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The Forum > Article Comments > Getting screwed at the school for crime > Comments

Getting screwed at the school for crime : Comments

By Bernie Matthews, published 3/4/2007

The terrible legacy and the end-products of the Tamworth Institution for Boys continue to occupy Australian prison cells and mental institutions today.

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JohnW “Now at the age of 43 I trust no one, Am a recovering alcho, and drug addict.I cant hold a job down for more than 6 weeks at a time and have been through countless relationships.Am I to blame for the way I am?”

I chose 15 years ago never to get drunk again, after spending 3 days feeling awful after a particularly rare and heavy session.
I tried dope and gave that away about 35 years ago and pleased with that decision.
I have not held down a regular job in the past 20 years. 18 months has been the extreme limit more often 6 months but I do it by choice and structurally to make it work for me.

2 marriages and several significant relationships along the way I am in my 50's and at last happy with the lady I am with and she with me.

As for trust – I do trust but I should trust less and that is a price I pay repeatedly. You might be right in not trusting.

You made the choices in your life. Incarceration was intended to help you, maybe you fought the process as you did your schooling (truancy).

I fought the process from within and spent some time studying how to make it work for me rather than just kicking out at it.

So why are you are suggesting someone else is to “blame” for the way you are?

I alone am to “blame” for the way I am and there is not much difference between us, except how we deal with adversity and our expectations of pity / excuses versus taking it on the chin, getting up after and getting on with the rest of our life.
Posted by Col Rouge, Sunday, 29 April 2007 12:02:08 PM
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JohnW, Life in institutions is the reason you have found it hard to succeed in life ,especially time in Tamworth with the harsh beatings ,inhumane acts,that was forced against you from a cruel sadistic inhumane Child Welfare system.

I was in Hay Girls institution 1962-65,same officers as Tamworth,same rules,they were aloud to do what they wanted to and got away with it.

I ran away from a violent home life, got sent to Parramatta Girls institution and stood up against the rapes, floggings and psychological abuse, I and others were receiving by our so called "carers", committed for being Exposed to Moral Danger and Uncontrollable.Thats why I was sent to Hay.
To take the heat off the Welfare to put it to us girls as the most incorrible girls in the state.

I do not like drugs, violence, rape or any one victimized but you have to wonder what and where they are coming from also wonder if they were children that were supposed to be "cared" for and ended up in the clutches of a system like we were.

Col Incarceration did not protect us,it took every thing from us,trust ,selfworth,dignety,school learning,our child hood and alot they took there own lives and hurt others in doing so.
In the nine months I did at Hay,five girls that I was there with suicided at a early age.
Why? some people have more resilience than others.

I have struggled all my life to stay away from depression,relationships,drugs booze any thing that could do more dammage than what was already done, and take me away from my children they are my survival.
Reminders everyday news,violence,child Abuse,Pediphiles, Rapes,it keeps our memory banks open to the injustice that happened to us, understanding why some people can not forget and get on with every day living,even after 45 years.

Makes me wonder Col where you came from? From the inside or out side with a key?

It taught hate ,rebellouse,lack of trust,dissacocation to survive, was not intended to help or protect any child.
Posted by Rattles, Saturday, 5 May 2007 12:09:21 PM
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Bernie,
My stay at Tamworth Prison was in 1961.I was nick-named "Tom Thumb",and I was 14 yrs of age.It's hard to re-visit those days..but I'd like to tell you what I remember.On arrival the warden told me to drop my pants and bend over.He inserted two fingers to make sure I wasn't bringing in contraband.Then the rules were set out."No talking was allowed..if spoken to by a warder you were to answer "Report to you, sir","report back to you, sir",and if you needed to go to the toilet at the two or three times set out for each day,you were to say, when asked only,"three sheets,sir"[which meant you wanted to sit down]."You must not touch,talk or look at another prisoner,or warder.Your eyes must be always to the ground.You will march at all times,and if called,will run and stand to attention.If you behave you will recieve a half-of-a-pound of food per day,and you have to finish eating at the warder's command",[this was usually one,or two minutes].My mouth was full of large blisters from trying to eat the hot porridge in time.But after a week or so my mouth got used to the heat.In the mornings you have to move quickly to parade in the cell corridor.You have thirty-seconds to fold your night clothes neatly,and dress.Exercize was based on special forces training.Single and double rebounds,press-ups [with hands together],etc.Punishment was the black-peter and you have to rub a steel-bar over a grooved cell-bar continually,day and night to let the warders know you aren't sleeping.Food was cut to one slice of bread and a cup of milk a day.If you couldn't,or wouldn't do this then black-bertha [a razor-strap]was the result.Daily activities invovled moving large sand-stones by hand,from side-to-side over wooden or concrete floors,making straw-brooms and pulling a large steamroller wheel with spikes in it, back and forth over a grassed area.
I shifted to WA in 1970,where I became an entertainer...singer,songwriter,producer.But the memories of the time I spent in Tamworth,still remain.I regret my youth, and the bad things I did in my past.I'm still getting councelling...but...I'm fine.God Bless
Posted by Tom Thumb, Monday, 13 August 2007 3:06:00 PM
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I was an inmate of Hay girls home 40 years ago and i still have nightmares about that hell hole.Scrubbing the mortar off bricks with my bare hands until they bled and nothing done to help me.Digging vege gardens in 40 plus heat and not allowed to take a break.An exercise regime that would have floored Rocky.My crime was tattooing my self at Parramatta GTS.Big deal!.I never harmed other people or was a criminal, i just ran away from an abusive adopted father.How can ataying 6' away from everyone,eyes always to the ground,locked in a cell 14 hours a day or isolated with only bread and milk,make any child into a worthwhile adult.I have been fortunate that i have never been in trouble as an adult but that has not been because of any lessons i learnt as a juvenile,more a matter of luck.Most of my friends from back then are dead now,quite a few from suicide.Keep up the good work Bernie.
Posted by haygirl, Tuesday, 21 August 2007 6:52:03 AM
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Hi, Haygirl.

I feel compelled to say how terrible I feel that you went through what you have,even though you haven't mentioned to much of what happened to you. We used to hear the stories that came out of "Hay Prison" after I left Tamworth Prison..so I know a bit.I know you experienced much the same as we did....except,we couldn't [back then] get it through our heads, that girls could be treated so inhumanly. I still can't understand it all.I've seen comments like..."the authories must be told about whats happening / happened in these places..." [Just an example,not a reflection on any one comment].
After much pressure my Uncle was allowed to visit me in Tamworth in 1961,just before he passed away . I weighed under four-stones and my eyes where so sunken that it reminded him of prisoners in concentration camps of war. Complaints were made..and promises that this would stop...bla..bla.
My deep concern..and 'question' is. ARE THESE TREATMENTS STILL HAPPENING? Have they got no fear of God at all? I WILL NOT believe that the people who do these things get away with it...and I find it hard to believe that those in Authority know nothing...and are not doing something to chance a cruel system.
Haygirl...and anyone who has had a hard time of it,for that matter.I only hope life has dealt you a kinder hand since those days.
Tom Thumb
Posted by Tom Thumb, Tuesday, 21 August 2007 2:00:51 PM
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Hi Tom Thumb,We had no black bertha,just fists and no steam roller,just push mowers.We had to break concrete paths and relay them and sleep facing the door.If we rolled over in our sleep we had to stand next to the bed at attention until the kind hearted screw thought we had learned our lesson.We also had our meals lessened if we did wrong.Go to isolation like i did and no bed just a board and one blanket, if you were lucky.The biggest humiliation was when it was our time of the month and we had to show our sanitary wear before we were given replacements.Even if it was a male officer on toilet parade.We also lost a lot of weight and had our hair hacked off.Not pleasant memories but i'm doing ok.Happily married and a granny now.Took 3 marriages to get it right though.
Posted by haygirl, Tuesday, 21 August 2007 2:27:38 PM
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