My Year in a Reformatory
WILLIAM ALLEN BURNS
PART TWO (Conclusion)
WAITING one mid-day at the main gate for the arrival of the guard who
would pass me out, my attention was drawn to a very disconsolate-looking, rather elderly man who was sitting on the foot of a bed, looking about him very wistfully. I sat down beside him and enquired as to the reason for his distress, thinking that he was perhaps unwell, or had had bad news from the outside. After some conversation with him, I found that the cause of his trouble was that to use his own words—he was ‘losing the best friend such
as to make it somewhat difficult to follow his efforts at explanation of his trouble. Following up the lead he had given, I continued to chat with him until I learned that the ‘best friend’ was none other than the institution doctor, who was leaving at that time to take up work in an institution elsewhere. Before I left my dolorous friend, two big tears dropped from his eyes, and unobserved by him trickled their way down his cheeks. A very touching tribute—and richly deserved—to the doctor.
Each evening, immediately after supper, was held a ‘sick parade’, at which time those inmates whose health was not to their liking, were privileged to consult with the doctor in the dispensary, describing their symptoms and receiving at his hands such examination and advice or treatment as their cases seemed to warrant. I am afraid a good many men made, or tried to make, of the sick call an opportunity to while away a half-hour and to have a chat with the doctor.
As soon as supper was done, and the mail distributed, down through the dormitories would come the doctor’s runner, ringing the dormitory bells and calling out his invitation: ‘Come on, sickness!’ He was an affable and genial negro, and this was his intimation that the Doctor was in his dispensary and ready for business. Then would line up all the sick stomachs, lame backs, headaches and other disabilities, some real and others imaginary, for a trip through the hands of the Doctor or his assistants, perhaps a dose of something in a glass or a massage of sore muscles in the hospital beyond.
So far as I know, no man ever went away from the dispensary without having received a sympathetic hearing and some material consideration of his alleged illness or disability. These things were given with a kindliness and friendliness that could have only one result for the doctor, the endearing of himself in the heart of every last man who came to him.
It was said by an inmate, whose duties require his presence in or near the Sergeant’s office, that the doctor in conversation with the super there one day, was heard to insist in a most vehement and emphatic manner that made no difference to him who or what a man was, nor the reason for his presence in the Institution—that when he was sick he was entitled to and must have, the benefit of every facility or service at the command of the Institution or its officers, toward his recovery. This so completely bears out the general character of the doctor, that
have no reason to doubt the correctness of the story. ‘Red Mike’
THE right-hand man, or personal representative of the super, was the sergeant. ‘Red Mike’ the men called him —behind his back. No one in sight would have dared anything approaching familiarity except as directly and unmistakably invited by him. Inasmuch as he was almost entirely bald, and wore neither beard nor moustache, the origin of the nick-name remains something of a mystery.
An old army man, I understand—one of the ubiquitous English—he had the handling of men down to a fine point. Wearing at times a face that would be the despair of his opponents in a poker game, he covered up what was really a very good-tempered and likeable personality.
The sergeant was known and respected among the men as a ‘square-shooter’ which term is perhaps sufficiently self-explanatory. A very busy man, carrying personally a wide responsibility, he yet found time to be approachable to anyone who meant business, and to
make himself well-thought-of among those inmates who knew him best.
I once read a newspaper report of an address given by the super at a conference in a large city, in which he is stated to have said that it became necessary to ‘hand-pick’ the guards for his institution. From my personal acquaintance of the guards of his choice— which is quite extensive— I should say he ought to be congratulated on his success. Time and again have I heard a guard remonstrating, with complete good-humor andcommon-sense, with some inmate whose line of conduct threatened to bring trouble upon him. Many a time I have heard what might very well have been an order, with all necessary authority behind it, given in the form of a request. Very frequently have I known guards take great pains to assist inmates to secure such information as they were seeking with regard to various phases of their cases, or in the way of promotion to better jobs, or in the clearing up without discredit of some misunderstanding or the other. I think it would not be saying too much were I to venture this: that there is not a guard on the Institution staff who is not ready and willing to do anything in reason to promote the comfort or welfare of the inmates in his charge.
I cannot pass from this consideration of the personnel of the officers without special mention of ‘X' who was the chief guard at the main gate. From the time of my entry into the Institution until the day of my departure, I was sure—and am yet—that I had a real friend in this officer. What I say here with reference to myself applies also to my knowledge of many other inmates as well.
DERHAPS the official whose activity we resented -*• most, was the censor. Not the least of the unpleasant restrictions in such an Institution as this, lies in the fact that all mail of inmates, coming or going, must be scrutinized. Everyone recognizes the necessity, and everyone resents it. How carefully we think we must write—as though we had something to say demanding the completest secrecy—yet the censorship only becomes offensive or conspicuous when real cause for it arises.
About Reformatory Inmates
T HAVE said elsewhere something as to the diversity of nationalities represented by the inmates. It is not permitted to classify them according to the nature of their offences except in a very broad way. I was in the dormitory one afternoon, resting up from a headache when I overheard the following conversation:
“Well, say man, what’s you all in here fer, anyhow?” “I’m here for stealing the swing out of a bird-cage!” was the immediate response.
“How long’d you git fer that?”
“Two years fer stealin’ de swing?—Lawd man ef youda stol’ de bird, youda been in fer life, wouldn’t vo\ huh?”
Sometimes tactless enquirers were less pleasantly dealt with.
A considerable element among the inmates were the drug-addicts, or as they are better known, among themselves at least, the ‘junkers’. The super claims special interest in the general subject of drug-addiction and its treatment or cure. Extraordinary precautions are maintained against the smuggling in to inmates of anything in the nature of drugs. The lengths to which some of these men will go in their frantic search for something with a ‘kick’ to it, are at times very laughable, and at others very pathetic. From the alleged case in which cocaine—‘snow’ or ‘coke’—was detected under a postage stamp on a letter, to the eating of ointment containing laudanum, prescribed as a pile remedy—from the swallowing of orange shellac to the surreptitious tippling of an occasional home-brew of mysterious origin, the search for ‘kick’ goes on. At a certain stage in drugaddiction, the thing seems so completely to dominate the subject mentally that he can think or speak of little else. ‘Junkers’ conferences are the result; groups of addicts gathered together to discuss the subject of perennial interest—junk!
Though I have not heard it said so, I can quite imagine that the handling of these men—who are usually anything but dull mentally—in groups, calls for the exercise of a great deal of tact and ingenuity on the part of the Institution officers.
Bootleggers are quite numerous, and usually look upon their detention as a temporary annoyance, to be guarded against more cleverly in future operations. There are
against more cleverly in future always to be future operations. Hard men to cure, the bootleggers.
Of plain, chronic drunks, a few. We had one repeater in this class. During my ten
months or so at--he was in
and out of the Institution five or six times. On this last arrival he sulked stubbornly for days and it was quite a time before we found out the reason. On his last release from custody, knowing his propensities the police had not even given him time to get drunk, but had arrested him on sight as a vagrant.
This he did not consider playing the game at all.
I heard a fellow one morning, who had lost a tube of tooth-paste left carelessly lying around somewhere, complaining bitterly to a guard that he believed there were* ‘Thieves in the place!’ Thus far may I go. For the rest, a very human lot of men, working along day by day, smoking a pipe and chatting with a friend in the evening, living out their lives in this little circumscribed world all their own.
‘Each Morning Sees the Work Begun—’
DERHAPS I ought to say here—lest some1 one reading my description of day-by-day life with its inevitable incidents of fun and
laughter should conclude that the life at--
is one of ease or something approaching idleness—that the whole existence of the inmates is centred about work. Holidays there are, of course. Outdoor groups are called in when weather conditions are unfavorable. In winter, days off are given when cold is too intense or storms too severe. No doubt this basis of work makes what entertainment or fun is provided all the more appreciated.
My first labors found as their setting the hospital, another long narrow room with about sixteen white iron beds of usual hospital design. These were completely fitted out with mattresses, blankets, pillows and spotless white linen from the store-rooms. Windows, with iron gratings, occupied one end and one side wall. At the other end, was the inevitable red-tiled bathroom, and the entrance to the dispensary, next door. This was, so to speak, intended as an emergency hospital—though in the small ‘flu’ epidemic which occurred in my time it served to house some patients whose condition was serious enough. In addition to the plant and facilities to which I have referred there was located in another part of the building what was known as the Venereal Clinic. This was an apartment somewhat pretentiously fitted up with sterilizers, instrument cabinets, operating table, etc., where was carried out the routine treatment in venereal cases. The hospital itself was a general one~^ere were treated ailments ranging from cold in the head to tertiary syphilis.
Within a day or two I had my first unofficial glimpse of the super. Two or three men were sitting on a bench outside the dispensary door, awaiting their turns for examination at the hands of the doctor within. Acting under the orders of the Doctor’s assistant—in order to expedite the progress of the examinations—the man nearest the door was required to await his turn stripped naked. This was his situation when the super suddenly came through the door on his way to visit a patientfarther down the ward. He stopped just long enough peremptorily to order the naked one to put on his pants and proceeded to the bed where lay the object of his visit. The pants were put on, of course—the man had probably seen army service and knew the wisdom of obeying the last order given—but to his discomfiture there appeared around the door frame, the head of his instructor from the doctor’s office, with a low-voiced but vehement demand that he take off his pants and be ready. Off came the pants. What with keeping one eye on the super and the other on the dispensary door, the poor fellow had an outstanding lesson on the difficulty of trying to please too many people at once. Even so, the super caught him again, as naked as before, and the pants had to be
donned—and removedwas satisfied.
-yet once more before everyone
Parading the ‘Bull-Gang’
'X'HE first count of the day is at quarter to seven, at which time the men assemble on the parade ground and are numbered by the guards in charge of the different gangs. They then march off, or are driven, to their places of work.
The chief working unit is the ‘bull-gang’. This gang it is that cuts wood, clears land, and does the heaviest and hardest work of the Institution, Many are men remarkably built-up in physique through two or three months or more in the ‘Buller’—especially so in winter. It is no unusual thing to see pale, thin men put on many pounds weight and gain obviously in general health as a result of the fresh air and exercise which at least must stand to the bull-gang’s credit, whatever else be lacking. This is the gang lowest in the social scale, for there is caste even
at----. I have heard fellows approaching going-out
day speak of a request for a month or two in the buller before leaving, in order to get into shape—but I do not recollect anyone being refused the concession—perhaps because such refusal was never made necessary.
Even the buller has its spells of fun. There is a story that goes the rounds, which seems to have fair basis in fact, of a young fellow who one morning inquired of the guard of his gang as to the time of day. On being told that it was a quarter past ten, he hurriedly dropped the tools he had been working with, called out that he
fifteen minutes late, and started to run away. Eyewitnesses insist that the guard pulled his gun, stuck the barrel into his mouth to blow a call upon it, and with his whistle pointed murderously, covered the escaping man. Such an occurrence loses nothing in the telling of course. I have given the incident bare of the frills which since have grown up about it.
There are grim tales one hears of men mutilating themselves with axes in the old days, in order to secure relief from the hardships of
the bull-gang of that time. There is no reason to believe anything of this sort occurs to-day. The nearest thing of the sort that came to my notice was the case of a young fellow who undertook to pass his hand across the top of stump between blows of an axe in the hands of a companion. The former lost a finger as a result of his foolishness.
The chief ‘politicians’ among inmates are those whose obvious qualifications or successful lobbying secures for them the muchcoveted clerical jobs. In the administration building several inmates are occupied in record and other office work. Two inmates working in relays, operate the telephone switchboard. Another looks after a card-record system at the general stores.
Quite a number of young men are occupied as house-boys in the residences of various institution officers, and in the sergeant’s office always are two or three clerical asssistants or messengers.
There are inmates whose job it is to look after the pump-house, in day and night shifts, a,nd others who take care of a water-pump at a small village of guards’ home, a mile or more from the central Institution. Anomalous position, that of such men—nominally they are serving sentences in confinement, actually they are at large, miles away from personal supervision of any sort.
There is a saw-mill on the shore of a small lake close at hand, where a mill-gang performs a lot of general woodwork—from the sawing up of logs to the finishing of very creditable cabinet-work. The carpenters-gang—of inmates, supervised by a carpenter-guard—does all the work appearing under their classification, from general repairs to the building of new houses when needed.
The occupation of the painters-gang is suggested in the name. Constant renewing and repairing is required in such a group of buildings as that constituting the institution.
The power house is a large steam plant where is developed the heating for the entire institution. Day and night shifts of men are occupied here in firing and doing the
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My Year in a Reformatory
Continued from page 13
general work of such a place—under direction of the institution engineers, of course.
The electrical-gang, under direction of an electrical engineer, cares for all electrical equipment and installation—telephones, motors, pumps, lighting,-down to the electric cigarette lighters in the dormitories—which last no possible electrical-gang ever could keep in order.
The store-gang handles all the freight, of which there comes in many tons weekly, which is carted from the station to the Institution in trucks. There are three OÍ these, and a passenger car as well.
Letters From Home
THE most interesting hour of the day, the one filled with the most fascinating possibilities, is mail-time. This follows immediately after supper; the nightsergeant calls out the letters and papers for their addresses, and there follows an interested scramble into more or less quiet corners, or a disconsolate turning away in disappointment, according as the individual has been remembered or forgotten of those on the outside.
If folks at home could know the value and encouragement of even the most common-place subjects written up and mailed to inmates in such an institution, the mail bags would have to be doubled in number or size.
The rule is that one may write letters to, or receive letters from, relatives, and these must deal with business or personal matters only, yet the man who played the game with the Institution found by experience that many rules were not enforced.
Goal of ambition because of the possibility of something better to eat, certainly of a sheltered job for the cold weather, the kitchen represents the sum of possible things desirable to many of the inmates. True, the hours-are bad—kitchen workers
are turned out at four-thirty in the morning and retire at night with the rest of the inmates, at eight-forty-five. Yet there are breathing spells during the day, there is the privilege of wearing more civilized-looking clothing—blue shirts and white duck trousers, the badge of the successful ‘politician’ among inmates— and these things, united to man’s first, primal instinct—the desire for food— were sufficient to determine the ambitions of the more energetic and self-seeking of us.
The kitchen was a large space at one end of the dormitories building, with redtiled floor, large hotel range, steam-cooking appliances, huge tea and coffee urns and all the usual appurtenances and paraphernalia one would expect to find in such a place. Here are prepared all the meals of inmates and officers alike. Jokes are cracked and revolutions plotted with food as the motivating interest, yet, when all is said and done, the sergeant might be justified in reminding those who complain of it, that they ought to bear in mind that they are in jail. I say, he might be justified in doing this—I never knew him to do so.
The entire cooking, preparation and serving of the food is done by inmates, in charge of a kitchen guard, who bears full responsibility for all that happens in his domain. One might find, perhaps, a substantial lump of soap or a cooked cockroach or so in the middle of his pudding, but accidents do happen, even in the best-regulated households.
Several times a day is performed the ceremony of taking the count. At early morning, at noon, at supper-time, at bed-time and again, I do not know how many times, in the night, are the inmates counted, and one sure way for a man to court the disfavor of his betters is to be in other than his proper place at count time.
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With almost uncanny quickness and certainty is a missing man checked up—uncanny considering so large a group has to be counted—and profound and acute is the disturbance until he is located. In the handling of the men in changing groups, in the open country as well as indoors, it must of necessity be a real problem to maintain the count without difficulty.
As reward for establishing in the minds of the officials a measure of confidence as to one’s discretion and trustworthiness, ■ one may have his, name put upon the ‘Trustie List’, which means that after supper, instead of remaining in the Bedlam presented by the swarming dormitories, he may go outside and, within certain boundaries, be at liberty until the blowing of a whistle a little before bedtime, when he must return and be in place for the bed-time count. This is a muchprized privilege as one. may imagine, and is seldom abused in any way. Certain employees—the hospital men, the ; administration building men, various workers in the kitchen, the power plant, and other places—are placed upon the trustie list as a part of the condition attaching to their jobs.
On first entering the institution, the everyday language of practically everybody in sight appears to be of a character to appal one who has been taught that profanity, blasphemy and vulgarity, are without the pale of common decency in this as in other habits of living. After a time, having had a lot of it—as is said to be the case with hanging—one simply gets used to it.
It is a rule of the institution that inmates shall not have money in their possession. It is also a fact that the acquisition of property of any sort whatever, other than the clothes, toothbrushand-paste-and-comb, and the towel supplied by the institution, is discouraged. Nevertheless, man, even under the most primitive conditions, is acquisitive, and the institution has not been able to oust the natural instinct for barter. The medium of exchange is tobacco. Each fourth evening the institution issues a package of smoking tobacco—a ‘deck of weed’—and a package of cigarette-papers or a plug of chewing tobacco, to each inmate. With this is carried on barter of all kinds, for services or goods. In the barber-shop, for example, is an inmate barber from whom one can secure a decent hair-cut instead of one in ‘hunky’ style. A deck of weed does the trick.
Numerous inmates acquire, from thin air apparently at times, dinky little wooden chests with hinged and locked covers, where may be kept letters, toothbrush, and other personal things that come to hand, the institution rules notwithstanding. Such a box is bought or sold for so many decks of weed.
Gambling, the ruling passion strong in
--jail, finds means of expression, and
decks upon decks are bet on the current baseball or hockey games. The last prizefight down in the United States caused large quantities of tobacco to change hands in the Institution.
No matches are issued—the guards are forbidden to give them to inmates—yet there they are, to be be had at any time. With sufficient decks of weed one can buy almost anything, short of his freedom.
The Indeterminate Sentence
FROM contemporary articles in the public press it is apparent that the imposition of the present ‘definite—and indeterminate’ sentences, with their supposed follow-up action on the part of the Parole Board is not altogether satisfactory even to those whose business it is to impose such sentences, or to function on such Parole Boards. That this is the case on the outside is, I say, obvious. In the minds of those on the inside, the men most vitally concerned, opinions on this subject are almost universally against the system as at present worked out.
The acutest mental suffering I have seen in this institution—and it will, by now, be gathered from what has gone before, that such suffering as there is, is mental and not physical—has come about through the action or lack of action on the part of the Parole Board. Letters are sent from the board office to friends or relatives of the inmates, asking information and setting up hopes of early release which are not realized. Correspondence takes place between the inmate and the board.office. The inmate appears before the board at a sitting at the institution, where his case is rfe-hashed for the information—or to saffsfy the: curiosity, as it sometimes seems—of the members. He is put off agaih and again. He feels that he has been subjected to something approaching another trial. There are undoubtedly authentic cases where board members, secure in their position as such, have made disparaging and humiliating remarks to which the inmates should not have been subjected under any circumstances and to which, naturally, they are permitted no come-back whatever. Too often it has happened that ,pien, after having their wives or parents subjected to periods of hope and disappointment and themselves constantly upset in their confinement, after having published their misfortune broadcast in an effort to secure the guaranteed employment demanded by the board as part of the condition of parole, have found that they have served time amounting almost to as much as they would have served under a sentence specified and determined. Several men in the institution, during my time there, refused flatly to appear at all, after hearing the stories of others whose cases had been in the hands of the Board.
There exists a good deal of dissatisfaction at times in the dormitories adjoining the venereal ward, because although the rules of the institution provide that venereal patients shall remain in their own dormitory, yet in practice this is not carried out.
Games and Gambols
DASEBALL, hockey and swimming, each in its season is well organized and helps to maintain a generally wholesome feeling of sportsmanship among the men. There is an annual sports day, with a well-organized program of general events, with handsome prizes for the winners and special meals and smokes for all.
Throughout the summer, swimming is permitted in a nearby lake, within certain hours, and is a privilege that is widely and generally taken advantage of.
Vaudeville shows are frequently put on. They afford tremendous fun and entertainment for audience and performers alike. In such a large group as that composing the inmate body, one would expect to find at least something of music and the other arts of entertainment, and would not be disappointed. A performer playing ‘Believe me if all those endearing young charms’ on a one-string fiddle—a pitch-fork handle from the barn, with a single wire strung upon it—and the rendering of the Toreador Song in a voice and with an aplomb that would bring no discredit to the Metropolitan Opera, —mark more or less acurately the possibilities of entertainment among the inmates.
During the fall and winter season there is given in the Auditorium each Saturday evening, a moving-picture show, consisting usually of a two-reel comedy and a seven-or-eight reel feature. They are good pictures, too.
Not the least of the entertainment at the institution is the conducting of debate with speakers from the inmates, and with the super or the doctor as critic, and other officers as judges. Any subject that takes the fancy of the committee in charge may be debated, from the resolution that a country-bred child faces life’s battles better-equipped than does his city-bred
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cousin, to that which declares that judges
and magistrates should be required to serve a period of time in penal institutions before being elevated to the bench.
The ‘Short-Time Blues’
A VERY interesting study in psychology V*is that presented by the mentality of an inmate as he approaches the end of his time. Irritability without provocation, day-dreaming, a nervous excitement always present—such are the symptoms of short-time blues, one malady, fortunately, without any fatality rate, whatever, to which sooner or later every inmate must succumb.
Herein I have spoken briefly of life as it would appear to a casual observer in the Institution. Such is the surface life of the inmate body. With few exceptions it is early recognized that such things as heartbreaks or worried minds, are to be kept well in the back-ground. The other fellow has always troubles enough of his own.
It must be borne in mind that incarceration in a reformatory for a period of a year or two, is neither an unmixed blessing nor an unmitigated catastrophe. For if on the one hand personal indignity or humiliation or shame must be endured, on the other, the inmate enjoys welcome freedom from—for instance—pressing financial embarrassments or worries.
In so far as a man is endowed with mentality, in such degree must he suffer in confinement—in a reformatory or elsewhere. Not all the cheerfulness assumed in public can avail him when at night, with the second bell, silence descends upon him and he is beset by the devils of conscience, remorse, regret, dismay, memory, resentment, revenge, disillusionment, loneliness and the others. As he lies awake, sometimes, a quickly-smothered sobbing somewhere close at hand reveals to him someone else in the depths.
A reformatory experience—like any other great crisis or trouble in life—is wont to do one of two things to a man: It either hardens him greatly, in which case he becomes cynical or bitter—or it teaches, and softens him. There is within my experience the memory of one man in particular who fought his imprisonment tooth and nail. His sentence was for six months only, to start with. He made frantic attempts through outside influence to secure release, without success. He talked, slept, ate, debated his case morning noon and night, at every turn, until those of us he favored with his confidence learned to fly at his approach. Two days before the end of his sentence he was still mulling over plans to have his time shortened. To say that this man spent an eternity of misery in a veritable hell, is only to state what was very obvious to onlookers.
‘And the Moral of the Story’
TF IT does not require too great a stretch of the imagination to think of ‘thieves’ in the present instance as covering the whole range of law-breakers represented at any time by the entire inmate body of the institution, then I am in a position to say that within my own experience I know honor among thieves to be no visionary sentiment, but a very actual thing indeed. That there are men in the institution whose word is to be taken with confidence, I am quite satisfied. All said and-done, what more can one say of an average church congregation or any other large group of individuals one might mention.
One of the unavoidable things—I suppose it is unavoidable—that the law does when it takes hold of a man, is to put him in the wrong. Despite the popular belief that justice looks upon a man as innocent until he is proved guilty, in actual practice the thing does not work out that way. From the very moment of arrest, be he ever so innocent, a man is upon the
defensive. He finds himself confronted by those who, for the time being at any rate, have complete and undisputed authority over him. It then becomes easy to understand the setting up within a man of that wretched thing, the inferiority complex, producing, after a time, the type of man who forever is barred from asserting himself with force and conviction upon any subject whatsoever, who, perhaps, to his last day of life will shudder apprehensively at sight of a policeman’s uniform or of any other object associated in his mind with the misfortune or humiliation that gave birth to his unhappy condition.
A very painful thing to which to become accustomed is the idea of no personal privacy whatever. Tothink of weeks and months ahead, in which one is not to be, for even a moment, out of sight of his fellows, is an appalling thing.
Somehow, with the departing sense of personal privacy goes something of the finer personal feelings to which, God knows, we might be encouraged to cling. Their destruction brings with it no compensation that I have ever been able to see. One humorist has referred to the privacy enjoyed by a gold-fish. The
comparison applied to the life at--is very
apposite and fitting.
In spite of the many very livable and admirable characteristics of the institution, to which I have constantly referred herein, there remains at least one deplorable state of affairs which may well call for basic changes in the system before its final solution is achieved. I refer to the the situation wherein young fellows, firsttime offenders very often, are turned into the dormitories and gangs to live and rub elbows with older and more frequent violators of the law. While I am not so unsophisticated as to think that these youngsters do not know their way about —if I may so put it—yet for them to live f or months on end as companions of older, more hardened men, is to ensure that they shall absorb much of the cynicism and wordly-wiseness of these men, if not their downright viciousness. - _■
In a word, it practically is impossible that this sort of situation áhould continue to exist without young men leaving these institutions with at least potential knowledge of infinitely more unsocial practices than when they came in. With this sort of thing in mind I have heard men juggle the terms—‘Reformatory, or Deformatory?’
The Pity Of It’
POMMON honesty has compelled the ^ recital of those things that have been brought about toward more humane treatment and intelligent consideration of those who find themselves outside the law. Lest anyone gather the erroneous
conception that the institution at---
or another of its kind is a soft place to pay the price, and in order to balance the picture properly, it now remains to say with regard to the heart-crushing loneliness of such a life, the utter uselessness and waste of months or years so spent, and the unspeakable demoralization that follows upon living as an impersonal cog in a mere machine, all the brains applied to the Reformatory question have been able to bring about not one iota of betterment.
As I conclude, there stands before my mind’s eye a picture of a chap of twentytwo—just a very decent, human, ordinary sort of fellow—sitting at his bed-side, with tears streaming down his face, and in his hand a letter from his wife telling of the birth, in his distant home town, of their first baby. His child probably will have to be taken in hand by some institution.
There he sits, with his heart turned to water within him, and the Institution, with the best intentions in the world toward him, with all its machinery for easing off the hard edges and corners of things, is powerless to ease off this thing in one single degree or respect. He must remain there for nearly two years to come —an eternity to him now!