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for more adequate public services.

In spite of the presentation from the platform of facts
as to excess rural population, large families in low income
groups, the health hazard to both mother and child of too
frequent pregnancies, the words "birth control" were not
mentioned during the conference. Dr. Hannah Stone, in-
ternationally known authority on this subject, rose several
times during discussion periods but was not recognized by
the chair. Dr. Eric M. Matsner of the American Birth
Control League was permitted to file a written statement,
without comment. In announcing that such a statement
had been accepted, neither the subject of the report nor
Dr. Matsner's professional affiliation was mentioned by
the chairman.

Four committees on community resources, resources of
citizens' groups, professional resources, and general find-
ings prepared reports which are to be made a part of the
record of the conference.

Among the many constructive recommendations of these
committees, there are two of outstanding importance. One
deals with the question of training in obstetrics for medical
students and nurses. It was brought out that while a medi-
cal student ought to attend at least fifty confinements if
he is to handle such cases in his practice, many Grade A
medical schools do not now require the student to be pres-
ent at any deliveries before graduation, and others require
only two to fifteen cases. Further, the school frequently
provides insufficient supervision in this important branch of
study. While some states require internships in addition to
a medical degree, few require obstetrical experience during
this period. A recent survey of 1936 medical school gradu-
ates showed only 25 percent getting obstetrical experience
as interns. As Dr. M. Edward Davis of the University of

Data from U.S. Bureau of the Census


Chicago Medical School pointed out, "training in obstetrics
is now at a lower level than the other major clinical divi-
sions." The findings committee recommended "full oppor-
tunity for practical instruction in obstetrics and the care of
newborn infants for undergraduate students in medical
schools, for physicians resident in hospitals, and periodically
for practicing physicians in postgraduatt courses; for the
student nurse and at recurrent intervals for the graduate
nurse or the public health nurse whose work includes
maternity nursing in private practice or in public health
service." The committee on professional resources also urged
that "every effort be made by the obstetric specialist and
those interested in maternal welfare in the United States
to reduce the number of unnecessary or ill-advised obstetric
operations which play such an important part in maternal
mortality. No major obstetric operation should be per-
formed without previous consultation with an obstetric

If the United States is to have health services which
will materially reduce the present number of "preventable
deaths" of mothers and infants, the findings committee
held that we must utilize "available competent service un-
der both public and private auspices, extending and im-
proving the public services when they are not adequate to
meet the need." As the committee of experts views this
national task it would call for infant and maternal care
provided by the local community as part .of its public health
responsibility; leadership, financial assistance, specialized
service and supervision provided by the state; assistance
from the federal government to the states through finan-
cial aid, research and consultation service. Such federal par-
ticipation, the committee found, would require an amend-
ment to Title V, Section 502 of the social security act,
"to authorize a larger sum to be appropriated annually
to the states for maternal and child health services with
provision that the increased payments to the states should
be used for the improvement of maternal care and care of
newborn infants." While the committee did not attempt to
set figures, it held that such appropriations must be in-
creased until they provide a sum "that will insure care for
all women who are unable to obtain care otherwise, either
because of economic reasons or because of inaccessibility of
care in the communities in which they live."

Surgeon General Parran put the issue to the conference
in another way when he said, "Other nations are making
strenuous efforts to produce a generation fit for war. Surely
we need no less to strive to rear up a generation fit for the
pursuits of peace."



Dead End Penology


Commissioner of Correction, New York City

WE who are engaged in prison and parole work are
in a highly dangerous situation. Today, more than
ever before, we are under the muzzles of the ma-
chine gun school of criminology, the school that seeks to
instil into the minds of the public the idea that all offenders
are mad dogs, that America is swarming with millions of
dangerous criminals who would slit one's throat at the
slightest provocation, that our prisons are country clubs
and prison officials "convict lovers," that our parole systems
are hollow shams and that those who administer them are
silly sentimentalists and sob-sisters.

A public which does not listen with too much discrimina-
tion gets the idea that the only sure way to stop crime is
with a shotgun and that the only way men should leave
prison is in a pine box. For years they have been hammering
the headlines with these ideas. Not long ago I heard a
speech delivered to a large audience, with an extensive radio
hook-up, which inevitably would leave any but the most
careful listener with the ideas I have cited, although the
speech itself, when one read it in print, was more temperate
than it sounded when uttered. The speaker said, among
other things:

Punishment in all too many prisons has become a thing of
the past. We are amazed to learn that there is no such thing
as a life prisoner; that the average man who receives a life
sentence for murder spends only about ten years behind bars,
and that the average sentence served by a person convicted of
murder is only sixty-one months. Even then, he usually is
granted the benefits of a private radio, of the daily newspaper,
selected magazines, the latest motion picture shows, orches-
tras, traveling bands, hand-decorated cells, baseball, handball,
football and basketball, and any other amusements which
over-sympathetic and sob-sister wardens or prison boards may
contrive to make his stay in prison more enjoyable.

Many of our prisons today may well be classed as country
clubs. Many are badly manned and ill-kept. Others are hot-
beds of vice and agitation. Many are easily accessible to escape,
like sieves through which the rats placed in them may depart
almost at will. Such procedure does not create respect for law.
I do not believe that the majesty of justice can appear in white
and untrammelled garments so long as such disgraceful, senti-
mental convict-coddling is allowed to persist in our alleged
penal institutions. Mollycoddling of criminals must be halted.
The public is in far more need of security for life and limb
than convicted criminals are of clemency.

Under the impact of such verbal barrages as these our
prisons are in danger of falling into even worse oblivion
than they now enjoy. Prisons have always been a sort of No
Man's Land, shrouded in mystery most of the time and only
occasionally lighted up by a sudden spectacular flare. The
public realizes that prisons are in existence only when an
assault, an escape or some other infrequent but spectaculai
occurrence makes the headlines. The long monotonous days
and years that lie between them, the slow but steady pro-
grams of reclamation being carried on within prison walls,
go unnoticed because they are unspectacular.

It does not matter very much if prison men do fall into
oblivion and become known as the Junior X-men (X, the
unknown quantity). Speed the day when we shall really be

a vanished tribe, when crime is no more and the last
warden opens the gate of the last prison to the last prisoner.

My concern is not with the extinction of a noble tribe
but with the danger of extinction of a noble ideal, an ideal
that has had validity for thousands of years: the ideal that
a man, no matter how low he may seem to have fallen, can
be regenerated and reclaimed.

We who are in prison and parole work are in grave dan-
ger of falling prey to a philosophy of defeatism, of thinking
that our jobs are not worth doing and that the results we
achieve are not worth trying for. That is what I mean by
"dead end penology": the idea that a man in prison has
come to the end of the road and that there is really nothing
we can do for him, that parole is a humane process but a
futile one, that the amount we can salvage from the human
scrap heap is not worth our effort.

These things are not so. The prison is not a dead end
street. We are not blind to the weaknesses of our prison
and parole systems. No one knows them better than the
prison men themselves and no one is more desirous of correct-
ing them. We point to the striking progress that has been
made in the last thirty-five years in American penology as
evidence of what could be done more rapidly if those who
control the purse strings had more vision. We resent the
intemperate, indiscriminate and uninformed attacks that re-
tard attempts to correct the weaknesses in prison and parole
work. Such attacks do more than retard our efforts; by cre-
ating misguided public opinion they tend to postpone the
day when society will make an effective, unhysterical,
socially-minded approach to the whole problem of crime,
from its roots to its final fruit.

NO one can deny that many men and women in prison
will probably never be straightened out by anything
we can do for them or to them under present conditions.
Some are insane or such extreme psychopaths that they never
could be expected to get along in freedom except under the
most favorable circumstances, which seldom exist. Some are
nitwits, some are weaklings, some are ignorant, some are just
plain mean, some are embittered by real or fancied wrongs,
some have sentences so long that they will almost certainly
be crushed by the very weight of the years, and practically
all of them will run up against the cold, blank wall of pub-
lic indifference or hostility when they try to get a decent
job after their release.

But I am convinced that prisoners such as those I have
mentioned are in the minority, that many even of them are
by no means hopeless and that the majority of those in our
prisons and adult reformatories can be reclaimed. They
have sufficient ability, they want to go straight, they are not
anti-social but merely non-social ; they are not crazy, they
are not morons, they are not mad dogs ; they do not need to
be kept in iron cages all their lives and they are not going
to be a constant public menace when they are released.

It is the task of the prison authorities, stated in brief
terms, to get them into first class physical and mental con-
dition, to straighten out their attitude towards society, to
train them for jobs on which they can make an adequate and



li\ ing, and then to see that they secure the jobs.

It is naturally not quite as simple as that. To achieve the
br>t results we need to break up our prison populations into
comparatively small and comparatively homogeneous groups
and to establish the institution, program and personnel each
group needs. It is wasteful, for example, to clutter up an
elaborate vocational training program with mental defec-
tives. It is equally wasteful to keep thousands of prisoners
under the conditions of maximum security that only hun-
dreds or even scores need.

Within each institution we must individualize the pro-
gram as far as possible. One man's chief need is medical
care, another's vocational training, another's discipline,
another's adjustment of his family situation, and so on.
This means a well-rounded program that includes medical
service, psychiatric and psychological work, education and
vocational training, classification, social service, religion,
employment at worth-while work, recreation of the type
that promotes physical and mental health, discipline that
develops self-control and self-reliance, careful placement
and adequate parole supervision. And all of these must be
carried on and directed by intelligent, well-trained, socially-
minded personnel, free from political pressure or control.

In recent years society has been thinking increasingly
and properly in terms of crime prevention. But what are
we to do with those offenders who have already arrived? I
believe in crime prevention just as I believe in preventive
medicine. But I also believe in good prisons just as I believe
in good hospitals and in good parole as I do in good follow-
up medical care. For those who have reached prison it is too
late to talk of crime prevention. What they need is effective
treatment for what ails them and effective follow-up to
make sure they do not have a relapse.

There are in prison today thousands of men and women
who want desperately to make good and who have the ca-
pacity to do so if they can be helped more effectively while
they are in prison, and if the public will give them a better
break when they get out. I, for one, do not intend to go
back on them. I do not intend to give up my seasoned con-
viction, my firm faith that men and women can and will
straighten out under the right kind of prison and parole
program. I reject the defeatist idea that the prison is a dead
end street.

This article is in part from an address given by Mr.
MacCormick before the American Prison Congress.

IV- Community Roots


\ew York School of Social Work

OM.Y in exceptional instances does a new member
come cold to a social agency board. The very fact
that he has been elected or appointed to the board
presupposes an intelligent awareness of the social balance
sheet of the community and of the place and purpose of
the particular agency with which he is associating himself.
However it is the exceptional new member who will not
profit in the quality of his interest and the value of his
contribution by certain practical measures of preparation
for service. These may take many forms, a good starting
place apparently being a careful reading of the basic docu-
ment creating the agency, the statute or ordinance, articles
of incorporation, constitution and by-laws and so on. Along
with this could go the reading of a file of annual reports
and of publicity material. A visit to the office, not just
a handshaking round but a real "sit-in" on the day's work
as it goes over the desks of the executive and his staff,
is enlightening to the new board member. Naturally he will
confer with the chairman of the board and will inform
himself on the working of special committees. But he will
do more than that, he will confer with the head of the
Council of Social Agencies if there is one, and with the
heads of other organizations, public and private, in related
fields. Thus he will inform himself in detail of the struc-
ture, history and functioning of his own organization
and of its place in the galaxy of community social resources.
However, preparation for service is not confined to new
board members. It is a continuous educative process for all
the members, singly and as a group. In fact intelligent
sincere service on the board of a social agency is one of
the most practical ways in which a citizen may continue
his education in a field which holds his special interest,
while at the same time he enriches his contribution to
his community.

The means which boards may use to promote the process
of their own growth are various. Only a few may be sug-
gested here.

MEETINGS: Agenda should be planned to give full scope
to well directed discussion rather than to manipulate the
group into quick superficial decisions. Meetings so planned
and conducted that members are stimulated to group
thinking will not become moribund but will be vital with
a sense of new horizons to explore.

A reasonable balance is necessary between discussion of
immediate policy and what might be called educational
reach. For example, certain progressive boards have ex-
tended their horizons by bringing in for occasional meet-
ings outstanding laymen or professional workers, expert in
some related field, whose participation in discussion en-
riches the board's thinking and stimulates its sense of its
relationship to other social efforts.

REPORTS: The routine reading of a succession of com-
mittee and executive reports tends to deaden almost any
board meeting. Yet reports must be made and must go in
the record. One way to handle them is to send them around
in advance, with only a brief oral summary presented at
the meeting. When, for one reason or another, reports
must be presented in full some of their deadening effect
can be counteracted by putting a copy in the hands of
each member so that he may follow the reading. When-
ever it is possible routine statistics should be interpreted
by simple, readily understood graphs.

AGENCIES: Progressive boards encourage their members
to serve on council committees and to bring back to the
board their impressions of "social work whole" and of the



relation of their own particular work to the social program
of the community.

conferences "stretch the view" is fully conceded. How-
ever many board members have been convinced that the
programs of national, state and local meetings so have
emphasized the professional approach that the concerns of
the board member have pretty much been lost, in tech-
nical vocabulary if in nothing else. Of recent years the
officers and managers of these conferences have realized the
implications of the loss through lack of participation from
the board member partner in social work, and have sought
to correct it. Joining their efforts have been progressive
laymen who have helped to organize sessions especially for
board members and to inject into the whole program
papers and discussions that clarify relationships between
lay and professional workers. It is now the exceptional
well-organized conference that does not hold substantial
contributions for and by board members conducive to the
growth of those who give and those who take.

SPECIAL LITERATURE : Officers and executives will make it
easy for members of the board to keep up-to-date with new
thought and new developments in social work in general
and more specifically in relation to the field of their
own agency. New books, pamphlets and magazine ar-
ticles may be reported at meetings from time to time, or
the actual material may be loaned to the members. To
stimulate reading for background a brief bibliography of
standard material has been found useful. A memo from
the executive calling attention to a current pamphlet or
magazine article is usually appreciated.

"Go AND SEE" : Visits by board members to agencies in
other cities than their own, sitting in as guests at meet-
ings of other boards in their own general field, stretch
the view not only of the visitors themselves but of their
associates to whom they report their observations.

STUDY COMMITTEE: The educational content of board
membership is sufficiently important to warrant the ap-
pointment of a special committee to explore and to pro-
mote it through a continuous planned process. It will be
argued that board members will not or cannot give the
time necessary to self-education on the job, so to speak.
But it is less a matter of time than of capacity for assimila-
tion, a capacity which grows by what it feeds on. It is the
element of growth that transforms board membership
from a dull duty to an experience satisfying to the indi-
vidual, the agency and the community.

There can be no doubt that the social thinking of many
people has been changed or broadened by service on a board
where they have a close-up view of the problems with
which the agency is concerned. Gradually their thinking
communicates itself to a widening circle which in turn
starts other circles in motion. Thus the group thinking of
a single board, crystallized into a policy decision, may in
the long run attain a significance far beyond the specific
clientele of the agency. For example : many years ago it
was not customary for welfare societies to give relief to the
families of strikers. A society, surrounded by evidence of
suffering, had the courage to face the humanitarian issue
involved. Not without difficulty, for some of its members
were employers affected by the strike, the board thought
the matter through and arrived at the policy of giving

relief on the simple basis of need. Naturally the policy
was challenged and naturally the board interpreted and
defended it r each member in his own sphere of influence.
Little by little the doctrine spread and other relief socie-
ties adopted it. It became a policy of the Federal Emer-
gency Relief Administration and is now generally practiced
by public and private agencies the country over. The ac-
tion of that one board, relatively obscure but sound in its
community roots and in its sense of its own responsibility,
started something that has reached far beyond its own

Someone has said that in matters of social progress the
majority is always wrong, meaning that progressive
thought begins with a minority which sees the next step
in the course of advance and persistently promotes its gen-
eral acceptance though at the time it may seem dangerous
and radical. By the time the majority has accepted one
step another minority has visioned a further one, and
so progress goes on. Ideas of progress. may originate with
a specialist, an expert or an agency executive, but they
rarely eventuate into action without the influence of a
board to nurture, develop, and attune them to public ac-
ceptance. Social prophets may point the way, but it is
usually a hard-working board that builds the road to the

PRIVATE agencies are more free to pioneer than pub-
lic agencies, the activities of which are regulated by
law. In a sense private agencies are always minorities
pioneering in areas where the majority is not ready to ven-
ture. However, a public agency board will have failed in
responsibility if it refrains from extending its leadership to
the frontiers of public acceptance. Experience has shown
that an agency needs to be wise in delineating those fron-
tiers, for it is a fact that no substantial and lasting progress
in the field of social work, in community, state or nation,
can come without public acceptance of its principles. Prog-
ress in social welfare is conditioned by the general under-
standing and tacit consent of the average citizen. This is
one of the penalties of living in a democracy which we ac-
cept along with its obvious advantages. What the average
man does not understand he tends to be against. Thousand?
of problems clamor for his understanding. How can he, a
bewildered individual in a bewildering world, become so
aware of the meaning of social problems as to be willing
to face them and accept the dollars-and-cents burden of
their solution?

Because the problems are so large and bewildering there
is a tendency to turn them over, lock, stock and barrel,
to professionals with citizens withdrawing from participa-
tion while reserving the right of criticism. That may be one
way to do it of course, but to this student of social history
and observer of the current scene the better way, the
American way, of progress is by partnership between pro-
fessional and public through the instrumentality of the
intelligent socially informed and dynamic board. Progress
may not come by leaps and bounds but it will be solid and
substantial, rooted in understanding and in the deepening
social conscience of all the people.

SURVEY MIDMONTHLY is indebted to Harper and Brothers
as well as to the author for the privilege of offering to its
readers a series of four articles of which this is the last, drawn
from Mr. King's book, Social Agency Boards and How to
Serve on Them, soon to be published.



Are You Afraid of Syphilis:


Department of Social Service, The Graduate Hospital, University of Pennsylvania

Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesSurvey midmonthly : journal of social work (Volume 74) → online text (page 13 of 109)