Last July, William Ayres testified in the criminal trial that when he was in Boston from 1959-1963,in addition to working all week with boys at Judge Baker Guidance Center and Children's Hospital - he then went and volunteered to take on another job working on the weekends with boys at the Roslindale Reception-Detention Center For Boys.
This week, some posters over on the Ayres thread at www.websleuths.com decided to try to find out more about this Reception-Detention Center. They discovered that two boys who passed through the Center had written memoirs about their harrowing and disturbing experiences there . Mark Devlin wrote "Stubborn Child" - which documents the beatings, punchings and sexual abuse he received at the Center and at subsequent reform schools. Devlin died in 2005, but Richard Johnson, another graduate of the Reception-Detention Center is still alive and the author of "Abominable Firebug."
We wrote to him recently to ask about what he experienced at the Center. Here is his email to us, which we are reprinting with his permission:
I was fifteen years of age when I encountered the Youth Service Board Reception Detention Center at 450 Canterbury Street in Roslindale, Massachusetts. That is the date in the winter of 1958 I shall always remember.
At the time, the Youth Service Board Act of 1948 was not fully implemented. Judges were not allowed to try youths and youths were not provided so-called Constitutional rights. Instead, the judge of a juvenile court would hear a complaint and, upon a finding of probable cause, would “remand” the youth to the custody of the Youth Service Board.
The Youth Service Board was supposed to find out if an offense was actually committed and if so, provide appropriate “remedial action,” which might involve sending the perpetrators to one of the various “reform” or “training” schools. In principle, a youth could also be sent home if it was found that no offense had occurred.
This did not happen. Instead, youth were warehoused at the Roslindale detention center until there was a bed available at one of the reform schools. The reform school used was based entirely upon age. Children of a younger age than 13 were sent to the Institute of Juvenile Guidance (IJG) in Bridgewater. Children from age 13 to age 16 were sent to the Lyman School for Boys (LSB) in Westborough. Finally, children with an age over 16 were sent to the Industrial School for Boys (ISB) in Shirley, Massachusetts.
At the time I was at the Roslindale Detention Center, there were no tests, no interviews, and no discussion with anyone of authority except the “Masters.” My sole encounter with an YSB board member was when Mr. Turley informed me that I was being sent “…To the Lyman School For Boys, until such time as you have earned 700 credits.”
Seven hundred credits (about seven months) was a typical sentence and functioned as a throttle to keep the institutions full, but not overcrowded. It was simply assumed that every child was a criminal offender as no interviews were conducted nor any evidence reviewed or even collected.
Note that in that period it was commonplace for the police to round up all the neighborhood boys as soon as any crime occurred in the area. They would all go to reform school.
My book tells that Lyman School was actually a very good place. Superintendent Borys and his assistant, Mr. Kenny, were reformers who prevented any abuse and started some new programs, which worked exceptionally well.
The Youth Service Board was, however, Hell on earth. The guards were called “Masters” and seemed to have been selected from the most cruel and subhuman stock available. Children were routinely beaten to the extent that they had facial features destroyed –broken noses, broken teeth, displaced jaws, etc. They were often thrown to the floor, smashed against walls, kicked in the stomach and subjected to other brutal treatment including kicking and punching in the testicles. That was the “day shift.”
In the nighttime, children were selected by the nighttime masters for rape. My book details my rape. These rapes occurred right out in the open on the floor of the “day room” which was now empty. Since there were two masters on duty in the nighttime, the rapes occurred in pairs, two masters, and two boys.
These rapes and abuses were well known at the time. They were impossible to cover up. The Reverend F. Robert Brown, who was a Lyman School chaplain and writes the Afterword of my book, was instrumental in helping to curb the abuses that were so extreme that the YSB was completely reestablished and emerged as the DYS (Division of Youth Services). It was at that time that the reception-detention center was renamed to the Judge Connelly Center. Perhaps changing the name would erase the history.
Richard B. Johnson
Today we spoke with Johnson's protector, the Reverend F. Robert Brown. Brown was the chaplain at the Lyman School from 1959-1974. He recalls that at least 90 % of the boys at Lyman came from the Reception-Detention Center.
Brown recalled that there had been stories circulating about the abuse at the Center for years but "there was a great reluctance by anybody to blow the whistle. People were closemouthed about what was going on."
He said that he saw boys he strongly suspected had been sexually abused when they arrived at the Lyman from the Reception-Detention Center. "But they were reluctant to talk about it. They feared retribution, and they had shame."
Shockingly, even at the Lyman School, considered by Johnson and other boys to be a vast improvement over the Reception-Detention Center, Brown said "I heard rumors about several psychiatrists who were molesting kids."
When the Lyman School closed in 1974, Brown went to work as a director for the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, where he worked to improve the treatment of juveniles by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Update: Richard Johnson has just alerted us to the fact that the Massachusett's Department of Health and Human Services admits on its official web page that there was child abuse going on at the detention centers and reform schools in 1960 (at a time when Ayres was employed there)
Excerpt from their web page: http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=eohhs2terminal&L=5&L0=Home&L1=Government&L2=Departments+and+Divisions&L3=Department+of+Youth+Services&L4=History+of+Youth+Services&sid=Eeohhs2&b=terminalcontent&f=dys_g_dys_history_first&csid=Eeohhs2
First in the Nation
Massachusetts created the nation’s first juvenile correctional system in 1846 when it opened the Massachusetts State Reform School in Westborough for 400 boys. This was followed by the opening of the Lyman School for Boys in Westborough during the 1860’s. The philosophy behind these institutions was that juveniles were more likely to be rehabilitated than adults were and therefore, should not be treated within adult institutions.
The Lyman School was almost completely self-sufficient. Youth raised livestock, grew vegetables, sewed their own clothes and built many of the facilities located on the school grounds. One administrator called Lyman “in, but not of, the community.”
By 1908, five such juvenile institutions of various sizes existed; each administered by separate boards of trustees. In 1948, to solidify operations, the state elected a three-person panel Youth Service Board, which was succeeded by the Division of Youth Services, an independent unit within the Department of Education.
However, by 1960, problems of mismanagement, high recidivism rates and reports of child abuse within the training schools persisted, and the Division was the subject of severe public criticism. In 1969, the Division of Youth Services was abolished and the Department of Youth Services was established as a separate agency under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
This information is provided by the Department of Youth Services.