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TEN YEARS OF THE INDETERMINATE SENTENCE.
By Amos W. BUTLER, SECRETARY, BOARD OF STATE CHARITIES OF
Ten years ago last April Indiana enacted the indeterminate sentence and parole laws. The same legislature converted the State Prison South at Jeffersonville into the Indiana Reformatory and named the prison at Michigan City the Indiana State Prison. These laws applied to both institutions, and were afterwards extended to apply to the Indiana Woman's Prison at Indianapolis.
In 1898 the indeterminate sentence and parole laws were attacked in the courts as unconstitutional, but were upheld by the Supreme Court of the State. This has been the decision of the courts of last resort in all the other States in which a similar question had been raised except Michigan. In that State the laws were held to be unconstitutional, but the constitution of the State was later amended and the laws were reenacted.
There was considerable opposition to these laws in Indiana. Most of our people were uninformed concerning them. They have been so wisely administered by the authorities charged with that responsible duty, however, that those who have become acquainted with their operations are now generally favorable to them. When one compares the old prison system with the new, the advantage to the State and the far greater benefit to the prisoners from the operation of these laws, who can say they are not a distinct gain for the Commonwealth?
The Governor of Indiana, J. Frank Hanly, has made an interesting admission regarding his attitude toward the indeterminate sentence law. As a lawyer, he was opposed to it. He thought it a mistake. When he entered upon his duties as governor, he was prejudiced against it, and intended to attack it when opportunity offered. His new office brought him into close contact with both the parole boards and the prisoners, and gave him an excellent opportunity to study the administration of the law and the results obtained. His complete conversion followed. As he himself has put it: “My past prejudices are broken down. Instead of its critic, I have become its defender. I have been convinced by what I have seen and heard and learned.” This he declared publicly at the Indiana State Conference of Charities at Muncie, Oct. 7, 1906, and at the meeting of the National Prison Association at Chicago, Sept. 16, 1907.
Nor is Governor Hanly alone in his conversion. At the beginning the lawyers generally regarded the laws unfavorably. Gradually they have changed their views, and when a committee of the Indiana State Bar Association, appointed a year ago to study this question, presented a favorable report at the Association's meeting in Indianapolis in July, 1907, the report was received without adverse criticism.
During the past year an attempt has been made to learn how these laws are regarded from another standpoint. Letters were addressed to a number of paroled men and to their employers, requesting their candid opinion. The result was gratifying. While a number of employers had found the paroled prisoners unsatisfactory workmen, the majority expressed themselves as well satisfied, and many declared emphatically their belief in the value of the laws. Equally pleasing were the answers received from the men. The prevailing idea seems to have been expressed by one who wrote: “I think the indeterminate sentence law a much better law both for the unfortunate boy and the citizens of the State. It gives the first offender a chance to retrace his steps before it is too late.”
These laws give the prison authorities an opportunity to release men who are deemed capable of becoming law-abiding citizens, and to retain for a longer period those who have not shown satisfactory evidence of reformation. In actual practice this has resulted in considerably lengthening the average time of service in prison. A study of the records of the State Prison has brought out the fact that the last three hundred men received under the old definite form of sentence served an average of 1 year, 9 months, and 14 days. The first three hundred received under the indeterminate sentence law served an average of 3 years, 2 months, and 12 days, or 1 year, 4 months, and 28 days longer. A similar study of the Reformatory records discloses an average sentence of 1 year, 8 months, and 22 days under the old law, 2 years, 4 months, and 6 days, or 7 months and 14 days longer, under the new. When it is understood that this increase is due largely to the longer time served by men convicted of such crimes as incest and rape, the figures have an added significance.
Most of us do not realize that there have been released in Indiana upon parole, after much training, from both the Reformatory and State Prison, 3,745 men in the past ten years. Of these but 25 per cent. proved to be unsatisfactory. Most of these paroled men were unemployed when their offences were committed. They had generally not been regular wage-earners. Hence it is interesting to learn that during the time they have been tested on parole they have earned for themselves $949,773.31.
The following figures show some of the results of the operation of these laws from the time they went into effect, April 1, 1897, to April 1, 1907:
In Indiana now the indeterminate sentence law applies to all her prisons,—the Reformatory, the State Prison for men and the Woman's Prison. Minors are released from the reform schools (the Indiana Boys' School and the Indiana Girls' School) upon parole. Probation laws apply to both adults and minors. The juvenile court law applies throughout the entire State.
NEW YORK, Feb. 14, 1908. TO THE COMMITTEE ON PUBLICATION OF THE AMERICAN STATISTICAL
ASSOCIATION: Gentlemen,- In sending out reprints of the June number of the Publications of your Association, the New York Committee on Physical Welfare of School Children is enclosing a slip of errata and addenda. We assume that you will not wish to call attention to typographical errors, most of which were fortunately so manifest as not to mislead. We hope, however, you will agree with us that it is worth while to give members of the Association, as well as the general reader, a brief summary of the criticisms received by us relative to the Report.
The most serious criticism referred to the first two of the twenty significant facts (p. 296).
1. The statement that, if New York school children are typical of school children in the United States, there must be 12,000,000 such children having physical defects more or less serious, is not based on the Committee's study of 1,400 children.
This criticism we must admit. We should have indicated that this finding was based on the records of the Board of Health which showed that, out of 165,000 children examined, two-thirds had physical defects, If this proportion should be maintained, the number of children in the United States having physical defects would be 12,000,000.
2. The statement that, if the 1,400 children studied are representative of children in New York City and the United States, there must be in New York City 41,600 suffering from malnutrition, 182,000 from enlarged glands, etc., etc., is misleading.
We admit that it would have been better to indicate clearly, what we supposed would have been evident, that this was a comparison between defectives intended only to indicate the ratios between such defects.
We recognize the danger of dogmatic statements regarding 18,000,000 children based upon the examination of 165,000 by the New York Board of Health and investigation of the home conditions of 1,400 school children. Nevertheless, as it was the aim of the Committee to call attention to the importance of the physical care of school children, as the records of the Board of Health showed that two-thirds of all children examined had physical defects, and as investigations made by the Committee into the home conditions of 1,400 school children proved that physical defects