“I was just wondering how I did on my IQ test?”

April 14, 2010 at 10:38 pm (Uncategorized)

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.

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