‘The Most Dangerous, Reckless, Passionate … Period of Their Lives’: The Irish Borstal Offender, 1906–1921

  • Conor Reidy
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series


When Clonmel borstal opened as a small penal experiment in 1906, its purpose was very clear. The system operating in the institution was established to both punish and reform habitual juvenile male offenders with the aim of cutting short what was perceived to be their potential lifetime career in criminality. This was to be achieved by subjecting these sixteen- to twenty-one-year-old offenders to an institutional regime of hard work, education and intensive physical training. Corporal punishment was forbidden under the rules of borstal treatment. A particular emphasis was placed on providing borstal inmates with a good nutritional diet, as research from Britain had shown that this class of offender was typically smaller and more under-nourished than boys of their age outside the criminal justice system.1


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  1. The title of this chapter is taken from the founder of the borstal system, Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, speaking at the International Penitentiary Congress in Washington D.C. in 1910. Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, Report to the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the proceedings of the eighth international penitentiary congress, held at Washington, October, 1910 [Cd. 5593], H.C. 1911, 36.Google Scholar
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© Conor Reidy 2015

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  • Conor Reidy

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