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ALVIN YOUNT



Dear Mr. Caldwell:

The "bed" has a long history in Florida Juvenile corporal punishment. I too remember lowering my jeans, getting on the bed, and grabbing onto the front rail and squeezing with all of my might. At age 15, I figured it was God punishing me for something else that I may have done. Surely, just "talking about escape" from the Florida School For Boys at Okeechobee (FSB) wasn't sufficient to warrant this severe of a beating. But perhaps I was wrong; maybe I deserved the beating anyway. You see, not only was I convicted of running away from an abusive home, and persistent truancy from school, but also, I forged a man's name on a five-dollar check to purchase food (felony).

I was told that I must lower my pants, because fabric threads driven into the broken flesh might cause severe infection. The tool used was a 4" wide 3/8" thick length of solid leather, and a rubber mat ran from the middle and perpendicular to the bed so that the person administering the beating could take a baseball pitcher type of approach as he applied the leather to the buttocks. The rubber mat prevented the person wielding the leather from slipping or falling and injuring himself.

Severe pain from sitting or laying down subsided in about three days. My buttocks healed completely in about two weeks. However, I must admit that I was able to stand and walk reasonably well within minutes of the beating. Nevertheless, all boys who had been on the "bed" were not allowed visitors for three weeks because of surface skin damage.

Not until recently did I connect the beating at (FSB) to my chronic lower-back pain. This pain first developed at about age 23, back when I was a two-way radio technician. My lumbar back has remained chronic since then with pain worsening from year to year. More recently, the level of pain has left me totally incompacited, unable to sit upright or stand for more than 15 seconds; this level of severity generally lasts for up to 48 hours. Localized pain will last from four weeks to four months.

What were these Neanderthals thinking? The mass of leather used for the beating weighed a few pounds, and folks, energy equals mass times velocity squared (E=MC2). Moreover, leverage from the curvature of the lower spine, will further amply the force toward the vertebras and discs in the lumbar region. Today, my MRI indicates that I have degenerative disc disease with disc protrusions impinging on nerve roots at both L3-4 and L4-5 sections of my lumbar spine. This is incurable, and while I manage it the best I can, chronic pain will remain a part of my life forever.

Well, I said the "bed" had a long history. My beating was in 1961, and I was told it had been a tradition from much earlier than that in both Okeechobee and Marinna. Today, I teach, Humanities courses, part-time at a local university. My research areas are in business, and the social sciences, specifically child abuse issues. The last paper that I presented was on TV violence and its effect on the child's ability to love his or her fellow man.

Mr. Caldwell, I cannot believe that this type of corporal punishment is still in use today. I doubt that there is much I can do, but if you think an old professor could help, send me an email.

Sincerely,

Alvin Ray Yount, M.A.

Professor of Communication Studies