Charles Richmond Henderson.

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

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criminal in custody as long as possible. Some of these men are
excellent prisoners while they are inside the walls, and they
cunningly plan to make as much "good time" as possible by

294 -^^ Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

strict observance of the rules. They are under much better self-
control than impulsive, reformable youth. There is no better
illustration of the necessity of suiting the punishment to the
crime, of adapting treatment to the nature of the man. The
management of the occasional offender must be differentiated
from that of the professional, in the conduct of both courts and

9. Forms of Prison Labor. — A fundamental principle of guid-
ance here is that labor is necessary in the treatment of prisoners.
The health and moral salvation of any man depends on regular
and rational work. The criminal has lost his place among his
fellows because he had not skill and habits of industry, and
because he satisfied his wants by methods injurious to society.
During his incarceration he is an expense to the state, and he
should be required to do all in his power to support himself. If
he is idle, then society, already injured, must support him by its
industry without return from the culprit.

The reasons for requiring regular, constant, and useful work
from all prisoners are thus drawn from considerations of humanity
toward the criminal himself, from the economic interests of the
community, and from the fact that the worst menace to social
order and spiritual welfare lies in the activity of vicious and idle
men. The wretched and destructive effects of confinement with-
out occupation cannot be imagined by those who have not actu-
ally seen large bodies of men under such conditions.

It is therefore the duty of the state to provide occupation with
rational, that is useful, industry, for all those who are deprived of
liberty for the benefit of the people. And those who oppose cer-
tain forms of employment are under special obligation to propose
better methods. A legislator who should demand the abolition
of one kind of labor without knowing distinctly what should be
substituted, is unfit for his high position. That the possible
alternatives may be considered we shall here notice all the more
conspicuous methods of employing the laborers in prisons, and at
the same time consider the advantages and dangers of each system.

Elements of Prison Science. 295

The Contract Syste?n. — ■ The prison authorities make contracts
with manufacturers for a certain price per day for each laborer,
the prisoners working under the direction of the agents of the
contractors. The machinery may be supplied by the state or by
the contractors, according to agreement. For some reasons this
plan has been found a financial advantage to the state. Men who
are engaged in the business of manufacturing certain kinds of
goods acquire skill in purchase of raw material, in the organiza-
tion of a shop, and in the marketing of products, which is diffi-
cult for a warden to acquire, in addition to the many other forms
of knowledge which he must possess. For these reasons the pri-
vate contractor can sometimes, perhaps generally, secure better
financial results than the average warden. If the costly machinery
is put in by the contractors, the state is relieved of that heavy
investment, and does not run the risk of market gluts and changes
in prices of materials. The contractors secure a good day's
work, in return for the price paid the state, by various devices,
as presents of tobacco, money rewards for extra labor, and other
inducements which appeal to hope. Contractors have generally
discovered that hope and reward are more stimulating and
sustaining motives than terror.

But, in spite of such advantages, the contract system is falling
into disuse because of certain inherent disadvantages. Economi-
cally it is criticised for its tendency to mass competition with
free labor at certain points, in special lines of production, and
this objection comes from the wage-workers as well as from the
competing manufacturers. The opposition to this system on
economic grounds has led to legislation in many states forbidding
the use of the system in prisons.

Another kind of objection is urged from the standpoint of dis-
cipline and reformatory purposes : the outside contractor inter-
feres with the direction and control of those who are charged with
the task of reforming the criminal. It is difficult, and sometimes
impossible, to fit this external factor of control into the system
of prison education. The minute division of labor made neces-

296 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

sary by the contract system interferes with that larger educational
scheme which trains a man to meet the vicissitudes of varying
industry in the world. This objection has special force where
the prisoners are young and have not yet specialized their
industry nor learned a trade. A young man is not much helped
to cope with the intricate conditions of modern industry by
being taught a trick of making the tenth part of a brush or the
seventeenth part of a shoe.

The Piece-price System. — This is a modification of the contract
system. The contractor furnishes material and receives finished
articles at an agreed price, the supervision of the industry being
in the hands of the prison officers. This control of the men with-
out outside interference is a distinct advantage, but the economic
objections urged against the regular contract method apply to this

The Public Account System. — Under this system of employment
the state owns the plant, furnishes the raw materials, and con-
ducts the business, through the officers of the prison. If there
are any profits they go to the state to help pay the expenses of
trial and care. The warden here is enabled to use the labor of
the men as a means of reformation, without the interference
of others; and thus he can maintain a consistent plan.

But there are serious objections to the public account plan.
It requires, as a condition of profit, the use of expensive power
machinery. — a heavy investment by the state. The management
of the prison becomes a business likely to be dominated by
money-making considerations. The reformatory and educational
objects tend to be reduced to a minimum and lost out of sight.
Financial anxieties absorb the energy of the wardens. Goods
sold in the market tend to disturb prices and wages in the world,
if sales are massed upon a small number of commodities. There
is danger of scandal in relation to finances, as the amount of
money handled by the warden must be large.

The Lease System. — The lease system is mentioned merely
to condemn it. In this scheme the convicts are leased to con-

Elements of Prison Science. 297

tractors for a fixed sum and period; the lessees undertaking to
feed, clothe, and care for prisoners and to maintain discipline.
Under such circumstances the state abdicates its function as
public guardian of order and private rights, and surrenders con-
trol of its prisoners to irresponsible parties and to personal
interests. Reformatory measures cannot be expected to be used
in this situation.

Conchcsioii. — The state account plan is, on the whole, rela-
tively the best, although it is not without difficulties. The
manufacture of goods for public institutions, of state, county,
and city, is some relief to the market, although it is a mistake
to imagine that competition with free labor is thereby entirely
removed. So long as men produce commodities for themselves,
even within prison walls, they make articles which would other-
wise be produced by free labor.

The enlargement of the school for technical training in useful
employments, with an educational aim, would imply a large
expenditure of money, but it would be economical, because it
would fit men for citizenship and a place in the industrial sys-
tem. If the number of trades taught were quite large, the product
of any one would not appreciably affect prices and wages in the
outside world. In any case, and under any system of labor, the
production of commodities should be as varied as possible : first,
in order to suit the occupations and training to the varied
natures of the convicts; and, secondly, to avoid the massing of
marketable goods in a few lines and the supply of discharged
prisoners as laborers afterward in a few kinds of employment.
It is desirable that the direction of industry for all the institu-
tions of a state be under control of one administrative body, as
in the state of New York.

The proposition is frequently made to work prisoners on public
works, as roads, ditches, canals, dikes, farms, quarries, and for-
tifications. Many experiments have been tried in Europe and
America. It has been found practicable to carry out this sug-
gestion with a limited class of prisoners, with careful restrictions

298 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

and regulations. In connection with local prisons, as county-
jails, or workhouses, stone-breaking, brick-making, gardening,
burning of garbage, and some such public industries have been
successfully carried on, but only within confining walls, to pre-
vent escape. In some few places "trusty" prisoners, whose
habits are well known and whose term will soon expire, have
been set to work on roads and in ditching operations.

But most convicts, especially if they have a long term before
them, eagerly desire liberty, and will take great risks to free
themselves from restraint and confinement. If they labor in large
companies, experience proves that they must be chained together
or be kept in gangs under the guard of men armed with rifles,
who have orders to kill instantly those who attempt to pass a
certain line.

The cost of supervision is very great. The gang system
involves, of necessity, the killing of many prisoners, so that, in
a certain degree, such treatment means actually capital punish-
ment, which is not contemplated in the law. The spectacle of
such gangs laboring on the highways, where they must come in
contact with persons of all ages, is demoralizing and degrading.
For restraint and care during the night and on Sundays some sort
of a prison is still necessary, even if it be no more than a stock-
ade. Such extemporized prison pens soon become foul and
dangerous to the public health. In our long and cold winters
this method of employment is utterly impracticable on account
of the severity of the climate and the condition of the materials
of labor. Furthermore, most of the younger prisoners come from
the industrial centres, in the older states, and the training given
on rough public works has no educational value for them. It is
useless to spend time and means on giving agricultural training
to young men whose habits, friends, and nature fit them only for
urban life. Open air labor, therefore, is to be used only within
narrow limits, and the suggestion goes but a little way to solve
the problem.

10. Prisons for "Women. — These institutions should be under

Elements of Prison Science. 299

the government and administration of competent women, and
absolutely separated from prisons for men. Industries adapted
to women should be carried on. Discharged prisoners should
be carefully watched over for many months, by agents of the
administration, until they have been fully restored to good habits.
Either the indeterminate sentence or a system of conditional
liberation should give to the superintendent of such a prison
control long enough to make the moral treatment thorough and

Hardened thieves and prostitutes should be held under progres-
sive and cumulative sentences for public security. Short terms
of imprisonment for such characters have no reformatory value,
and social protection requires their permanent segregation.

In no case should reform schools for girls under eighteen years
of age be connected, in any way, with prisons for women. Such
schools will be considered later, in the chapter devoted to juvenile

In the best prisons for women there is, as in men's prisons, a
system of grades, marked by distinctions of dress, diet, table-
ware, and treatment. A period of probation is passed in cellular
isolation in a well-lighted and well-ventilated, but austerely plain
room. There the woman who has been brought away from the
wild and tumultuous life of passion is permitted to become quietj
she is shut off from the news of that mad world which has ruined
her happiness and character; she gradually becomes hungry
for company, and glad to have visits from the officers; cases of
deliidum tremens and insanity are discovered and treated; and
thus preparation is made for the next stages of discipline.
Members of different grades are not permitted to speak with
each other. They are all taught to think, to consider, to fill
their minds with new and higher images and materials of reflec-
tion, and they are trained in some useful industry. Religion, in
its simplest and most universal forms, is made to enfold them
as an atmosphere full of light, mercy, and hope. "Ambition,
without which no reform is possible; self-respect, which is the key-

300 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

stone of character; self-control, which is character, — have been
gained by many an unstable, sinful, or despairing soul simply by
the purposeful effort to attain the best rank in her little world,"
said Mrs. Ellen C. Johnson, of blessed memory.

11. Centralized Administration. — A state commission is re-
quired in each state, in order to secure uniformity and efficiency;
to prevent local abuses; to bring faults into the light of publicity;
to adjust the industries of all institutions to changing public
needs; and to transfer prisoners from one institution to another,
according to their nature and needs. So far as such duties are
administrative they may be assigned to a special commission; but
judicial functions require some relation with the courts of justice.

12. Selection and Training of Prison Officers. — The superior
officers, as wardens, superintendents, physicians, chaplains,
should be chosen by the constituted legal authority upon evi-
dence of adequate general intelligence and special experience.
It is desirable to appoint the superintendents from the ranks of
those who have served in subordinate offices before being in-
trusted with the complex and delicate interests of a prison. It
is a fortunate tendency that wardens are now more frequently
chosen from among the deputies of successful prisons; and thus
a very desirable professional spirit is fostered. But the danger
of losing a position through change of political parties, and the
low salaries offered, are both obstacles in the way of building up
a large and permanent corps of professional prison officers.

The subordinate officers should be selected on the Merit Sys-
tem, which includes a preliminary examination as proof of gen-
eral intelligence; probationary tests, to show practical qualities
of character and fitness; promotion through grades of rank and
payment, to encourage men to improve themselves and be faithful
to duty; security of tenure during good behavior and satisfactory
service; with exemption from removal without cause given to the
appointing authority of the commonwealth. These principles
will secure men of intelligence, character, and training.

The education of prison officers should be both theoretical and

Elements of Prison Science. 301

practical. If the policy of promoting trained and efficient men
to the highest positions is to become general, it will be necessary
to select and educate the men who are appointed to the lower
positions. For men of the highest rank and ambitions in the
profession the universities offer courses in criminal law, anthro-
pology, penology, and sociology, which will impart the necessary
historical and theoretical information. These advanced studies
can be followed up by the use of professional libraries, which
should be furnished for each institution.

In addition to security of tenure and protection from unjust,
malicious, and irresponsible attacks, the salaries of officers should
be large enough to induce men of talent and administrative
ability to seek such positions and continue in them, even when
their administrative business abilities open the way to lucrative
commercial positions.

■ Neglect of attendance upon the meetings of the National
Prison Association is unprofessional conduct, and each state
should provide for the expenses of two or more officers of each
institution to enable them to attend.

Within each prison there should be systematic instruction of
subordinate officers. A plan for such classes, to be directed by
the warden, or his representative, is given in the appendix to
this volume. The practical and technical training in the duties
of each position can be given only by means of the daily routine,
under the regulations of the warden and board. But theory and
practice must go together if we are to secure the highest results.
The meeting in council of all the prison officers is a favorable
opportunity for considering, not merely the actual rules and life
of the establishment, but also the principles and reasons which
underlie all specific actions. Men who move mechanically, under
specific orders, without being taught to consider the reasons,
become automatons, lack initiative and invention, and become
mere slaves of monotonous routine. Energetic and effective men
soon seek escape from this deadly grind, where creative mental
activity has no outlet or expression.

302 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

Some beginnings have been made toward the establishment of
schools for teaching those branches of knowledge which are
necessary for intelligent and progressive officers of reformatories
and prisons. These attempts will be more likely to succeed as
the present wardens become convinced of their value and send
younger officers to attend them, as teachers are sent to summer
schools, or institutes, or normal schools. If the Merit System is
sustained, as it now seems probable it will be, ambitious people
will have more encouragement to secure an education for such
positions; but where appointments are made on the basis of
favoritism and partisanship there is no outlook for those who
prepare themselves at much cost for a position where such
preparation is not even required as a condition of promotion.

13. Substitutes for Imprisonment. — There is great need of
revising our exaggerated estimate of the prison as the almost
exclusive mode of reformatory action. Historically, incarcera-
tion is a recent method of punishment, and even now it is not
always the best and wisest means at the disposal of judicial

There are serious disadvantages of the prison, especially for
short term sentences. The ordinary congregate prison compels
association with criminals, and thus the influence of strong bad
men over the weaker and more pliable natures is continued.
Plotting and planning crimes to some extent are possible. Prison
life is, for those not already habitual associates of criminals, a
contaminating agency.

The separate, cellular prison is free from the objection just
named, but it cuts the prisoner off from normal, industrial, and
social life, from family and friends; and it is very costly to the
state or municipality.

The record and title of the ex-convict is always against him,
and hard to live down; he is discouraged; he is hindered from
finding and holding employment. Especially in the case of first
offenders this record should be avoided if possible.

Applied to old and hardened offenders, who are accustomed

Elements of Prison Science. 303

to the prison, it has no repressive and no educational effect.
Some men actually seek incarceration and find it restful, — ■ a
good way to recuperate for another debauch, an asylum provided
for them at public expense. This is true most of all of the
county jail.

Experience proves that, for many of the criminal class, the
prison fails in both its main objects: it does not deter and
it does not reform. Victor Hugo said: "What is the name
which criminals give to the prison? the 'college.' An entire
penitentiary system issues from that term." It is easy to make
exaggerated statements on this point, and affirm, as some do,
that the prison always corrupts, never reforms, and never fright-
ens. None of these statements is true for all persons. Many
people are held back from crime by fear of the consequences,
and many are restored to life reformed and improved. But it is
also true that the prison does not touch the permanent causes of
crime which inhere in the economic conditions, the bad housing,
the neglect of education, and the hideous squalor, filth, and mis-
ery of cities. The prison comes too late to touch these factors.

Without going into general social reforms at this point, we
may consider some of the proposed substitutes for the prison and
its deprivation of liberty and suspension of normal habits of
industrial and domestic life.

The Probation System. — The main features of this method are
ordinary arrest, detention, investigation, and probation. Per-
sons charged with drunkenness, for example, or some other
offence of a relatively mild nature, and who are presumably not
dangerous or habitual offenders, are temporarily placed in a
House of Detention. An officer of the court is appointed to
investigate their character and history by inquiries in the cell
and among associates and neighbors. The purpose of this inves-
tigation is to discover the environments, influences, capacity for
work, and tendencies of life, and to report to the court. If the
court finds it unsafe to give the person freedom the regular course
of law is followed. But if there is hope of reformation without

304 An Introduction to Criminal Sociology.

deprivation of liberty, the judge grants a "continuance" of the
case pending probation; the offender is released on promise to
maintain good conduct, and the probation officer visits him or
her once each week and makes certain that the advice of the
judge is followed. Industrial occupation is secured at home, or
with an employer, or in a private institution; and a relation of
friendly guidance and assistance is maintained. Thus an offender
may be reformed, or prevented from becoming a habitual crimi-
nal, by personal influence and help, without losing time from
employment, without being cut off from family and friends, and
without incurring the reputation of a "jail-bird."

Fines. — It has been found possible to substitute fines for
imprisonment in many cases, where the offence is not serious and
the security for payment is ample. Judges in states which give
the option generally prefer to inflict fines, if this way is open to
them. In cities there are great abuses, but this is no objection
to the principle. If the bondsmen are not responsible they
should not be accepted by the court, and a state commission
could prevent such perversions. Professional and dangerous
criminals should always be imprisoned without giving their com-
rades the power to set them free by paying a fine. It is almost
inevitable that a poor man must go to prison if he is not able
to pay his fine; and it is sometimes objected that this intro-
duces injustice and partiality. But it is not impossible to secure
good bondsmen for honest men, and few will suffer merely
because they are without money, if they can give security for
good conduct and agree to pay their fines in instalments.

Reparation. — It has been proposed that reparation to the
injured party be required as a condition of suspending the sen-
tence of hard labor in prison, in cases where a private citizen
has been injured. This is to be carried out without cost to the
injured party for civil suit for damages, and the measure is
intended not only to work justice, but to hold the malefactor to
a course of moral training.

Closely related to this device is that of compulsory labor under

Elements of Prison Science. 305

the directions of agents of a court, without imprisonment. But
such measures are not applicable to vagrants, or to dangerous
criminals, or to any who are likely to run away from the juris-
diction of the court.

The advantages of the method of requiring reparation for
injury are : the victim and his acquaintances realize that the
state is the agent of justice between men. The indemnity is
often needed to prevent the suffering of the family of the victim,
who may be ill able to bear the loss. The influence of the crimi-

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 26 of 35)