Dress Parade.

Therapeutic Programs in Early Years

Aside from labor, the IDD program was at first disappointing. The reformatory military program was reintroduced in 1926. It was said to teach "instant obedience and self-control," improve physical conditioning, and to bring self-esteem to defectives by enabling them to "manifest a soldierly bearing."

Inmates were organized into squads and drilled several hours a day with wooden dummy rifles, presenting dress parades twice a week to the accompaniment of the institution band. Construction of an armory/gymnasium building in 1936 allowed for drill in winter and wet weather.

The recreational activity initiated by Superintendent Deyo stayed -- now justified for its "excellent therapeutic value." Moving pictures were shown on Saturdays and on holidays in the chapel on the top floor of the main building. A guard was assigned as athletic director, and prisoners boxed and tumbled and played baseball, handball, volleyball, and "an Italian game called 'Bocci.'" Until 1931, bats, balls, musical instruments, and movie projectors were purchased with funds donated by sightseers, but in that year the coinbox was removed from the entrance, as officials felt that it was inappropriate for the state to beg for necessary items. Entertainers from area hotels occasionally staged vaudeville shows for the inmates. The inmate band furnished music on special occasions. Inmates could receive visits from family once a month.

Education was not given priority at the new IDD. Almost immediately, the reformatory school area was converted into a dormitory. The library was seldom used, as most of the books acquired during the reformatory period were beyond the abilities of the largely illiterate and defective population in the 1920's. In 1923, a guard began a "school of letters" for 15 illiterate inmates. Five years later, a civilian teacher was hired, and given a corridor of the laundry building as a schoolroom. An assistant teacher was not hired until 1937. . . .

Real progress in providing education would not begin until the IDD returned to the corrections system. Effective Jan. 1, 1927, the State Departments Law was amended to provide for a new Department of Correction to merge the prisons and reformatories. It also created a new Department of Mental Hygiene that would absorb the State Hospital Commission and the State Commission for Mental Defectives, along with its institution at Napanoch. The new arrangement did not continue for long: just three months later, effective March 30, 1927, Napanoch was placed in the Department of Correction.

Dr. Thayer continued as IDD superintendent under the new corrections department until he took a leave of absence to serve as Maryland's prison commissioner in 1929. Dr. Percy B. Battey, Napanoch's psychiatrist, served as acting superintendent until 1932, when Captain John L. Hoffman returned to the IDD after a stint as warden of Auburn Prison. Hoffman had previously been assistant superintendent at Napanoch, and was accustomed to working hands-on with the inmates. It was he who had organized the military drill and the dress parades that were said to rival those of West Point. It is likely that Hoffman developed a higher opinion of the inmates' abilities than those held by his medical superiors.

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