The Review, Vol. 1, No. 2, February 1911
|VOLUME I, No. 2.||FEBRUARY, 1911|
|TEN CENTS A COPY.||SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS A YEAR|
These are the months that count. Thisissue of the Review brings notice ofmany bills introduced in various statesfor the betterment of prison conditionsand for the welfare of the prisoner. Letprisoners’ aid societies show duringthese next few months that they canwork for legislation as well as talk, co-operatewith other organizations as wellas criticize, get results as well as get outannual reports. Let us not be discouragedbecause it may often be said that“there is no hope of getting a bill likethat through this year.” Passing a billis only one of the steps in the process ofeducating public sentiment up to the acceptanceof a new idea. Education mustbegin somewhere and sometime. So letus be active in advocating and introducinggood legislation, even though we maynot get all we want in any one year.
We have one of the most importantmessages in the field of practical philanthropy.Americans, particularly in theeastern states, are loth to wear theirhearts upon their sleeves. So we hesitatesometimes perhaps, to emphasize themessage we have. Yet—life is short,and the field is wide. Prisons are stillfar from solving the problems of thedeprivation of liberty, punishment, theprotection of society, the rehabilitationof the criminal, and the reduction ofcrimes.
Therefore, let us not forget the missionarynature of the prisoners’ aid society.But, in spreading far and widethe facts regarding the prisoner and theduty of society in his behalf, let us notfall into the error of being fanatical becauseour field is one of magnitude. Acceptingthe proposition that the greatpublic wants definite and impressive information,not simply emotional enthusiasmor tirade, let us present honestlyand vigorously conditions as they are,and also make constructive suggestionsas to their possible betterment, never forgettingthe many difficulties that prisonadministrators are forced to meet whichare not of their own making.
This number of the Review begins toillustrate the purpose of the editors.This periodical should be a live newssheet of events and discussions in theprison and prisoners’ aid field. So wepublish this month a noteworthy articleby an Iowa warden with progressiveideas; we print also Mr. Whitin’s conclusionabout the use of prisoners in roadmaking and about the administrativeproblems raised by their use.
Several prisoners’ aid societies aredescribed by their own representatives.This journal’s first purpose is to be abond of union between these societies.Then follow a number of pages of noteson events in the prison field. We hopethe Review deserves the co-operation ofall engaged in the prison field. Paraphrasingthe Old Farmer’s Almanac:“Now is the time to subscribe!”
THE MAN GOING OUT.
By WARDEN J. C. SANDERS, Ft. Madison, Iowa.
1. Reprinted from “Man for Man,” annual report for1911 of Central Howard Association.
I do not feel enough can ever be saidto eternally damn, as they should be, thevicious, barbarous, degenerating method,which until within comparatively recentyears, robbed penology of the right tobe classed as a science and converted ourprisons and penitentiaries into forcingbeds for the germinating and spreadingof folly, vice and crime. Society, however,has paid the price for the mistakenviews it endorsed, and as the new era isfast sweeping away the old, I haveelected to deal with the man producedby it. And mark you, I say MAN, forin Iowa we are trying to make men inour prisons today, not ex-convicts. Iwant to feel, and I am going to feel,when the day of liberation comes, and aman stands in my office prepared to re-enterthe world, that society is about toreceive back in the economic value ofthe man returned, the principal and intereston all it has cost to produce him.But to come at once to my subject, the“MAN GOING OUT.”
If there is one thing a man needs mostat such a time it is self-confidence. Itsabsence marks the weakling and is almosta sure precursor of his certainreturn to old habits of thought with theiraccompanying results. Self-confidencerests upon a self-recognition of ability,and this in turn is the outgrowth ofexperience which has been productive ofpre-designed results. If in his prisonexperience he has been taught that results—allresults—come through intelligent,systematic application and haslearned to concentrate his efforts andapply himself and thus to realize them,he would be a strange anomaly if helacked confidence in himself. This iseducation expressed in its highest term,acquired under that master preceptor—experience.To the man imbued withthis spirit, society’s attitude toward himhe feels is immaterial, not that he vicariouslycourts its hostility, but he is possessedof the sublime assurance that hischaracter-force will carry him through.Accompanying this attitude and as vitalto it for him as the sunshine to the rose,is to make of the past a dead and, sofar as is possible, a forgotten existence.This I know is contrary to the theory ofthe value of its lessons, but the manwho, like Sinbad, burdens himself with“an old man of the sea,” and thus acceptsa self-imposed handicap, possessesbut little of the initiative in his character.
The new going out, whom I insistupon holding in view, ought to be a newspirit incarnate in a rebuilt body, bornover a second time into a new life, hasnothing in common with the deal selfburied in the past. If he is not such,he ought not to be released. Why thenembalm it in memory and forever travelin the company of a mummy! Thefuneral urn never pampered to anythingbut a sickly, morbid sentiment. A constantreviewing of failure is no inspirationto succeed. The most sanguine temperamentfalls a helpless victim beforeravishing regret, and the man or woman,ex-prisoner, allowed to re-enter societyunfortified by the philosophical truththat the past must have culminated inthe present to make possible a happier,better, greater future, has been badlyinstructed in the ways of Providence—evera witness to the wisdom and mercythat rejoiceth more over the lost sheepthat is found than over the “Ninety andNine.”
Next to self-confidence and a stoicalattitude toward the past, the importantthing to a man going out is “purpose.”I do not mean merely purpose to doright—that, of course, will be a concededessential. What I do mean is adefinite, well considered and reasonableaim—something higher and beyond. Godalone knows how many men inspiredwith the best of intentions have goneforth from our prisons and penitentiarieswithin the past year, who have failed,are failing, or will fail, simply becausethey have been led into attempting commercialimpossibilities! The responsibilityfor these failure will rest less onthe men themselves than upon us. Ifthere is one duty above all others weowe to society, to the men and to ourselves,it is to see that the man goingout has not lost his job—but goes outto go into one. In a large measure thismay be accomplished by reconciling theman to the necessity of filling any positionwhich will support him until he cancatch his balance and soar up to somethinghigher. Where he is employed theprejudice said to exist against ex-prisonersis very much a popular error. Ihave observed that most business men,for purely selfish reasons, if for nonehigher, recognize and are willing to payfor ability, nor are they given to lookingfor or picking flaws in a man’s pastrecord.
So far I have spoken only of the threecharacter-traits I regard as indispensableto the present and future of the mangoing out—self-confidence, emancipationfrom the past, and purpose. It is ourduty as missionaries in the field of prisonphilanthrophy to devote our uttermostefforts to secure them to him. But character-traitsgreat and invaluable as theyare and primarily of first importance inthe work we have assumed, should besupplemented in a material way. No ex-prisonershould be turned loose intosociety unprovided with sufficient fundsto maintain him suitably—not in luxury—ifyou please, but comfortably, for atleast thirty days. And to be explicitand not misunderstood as meaning toconvert penal institutions into finishingschools turning out embryonic millionairesat the expense of the tax-payers—Iwill say that no sum less than $50.00is sufficient for such a purpose. Andyou, dear reader, with your practical experience,will acknowledge that this sumis not an extravagant estimate. If thereis one thing the ex-prisoner should bespared during the period immediatelyfollowing release it is a financial stringency.I appreciate, as do we all, thenoble efforts being made by Mrs. Booth,the Central Howard Association, andkindred organizations, and I am fullyaware of the miraculous results beingachieved by them every day. And whileI am grateful to them, and those whoso liberally support and second them, Icannot help feeling chagrined at thethought that the great commonwealthsof this country should leave a duty sopalpably belonging to them to be dischargedby philanthropic associations. Ibelieve nothing is productive of greaterpractical good than to secure a prisoners’compensation law in each state whereone is not in operation at present. And,furthermore, I am persuaded that anysuch general law which received the indorsementof the public would meet withsufficient popular approval to assure itslegislative passage in any state where itis introduced. There are those, I havebeen made aware, who are skeptical asto the policy of providing ex-prisonerswith more money than is sufficient tomeet immediate requirements. Theyargue that the pressure of necessity willhave a stimulating effect, that the mandetermined to lead an honest life will,driven by it, go to work at once. But Iquestion the logic of this reasoning. ForI cannot conceive of abject poverty undersuch circumstances as other than demoralizingin its moral effects. AndI am sure every man works more cheerfully—morecontentedly and more effectivelywith a ten or a twenty dollar billin his pocket than when he feels himselfto be absolutely insolvent.
And now permit me to briefly suggestwhat I regard as an important, indispensable,and in time to be, universallyadopted prison innovation, directly affectingthe man going out and whichcan be productive of only beneficial results.
I believe we do the man going out aninjury when we permit the transit fromprison regime to freedom to be markedsimply by the opening and shutting of agate. It seems to me that this could belargely obviated if what might be termeda “transit squad” was organized, and towhich all first offenders would be advancedtwo weeks prior to discharge.Here the discipline should be relaxedand the daily experiences of the menbrought into close touch with those ofthe outside world. We recognize theutility of such a step already—for weall know how prevalent the custom is ofgiving near discharge men outside work.
In connection with the transit squad Iwould advocate complete segregationfrom the rest of the prison—providinga dormitory ward properly furnished,and connected with its own dining room,where a special dietary should be served.I should advocate even going furtherthan this and permit the wearing of thecitizen’s clothing furnished by the state.In this direction the ice has already beenbroken, for it is a general custom toallow prisoners to draw their outgoingshoes and wear them several weeks beforebeing discharged. During thisperiod I believe it would be wise to permitthe men to purchase such personaleffects as