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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

How will it Affect us?

page 24

How will it Affect us?

Early in last year the Report of the Royal Commission on Reform stories and Industrial Schools was made public, considerable discussion upon its contents has followed, and the day is probably now not far distant when some attempt at legislation will be made. It would not be surprising if a Bill, founded upon the Report, were introduced during the present Session; indeed it would hardly be respectful to the members of the Commission if the matter were further delayed. But what will bo the nature of the Bill? and how will it affect the managers of these Institutions? Assuming, as seems reasonable, that the Bill will be framed upon the lines of the Report, we may, in a preliminary manner, deal with the question at the head of this paper—it can only be considered in detail when the actual Bill is before us. In the meanwhile some ground may be cleared.

1.The Managers of Reformatories and Industrial Schools are happily a large body, and capable, if united, of exerting a strong influence in Parliament. This power should be husbanded, and put forth only in connection with those vital questions upon which the opinions of managers are generally agreed.
2.It is likely to be as necessary to unite in support of some of the recommendations of the Commission, as in opposing others. This seems to have been lost sight of in one of the Conferences held last year, at which nearly all the resolutions proposed were of a negative character, and were carried with remarkable unanimity. The issue of the recent circular of the Home Secretary (see page 2) should be a warning to managers of the necessity that may arise of supporting the Recommendations rather than of opposing them.
3.In view of the fact that there is a great difference of opinion amongst managers upon many of the questions dealt with in the Report, it behaves them to select, as soon as possible, a few, and those the most important, and to strive to arrive at something like an agreement as to the best practical settlement of them. In other words, they should concentrate their forces without delay.

In selecting the subjects to be deemed urgent, due regard should be had to the chief aims of the Institutions and the means of maintaining them, and pre-eminence should be given to any proposals immediately affecting the reclamation of the children from their previous evil surroundings, and the education of "them in the fear of God and in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures."

We think also that the voluntary character of the Institutions should be carefully preserved, and any attempt to interfere with it by the imposition of Government regulations affecting such minute details of internal management as would intrude upon the domestic happiness of the Homes should be jealously guarded against.

It was in this sense that the order for the placarding of punishments appeared to us abhorrent. The principle that a complete record of punishments should be systematically and intelligibly kept for reference is not one likely to be disputed; but the attempt to enforce the perpetual page 25 exhibition to the inmates of a list whether of rewards or punishments is an interference with the rights of voluntary management which should be unitedly resisted to the utmost. Many would prefer to resign their certificate rather than submit to such a regulation.

The points upon which, in accordance with the above remarks, united effort and influence seem most desirable and practical are:—
1.Parental control.
2.Ages on admission.
3.Capitation grants.
4.Uniformity in terms of detention.
5.Powers of Licensing.

There may be some other points upon which unanimity could be arrived at.

Amongst the more important subjects upon which such strong and opposite views are held that it seems impracticable to obtain a united opinion are:—
1.Punishment anterior to a committal to a Reformatory.
2.The Schoolmaster difficulty.