Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 16, 1972 · Page 68
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 68

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 16, 1972
Page 68
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A Sinner Returns By Bob Hayes Saints and Sinners When some fellow yields to temptation, and breaks a convention or law, We look for no good in his make-up; But, my, how we pick at the flaw! Nobody asks how he was tempted, nor allows for the battle he fought; His name becomes food for those jackals--the ones who have never been caught. "He has sinned," they proclaim from the housetops, they forget the good he has done; They tell how he lost his last battle, they forget the times that he won. "Come hither and gaze on the sinner; and by his example be taught that primrose paths lead to the devil, "Cry those who have never been caught. I'm asinner, 0, Lord and I know it! lam weak and I blunder and fail, Asl'm tossed here and there on life's ocean, like a ship that is caught in a gale. Andl'm willing to trust in Thy mercy, whose blood our forgiveness once bought, But deliver me, Lord, from the judgment, of those who have never been caught. In the merry month of May, nearly 25 years after I left the West Virginia Industrial school for boys, about five miles from Grafton and named Pruntytown after the small town in which it is located, I returned for a brief visit. The poem with this article has so much significance to the visit and the feelings as I drove out that I had to use it to lead into this article. West Virginians have long been known for their religious attitudes. Recently when capital punishment was abolished in the state, many various verses of scripture were among other reasons for consigning this archaic practice to its rightful place, among the archives of criminology and penology of which few if any can be proud. When you mention Taylor County and Grafton to most West Virginians, they immediately think of the beautiful Tygart River Valley and the dam, a spectacular tribute to man's constant struggle to control and properly utilize his environment. You might also think of Grafton as a one-time rail center, hauling in and out cargoes of coal, lumber, wood products and many petroleum by-products. It also ranks among the most abused counties Where strip mining is concerned. Its mountain tops have been decapitated, raped and scraped barren. Some reclamation has been done and that is to everyone's credit. The last thing people like to associate with Tyler County is Pruntytown. the "Reform" schooL It is an antique relic, condemned as a fire and safety hazard at least 25 years ago. The Administration building, which also houses the bulk of the boys, defies description in terms of deterioration and ruin. The old institution was formerly opened in July, 1891, and the purpose as stated on the landmarker, was for the training of boys committed by the Courts of West Virginia. Older West Virginians may remember the terrible atrocities that occurred there regularly in the late 30's and early 40's Boys were beaten, killed and often maimed for life under the disguise of training. When I was there in late 1947 and 1949, beatings of a severe nature with a large two-handed wooden paddle were still commonplace. In addition, it was customary practice for inmates, who were big enough and strong enough, to be made trusties for the expressed purpose of maintaining discipline-much like the old Arkansas "prisoner guard" system so vividly exposed a couple of years ago. Fortunately, there were no guns available to the boys, or I [eel certain, some of them would have D«en allowed to carry and use them. The Author Unknown "outlines" as they were called, helped chase boys who ran off, often administering their own perverted form of punishment when they apprehended an escapee. This usually entailed a severe beating and stomping. For the information of the people who pay both the costs of keeping the boys, the courts, and the many agencies that play with their lives, only two changes of any major nature have occurred at Pruntytown in the ensuing 25 years. The old chapel building has been closed in fear of its collapse; and in 1954, a gymnasium and swimming pool was built. This was accomplished by some benefactor at no real cost to the state. The boys, many of whom I talked with, are very much the same: orphans, truants, runaways--some there for their second or third trip. I was taken on tour along with my wife of the existing facilities. The old shop building (with the exception of the new cottages built in 1949), once the home of from 100 to 140 boys at any given time was no longer used to house them. Instead, they had been transferred back to the old Administration building, an edifice so hazardous the mortar is falling out of the bricks. It, along with the dining room, probably remain as the original institution buildings. One of the new cottages was being used for "troublemakers," "non conformists" and the new boys just committed by the courts. That makes for a good way to start off one's training career. "Meet the problems and learn to be one" might be an apt way to put it. The shops appeared in real desolation. The print shop that once turned out the main part of the state stationery and office forms at a very minimal cost has been turned into a sheet metal shop. I was so depressed at the total lack of progress in one of the most important levels of delinquency control, I failed to ask a lot of questions I should have. Farming as always seems to be the main function of the institution. The boys attend school one-half day and work one- half day. I've often wondered what the benefits really were in taking boys, who come from the cities and larger urban areas, and make fanners of them, releasing them then back to the city where they would never associate with the industry again. West Virginia is not noted u a highly productive agriculture state. CHARLESTON. W. VA. Sundey Gazette-Mail

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