one night, sneak up to the windows, and see if he could catch any of the juvenile correctional officers behaving badly. However, he needed someone from institutional management to accompany him. Since the superintendent had a bad back and the other deputy was a woman, I got picked by default to join him in his caper.
On the chosen night, we met in the parking lot of the Timothy Moritz mental health facility next door, dressed in black clothing, ninja-fashion. Don had brought another trooper with him who was at least 6’ 6” tall. I think his name was Wheeler. Anyway, we went around to the rear gate where Whipple planned to cut off the padlock and chain. Fortunately, I had brought my keys with me so we did not have to damage state property. I was always concerned about reducing expenses.
Since it was still relatively early, many of the youth were just returning from recreation in the gym. They walked down a long, window-lined hallway and we were concerned they could see us if they happened to look, so we kept low and skittered along in the shadows, crouching down as much as possible.
When we reached the lowest part of the building, Wheeler boosted Don up onto the roof. Don then pulled me up behind him, and then we both struggled to haul up the lanky Wheeler. I could not have done it by myself, but Whipple was as strong as he was short. And he was very short for a trooper.
There were several television cameras mounted on the roof, anyone of which might broadcast our image to the switchboard operator who controlled access to the building via electronic latches on various doors and gates. We avoided the cameras as much as possible, but would have been caught had anyone bothered to look at the battery of TV monitors.
To make a long story short, we went around to the various living units (“cottages”) and spent time spying through the windows on the activities taking place within each one. However, after several hours of observation, we saw nothing incriminating. The juvenile correctional officers did not do anything they weren’t supposed to. And I was glad because we worked hard trying to ensure that TICO staff did the right thing. It didn’t always work, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
When the Child Study Center closed in 1980, they moved the entire diagnostic unit (social workers, psychologists, and typing pool) to Terrace Cottage at Scioto Village where we continued to perform, more or less, the same function. After a few years, they decided to disperse us to the wind and a plot was hatched to hide me out at the school, hoping nobody would notice I was there. And it actually worked for awhile.
I was now doing school psychology and had to quickly bring myself up to speed on learning disabilities and the like. I found there wasn’t really much of a diagnostic protocol in place, so I developed one. Meanwhile, I started co-leading therapy groups after work with Duane Johnson, a former Peace Corps volunteer who had worked with Albert Schweitzer in the Congo.
Not long after that, I met Dr. John Gibbs, an Ohio State professor who was a disciple of Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg, who was renowned for his theories on moral development. Dr. Gibbs wanted to use our groups to test out some of his ideas for what would eventually be known as Aggression Replacement Training (ART).
Essentially, he had a number of stories involving moral dilemmas which we would use as the basis for discussion in our therapy groups. However, I found them unsatisfactory because 1) the youth couldn’t relate to them and 2) the discussions were too open-ended. Therefore, I rewrote them to incorporate moral dilemmas which I knew from experience our delinquent teens were encountering and I also added a few discussion questions to each one.
Dr. Gibbs eagerly embraced my “environmentally valid” moral dilemmas (as he called them) and we began keeping track of the results from each group session. Unfortunately, someone at Central Office realized I was still employed at Scioto Village and decided I should start traveling around the state to do school psychological evaluations. Basically, I spent two days a week at Cuyahoga Hills, one day at Maumee Youth Center, and the other two days at Scioto Village and Riverview. Consequently, I could no longer devote anytime to the group work.
Many years later, I was contacted by a publisher who asked permission to reprint a few of my moral dilemmas in a book by Dr. Gibbs et al entitled Aggression Replacement Training: A Comprehensive Intervention for Aggressive Youth. On one hand, I was amazed that so much research had been done using my little stories. On the other, I was a tad disappointed that I wasn’t given credit for the format they continued to use. However, by then I was no longer working in psychology.
Footnote: James E. Rogers, director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services during this time, was later sent to prison on a number of corruption charges. One of the things he was notorious for was having “phantom” employees on the payroll. While I was spending two days a week in Cleveland doing psychological evaluations, I was told there were actually 15 psychologists on the institution’s payroll, but nobody ever saw them.
For reasons I could never fathom, someone decided during the early ‘eighties to make Scioto Village (formerly Girls Industrial School) a coed institution. I suppose it was just an extension of the movement to “normalize” the day-to-day living experiences of the delinquent youth who were committed to us for “rehabilitation.” However, throwing these particular teenage boys and girls together in an open campus setting was just tempting fate. It was also testing the staff’s ability to adequately monitor their extracurricular activities.
Needless to say, this misguided experiment failed dismally. On one occasion, deputy superintendent Duane Johnson and I had to break up an amorous couple who had sneaked off to a room in an abandoned cottage. On another, I had to separate a boy and a girl who were trying to harm one another with a chair leg and a scissors respectively. (And, no, we did not receive hazardous duty pay.)
It was a highly volatile, hormone-fueled environment, populated by teenagers who were already prone towards acting out. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was relieved when the order came down to ship the males off to another institution. The boys, though, didn’t see it that way. When word leaked out that they were scheduled to be bused to Indian River or somewhere the next day, they went on a rampage. They completely tore up their cottage (either Sherwood or Woodbine, I don’t remember which), terrorizing the night staff who couldn’t do anything but take cover.
The morning after, I walked through the empty cottage, stepping gingerly over the piles of debris. There wasn’t a single piece of glass that remained intact. What they could break they had and what they couldn’t they had vandalized. Although a full-scale riot had taken place, the media never caught word of it. I’m not sure how they managed to keep it quiet, but some administrations seemed to be better at it than others. There was always the fear that if youth at another facility heard about a riot, they would stage their own in sympathy.
One of the unexpected consequences of placing boys at Scioto Village was that one in particular got to visit his birthplace. He had been born in the institutional hospital years before when his pregnant mother was committed to GIS as a teenager.
Sometime in the late ‘eighties while I had administrative responsibility for the clinic at Buckeye Youth Center, I was notified by one of my staff that we needed to purchase a new battery for the EEG machine.
At that time (and for many years previously), it was customary to order an electroencephalograph of many a delinquent youth who passed through our doors. This was a recording of electrical activity along the scalp resulting from the firing of neurons in the brain. Irregular EEGs were associated with epilepsy, tumors, and other neurological problems.
The EEG machine was located in a standard examination room, except for the fact that there was copper screen covering the windows, light fixtures, and other possible sources of stray electrical transmissions. The machine itself had an array of dials, meters, and switches. The battery was located in a cabinet beneath it.
The “subject” of an EEG examination would have electrodes fastened to his or her head with a conductive paste or gel. Then over the course of thirty minutes or so, all of his/her “brain waves” would be recorded on a scrolling piece of paper with a stylist (much like an old-fashioned seismograph). A doctor would read the report, determine whether it was normal or abnormal, and place it in the youth’s file.
The purpose of the battery, I believe, was to amplify the electrical signals since they otherwise would be far too weak to detect. So I did not hesitate to instruct my staff member to contact the manufacturer of the machine about obtaining a new one. What I did not expect was a faxed letter back from them almost immediately, notifying us that 1) the device had been recalled sometime in the late ‘sixties, 2) it had a serious electrical problem, and 3) we were lucky we hadn’t injured anyone over the intervening years.
When I brought this issue to the attention of our central office, they made the decision to forego any further EEG examinations rather than purchasing a new machine. To be honest, I can’t remember ever making use of any of the thousands of EEG tests that were administered over the years. I suspect they were done more out of habit than anything else.
I have been somewhat amazed at how much interest has been shown in my post regarding the Girls Industrial School or, as it was later known, Scioto Village School for Girls. Like the Boys Industrial School/Fairfield School for Boys, the girls lived in “cottages” that were, more or less, based on their social maturity levels. Of course, this system broke down whenever the institution became overcrowded and a newly admitted girl would then have to be placed in the first available bed.
Over the years, the names of the cottages changed as old ones were torn down and new ones were built. However, here is a list of some of them taken from a 1970 Sci-Lites High School Yearbook: Ohio, Scioto, Mac, Galloway, Hayes, Woodbine, Allman, Buckeye, Hunter, Mapledale, Davey, Sherwood, and Terrace. The girls attended school and also participated in such vocational programs as home economics, laundry (“fabric services”), cosmetology, and needle trades.
At one time, the institution had a fully operational maternity ward and a number of babies were born there. Not far from the hospital was a cemetery. A number of girls had died at G.I.S. during the great influenza pandemic that swept the country during the early part of the 20th century. Apparently, there was no one who wanted or could afford to claim their bodies.
Somewhere, I have a handful of postcards picturing scenes at G.I.S. When I locate them, I will post them to my blog. For a correctional institution, it was a remarkably pretty place. I had an office in the school that overlooked the Scioto River, which was a stone’s throw away.
Although Columbus Dispatch columnist Mike Harden and I had both worked for the Ohio Youth Commission early in our careers, our paths never crossed at the time. It was only in the final year of his life that we had the opportunity to meet and compare our experiences. When I initially mentioned our common background, he immediately asked, “Did you ever hear how I wound up there?” I said I didn’t, and he proceeded to tell me a story which I will now repeat to the best of my ability because I feel it illustrates the type of man he was.
After Mike got out of the service, he enrolled at The Ohio State University, graduating with a degree in journalism. One of his earliest jobs was as a legislative aid of some sort (I wish I had jotted down some notes; I am relying entirely on my memory). Initially, Mike found it exciting to be working behind the scenes in state government. However, he soon saw the ugly side of politics, too.
What Mike found especially troubling were the lies. He was enough of an insider to know what the real budget numbers were. But when it came time for state budget hearings, they were expected to lie about them. Mike said he reached a point where he simply couldn’t be a party to it any longer. When he stated his objections, he was “exiled” to the Ohio Youth Commission to do public relations.
Mike said he had a lot of fun working in the OYC central office, but did not feel he was given anything particularly meaningful to do. Afterwards, he worked on Ohio magazine and Columbus Monthly, before joining the Columbus Citizen-Journal in 1981. When it folded, he moved over to The Columbus Dispatch.
Throughout his career, Mike retained an interest in society’s forgotten people. I regret that he did not get to finish his book on his bank-robbing uncle (and namesake) who had supported the family during the depression with the proceeds from his crimes. But I suppose all writers leave unfinished stories behind and if it hadn’t been this one it would have been another. R.I.P. Mike.
A reader asked me how to obtain information regarding a former “resident” of the Girls’ Industrial School.
The short answer is to contact the Ohio Department of Youth Services and complete a public records request form. It may take a little while and there will be a nominal charge, but if they have it, you can probably get a copy (providing there are no legal reasons for limiting access).
However, you may not find what you are looking for.
In my experience (1970-2000), correctional institutions generate an enormous amount of paper. When a “resident” is admitted to an institution, a file is created. The master file is generally kept somewhere in a records room in the administrative area/building, but there are working files in the school, clinic, social work and psychology departments, etc. While there is some duplication of information, an educational file and a medical file are very different animals.
When a resident is discharged, the files are gathered together and sent to storage. In most of the “classic” correctional institutions – Ohio Penitentiary, Ohio State Reformatory, Boys’ Industrial School, and Girls’ Industrial School – there were attics and cellars which housed old records. However, newer institutions are seldom designed with extra storage space. At TICO (Training Institution Central Ohio), for example, the old records were kept in a room that housed an unused swimming pool.
Over the years, I have witnessed or participated in many record “purges.” The fact is not all records are considered equally worthy of retention. Although the Ohio Department of Administrative Services established the policy for what should be kept and for how long, there are a lot of gray areas. Attorneys don’t even agree (imagine that). As a consequence, some things probably got pitched that should have been retained and vice versa.
And when I say “pitched,” I mean exactly that. In the old days, there wasn’t the same concern with destroying sensitive information (e.g. social security numbers) that there is now. [Note: When I first went to work at the Ohio State Reformatory, I was astounded to find that inmate “clerks” typed all the reports, maintained the files, and trafficked in making copies for other inmates.]
If you had your own power plant (as many of the older institutions did), the records were probably incinerated. But if you didn’t, they were likely to be carted off to the landfill or somebody’s garage (and, now, turn up in flea markets and on eBay).
Some 25 years ago when I was working as an auditor, I visited the building that was being used by ODYS for record retention. I discovered that the files were not being properly maintained – they were, literally, stacked on counters, desks, chairs, and stair steps – and that it was impossible to find what I was looking for. When I complained, the response was to bring in a mobile shredder and simply get rid of the files in an indiscriminate fashion until they were down to a manageable number (or so a concerned file clerk told me).
When the Ohio Penitentiary, Boys’ Industrial School, and Girls’ Industrial School closed, the “historic” records (pre-1945) were deposited with the Ohio Historical Society. There is a limited amount of information available through their website: http://www.ohiohistory.org/resource/database/industrial/
As I recall, school records had to be kept for the longest period of time (99 years, I think). When I was at Scioto Village (a later incarnation of the GIS), I helped sort through many decades’ worth of school records in preparation for their being boxed up and sent to retention. We were very careful to keep anything that indicated which courses the students took and the grades they earned, but anything that wasn’t strictly education-related was sent to the incinerator. Of course, the institutional schools were always being sent transcript requests, so the importance of retaining this information was obvious.
The strangest record request I ever received was when I was working at the Child Study Center in the late ‘seventies. One afternoon, I got a call from a guy in Tennessee. He said he was sitting around the house and, “I was just wondering how I did on my IQ test?” He had been at the Juvenile Diagnostic Center about 15 years earlier. I asked him how he was doing and he replied, “Okay.” He was employed and had stayed out of trouble. So I told him in that case it really didn’t matter. He should just move on with his life. Besides, I had no idea where they would have stored his file.