Daytona Beach Morning Journal Aug 11, 1968
Justice For Children?
TRAINING SCHOOLS JUST WAREHOUSES FOR WAYWARD
Kids in trouble, is Florida doing them justice? To find out, News Journal staff writer. Jennifer Bolch, visited
the state training school for boys at Marianna and the new halfway house in Tallahassee. In this first in a
series on the treatment of juvenile delinquents, she takes you through Marianna, home to as many as 800
By Jennifer Bolch
Florida State training schools are warehouses for wayward children. The man in charge of them, Walter
Grenier, is the first to admit it.
But the same man, deputy director of training schools for the state division of youth services, also is in
charge of changing them, and herein lies the best hope for the future Florida's young delinquents have
Grenier, young and 50 and bursting with ideas, sees the four state training schools at Marianna,
Okeechobee, Ocala and Forest Hills, serving three purposes:
Containment without harm of boys and girls who must be confined for their own protection for the safety of
Group therapy, to change attitude
Meaningful academic and work experience.
That is the idea. How close are the training schools realizing it?
Not very close, admits Lenox Williams, superintendent of the training school at Marianna, a sprawling
wooded institution battling the triple problems of decaying old building, too many boys and to little staff.
Containment without harm? Questionable. Marianna has a 12% runaway rate. And, although Corporal
punishment officially is taboo, there are several subtle more means of harm than a whipping.
One professional staff member estimated that it is a rare boy, who gets through his stay of six to eight
months at Marianna with out being slapped, strapped, wakened every half hour during the night, or
similarly disciplined by someone on the staff.
Sure they strap me, but not as hard as my Paul used to, one freckled face the youngster said
And that's only physical punishment. The mental punishment some boys endured is beyond estimate.
Being shipped off to a training school is a shattering experience for any boy, no matter how tough a shell
he has, Grainier observers.
When a child is yanked out of a field familiar surroundings and sent to an institution for bad boys, you can't
help but reinforce his already negative concept of himself, the director pointed out.
It's that negative concept, a sense of worthlessness, that usually gets a boy in trouble in the first place,
and when he is committed to Marianna, he naturally regards it as proof of that worthlessness, Rainier said.
Life at an institution the size of Marianna is regimented by necessity, if not by philosophy, and this
regimentation, Grainier feels, further dehumanizes boys and destroys any remnants of self-respect they
might have had.
This experience can leave a life long scar if a child is very young, and there are some very young children
at Marianna. Little boys scarcely old enough to cross the street by themselves, eight, nine and 10 year old,
are no rare sight at the training school. And that may not be as bad as it sounds.
If you could see some of the home situations. These kids came out of, you'd be glad there's a place like
this for them to go, one young staff member told me.
Grenier backed him up. He believes that almost without exception, a lack of acceptance and security in the
home, whether it be a rich home or the poorest slum, is the root of delinquency.
They take special care at Marianna to assign young, dedicated cottage fathers to the little boys, and for
many, it's the first real home they've ever had, Grenier said.
However, there is little privacy at Marianna and less room for individuality. Little wonder that many boys
leave the institution more knowledgeable in the ways of delinquency than they were when they entered,
more firmly set in their path of antisocial behavior
You tell a boy who's not very bad that he is bad, you confine him in close quarters with hundreds of other
boys, who been told the same thing, and after a while he begins to feel, what the hell, I might as well be
bad, Grenier commented.
As for the second objective of the training school program, group therapy is to change attitude, it is
virtually nonexistent. But that is changing.
Although there is no one on the staff trained in group work, Florida State University's school of social work,
is working with staff members on group therapy techniques, and about 20% of boys are involved in
A teacher from Marianna has been assigned to the new halfway house in Tallahassee, where the entire
program is based on group. There he will study the techniques of group work, while working on his
master's degree at FSU and will return to the training school to spread what he has learned among the
other staff member.
Meaningful school and work experience? By everyone's admission from Grenier, right down to the
teachers of the school, this is Marianna's weakest point.
The school program is not accredited by the State Department of Education and is so understaffed that
most boys only get to attend classes every other week.
Few, if any, of the teachers are certified to teach in the field they are assigned to at Marianna.
Luckily we can read faster than they can. So we usually managed to stay one jump ahead, one social
studies teachers said of his science classes.
The schools are under graded though, the point in their favor, because boys whose achievement level is
way below their proper grade for their age can work at their level without the taint of being the only big boy
in a class of younger children.
Work experience at Marianna is limited to maintenance around the institution. There isn't even a pretense
of vocational training.
Each boy was assigned to a work, such as auto mechanics, carpentry, plumbing, food processing, shoe
repair, dry cleaning, and about 15 other specialties.
Most of these assignments sound as though the word be good preparation for a job on the outside. But
there any similarity to vocational training ends, for the boys are taught nothing.
They gas or change tires on state cars patrolled the grounds, mow grass, pound nails, or peeled potatoes,
on orders from the staff who supervised the crew.
Work experience? That is a laugh. There's plenty of work, but no experience, one 16-year-old boy who
had been to the training school twice remarked bitterly.
A boy is no more qualified to work as a carpenter or auto mechanic after six or eight months on the
carpentry or mechanics group than he was before he entered Marianna, one staff member commented.
As in all phases of the program at Marianna though, changes in the wind for work experience. The state
division of vocational rehabilitation has agreed to assign vocational counselors to the training school, he
tried a pair of boys with the work crews appropriate to their interests and aptitude.
Grenier considers it the first move, if a small one, or getting an actual program of vocational education in
the training school.
The biggest breath of fresh air to hit the training school in its more than half a century of operation is the
development of a reception and orientation program, just a few months ago.
Jim Hart, a down-to-earth young man with a real player for communicating with kids, organized and his
running The R&O. All boys are brought to his cottage when they arrive at the training, and they stay there
for about two weeks, while they are tested, counseled and observed, before being assigned to the regular
cottage, school and work crew.
R&O accomplishes a multitude of good things. Keeping newcomers with other newcomers, it prevents the
physical and mental limitations that used to be the lot of the new boy at the hands of his more experience
This staff, and particularly Hart, who most of the boys adore, have a chance to tell the boys what life will be
like in the institution, to make the rules clear, to answer questions and squash rumor.
They also have time to talk with and observer boys and to try to fit his cottage, school and work
assignments to his individual the needs.
Formerly, a boy arrived at Marianna and immediately was assigned by a secretary to a cottage, junior or
senior school, and a work crew on the simple basis of his age and size.
Hart, Williams and Grenier see O&R as a giant step towards a new look in training schools. But a giant
step taken after decades of standing still is barely a beginning, and all three admit they have a long way to
One of the biggest hindrances to change at the training school is internal, it comes from a staff culled
mostly from the rural communities surrounding the school, nonprofessionals who see no reason to "coddle
People act according to the way they perceive their environment, Grenier observed. Many of the staff
members at Marianna had grown up with a punitive attitude towards children and see no reason to change.
The elimination of practices such as Corporal punishment can pose a real threat to such people, since the
idea of controlling children by developing a relationship of trust and respect to them is foreign, the director
However this staff has been seeded with a number of dedicated young professionals who are committed to
the theory that institutions don't change people, people change people, and Grenier believes that they
eventually will have an effect on even the most traditional of Marianna staff member.