« ZurückWeiter »
he received 26 lashes. Nov. 9, he received 40 lashes. Nov. 13, he received 40 lashes. Total, 181 lashes.'
Now Jackson, to which this refers, is a comparatively decent prison (I had started to use the word good; but there are no good prisons, any more than there are good diseases). If I were asked to pick the least objectionable prisons in the United States, after seeing something like seventy, I should have to include Jackson among the first ten, or possibly even among the first halfdozen. The warden is unusually intelligent, interested in his job, an advocate of the honor system, who also practises it on a large scale. He is certainly among the most humane of the wardens in the country; and, by and large, his prisoners have more freedom inside the walls than is common. I do not repeat this quotation to give it extra publicity. I repeat it to show what happens even in those prisons which are least antiquarian and hide-bound. This does not mean that all prisons have whipping. A large number still do,more than I expected, but old methods of punishment are still prevalent in practically all prisons.
There is hardly a prison where solitary confinement is not practised. In some cases solitary confinement is for a few months, in some cases for a few years; and in not a few there is such a thing as permanent solitary. Some prisons have a few men put away; some have as many as twenty; and in one case there are about fifty men placed in solitary for shorter or longer periods.
Why do the wardens do it? Well, they do not know what else to do. They run to the end of their ingenuity, and do that as a last resort — that is, the best of them. Some do it as a matter of common policy. I recall climbing a flight of stairs with a good-natured warden in a Western prison, and being shown a specially built courtyard with
some dozen solitary cells. There were four men put away there permanently one had been there for three years. They were not even allowed to exercise. They were not allowed to talk, they had no reading-matter, they could not smoke. There had at one time been only one man in the place, and the warden permitted him to smoke; but when the others were put in, he told him not to pass any tobacco to them. This is, of course, an impossible demand. The insistence for a share of that mighty joy in solitary-a smoke is irresistible. He did what was inevitable, passed his tobacco and a 'puff,' to the other fellows, and the warden deprived him of the privilege. 'He should have obeyed what I told him if he wanted to hold on to his privilege,' was the reason given.
What is true of solitary confinement is true also of the dark cell. Practically all prisons have and use dark cells. It is common to find from one to a dozen men put away in the dark cells, kept on bread and water that means a little bread and about a gill of water every twenty-four hours. In most prisons about ninety per cent - this punishment is added to by handcuffing the man to the wall or the bars of the door during the day, that is, for a period of ten to twelve hours each day that he is in punishment - the time varying from a few days to more than two weeks. In some institutions the handcuffs have been abolished and replaced by an iron cage made to fit the human form, which, in some cases, can be extended or contracted by the turning of a handle. A man put in the dark cell has this cage placed about him and made to fit his particular form — and it is usually made so 'snug' that he has to stand straight up in the cage. He cannot bend his knees, he cannot lean against the bars, he cannot turn round; his hands are held tight against the
sides of his body, and he stands straight, like a post, for a full day, on a little bread and water — and for as many days as the warden or the deputy sees fit. I was always asked to observe that they did not use handcuffs: this was the reform. Remember, a dark, pitch-black cell, with your hands pinned against your sides, your feet straight all day, unable to move or shift your ground, for ten and twelve hours a day, on bread and water, is the reform!
In one or two institutions where the cage is used, but is not adjustable, the man having to squeeze into the flat space as best he can, - they added the handcuffs. In one institution, a commendable institution, as such things go, in some ways, - in one of the states that has always prided itself on being progressive, I found that they added to the dark cell the handcuffing of the man while he slept. In the particular institution I have in mind the arrangement was as follows. A bar was attached to one of the walls, and slanted down until it reached within about three inches of the floor. On this bar was a ring. At night, the board on which the man slept was placed near this slanting bar; one pair of handcuffs was put on the prisoner's wrists, another pair connected with his hands was attached to the ring on the slanting iron bar. This means that he had to lie on one side all night long, handcuffed and pressing on this board, which served him as a bed.
This does not complete the list of prison punishments as they are now practised. The underground cell is still in existence probably not in many prisons, but I saw it in at least two different institutions. In one state pris
one lifts sideways like an old-type
country cellar-door. It creaks on its rusty iron hinges. I climbed down a narrow flight of rickety stairs. When I got to the bottom, I had to bend double to creep into a long narrow passage. It was walled about with stone, covered with a rusty tin covering. It was not high enough to stand up in, hardly high enough for a good-sized man to sit up in. The warden above closed the door on me. I was in an absolutely pitchblack hole-long, narrow, damp, unventilated, dirty (there must be rats and vermin in it); and one has to keep a bucket for toilet purposes in that little black hole. As I came out, the warden said naïvely, 'When I put a man in here, I keep him thirty days.' Let the reader imagine what that means to human flesh and blood.
I do not want to make this a paper of horrors. Just one more case. On my way back I stopped off at a certain very well-known prison that I had heard about since childhood. For the last ten years it has been famous as one of the great reform prisons of the country. I remember seeing pictures of the warden with prisoners out on a road-gang. The article in which these pictures appeared gave a glowing account of the freedom these men had they guarded themselves away from the prison proper, out in the hills, building roads. The state in which this prison is situated has constructed many miles of prison-built road and in fact it was one of the first in the country to undertake to build roads with convict labor, without guards. When I knocked on its gates, I thrilled with expectancy. Here, at least, would I find a model prison, unique, exceptional, a pride to the state and an honor to the man who was responsible for it. In fact, I had heard that the warden was being considered for political advancement to the office of governor because of his remarkable
prison record. I found a remarkable institution remarkable for its backwardness and brutality.
The first thing that I saw as I entered the prison yard was a strange and unbelievable thing. Nine men kept going round in a circle, wheeling wheelbarrows, while a heavy chain dangled from each man's ankle. As I came nearer, I noticed in each wheelbarrow a heavy iron ball attached to the chain. In the centre stood a guard; and the men kept circling about him all day long, wheeling the iron ball in their barrows, their bodies bent over, their faces sullen, their feet dragging. They did that for ninety days each, I was told by my guide. At night they carried the ball to their cells, and in the morning they carried it to the dining-room. For three months this iron ball and chain stayed riveted about their ankles -a constant companion and, I suppose, from the warden's point of view, a stimulus to better things one of the ways of making 'bad' men 'good.' There, too, I found all the other characteristics of the average prison dark cells, bread and water, solitary, handcuffs, and, in addition, a hired colored man to do whipping when that was called for as no one else could be got to do it. This negro was never permitted in the prison yard for fear that the men might kill him. The report that I sent to the National Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor, for which I was traveling, reads as follows:
I have just visited the famous reform prison at C and this is what I found:
Nine men going around a circle, wheeling ball and chain.
Whipping-post, with special colored man to do the task.
Dark cells. Solitary.
Men handcuffed to the doors. Bread and water.
No work for the men.
In addition to loss of privileges and good time, which is usual as a means of discipline.
A traveling prison chaplain had visited the institution the Sunday before I came, and made a speech to the men. In beginning his speech, he remarked upon the fame of the warden with the world abroad, and upon the fortune of the men for being under such humane treatment. Some of the men hissed. For that the moving-picture machine had been torn out from its place in the chapel, and the men were to be deprived of their weekly prison 'movie.' I was told also that Sunday yard-privileges had been rescinded. In telling me about it, one of the guards remarked: 'We will show them [the prisoners] that this can be a real prison.' I wonder what they think it is now - and what else they can add to make it one. Let this conclude the description of current disciplinary methods.
The use of man by man is the basic test in the evaluation of any institution, especially one designed to make the 'bad' 'good,' the 'hard' 'soft,' and the 'unsocial' 'social.' The test of a penal institution is its disciplinary methods.
The picture I have drawn is onesided and not sufficiently comprehensive. If one desires to secure a general view of the technique of penal administration as it is at present practised, he must look at other elements of the picture. There is the problem of labor. The opportunity to keep busy during the day, to do something that will hasten the passing hours, that will give a sense of contact with the world of reality, that will exercise one's fingers and use one's body, this simple craving of the human organism is denied on a much larger scale than one can imagine unless he is actually brought in con
tact with the fact. I should say that of the year, and every year of their pris
at least one third of the prisoners in the American state prisons are unemployed. That means that in some prisons all men are working, in some practically none, and in others only a part.
The warden was an aggressive, opinionated, ignorant, and coarse individual. He had grown stout, his lower lip had hardened, his jaw jammed against his upper teeth as he talked, and at every second sentence he banged the table for emphasis, stopped, looked at you to see if you agreed with him, and if there was any doubt in his mind about this, he repeated what he had said, adding, 'I am talking straight fact.'
I first saw him in the evening, swinging in a soft hanging rocker on the porch, supported by small couch cushions, dressed in an immaculate white suit, with a silk handkerchief in his coat-pocket, and smoking a big cigar tilted at the proper 'politician's' angle. He was round-headed, his face shiny and smooth-shaven. I felt uncomfortable sitting there in front of him and talking about the men inside. A feeling of disgust crept over me, as if he were some fat over-dressed pig — and selfassertive.
'I run this prison by psychology; if you want a lecture on psychology I will give it to you; it is all in psychology,' he told me.
I begged to be excused that night. I was tired. I had driven all day; and perhaps I would enjoy it better after I saw how he managed the prison.
'All right; but remember the whole trick is psychology-it is as simple as that.'
It was a typical prison - only it had an 'idle-house.' The 'idle-house' is so called because it houses the idle men men who do nothing all day long but sit on benches, crowded together, all day, every day of the week, every week
on term a term that may range from one year to a lifetime. It is a large bare loft. There I found four hundred men, dressed in their prison suits, sitting, all facing one way. Around the room there were keepers, seated on high stools, watching these idle men. In the morning after breakfast the men were marched to this idle-house. At noon they were taken to the dining-room; after lunch they were marched back to the idle-house. They were being made good by sitting. This is better than in some prisons, where the men who have nothing to do are kept in their cells. And yet - how little ingenuity it would have taken to put most of these men to work at something useful, if not remunerative. It would not have been difficult to find enough public-spirited citizens who would have provided a dozen old and broken-down automobiles and typewriters, and thus put a number of them to work taking them apart and putting them together learning something and keeping busy, doing something. It would not have been difficult to put a number of these to studying Spanish, French, Italianevery large prison has men who would like to teach these languages and others who would like to learn them. There are a hundred ways in which these men could at least, most of them could — have been occupied in doing something: learning how to draw, to box, to play an instrument, to typewrite — anything that would have taken the burden of eternal idleness off their hands. All it needed was a couple of days' use of the imagination. But the warden lacked the imagination. He was not really vividly conscious of the problem. When I had seen the prison and was ready to go, I asked him if he would give me that lecture on psychology, and he said with an emphatic bang on the table, 'My boy, psychology is common sense,'
What is true of work is true of other things. There is no imagination in the American prison field - or so little that one has to look far and wide to find it. Take the question of housing. Practically all American prisons are built on the same plan. That is the Auburn type. The best way to describe it is to begin from the outside. The first thing is the high stone wall. After you get into the prison yard made by this wall you come face to face with a large square building about five stories high. It has narrow windows, heavily barred in
some cases these windows are so narrow that it would not be possible for a man to get through them. When you enter the stone building, you find another building inside. This inside building is the cell-block, a square stone structure standing four stories high. Each tier, or floor, is divided into a large number of little cells each cell looks like every other. Each floor is like the one below it. The cells vary in size, but not much. In the older prisons — and most of the prisons are old the cells are about three and a half feet wide, seven feet long, and seven feet high. Some, as in Sing Sing prison, are even smaller. In the newer prisons they are larger in some cases more than twice this size. The cells are set back to back.
The space of a cell is so small that it is inconceivable for one who has not been in it. You cannot spread your hands, you cannot lift your hand above your head, you cannot take more than three steps without hitting your toe against the wall. A cell is not larger than a good-sized grave stood on end. It is dark, half-dark, all the time. There is no window in the cell. The windows are in the outer wall and the cell is set about thirty feet away from the outer wall. The windows in this wall are generally narrow, and are always heavily barred. The sun must first get into the prison before it can get into the cell.
But the cell is not made to receive the sun. In the older prisons one half of the front facing the window is walled up. The other half has a door. In the very worst prisons, this door is completely closed at the bottomthat is, the lower half is made of solid steel. To get around this, as in Sing Sing, they have drilled holes in that part. The upper half is closely netted. with heavy bars, in some cases leaving only little square holes for the sun and air to get through after it finds its way into the prison. In the older cell-blocks these cells have no internal ventilation at all! All the air must come in and out through the limited space of the front door. In others, more modern, there is a ventilator in the cell-a hole going up through the wall, about six inches square. In all the old prisons the cells. have no toilet system; buckets are used for toilet purposes. These buckets are generally numbered, so that each man can get his own back; but not always. As the men are put into their cells at about five in the afternoon, and taken out again at about six in the next morning they are in this cell-block for at least thirteen hours. Think of what it means to have eighteen hundred men in a prison under such conditions. Think of a hot July night, and picture the air on the top tier. No words can describe the pollution of the air under these conditions. Add to this the fact that, in most prisons, the men are kept in practically all day Sunday, half a day Saturday, and, if Monday happens to be a holiday, all day Monday, and you will have a sense of the torture that life under these conditions imposes upon the sensitive, and of the callousness it implies in those who have ceased to be sensitive.
This, however, is not all. The prisons cannot be kept clean, — certainly not the old prisons, even if there were consciousness that this ought to be done.