The physically and mentally. In the book

The United States of America has been struggling with child neglect and abuse for the last few centuries. It not only happens at home with the parents, it is also happening within the legal system. The justice system of the United States has become a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to children. Incarcerated children within the country have been put through so much torture and abuse both physically and mentally. In the book Weeping in the Playtime of Others by Kenneth Wooden, both written and published in 1976, shows the extent to which incarcerated children were treated.
In the early 1970s, Wooden traveled across the United States in search of research on juvenile correctional facilities. During his research, he discovered that juvenile correctional facilities were not all that they claimed to be. He uncovered the brutal treatment that the juveniles were enduring. There was a lot of physical as well as mental abuse, and torture going on. He realized that not all the children were criminals, but some were mentally disabled or even runaways. Wooden described and documented the conditions that juveniles have lived in.
Weeping in the Playtime of Others starts out in the summer of 1973. Steve Bercu was an attorney that battled the state and federal courts to release more than 800 incarcerated juveniles. “Bercu’s federal court case Morales v. Turman was a major test to see if children have a constitutional right to treatment” (p. 4).
In 1970, Bercu labored to release El Paso children with the help of habeas corpus. His work finally paid off in January of 1971. He won a discovery order that helped him examine the resident records at Gainesville and Gatesville. His persistence helped children come forward attesting to the cruel and unusual punishment at Gainesville and Gatesville that prompted Judge Justice to have every child within all Texas Youth Council facilities interviewed. The result was the participant Observation Team of psychiatrists to help study Gatesville and Gainesville. The observation helped the FBI “to examine the increasingly mushrooming complaints of brutal and sadistic treatment in the state’s juvenile centers.” (p. 5).
Bercu scored again in December of 1972. The court of appeals criticized and reversed Judge Matthew’s decision of denying the writ of habeas corpus. The result of the court of appeals reversal released 500 children.
While Wooden was attending a trial in 1973, Bercu’s opening statement to the court “The Texas Youth Council is a poorly directed operation that is vile, that is brutal, that is oppressive and that destroys any vestiges of individuality” (p. 6) proved the horror and brutality that incarcerated children went through.
Wooden tells of his experience in Mountain View. Mountain View was used for the most hardcore delinquents. The primary goal of the staff at Mountain View was “to maintain secure custody-the rehabilitation is of secondary importance” (p. 11). Unfortunately, Wooden discovered that the juveniles were indiscriminately placed in solitary for many different reasons. One example was that male juveniles would be in solitary for 357 days for masturbating. The abuse that the juveniles received was concealed by the falsification of official records of the Texas Youth Council. After learning of some forms of abuse, such as beatings and other corporal punishment throughout the TYC, Judge Justice interim ruling stated that beatings and corporal punishment “violates the eighth amendment because it is inflicted in a wholly arbitrary fashion, is so severe as to degrade human dignity and is unacceptable to contemporary society” (p.17).
The United States follows English common law, including the doctrine of parens patriae. Parens patriae states that the “government held the power of guardianship over children who were abandoned or willfully neglected by their parents” (p. 23). Parens patriae was first introduced in 1636, when Benjamen Eaton was indentured by the state.
In 1727, the first institution for neglected or homeless children was built in New Orleans. Before this, those children were put into jails and prisons alongside adults. In 1825, New York City built the House of Refuge, the first institution that catered to aid juvenile offenders. Following New York City’s example other cities started to build institutions that would help juveniles and “for the first time, family-centered discipline was replaced by institutional discipline administrated by city, county or state governments” (p. 24).
In 1847, Massachusetts was the first to create a penal facility that served as a training school for children but ended up being shut down because of child brutality. By 1960 more than 200 training schools located on the outskirts of urban areas and large rural areas that was later known as the colony system.
Wooden found that there were two types of training schools. The first type was the miniature penitentiary that was a type of “prison” and the second type was the cottage system. It was the more common and it gave the children a sense of home or a normal life.