Seymour Stephenson-Dall, 73, was sentenced to two years, eight months after admitting to indecently assaulting two boys when he was a housemaster at Eastmoor Approved School in the early 1970s.
Leeds Crown Court heard Stephenson-Dall was aged in his early thirties at the time he abused the boys who were aged between 15 and 17 at the time.
Richard Wright, QC, prosecuting, told the court Stephenson-Dall abused the trust that had been placed in him to care for the youngsters.
Many of the boys were sent to live at the school, which was based in Adel, Leeds, under court orders and he had a level of responsibility similar to being a parent.
The court heard Stephenson-Dall invited one of the victims to his private living quarters and got him drunk on whisky before subjecting him to sexual abuse.
Mr Wright said: “He was scared of the defendant and did what he was told.”
After his arrest Stephenson-Dall admitted inviting the boys to his flat on several occasions before sexually abusing them.
He also confessed to sexually abusing a number of other victims but they did not make complaints against him.
Stephenson-Dall, of Ash Terrace, Bingley, pleaded guilty to four offences of indecent assault against two boys. One of the victims is now dead.
The court heard the charges only represented a sample of his offending and he had abused boys on a wider scale.
Tim Capstick, mitigating, said his client had accepted his guilt soon after being arrested.
He said: “While these are serious offences, he has done what he can to acknowledge his wrong doing.”
Mr Capstick added: “He is a very different man, I submit, to the person who committed these offences.”
Jailing Stephenson-Dall, Judge Neil Clark said: “All children are vulnerable, but by the very nature of this school it is clear that the children there had problems and were particularly vulnerable.
“It also follows that because they were residents at that school, you had a degree of power or control over them that exceeded that of a teacher at a normal school.
“You were almost like a parent.”
After the case, Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent Jon Morgan said: “Stephenson-Dall abused his position of trust to exploit vulnerable children for his own sexual gratification.
“We hope the fact he has now had to answer for his crimes will go some way towards helping the victims to deal with the trauma he has caused them.
“This case again highlights that the passage of time is no barrier to justice and it should not deter victims from coming forward and reporting offences.
“We treat any reports of offences of this nature very seriously and will support victims and do all we can to see the offenders brought to justice.”