The Chicago Vice Commission

Maude E. Miner
Secretary New York Probation Association

The report of the Chicago Vice Commission presents a picture of actual conditions with regard to the social evil in one of the great cities of our country, and the facts are clearly set forth without prejudice and without sensationalism. The picture is dark because the facts are dark. The ultimate responsibility for changing the situation is placed where it rightly belongs, and it is true that the problem will remain as long as the public conscience is dead to the issue or indifferent to its solution. The public conscience must be awakened and the public insist upon changes in the situation or no changes will be made. It is due to the fact that the people of the city do not rise up and demand a different condition that prostitution continues and increases as a commercialized business; that the existing laws are not enforced; that there is lack of proper protection and sex and moral instruction for the children; that the demand is being met by an increasing supply of girls and women who enter the ranks as the result of bad home conditions, economic conditions, lack of recreational facilities and sex instruction, and by the work of procurers; that more effective work is not done by way of rescue and reform and more helpful measures tried when women come in conflict with the law instead of having fines imposed; that the trade continues, commercialized by men and supported by men.

We can change these conditions if we will. The truth is we have been looking for some satisfactory means of dealing with the problem without facing it squarely to see why it exists and how it can be minimized or eliminated. The report of the commission decides against segregation and regulation, and rightly so, for the system of segregation has failed where it has been tried. The truth is, segregation does not segregate. Furthermore, we will never countenance the recognition or legalization of a commercialized business which means only ruin to the race. The one hopeful method of attacking this problem successfully, as contained in the recommendation of the commission, is sound and wise: "Constant and persistent repression of prostitution the immediate method; absolute annihilation the ultimate ideal."

In such a comprehensive study we look in a chapter on Rescue and Reform for a detailed statement of methods and definite measuring of results of existing institutions doing reformative work, with specific recommendations for rendering this work more effective. The results of probation work with the immoral and wayward girls in the Juvenile Court of Chicago are not given, and we are not told what methods are employed by probation officers in dealing with these girls. We have only the statement that a very large proportion of them are "either committed at once to institutions or, if put on probation, are soon returned to court and committed." The reformatory institutions of the state are very briefly described and little information is given about the life of the girl within these institutions, the character of training there, the results obtained, and we do not learn whether or not any parole work is done in connection with them.

Though little information is given about the rescue homes, it is sufficient to show the need of better regulation of them. After reading of the maternity ward of Cook County Hospital we question as to whether or not there is a social service worker there. The recommendation that scientific investigation be made of institutions and homes to which girls and women go, either voluntarily or under commitment, is a good one, and the results of such an inquiry would be most illuminating and helpful in working out a more comprehensive and effective reformative scheme.

One of the greatest results that can follow from the study into conditions in Chicago will be that this investigation and report will point the way to other similar investigations which can be made in other cities, and to the awakening of different communities to the realization that the problem of the social evil is one which must not be left for its solution to police officials or other groups in the community, but that it is a problem which the whole community must help to solve.


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