N.Y.) New York State Reformatory (Elmira.

Report of the Board of Managers of the New York State Reformatory online

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or exculpatory look and manner are fading out. They begin to look
and act more like men. A part of this marked improvement is no
doubt due to the school-work.

All the teachers agree to one surprise. It is this : The prisoners
as a class seem to be singularly weak m mathematical ability.
They are deficient in the power of calculation. Many who are very
bright in literature, who can read finely, are fond of history or
science, pretty generally are in trouble in common operations in
arithmetic. They do not possess, in the average degree, the power
of forethought and combination. I think this trait was a new
revelation as to this type of mind. We have been able, most of us,
to make daily contrasts of this mental trait with the normal and
average mind, observed in other youth.

Query — could this mental characteristic be related to the causes
and occurrences of the crimes for which they were sent to the re-
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22 [Senate

formatory? Is a weakness or deficiency in ability to forecaste or
combine at the bottom of a good deal of the apparently senseless
conduct of many criminals ?

We have observed, also, that whatever is mysterious has a great
attraction for them. The hidden, the half-explored or the unknown
has a sort, of fascination for them, something more than common.
They make the most attentive audience in the world when the sub-
ject is about something of the heroic or impossible.

I have notes from them and confidential inquiries and sketches
concerning half a dozen proposed inventions such as square augers,
quadruple screw-drivers, noise extinguishers for elevated railways, a
new military weapon of immense aestructiveness, etc., etc. These
are designed to make the projectors very rich, very soon. Most of
them are very dreamy ideals.

A most difficult and obstinate mental trait, which is very common,
is that much of what they say always needs corroborative evidence.
It is to be hoped that this and other undesirable traits will fade out
by the increase of a real manhood. I am a strong believer in the re-
formatory power of industry, education and moral influence, when
administered by a firm and steady hand

All of which is respectfully submitted.

Director of the School.

Elmiba, April 27, 1880.

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24: [Senate, No. 21.]


Professor Ford has also delivered a series of lectures in the chapel
of the reformatory, upon the subjects herewith given, which have
been received with marked interest by all, while to many they have
possessed much value in connection with topics under consideration
in the school-room in the ordinary course of instruction :

Physical Geography of Australia, History and Industries of Aus-
tralia, Livingstone and Southern Africa, The Problem of the Nile,
Stanley's Explorations, The Sun and Fixed Stars, Astronomy of the
Solar System, Spanish Conquest of Peru, Cortez and Ancient Mex-
ico, Chemistry of Water, Chemistry of Fire, History and Mechan-
ism of Eailroads, Electrical Communications — telegraphs, etc., The
Science of Sound — Fhonograph — Telephone, Electro-plating and
Electric Industries, Physical Geography of the Eastern United
States, Volcanoes and Earthquakes, Theory and Law of Wiuds, The
Weather and Storms, The Country of the "BufiEalos, etc., Mining In-
dustries of Colorado, Nevada and California, Physical Geography
of Japan, Ancient Japan, New Japan and Alaska.

A supplementary report, made by Dr. Ford, is given in this place,
in whicn some of the features of the former report are necessarily

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Elm ira, N. Y

Report on twelve months of "Experimental Instruction," end
ing January 1, 1881, by D. R. Ford, Director of the School.

To the Board of Managers :

Gentlemen — By request I beg leave to offer the following facts
and record of progress in the school which you have established.

It is kept open three evenings each week, giving alternate even-
ings tor study in the cells. At the end of each month each prisoner
goes through a written examination on his studies of the month.
His papers are marked and put on file ; his marks being one factor
in the problem of his final release.

Thisschooi is not doing hap-hazard work, nor does it aim to teach
a smattering of every thing.

Its organization is that of a graded public school, with a course of
strictly common-school studies extending over the alternate even-
ings of two years' time. Six large class-rooms have been provided
and instruction, both oral and from text-books, is given by the ablest
professional teachers we could secure in our city. Our measure of
good success is largely due to their good zeal and skill in the diffi-
cult and unique task before them.

Annexed is a list of the gentlemen who have labored in this work.

Some five hundred youthful prisoners have been under this
school-drill tor twelve months. Their previous ignorance, way-
wardness, indolence or criminal habits rendered each class at the
outset an <fc intellectual dead-lift " for the teacher. Laziness in
many, and dislike of books and schools in the majority, was a for-
midable element in each class. It was a dormant mass of mind, un-
willing to be waked up to intellectual life, and with limited ground
for building up any enthusiasm for useful knowledge.

But the result of a year's strenuous teaching has greatly exceeded
our expectations. Over fifty have learned to write a plain hand,
and about eighty have learned to read and spell reasonably well,
who were sent here in utter illiteracy.
[Sen. Doc. No. 21.] 4

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26 [Senate

List of teachers employed two or more months during the year :

• Professor Prentiss, Horseheads Graded School.
Professor Norton, Principal, Ward School No. 5, Elmira.
Professor Blakeslee, Principal, Ward School No. 2, Elmira.
Mr. D. W. Smith, Lawyer, Elmira.
Mr. W. D. Baldwin, Lawyer, Elmira.
Mr. E. G. Herendeen, Lawyer, Elmira.
Mr. E. W. Buck, Lawyer, Elmira.
Mr. M. S. Converse, Lawyer, Elmira.

Also during part of the year, while organizing and starting the
school, for a few months, the following overseers in the reformatory
were engaged in teaching more or less, viz. : Mr. Chapman, Mr.
Doane, Mr. Meddaugh.

All the school, with slight exceptions, are studying arithmetic,
in various stages of advancement. This drill is made close, prac-
tical and strenuous. About one hundred have finished it, and had
a short drill in plain single-entry book-keeping, adapted to farm or
shop accounts. About one hundred have also studied elementary
geography with profit. Two classes, aggregating one hundred and
fifty, are trained in the elements of civil government, and the legal
principles concerning life, character and property, as treated in
Nordhoff's Manual. All were wide awake in this study, and
greatly benefited by the judicious instruction given.

Elementary instruction on the laws of thought, morals and health
has been given by lecture method with gratifying success. These
have supplemented the main work of the school — reading, writing
and arithmetic. There has been a steady eye given to the practical
uses of these in the affairs of civil life. It is the aim to train each
man in time so that he can write a business letter legibly, in fair
language, read an average book or paper understandingly, and apply
figures correctly in the transaction of common business affairs. Less
than this leaves a man unequal to the duties and achievements of
good citizenship. We seem to have observed that the type of mind,
commonly called the criminal type, is singularly weak in mathe-
matical ability. Young men who read and write well, and who are
sharp enough in every thing else, require an astonishing amount of
labor and training to go through with the simplest calculations in
numbers. Whether this fact is connected with the lack of prudence
and forecast which resulted in their sentence to the reformatory I
cannot say ; yet it is very suggestive.

The best of order, and a growing desire for a plain, common-
school education, is now the marked feature of the reformatory

It is wonderful, in most cases, how it revives and brightens latent
manhood. Compulsory education, here at least, is not a failure.
The system of frequent written examinations, coupled with thor-
ough instruction, just marking, and the hope of liberty, make a

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No. 21.] 27

stimulus strong enojngh to move to honest effort the stolid or reluc-
tant minds submitted, so far, to this discipline.

January 4, 1881.

The following report of the librarian of the reformatory is inter-
esting, because made by an inmate of the institution, whose mental
functions reflect the value and importance of the topics presented :

Librarian's Report.

In methods (and, thus far, in results) the school session of 1880-81
has been marked by a decided advance upon the work of preceding
years. Early in September last the curriculum and the corps of
teachers were reorganized under the joint control of Professor D.
P. Mayhew, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, and Dr. D. R. Ford, whose
previous labors as director of the school enabled him to bring un-
usual precision and tact to the undertaking. A new^programrae of
studies, necessarily elastic and comprehensive, was projected, and
the scholastic year for each of the six classes was arranged into four

In the present working of the school, ample means of acquiring
the most rudimentary knowledge have been provided for illiterates,
of whom there is a considerable number, and with such helps and
devices as experience and skill have suggested. From this level the
classes, by easy gradation, rise through the difficulties of reading,
spelling, writing and arithmetic, which form the basis for classify-
ing the learners. The two higher classes pursue a course similar to
that followed in the highest grades of our best public schools. The
scheme for the first of these embraces geography, inventional geom-
etry, book-keeping and the higher portions of arithmetic. For the
more advanced section the plan includes physical geography, human
physiology and sanitary science, American history and political
economy, the elements of physics and chemistry and of mental and
moral science. A small, special class has also been formed in pure

feometry. Particular attention has throughout been paid to the
Inglish language. Several sections have been carefully drilled in
the English grammar, and abundant practice will shortly be afforded
in such useful composition work as simple description and letter-

The mode of teaching is by recitation and by oral and concert
exercise — a measure involved by the large numbers of most of the
classes. Text books, especially in the higher grades, are amplified
by black-board, lecture and experiment. Examinations occur
monthly in all branches; and the marking system here comes prom-
inently into play, each inmate being strictly held to a sliding-scale
in which seventy-five is the lowest percentage that will pass him.

Independently of the ordinary routine oi instruction, the teach-
ing body is enjoined to further the aims of the institution by foster-

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28 [Senate

ing the growth of self-help and manhood in the men committed to
their charge.

The cost of the school for the year is $1,667.40.

The library contains nearly nine hundred volumes. The small-
ness of this number is to be ascribed to the still unformed condition
of the library and the loss by wear which balances the frequent ad-
ditions. Fiction, of course, forms the preponderance of reading
among the men ; but, within recent date, the quantity of purely use-
ful books has been materially augmented. It is to be noticed that
works of standard utility are asked for by an increasingly large class
of readers, among whom there is a strong inclination toward study
and culture and a growing ability to appreciate what is true, beauti-
ful and good.

The present collection fairly represents, if in miniature, the best
books of the two worlds in fiction, science, history and general litera-
ture. The novels and romances are usually wholesome, and, in dis-
tributing books, such discrimination is aimed at as shall defeat mor-
bid or depraved tastes.

Favorable report can be made of the condition of the books.
Special means are taken to enforce careful handling by the inmates,
and an excellent binder is kept steadily renovating worn or mutilated

The cost of books added during the year is $344.94.

The report of the physician to the reformatory is given herewith.
The general health of the inmates is a source of much satisfaction.

Physician's Report.

To the Managers of tjie New York State Jieformato?^ :

Gentlemen — During the past year the sanitary condition of the
reformatory and the health of the inmates have been such that little
may be said in this connection. Indeed, I may state that the gen-
eral health has been better in the past than during the preceding

Of contagious diseases there have been four cases ; two of diphtheria
and two of erysipelas. The isolation of the patients and the fumi-
gating of clothes and bedding sufficed to prevent the spread of these

As might be supposed from the general character of the men
committed to your care, their antecedents and former lives, venereal
diseases are more or less common, the effects of which, in many
instances, are felt during the entire period of sojourn in the reform-
atory. Acute troubles of this class are seldom encountered. This
is easily explained ; not that the men have never experienced expos-
ure, but from the fact that those who were thus affected at the time
of arrest received treatment while in the jails awaiting trial, fre-
quently a period of several months. At present there are six cases
of secondary and one of tertiary syphilis under treatment.

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No. 21.] 29

From chronic disease there has been but one instance of total in-
capacity for labor of any description, a diabetic patient who has
been an inmate of the hospital for the past five months.

The accidents occurring in the several shops from the use of ma-
chinery have all been due to heedlessness and lack of proper care
on the part of the operatives ; October 1, a lad, while attempting
to stop a lathe with his foot instead of a lover provided for the pur-
pose, caught his leg in a wheel and fractured the left thigh bone.
Keoovery without deformity resulted, and the boy is now perform-
ing his daily tasks. During the year I have amputated three fingers
and a thumb on account ot injuries received in the performance of
duties connected with the several industries pursued in the institu-

The mortality from natural causes has been less than in preceding
years ; one death having occurred, and that from apoplexy. In
November last, at my suggestion the superintendent, with the con-
sent of the board of managers, paroled a man in the last stage of
Bright's disease of the kidneys, that he might pass his remaining
days at home among friends. His death occurred a few days after

There have been two suicides, each by hanging ; the unfortunates
suspending themselves from the door of their cells. When so many
men are under surveillance it is impossible to anticipate accidents
of this kind, as each man cannot be under the personal observation
of the guard every moment, and the time required for the perpe-
tration of the act being so brief.

April 10, a homicide occurred in the Hollow Ware Works, a
turner felling a co-worker to the ground with an iron stove poker,
causing extensive fracture of the skull and instant death. In this
connection I would mention the untimely death of George McKel-
vey, the principal keeper, who was stabbed by a prisoner while in
the performance of his duties.

Every inmate, upon admission, has been vaccinated, regardless of
former vaccinations. The prevalence of small-pox in various sec-
tions of the State justifies the rigid enforcement of this protective

That portion of the south pavilion used for hospital purposes,
while adequate for the needs of the reformatory, is nevertheless
unfit for the reception of the sick. It is rendered so by poor venti-
lation and proximity to quarters occupied by men shortly to be
paroled. In my opinion the hospital should be near the center of
the building, and removed from the sleeping quarters of other in-
mates. I invite the attention of your board to the consideration of
this question, as sooner or later it will come before you for solution
and action.

All of which I respectfully submit,

H. D. WEY, M. D.
Elmiea, Sept. 30, 1880.

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" A."

Of 692 indefinites received since opening there were ages :

Between 16 and 21 479

" 21 " 25 139

" 25 " 30 74

Total 692


Revised Statutes of the State of New York.

Section 241. The action of the commissioners appointed to locate
a State penitentiary or industrial reformatory in the sixth judicial
district, pursuant to chapter four hundred and eight of the laws of
eighteen hundred and sixt} r -nine, in locating said prison or indus-
trial reformatory, and contracting for a purchase of a site/for the
same, at Elmira, Chemung county, is hereby approved.

Sec. 242. The governor shall appoint five (5) persons who shall
act as a board of building commissioners for the erection of the State
prison or industrial reformatory established at Elmira, in Chemung
county, and during the time that they shall act as such commission-
ers, they shall receive no pay except their traveling and other official
expenses. The said prison shall be known and called by the name
of " The State Reformatory."

Sec. 243. The said building commissioners are hereby authorized
to procure by purchase the site for said reformatory. The deeds
therefor shall be duly executed to the people of this State, and de-
livered to the co nptroller, and thereupon the treasurer is hereby di-
rected to pay on the warrant of the comptroller, to the said building
commissioners for the grantors, of whom the said site shall be pur-
chased, such sums of money as may be required to pay for the site
in accordance with the contracts submitted by the commissioners
appointed under chapter four hundred and eight of the laws of
eighteen hundred and sixty-nine, to locate said reformatory. And
the treasurer is hereby directed to pay said commissioners, on the

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[Stoat*, No. 81.] 31

warrant of the comptroller, such sum or sums of money as they may
want for building said reformatory, at such time as the same may be
required for carrying into effect the provisions of this act.

Seo. 244. The said building commissioners shall be charged with
the general superintendence of the grounds, and the design and con-
struction of the buildings, with power to appoint an architect, a
superintendent and other necessary agents and assistants, provided
the plan of buildings which they may adopt shall be submitted for
and receive the approval of the governor, comptroller and State en-

fineer. The building shall have a capacity of not les6 than three
undred prisoners, and the buildings and cells shall be so constructed
as to admit of a classification of prisoners.

Sec. 245. The building commissioners above mentioned, before
they enter upon the duties of their office, shall each give his bond to
the people of this State in the penal sum of twenty thousand dol-
lars, with two or more sufficient sureties, to be approved of by the
comptroller, conditioned for the faithful performance of the duties
required of them by this act.

Sec. 246. It shall be the duty of said commissioners to make a re-
port of all the moneys received and expended by them by virtue of
this*act, and of the progress which shall have been made in the erec-
tion and inclo8ure of said buildings, to the comptroller of this State
on or before the first day of December n6xt, and as often thereafter
as the comptroller shall or may from time to time require.

Sac. 247. Whenever the said reformatory shall be finished, the
said building commissioners shall make, under their hands and seals,
a certificate thereof, which they shall transmit to the governor of
this State. The governor shall, after receiving such certificate, ap-
point, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, five persons
who shall act as a board of managers of said reformatory, and who
shall perform the duties required of them by this act with no com-
pensation other than reasonable traveling and other official expenses.
xhey shall hold their office for ten years and be so classified that
one of their number shall go out of office every second year. When-
ever vacancies shall occur in the said board of managers such vacan-
cies for the unexpired term thereof shall be filled by the appointment
of the governor.

Seo. 248. The said commissioners authorized to be appointed by
the first section of this act shall retain general superintendence and
control of said reformatory and every thing connected therewith,
until said board of managers, mentioned in the last preceding section,
shall be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate,
when they shall turn over to said board of managers the said reform-
atory and all of the appurtenances and things hitherto belonging
and the term of office of said building commissioners shall then be
at an end and close.

Sec. 249. The said board of managers shall, when appointed and
confirmed aa aforesaid, have general charge and superintendence of
said reformatory and shall appoint a warden, physician, chaplain,

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32 [Senatb

inspector of discharged prisoners and clerk, who shall each receive a
salary to be hereafter established by law, and shall have power to
remove them for cause only after opportunity to be heard upon
written charges. The clerk shall act as secretary of the boara of
managers. All other officers shall be appointed by the warden and
removable at his pleasure. The governor may remove any of
the managers for misconduct or neglect of duty, after opportunity
to be heard on written charges.

Seo. 250. The said board of managers shall receive and take into
said reformatory all male criminals between the ages of sixteen and
thirty and not known to have been previously sentenced to a State
prison in this or any other State or country, who shall be legally sen-
tenced to said reformatory on conviction of any criminal offense in
any court having jurisdiction thereof, and any such court may, in its
discretion, sentence to said reformatory any such male person con-
victed of a crime punishable by imprisonment in a State prison,
between the ages ot sixteen and thirty, as aforesaid. The discipline
to be observed in said prisou shall be reformatory and the said
managers shall have power to use such means of reformation con-
sistent with the improvement of the inmates, as they may deem ex-
pedient. Agricultural labor or mechanical industry may be resorted
to by said managers as au instrument of reformation. The contract
system of labor shall not exist in any form whatever in said refoma-
tory, but the prisoners shall be employed by the State.

Sec. 251. All provisions or existing laws requiring the courts of
this State to sentence male criminals, between the ages of sixteen
and thirty, convicted of any criminal offense to the State prisons,
shall, from and after the appointment and confirmation of the board
of managers provided for by section six of this act, apply to said re-
formatory, so far as to enable courts to sentence the class of prison-
ers mentioned in the ninth section of this act to said reformatory.

Seo. 252. The governor is hereby authorized to appoint two
superintending builders to take charge of the following buildings
in process of construction, namely : The Buffalo State Asylum for
the Insane, the State Reformatory at Elmira, the Hudson River State
Hospital for the Insane at Poughkeepsie, and the State Homoeopathic
Asylum for the Insane at Middletown, to superintend the con-
struction and completion thereof. The persons appointed under

Online LibraryN.Y.) New York State Reformatory (ElmiraReport of the Board of Managers of the New York State Reformatory → online text (page 9 of 72)