By the late 19th century most people
agreed that there should be a separate system of trial and
punishment for young people (see Gallery Punishment
1750-1900). The 20th century
saw this put into effect.
In 1902 the first Borstal was opened in Kent, soon followed
by others. Their purpose was clearly to try to reform the
individual by a mixture of training and care by a committed
staff. In many ways they were run like a boarding public school,
with house competitions and lots of sport the usual sentence
was "six months to two years" -that is, offenders
could be released after six months if the Borstal staff thought
they were ready. If they were not, the offender could be obliged
to stay for up to two years.
In 1908 totally separate Juvenile courts were established,
with different procedures and punishments. In 1932 approved
schools were started for offenders under 15.
In the last quarter of the 20th century the tide turned against
the Borstal approach. There was an increase in crime, particularly
youth crime, and public opinion was more interested in seeing
the offenders punished. The re-offending rate of those leaving
Borstal was fairly high, so their success was in doubt. Others
were critical of the "six months to two years" sentence
leaving too much power in the hands of Borstal staff. In 1982
they were closed down, replaced by Youth Detention Centres,
with fixed term sentences. These had a much tougher régime,
called a "short, sharp, shock". However, re-offending
rates from these places was just as high as from Borstals.