New York (State). State Commission of Prisons.

Annual report of the State Commission of Prisons, Volume 26 online

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of mental defectiveness acknowledged to be existent here. It would be
desirable that a member be appointed from Albion to act as treasurer
for the convenience of the institution and its staflf.

The new, or re-organized, board should study the testimony taken
during the two investigations referred to and proceed to inquire into the
charges contained therein. They should take up and consider the cases
of employees whose resignations were asked for and pass upon their cases
solely on their merits. The board should also inquire into the matter of
mental examination of inmates, which has been neglected through no
fault of the institution but because of lack of qualified examiners, and
look into the possible need of segregating the low grade feeble-minded.

As to the fitness of the superintendent or her conduct of the insti-
tution, your commissioner made no investigation and offers no opinion.
This question would naturally be the first to occupy the attention of
a new board of managers.

To function properly, the board should be most careful to select a
capable and forceful chairman, one who would be Interested in the work
and willing to devote the necessary time to it.

The situation at Albion again shows the failure of some unpaid
boards of managers to sucessfully carry out the duties imposed upon
them by law and is another forceful argument for making such institutions
directly responsible to a Department of Correction or other every-day
functioning State Department

Respectfully submitted,




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New York City Institutions



Dated December 29, 1920. James A. Hamilton, Commissioner of

During a tour of inspection of the penal and correctional institntions
of the City of New York, attention was sharply called at each of these
institutions to the failure of the City of New York to make any provision
for properly clothing and providing funds for prisoners who are dis-
charged from these institutions after having completed their terms. Many
prisoners, men and women, are committed during the summer time and
come in with only light summer clothing. When their terms expire in
winter, the only things available for them are the clothing which they
wore on being committed, unless they have money or friends outside to
help them, which in a large percentage of the cases is not so and they
are sent out with improper clothing and no funds whatsoever, except by
the help of fellow-inmates and officers of the institution who can ill afford
to help them.

It was found that in some institutions men and women, whose terms
do not expire until warm weather have voluntarily given up their
clothes to help out-going inmates. It was found, further, that some in-
mates discharged without the help of the officers would not have carfare
to get away from the institutions. While at the women's workhouse this
week a prisoner came into the superintendent's office and asked to have
$2.00, which she had deposited to her credit, transferred to another girl
who was to go out the following day and had no money. It was discovered
that incidents of this kind happen frequently, men and women giving up
their clothing and small amounts of money to out-going prisoners. Such
treatment on the part of the City of its released prisoners certainly is
not much encouragement for them to *'go straight" upon release; to be
turned out on the streets of the city in winter disheartened, without
friends, proper clothing or money, the temptation to resort to stealing and
other crimes to secure food and clothing must be very strong. The city
officials in their present endeavor to wipe out the sources of crime can
well give this situation serious consideration.

The only allowances made by any of these institutions is at New
Hampton Farms, where the released boys are given their fare to New
York, but no clothing or money for food.

At the Penitentiary, Workhouse, Municipal Farm at Hiker's Island,
and the Reformatory Prison at Hart's Island nothing whatever Is given
l^ the city.

A report of the Commissary maintained at the various institutions
for the sale of food and other articles to inmates showed a surplus of
$21,623.04 on August 31st, and this surplus is constantly increasing. If
it can legally be done and no other means is found for providing money
to cover this situation, at least a part of this surplus should be devoted
to relieve the situation.

In the state prisons men who are sent out during the winter are
fiven a suit of cloths, overcoat, a ticket home, and $10. in money.

At the reformatories at Elmira and Napanoch proper clothing and


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money for a ticket is given ttn addition to what each prisoner has earned
by special work at the institutions.

At the Reformatory for Women at Bedford each girl is given a street
suit, two working dresses, two suits of underwear, a pair of shoes, and
if not sent directly to some private home, is given $10.00 in cash.

At the Westchester County Penitentiary men are fitted out with
clothing and given an amount of money necessary to reestablish them-
selves. The employment bureau also arranges to get them a boarding
place and a job, if possible.

This report should be sent to the Commissioner and to each member
of the Board of Estimate and Apportionment of the City of New York.

Respectfully submitted,





To THE State Commission of Prisons : вАФ

In the inspection of New York City penal and correctional institutions
during the year the entire absence of any educational program, except
at New Hampton Farms Reformatory, was brought sharply to the at-
tention of the Commission.

During the year 1920, 6,829 persons, of whom 5,804 were men and
1,025 women, were sentenced for various terms to these institutions. Of
these, 3,751 were between the ages of sixteen and thirty; 3,240 being
males and 511 females. Fourteen males and 32 females could not speak
or write English; 1,432 men and 186 women were aliens.

Of the population of 2,283 on December 31st, only the 307 at New
Hampton Farms had opportunity for receiving any education, and ab-
solutely no teachers were provided at the Penitentiary, Women's Work-
house, Hart's Island Reformatory Prison, or Riker's Island Municipal

Commissioner Weinstock, in a recent report of conditions at Hampton
Farms, which has the more hopeful males from sixteen to thirty years
of age, said:

" The Commissioner of Correction has been given

authority to establish and maintain such schools or classes for the
instruction and training of the inmates of the institution under his
charge as may be necessary for the accomplishment of this pur-

"I further find that there is no serious attempt at education of
the inmates. There is no proper school system at the Reformatory
nor are the inmates given any opportunity for intellectual develop-
ment through lectures or other form of education. No serious at-
tempt is made to develop the inmate nor fit him for a better life.

"It is recommended that the Commissioner of Correction of the
City of New York forthwith install the proi>er educational and school
system at the New York City Reformatory at Hampton Farms
simUar to that adopted and in vogue at the New York State Reform-
atory at Elmira and Sing Sing Prison, so that all the inmates of
said Reformatory may receive proper education and mental develop-

In the report of an inspection of Hampton Farms, made December
80th and 31, 1920, the inspector recommended "that a comprehensive plan
be worked out and put into operation, which will provide intellectual,
vocational and religious training to all inmates."


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The Acting Warden of Hampton Farms now states that, up to
August, there were two teachers; from August to December, three
teachers; and from December 15th, four teachers employed. He further
states :

"The plan of education during 1920 was to take all inmates who
had not reached the 5th grade, elementary school.

"The subjects taught were elementary and academic.
"Educational training was not extended to all inmates.
"The inmates were given instruction in the evening and on va-
rious occasions during the day when inclement weather interfered
with outside work.

"The vocational training they received was through their in-
structors in the line of their day's duty or assignment, such as car-
pentry, plumbing, steam fitting, farming, and the like. There was also
a plan of vocational lectures instituted on Saturday afternoons by the
various instructors. There were seven or eight lectures given."
In the inspection of Hart's Island it was stated that there were
twenty-five youths between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, and,
further :

"The name of this institution is a misnomer and it is in no sense
a reformatory. Last year the CJommission criticised the school con-
ditions here at that time, there being but one teacher and only those
not understanding English attending. No training was given other
illiterates, including the boys sent here. In July this teacher was
transferred to Hampton Farms and there is no teaching of any kind,
no vocational training or any of the necessary measures tending
toward reformation or rehabilitation of those classed as the reform-
able type."

The Penitentiary inspection showed 75 of the inmates between six-
teen and twenty-one years of age, and the Women's Workhouse 75 per
cent, between eighteen and thirty.

One of the serious lessons of the war was the necessity for education
and Americanization of those coming from foreign countries to make
their homes in this land.

With the large "shut in" population in these Institutions, many de-
tained for two or three years, there is an excellent opportunity for the
great City of New York to tmdertake to educate and Americanize these
people and, if possible, send them back to society as law-abiding and
useful members of the community.

The fertility of the field for this endeavor is great when it is borne
In mind that so many are aliens and, further, such a large proportion of
males and females of ages between sixteen and thirty. There can be no
doubt that the pernicious effects of un-American propaganda and an Ig-
norance of our beneficient government have prompted many of them to
commit the crimes for which they are serving time. A course of instruc-
tion in the elementary principles of constitutional government and the
meaning of the Constitution and American political institutions, if wisely
and thoroughly taught to even those of inferior mentality, would eradicate
from their minds the falsity and the infamies of such propaganda and
show them that they live in the greatest country in the world and that
Its institutions are for all the people and tend only to make the world
a better place in which to live.

New York City has many philanthropic and patriotic organizations
and individuals anxious to accomplish progress along these lines, and it
would seem that if funds are not provided by the city officials a systematic
program might be put into effect if these organizations and individuals
were induced and encouraged to take up the work by the Department of

Respectfully submitted,


December 31, 1920.

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The Commission on November 10, 1920, appointed a committee con-
sisting of Commissioners Weinstock, Patten and Rogers to investigate
conditions at the New York City Reformatory for Male Misdemeanants at
New Hampton. Commissioner Weinstock subsequently submitted a report
which was approved by a vote of 4 to 2, Commissioners Kennedy, Wein-
stock, Davenport and Solomon voting for its approval and Commissioners
Patten and Rogers in the negative. Commissioner Pierce was excused
from voting.

Commissioner Patten submitted a dissenting report which was re-
ceived and made a part of the Commission's record. The reports follow :


Investigation of the NEW YORK CITY RE-
In the Matter \ FORMATORY at New Hampton, New York,

under the jurisdiction of the Department of
Correction of the City of New York by the
State Commission of Prisons.

of the

I, Leon C. Weinstock, State Commissioner of Prisons of the State of
New York, to whom has been referred for investigation certain charges
connected with the administration of the New York City Reformatory at
New Hampton, New York, respectfully report to the State Commission of
Prisons as follows:

As a result of the various communications received by the State Com-
mission of Prisons indicating that inmates of the New York City Reform-
atory at New Hampton, New York, were subject to unnecessary cruel
and inhuman treatment, the administration of the New York City Reform-
atory at New Hampton, New York, in its relation to inmates was thorough-
ly investigated both through personal inspection and by the examination
of all such witnesses as could be found who had any knowledge of the
true facts.

The investigation and examination of witnesses was conducted on
behalf of the State Commission of Prisons by Deputy Attorney-General
Robert P. Beyer at the New York City Reformatory at New Hampton
Farms at the Penitentiary, at Blackwell's Island, and at the New York
City Bureau of the Attomey-Generars Office.

The New York City Reformatory at New Hampton, New York, was
created for the purpose of receiving the best class of prisoners most suc-
ceptible to reformative influence and regeneration. The Reformatory is
situated about sixty-five miles from New York City among the foothills
of the Ramapo Mountains. There is an entire absence of prison walls
and prison atmosphere. The inmates are supposed to be placed in natural
surroundings removed from all such influences as created their respective
downfalls under the guidance of a head of the institution who has the
ability, humane conception of the opportunities of his office and the proper
capacity and experience in welfare work. It is expected that the main
and imperative purpose of said Institution is one of true reform and to


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ODoake good and useful citizens of the unfortunates that have heen sent
to this institution.

The Legislature of the State of New York with the intent to effect
reformation where reformation is possible has made it the duty of the
Commissioner of Correction of the City of New York to cause all the
criminals and misdemeanants under his charge to be classified so far
as practicable so that the youthful and less hardened offenders should not
be rendered more depraved by association with and evil example of older
and more hardened offenders and through proper surroundings and in-
fluence to atone and repent of the crimes which they may have committed
against society. The Commissioner of Correction has been given authority
to establish and maintain such schools or classes for the instruction and
training of the inmates of the institution under his charge as may be
necessary for the accomplishment of this purpose. To the accomplishment
of the end desired the Commissioner of Correction has been given the
authoritity bo set apart one or more of the penal institutions for the cus-
tody of such youthful and less hardened offenders and to transfer such
offenders to such institution from any other of the penal institutions of
the City and when so transferred to classify such offenders so far as prac-
ticable with regard to age, nature of offense or other fact and to separate
or group such offenders according to such classification so far as prac-

In order therefore to properly carry into effect the reason for the
creation of the New York City Reformatory at New Hampton, New York,
care must be taken at the outset in properly classifying criminals and
misdemeanants so that only such class of criminals and misdemeanants
be transferred and committed to said reformatory whose youth and moral
and mental conception renders them worthy of receiving this opportunity
to become better men.

In my investigation it has been established that at times there ap-
peared to be a laxity in the making of this proper classification. Major
Sidney W. Brewster, Acting Superintendent of said Reformatory, testified
that many vicious cases were transferred to his Reformatory among whom
were New York gunmen, some of them hard characters and extremely
vicious. At page 183 of the Minutes Major Brewster testified: "Most of
these inmates are not first offenders. They are gangsters from New York
Oity." In substantiation of this statement Major Brewster produced large
boxes of dangerous weapons taken from prisoners in the institution. If
such l>e the character of certain of the inmates of the Reformatory it
became the duty of the Acting Superintendent of the Reformatory to re-
quest that the wron^jtul classification thus made be corrected by a trans-
fer of this class of inmates to the proper penal institution. If such in-
mates have by their conduct at the Reformatory demonstrated that they
were not susceptible to reformation and that they merit an infliction of
penal servitude more severe than that falling within the proper category
of the Reformatory, the fact of error of judgment in sending such class of
inmates to the Reformatory can be easily corrected by the use of the
methods of transfer prescribed by law.

Prior to January 1, 1020, the Reformatory was under the superin-
tendency of Major Lewis E. Lawes. now the Warden of Sing Sing Prison.
My investijration has convinced me that the Reformatory was in all
respects properly and efTielently conducted under the jurisdiction of Major
Lawes. None of the harsh forms of punishment that have existed at the
said Reformatory since January 1, 1020, were found necessary to be in-
flicted imder Major Lawes' siiperintendency. The examination of Major
Lawes has convinced me that in his taking charge of Sing Sing Prison
the Reformatory lost a man who possessed all the qualifications and
humane interest that is required of the head of a Reformatory to properly
serve the ends thereof. He at all times tried to get close to the man that
he sought to reform, tried to cultivate his self-respect and to insure re-
generation through self-respect and not through a system of brutal incar-


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ceratioQ and starvation. He aimed at nonnality. He wished and desired
to fit these inmates for a normal life. As he, Major Lawes, testified :

"You have to bring out the manly spirit within the man too If
you can and develop it The officers in a reformatory institution have
a wonderful opportunity to do good. They can show these boys how
to be right If they use brutality it reflects. You have to train. You
have a number of men mentally inferior, a number who lack the full
Tesponsibility of the average and normal human being. You have to
set him right. It is to bring out something in the man, to raise some-
thing within him to be a better man and who is to say that he would
not be a better man eventually."

As an illustration of the application of this humane conception of
duty and the opportunity for regeneration. Major Liawes Illustrated by the
case of an inmate known as Mike the Rat Catcher, who was a continual
trouble-maker. His case was recognized as practically useless and with
Ws apparent hopelessness of regeneration he was sent to New Hampton
with eighteen months to do. Mike desired to take care of the horses and
in this desire he was encouraged by Major Lawes. He made good. After
his discharge he enlisted in the Twenty-seventh Division, was a non-com-
missioned officer, went overseas, came back, was married and is now living
a good and honorable life in Brooklyn. This is only one instance of
numerous cases where Major Lawes succeeded in making a man of what
was considered a hopeless proposition. It illustrates the old adage that
there is a little good in the worst of men and if that little good is found
and fostered it may in time become dominant over the bad.

My investigation convinces me that Major Sidney W. Brewster, the
successor to Major Lawes as head of the Reformatory, does not possess
the required qualifications and conception of true welfare work which
fit him to continue as acting head of the institution. Major Sidney W.
Brewster has had an honorable record In the service of his country. As
an officer of the United States Army no fault can be found with him in
his leadership of men, but an efficient Army officer, however, does not
alone fit a man to be the head of a reformatory. The inmates of a reform-
atory are not normal men such as compose the Army of the United States.
In the Institution are men with defective vision, hearing, infirmities and
perverted mental condition. The proper method of treatment of inmates
of an Institution is therefore solely to be directed to the inmate rather
than to the crime or infraction of prison rules which he may have com-
mitted; its great object is for the moral regeneration of such inmate.
Hence the supreme aim of prison discipline is a proper and humane method
in the reformation of criminals, not the Infliction of vindictive suffering
or degradation. Special training, as well as high qualities of head and
heart, is required to make a good prison or reformatory officer. In order
to effect the reformation of prison criminals there must be not only sincere
desire and intention to that end, but a serious conviction in the mind of
the head of the institution that the inmates are capable of being reformed,
since no man can hardly maintain a discipline at war with his Inward
beliefs; no man can earnestly strive to accomplish what in his heart he
despairs of accomplishing. A system of prison discipline to be truly re-
formative must gain the good will of the convict. He is to be amended
but how is this possible with his mind in a state of hostility. No system
can hope to succeed that does not secure this harmony of wills so that
the prisoner shall choose for himself what his officer chooses for him.

It is in not observing these principles that in my opinion Major Sidney
"W. Brewster has failed in his work as the head of a reformatory institu-
tion. The testimony taken convinces me that Major Brewster was at all
times actuated by a stem, unrelenting and severe discipline which suffered
no excuse for the iiifliction of a prescribed form of ptmishment irrespec-
tive of any qualities that might have existed in favor of the Inmate and
without any attempt to prevent a recurrence of the particular Infraction
through an appeal to or attempt at cultivation of the better side of the


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inmate. Immediately after Major Brewster assumed charge of the re-
formatory a cruel system of isolation as a means of punishment was put
Into effect This punishment consisted in placing the inmate in solitary
confinement for a prescribed number of days and sought reformation by
the additional punishment of starvation as a means to accomplish re-
formation. An inmate committed to an isolation cell was placed upon a
diet of two slices of bread twice daily and two cups of water for a period
of five consecutive days. On the sixth day the inmate in solitary confine-
ment received regular rations and then followed five more consecutive days
of this restricted bread and water diet with the inmate being permitted
on the eleventh day to receive regular rations and this treatment con-
tinued in like order for the duration of the prescribed number of days
in solitary confinement. In some instances this course of treatment would
continue from twenty-eight to thirty-four days. The receipt of so-called
contraband by an inmate in solitary confinement, i.e., receiving articles of
food from other inmates while on bread and water diet or the receipt of
a cigarette would result in the imposition of five additional days in medita-
tion upon the restricted bread and water diet hereinbefore noted.

It was testified by Major Brewster that this treatment had no de-
leterious effect on the health of the inmates. With this conclusion, how-
ever, I am unable to agree. Medical testimony which has been introduced

Online LibraryNew York (State). State Commission of PrisonsAnnual report of the State Commission of Prisons, Volume 26 → online text (page 13 of 58)