In the United Kingdom, a borstal was a juvenile detention centre or reformatory, an institution of the criminal justice system, intended to reform delinquent male adolescents aged between about 16 and 21. The first borstal institution was established (1902) at Borstal Prison, Kent, England. The Criminal Justice Act 1982 abolished the borstal system, introducing youth custody centres instead.
The regime in these institutions was highly regulated, with a focus on education, routine, discipline and authority. Breaking the rules could result in physical punishment, including corporal punishment of three types (rather like the Royal Navy's treatment of boys): informal smacks on the spot for any misdemeanors, formal beating such as a caning imposed by (senior) staff for graver offences and, for the worst crimes such as severely abusing a staff member, the magistrate could impose the administration, by staff, of a birching (as in an adult prison, also on the bare buttocks), which because of its superior severity was frequently administered publicly, often in the gymnasium, strapped down naked over a vaulting horse (used as a birching horse), in front of the other boys to dissuade serious misbehaviour. However the precise frequency, nature and severity of punishments is a matter of dispute.
The same system had also been introduced in several other states of the British Empire and Commonwealth, including Ireland. Similar institutions (reformatories) existed elsewhere, including several states of the U.S., but under different names (e.g. "reform school", or simply "school for boys").
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