Pioneering on Social Frontiers: Chapter 7: The Underworld and Beneath It

Graham Taylor

DURING the years in which initiative was being taken toward the civic renaissance, barely outlined in the preceding pages, the moral issues with vicious evils were not ignored. While the Civic Federation and the Municipal Voters' League rightfully gave precedence to their attack on political corruption, they regarded as allies their fellow-citizens who, like Arthur Burrage Farwell, individually or in protective associations were fighting gambling, prostitution, and drink.

The exposure of the political and police protection of vice resorts by William T. Stead at his Central Music Hall mass meeting, and by the Municipal Voters' League campaign against the vice-lords in the City Council, extended the efforts of other local reform organizations beyond the protection of their own neighborhoods from the invasion of vicious resorts. Experience in such single combats against resort-owners, and for the rescue of their women victims, gradually demonstrated the necessity for a combined city-wide campaign to be directed against the attitude and policy of the city administration in tolerating and segregating commercialized vice, contrary to law.

Mr. Stead's allusion to his own experience in his single-handed effort and lone-voiced protest against the white-slave traffic in London warned us against unnecessarily involving any such personal costs as he had paid. Those who would know by what authority, and from what motive, he thus warned Chicago, should read in The Life of William T. Stead, by Frederick Whyte, the chapter bearing the title "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon." Under this title Mr. Stead had in 1885 shocked all Britain, and much of the


( 83) English-speaking world, by his revelations in the Pall Mall Gazette of the sale of English girls into the slavery of vice, for the traffic not only in England, but also in Europe and South America. To prove it he bought a young girl and, with the cooperation of the Salvation Army, safeguarded her and himself from incrimination. On the criminal charge of abducting the child, but really because his exposť of the traffic scandalized the public and the press more than did the hideous facts exposed, he was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to two months' imprisonment.

The virtue of his motive, however, in resorting to extreme measures was justified, both before his act and after he was adjudged guilty, by such eminent persons as Cardinal Manning, the Archbishop of Canterbury; Rev. Charles Spurgeon; William Booth, (general of the Salvation Army ; Lord Shaftesbury; Mrs. Fawcett; and others whom he had taken into his confidence. But the clamor against the public exposure of such shamelessly flagrant vice and the personal vituperation against the man who dared to lay it bare were so tumultuous as to drown the voices raised in his defense. Nevertheless the subsequent passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which penalized the vice traffic so severely as to drive its traffickers out of the trade, was recognized to be so dependent upon this agitation to compel long-delayed action that the measure came to be called Stead's Act.

If more of us in Chicago had known these facts, not so many of us might have resented Mr. Stead's exposure of similar vices here, or misunderstood and maligned his motive in so doing. Here, as in England, he did justify many in thinking that he went too far and lacked delicacy in detailing too much. But some of us have learned that the chief end of man is not to gratify his own taste, and that it requires some of us to go a great deal too far to get the rest of us to go half far enough.

The odds against which individual, single-handed, protective efforts had to contend were exemplified by two experiences which we at Chicago Commons had in defending two young girls from capture by white-slavers. The mother of one of them appealed to us to find her fourteen-year-old daughter


( 84) who had disappeared for a day and night from home and the neighborhood. We found her detained in a police station, near a commercial amusement park, as a witness against a man twice her age, who was caught by a policeman in the act of attacking her. When brought to trial this man's attorney claimed that the girl was the wife of the accused. The judge and jury were informed by us that the claim was based upon this extraordinary trick. While the child was committed by the court to a Protectorate to prevent her from being kidnapped before she could testify against the accused, he appeared with a justice of the peace and was allowed to interview the child. While unsuspectingly permitted to do so in the presence of a guard and separated from the men by a lattice screen, the justice pronounced them "Man and Wife!" Informed of this fact, and on the testimony of the police officer, the jury convicted the prisoner and sentenced him to seven years in prison. But the judge reduced the sentence to two years. The man was paroled in one year. The girl was obliged to marry him by her father to cover family disgrace. She was promptly hired out to other men by her captor. Her cohabitation with them was cited as an evidence of "infidelity" warranting divorce, which was promptly granted her aggrieved "husband!"

The other case was still more dramatic. Again a widowed neighboring mother asked our help in finding her fifteen-year-old daughter, who had disappeared while seeking employment, offered through an advertisement for "a prepossessing girl to wait upon an invalid old lady." We were informed that she was held against her will in the apartment of a procuress on a great West Side thoroughfare. Aided by the informant, an employee at the place who had pity for the child, two of our men residents at Chicago Commons gained admission to the apartment by strategy. While rescuing the girl from her captors they secured evidence implicating the man for whom the girl was "procured."

In securing a warrant for his arrest and that of the "old lady," I was suspicious of the two city detectives assigned to make the arrest because they admitted knowing the procuress for years without interfering with her traffic. So I hired the


( 85) operators of the Pinkerton Detective Agency to watch the police detectives. But they had already given the tip to the man involved, who precipitantly fled from his business office to the northwest territory in Canada. He proved to be a prosperous, well-connected proprietor of a large and successful business enterprise, with an office in one of the best-known buildings on La Salle Street. The gray-headed woman of sixty or more years was shown to have been hired by him to manage the apartment he rented for her in order to trap girls for him.

During the trial I had to protect their intended victim from the ruffians lying in wait to spirit her away in order to rid the case of the prosecuting witness. I did so by taking the girl into the Chicago Commons household and by accompanying her to and from the courtroom daily. After the trial she went out of the state for two years to protect her from vengeance. There she married and became the good mother of a family.

While the jury was being selected the courtroom detective informed me that the clerk of another court was trying to "fix" the jury. Exposing him so that he disappeared from the scene, a trustworthy jury was obtained, despite the objection of defense attorneys to married or mature men. These lawyers, hitherto supposed to be reputable, stooped to Introduce a compromising letter, alleged to have been written hr the girl. It proved to be a forgery of her handwriting. Conviction was secured and the old procuress was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in the state penitentiary. I was sorry to have the case against the man, whose accomplice she was, stricken off the calendar because the prosecutor was convinced that "no jury of men would convict a man accused by a woman accomplice, who herself had been convicted and sent to prison." I could only force from the fugitive a written confession as a condition of his return to Chicago from his month's exile in Canada.

Experiences such as these prepared more and more of us to enlist in the organized movement to outlaw vice and rid the commonwealth of complicity with it. It was not until seven years after the awakening to this duty that Mr. Stead's ringing appeals to do it met with such response. To the credit


( 86) of the ministers of the Protestant churches, constituting the Chicago federation of six hundred churches, they took the initiative which proved successful against all probabilities to the contrary. Impulse was given to their initiative by Rev. Walter T. Sumner, then dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in Chicago, and since the Bishop of Oregon. The clergy-house where he lived and the cathedral where he ministered were within the district, on the Lower West Side of Chicago, that was one of the three areas within which the police were supposed to segregate and regulate vice resorts and their inmates. From personal observation of the evil effects of these resorts, and from his experience in ministering to their inmates, he was prepared to state the problem to his brother-ministers from his own experience. His frank and fearless exposť of the shameful facts, and his fervent appeal to the clergy and their churches to face these soul-destroying influences, won the unanimous adoption of his proposal:

That the mayor be asked to appoint a Commission of men and women who command the respect and confidence of the public at large to investigate thoroughly the conditions as they exist and to enlist the support of every civic, protective, philanthropic, social, commercial and religious body in the city to carry out the plans suggested.

In offering this resolution Dean Sumner suggested as an incentive for official and citizens' action that "if the present administration does not subscribe to such a plan the political parties should be pledged to make it an issue at the next election and that the press, the social settlements, the churches and the public generally could be relied upon to back conclusions reached by such a commission."

To the surprise of those who knew him well, Mayor Busse promptly appointed thirty citizens as members of the Chicago Vice Commission, naming Dean Sumner, the youngest of them all, as its chairman. I was the last to be appointed, and in response to the urgent request of the Chief of Police.

The City Council confirmed their appointments and appropriated ten thousand dollars to cover the expenses of the investigation. Toward the cost of publishing its report a contribution of five thousand dollars was received from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who had led the "Committee of Fourteen"


( 87) in making the first public report of such fact-finding surveys, which dealt with the situation then existing in New York City.

Outstanding representatives of Chicago's lawyers, physicians, women's organizations, teachers, social workers, the clergy, and the city's commercial and industrial interests accepted the mayor's appointments. Through more than a year of continuous and exacting service these thirty citizens, two of whom were women, faithfully fulfilled the purpose of the Commission, which was fearlessly carried out with the aid of a small staff of investigators.

The complicated factors of the problem, and the very forces requisite to any solution of it, required a broad survey of the sources and resources of the social evil, its secret and open operations, its relation to drink and narcotics, crime and the police, hygiene and housing, education and literature, legislation and administration. The difficulty and danger of acquiring accredited facts, the untrustworthy sources of information available, the guarded or politically protected resorts and their criminal, desperately revengeful keepers exacted great caution in selecting and checking up these investigators, and in verifying and finally publishing the information procured. Every statement thus required passed the scrutiny, challenge, and acceptance of not only the chairman and the committee, but before it was filed for publication it was read to and approved by the entire Commission.

The lack of authentic information regarding the relation between subnormality and sexual delinquency prevented the Vice Commission of Chicago from reporting more fully upon that feature of the situation which it investigated. While serving as chairman of this Committee on the sources supplying the victims of vice, however, I found very many inmates of the resorts I visited very far from normal. This was most noticeable in the lowest grade of these resorts, which admitted such inmates at first hand, or received them from the higher-grade places when they had physically and mentally depreciated. Many such had fallen when very young, some of them before they knew what it was to stand, and others after their ignorance and weakness had been taken advantage of, either by force or betrayal.


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First among the causes given by most of the twenty-four hundred women and girls under the Committee's review, while most of them were in correctional institutions, was that their home conditions were unhappy or inadequate. Economic conditions came second, the lack of provision for healthful and innocent recreation came third, procuring for white slavery fourth, while the lack of all education in sex physiology and hygiene made every one of these sinister influences less repellent and more dangerous.

United States District Attorney Edwin W. Sims, serving the Vice Commission as its secretary and legal adviser, cited the case of an Italian girl which proved the existence of an international white-slave trade. This is the story she told him. When she was a young girl at play in the street of her home town, an American woman asked her, and also her mother, whether she would come to America with this pretended benefactress to be educated. Gaining consent, this woman gave the mother money, more than enough to pay for the girl's clothing outfit. On arrival at New York she was delivered to the keeper of a vice resort where she was forced to remain for some months and was then shipped to a Chicago resort. Attempting to escape, the keeper slashed her face with a razor, mutilating it so badly as to eliminate all traces of beauty. After two years she was rescued and sent back to Italy with her baby but a few months old. Almost unrecognizable in appearance, and bearing the shame of an unwed mother, neither family nor friends would receive her. So back to Chicago she found her way, where broken down by the abuse she had suffered and the single-handed struggle to earn a scant livelihood for herself and child, her reason gave way and at twenty-seven years of age she was committed to the state insane asylum. The federal authorities who had followed her case declared that they had "nothing but commendation for her."

In the commercially highest-grade resort, the Everleigh Club, which I visited during this investigation, I found the twenty or more inmates appearing so well in the early evening that it would have been difficult to distinguish them from high-school graduates or college students. They produced the


( 89) pennants of several colleges, as though they used them to attract or amuse their patrons. The two middle-aged sisters who had long kept the place were intelligent and well mannered. They extenuated their nefarious trade by saying that it had to be, and that they, as well as others, might profit by conducting it as decently as it could be managed. When asked how they procured inmates, they replied that they always had a waiting list, but insisted upon each one of them answering for herself. Dean Sumner and I were permitted to interview them. The reasons they gave us were among those mentioned above, yet few of these inmates failed to claim that they were only there temporarily and would leave the life they were leading when they had earned a competence. Their "madame" somewhat boastfully bade us to persuade, if we could, any of them to leave forthwith. Before leaving the handsomely furnished clubhouse, bearing a name that ranked it as aristocratic, I inquired of the madame  how she dared to deal so destructively with both the body and the very life of each inmate. Her hollow, hysterical laughter fittingly accompanied her flippant reply that she was writing what she would call The Biography of a Lost Soul.

Not until the mayor and the Police Department acted on the recommendation of the Vice Commission in closing segregated districts did this famous house of infamy lose the political pull which it had so long financially maintained and was compelled to close its doors, after which its proprietress left the city.

The official report of the Commission, entitled The Social Evil in Chicago, laid bare the facts of these shameless situations and held them up in the light of common day. The inference was unavoidable that if the citizens of Chicago and Illinois liked to tolerate this sort of thing, they were the sort of people who tolerated it according to their liking.

Its publication created a great sensation in the city and state. As the first public document of its kind it also made a deep impression upon the officials and citizens in many other cities. Over fifty of them promptly appointed vice commissions to investigate, report, and deal with their local situations. Either under some sinister influence, or because


( 90) shocked by the unusually frank statement of fact, officials of the Post-Office Department at Washington prohibited the transmission of the Chicago report through the mail. But they were obliged to rescind their exclusion order by the claim of the Commission of the right to mail it as a public document. When the term of the Commission expired with the issuance of its report to the mayor and the City Council, its officers destroyed by fire all the data upon which its findings were based, in order to prevent any attempt to misuse them for political or blackmailing purposes.

The recommendations of the Commission were based upon the carefully authenticated, detailed, classified, and summarized facts disclosed by the city-wide investigation, compared with data gleaned from other cities in this country and abroad. The policies and procedure recommended were kept well within the range of commercialized vice and were addressed to federal, state, county, and city authorities and still more specifically to county officials, the corporation counsel, the Police Department, the Board of Education, the commissioner of health, park commissioners, parents, philanthropic and other organizations, and the press. All these recommendations were summed up in one sententious sentence—"Constant and persistent repression of prostitution the immediate method; absolute annihilation the ultimate ideal."

Federal action subsequently taken may have been more or less directly influenced by the facts and suggestions in the Chicago report. The safe conduct of immigrants from ports of entry to their destination came to be carefully guarded from the cruel exploitation of white-slavers whose bold operations were still further exposed by the Immigrants' Protective League of Chicago. The Mann Act, heavily penalizing the transportation across state lines of girls and women for immoral purposes, bears the name of the foremost Congressman from Chicago, Representative James Robert Mann. The State Department negotiated a "gentlemen's agreement" with the English, French, and other foreign governments providing for police and court co-operation for the prevention and punishment of the international white-slave


( 91) traffic. The League of Nations subsequently secured the agreement of fifty or more nations to enforce this policy. Its investigation of the international traffic was suggested by Miss Grace Abbott, head of the Federal Children's Bureau, who unofficially represented the people of the United States at the League Conference Committee on this evil.

Local action on the Vice Commission's report was long deferred. For two years after its publication it was pigeonholed in the office of the next mayor, Carter H. Harrison, Jr., who continued the policy of toleration and segregation which he and his father had followed in previous terms in that office.

Meanwhile, the state's attorney of Cook County, John E. W. Wayman, was forced to act at the complaint of a woman that her real estate was depreciated in value by the toleration of vice resorts near her property, far away from the so-called segregated districts. Charged with responsibility for it before the grand jury, this official replied that since the city Police Department had failed to do its duty he would act. As I had supported his candidacy, in order to defeat a far worse candidate for the state's attorneyship, he regarded me as friendly and informed me when he would raid the most extensive red-light district, which was located on the South Side. That night, Dean Sumner and I were on a street many blocks of which for years had been lined with wide-open resorts on either side. About midnight police patrol wagons suddenly backed up to one of these resorts after another, so unexpectedly that they were found in full operation. In the glare of their lights the inmates were taken by wagonloads to the nearest police stations. None of the hundreds of dislodged women accepted the free lodgings offered them by "rescue" missionaries. Mobs of men surged into the vacated resorts, destroying or stealing much of their contents. Their doors were officially closed. Within twenty-four hours 135 warrants were served upon resort-keepers. While one and another of them were temporarily opened, either at the same or another location, by the connivance of the police, yet the district was dead and never came back to spectacularize the shame it had Haunted. No such red lights ever glared again so openly. Street solicitation ceased or was attempted under cover.


( 92) Most of these resorts were closed or kept on the run. When allowed to locate they were banished from most residential districts by the pressure of public opinion upon the authorities charged with enforcement of the law.

This scandalously spectacular raid, which marked the beginning of the end of the officially recognized red-light districts of Chicago, was previously approximated about as sensationally by an ill-advised and futile religious demonstration. Some of the churches were led into it by an English evangelist, whom they had engaged to conduct an interdenominational series of evangelistic meetings. Headed by the Salvation Army band and the evangelist on horseback, throngs of church people, mostly young folks and women, invaded this same district with the purpose of winning patrons and inmates from the resorts, against the toleration of which the demonstration was a protest. Police refused to let children enter the district, many of whom were led by their parents in the procession.

Evidently by common consent the resort-keepers closed their doors, darkened their windows, and some of them removed their inmates to other streets. So the crusaders passed unobserved by those they sought, through streets temporarily deserted by the crowds usually patronizing the resorts. No sooner had the procession disappeared and the voices of the singers died away than the question of their song, "Where is my Wandering Boy Tonight?" was rudely answered. Back over the route of march surged hundreds of men following the women inmates as they returned to their haunts singing ribald songs. The futility of this spectacular demonstration of this ill-advised religious zeal without knowledge stood out in humiliating contrast with the later reprehensibly sensational vet effective enforcement of the law. In justice to the better-advised churches and their clergy it should be said that many of them silently, and some of them publicly, protested against this demonstration as likely to do more harm to the innocent than good to the guilty.

A month after the Vice Commission rendered its report and disbanded, five prominent citizens of Chicago at the call of one of them, Clifford W. Barnes, organized the Committee of


( 93) Fifteen. It was incorporated "to aid the public authorities in the enforcement of all laws against pandering, and to take measures calculated to suppress the white-slave traffic." The initiative taken by these citizens both preceded and followed up that which secured the appointment of the Commission. Four years before that event they had secretly combined to back up a young assistant state's attorney whose successful prosecution they aided by furnishing means to secure evidence through further investigation. And when the political influence of the alarmed lords of the underworld succeeded in stopping the prosecution and ousting the prosecutor, he was employed by these five men to continue his work privately.

Mayor Carter H. Harrison, Jr., meanwhile, appointed a committee of aldermen, which might have been expected to bring in a report adverse to that of the Vice Commission. But it unexpectedly indorsed the findings and recommendations of the Commission. Still seeking support for the police regulation of vice in segregated districts, the mayor appointed another aldermanic committee to report the policies dealing with prostitution abroad. Although its observation was curtailed by the outbreak of the World War, its members saw enough to decide to agree with the conclusions of the Commission. Yielding at last to the increasing protest against official toleration of unlawful and disease-breeding resorts, to which the extension of suffrage to women may have added decisive emphasis, Mayor Harrison frankly conceded that he had been mistaken, claiming his correction to have been due to reading Raymond Fosdick's volume on European Police Systems, which proved the failure of segregating vice. Here follows his public declaration of his changed policy:

I have reached the conclusion finally that my ideas of the vice question have been wrong. I have no hesitancy in subscribing to the general indictment of the segregation plan. Its worst feature to me is the corrupting influence it exerts over the entire law enforcing arms of the government. Segregation means protected vice. Chicago is through with the segregated vice idea. There isn't anything that a conscientious person can say now in support of segregation. Repression means treating it just as any other crime is treated.


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Mayor Harrison reached this conclusion only a little later than others of his fellow-citizens whose efforts had been directed exclusively against the white-slave traffic, or for the rescue of its victims. Indeed, neither all the members of the Committee of Fifteen nor most of the members of the Vice Commission themselves, I among them, previous to their appointment had pronounced opinions against the so-called segregation and police regulations of vice resorts. They were not yet convinced that these measures were necessary to protect the innocent and the community itself from worse aggressions of vice. Not until the investigations of the Chicago Vice Commission demonstrated the failure and futility of the segregation policy were well-informed, open-minded officials and citizens convinced of the contrary. The Chicago Vice Commission is therefore to be credited, perhaps most of all, for demonstrating the certainty with which a body of authenticated facts may be trusted to reverse public opinion and turn it from relying upon a refuge of lies. Once for all it conclusively demonstrated that segregation had failed to segregate, regulation to regulate, and sanitation to sanitate.

By destroying this wholesale market for commercialized vice its traffickers were driven into fugitive retailing traffic and were kept moving. The way was thus opened also for far more effective legislation, making the illicit use of real estate for vicious purposes too hazardous for property-owners to risk it. The enactment of the Injunction and Abatement Law, secured from the Illinois Legislature by the Committee of Fifteen, proves to be the most effective weapon acquired against commercialized vice. It authorizes any judge, on the petition of any citizen, to issue an injunction against the owner of any property in which vice is harbored. In case the injunction is violated, the court can order the entire building closed and padlocked for a year, however small a part of it was proved to be illicitly used.

Warnings to the owners of property thus involved by publishing lists of their names in the daily papers brought scores of them to the Committee's office indignantly protesting against such publicity. Among them were officials of banks and other corporations, managers of large estates, and


( 95) other prominent citizens owning real estate. Replying to their protests, the Committee claimed that it could not be expected to assume the responsibility and expense of keeping their property clean. Thereupon these and many other owners combined to do it themselves by strict supervision and detection of their tenants. Such a housecleaning as Chicago had never experienced followed. Ever since, the Committee of Fifteen has found few breaches of this law in such property, and when discovered prompt ejectment of guilty tenants follows notification to the owner, without publicity or court procedure in all but a few cases.

The establishment of many official and private agencies for law enforcement followed, notably the Moral Court for the trial of sex cases, and the Juvenile Court, with a woman judge, Mary M. Bartelme, assigned to the cases of girl delinquents. Later she was assigned to preside on this bench by her associate judges of the Circuit Court. Thus American cities have been led and enabled to efface at least their open shame in tolerating, and even affording, police protection he very vices which their state laws prohibited and penalized as felonies.

Into this bottomless pit of Chicago's underworld I came not without personal experiences with many victims of vice and crime elsewhere. Through boyhood, however, I scarcely imagined that there were any who fell farther down below most of their fellows than the very few drunken men I saw on the streets, or the few others who got locked up in the county jail, for just what cause I knew not. But that there were enough such to people a world—an underworld—this side of the grave was not suggested to me even by the Bible. It did create the dreadful fear that on the other side of the grave far more had gone down to it in eternal misery than went up to immortal bliss. The one, if not the only reason why, according to what I had been taught, was because they failed to believe in the Christ, and therefore could not be saved.

Not until I came upon a story that impressed itself upon me by a picture did I imagine that there was an underworld on earth. It was old John Bunyan's story of "Vanity Fair."


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In my father's beautifully illustrated copy of Pilgrim's Progress, a picture that never faded from my memory vividly depicted the great throng of visitors at that Fair as surrounded by those trying to sell them such mixed merchandise as 1 had never imagined. With "houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms," were listed "delights, pleasures, lusts of all sorts such as harlots, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones and what not."

It was the picture, however, more than the print that revealed the reality of what the great Dreamer said was always to be seen, "and that for nothing" at this fair of ancient standing, namely, "jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves and rogues of every kind; also thefts, murders, adulteries, false swearers, and that of a blood red colour." Most of these terms might have meant little to me had it not been for the picture. There in the show windows behind the footlights were realistically pictured what the various nations had to sell. In English Row drink was playing havoc behind the sign "Entertainment for Man and Beast." The enticements of operatic song and costume were offered in Italian Row, and follies in the Spanish. The French ballet attracted to the bawdy-house in the rear, from the windows of which its inmates beckoned. Underneath a German beer- and gameroom the gamblers were shown to be robbing and killing one another.

Since the progress of the pilgrim was conditioned upon passing through this fair without purchasing any of its vanities, though at the cost of persecution, 1 took warning to see only the peril and nothing of the allurements of such scenes.

So the underworld on either side of the grave was at the end of the broad way leading to destruction, in the opposite direction in which the straight and narrow path led to the "Delectable Mountains" crowned by the "Celestial City."

The reality of what was thus prefigured in my imagination was only faintly reflected during student days. Yet there was enough danger threatened to drinking college mates to prompt me to lead in the successful effort to banish liquor from our fraternity banquets. One of the brothers who most


( 97) resented this action wrote me years afterward during his seafaring experience: "Your stand stood by me when in the midst of temptations which, compared with those to which I was then yielding, were as much greater as the ocean is to a mill pond." The salacious stories told by fellow-students so disgusted me that I refused to hear them in my dormitory-room: But only the worst sources of sex knowledge were open to me when what I needed and had a right to know should have been taught me at home, at school, and at church.

On my country and city fields of pastoral labor I was sternly confronted by these evils as I grappled with the problem of rescuing victims of drink and vice, both before the law laid its hands upon them and while they were in correctional institutions. To the police court and station-house, the criminal court, county jail, and state prison I was introduced by following thither men and women in whom I became interested through my mission and church '.work. They were always persons, human beings to me, never merely cases. Both their haunts and the public institutions whither I followed them were always human habitations, never mere dens or slums, cells or places of punishment.

Therefore, before legal provision for probation w as made, police-court judges were persuaded to suspend the sentences of first offenders whom we knew and commit them to our care at the Fourth Church in Hartford. To co-operate with and supplement the work of the Prisoners' Aid Society we regularly visited the jail and the Connecticut state prison at Wethers-field. Monthly for about five years I visited the prison to interview prisoners who were to be released the following month. On one chapel occasion after I had addressed over four hundred men, mostly between the ages of twenty and forty years, the warden, a man of the old type who had few, if any, scientific ideas or modern methods of dealing with prisoners, grimly remarked: "Eighty per cent of these men are here on account of conditions for which you and I, and all the rest of us, are more responsible than they." This I found to be true in the experience of very many of *he hundreds of these men who gave me their confidence, while in prison, after their discharge, and some of them while on their way through


( 98) juvenile delinquency and adult misdemeanors to their criminal careers.

From that long panoramic procession of fellow-men I first learned, what subsequent study and experience still further taught me, of the sources to which wayward tendencies toward vice, misdemeanors, and crime are to be traced. The boyhood of fully half of these men had been in broken homes, broken by the death of father or mother or both, by the desertion or divorce of their parents, by the incapacity of one or both properly to rear their children, due to illness, intemperance, or inefficiency. In many cases the dependency in boyhood led to delinquency in youth and crime in manhood. The boy without a playground came to be the man earliest without a job. Unemployment among those able and willing to work pushed not a few of the weaker and less resourceful men either into robbery or accepted pauperism.

Convictions such as these thus forced upon me were clinched by many a tragic confession. Out from behind the bars came a middle-aged man to meet me in the prison office. The warden's presence lessened the chance of the more confidential interview usually obtained when I met a prisoner alone. It prompted this man's defiant attitude. When asked what he expected to do after his discharge, he replied: "I shall have to be what I have always been, a thief." Glancing at the warden's Grand Army button, the prisoner quickly added that he expected to begin at the next Grand Army encampment. When the indignant warden left me alone with the prisoner, I appealed to him to take the opportunity I would try to open to him to be a man among men in the working world. Hoping to touch his better nature, I ventured to ask whether he would like to have his mother hear what he had said about continuing to be a thief. His bitter rejoinder was, "Damn her! She taught me to be one. I know of no other way to make a living." So on his downward way he persisted in going—a way on which a large proportion of these young men had started for the lack of parental care, such as we are all dependent upon for making the most of self and doing the best by others.

Another man of better birth and breeding, although a re-


( 99) -peater yet not incorrigible, met my inquiry almost as unpromisingly. "No one cares where I go or what I do," he snapped out. My assurance that I cared and was with him because I did received no response except a quick, penetrating, inquiring glance, searching my sincerity. But when I produced a letter from his sister, bidding me tell him that a welcome awaited his return to her home, he swallowed hard, and his eyelashes moistened a bit. Through these openings I sounded his heart to find there the rootage of a new manhood which needed only the recognition of the right to be, and the assurance of the room to grow, in order to prove him worthy of the fellowship of the church and the cοnfidence of the community, as well as of a foothold in the wοrking world, all of which he kept as long as he lived. Many such confirmations of what a wiser prison warden said to me have been registered all through my experience. As hundreds of Sing Sing prisoners marched by us in the yard, he said: "Keep these men's homes loyal to them while in prison is you would save them when they come out." Pointing to a prisoner, he added: "There is a man of whom we had high hopes as long as his wife visited him, but who has become desperate and incorrigible since she left him."

Very many, but by no means all, of these prisoners, as also misdemeanants in police stations and county jails, gave evidence in their appearance and speech that they lacked ability to resist adverse surroundings and wayward leadership.

Knowledge of the inmates of correctional institutions emphasizes the classification of these institutions as well as their inmates to be most essential to the fulfilment of the state's custodial care and to justify vast expense. The distinction now permanently established in the law and the court between the juvenile and the adult delinquent led the way to further classification. None too early did we awake to the necessity of so doing as a measure for the protection of society. Until then, with little if any discrimination, younger and older first offenders and hardened criminals were locked in the same corridor, if not in the same cell, at all station-houses and jails. They thus became schools of crime, as most of the three thousand county jails are, especially on account


( 100) of idleness in such contaminating contacts. Judges and jailers had neither option nor space to do anything else. When asked whether he could not do something else with a youthful prisoner he was about to sentence, an old-time justice of the peace in Chicago struck the bench with vigor to emphasize what he said: "Iíll give you one hundred dollars to tell me what else I can do."

The superintendent of the city prison was so intent to offset the evil effect upon the hundreds of boys while in the prison atmosphere and surroundings, even though not allowed to mingle with adult prisoners more than they had to, that he enlisted the help of the churches and the Board of Education in providing separately for their religious care and schooling. So much better did he know than we how much more evil boys could learn in a few hours of such close contacts than the Sunday school or church could get out of them in many years that he declared: "Two thousand boys had been sent nearer Hell for being in the city prison during the seven years of my superintendency, when the only guards I had to put in charge of them were adult prisoners."

The distinction between juvenile and adult delinquents, introduced by the Juvenile Court of Cook County at Chicago, led to the adoption of the probation system, which distinguishes between those who need only to have sentence suspended while put on their good behavior, under the oversight of a probation officer, and those who have to be confined for stricter discipline. Then came the indeterminate sentence and parole, again distinguishing between those cured enough of their distempers to be safe at large and those still incapable of self-control, needing longer if not lifelong detention. The psychopathic clinic not only enabled the Juvenile Court to determine the classification of its wards for treatment adapted to their condition, but it also opened the way for their custodians to deal with exceptional inmates incapable of responding to discipline adapted to the others, so as not to disturb the morale of the whole institution.

A recent personal inspection of sixteen outstanding correctional institutions in four states disclosed these modern methods to be well fulfilling their purpose in restoring delinquents


( 101) to self-control and in protecting society both by returning them to good citizenship and by detaining the more dangerous ones for longer terms of disciplinary confinement than they had previously been definitely sentenced to serve.

At that far end of the criminal's trail the classification of institutions was found to be providing for the restoration to self-control or for permanent custody. Where this trail starts at the threshold of the home and school the scientific study of the sources of behavior promises such an understanding of the misunderstood child, such a readjustment of the maladjusted youth, such a guidance and drawing toward the better as will divert a problem child from his wayward life long before the overt act classifies him as a delinquent.

The hopeful significance of these and other progressive principles and methods which modern penological science is introducing to correctional procedure may be the better realized by what may happen where ignorance and political perversion control.

The following incident is cited as a warning of what happens at worst. Enlisted by a group of progressive citizens to lecture on civic affairs at the capital of a western state, I was made aware of the situation at the state prison located there which had culminated in a gruesome tragedy. One of these citizens, a former judge, detailed what had happened under the previous warden who had been appointed for political purposes. Informed by a former convict of an illicit traffic conducted by favored prisoners, this judge went with his informer to the gate of the prison wall at night. Answering the knock, the prisoner within the wall appeared, to exchange prison products for liquor and narcotics which the discharged convict delivered to him. The judge claimed that scenes of debauchery in the warden's apartment had occurred which were witnessed by convicts who served his dissolute guests.

The tragedies which finally eventuated from this corrupt and corrupting administration were accounted for by two prisoners who were involved in them and with whom I was permitted to talk privately while visiting the prison. One of these men, a half-breed, was in the cell of the condemned


( 102) awaiting execution for the murder of a guard. Charged with breaking a rule, which he denied, he was not only placed in a solitary cell, but water from a hose was turned upon him. Driven to desperation, he killed the guard who, he claimed, was responsible for this persecution.

The other prisoner was one of four who had recently escaped after killing a guard and the warden. Pursued for a week or more from farm to farm, they were overtaken by their pursuers while riding in a farm wagon, the owner of which they had compelled to drive them over the next stage of their flight. In the gun fire which ensued, the farmer and three of the fugitives were killed, this fourth prisoner surrendering and being taken alive: On the return trip to the prison the dead bodies were exhibited to gaping crowds at railway stations, and this fourth man was sentenced to imprisonment for life. He thus accounted for his part in the tragedy. Serving a sentence of fifteen years for robbery, he was suddenly tempted to join the others in the plot as they passed him on their way out of the shop. The impulse was strengthened by the disgusting food and other living conditions which had become intolerable. Confirmatory of some of them, I saw a large vat filled with garbage in a part of the cell house, from which swarms of flies were pestering prisoners in their cells. The record of this young prisoner prior to this first term of imprisonment was such as to lend credence to his claim that he was not a desperado and that with others he was better than some of the guards.

Stating these alleged conditions to be unworthy of tolerance by the people of that state, I was challenged by an elderly citizen among my auditors at the public lecture to say "why he should care for what happened to such fools or knaves while they were in prison." My reply was that he should care because of what might happen to him when they got out of prison, as most all of them would sooner or later. A member of the legislature then arose to protest against political opposition to his bill for the establishment of a reformatory where the younger prisoners might be removed from the contaminating influence which he knew to exist at the state prison. This reformatory was subsequently established.


( 103)

Summoned the next morning by the governor of the state to answer for having made such charges publicly against the administration of the prison, I insisted that I had only repeated what many citizens knew to be the facts which were accounted for by the scandals of the former warden's administration. I had just finished saving so when a prominent citizen burst into the Governor's office and excitedly addressed His Excellency, bidding me to remain as I was about to retire. He told the Governor that all I had said the previous evening was true, adding that the present situation under the newly appointed, inexperienced warden was so perilous as to endanger the lives of his overseers lathe shops in which he held the contracts for prison labor. While he threatened to throw up his contract unless the situation was immediately and thoroughly remedied, I was willingly permitted to retire by His Excellency without further categorical imperatives.

Not only by the slow pace of progress in public institutions yet to be won from their penal motives to correctional standards, but more still by the retrogression from better to worse administration, vigilant, courageous, and aggressive propaganda is demanded. The American Prison Association and the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology both see and guard the gains attested by penological science and practical experience. Back tracks are occasionally taken under the pressure of public alarm at outbreaks of spectacular crimes, which are erroneously thought to be preventable by inflicting such extreme penalties as will strike terror into the hearts of others, deterring them from repeating such offenses. But modern scientific methods that justify themselves wherever they have a fair chance to be honestly and intelligently operated are likely to be discarded after being discredited by political spoilsmen who covet patronage at any cost to public welfare. In Illinois they were charged by a grand jury with securing the parole of felons from the state prison for cash, having ousted the state's most experienced warden who stood in their way and who died broken-hearted under the discredit falsely done to his high reputation for long and efficient correctional service.


( 104)

There are enough of us, if we would only inform ourselves and act, to replace officials who know so little and care less either for the public or the prisoner as to appoint wardens and guards who rely upon muscle more than mind. There is enough experience in the failure of the old vengeance and the success of the new intelligence to transform our penal institutions into educational, correctional agencies that would justify their existence and their cost by turning their inmates out better and not worse for being committed to their care.

The certainty and promptness of conviction and sentence can be shown to be more effective deterrents of crime than the severity of penalties. The death penalty itself is more and more discredited as a deterrent of murder by juries which refuse to inflict it; by court statistics which show fewer convictions where death is the only penalty prescribed by law; by legislatures which substitute life-imprisonment for it; and, not least, by enlightened prison wardens charged with the execution of those sentenced to die.[1]

Notes

  1. See Man's Judgment of Death and Life and Death in Sing Sing, by Lewis E. Lawes, warden of Sing Sing Prison; also his article in the Survey, October 15, 1927, "The Death Penalty at Sing Sing"; Capital Punishment in the Twentieth Century, by E. Roy Calvert (English, republished by Putnam's Sons, New York).

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