At any given time between 1926 and 1951, there were about 31,000 people in these institutions – only a small fraction of whom had committed any crime. The 1 per cent figure also applied to children – one child in every hundred was enslaved in an industrial school.
This was our Great Purge, our way of establishing religious, social and moral “purity” by locking up and “correcting” potential deviants. This level of “coercive confinement” is extreme for any democratic society. In 1931, the Soviet gulag held about 200,000 prisoners – from a population of 165 million.
The Irish system held 31,000 people – from a population of three million.
Repression shaped our passive society - Irish Times