Charles Richmond Henderson.

Introduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment online

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the promoters in diminishing or checking recidivism and general
criminality, and that even when prolonged during ten years and
more of confinement, there are no more unfavorable effects upon
physical and mental health than occur under other methods, pro-
vided that those already seriously defective are removed.

Even where the separate system is not adopted for the entire
long term of imprisonment, it is thought by many high authorities
to be valuable for all short term prisoners, and for the first few
months of a long sentence. A period of separation and of solitary
reflection, with a complete severance of all communication with

Elements of Prison Science. 283

vicious companionship, seems to promote the moral influence of
the officials.

The " congregate system " is the most common plan in the
United States. In the better establishments of this kind, the
prisoners sleep in separate cells, but work together during the day.
They eat their meals either in a common dining hall, or in their
cells. Generally the convicts are forbidden to converse with each
other, but it is impossible to suppress communication altogether.
The prisons built on this plan are less expensive than those on the
separate system. They can use machinery and steam power to
advantage, when this is thought desirable, and the outdoor mihtary
drill and gymnastic exercises are more easily managed.

4. Organization of the Staff. — The board of managers, as a
rule, represents the state and may be clothed with powers of
appointment, making of general regulations, and oversight of con-
ditions of parole. A prison commission may act for the entire
commonwealth for certain purposes, as the direction of industries
and the disposal of their products.

The responsible administrator is generally called the warden or
superintendent. It is his duty to have oversight of the execution
of the judicial sentence, according to the principles of the institu-
tion. As he is responsible to the managers or other legal repre-
sentative of the people for conduct and results, he ought to have
corresponding power of appointment and discharge of all sub-
ordinates, under the civil service regulations of the merit system,
and he should be required to make such records as will protect
the inmate from arbitrary and cruel treatment. There can be no
success if there is divided responsibility. There can be but one
directing mind and will in an institution, although the warden
himself is held to rigid account for all his acts, commands, and
their results.

Directly under the warden are the deputies and assistants,
officers of the guard, the corps of clerks in the office, the foremen
of the shops, and the director of the kitchen and housekeeping.

The physician is responsible to the chief for the sanitary and

284 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

hygienic arrangements of the institution. He controls the dis-
pensary and the hospital, directs the nurses of the sick, examines
those who claim to be unfit for labor, and detects mahngerers ;
and he ministers to those who require the ordinary medical and
surgical attention of his profession. Since the physician of a
prison must deal with many abnormal persons, he should have
knowledge of nervous diseases and experience in hospitals for the
insane. In cases of doubt, where there is a question of mental
disturbance, it may be wise to call in for consultation two or more
eminent specialists in insanity. It is frequently desirable, espe-
cially in large establishments remote from cities, to have a medical
man resident in the house, but this is not always practicable.
The physician should be provided with means for giving suitable
light employment to confirmed invalids who are too feeble to
endure the tasks assigned to ordinary laborers. Convicts who
are too old and infirm for labor should have assigned to them
special quarters. The physician should be charged with the
duty of preventing the communication of disease, especially con-
sumption ; and the estabhshment should be constructed and fur-
nished with this end in view. In the meetings of the staff, where
matters of discipline affecting the health of prisoners are dis-
cussed, the medical director should have a voice. He should be
consulted in relation to all plans of buildings, and give advice in
respect to dietaries, clothing, labor, and disciplinary punishments.
Within the province of his profession he should have an indepen-
dent position and the final word. If he is incapable, he should be
discharged upon evidence sufficient to convince a commission
composed of eminent medical men.

A teaching force is generally employed where there are many
young convicts. In some places the chaplain is required to con-
duct this branch of the prison work.

Religious services are conducted by a regular chaplain or by
ministers residing in the neighborhood. In civilized lands pris-
oners are not deprived of religious helps. Due respect is paid
to their denominational preferences, Roman Catholic, Protestant,

Elements of Prison Science. 285

Jewish. Logically, in a country like ours, where church and
state are separated, the religious services should be supported
financially by the various denominational missionary societies,
and the appointments should be made by those who pay. It
would be necessary for such arrangements to be subject to the
approval of the governor or other authority, and the warden must
always have power to prevent any interference with the order and
discipline of the establishment. As a matter of fact we are not
logically consistent, and the appointment of chaplains, as well as
their payment, has become, by common consent, an affair of the
executive of the government. Of course there is danger of merely
partisan appointments, but the judgment of the religious commu-
nity is felt to a great extent, and the influence of the National
Chaplains' Association and voluntary societies tends to prevent
gross abuses and to raise the quality of the service. Since it is
generally conceded that religious motives are an essential part of
moral sanctions and influences, the State is bound to see that
spiritual agencies are employed. Education without religion is
incomplete, and the correctional process is essentially educational.
Since the state is quite secure from ecclesiastical control, the argu-
ment from logic is less conclusive, and practical demands of the
situation seem to determine the policy of selecting religious teach-
ers by public appointment.

5. Life Activities of the Prison. — We have to do with a rela-
tively complete and self-sufficing community, isolated from the
opportunities of the outside world, yet designed to fit men for
adapted conduct in that world. The daily and weekly routine
must be regulated with conscious reference to this corrective and
restorative purpose.

The penitentiary is not designed to be a factory or mill erected
by the state for the production of marketable goods and for
revenue. The controlling principle must be the reformation of
the convicts. All financial considerations should be subordinated
to this end. The supreme tests of success are not the goods pro-
duced, but the saving of men from a career ruinous to themselves

286 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

and hurtful to society. Yet economy, thrift, industry, are essential
factors in the reformatory process, and they are demanded by the
interests of the people who support the prison.

At the basis of all successful treatment of convicts is intelligent
care of the physical health. Many of the prisoners are defective,
ill-nourished, and diseased. Their physical defects have made
them more than normally irritable, weakened their power of self-
control, unfitted them for regular and remunerative industry, and
increased the temptations to crime. There must, therefore, be
provision for plain, well-cooked food, in sufficient quantity ; and
it should be served in a way which will train rude men to decent
and civilized forms of eating. For this last reason it is much
better to have a common dining hall, where the simplest lessons
of table etiquette may be taught ; for etiquette is really " minor
morals " and has strong influence in subduing the animal impulses
connected with eating and other physical functions. Perhaps
this point has not been estimated at its true value in past practice.
But any one who will consider the difference between the gorging
and ravenous feeding of brutes, and the deliberate and genial
manners at the table of refined families, will appreciate the impor-
tance of the suggestion.

In the better institutions provisions are made for physical exer-
cises, carefully directed to the correction of bodily defects, weak-
nesses, and diseases. The gymnasium, the bath, and even massage
and electricity are employed to rebuild the broken and enfeebled
organism, and fit it to be the keeper of the reconstructed soul.

Industry. — Regular, rational, and productive industry is now
universally recognized as an essential factor in reformation.
Many prisoners have grown up without skill and without habits
of industry, and these faults and defects have brought them to
disgrace and pain. If they are ever to become useful citizens and
cooperators, instead of parasites and robbers, they must gain both
skill and good habits.

The manual training school is suitable for industrial and
reform schools, and for the intermediate prison or reformatory

Elements of Prison Science. 287

for young men. It lays a broad foundation for later develop-
ments of skill in special directions ; it awakens the dullard to
increased quickness of mental activity ; it helps the mathemati-
cally deficient to master form, number, proportion ; and it enables
the passionate and ungovernable to restrain and direct their
impulses of temper and appetite.

The Trade School. — Among the causes of crime the want of
skill has been noted. The modern industry has small and dimin-
ishing place for training apprentices. Machines are costly, the
organization is compact, the movements are swift and closely
interdependent. Who can stop the machinery of a monster mill
or factory to teach an awkward boy a trade ? How narrow, mean,
and useless at best, for culture purposes, is the technical trick
which is learned in a speciahzed modern factory or shop. Trade
schools in prisons fit men to do a particular thing in a way to
enable them to offer marketable labor when they return to free-
dom. It is a necessary part of the best reformatory method, par-
ticularly for that large number of young men who have never had
a chance to learn any useful calling.

The Shops and Occupations. — For the older prisoners, who are
past the plastic age of youth, there is less encouragement to pro-
vide manual and technical instruction. But all, old and young
alike, must be trained in habits of industry and self-support, must
be kept from the demoralizing and degrading effects of idleness,
and must be required to do all they can to support themselves.

Literary Instruction. — The opinion is frequently expressed
that only primary instruction should be furnished to illiterate con-
victs. This is a perverted notion of the function of literary teach-
ing. Men are influenced to good living by multiplying their
higher interests and by taking off their attention, as far as possi-
ble, from the imperious cravings of their animal appetites. When
the power of the state takes possession of a man's whole person-
ality, his nature should be plied on every side with the motives
which fortify his conscience and his taste against the tyranny of
the brute in him. The man should be studied as he is, and

288 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

should be led upward from the 'point he occupies when he is in-
carcerated by all proper and available instrumentalities. Instruc-
tion is, indeed, a tool for helping the economic life, but it is also
an instrument of quickening all the higher centres of the brain and
creating strong inward allies and friends of the new purpose to
live a better life among men. The library is often made a power-
ful aid of teacher and chaplain. If a taste for good reading can
be formed or fostered, it is one more pledge of better conduct.

Discipline. — Under this head we discuss all the systems of
devices for shaping the habits of men so that they will conform
to the normal requirements of free life in society ; as, the Grade
System, the Mark System, and Disciplinary Punishments.

The grade system is a very common method of provisional
classification of prisoners. Usually the men are divided into
three classes according to their manifestation of character; and
each man wears a uniform or bears a badge which shows to all
observers the grade to which his conduct has assigned him. All
enter the intermediate grade, and rise to the highest or fall to the
lowest according to their deportment, labor, and study. The con-
ditions of promotion or degradation in rank vary with the institu-
tions. The privileges of each grade differ, and every inducement
is offered to encourage advance. Since the grade is determined
by the record of marks, we may consider the modes of regulation
of life and conduct under that head.

The Mark System. — The grading, privileges, and hope of
earher release on parole, where parole is granted, are measured
by the record of the prisoner for demeanor, labor, study. Obedi-
ence to orders, moral conduct, voluntary performance of assigned
tasks, are reported and accounts are kept. When study is made a
part of the regular hfe, diligence and success in examinations are
usually made part of the basis of marking.

Infractions of the rules are followed by reduction in grades of
good standing, and, in some institutions, by a regular money fine
for each offence. Where the cash standard is adopted, an account
of services is kept to the credit of the convict, and he is charged

Elements of Prison Science, 289

with • the expenses of his hving and with fines for defects in

The purpose of the marking system is to provide an accurate
and impartial method of showing the progress of the convict
toward fitness for freedom.

The misdemeanors of prisoners, which are marked against them,
may be illustrated from this list : absence from shop, class or
drill ; assault or fight ; disobedience to orders ; disrespectful
conduct to officers ; fraud ; possession of contraband articles ;
insolence ; insubordination ; larceny ; licentiousness ; lying ; in-
tentionally incorrect report ; malicious mischief; misrepresenta-
tion ; profanity or vulgarity ; refusing to give name or number
to officer ; threatening or provoking language ; wilful neglect of
duty. Less serious offences are such as carelessness in ranks ;
neglect of cell ; spitting in ranks ; damage to property. Labor
defects are such as loafing, carelessness, negligence, wastefulness,
poor work, and task shortage.

6. Disciplinary Punishment within the Institution. — The gen-
eral public have but faint conception of the difficulties of man-
aging a regiment of lawbreakers, whose very presence in a prison
proves them to be in need of restraint and coercion. The eco-
nomic interest of the state demands that they work for their living,
both during and after incarceration. But many of them intensely
dislike steady work and refuse to do it when escape is possible.
Their entire habit and disposition are opposed to regular and sus-
tained industry, and they naturally rebel against working without

What should be done? The deprivation of Hberty is itself a
severe penalty and is much dreaded. For the majority a certain
amount of activity and effort is a relief, especially when, under the
marking system, it promises more speedy rehef from confinement.
The money rating of labor, with slight rewards and privileges for
special energy and fidelity to duty are helpful means and tend to
diminish the necessity for sterner measures.

But in all institutions and in all countries, though in varying

290 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

degrees, there is found a certain refractory and rebellious element
who give great trouble to the best of officers. Some convicts are
apathetic and sullen, and need a goad or spur ; some are defiant
and passionate, mutinous, revengeful, dangerous to life. The
superintendent or warden is morally and legally bound to main-
tain order, protect life, and require obedience to regulations, and
to keep all inmates at work. The prison is not a hotel where the
indolent shirk may live in idleness at pubhc expense. Hence the
occasional necessity of disciplinary punishments, or means of
coercion, about which there is so much careless and ignorant dis-
cussion, some of it inspired by fanatical sentimentalism, some of it
the expression of thoughtless and cruel barbarity.

Several methods of coercion are practised, even by humane
officials : Simple confinement in a cell, usually darkened in some
degree or absolutely dark ; deprivation of the more desirable and
inviting elements of food ; hanging by the hands chained to a door
of the punishment cell during work hours or longer ; and whipping
with lash, or paddling. All these are forms of " corporal" punish-
ment, for they all inflict pain upon the body. Many who abhor
whipping, because it seems to harden and humiliate a prisoner,
admit the use of the dark cell and isolation, forgetting that this
mode of corporal chastisement may be even more severe and
injurious. The deprivation of food may cause weakness and sick-
ness, with unfitness for labor.

While, therefore, all such punishments should be carefully limited
by law, by medical advice, by the presence of witnesses, and by an
obhgatory record of every instance with all details, they are in
some form necessary. Each method has its advantages and dis-
advantages. No way has yet been found to dispense with all
coercive measures.

7. The So-called *' Indeterminate Sentence." — It is impossible
for legislatures and courts to determine the exact measure of pain,
loss, or deprivation which a particular crime deserves in the eye of
absolute justice. It is also impossible to know in advance just how
long it is necessary to hold a prisoner under discipline in order to

Elements of Prison Science. 291

reform him and fit him for freedom. A definite sentence for a
fixed term is, therefore, irrational ; and the attempt of legislatures
to measure retributive justice by fines and periods of incarceration
ends in the most absurd and contradictory codes of penalty and
decisions of courts.

The modern substitute for the determinate and exact sen-
tence is the so-called indeterminate sentence. But no sentence,
save that for life, is absolutely "indeterminate." A better
expression is the "terminable" sentence, according to which
the court is legally required to send a convicted person to a
reformatory to be held until he is fit for liberty. The evidence
that he is prepared for release and freedom is furnished by the
convict himself in his conduct in prison and during conditional
liberation on parole. Neither of these forms of evidence is suffi-
cient in itself, and both must be taken together as parts of one
system of treatment. Ofiicers of a prison can see that a convict
has formed and sustained habits of self-control, industry, and
obedience to laws, and has manifested honesty and powers of
reflection and consideration. They can know by tests that he has
a degree of skill in some useful occupation which will enable him
to earn the means of satisfying his wants in the outside world.
Professions of good purpose in morahty and religion are not reli-
able indications of reformation, and must be evidenced by deeds
and by prolonged habits, within and without the prison.

Legislatures and lawyers have feared to remove the maximum
limit of sentence lest the managers of prisons keep the convicts
longer than is humane and just. But experience does not seem
to justify this anxiety ; and it would be easy to guard against abuses
through judicial supervision of administration. The crowded state
of most prisons compels the wardens to discharge the older in-
mates as quickly as possible with safety, and make room for new

The International Prison Congress of 1900 expressed the con-
viction that the indeterminate sentence should not be applied to
prisoners who are under an educational process, but that persons

292 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

of this class, whose reformation is hopeful, should be sentenced
to a long term, and then liberated conditionally, as described
in the next paragraphs. This les^es the decision of sentence
entirely in the power of the courts, as before, but permits the
prison officers to exercise a measure of discretion in the mode of
treatment during the period of the sentence. The same high
authority urges that radically different measures must be em-
ployed with recidivists ; and that persons of this group should
be subjected to prolonged sentences, with progressive extension
for those who have served terms in former parts of their lives.
This recommendation rests on the conviction that repetition of
offence, after repeated applications of reformatory measures,
proves a determination to continue in the crime career, and
that the man of this habit should be permanently restrained of
his liberty, for social protection.

In the case of irresponsible delinquents, as the insane and
idiotic, the restriction of liberty should not be for a definite term,
since courts cannot tell in advance how soon recovery may be
secured, and public protection be guaranteed ; but in such cases
the confinement has nothing of a penal character.

8. Conditional Discharge and the Parole System. ^ We have
seen that it is impossible to discover how a man will use liberty
so long as he remains under coercion and restraint and in the
direct control of prison officials. Within the high wall he cannot
become drunk, nor can he steal, nor murder, nor forge signa-
tures to checks, even if he has an inclination to such actions. He
must be tested by actual experience of freedom, under supervision,
before we can know how he will conduct himself as his own self-

According to the principle of the best modern legislation
prisoners may be discharged conditionally before the expiration
of the maximum term of their sentence, if their former lives and
their behavior in prison warrant the privilege. The prisoner is
permitted to go free on his parole, on his promise to avoid evil
associations and haunts, to follow his calling regularly, and to

Elements of Prison Science. 293

report at frequent stated intervals. He should not be released
until a place is found for him to work, for idleness and want will
lead him straight back to crime. The employer or other responsi-
ble citizen or officer is asked to confirm his report of good conduct.

At the end of his term of sentence, or even before, he may be
discharged from surveillance, upon the recommendation of the
superintendent. If the convict violate his parole and fall into
vicious and criminal ways, he may be arrested and returned for
further incarceration and discipline.

It is impossible, in the early history of an experiment, to guard
against all abuses and evils incident to defective administration.
For example, it has been found that criminals out on parole
secure forged reports of good conduct while they are actually
engaged in their old scheme as burglars and pickpockets. The
police of cities bitterly complain that some of the most dangerous
and cunning criminals thus escape punishment, return to plague
them, and fill the city with professional and shrewd characters,
who are difficult to detect and arrest. The remedy for this abuse
of the system must lie in a more thorough supervision of those
who are discharged. The administrative officers of the prison
must be careful in their selection of men for parole, and vigilant
in securing frequent and reliable information about their habits
and conduct. It is imperative that a sharp distinction be made
between professional, habitual criminals and the occasional

In the United States the principle of conditional release, with
the "indeterminate sentence," is meant to apply especially to the
more hopeful and reformable cases, and not to professional
criminals. For the habitual criminal, both vagabond and pro-
fessional, the " indeterminate sentence " should assume another
form, and be based on a different principle; that is, the "cumu-
lative sentence " should be employed to retain the dangerous

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 25 of 35)