The institution for the reclamation of juvenile criminals and offenders was founded in 1902 at Borstal, near Rochester, as an improved penal reformatory for those between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. This improvement in the code of juvenile offenders was regarded as necessary in view of the fact that a youngster of sixteen years and over was regarded as too old for admission to a reformatory, and was, therefore, classed with ordinary criminals just at the most impressionable period of his life. The Act gives power to the magistrates to sentence to detention in a Borstal Institution, for a term of not less than one year, or more than three, juveniles within the prescribed ages who appear likely to develop into habitual criminals. A system of Release on Licence obtains, whereby those who show signs of reclamation and of developing into useful members of society are discharged under the supervision of the person considered by the Borstal Association to be capable of taking charge of them. On the other hand, those who exercise a degrading influence on the other inmates of the Institution, or of whom there appears to be no hope of reclamation, are committed to prison.
Both manual and educational instruction are included in the curriculum — market gardening, farming, fieldwork, and useful trades and handicrafts are taught by fully qualified instructors. Extensive libraries of a comprehensive nature and various athletic sports are provided, while gymnastics and physical culture assist in the task of moral reclamation.
The results have more than warranted the experiment, and hosts of boys and girls (who in many cases, through no fault of their own have become associated with crime) have been given a fresh start, and have never looked back. It is said that the percentage of failures under the Borstal System is remarkably small.