The Delinquent (Vol. IV, No. 4), April, 1914
VOLUME IV, No. 4.APRIL, 1914
(FORMERLY THE REVIEW)
A MONTHLY PERIODICAL, PUBLISHED BY THE
NATIONAL PRISONERS’ AID ASSOCIATION
AT 135 EAST 15th STREET, NEW YORK CITY.
THIS COPY TEN CENTS.ONE DOLLAR A YEAR
T. F. Garver, President.
Wm. M. R. French, Vice-President.
O. F. Lewis, Secretary, Treasurer and Editor The Delinquent.
Edward Fielding, Chairman Ex. Committee.
F. Emory Lyon, Member Ex. Committee.
W. G. McLaren, Member Ex. Committee.
A. H. Votaw, Member Ex. Committee.
E. A. Fredenhagen, Member Ex. Committee.
Joseph P. Byers, Member Ex. Committee.
R. B. McCord, Member Ex. Committee.
Entered as second-class mail matter at New York.
What is a criminal? To-night Ipace the narrow confines of my steel-barredcell and ask myself for the hundredthtime—What is a criminal? Is he,as Lombroso claims, a moral degenerate?Is he the mental imbecile that metaphysiciansin learned verbiage assert? Is hethe hardened, desperate malefactor, thesinking, murderous beast that penologistswould have us believe? Is he the victimof adverse circumstances, unsavory environment,and changing social conditions?Or does he wage war on organized societyfor adventure’s sake? Why is he acriminal?
Garbed in the vestment of dishonorand disgrace, I myself am what the worldterms a criminal. Should I not know themeaning of the appellation far better thanthe casual observer? For many years mylife has been the life of an habitue of theunderworld. Criminals, so called, havebeen my associates and my friends. Ihave known them in the moments of theirsuccess, I have known them in the hoursof their failure. Failure that spells oblivion,the oblivion of cold gray walls andheart-breaking, monotonous, man-killingroutine. I have seen how recklessly theycan live, and I have also seen how gamelythey can die. I have known them intimately,and well, and never have I beenable to discover any difference betweenthem and their more fortunate brethren.They entertain in their hearts the sameideas, the same hopes, and the same ambitionsas do average men.
Those who commit crime as a matter ofchoice are few indeed. Many follow itas a means of livelihood because it is theonly vocation open to them; and theymust be men of stamina, courage, andbrains, if they would survive. Those whomatch their wits against the vast resourcesof the Powers Who Rule must be cleverrogues indeed. They are, in short, justsuch men as those who attain success inother walks of life—no different. Thesame ability to think and plan, the samenerve and determination, the same unswervingloyalty, the same persistent applicationthat diverted into legitimate channelswould have won for them recognitionin any sphere of endeavor. These are themen who have chosen crime as a vocation,because their talent and trainingequipped them for that career, just asyou may have chosen the law or the fieldof high finance for similar reasons. Andthese men in some degree succeed as lawbreakers, but even they must pay the costof their success. And the toll is not light,my friend.
There are others, men who were born ahundred years too late. Men who liveas their kind has always lived—by thestrength of their own right arms. To themmight is right, and they know no othercode. They, too, are criminals, are theynot? These are the men who have neverlearned to turn the other cheek. Theseare the men who strike back. Societytramples them under its feet, and theyarise from the dust with grim murder intheir hearts. They cannot forget; theycannot forgive; and so they fight to thebitter end with the blind courage of theirbreed.
Some, the very machinery of the courtshas converted into criminals. I see themevery day in the chrysalis stage. They commitsome minor infraction of the law,some petty offense, and for that they go tojail. In jail they receive scant considerationand little courtesy from either theirfellow prisoners or from the police. Theyare neither fish nor fowl. They note thefact that the “good thief” is respected andfeared by one, and extended the hand ofgood fellowship by the other. Straightwaythey determine to become criminals—andsome few succeed. Many more fill ourprisons.
Others are accidentally criminals. Underthe influence of liquor, drugs, suddenpassion, and sometimes actual hunger, theycommit crimes. They are not really criminals,however; they are “accidents.”Sometimes serious accidents no doubt, butstill accidents. Surely you would not callthem criminals!
You ask what is a criminal? In thelast analysis the question is unanswerable.You could as readily ask, “What is a man?”and the definition would be as undefinableas this. What is a criminal? Out of thedepths of my experience I would say thata criminal is a thousand changing moods,a thousand inherited tendencies, a thousandmistakes, a thousand injustices, weddedinto a thousand different personalities;and from the furnace of the melting potyou could perhaps find the answer. Whatis a criminal?—A Man in Prison.
Cuba boasts that Principe Prison,its national penitentiary, is one ofthe model prisons of the world. Officialsof foreign governments who have madelifelong studies of prison conditions havedeclared it to be as near a model prison asone can be made. It is ten years old andwithin that time only one prisoner has everescaped, and he, after a few days’ liberty,voluntarily gave himself up and asked tobe returned to his section. Within it havebeen confined desperate criminals of world-widereputation, but they have never succeededin getting by prison vigilance.
Principe Prison, or Castillo de Principe,Castle or Fort of the Prince, is one of thehistoric points of Havana, and its historyis closely interwoven with that of the city.It was built in 1774 and completed in 1794,and was then considered one of the strongestfortresses on the Western Hemisphere.There is a legend that it was built chieflyby French and Spanish engineers, who uponits completion were put to death lestthey might divulge some of the secret tunnelsand defenses.
It is situated on Principe Hill, about twomiles west of the national palace, and overlooksthe entire city. It has five bastionsand is surrounded by a moat fifty feet wide,twenty feet deep and loopholed for riflefire upon both sides. There is an ancientdrawbridge at the main entrance, but it hasbeen out of use many years. The scarpwalls are about forty feet above the moatand are crowned with medieval sentryboxes and lookout stations. There aremany secret passages leading from Principeto various other fortifications, butthese were hermetically sealed during theprovisional administration of GeneralLeonard Wood. The principal one extendsto Morro and Cabanas castles across thebay, a distance of two and one-half miles.The governor of the prison is GeneralDemetrio del Castillo, and Lieutenant ColonelTomas Garzon is assistant.
Cuba is thoroughly modern in her treatmentof prisoners. The terrible “third degree”is an unknown quantity. There is nowhipping post nor “chamber of horrors” atPrincipe. Solitary confinement in a wellventilated cell, equipped with toilet andshower bath and a wall berth is the usualpunishment. The prisoners are not onlytaught industrial trades, but are given theelementary branches of schooling. Evensome study music, painting and sculpturing.The government employs twenty instructors,most of them being graduates, toteach the 400 “pupils.” There is a prisonlibrary, an orchestra and a brass band. Theband is the pride of the prisoners and iscomposed of forty musicians and taught bya professional teacher. Several “lifers”are members, who took up the study ofmusic after they were sentenced, and arenow what might be considered tip-top musicians.
Of the 1,380 prisoners, 36 are politicianswho took part in the Estonez negro uprisingin 1912. There are twenty-six “lifers”sent up for assassination and highway robbery.The majority are robbers and thieves,with a scattering of murderers. The racepercentages are: White 64, black 37 andmulatto 17 per cent.
The prison guard consists of eighty-twomen and a small clerical force in chargeof the office. The prisoners are not putin stripes, but instead wear a cool uniformof white duck, which is changed twice aweek. When working they wear a brandof overalls made from palm thatches.
The big court yard, which covers morethan an acre, has a flower garden, neatlytrimmed and laid off in beautiful squaresand walks and dotted with shrubbery androyal palms. The proceeds from the saleof flowers go to a prison fund. Prisonerswho can not do manual labor make hammocksand other grass products. Thesethey are allowed to sell and the proceedsgo to their families. If single, a fund iskept by the warden against their release.Six hours is a day’s work.
During the evening the band gives aconcert in the court yard, and all prisonersare allowed to attend, notwithstanding thefacts that the music can be heard perfectlyfrom the casemates.
Workmen in the shops are allowed 25cents plata per day, while those outsidereceive 35 cents. This is also either sentto their families or kept in the releasefund. They receive no pay for governmentwork.
The men in the clothing and shoe shopsare worked on contract goods which aresold to Havana mercantile establishments,and they also make clothing for the prisoners.Shoes run in price from $1.10 to $5per pair. Were it not for the heavy importon leather these prices could be nearlycut in half. The higher grade of shoes sellin the retail market for $6 and $7. Clothingis made from 50c. to $15 a suit. Beautifulwhite duck and linen and other tropicalgarments are turned out that look aboutas well as suits made by many first-classtailoring establishments. There has beensome trouble with the labor unions, whocomplain against competing with “convictlabor,” but these complaints have neverassumed serious proportions. Ordinarilythe casemates are used for workrooms, butthe shoe and clothing factories are ramparts“hollowed” out and remodeled. Aneffort has been made to work the Principeprisoners in road building, but for somereason or other Congress has never allowedit. General Castillo built a sample roadnear the prison and invited members ofcongress to test it, but they continue to refuseto allow the government to be savedthousands of dollars annually by employingthe convicts upon the public roads. Anotherfeature that meant an annual saving ofthousands was a proposed printing establishment,where the government printingcould be done. This scheme progressedfinely for awhile, and floor space wasmade by changing several casemates intoa large hall and machinery ordered, but atthe last moment the newspapers and printingestablishments began to hammer theproposition and the government abandonedit.
“But how would you get prisoners competentto do the work?” was asked ColonelGarzon.
“Well,” he replied, “we would be compelledto hire experts at first and keep aneye for printers in other prisons, and alsoinform the police to be extra vigilant. Itwouldn’t be long before we would have acompetent force.”
The sanitary conditions of Principe areperfect or as nearly perfect as a medicalstaff of fifteen physicians can make them.The floors, walls and roofs of the entireprison are of Cuban stone and are “sluiced”twice a day. The “dormitories” arelarge, airy casemates and both ends arecovered by steel bars which make a windowfifteen feet square. A continuous seabreeze blows through them. The berthsor bunks extend in one tier on each sideof the casemate and are made to fold upagainst the wall. The “bed clothes” consistof two duck sheets and a blanket forcool weather, which are changed twice aweek. A row of shower baths completesthe furniture and the inmates are requiredto take at least two baths a day.
There are three hospitals—the tuberculosis,contagious diseases and the “public”ward. They are upon the roof of thesouth bastion and face the sea. Their sanitation,according to the physicians, cannot be improved upon. The “lungers” sleeppractically out of doors, or rather with justenough overhead to protect them from theheavy tropical dews. So healthy and sanitaryis the prison that very few cases ofsickness occur. The majority of the inmatesof the hospitals are those sick, principallywith consumption, when they arrive.
There has never been an insurrectionor mutiny in Principe. In fact, scores ofprisoners when released at the end of theirterms have asked Colonel Garzon to savetheir “cup and pan,” and invariably theyreturn to use them. They really fare