The Journal of Prison Discipline and Philanthropy (New Series, No. 46, January 1907)
“In this recognition of the criminal’s sin there must beenforced the discipline of penalty, and of penalty as punishment,but it must be carefully dealt with, so as in no sense toconvey the thought of retribution or of vindictive retaliation.The strides of progress which have been made in the lastcentury and a half under the methods of such real reformersas Howard and Wines (whom, as a boy, I remember verywell), and Elizabeth Fry and Dorothy Dix, have, amongother things, set the stamp of this idea in the fact that capitalpunishment, which used to be inflicted for many crimes, isreserved to the one for which it was divinely ordered, andfrom which, I trust, it will never be taken away, namely, thesin of shedding another’s blood. Meanwhile, more and more,in the selection of wardens, in the appointment of chaplains,in the abolition of the fearful cruelties of physical torture,in the decent sanitation of prisons, we have grown more andmore to realize that the condemned criminal is to be treatedas a man who needs protection, systematic discipline, the trainingof the prison, to protect him from himself, to put into himthe purpose and set before him the possibility of a better life,rather than to humiliate and crush him into desperation anddespair. It is quite true that no amount of legislation andno method of enforcing laws can make a man moral, but itis also true that the law which defines and punishes sin detersmen from the commission of crime, and when the criminalis condemned and sentenced and his punishment begins, onlythe power of religion can reach him to convince him of hissin, to convert him from his habits, to reach the motives ofhis life, to change the tendency of his will, to form in himnew habits, to give him the spiritual help by which his consciencemay be enlightened and his character changed.
“And there are certain human, natural, physical reasonsfor the right attitude to the convicted criminal which morethan warrant us in assuming it as the groundwork and motiveof our dealings with him. It is told, I think of an Englishbishop, seeing a criminal drawn in a tumbril to execution onLudgate Hill, in London, that he said, ‘There go I but for21grace.’ Somehow I know it is true that now and then menwhose lives have been surrounded from childhood up to thevery moment of their fall with the best influences, suddenlylapse into great sin. We have instances in the last year whichhave startled and staggered communities, men in places oftrust who have betrayed it, and have either been flung downfrom the position of confidence and honor or fallen themselves,and found in flight or in suicide the fatal terminationof what has seemed to be a career of honorable service. I ambound to say a word even for these. I believe the vindictivepersonalities which have assailed some of these men are insome cases absolutely unjust.
“There ought to be, thank God, there is, more and more inthe great movements in our cities, a strong, set effort of prevention,which is far better than cure. The prisons will beemptier when we have reached the root and reason of crime.If we can control the use of liquor and stop at least its excess;if we can stamp out the curse of drunkenness; if we canmore and more arrest the degradation of our slums; if wecan train up a race of children in surroundings of physicalhealthfulness, of moral decency and dignity; and still better,if we can instil into them from earliest childhood the principlesand pattern of Jesus Christ, we shall have begun, atthe right end, the restoration and the reformation of humanity.Meanwhile, until all these movements have ripened intosome result, it becomes us to remember from what sourcesand in what surroundings the grown-up criminal has come;to realize how far we, by our neglect and indifference, havebeen responsible for them; and to reach out the helping handof deep sympathy and pity in the effort to reclaim, to restoreand to reform.
“The great revealed truth of universal redemption is fullof grace and help. Still more, the truth of individual indwellingof the Christ in us, the hope of glory. It is true thatin a way this is a doctrine, a dogma, as people say who thinkof a dogma as a tyrannical imposition upon their intellectualliberty; but it is truer still that, like many another thing whichwe call dogma, it is a fact on which depends not merely ourholding right faith in Jesus Christ as the God-man, but onwhich also depend the method and the hope and the value ofour dealing with humanity at large or with the individualman. It has in it besides the very highest human hope possiblefor you and me, that in the great day of eternal decisionthere shall be for us who have recognized Jesus in those to22whom we ministered here the full revelation and manifestationof His glorious God-head, with the word of ‘well done’ andwelcome into ‘the kingdom prepared for us from the foundationof the world.’”
At many churches of the city various phases of the workof the Association were presented by delegates to the Congress.At the Cathedral Mr. Thomas M. Osborne, Presidentof the George Junior Republic, Auburn, N. Y., spoke on “TheTrue Foundations of Prison Reform”; Mr. George B. Wellington,of Troy, on “The Duty That We Owe the Convict”;and Prof. Henderson, of Chicago, on “Preventive Work withChildren.” The latter maintained that the proper trainingof a child to keep it from becoming a criminal began beforeit was born. Crime was not a heritage, but criminal tendenciessometimes were. Judge Lindsay, the great enthusiast inbehalf of children, had said that the Juvenile court wasorganized to keep children out of jail, but that now the problemwas to keep children out of the Juvenile court. Theproblem is to get back to childhood, back to infancy. Babyhooddetermined whether there should be a large or a smallcriminal class. Place the child from earliest infancy into sucha physical environment and under such mental and spiritualinfluences as will produce the habit of right living.
Monday, September 17
The meeting was called to order by President Collins andopened with prayer by the Rev. Thomas D. Anderson. Afterthe appointment of committees and other routine business, theWardens’ Association went into session. In the absence ofthe President, Mr. N. N. Jones, Iowa State Prison, FortMadison, his address was read by Mr. Frank L. Randall,Minnesota, who had been called to the chair. The paper wasa compact statement of the warden’s relation to current prisonreform. With reference to prison labor it showed how smalla portion of the total product is contributed by prisoners.Regarding the relation of discipline to reformation, the writersaid: “Discipline is the medium through which all reformbecomes effective. The attitude of the warden toward reformshould be sympathetic and receptive.”
A paper on “Prison Labor,” by the Hon. John T. McDonough,23Ex-Secretary of State, was listened to with considerableinterest, because Mr. McDonough, as a member ofthe Constitutional Convention of 1894, had much to do withframing the constitutional amendment wiping out the contractlabor system and prohibiting the sale of prison-madegoods in the open market. Under the present laws of NewYork no work can be done by convicts in competition with outsidelabor. Whatever is made in the prisons of the Statemust “be disposed of to the State or any political divisionthereof, or for or to any public institution owned or managedand controlled by the State, or any political division thereof.”At the same time every inmate of the several State prisons,penitentiaries, jails, and reformatories in the State, who isphysically able, must be set to work. By a strong array offigures and apparently favorable comparisons Mr. McDonoughundertook to demonstrate the merits and success of the newsystem. In replying to the paper, Dr. Barrows maintained thatin spite of the law several thousand prisoners in the jails andpenitentiaries of the State are supported in idleness.
Mr. John E. Van De Carr, Superintendent of the NewYork City Reformatory of Misdemeanants, on Hart’s Island,read a paper in which he gave an account of said institutionand its work. This reformatory, which is the only one inthe United States solely for misdemeanants, is the child ofGreater New York’s charter. By that charter it became theduty of the Commissioner of Correction “to cause all criminalsand misdemeanants under his charge to be classified as far aspracticable, so that youthful and less hardened offenders shallnot be rendered more depraved by association with and theexample of the older and more hardened,” and “to set apartone or more of the penal institutions in his department forthe custody of such youthful offenders.” By an act of theLegislature, passed in 1904, the charter of the reform schoolon Hart’s Island was amended, and the institution was continuedand known after January 1, 1905, as “The New YorkCity Reformatory of Misdemeanants.” To this “any maleperson between the ages of sixteen and thirty, after convictionby a magistrate or court in the city of New York ofany charge, offense, misdemeanor, or crime, other than afelony, may be committed for reformatory treatment.” Thetime of such imprisonment, which must not exceed threeyears, but must continue at least three months, is terminatedby the Board of Parole, which consists of nine commissionerswho serve without compensation for a term of one year. The24first three rules under the system by means of which aninmate may work out his release on parole (which is determinedby merit marks based on demeanor, labor, and study)are as follows: 1. All inmates enter the New York CityReformatory of Misdemeanants in the second grade. 2. Ifsuch inmate shall obtain 900 merit marks he shall thereafterenter the first or highest grade. 3. If such inmate shall violateany rules of the Reformatory, or shall in any way be disobedientor ungovernable, he shall be reduced to the third orlowest grade; and no such inmate shall reënter the secondgrade unless he shall have obtained 300 merit marks. Whenan inmate is eligible for release on parole, and is so recommendedby the superintendent, he is placed on parole in chargeof a parole officer for a period of six months, provided he hasa home to go to, or employment whereby he can become self-sustaining.Should he violate his parole at any time, theBoard of Parole has power to revoke the same and cause hisrearrest and reimprisonment as if said parole had not beenordered. To make the system effective, the spiritual welfareof the inmates is faithfully cared for by the Catholic, Protestant,and Hebrew chaplains of the Department of Correction;mental training is provided for by a teacher from the Boardof Education; and six different trade-schools furnish industrialinstruction. The results so far have proved very satisfactory,the conduct of over eighty-three per cent. of thoseparoled being reported as satisfactory. “Our experience hasalready convinced us,” declares the superintendent, “that themodern ideas on this subject are purely scientific, and notsentimental, and that many sent to prison should first beplaced in some reformatory where the class of institution inwhich they should justly be detained could safely be determined.We also feel that it may become necessary to extendthe minimum term of three months to a longer period. Asentence is really not reformatory if the minimum is threemonths; at least the reformation is but temporary. Permanentreformation requires the teaching of a trade, and a tradecannot be learned in that time, although we have accomplishedsurprising results in that period. To secure the greatest goodto the boy, the trades taught should be those that are best paid,namely, the building trades.”
The principal address of the afternoon was by Mr. WarrenF. Spalding, Secretary of the Massachusetts Prison Association,25on “Principles and Purposes of Probation.” He said inpart:
“The probation system is the natural outgrowth of moderntheories regarding the treatment of lawbreakers. The acceptanceof the proposition that the State should reform and reclaimthe offender led to the establishment of reformatories.Later it was realized that some might reform without imprisonment,even in a reformatory, and the probation officer becametheir supervisor and custodian. His functions are to investigatecases and report regarding past offenses, if any; generalcharacter, home, dependents, etc., and the probability of reformationwithout imprisonment, and he must visit probationersand help them in the work of self-reformation.
“Probation is better than imprisonment for suitable