The Journal of Prison Discipline and Philanthropy (New Series, No. 3, January 1864)
The Journal of Prison Discipline and Philanthropy
Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons.
When we consider that the obligations of benevolence whichare founded on the precepts and examples of the Author of Christianity,are not cancelled by the follies or crimes of our fellow-creatures;and when we reflect upon the miseries which penury,hunger, cold, unnecessary severity, unwholesome apartments, andguilt, (the usual attendants of prisons,) involve with them, itbecomes us to extend our compassion to that part of mankindwho are the subjects of those miseries. By the aid of humanity,their undue and illegal sufferings may be prevented; the linkswhich should bind the whole family of mankind together, underall circumstances, be preserved unbroken; and such degrees andmodes of punishment may be discovered and suggested, as may,instead of continuing habits of vice, become the means of restoringour fellow-creatures to virtue and happiness. From a convictionof the truth and obligation of these principles, the subscribershave associated themselves under the title of “ThePhiladelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries ofPublic Prisons.”
For effecting these purposes, they have adopted the followingConstitution.
The officers of the Society shall consist of a President, twoVice-Presidents, two Secretaries, a Treasurer, two Counsellors,and an Acting Committee; all of whom shall be chosen at thestated meeting to be held in the first month (January) of eachyear, and shall continue in office until their successors are elected;but in case an election, from any cause, shall not be then held,it shall be the duty of the President to call a special meeting ofthe Society within thirty days, for the purpose of holding suchelection, of which at least three days’ notice shall be given.
The President shall preside in all meetings, and subscribe allpublic acts of the Society. He may call special meetings wheneverhe may deem it expedient; and shall do so when requestedin writing by five members. In his absence, one of the Vice-Presidentsmay act in his place.
The Secretaries shall keep fair records of the proceedings ofthe Society, and shall conduct its correspondence.
At a meeting of the Acting Committee of the PhiladelphiaSociety for Alleviating the Miseries of PublicPrisons, held on the evening of the First Month,(January) 21, 1864, the Editorial Board, (appointed totake charge of the Journal and papers, and the AnnualReport,) consisting of Joseph R. Chandler, James J. Barclay,Edward H. Bonsall, and James M. Corse, M. D.,presented the Annual Report, which, having been consideredand approved, was ordered to be transmitted tothe Society.
1. It may be proper to state that Townsend Sharpless, one of the Vice-Presidentsof the Society, was appointed on this Board, but was prevented bysickness from taking part in its labors, and he died before the Report wasmade to the Acting Committee.
At the Annual Meeting of the Society, held FirstMonth, (January) 28, 1864, the Report of the “ActingCommittee.” was presented, and after consideration, wasreferred back to the Acting Committee, with instructionsto cause the whole (or such parts thereof as mightbe deemed best) to be printed in the usual form, with anyother matter that should be thought advisable.
At a meeting of the Acting Committee, Second Month(February) 11, 1864, it was ordered that the Annual Report,signed by the President and Secretary, be referredto the members by whom it was proposed, with instructionsto them to cause a suitable number of copies thereofto be printed.
JOHN J. LYTLE, Secretary.
In presenting the Report of the Seventy-Eighth Yearof the labors of “The Philadelphia Society for Alleviatingthe Miseries of Public Prisons,” we are struck withwhat in this country may be regarded as a remarkableinstance of longevity. Few benevolent societies inthe United States survive their founders. Some effecta certain object and are allowed to fall into uselessnessand disorganization. Others arise, with kindred purposesand similar means, and produce other good withan advantage of new zeal and fresh machinery. InEurope numerous philanthropic associations have outlivedtheir usefulness, not so much from a diminution ofthe numbers that need aid, as from changes in their circumstances.The funds do not fail, but the right toapply them, in the changed condition of society, hasceased. The continued existence of the association issecured by the capital upon which it was founded, andthe lumbering machinery is annually reviewed by thosecharged with its custody, and it is then consigned toanother year’s seclusion and repose. The dust of antiquitysettles upon it, to give it an interest with some,but the idea of usefulness is no longer entertained.
In many of the cases of defunct associations in thiscountry, the wrongs or sufferings that suggested theirorganization were only temporary, and with the accomplishmentof their objects they ceased to exist, or theyhave given place to others better adapted to the goodends proposed. Most of the still remaining inoperativeassociations of the old world were called into existenceby permanent evils, but their usefulness was made temporaryby certain fixed requirements that were soon torender them inapplicable to the changes in the political,religious and social condition of the people. But“The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseriesof Public Prisons,” has before it a work, whichthough it may vary with time, is not likely to lessen.While society exists we shall have vice and crime; whilevice and crime abound we must have prisons to restrainthe violators of the laws; and while prisons have inmates,the duty of reforming their morals and amelioratingtheir condition, will devolve upon some of those whoseek the good of society by the improvement of individuals.That duty in its broadest sense has been assumedby this Association. Not merely to lessen the sufferingsof the condemned, not alone to assist the innocent, notmerely to teach sound morals to those who are sufferingfrom a violation of the laws of God and man, not merelyto prevent a too rigid enforcement of special enactments,not alone to prescribe and ensure a separate confinementto the condemned, but so to use that confinement thatvice or crime, so communicable in its character, shall notpropagate itself through the cells of the prison, and thusmake a penitentiary a nursery for misconduct ratherthan a school for mental and moral discipline; notalone to deal justly and faithfully with a convict whilehe occupies his cell, but to secure to him, when he shallhave completed his penal term, some position in whichhe may carry into effect his good resolves, without incurringrisk from those associates that led him intocrime, and especially to secure him from recognition inthe world by those who have passed months or years ofseparate confinement in the same prison with him. Werepeat it, it is no one of these measures that is the singleor even the great object of the Society. It is every oneof them, separate, or all of them combined, with whateverelse may present itself for alleviation or correctionin the affairs of prisons or the condition of prisoners.Nor is this all; while this Society has in view the wholeof these and other benefits, it is no less its intention tocontinue its labor of benevolence as much upon thefruit of its own existence as upon the evils which it wasorganized to ameliorate. The Philadelphia Society forAlleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons, will accommodateits labors to the new state which its exertionsmay have produced, and, thus, what has been improvedto-day may be perfected to-morrow. Nor does it escapethe notice of the Society that new work is presented ornew forms of labor are suggested as the system which itproduces becomes more and more operative. Thevicious are to be reclaimed by gentle exhortations andencouraging sympathy. The young criminal is, by kindmonitions and encouraging confidence, to be lured fromthe path into which he has been seduced, and the felonis to be made to understand that there is a hope of regainingthe respect of society by that repentance whichconsists as much in reparation for the wrong and resolvesfor the future, as in regret for the past; or, failingto acquire for himself the forfeited regard of his fellowmen, he may secure a hope of a better rest. Truephilanthropy seems but the embodiment of religion,and never do the consolations of the Divine promisesoperate with greater efficacy than when they are pouredupon the heart of the convict in the solitude of his cell.
In claiming for the Association such an extensivefield and such a variety of labors, we do not overrate itsplans nor over-estimate its means and devotion. It maysafely be said that as no circumstances of the prisonerare beyond the aim of the Society, so no class ofprisoners are excluded from its benevolent intentions.The visitor of the Society when he presents himself atthe cell of the prisoner, is not to be deterred by therank, grade, condition or color of the prisoner. Norare his efforts to be lessened by any circumstances ofhis case. We must say with the Roman,
I am a man, and nothing which relates to man can beforeign to my bosom.
And it is a part of the qualification of the visitor ofthe Society, that he can accommodate himself and hisministrations to the varied circumstances of the occupantsof the cell, becoming all things to all classes, thathe may gain access to their confidence. Failing in allthis, as almost any one must come short of some of theobjects of his charitable effort, it is a part of thewisdom and prudence of the representatives of theSociety to discern their own want of adaptation to thepeculiar circumstance of the prisoner, and call in theaid of those who by different gifts, by other attainments,or higher functions may be better qualified to meet thewants of a particular case.
The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the miseriesof Public Prisons, is known by its works. It desires tobe judged according to those works. Some of theSociety’s efforts have obtained for it European fame,while a part of its labors are of so humble a class as tobe little known beyond the cell of the vagrant, or in thesmall circle of which such a beneficiary may form a part.The great system that seems to concern all mankind,that of separate confinement, is discussed, understood,and partially practised in Europe, and if it is notgeneral, the cause is not so much a want of confidencein the system as a want of the deep, practical interestin the unfortunate victims, which should lead governmentsand legislators to incur the expense of erectingbuildings, especially for penal purposes, adapted to theidea of separate confinement and special discipline, assubstitutes for those prisons which are only modificationsof antiquated palaces, abandoned convents, ordelapidated baronial castles. Even the houses thatwere constructed for prisons owe their erection in manycases to a time when confinement and cruelty were themeans of public or private vengeance, and when theconvicted felon became an outcast for life, or rather whenthe conviction of felony was the Cain mark for perpetualinfamy.
The Society is represented in its labors at the prisonsin Philadelphia by two Committees. The duties of oneof which are confined to the