Imagens das páginas

extreme. How much less so is it to cause them to be so confined in a poisonous atmosphere which is sure to produce the same results?

By section cleven of an act entitled "an act to establish the Detroit House of Correction," &c., approved March 15th, 1861, the Inspectors of the State Prison were empowered to enter into contract with the city of Detroit for the confinement and maintenance in their House of Correction, of all the females in the State Prison, and who may be subsequently convicted be fore any court in this State of any offence punishable by imprisonment in the State Prison, and also for the confinement of such male persons, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years, as the Judges of the several courts within the State might sentence to said House of Correction, after the date of such contract.

Conference was had with the authorized agents of the city of Detroit, and the terms on which these prisoners would be received by them were readily agreed upon, viz: that they should receive from the State seven shillings per week, each, for the maintenance of females; that such of the younger male prisoners as should be confined in their House of Correction, instead of the State Prison, were to be supported without charge to the State, it being expected that their labor would be of sufficient benefit to compensate for the outlay on their account.

After careful examination of the law, and consultation with able council, it was found that if any arrangement was made as contemplated by it, the courts would be bound to sentence all who should subsequently be convicted between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years to the House of Correction. This fact, and the diminution in the number of convicts in the State Prison this year, led us to defer, for the present, the entering into the contemplated contract.

We, however, most heartily approve the general features of the law, and should be glad to avail ourselves of the advan

tages to be derived from some of its provisions, if they could be disconnected.

The females in our State Prison are a burden upon it, and cannot be properly treated in the present arrangement of their apartments. They should be subjected to the routine of salu. tary discipline, and required to labor regularly at some proper employment.

The small number in confinement would render such an attempt quite expensive as it would require another building in a more suitable place, and does not, in our estimation, promise commensurate results. The larger number of females confined in the Detroit House of Correction, the kinds of employment consequently supplied, and the system of discipline necessarily enforced, seems to make that institution a more suitable place for the confinement of females now sent to the State Prison. Such an arrangement, we think, would be more benefit to this class of females and advantage to the State.

The changes in the management of the younger portion of the prisoners hereafter to be convicted of offences punishable by imprisonment in the State Prison, contemplated by this law, is eminently worthy of careful consideration.

The number of youths in the State Prisons of the country mingling freely with the older and more hardened convicts, and for whose reformation no educational or special systematio efforts are being made, is surprisingly large, and is not generally known.

Ohio reports that of the prisoners received into her State Prison, in 1860, forty-nine and thirty-four one-hundredths per cent. were between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five years, inclusive.

Indiana, that thirty-seven per cent. were between sixteen and twenty-four years. Illinois, that of the whole number in confinement that year, forty-seven and forty-seven one-hundredths per cent. were between sixteen and twenty-five New York, that fifty per cent. were between sixteen and twenty-five, and that Massachusetts, fifty-four per cent. were between six

teen and twenty-four, inclusivo. Of those in our own State Prison in the year 1861, that there were thirty-three and one-third per cent. between the ages of sixteen and twenty two years.

Statistics, gathered from both Europe and America, show conclusively that among the varied and complicated causes of crim, ignorance, or the lack of education, together with the Burroundings of evil influences in early life, are extremely prominent if not foremost, in the catalogue.

This is almost universally conceded, and has moved the philanthropy of the world to noble endeavors for the reclamation of the young, from which so much may be hoped in preventing crime.

The wonderful improvement in the public schools of our large cities, and throughout the country, within a few years, the establishing of Houses of Refuge, Reform Schools, and that true Christian benevolence which gathers in and instructs, in varied industrial and benevolent schools, those children who would otherwise remain uninstructed, is full of promise for the future. But while the vagrant and criminal children, under sixteen years of age, are comparatively well cared for, our young men, too old to be benefitted by such efforts, yet not so old as to be beyond the hope of reformation, are almost entirely neglected. They are left to themselves," at just that period of life when the character is plastic cLough to be moulded casily to the influences with which they are surrounded.

The circumstances of their carly life, without education, make it almost impossible that they should have any just moral estimates of their duty to themselves and society, which naturally throws them into evil company. Is it a matter of sur prise, then, that they are led to violate the law of the land, and incur its penalty?

That these persons should be cast into prison for a term of years, to be educated in crime by their older and more exporienced fellow prisoners, and be deprived at the same time of all other education, at this rapidly passing and accepted timo, the only remaining period of their lives when their minds are

capable of expanding and receiving useful knowledge, and thus the feeds of evil implanted in them hereditarily and by circumstances, often beyond their control, and be allowed to ripen, mature and solidify, is gross injustice to them, and to the highest and best interests of society.

The city of Detroit have provided, at their House of Correc tion, a convenient school-room which can be approached by convicts, at evening, without hazard of escape; have secured. the services of an experienced officer as superintendent, one who has been interested in the school feature of prison for this. class of prisoners, and propose to take of those who shall be subsequently convicted of offences punishable by imprisonment in the State Prison, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, such a number as shall enable them to demonstrate, by actual experiment, what may be done for the reclamation of this large class of prisoners, by isolation from contaminating associations, by education and a system of short lectures designed to awaken within them desires for a higher and better life, and for pleasures of a more elevated kind.

If the law could be so amended as to give opportunity for this experiment, without detriment to the interest of the State, certainly no injury can result from it, and it is not improbablo that the highest welfare of these unfortunate young men and of society at large, might be perceptibly enhanced.

We are sanguine that, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years, convicts sentenced for a term of years, may be educated in the rudiments, at least, of an English education, a taste for reading formed, and the general tone of their feelings so elevated, that on their release from imprisonment by which they are not unduly stigmatized, great hope may be entertained. of their permanent reformation.

The reports of prisons throughout the northern States come to us very generally expressing the great need of change and improvement in the class of persons under consideration.

In the history of the past not unfrequently have important advances been attended with this phenomena. Individuals in

different and remote portions of the country have almost simul taneously given attention to the same subject, and we have the attention being given to prison discipline, particularly as it effects young men in prison, as the harbinger of their improved condition.

It is evident that penal law is not in harmony with the progress of this age, and we trust that the time is not far distant when the judiciary shall not be compelled to administer law at the expense of justice and mercy-when a large discretion shall be vested in them, and they no longer be forced to brand with "State Prison" the youth, who, for the first time is arraigned in a criminal prosecution, but may instead confine such criminals in institutions which have sprung up since the enact ment of the penal code-where the same or greater deterring effects are produced without imparting an indelible mark upon them-when education shall come in to supply the lack of early years, thus removing, for the future, a prominent cause of their degraded and criminal conduct.

In view of trying the experiment of reforming this class of persons, we would recommend that the law referred to be so amended that the courts may sentence such persons as they deem proper to the Detroit House of Correction, instead of the State Prison, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years, inclusive, after a contract has been made with the proper authorities of said city, as contemplated under the law of 1861.

We cannot forbear again calling the attention of the Legis lature to the propriety of their taking measures to carry out the suggestion contained in our last annual report, relative to the appointment of a suitable person as agent to look after the interests of discharged convicts. The reasons assigned, which we think justifies such a policy, will be found in said report, to which we beg leave to call you special attention.

In the Agent's report will be found a detailed statement of the expenses and receipts of the Prison for the year ending November 30th, 1861, and also all tables giving such in

« AnteriorContinuar »