A borstal was a type of youth detention centre in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. In India, it is known as a borstal school.

Borstals were run by HM Prison Service and were intended to reform young people. The word is sometimes used loosely to apply to other kinds of youth institutions or reformatories,[1] such as approved schools and youth detention centres. The court sentence was officially called "borstal training". Borstals were originally for offenders under 21, but in the 1930s the maximum age was increased to 23. The Criminal Justice Act 1982 abolished the borstal system in the UK, introducing youth custody centres instead.

In India, borstal schools are used for the imprisonment of minors. As of 31 December 2014, there were 20 functioning borstal schools in India, with a combined total capacity of 2,108 inmates.[2]


United Kingdom

HM Prison Rochester, former Borstal Prison

The Gladstone Committee (1895) first proposed the concept of the borstal, wishing to separate youths from older convicts in adult prisons. It was the task of Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise (1857–1935), a prison commissioner, to introduce the system, and the first such institution was established at Borstal Prison in a village called Borstal, near Rochester, Kent, England in 1902. The system was developed on a national basis and formalised in the Prevention of Crime Act 1908.

The regimen in these institutions was designed to be "educational rather than punitive", but it was highly regulated, with a focus on routine, discipline and authority during the early years. Borstal institutions were originally designed to offer education, regular work and discipline, though one commentator has claimed that "more often than not they were breeding grounds for bullies and psychopaths."[3]

The Criminal Justice Act 1982 officially abolished the borstal system in the UK, introducing youth custody centres instead. As society had changed the system was then already outdated especially since the late 1960s and early 1970s, with many borstals being closed and replaced with institutions called Detention Centres and, from 1972, also with Community Service Order sentences.[4]

Corporal punishment

Except in Northern Ireland, the only corporal punishment officially available in borstals was the birch for mutiny or assaulting an officer, and this could be imposed only by the visiting magistrates, subject in each case to the personal approval of the Home Secretary, just as in adult prisons.[5] Only male inmates over 18 might be so punished. This power was very rarely used – there were only seven birching cases in borstals in the 10 years to 1936.[6] This birching power was available only in England and Wales (not in Scottish borstals).[7] Caning as a more day-to-day punishment was used in the single borstal in Northern Ireland but was not authorised in England, Scotland or Wales.[8] Confusion on this matter arises perhaps because in approved schools, a quite different kind of youth institution based more on the open "boarding school" model, caning was a frequent official punishment for boys (maximum age 19).[9]


A similar system under the name "borstal" or "borstal school" has also been introduced in several other Commonwealth countries.


In India, nine states, namely Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, have borstal schools in their respective jurisdictions. Tamil Nadu had the highest capacity, at 678 inmates (as of 2014). Himachal Pradesh and Kerala are the only states that have the capacity to lodge female inmates in two of their borstal schools. There are no borstal schools in any of the union territories.[2]


In Ireland the Criminal Justice Act, 1960 (Section 12) removed the term "borstal" from official use.[10] This was part of a policy to broaden the system from reform and training institutions to a place of detention for youths between 17 and 21 for any sentence which carried a prison term. The only borstal in the state was based for most of its existence in Clonmel, in County Tipperary. Founded in 1906, it finally closed in 1956, when the remaining detainees were transferred to the newly established St. Patrick's Institution in Dublin.

In popular culture




See also


  1. ^ "Bradwall Reformatory School 1855 to 1920", a Local History Site. ([1])
  2. ^ a b "Prison Statistics India 2014" (PDF). National Crime Records Bureau. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  3. ^ Bernard O'Mahoney, The A–Z of Law and Disorder, July 2006.
  4. ^ Jenniffer Turner (2016). "The Brison Boundary". Palgrave Studies in Prison and Penology. p. 80. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  5. ^ Report of the Departmental Committee on Corporal Punishment (the "Cadogan Report"), Cmnd. 5684, Home Office, 1938, p. 123.
  6. ^ Cadogan, p. 122.
  7. ^ Cadogan, p. 123.
  8. ^ Nial Osborough, Borstal in Ireland: Custodial provision for the young adult offender 1906–1974, Institute of Public Administration, Dublin, 1975. ISBN 0-902173-66-9
  9. ^ Report of a Committee to Review Punishments in Prisons, Borstal Institutions, Approved Schools and Remand Homes (the "Franklin Report"), Cmnd. 8429, Home Office, 1951.
  10. ^ "CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT, 1960". Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 21 February 2013.

External links

30 Days in the Hole

"30 Days in the Hole" is the seventh single by English rock group Humble Pie, from the band's 1972 Smokin' album. The song received moderate radio airplay at the time but failed to chart. However it gained a following on album oriented rock and classic rock radio formats and consequently it remains one of Humble Pie's best known songs.

The B-side on its US release was "Sweet Peace and Time", while everywhere else the B-side featured "C'mon Everybody" and "Road Runner".

The song, a Steve Marriott composition, bemoans being arrested for possession of small quantities of illegal drugs, including cocaine; Durban poison, a potent strain of marijuana; and Red Lebanese and Black Nepalese, two types of hashish. "New Castle Brown" is often mistaken as a reference to Newcastle Brown Ale but actually refers to heroin also known as "Brown" or "Smack".

The song refers to Borstal - "some seeds and dust, and you got Borstal"- referring to Borstal Prison and its borstal ilk - any manner of a British juvenile gaol. (Most lyrics listings get this wrong, and say "buzzed on" or "bust on".)Pie guitarist Clem Clempson has said it is one of the tracks he would most like his career to be remembered by. But the predominant group personality shown through by the song is Marriott's; so much so that for example when years later Clempson was asked about efforts to reform the group without Marriott, he simply declaimed, "It's a waste of time."In the years since, "30 Days" has been recorded by several groups, most notably Gov't Mule, Mr. Big, and Kick Axe, and is a live staple of Canadian rock band The Trews.

The song was featured on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC versions of Grand Theft Auto V, on the in-game radio station Los Santos Rock Radio. It was also the intro music to the "Tin Can Rehab" edition of Doug Stanhope's podcast.

Black Mill, Whitstable

Black Mill, or Borstal Hill Mill is a smock mill in Whitstable, Kent, England that was built in 1815. It is now a part of a private residence at the end of Millers Court.

Borstal, Rochester

Borstal is a place in the unitary authority of Medway in South East England. Originally a village near Rochester, it has become absorbed by the expansion of Rochester.

The youth prison at Borstal gave its name to the Borstal reform school system.

Borstal Boy

Borstal Boy is a 1958 autobiographical book by Brendan Behan. The story depicts a young, fervently idealistic Behan, who loses his naïveté over the three years of his sentence to a juvenile borstal, softening his radical Irish republican stance and warming to his British fellow prisoners. From a technical standpoint, the novel is chiefly notable for the art with which it captures the lively dialogue of the Borstal inmates, with all the variety of the British Isles' many subtly distinctive accents intact on the page. Ultimately, Behan demonstrated by his skillful dialogue that working class Irish Catholics and English Protestants actually had more in common with one another through class than they had supposed, and that alleged barriers of religion and ethnicity were merely superficial and imposed by a fearful middle class.

The book was banned in Ireland for unspecified reasons in 1958; the ban expired in 1970.

Borstal Boy (film)

Borstal Boy is a 2000 romantic drama film directed by Peter Sheridan, based on the 1958 autobiographical novel of the same name by Brendan Behan.

Borstal Boy (play)

Borstal Boy is a play adapted by Frank McMahon from the 1958 autobiographical novel of Irish nationalist Brendan Behan of the same title. The play debuted in 1967 at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, with Frank Grimes as the young Behan. McMahon won a New York Drama Critics' Circle Award in 1970 and Tony Award in 1970 for his adaptation.

Borstal Institute for Juveniles

The Borstal Institute for juveniles now called The Senior Correctional Centre is a juvenile correction institute under the Ghana Prisons Service (GPS).

The centre is a correction centre for people who are under 18 years old and have been convicted of criminal or civil offenses. The period that a convict spends in the centre is aimed at reforming him or her so they can fit into society easily after their stay at the centre.

Boys in Brown

Boys in Brown is a 1949 British drama film directed by Montgomery Tully. Based on a play by Reginald Beckwith, it depicts life in a borstal for young offenders. It stars Jack Warner, Richard Attenborough, Dirk Bogarde and Jimmy Hanley.

Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly is an Irish-American seven-piece Celtic punk band led by Irish vocalist Dave King, formerly of the hard rock band Fastway. They are signed to their own record label, Borstal Beat Records.

Fort Borstal

Fort Borstal was built as an afterthought from the 1859 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom, by convict labour between 1875 and 1885, to hold the high ground southwest of Rochester, South East England. It is of polygonal design and was never originally armed. An anti-aircraft battery was based there in the Second World War.

After many years' use as a pig farm and store for the nearby Young Offenders Institution it was sold in 1991 to a company hoping to make it a museum, but that proved unsuccessful and the fort has been converted into living accommodation. There is no public access to the site.

HM Prison Feltham

HM Prison Feltham (more commonly known as Feltham Young Offenders Institution) is a prison for male juveniles and Young Offenders Institution, located near the town of Feltham within the London Borough of Hounslow, in west London, England. Feltham Prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.

HM Prison Rochester

HM Prison Rochester (formerly known as Borstal Prison) is a male Young Offenders Institution, founded in 1870, and located in the Borstal area of Rochester in Kent, England. The prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service, and is located next to HMP Cookham Wood.

HM Prison Wetherby

HMP/YOI Wetherby is a male juveniles prison, located in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, England. The prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.


A hobcart was a type of mobility device designed in the late 1960s by Dr. Steven Perry of Albrighton, Shropshire, UK. In his practice he had two young children, both of whom had spina bifida. He considered that the wheelchairs the children were provided with were liable to set them apart from other children of their age, so set about designing a mobility device, that would look like a go-kart. The end result was the hobcart, which when it was first made, was produced at a local borstal. The idea behind this was to try to provide the inmates of the borstal the opportunity to be involved in a project which they could see was doing some good. Hobcarts were still being made into the 1980s.


Hollesley is a village and civil parish in the Suffolk Coastal district of Suffolk in eastern England. Located on the Bawdsey peninsula five miles south-east of Woodbridge, in 2005 it had a population of 1,400 increasing to 1,581 at the 2011 Census.

Hollesley Bay Prison is located nearby. The Irish writer Brendan Behan, arrested for I.R.A. activities in 1939, was sent there, subsequently describing his experiences in Borstal Boy. Since 2002 the prison has been repeatedly criticised for the apparently large number of escapes, which has led to the nickname "Holiday Bay".

Prisons in India

Prisons, and their administration, is a state subject covered by item 4 under the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. The management and administration of prisons falls exclusively in the domain of the State governments, and is governed by the Prisons Act, 1894 and the Prison manuals of the respective state governments. Thus, the states have the primary role, responsibility and authority to change the current prison laws, rules and regulations. The Central Government provides assistance to the states to improve security in prisons, for the repair and renovation of old prisons, medical facilities, development of borstal schools, facilities to women offenders, vocational training, modernization of prison industries, training to prison personnel, and for the creation of high security enclosures.

The Supreme Court of India, in its judgements on various aspects of prison administration, has laid down 3 broad principles regarding imprisonment and custody. First, a person in prison does not become a non-person. Second, a person in prison is entitled to all human rights within the limitations of imprisonment. Third, there is no justification for aggravating the suffering already inherent in the process of incarceration.

Scum (film)

Scum is a 1979 British crime drama film directed by Alan Clarke and starring Ray Winstone, Mick Ford, Julian Firth and John Blundell. The film portrays the brutality of life inside a British borstal. The script was originally filmed as a television play for the BBC's Play for Today series in 1977, however due to the violence depicted, it was withdrawn from broadcast. Two years later, director Alan Clarke and scriptwriter Roy Minton remade it as a film, first shown on Channel 4 in 1983. By this time the borstal system had been reformed and the original TV version was eventually allowed to be aired.

The film tells the story of a young offender named Carlin as he arrives at the institution and his rise through violence and self-protection to the top of the inmates' pecking order, purely as a tool to survive. Beyond Carlin's individual storyline, it is also cast as an indictment of the borstal system's flaws with no attempt at rehabilitation. The warders and convicts alike are brutalised by the system. The film's controversy was derived from its graphic depiction of racism, extreme violence, rape, suicide, many fights and very strong language.

Scum (television play)

Scum is a 1977 British television play written by Roy Minton and directed by Alan Clarke. It was intended to be screened as part of the Play for Today series. Instead the production was banned by the BBC after it was completed in 1977, and not aired until 27 July 1991. In the interim, a theatrical film version was released in 1979. The original version features Ray Winstone (in one of his earliest roles), John Blundell, David Threlfall, Martin Phillips, Phil Daniels and Davidson Knight.

Tell Us the Truth

Tell Us the Truth is an album released in 1978 by punk band Sham 69. The first side of the album was recorded live in concert while the other was recorded in the studio. Tell Us the Truth includes one of Sham 69's biggest hits, "Borstal Breakout" on the live side of the album. The album charted at #25 in UK. The album was re-released in 1989 as a double-LP also including their album That's Life.


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