The Journal of Prison Discipline and Philanthropy (New Series, No. 46, January 1907)
“Under a well-organized and thoroughly equipped system,with such a degree of centrality as I have indicated, all the beneficentmethods of the prisons would be sustained andstrengthened.”
The second address of the evening was by Dr. FrederickHoward Wines, on “The Prisons of Louisiana.” Residencein the South and an intimate acquaintance with Southernpeople and Southern prisons, gave the utterances of Dr. Winesauthoritative value. The prison question in the South, hesaid, is almost exclusively a negro question. The greater proportionof crime in the South is committed by negroes. Hencemost of the prisoners are negroes. The negro prisoner is adistinct problem. The methods we apply to white prisonersare not applicable to him. The religion of the negro, for example,is altogether emotional and has little connection withmorality. As to education, the Southern people do not greatlyfavor the education of the negro. A partly educated negrothinks he belongs to a select class and must no longer work.36As to the question of labor, he is not fitted for indoor work,nor wanted by the industrial classes.
As conditions are in Louisiana, I can think of nothingbetter than the large plantations on which the convicts areemployed. The barracks are absolutely clean and sanitary.There are no chains. The guards are unarmed. After breakfastthe prisoners go to the cotton and sugar fields, accompaniedby armed guards and hounds. There are few escapesand very little punishment. Hospital and physician are provided.All the convicts are well fed, and at the close of theday’s work all must take a bath. As the labor is steady it ismore profitable than that of the free man. All the earningsgo to the support and improvement of the prisons and prisoners.The lease system is gone in all the counties but one.Baton Rouge has the only prison of the old style, with walls,etc. Camps are now the thing, on plantations. Since theabolition of the lease system, and the adoption of State control,the health of the prisoners is much better.
A third address by Mr. F. B. Sanborn, Concord, Mass.,on “Prison Reform and Prison Science,” was largely a reviewof the results accomplished in the past forty years, andreminiscent of the many eminent men associated with themovement since its inception.
Wednesday, September 19
The session of the Physicians’ Association, held thismorning, was most interesting, and was marked by somenotable features. The President, Dr. S. H. Blitch, Ocala,Florida, presented a paper on “The Open versus the ClosePenitentiary System of Handling Prisoners,” in which hetook strong ground in favor of the former, especially in theSouth. He defined the “open” penitentiary system as thatmode of social restraint according to which the prisoner sentencedto hard labor is required to perform skilled and unskilledservice in fields, woods, and surface mining, and insuch industries and occupations as do not necessitate his dailycellular or circumscribed confinement, as is the case under the“close” system. He claimed that in spite of criticism, the“open” system, wherever climatic conditions make it practicable,is far more conducive to the mental and physical rehabilitationof the convict than the “close” system. In theSouth, especially where the vast majority of prisoners are37negroes who have been accustomed to life in the open air andto outdoor employment, the confinement in a “close” penitentiarywould be most detrimental. The open-air system putsthese men at work under conditions to which they have beenaccustomed from youth up, and the results demonstrate thewisdom of the plan.
In the discussion which followed this paper, Dr. Barrowssaid that many penologists felt that the Southern system hadmany advantages, but that other industrial and reformatoryelements should be added. Dr. Wines saw an immense advantagein the Southern method, and claimed that Northernprisons would find it very beneficial to have farms connectedwith them for the outdoor employment of convicts.
The paper on “Prison Sanitation,” by Dr. W. D. Stewart,West Virginia Penitentiary, Moundsville, was followed by thatof Dr. S. A. Knopf, of New York, on “The TuberculosisProblem in Prisons and Reformatories.” The presentationmade by this eminent specialist on tuberculosis was probablythe most exhaustive on this subject to which the Congressever listened. This very valuable paper, any condensation ofwhich would do it injustice, is published in full in the NewYork Medical Journal, November 17, 1906, to which thereader is referred.
Dr. J. W. Milligan, Indiana State Prison, Michigan City,read a paper on “Mental Defectives Among Prisoners,” ofwhich the following is a synopsis: Where reformation, notpunishment, is the aim, a just estimate of the prisoner’s mentalstate is essential. Without this the indeterminate sentencecannot be successful. Communities as well as courts too frequentlyoverlook mental defect as an important element incrime. Too many prisoners on admission are insane, epileptic,or feeble-minded. Epilepsy is not an infrequent factor, especiallyin atrocious crimes without motive, and overlooked becausenot of the pronounced type popularly considered characteristicof this disease.
Indiana prison records show among the defectives, a percentagefor murder three times; for murder, manslaughter,and rape, twice; but for larceny, two-thirds that of the averagefor all classes. On admission, forty-four per cent. admitmental defect or criminal record, in the personal or familyhistory. This tainted influx, and the fact that defectives arenot paroled, explains why twelve per cent. of our populationis insane, epileptic, or feeble-minded.
The psychosis are chiefly degenerative in type. Insane38among prisoners are not especially difficult to manage; noharsh measures are ever justifiable. Indiana has as yet noinstitution for insane criminals; it needs one badly. A wardin the prison hospital gives good results, though far fromideal. Insane criminals should be judged in the light ofmodern psychiatry, and their rights and the safety of societycarefully guarded.
Mr. C. W. Bowron, Superintendent of the WisconsinState Reformatory, Green Bay, presented the Report of theCommittee on Prevention and Reformatory Work, in a paperentitled, “Reformatory Sentences and Discharges,” which concludedwith the following propositions:
1. That the authority to transfer prisoners from the reformatoryto state prison is an essential safeguard to the successfulmanagement of a reformatory; and this power on thepart of prison officials has been abundantly upheld by thecourts.
2. That the so-called indeterminate sentence has been repeatedlyheld valid, but apparently upon the construction thatit is a definite sentence for the maximum limit. It is thereforea misnomer.
3. That the fixing of a minimum period in the indeterminatesentence is illogical, and detrimental to reformatory purposes.
4. That the power of parole is purely an administrativefunction exercised in the establishment of a prison regulation,the validity of which has been upheld by the courts; and thatthe determination of parole should largely if not wholly restwith the principal officers of the institution.
5. That the parole system does not depend upon the so-calledindeterminate sentence, or any other form of sentence,but stands apart from it as a separate and distinct reformatoryelement.
6. That a definite and uniform sentence fixed by statute,subject to modification through the legal powers of the administrativeofficers to parole and discharge, is not inconsistentwith reformatory purposes, and in some respects is an advantageto reformatory management.
7. That final discharge after a suitable term of probationon parole is a just and essential feature of the merit system,in which the pardoning power should coöperate with thereformatory officials.39
8. That the indefinite sentence does not exist, probablycannot constitutionally exist, possibly ought not to exist, andcertainly would be the object of severe criticism if it didexist.
9. That a central bureau of identification operated by thegeneral government is so essential to the proper ends of justicethat its establishment would mark an important advancementin our criminal jurisprudence.
“Methods of Reformatory Administration” was the subjectof a paper by Mr. W. H. Whittaker, Superintendent ofthe Indiana State Reformatory, Jeffersonville. Mr. Whittakerclaimed that in many institutions methods had not keptpace with advancing civilization. Ideal reformatory managementmust, first of all, have a solid foundation to stand upon.Said foundation consists of the men in charge of an institution.These, from the superintendent down, should be menof broad intelligence, good morals, and clean habits, who thoroughlybelieve that they are their brothers’ keepers, and who,in the discharge of all their duties, will constantly have inview the reformation of the prisoner. No good results cancome from physical punishment or the employment of suchmethods as humiliate the prisoner. All methods should aimto secure the harmonious training of the heart, the head, andthe hand, and should have for their one purpose the buildingof character.
In a paper on “The Delinquent Girl,” Mrs. Lucy M.Sickels, Superintendent of the State Industrial Home, Adrian,Michigan, pointed out that the real delinquent in most casesis the parent. The delinquent girl is not born so. She comesinto the world with all the winning graces of babyhood; butwhen she reaches the years of girlhood, she is allowed to haveher own way and to run wild. The mother is perhaps so busyattending missionary and temperance meetings, endeavoringto save others, that she has no time for her own daughter.If the girl has no mother, or a widowed mother, who, inorder to support her little family, is obliged to go out to hardwork day after day, until she becomes nervous, impatient, andpetulant, an equally unfortunate situation again presents itself.Or parents are constantly quarreling, until divorce stalks in,breaks up the home, and sets the children adrift. In eight casesout of ten, ill temper and divorce in the home are the cause ofdelinquency. Delinquency or incorrigibility is only anothername for parental neglect. What we want are laws to protectthe children and punish the delinquent parent, for this40is the root of all the evil we are striving and contendingagainst.
Mrs. Sickels outlined the methods followed in the institutionwhich she directs. “We go back to the first home principles,a mother and a mother’s love. A manager or motheris at the head of each family home, of which we have eight,each family having a kitchen, dining room, and laundry, justas complete in itself as you are from your neighbor. Eachfamily cooks its own food, makes its own bread, and does itsown laundry work. Each girl has a nice little room all toherself, in which is a single bed covered with a clean whitespread, a pretty pillow sham on the pillow, a dresser, a mirror,a rug and a chair. Each room has a large airy window. Thegirl may beautify the walls and dresser according to her owntaste and skill.
“The first requisite for a girl as she enters the Home isoccupation, not work only. It may mean work, but instructionis given along all lines most necessary and useful to everywoman in order to fit her to be a housekeeper and home-maker.”A chapel, in which two services are held each Lord’sDay, a schoolhouse and graded school with eight teachers, ahospital and trained nurse, a sewing school, a cooking school,a dressmaking department, a greenhouse, and an orchestraand brass band composed of girls, form part of the equipment.There is no wall or fence around the Home, but a clear openspace and beautiful lawn, with walks and flowers, shrubberyand trees. The results obtained have been most satisfactory,at least seventy-five per cent. of the girls so far received havingturned out good, true women, many of them being devotedwives and mothers.
Mr. Alexander Johnson, General Secretary NationalConference of Charities and Correction, Indianapolis, Indiana,spoke on “The Reformation of Jails.” Many county jails, hedeclared, are a blot on civilization. Should this be the casewhen we seek the reformation of the prisoner? Reform hasbegun at the top of the prison system, but the jails have madelittle progress upward, and a great number deserve to becalled “schools of vice.” What is the remedy? The physicalcondition of the county jail must be improved. Each prisonershould be separately confined. The fundamental error is thatthe jails are used