New York (State). State Commission of Prisons.

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

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intoxication and none for bootlegging. But it is not my
judgment that prohibition has all the credit, for since the
war it has been almost impossible to get a man to do any
kind of work in the country towns; there has not been the
men of the same type in the country nor one-half as many
of them.

"I think it might be a good thing should prohibition be
enforced, but as it is today I think it is the cause of more
violations of the law than anything that ever happened, and
the violator thinks light of it. I believe that today there
are ten selling booze where there was only one before the
dry law. Today a man that wants it can buy it and it
will be left at his house for him and if his neighbor wants
a quart of it he will sell it to him. It is a great temptation
to the man that has a car and a few hundred dollars; he
can go to Canada, get a few cases of the wet goods, take it
to New York, and make a thousand dollars on it and there
are hundreds of them doing it; and I contend that before
there can be much said in favor of the dry law those con-
ditions will have to be stopped, and how is it to be done?
Who is going to pay the shot? It would be no small job
to stop the sale and traffic, for I believe that there are one-
half of the people interested one way or another in it.

"In looking up jail records only of course it looks as
though prohibition had done it all and reduced crime, but
I cannot see it that way because there are people handling
it today that never thought of such a thing before, but are
in it for the money and they get it. Jail records only show
the poor unfortunate man that when he gets a little too
much cider or booze he wants to show himself and he gets
out on the street, then the good soul at once looks up an
officer and has him taken in; he is one that helps make up
the jail record; he has to serve a sentence.

"But what about the man with the coin, he wants to
put on a party; he buys a couple of cases; he can get it
delivered to his door; his friends can all get drunk; no one
thinks anything of that today, although those two cases
have no doubt caused fifty violations since it left Canada.***

"I don't think that in getting jail records alone is a
fair way to put it up to the people as to what prohibition
has done for our country up to the present time, if that is
the purpose of the jail records."


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The opinions of the various city officials throughout the
state vary widely as to the effect of prohibition upon crime.
The mayor of the city of New York writes as follows:

"According to the figures furnished to me by the Commis-
sioner of Public Welfare, the number of admissions to the al-
coholic wards of the Kings County Hospital were more than
double during the year 1920 than for the same period prior to
prohibition going into effect. In this connection the superinten-
dent of the hospital says :

*It is interesting to note that the number of alcoholic
cases for the 1920 period just about doubles that of the 1919
period, notwithstanding the high prices, the prohibited sale
and the supposed difficulty in obtaining the liquor illicitly.
Our alcoholic patients now come to us as a result of the
so-called hard liquors, while during the 1919 period there
were a great many "beer drunks" owing to the permissive
open selling of that beverage.

^During the summer, the patients coming in began to
show evidences of a more severe poisoning, as though the
liquors they had been drinking were not as good in quality
as that to which the population has been accustomed; it
seems as though they were poisoned with some sort of by-
products. From July 1st to December 1, 1919, there were
seven deaths in our alcoholic wards. During the same
period of 1920 there were eleven deaths. It is the writer's
opinion that anything and everything is clandestinely sold
these days for hard liquor and the consumers are as toler-
ant of the quality as they are of the price.'
"The cases of blindness and death which are from time to
time reported from the various forms of alcoholic poisoning are
some of the unfortunate aspects of the situation. But the ul-
timate effects of prohibition will best be seen by its influence
upon a new generation."

The Commissioner of Correction of the City of New York
submits the following statement:

Commitments for Intoxication to the Workhouse for
a period of 6 years past

Year Male Female Total

1915 2,699 2,227 4,926

1916 1,071 1,290 2,361

1917 731 836 1,567

1918 328 336 664

1919 197 232 429

1920 99 77 176

In the opinion of one up-state commissioner of public safety,
at least, prohibition is a "dismal failure :"

"The difference in the number of arrests is no indica-


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tion of the sobriety of this municipality. In 1919 plain
drunks were the case, where now, men arraigned on charges
of public intoxication and disorderly conduct are still dazed
and 80 per cent, of them suffer from lapse of memory. In
those cases it would be more charitable to call a physician
than to make an arrest. If every person found drunk and
disorderly was arrested we would be obliged to build a
Chicago CoUiseum to detain them. Our total number of
arraignments for 1919 were 315 and in this (Prohibition
year) 1920 they were 471.

"If that is any criterion it demonstrates that in this
arid era the standard of morality has not been elevated and
the unwillingness of some to obey this law makes the work
of the police department more complex and difficult. The
forbidden fruit will always be a temptation and no man-
made law can ever eliminate the instinct born in the Garden
of Eden. I cannot find where Prohibition has added one
piano in the homes of my neighbors ; there are just as many
mortgages filed as heretofore ; culture is no more in advance ;
social conditions have not softened; and the prolific soil of
evil still sprouts and grows as many scandals as in the days
of the high ball. Deadly concoctions are peddled under
the name of 'Booze' and we stand amazed at the ramifica-
tions of this terrible traffic. A condition that causes people
to lie, steal, and even kill to accomplish; that gores into
the vitals of social life; that is a menace to old and young
is indeed a deplorable condition and more so because of the
impossibility of enforcing the law against it. In my opinion
it is a dismal failure."

On the other hand many mayors and public officials point
to the beneficial effects of prohibition as the following extract
from a mayor's letter shows:

"It is my opinion that prohibition has had a beneficial
effect on the working classes, because at the present time we
have practically no calls for charity, except from widows
with large families of children or cases where there is sick-
ness. Of course, in the vicinity of New York City pro-
hibition has not been as effective as it probably has in other
parts of the country. We still have considerable drunken-
ness on the streets to contend with,****but there is no doubt
that prohibition is having the effect of emptying the jails
and our police station now has very few inmates."

Another mayor says:

"Since prohibition went into effect there has been an
increase in the individual deposits in our banks, showing
thrift. We have less intoxicated people walking our streets,
making it much pleasanter for pedestrians. We have fewer
people upon our books that ask for help from the city. It


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is true that liquor is being sold in our city, but in a veiy
careful way.

"The man that used to stop on his way home from work
to get a drink does not make that stop, for the place is
closed and that is a benefit, not only to him but to hundreds
of other men. The money spent for their drinks at that
time now goes home to help feed and clothe their families.
This alone is worth yours and my vote for a dry city, and
I am not a prohibitionist either. If a vote were taken today
for a wet or dry city here, I am sure it would go three to
one in favor of the drys.''

Still another mayor reports a decline of over 62 per cent.
in the number of arrests and states that "this indicates that a
great improvement under prohibition has taken place locally,
even with the present lawlessness and illicit liquors in our midst.
My experience is that the necessities and some of the comforts
of life are being supplied in multiplied thousands of homes
heretofore needy. The present alcoholic addicts and defectives^
the product of the liquor license system, are rightly recognized
as the left-over liquor problem and not the result of prohibition.
••*The results of prohibition as applied to this city are good.'*

The Commissioner of Public Safety of one of the large up-
state cities views the situation as follows:

"Since 1917 public intoxication has decreased from 2,68ft
to 578 this year. This has caused in total arraignments
from 6,659 in 1917 to a decrease of 3,125 in 1920.

"Intoxication cases have increased over 100 per cent, in
the past six months over the six previous months, due un-
doubtedly to bootlegging.

"Our chief of police says that with the decline in aiv
rests for drunkenness and offenses incident thereto, has
come an increase in more serious crimes of violence, such as
robbery, burglary, etc. Felonious assaults have increased
about 70 per cent, in the last six months. The type of men
convicted of intoxication is entirely different than previous-
ly. They are to a large extent men of respectability."

The chief of police of a city not far from the Pennsylvania
border complains of lack of enforcement of the law. He says:

"I wish to state that the prohibition law would be all
right if it was enforced by the Federal enforcement officers
or local police were upheld in their efforts to enforce it.

"The local officers have made several arrests for viola-
tion of the 18th amendment, but in no case has there been
a penalty inflicted which would keep the offenders from a
future violation. In two cases where the local officers made
arrests and confiscated liquor, the city had to incur the ex-
pense of taking them before a U. S. Commissioner and then
before a Federal judge in New York City where they were


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fined ?20 each, and I have reasons to believe are doing
business still.

"In another ease where 54 gallons of whiskey wei*e taken
from a man who brought it to this citj^ in an automobile
he was arraigned before a U. S. Commissioner and held
under bail for trial. Later, the Commissioner and a Federal
officer came to this city and said the party had been fined
?250 and ordered whiskey returned to him.

"On another occasion an Italian was arrested for bring-
ing a quantity of liquor and spirits to this city. The U. S.
Commissioner was notified, also the Headquarters of the
Federal Enforcement Officers, but I could get no satisfac-
tion where to arraign this man, so after holding him several
days he was released.

"I would only be too glad to have the officers of thia
department do all in their power to enforce the 18th amend-
ment, but can get no satisfaction from the Federal enforce-
ment officers in doing it.

"The number of arrests in this city for the year 1918 was
537, for public intoxication 120. The year 1919 was 522,
for public intoxication 95. The year 1920 was 381, for
public intoxication 20.

"I am satisfied from reports brought me by officers of
this department that there are more places where liquor
is sold, and more consumed, than before the 18th amendment
became effective."

Many other public officials complain of the lack of proper
authority to enforce the present prohibitory laws. Before defin-
ite conclusions can be drawn as to the effect of prohibition upon
crime, it is evident that its continuance over a period of years
will be required together with adequate means of enforcements

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Under the provisions of the State Boards and Commissions
Law, the State Commission of Prisons annually designates one
of its members to serve as a member of the State Probation
Commission. Commissioner Allan I. Holloway served in this
capacity until January, 1920, upon which date Commissioner
Henry Solomon was appointed and is now serving as a member
of the Probation Commission.

The Probation Commission has extended and developed
efficient probation service throughout the State and the system
appears to have been thoroughly justified as a method for dealing
with suitable cases. Youthful offenders, first offenders, and
others who are not repeating and confirmed offenders and not
mentally defective, make good in a large majority of cases when
placed under strict conditions of probation and when they receive
thorough-going supervision.

The past year has been a time of testing for the probation
system. All forms of so-called leniency in dealing with offenders
have been questioned and demand has been made for more
prompt and severe dealing with the criminal. During this period
the probation system has shown itself to be an effective aid to
justice and the suppression of crime. It makes possible, through
its investigating service, a careful discrimination between the
accidental beginner in crime and the confirmed and dangerous
criminal, giving to the former his opportunity to make good
under supervision and removing the latter from society.

The Probation Commission reports that throughout this
period the probation system has held its own, not only in the
extensiveness of its application in the courts but in its popular
estimation. No general criticism has been directed against the
system in this State. Of course, occasionally the wrong case is
j)laced on probation, but in general, experience has shown that
the judges can be trusted with the implement of probation in
dealing with crime. The work of the courts has become vastly
more effective, both in social service and in attaining the exact
aims of justice, by the policy of this State in giving the courts
practically unlimited discretion in the use of the suspended
sentence and probation.

In spite of a considerable decrease in court arraignments
during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1920, and in spite of a
large decrease in the population of all correctional institutions,
the Probation Commission reports that the use of probation in
the courts has practically held its own. The decrease from the
previous year, when more persons were placed on probation
than any other year in the history of the State, has been small.


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During the year ending June 30, 1920, 19,637 persons were
placed on probation in all courts, as compared with 22,846 dur-
ing the previous year. At the close of the year 15,395 persons
were actually on probation, as compared with 15,685 one year
before. The classification of these probationers shows that 3,324
were boys, 1,009 girls (both under sixteen), 9,905 men, and 1,157

The gain in the number of salaried probation officers em-
ployed by the courts is encouraging. The success of the system
depends upon the securing of well-trained, adequately-salaried
probation officers to administer it. At the close of the year
there were 241 salaried officers in all courts, as compared with
221 the previous year. The number of volunteer probation
officers serving in the courts also increased and now numbers
140. The State's system in placing all salaried probation officers
under civil service has been justified. It has been possible ta
insist on standards in experience and personal qualifications
which are essential. During the past year the salaries of pro-
bation officers have been generally increased, especially in New
York City, and are now far more adequate than they were a
few years ago.

Reports received by the Probation Commission on the re-
sults in 19,555 cases discharged from probation last year show
the following: 79.6 per cent, were discharged with improve-
ment; 6.1 per cent, were discharged but reported unimproved;
8.2 per cent, were re-arrested and committed during the proba-
tion period ; and 6.1 per cent, were absconded or lost from over-
sight. The Commission believes that these percentages indicate
remarkably successful results in the application of the probation

Aside from the extensive use of probation in children's
cases, the system being an essential accompaniment of all chil-
dren's courts, the greatest and perhaps the most important field
for the use of probation is among non-support and all domestic
relations cases. Probation officers all over the State are doing
effective service in their investigations and constructive work
to remove the causes of family difficulties. They bring about
many reconciliations each year and when this cannot be done
the probation system, and that alone, is depended upon in a
vast number of cases to derive necessary support for deserted
wives and children. Through the operation of the probation
system last year a total of |l,432,631.92 was collected through
the courts and paid over for the support of wives and children.
This total does not include the large additional sums paid by
men on probation direct to wives and children under court
orders. All money in the foregoing total was collected either
by probation officers or clerks of courts from men under the
supervision of probation officers and paid in cash or by check
to the families. In addition to the foregoing the probation re-
sulted in the collection of $32,069.61 in installment fines and


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^93,422.58 in restitution. A remarkable financial economy in
the use of probation is shown not only by these figures, but by
the estimate of the State Probation Commission that the average
per capita cost of a year's probation in this State amounts to
only 122.64, whereas the per capita cost of the maintenance in
the average State penal and reformatory institution is f396.56.

We believe that the sane use of the probation system should
be still further extended, especially in the courts of the smaller
cities and villages where it is not now used. The Probation Com-
mission is to be commended for its activity and leadership in
developing the right use of the system and studying its applica-
tion in all parts of the State.

The Commission as well as the Probation Commission has
urged that more effective provision be made for the supervision
of paroled persons, especially from the state prisons. As recom-
mended in the recent Prison Survey, we believe that the State
should provide more parole officers. At the same time we ap-
prove the suggestions of the Probation Commission that the
probation officers all over the State be used to a greater extent
in the supervision of persons of all ages paroled from correction-
al institutions. Many probation officers are doing effective work
in this regard. As they are on the ground and know local needs,
it is clear that if their duties in the courts permit them to
assume the additional work of supervising and assisting paroled
persons, they should be permitted and urged to do so. In so
doing probation officers should, as they have done, cooperate
fully with the agents of the various institutions and report
regularly on these cases to the institutions which have released
them. The methods for effective dealing with persons on pro-
bation from the courts and those paroled from the institutions
is similar in all essentials, and it would appear that the pro-
bation and parole work of the State could be further coordinated.


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The state maintains four state prisons — Auburn, Clinton,
Great Meadow and Sing Sing. These institutions have a total
cell capacity of 4,927, which includes 205 beds in the dormitory
at Sing Sing, but does not include the accommodations for inmates
in the tuberculosis hospital at Clinton. The average daily
population of these four prisons during the past fiscal year was
3,886, the lowest since 1907 when it was 3,540. There were 3,880
prisoners in custody at the close of the year ; in 1907 there were

The comparative population of the four prisons during the
fiscal years ending June 30, 1919 and 1920 was as follows :

nn*cii-kVT Population at Ayerasr« Daily Cell

PRISON Close of Year Population Capacity

1919 1920 1919 1920

Auburn 1,152 1,124 1,131 1,166 1,282

Auburn, women 72 78 63 70 120

Clinton 1,169 969 1,195 1,065 1,200

Great Meadow 421 530 491 480 1,168

Sing Sing 1,153 1,179 1,185 1,105 '1,157

Total 3,967 3,880 4,065 3,886 4,927

•This includes 205 beds in the dormitory and 28 cells for
convicted men.

The peak of the state prison population was reached in 1916
when the average daily number of inmates was 5,539 and the
number in custody at the close of the fiscal year 5,486. Since
then the population has been steadily decreasing as shown by
the following:

.-~,^Q Average Daily Population at eloae

^JBiAM Population of fiscal year

1907 3,540 3,452

1908 3,913 4,063

1909 4,535 4,439

1910 4,752 4,630

1911 4,793 4,532

1912 4,702 4,646

1913 4,785 4,720

1914 4,957 4,954

1915 - 5,315 5,401

1916 5,539 5,486

1917 4,989 4,509

1918 4,342 4,274

1919 4,065 3,967

1920 3,886 3,880

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A still further decrease is shown in reports from the pris-
ons on December 25, 1920, when the number in custody was 3,803.

It cost the State |1,501,695.32 to maintain these prisoners
for the last fiscal year as compared with |1,389,235.29 the pre-
ceding year — an increase of |112,460.03. The average per capita
cost increased from |398.32 to f438.70 as shown by the following
table :

PRISON Expenditures Per Capita Expenditore»

1918-1919 1919-20 1918-1919 1919-1920

Auburn |351,474.28 |394,466.49 J310.76 |338.31

Auburn, women ._ 34,682.08 41,143.85 550.51 587.76

Clinton 392,746.22 400,065.36 329.48 375.64

Great Meadow 215,186.82 245,315.99 438.26 511.07

Sing Sing 390,145.89 420,703.63 362.61 380.72

Total ?1,389,235.29 |1,501,695.32 ♦$398.32 ♦|438.70


It has not been necessary during the year to use the so-
called south hall, one of the cell blocks at Clinton, and none of
the prisons has been overcrowded. Great Meadow Prison, the
only modern institution of the four, has accommodations for
1,168 prisoners, but has never been filled. Because 300 cells
were demolished in the cell block at Sing Sing, where a modem
prison is being erected, it is necessary to maintain a dormitory
where about 200 inmates are cared for. The great majority of
prisoners are committed to Sing Sing in the first instance and it
is necessary to make frequent transfers of inmates to the other
prisons to keep within the institution's housing capacity.

There has been an unusually large number of transfers back
to Sing Sing during the past fiscal year when 108 were trans-
ferred from Auburn:, 225^ from Clinton and 63 from Great
Meadow — a total of 396 — as compared with 36 from Auburn, 32
from Clinton and 12 from Great Meadow — a total of 80 the
preceding year. Sing Sing transferred a total of 964 to the other
prisons as compared with 553 the preceding year. The transfer
of so many prisoners has the effect of adding materially to the
cost of maintenance.

There were fewer deaths and transfers to the Dannemora
State Hospital for the Insane and more escapes than the pre-
ceding year. Twenty-eight inmates died from natural causes^
3 committed suicide, and 6 were electrocuted. The year before
there were 34 deaths, 3 suicides and 6 electrocutions. Thirty-
nine were transferred because of insanity as compared with 46
the preceding year. Thirty-three men and 2 women escaped —
26 from Auburn, 1 from Great Meadow, and 8 from Sing Sing.


There was an outbreak of food poisoning (Botulinus poison-
ing) during the year at Clinton Prison, caused by eating
canned salmon in the general mess hall. The condition of the


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several men affected was serious and two of them died. The
prison authorities were aided in combating the poison by the
State Department of Health, representatives from the Harvard
School for Preventive Medicine and the Dannemora State Hos-
pital, and other visiting physicians. Dr. J. B. Ransom, the

Online LibraryNew York (State). State Commission of PrisonsAnnual report of the State Commission of Prisons, Volume 26 → online text (page 2 of 58)