THE PRISON CHAPLAINCY, AND ITS EXPERIENCES.
BY REV. HOSEA QUINBY, D. D., EX-CHAPLAIN OF N. H. STATE PRISON.
IN TWO PARTS.
CONCORD, N. H.: PUBLISHED BY D. L. GUERNSEY BOOKSELLER AND STATIONER. 1873.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873, by D. L. GUERNSEY, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
MORNING STAR STEAM JOB PRINTING HOUSE,—DOVER, N. H.
UNDER THE REFORMATORY SYSTEM.
1. Emotions at the Idea of Assuming the Position, and Object of these Pages, 7
2. Our First Meeting for Worship, 8
3. The Sabbath School, 10
4. General Appearance of the Convicts, 11
5. The Warden, 11
6. Educational Means found in Operation, 12
7. Influence Left by the Former Chaplain, 13
8. Prison Order, 13
9. Chaplain's Routine of Duty, 14
10. General Description of the Prison and Prison Management, 15
11. General Remarks upon the Prisoners, 22
12. Prayer-meetings Commenced, 25
13. Pike, the Hampton Murderer, 28
14. Doctrinal Discourses, 34
15. Effect of the Prayer-meeting on Prison Order, 34
16. The New Chapel, 35
17. Prison Repairs and Mistakes, 36
18. Profanity Attacked, 37
19. Efforts for a Son, from a Mother's Plea, 38
20. Warden's Efforts for a Young Man, 40
21. Experience with noble appearing Heads in Prison, 42
22. The Warden Admits Presents to Prisoners from Friends Outside, 44
23. Warden Decides to Resign, 45
24. Prisoners' Anxiety at the Rumored Resignation, 47
25. Governor and Council Memorialized by the Prison S. S. Teachers and Chaplain, 48
26. Prison Funerals, 49
27. Educational and Sabbath school summing up, 49
28. Religious Success, 51
29. Fourth of July at the Prison, 52
30. The true Principle of Imprisoning and Prison Managing—on the Idea of Reform in the Convict, 53
31. The Commutation System, 59
32. Chaplain's Proposed Attempt at Tobacco Reform, 60
UNDER THE PUNITIVE AND MONEY-MAKING SYSTEM.
1. Warden Chosen, and new Arrangements for the Chaplain, 61
2. Chaplain almost Resolved to Resign, but Decides to Continue and Arranges his Work, 64
3. Cells Cleared of Trinket-making and Tracts, 65
4. Necessity for the Chaplain's Undertaking what He Did, 65
5. New Phase at the Prison, and the Chaplain's Efforts, 66
6. Sabbath School Commences, 69
7. The Warden's Views Considered, 69
8. Chaplain's Restrictions, 73
9. Prisoner's Aid Association, 76
10. Complaint of Prison Hunger, 76
11. Chaplain's Object in hearing from Released Prisoners and Others, 77
12. B. and E.'s request, and the Connected Abuse, 78
13. Alleged Prison Conspiracy, 80
14. National Prison Reform Congress, 81
15. Money-making and Punishing, the Paramount Objects in our Prison Management, 83
16. Waste Paper in the Cells, 83
17. Defective Beds and Bedding, 84
18. Cracked Wheat Dinner, 86
19. Bad Fish, &c., 87
20. Prison Suffering from Cold During the Winter of '70 and '71, 88
21. Lighting the Hall, 93
22. The Aid of the Association to Released Prisoners, and Warden's Course, 94
23. Lecturing for the Prison Aid Association, 99
24. Prison Correspondence under the New Rule, 100
24 1-2. Chaplain under a System of Espionage, 102
25. The Chaplain's Pacific Efforts severely Taxed, 104
26. Death of Gideon Sylver, 109
27. The Sylver Case Excitement and Hearing before the Governor and Council, 115
28. Preparing for the Adjourned Session, 118
29. The Adjourned Hearing, 120
30. Motives for Desiring the Chaplain's Removal, 122
31. Chaplain's Change of Course, and the Question as to who should Conduct the Prison Correspondence, 124
32. Change, for a Time, in the Warden's Management, 127
33. The Fate of Henry Stewart and others, 129
34. Warden's Want of Courtesy to Prisoners' Visitors, 132
35. Effects of the new Order upon the Prisoners, 133
36. Comparative Prison Order for the two years, 139
37. Good Traits in the Warden for Prison Service, 143
38. Chaplain's Inability to Prevent Knowing more or less of the Prisoners' Troubles and the Prison Management, 143
39. Secular School Success, 144
40. Sabbath School Success, 147
41. Religious Success, 149
42. Lack of Truthfulness at the Prison, 149
43. Reported Quarrel between the Warden and Chaplain, 151
44. Prison Report for '71, 153
45. Efforts of the Prison Aid Association for Legislation in Favor of the Prison, 163
46. Experience with the new Government, 169
47. Chaplain Determines to Have an Investigation into the Charges against Him, 170
48. Anniversary of P. A. Association for '71, and remarks on our Jails, 171
49. Fourth of July at the Prison in '71, 173
50. Chaplain's Removal from Office, 174
51. Prison Fare under the new Government, 176
52. The Warden Question, 177
53. Experience at the Prison subsequent to Dismissal, 178
54. Prison Report for '72, 181
55. International Penitentiary Congress, London, July 3-13, '72, 188
THE PRISON CHAPLAINCY.
UNDER THE REFORMATORY SYSTEM.
1. Emotions at the idea of assuming the position, and object of these pages. The proposal of friends that I become chaplain of our State Prison at first struck me with much disfavor, from the idea that the position, instead of affording the encouragement and satisfaction attendant upon my former labors in schools and churches, must be up-hill work, and repulsive to the finer feelings of the heart. Still, having been no little accustomed to laying aside personal tastes and conveniences for the good of others, I yielded, and commenced the work on the first Sabbath in July, 1869.
The experience gained in this connection, with the hints and suggestions on collateral subjects, is set forth in the following pages, not for the purpose of personal notoriety, but for the sake of correcting important misconceptions by giving the true facts, and making a humble effort towards awaking in the public mind a deeper interest on a subject in which every citizen should feel a concern, and on which he should become duly informed, and thus be prepared to act intelligently. For this preparation he needs light, which light the real working of things, properly set forth, would surely give. Experience is ever regarded as the best school-master, the proper touchstone to all our theories.
Never was the community more widely and deeply stirred than now on the questions, "What course will prove the most corrective of crime with the least public burden? What is the true method of managing penal institutions?"
These are questions of no trifling moment, questions which bear largely on the public weal. From the days of Howard, the philanthropist, they have been rising in the public estimate, now to stand among the more prominent of the age.
On these, widely differing theories are brought face to face in earnest antagonism; some contending for the sterner type of the vindictive, for rendering the condition of the wrong doer as repulsive as possible, thus to terrify him from erring,—others contending that they have found a better and more effective way in humane, reform, gospel efforts,—efforts prompted by the principles of enlightened Christianity.
The writer, while touching upon a somewhat wide range of points, will constantly aim at as great brevity in statement as may be consistent with perspicuity, go into detail only so far as shall appear needful to the end in view, and feel amply compensated for his labors, if the developments and suggestions here made shall in any degree aid the cause of prison reform.
2. Our first meeting for worship. In assembling, while the ladies and gentlemen, admitted from the city, were taking their places at my left and front, the female prisoners were being arranged at my right, closely facing the wall, with the matron and assistant beside them, that they might not indulge in looking about upon others, for such an act was held as a misdemeanor. This done, and the south door securely bolted, that leading to the hall was unbarred, and the male prisoners, some one hundred and twenty, were marched in by divisions and regular file, taking their seats with perfect order before me, and filling every available foot of otherwise unoccupied space in that small and ill ventilated room called "the chapel," thus packing it as closely apparently as could be.
What a sensation thrilled every nerve on this my first experience in attempting to dispense the gospel, thus locked within walls of granite and iron, with a military guard at each window ready to deal summarily with any who should attempt escape, or commit a disorderly act. Then what mingled emotions of sorrow and pity at the thought of so great an amount of talent present, which had been devoted to crime, and the depths to which their iniquities had sunk the wrong doers,—enough to make angels weep.
The singing by the prison choir, a young lady of the city presiding at the instrument, was exhilarating, voices good, all in time, and movement spirited, the whole having a peculiar charm. Many a choir outside might have listened with advantage. The Scripture reading was responsive, the chaplain repeating a verse and then the audience. As the speaker commenced his sermon, every convict's eye was fastened upon him, apparently with the deepest interest, continuing thus to the close.
This fixed attention, with all the connected circumstances, acted as a powerful stimulus to his intellect and heart, causing thoughts and words to flow almost unbidden, and those of a peculiar unction, thus rendering preaching in the place easy. The numerous moistened eyes and earnest countenances seemed plainly to say, "Here are minds responsive to the truth, a field which can be cultivated for God and humanity."
Those anticipated feelings of repulsion did not arise, but rather the assurance that success and pleasure would attend a faithful dispensing of the word for reforming and elevating the prisoner in his bonds, as well as in efforts to save sinners under more favorable surroundings.
3. The Sabbath School. This met Sabbath afternoon in two places, the females, eight in number, in their work room, with the matron and other ladies who might attend from the city as teachers; the males in the chapel, a number of Christian ladies and gentlemen from outside attending and hearing classes, some having long been laborers here in the work, one having, years previous, helped set the school in operation. The toils of these earnest workers were evidently being blessed, under God, to the good of their pupils, producing impressions upon some, which greatly aided them in their efforts at reform. My attendance was with the latter, and the interest was fully equal to that I had witnessed in the forenoon worship.
The prisoners were required to attend the latter, while the Sabbath school attendance was left to the inmates as a voluntary matter, and yet some ninety males attended this, about three-fourths of the whole company from which the audience was usually drawn,—a much larger percentage probably than any outside congregation can boast of.
4. General appearance of the convicts. Judging from appearance as they sat in the assembly, a few were evidently hard cases, narrow-minded, sordid, ugly. To a number, dame Nature had dealt bountifully on the score of mind, they having noble foreheads, and bright, sparkling eyes, indicative of no small natural ability. One would think that some of these would have shone conspicuously in any of the learned professions, business circles, or common industries of life had they bent their minds in the right direction. Certain visitors at the prison and State House, in time of the legislative session, were wicked enough to say that they found the likelier appearing company at the former place. Other inmates partook more of the low cunning, the artful, leading them to accomplish their ends by more adroit means, while a small number seemed bordering on insanity, two on idiocy.
In dealing with these, as a whole, while at large, no doubt the police had found their own shrewdness, at times, keenly taxed, and been made to feel that they were called to grapple with mind worthy of a better cause.
5. The warden. He was found to be a man of generous impulses, an earnest Christian worker, with a heart full of kindness, professing to act for the prisoners' highest good. He would furnish them with enough of suitable food, good clothing and bedding, all needed care in sickness, with the requisite means for mental, moral and religious improvement, fully believing in the practicability of labor to reform the wayward and elevate the fallen, that reform is the primary purpose of the institution. As one great means to this, he seemed to feel it needful that the inmates be kept under strict, wholesome discipline, and required at all times, when able, to perform their tasks fully and faithfully.
He was accustomed to hold correspondence with other prison officers of like faith with himself on prison management, and profited by any feasible hints thus gained. His motto was, "Keep the prisoners on good fare, provide them all needed means for reform and make all the money practicable from the prison as subordinate to these."
6. Educational means found in operation. By the combined effort of the warden and my predecessor, what we may term a secular school had been established in the chapel, to be held evenings, in sessions of one hour each, as often as a guard could be spared from other prison duties. This was voluntary on the part of these gentlemen, and was intended to be open for all the male prisoners of good behavior to attend, and take such of the common branches as each should need.
The legislature had so far recognized the move as to vote the chaplain an increase of salary in consideration of his labors as teacher in the school. But here it stopped, and that short of its full duty. It ought to have gone further, and made the thing a fixed fact, obligatory upon all prison officers, as really as our common school system outside is upon town officers. Why not? The State has taken the convicts under her care as wards, moved them from their vicious surroundings, and put them where, with a little additional painstaking on her part, many of these may be led to the daily habit of devoting their otherwise idle or squandered moments to storing up valuable ideas for future use, a long step towards their true reform.
As leading in the same direction, these gentlemen had adopted the custom of having occasional lectures in the chapel for the men by outside speakers, also readings by a lady elocutionist, and meetings for instruction and drill in singing.
7. Influence left by the former chaplain. This influence was of a highly salutary character among the prisoners. A number would feelingly refer to his efforts for their best being, and from which they had been constantly striving to profit. Some professed to have experienced a change of heart under his ministration, and were still living in the exercise of daily Bible reading and prayer, being obedient prisoners, duly attentive to all the prison rules, and in good repute among the officers of the institution. They continued thus till leaving prison, and had not fallen from their integrity when last heard from. Eternity alone can unfold the amount of good secured to those once degraded men by these efforts.
8. Prison order. While intent on reform measures, we were not for a moment to lose sight of the strictest order. The warden would have the rounds for this carefully observed, that no risk should be run with regard to the safe keeping of the prisoners and their due observance of the rules. Hence, the chaplain was not allowed to hold his school in the chapel for instructing the men, or have any gathering of prisoners there without a guard. Then, previous to their admittance, we were required to be certain that the south door to the chapel was securely fastened, and the key, for safe keeping, passed through an opening to the guard-room. And when the exercises were ended, and the men secured in their cells, on a given signal, the keeper of the key would open for our release.
This order was not to be deviated from under any circumstances. From this fact, had the prisoners, at any time, risen in rebellion, overpowered the guard and chaplain, they would have found no means in the room for escaping. Or had any professed goodness, or pretended to a great desire for education with the hope of being taken to the chapel under circumstances favorable to their getting away, they would have found it of no avail. Good or bad, professedly reformed or not, all were treated alike in this respect. And, so far as I had the opportunity of observation, the same strictness was observed in all other departments of the prison.
True, one escaped, but from no lack of internal watchfulness or order. His time had almost expired, he having been a faithful, obedient, well-disposed prisoner. The warden set him at work doing chores about the stable and outer yard, not supposing that he would leave for so short a period, and thereby forfeit his commutation and render himself liable to be returned at any time through life. But after serving here a few days he absconded.
9. Chaplain's routine of duty. In this were embraced, not only the Sabbath morning service and the Sabbath school care, but also visiting the cells for giving words of advice, visiting the hospital for imparting religious consolation, managing the secular school, changing the library books for the inmates, Saturdays, learning, from the prisoners, enough of their past history to enable him to judge of the instruction adapted to each, and, in fine, to speak such words here and there as would conduce to the requisite order. This gave a wide range, an important field. I seemed to have returned to my school keeping days; and found my long habit of reading human nature in students of no little use, aiding me to understand the best manner of approaching each so as to gain his confidence. Also my custom in school discipline, which had at times been complained of as being too strict, now served an excellent purpose, prompting me, at every step, to move in decided contrariety to all irregularity and disorder.
10. General description of the prison and prison management. The old part of the prison was erected in 1812, favored by Mason, Woodbury and other distinguished men of that day, the avowed purpose being to have an institution where the criminals of the State could be gathered and put under reformatory influences. Thus it appears that the idea of reform was a fundamental one in the founding of the establishment. Some years since the north wing, for the male prisoners, was erected, which is three-storied and contains 120 cells, each about three and one-half feet wide, seven feet long and seven high, the bedsteads being of iron and made to turn up. The south wing, or old part, contains a tenement for the deputy and cells for the female prisoners.
The warden occupies the main building, or middle part. Here, too, are the cook room for the male prisoners, the chapel, the office, guard room, hospital, dormitories for the guards and overseers, and the reception room, in which the library is kept.
The prison yard is surrounded on three sides by a granite wall, perhaps sixteen feet high, the prison itself constituting the wall on the fourth side. In the yard are two buildings of brick, each two stories high, one much larger than the other: the smaller, on its lower floor, affording a wash-room, tailor's shop, &c., the second story and attic rooms used for storage or any needed mechanical purpose, sometimes as shoe shops; the larger building is devoted to bedstead manufacturing, the machinery driven by steam.
From this engine these two buildings are warmed by means of steam pipes, the boiling in the wash-room being done by the same. The hall is furnished with a steam boiler, which not only warms that, but also the guard and reception rooms, and the chapel, and the steam is used in the men's cook room, all other warming and heating in the prison being done by wood fires. To economize fuel as much as possible, a steam pipe has been extended from the engine room to the prison to conduct the waste steam of the shop boilers for use in those apartments.
The female prisoners eat at a table in the warden's kitchen and from the same food as goes to his own table. The men have a prescribed diet, called rations, the allowance of each being dealt out in a tin basin,—meat, potatoes, gravy, &c., all together, the potatoes unpared. Coffee is given in a tin dipper. The meals being ready, the men are marched through an entry by a long table standing contiguous to the kitchen and loaded with their rations, each taking what belongs to him, carrying it to his cell and partaking in solitude. Their mode of eating is quite a curiosity. They generally use their beds for tables, and each has a knife, fork and spoon in his cell of which he takes the exclusive care. He fishes out his potatoes and pares them; but where shall he put the parings, dripping as they are? He has no extra dish. Then how shall he wash his knife, fork and spoon? He can use his tongue, for he has nothing else, and he may or may not have a towel on which to wipe them, but his jacket sleeve or pants' leg is wonderfully convenient.
What a dehumanizing system! Why not let the men eat at tables the same as the women, and have some decency about the matter? Then how much better in another respect. By the present system, rations must be dealt out to all alike, giving the same quantity to each, with the result of having more or less food returned or a part not have enough, some eating more than others. But if at a table, each can eat as he needs, and thus avoid suffering or waste.
The men are provided with means for ablution by a few bathing-troughs in their wash-room. An old man gave me quite an amusing description of the operation, thus: "The bathing department here is a wonderful institution. They will march a file of men into the wash-room, old and young together, fill the troughs with water, put in a little soap, then a nigger or two to grease it with; when done, the men must strip and go in one after another. A wonderful institution! I never would go that."
The female prisoners are employed in mending and making apparel for the men, and in domestic labors in the family apartment. The feeble men are employed in light work about the hall, such as dusting, carrying water to the cells, whitewashing, sweeping, &c., or in repairing clothes. Two able-bodied men are required in the cook room, another in the wash-room and to do chores, and part of the time still another. The remaining men are let to a contractor, who pays a stipulated price per day for each when he works.
The needed officers to the institution are the warden, deputy, physician, chaplain, hospital steward, four overseers, four guards, and two night watchmen, fifteen at least. All of these must be paid from the prison earnings. When to this is added the cost for supporting the prisoners, the ordinary repairs, printing the Report and annual apprisal, we have the net prison gain. But the outsets, with the strictest economy, must always of necessity be large, showing that crime is an important drawback to industry and thrift.
When I commenced my labors at the institution, it was about emerging from an experience which had brought no little opposition to the warden from some in the city, especially in the line of his reform moves.
He took the prison in '65, the inmates, numbering seventy, being let on a contract of forty cents per day; the bedding extremely limited; the cells swarming with those pestiferous attendants on sleeping hours, every crevice between the stones and bricks affording a safe resort; the food for the inmates insufficient for prison demands.
He at once commenced a war of extermination in the cells. Having secured a change of bedding, and taking a division at a time, he would remove all the articles for washing and boiling, and inject burning fluid into the cracks and crevices, setting fire to it, and thus literally burning out each apartment. He found it essential to renew this attack, however, as months rolled round.
Finding, from the best authority at hand on prison fare, that it is not safe to run the supply to a man lower than twenty cents per day in cost for the raw material as the market usually is, and that flour bread is an economical food for prisoners, as well as being humane, he resolved to adopt this with a diet commensurate with nature's real demands, built a baker's oven, and hired a baker for instructing certain selected inmates in the art of baking, and established the daily supply seen in the Bill of Fare at the end of this article. Under the head of "vegetables" are embraced all the articles commonly used as such on our tables,—onions, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips and cabbage. Not, however, using all at any one meal.
In the chapel service the warden gave the prisoners liberty to look upon the speaker,—a great relief from the former downcast method,—and the chaplain introduced the responsive manner of reading, denounced by some as a most dangerous innovation. The Sabbath school was held the year round, instead of simply during the session of the legislature, and a few months beside.
But it required close calculation and strict economy with the warden to meet the current expenses with the wages of forty cents per day to a man, though he did that and gained a little.
The war ending, the tide began to set towards the institution, increasing the number in '66 to 111, '67 to 118, and '68 to 135, the highest number ever reached by the institution. The current then turned, the prisoners numbering in '69, 129, and in '70, 118.
In '67 the authorities relet the prisoners at ninety cents per day instead of forty, a great advance, brightening the financial prosperity of the institution. But in doing this they had to make a great outlay in enlarging the shop, obtaining a new engine, boilers, &c. There were, also, important repairs, with improvements in the drainage and ventilation, made.
These outlays were mostly made by the warden, the Governor, for the time, assenting and advising. In '69 the Governor and council relieved the warden of all financial responsibility, appointing one of their number to act as prison agent, and make the purchases and meet the outlays at the prison, in which year they put a new roof to the south wing and made other important alterations and repairs. From the legislative grants and prison earnings all these expenses were met, and the year closed with the institution free of debt, in good repair, and with all needed labor appliances, which was a great relief to all having the care and responsibility of the concern, rendering the task of keeping things tidy and in comfortable order much easier than formerly. It is better and more economical for the State. That constant patching up and fixing over in numerous places, swallowing up money, no one hardly knowing how, is now nearly ended, permitting the real gains of the institution to accumulate and stand prominently in view, though everything there is not quite perfection yet.
The drainage and ventilation were found very defective and in bad order, but by the remodeling are made as good, perhaps, as can be in the situation.
In this general fitting up, the prison officers and men voluntarily contributed to quite an extent, of which no account anywhere appears, though the State enjoys the gain. In the summer and fall of '69 and the spring of '70, I frequently saw the deputy, out of the usual work hours, going with squads of men to labor on the sewers or wherever they could advantageously.
The prison is lighted by gas. In the hall the burners, thirty-two in number, are placed along the outer walls, each from eight to ten or twelve feet from a cell, but being old and leaking badly, they give a poor light, the bars to the cells casting shadows on the books or papers the prisoners may attempt to read. Hence, one of the governors ordered candles to be furnished to the cells extra when desired. These were so extensively called for that in '69 the gas had been largely dispensed with for the candles.
In case a prisoner is attempting to run away, or is rising upon an officer, the officers are held at liberty to shoot, knock down, or use whatever means may be needed in self-defense or in preventing their escape. Otherwise prison rule does not allow an officer to strike a man, but he must be punished by the solitary or ball and chain at the discretion of the warden, who found it needful to use no little precaution as to the length of the former, "for too great severity in that tended to insanity on the part of the punished."
In letting the prisoners on contract, the State furnishes the shop to the contractor rent free, also the motive power, shafting and belting, keeping these in repair.
In managing the prisoners, each officer has his assigned position and duty, and everything is conducted with a precision closely approximating that of a military character.
The south door to the chapel, spoken of, opens to the female part in the south wing and to the pass-way down two nights of stairs and out of doors.
BILL OF FARE
At New Hampshire State Prison.
SUNDAY: Breakfast—Baked beans, brown bread, and coffee. Supper—Rice pudding, brown bread, and coffee.
MONDAY: Breakfast—Flour bread, brown bread, and coffee. Dinner—Corned beef, vegetables, and brown bread. Supper—Flour bread, molasses, and coffee.
TUESDAY: Breakfast—Corned beef, warm brown bread, and coffee. Dinner—Codfish, potatoes, butter gravy, and brown bread. Supper—Flour bread, molasses, and coffee.
WEDNESDAY: Breakfast—Fish hash, brown bread, and coffee. Dinner—Fresh beef soup with vegetables, and brown bread. Supper—Flour bread, molasses, and coffee.
THURSDAY: Breakfast—Meat hash, brown bread, and coffee. Dinner—Stewed peas with pork, and brown bread. Supper—Flour bread, molasses, and coffee.
FRIDAY: Breakfast—Meat hash, warm brown bread, and coffee. Dinner—Baked fresh fish or chowder, potatoes, and brown bread. Supper—Flour broad, molasses, and coffee.
SATURDAY: Breakfast—Meat hash, brown bread, and coffee. Dinner—Fresh beef soup with vegetables, and brown bread. Supper—Flour bread, molasses, and coffee.
11. General remarks upon the prisoners. When entering my service here, the prison had more inmates than cells. Eight were females. The community was reaping a sad harvest from the demoralizing effects of the late war. Six or eight were U. S. prisoners.
All treated me with due respect. The most were easily approached, free in conversation, readily giving account of themselves, admitting their crimes and the justice of their sentences, which probably they would not have done to one in whom they could not confide. A very few would plead innocence, some, no doubt, rightfully; three probably having been victims of fiendish plots. Two or three were very reticent, one saying, "No one here shall ever know my real name, native place, or business of life."
It was heart-sickening to listen to their tales of wrong and suffering, clearly showing that "the way of the transgressor is hard." Sin has a most debasing effect upon its victims. Three-fourths or more doubtless came to prison directly or indirectly through strong drink. True, in many cases, more remote causes lay back of this, a native inclination to sin, loss of parents, parental neglect, family infidelity, vicious associates, ignorance, Sabbath-breaking and the like. A very few had used no strong drink. A large share were young, some mere boys on their alternate sentence. Many, on entering, could neither read nor write.
The crimes were various, extending from the worst murder cases down to the lower grades of iniquity, some perfectly fiendish, horrible. It would seem impossible for men and women to do such deeds.
But these inmates were evidently not all the wrong doers of the State who merited punishment. In a few cases, no doubt, the prosecutor rather deserved the doom. Then there are those rum-sellers, keepers of billiard saloons, gambling dens, and houses of ill fame, all inciting to crime. Numbers of them stand really in the light of particeps criminis to our inmates, and perhaps were more deserving of this confinement. How long will the people see this class making criminals of our sons and brothers, yea, of our daughters and sisters too, and remain inactive? Why do not the very stones cry out?
I found all the prominent religious persuasions here represented, from the Universalist to the staid Quaker; a number had been Sabbath school attendants, one quite an Advent speaker, who seemed positive he would be able to convert us all to his notions could he have the stand for a suitable time, a privilege he earnestly strove for. More came from the Catholics than from any other sect, and more from the shoe-makers than from any other business class.
When introducing the subject of personal piety to each, no little care was required to bring it forward in such a manner that it should not strike the mind repulsively, and thus fill it with needless prejudice, but rather conciliate and convince, leading to free conversation upon the subject. In this a great advantage would be gained.
The larger portion acceded to the just claims of religious truth upon them, some hoping that their imprisonment was being sanctified to their highest good. One feelingly said, "I was swiftly floating on the stream of sin and corruption towards that awful gulf in which I must have landed ere this, had not the prison walls caught and saved me, as I trust." Some I found professing a belief in infidelity, a few in real atheism.
As weeks passed on, it became evident that something beyond human power was at work in the minds of a few. Personal conversation developed the fact that they were really and seriously considering their ways. A case of much hope would occasionally present itself. "But," says one, "these fellows were professing this with the hope of getting out."
That could not have been the case with some, most surely, as their term had nearly expired and they neither asked nor looked for a pardon. The work must have been genuine with these, if not with all. Nor could I see any reason to doubt the sincerity of any, and I scrutinized closely.
The classification of prisoners, as to their crimes, affords an interesting subject. It will be largely found that the wrong doing of each is of a specific character rather than a general. Thus that of one is simply in the line of murder; that of another, robbery; of a third, stealing, or picking pockets, acting the burglar, assaulting female character, or of whatever sort. Then, thieves can be classified into horse thieves, sheep stealers, leather thieves, watch and money thieves, and so on.
Some commit crimes only when influenced by strong drink, and then steal, quarrel or murder. Many can not help their wrong doing, or will not, and therefore should remain in prison, where they can live as very good men, and aid the State instead of cursing society by their wrong deeds.
They do not all steal for the gain, but for the sake of stealing. Hence here is one who will hoard up his booty and never go to it afterwards. I asked an old man, a burglar, what induced him to lead such a life, and received this answer: "There is something peculiarly exciting in the engagements. I never engaged in it for what I could obtain."
12. Prayer meetings commenced. Previous to the present fall, no prayer meetings had been established at the prison, the need of which we now greatly felt. After much thought on the matter, I asked the warden if we could not introduce them, and he answered, "Oh no, that can't be. There are so many hypocrites among the prisoners, who would take advantage to say what they might choose, and to the disgust of the others, that we can not control the matter." This came from no lack of interest in the subject, for it was the very thing that had found a large place in his contemplations and desires, though he had seen no time when he could feel it safe to take the step. Not being able to put the idea out of mind, I soon brought it before him again, but in connection with the Sabbath school teachers. After duly considering the pros and cons, the question was decided thus,—"Start such a meeting, to be held weekly, if found practicable. Next Sabbath let each teacher, when hearing his class, select such of the number as he may think fitted for the exercise; passing the names to the warden for him to invite them in at his discretion, the meeting to commence the following Monday evening."
To prepare their minds for the occasion, the discourse, the next Sabbath, was on hypocrisy, the text being the account of Ananias and Sapphira, with the attempt to point out the enormity and danger of that sin, that the truly sincere should not be kept from duty by hypocrisy as seen in others, or by being accused of it in themselves by the malicious. At the close, the warden, grasping my hand, said, "We will let all go in who choose. We will make no selection," and we appointed the meeting accordingly.
Met at the time appointed, nearly one hundred being present, for it was a novel matter there. In the commencement I clearly stated what would be expected of all who might engage in prayer or speaking, referring to the subject of the sermon the past day, and said that the opportunity was offered for those only to improve who sincerely desired to become better and were truly determined to act accordingly, expressing the full conviction that none would presume to come forward under any hypocritical pretenses.
A few of the Sabbath school teachers present took part to good acceptance. Then two or three of the inmates offered prayer, and three or four spoke of their feelings and desires. They could not have been more appropriate in their words, spirit, or manner. To all appearances they were sincere.
Perfect order prevailed,—a most profound and respectful attention. Much of the time the dropping of a pin upon the floor could have been heard. An overpowering spirit seemed to pervade the room, not so much in the words uttered as in the convictions of each man's own heart, it was an impressive season. How was my soul relieved at this triumph over our fears and rejoiced at the way God had evidently opened before us.
Thus the meetings commenced and that too indicating, as the first results, the very blessing I had been hoping and praying for, a deeper impressiveness to our Sabbath and other religious efforts. Shortly after, we found that hearts not sensibly touched before, were being deeply impressed, among them one of the worst cases perhaps in prison. It was taking a new start in the right direction.
In laboring with these men now, as at all times, I felt that a great responsibility rested on me; that this was no place for dealing softly, petting them with insinuations that they had been more sinned against than sinning, and that nothing was needed for them but a professed determination to amend, with a few efforts in that direction. Duty seemed imperative that I should labor to bring the wrong doings of each as clearly and impressively as could be before him, how deeply he had sinned against his own best good, his fellows and his God, enforcing the absolute necessity of true repentance, and turning to the right through faith in Christ; that he must make a thorough, radical work of the matter, or it would avail nothing. Thus plainly, yet coupled with a feeling heart, I invariably met the prisoners on these subjects. And where no evidence could be found of a realizing sense of sins committed and true compunction therefor, we could found no hope in the case.
13. Pike, the Hampton murderer. On entering, I found him in prison, not at work, but confined to his cell according to our present law, that, when one is condemned to execution, he shall be confined in the State Prison one year, at the end of which the sentence shall be carried out, unless receiving a reprieve or commutation.
By law also, the criminal has the right to choose his own spiritual adviser, and, much to my relief, I found that Pike had arranged with my predecessor about this before he left. Still I volunteered to the doomed man all the aid in my power, for which he appeared highly grateful.
The plea of insanity had been used on the trial, or that the accused was in a state of mind, when committing the offense, that rendered him irresponsible for the crime alleged, which plea Pike would ever make to me, sometimes alluding to the great injustice of his being hung. But as Mr. Holman had undertaken to fathom that, I never pressed him with any particular inquiry on the matter.
It would seem impossible for one manifesting the spirit Pike always did to us, to commit so horrid a crime, and probably he never would had he been free from rum. In prison, he at all times appeared gentlemanly and kind-hearted, helped me a number of days in repairing the library, and seemed glad of the opportunity.
When laboring with those he afterwards murdered, he was uniformly pleasant, ready to do anything for them they needed. They parted on the most friendly terms, the old people earnestly urging him to continue with them still longer.
But when Pike was under the influence of liquor, he was a very different man, and at times a highly dangerous character. In this he was fully responsible, for he could have let the drink alone, and did when he chose. I saw nothing leading me to doubt his full responsibility in the murder. But others also are responsible,—those who helped him to his liquor and thus caused his madness. Against them, also, the blood of those mangled forms cries loudly from the ground to a righteous God for vengeance. The community likewise, which, by supineness and inactivity, permitted those persons to carry on their nefarious traffic, must come in for its share. The blame of that startling act does not all lie at Pike's door, though he was guilty enough.
When I attempted to urge upon him the importance of a full preparation for the dread event before him, he seemed strangely inclined to put it off and almost callous to the magnitude of his sin. He would admit that his career had been one of desperate wickedness, but did not appear truly moved in spirit by its real enormity, or as having genuine repentance over the matter, a thorough breaking up of the fallow ground of the heart. Trusting to the idea of his non-responsibility as a shielding circumstance, he no doubt felt almost perfect confidence, till near the last, that a pardon, or commutation, would be granted, and ventured on that assurance. I constantly discouraged the idea, repeatedly urging him to put no confidence in that, but earnestly to set about a preparation for the worst. The final decision of the executive power, not to interfere with the decision of the court, came to me, but in such a way that I was not at liberty to announce it till officially divulged. Still, feeling so anxious for the criminal, I went as far as the circumstances would allow, and said to him, "From what I hear, your case is finally decided, but not in your favor. And I am perfectly satisfied that my information is reliable." But it was not official, and the very fact of its being withheld inspired him with hope that I was mistaken.
The rulers, no doubt, did as they thought best in the matter, but it would seem that there was an error on their part in not communicating their finality to the criminal as soon as made. It was a grave matter to him, and the last few days he reflected no little upon the course.
In our labors with the doomed man, we had two prominent points before us, one to fit his mind for going upon the gallows with the needed fortitude, the other to lead him to a due preparation for appearing before his God. During the last week, by his desire, clergymen from the city visited him. A few of the singers from the city, also, by the warden's invitation, occasionally called and spent a short time with him, singing some of those devotional pieces so well fitted to his case, which were followed by prayer and then all retired. His cell was now in the hall. This occurred when the other prisoners were in the shop at work, for at no other time were visitors allowed at his cell. Two or three of his last days were spent in the hospital, which then had no sick occupant. The strictest care and watchfulness were observed by the officers, so that, whether in his cell or in the hospital, he could not possibly escape if he attempted it.
The day appointed for the execution was Tuesday. Monday the criminal frankly admitted to his adviser, that he knew what he was doing that terrible night, and was fully responsible for the deed, which acknowledgment he signed in writing. He also dictated a letter to his youngest brother, faithfully warning him against following his own ways of wildness and drinking, also a note containing good advice to two young men who had been officers in the prison, and finally an address to be read on the scaffold. Brothers and other relatives took leave of him Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
The fatal hour was fixed at eleven, A. M. Pike was up in due season, took a slight morning repast, dressed for the day, had devotional exercises, and finished parting with friends at nine, that he might have opportunity for becoming duly rested and composed in mind for that painful occasion. At ten the other officers retired, leaving him alone with us two. What an hour before us? I had never experienced the like before and hope never to again. It was much like standing on the crumbling verge of time and looking into eternity's vast abyss.
We had a season of prayer, then conversation for the purpose of learning his present feelings and convictions. He professed a hope that God had forgiven his sins and would accept him at last; said that no doubt it would be better for him to go then than be pardoned and return to the world once more, for, in that case, his appetite might overpower him again and he do other horrid deeds. Still, it was hard to die in the way he must.
Personal conversation over, we continued bringing to his mind fitting portions of Scripture and appropriate verses from hymns and thus occupied the moments till eleven slowly arrived.
Our door opens. The sheriff with his attendants enters. We march to the scaffold in the hall, where are gathered many reporters for the press and other gentlemen. The address being read and prayer offered, Mr. Holman at his right and myself at his left lead him upon the fatal drop, and there support him while the preparation for the last is being made. During the adjustment of the black cap and noose, I feel a tremor in his arm. He is taken forward from us and placed under the beam. His legs are bound, his arms pinioned, the sheriff reads extracts from the doings of the court, and gives the final sentence. The spring is touched, the drop falls, the surgeon calls for the rope to be drawn higher, as the feet touch the floor. This done, life ends in about a quarter of an hour.
As the drop fell, Mr. Holman settled back in a chair, faint. I led him to a window where he soon recovered, but serious illness followed, caused by the excitement and anxiety of his labors here.
Now, if men must be hung, humanity would call for the work to be performed differently in these respects: That mortal long reading from the court doings should be dispensed with, that is, long for the place. It can be of no sort of use. A short formula, consisting of the last two or three sentences, uttered by the sheriff, would be all sufficient.
Then, again, that black cap should be different. Binding the limbs consumed a few moments, and the reading, referred to, still more. But probably after the cap was on and the noose fitted over it, the criminal exhausted all the oxygen available to him in three or four breaths, and was forced to suffer the process of suffocation during that occupied time. How near death he was when the drop fell, I can not say, but he appeared to be suffering greatly before the binding was completed. That could all be remedied by having an orifice in the cap opposite the mouth for breathing.
Further, that sad mistake about the rope should never be allowed to happen. He who permits himself to be appointed to such a duty, ought so to understand his business that such an accident shall be impossible.
Some of the papers, especially in New York, roughly criticised our efforts to prepare Pike for his end, said it was an outrage on society to give a wretch like him so much attention; that, in it, we exhibited a sickly sentimentalism, appeared as though we would raise crime to a saintship, and more in the same line. A few words only on this must suffice.
We supposed that the sentiment, "The criminal has a right to the benefit of the clergy," really meant something; that, though this man had been condemned to execution by his compeers for a most outrageous crime, he yet had a right to means for preparing himself to pass the ordeal of the scaffold with due composure, and for becoming reconciled to his God, if that could be. We did not dream that anybody short of heathendom would object to this. Supposing we were appointed to work for that end, we went to the task with a sincerity of purpose. If we were not appointed to do just the things we did, for what were we, pray?
We simply followed the usual course pursued at the bedside when one is near death, had religious conversation, prayer, singing, parting with friends; though, in this case, we had no extreme feebleness caused by disease to meet, but rather crime, in one of its most revolting forms, to recognize in bringing gospel appliances, concerning which crime we endeavored to be duly faithful.
Hence, all that feverish editorial brain-work over this pretended wrong, and that amount of printer's ink and paper thus used were simply wasted upon, what never occurred, or that which was only a usual, honest effort to do our duty with fidelity.
But this tirade, no doubt, came through the agency of some living not far away, who designedly put a newsmonger on the wrong scent, for the purpose of venting their own spleen at the idea of having those around who would treat a helpless, fallen man better than a dog.
14. Doctrinal discourses. In pursuing my labors among the prisoners, I often met those skeptical views, before alluded to, which were sometimes quite boldly avowed. Some of them would constantly attend the Sabbath school, doubtless simply from the pleasure derived in puzzling their teachers with questions. They were acute, shrewd fellows, keen in argument, quick to see a point and turn it, hard to meet. To help these, if possible, I decided to give a few discourses on the evidences of the existence of a God as seen from the light of nature. Those of the skeptical class as well as others manifested no little interest in the subject. Soon evidences began to appear of a material softening among them in their opposition to Bible truths. One young man said to the warden, "When the chaplain commenced those discourses, I felt sure of being impregnably fixed in my ideas. After hearing one, I would retire to my cell and sit down with the purpose of figuring out the want of conclusiveness in his arguments. But the more I figured, the more I saw that I was in the wrong and not he; that, from what we see all about us, there must be a God, whom I am convinced I ought to love and obey." This man became altogether changed in his habits and entered upon a really hopeful course. Nor was he alone among those thus yielding, who had long been accustomed to shut their eyes against the true light.
15. Effect of the prayer meeting on prison order. These meetings had now continued a number of weeks with no abatement of interest, having gained the reputation of being the best in the city. But it became needful for us, at this time, to suspend all our chapel exercises for a while, to give place to the proposed enlargement of the room. Hence, at the close of the last meeting previous to this vacation, the warden said, in substance, "We have been holding these meetings several weeks. At first I thought them wholly impracticable in the place, but am truly glad to find I was so greatly mistaken. As an act of simple justice, I feel that I ought to bear testimony, before you all, to the influence they have exerted on the morals of the inmates. Since they commenced, we have not had a single case for discipline in this institution, a fact without precedent in the past, so far as my knowledge extends, for so long a time. And I most devoutly hope that this state of things will continue and the meetings grow more and more powerful in their influence for good."
Such a result of our efforts was in advance of what I had dared hope for. Though fully convinced that the influence must be in that direction, I had not realized so clearly that we were setting in operation what would prove so effective an aid to order in the prison.
16. The new chapel. At length the chapel was completed and made a gem of a room, as it seemed to us, in comparison with what it previously was, having been enlarged to nearly double its former size, extending the whole width of the building and taking in the windows on both sides, thus giving us great improvement in air and general comfort; the painting also was neat and cheerful. We all felt truly thankful for so great a blessing, thankful, too, for the opportunity of meeting again to resume our worship. As the poor fellows entered, one after the other, and cast their eyes about upon the beauty and neatness before them, I could see the joy flash over their countenances. The singing sent a new thrill to the heart, and it seemed much easier to speak to them. Everything appeared more hopeful for good.
During the recess, I had been assiduous in visiting the prisoners, Sabbaths and other days, and endeavoring to influence them in the right. But now that the meetings had commenced, we could rationally look for a greater success to our efforts.
Nor did we look in vain, for soon some professed a full determination to forsake their ways of sinning and seek to become what God required. These indications, as is usual in the outside world, tended to give the general moral tone, in the prison, a deeper impressiveness.
17. Prison repairs and mistakes. Previous to the enlarging of the chapel, general repairs and important alterations had been made in the south wing, consisting of a new French roof, a great improvement in appearance and utility, new cells for the female prisoners, and other rooms fitted for the officers and general prison use. The mechanics worked most diligently, and the money appropriated by the State was, no doubt, most economically laid out. The agent, one of the council, evidently felt no little satisfaction in having it said that he could accomplish so large amount of work with so little money.
But either he, or some one else, made at least two grave mistakes. One was in locating the cells for the females, which are in the third story, requiring the occupants, in going to and from their meals, and attending to much of their work, to pass over two, and sometimes three, flights of stairs. All understanding minds know that this must prey most sadly on female health, and that apartments for this class should be as near the ground as can be.
The other mistake was in the stairs. In the old arrangement the females had their private stairway, where they could pass unobserved by any except their attendants. But in the change, that private way was laid aside and the women required to use the public stairs, subjecting them to great inconvenience. I called the attention of the agent to this matter, but to no effect.
Another thing of trifling expense should have been attended to. The female wash-room should be arranged so that those laboring there, in turning out the waste water, should not be required to lift their tubs as high as, and, in some cases, higher than their heads; and, while washing, they should not be obliged to stand on ice so much. Blinds, also, should have been put to those large hospital windows to prevent almost broiling the sick in hot weather.
18. Profanity attacked. Profanity appeared to be a common evil in the institution, not only among the convicts, but also with many of those who were over them. A prisoner said to me one day, with no little emotion, "Chaplain, I am in a hard case. Swearing is my besetting sin. If I become vexed with my work, or anything else, that is my resort at once. In the meetings, I hear preaching, prayer and singing, under the influence of which, I feel a strong impulse to leave my sinful ways, and seek to become good and live an upright life. Almost resolved on this, I go to my work and am there forced to hear more or less profanity. They will swear at me, and I fall to swearing, too. Thus I am in a hard case." The deputy said, "There is swearing enough here daily to sink the whole concern clear down out of sight."
Thus assured, it seemed important that a move specifically against that sin be made. True, we might not reach those who most indulged in it, as they never attended our gatherings, but we could work for the prisoners. Hence, one evening, after speaking of the folly and sinfulness of the habit, an appeal was made direct to the men, soliciting all who would wholly abandon the practice to rise in their seats, to which some forty responded. At the next meeting, on requesting those who had succeeded in keeping their pledge to rise, the largest part signified their success. The next day as I passed about, some told me that, the past week, they had failed once or twice, but felt determined to struggle on and conquer. Subsequently one and another would assure me of their full triumph, that they had not been overtaken since that first week. How far the reform went, I shall never know, but it was in the right direction, such a reform as should be carried out everywhere, for no gentleman will take God's name in vain. It is a vulgar, mean practice.
19. Efforts for a son, from a mother's plea. During the spring of '71 and, while our religious interest was progressing, a mother visited her son in prison, having a temporary home with a lady friend in the city. We will call the mother, Mrs. A., the son, B., and the friend, Mrs. C.
Mrs. A., witnessing the subduing influences pervading our meetings, and feeling a strong desire that her son might be benefited thereby, determined to do what she could in that direction. This son was a youth who might have stood high, had he followed the right, but he had gone deeply into crime, causing his parents and friends untold sorrows. Still, this mother clung to him as only a mother can, hoping and praying for his rescue from his downward course.
The two families, here represented, had previously lived in near proximity and in happy union, when B. was an innocent youth, just emerging from childhood, a mother's pride and a father's hope. Considering this circumstance, and knowing that Mrs. C. had a class in the prison Sabbath school, and was an intelligent Christian worker, of good standing in the community, Mrs. A. conceived the idea that she perhaps might now essentially help her son, and solicited her to make the attempt. She replied, "I have no objection to attempting what I can to reclaim your son, with the warden's assent." This assent obtained, the two met in his presence. For a time B. appeared averse to talking directly of his convictions concerning the soul's interest. But she at length secured his confidence, thus leading him to speak of his feelings and desires to reform more freely, perhaps, than he had to the chaplain or warden. She referred to the past, what he once was, what his parents had done for him, what he might have been; to his fall, what he had lost, his present condition, his mother's agonized feelings in his behalf. The recital cut him keenly. Like Peter of old, he wept bitterly. She then pointed him to the Saviour as the only means of hope and relief. Thus she met him a few times and to good effect. He had been really interested in his religious welfare for a long time previous. But these efforts helped him greatly to decide fully to follow his convictions of duty. He became more alive to his true condition, perhaps, than ever before, would mourn over the heinousness of his sins, and evidently appeared to be drinking the bitter cup of repentance. He would be at times in real agony of mind at the view of himself.
While in this state, the warden invited those especially interested in the subject of religion to meet in the chapel, from twelve to twenty in number, for an inquiry meeting. We conversed with them severally and then proposed a season of prayer in which each should engage, which they did, B. among the rest, after which he appeared more calm, as if he had obtained a measure of relief, though he did not feel satisfied that he had really experienced a change of heart, but seemed decided about pursuing the right.
We encouraged him to press on as he had begun, and to take part in our meetings, to the latter of which he replied, "No, I will not attempt that. Should I, they will say, 'I am playing good with the hope of getting out.' That I won't do. I despise hypocrisy, however bad I may be in other things." Thus he took his stand, still interested in daily reading God's word, prayer, Sabbath school, and the general religious exercises. Other prisoners noted the change in him and would say, "He has been converted." But he was called to meet sore trials in the prison, trials hard to bear, of which we will speak hereafter.
20. Warden's efforts for a young man. This young man, here called E., from the middle walks of English society, parents well to do, with a good trade, superior mental powers, commanding high wages, came to this country to seek his fortune, fell into bad company, bad habits, and finally the State Prison. The warden became deeply interested in him, found that he was anxious about his religious state, and seeing the success of Mrs. C.'s labors invited Mrs. D. F., another prison Sabbath school teacher, resembling Mrs. C. in efficiency, character and standing, to make an effort with him for his good. She assented, and met him in the presence of the warden. She first took measures to satisfy herself that he was sincere and truthful with her, and proposed numerous questions about his home affairs, his history, &c. He answered her inquiries with apparent frankness, said that he was then under an alias, not wishing by his wrongs to disgrace his friends or real name, purported to give his true name, which she was not to reveal, the name of his minister and thus on. Mrs. D. F. had been acquainted with this minister, wrote to him, as she thought best, and in due time received an answer conclusively showing that E. had been truthful in his personal statements. She then conversed with him concerning his religious interests with about the same results as in the former case, except that he did not give so clear an evidence of a thorough work as did B.
The warden was particular to have the prison visits of these ladies in his presence, and sometimes that of the chaplain, too, not only that there should be no deviation from the rules of strict order, but also as a safeguard against evil reports. He well knew that there were ill-disposed persons who were ready to distort and misrepresent all his efforts at reform; and had a lady been admitted to private interviews with a prisoner, it would have given them just such stock to work with as would have delighted them.
21. Experience with noble appearing heads in prison.
Facts have shown that, in meeting an assembly, whether in prison or out, we can not always judge correctly in regard to the mental caliber of those composing it by the view of their heads. The apparent superior development may be deceptive, the work of disease. Among the "noble appearing heads" alluded to on a previous page, a part were of that class, or at least contained diseased minds. We will look at two cases, using substituted letters for the names, as previously.
H. is of good form, head finely proportioned, forehead high, eyes bright, all indicating, at a little distance, that he might possess no small share of intellect. Occasionally he will make pertinent, well timed remarks, but is greatly wanting in mental ability. I have been informed that his mother was intemperate, and had the delirium tremens just previous to his birth. He, also, years before, had at times appeared as though Satan himself possessed him, and was evidently insane, which, passing off, would leave him all right for a season. He has some remembrance of learning to read a little, can count almost one hundred, but has no power to combine numbers otherwise, at least none that I could find after persistent labor in drilling him almost daily for some four weeks on the same figures; thus, in addition table 8 and 1, 8 and 2, &c., ending where we commenced. Ask him, "How many are 8 and 2?" and he would as quickly answer, "11," or "9," as anything. Still he appeared earnest to learn, and was about twenty-four years old. He would detain me with him as long as possible to help him catch the idea, and would often say, "When I go out, I mean to find a good place where I can go to school, for I intend to obtain a good education." At times he would appear very religious, and talk and pray in our meetings; but, should anything irritate him, he perhaps would fly into a rage beyond all self-control, in which, if he could, he would kill a man as quickly as he would a fly. Still, an officer of the needed prudence and skill, by studying his infirmity and managing with due discretion, would have but little trouble with him, and he would readily earn his living. He would be an unsafe man to go at large, as dangerous, if fired with anger, as any raving maniac. He should ever be under firm control somewhere, with proper treatment and labor.
It would be difficult for us to determine how far moral responsibility can be affirmed of this man. God alone can decide that.
J. was another fine looking man of some twenty-eight years, gentlemanly appearing, with a good education, kindly disposed, usually of good habits, honest, so far as known, except in two cases, and those in much the same way. He would hire a team for a ride, go to a hotel and put up, exchange or sell the horse, or harness, or carriage, or all together, wander about awhile, and then return home for his father to help settle the matter, making no effort to escape arrest. The first time he was arrested, but not convicted, as neighbors pleaded in his behalf. The second time he was sent to prison. On this trial neighbors urged the father to put in the plea of insanity, but he refused, as so many were resorting to that. Still, all said that he had the best of reasons, as his own brother, or the young man's uncle died in an insane asylum, and those exceptional acts of his must have been performed through an insane impulse. Receiving a pardon previous to the close of his sentence, he went into good employment, worked steadily about a year, and took the same step again, when the court put him under guardianship, instead of sending him to prison, which was no doubt the most judicious course; for if kept from that horse hiring, he will doubtless be all right, as he has never manifested any inclination to wrong except in that particular point, and that only when his mind was evidently unhinged.
There were others who exhibited each his peculiarity. Some of these, could we look within their mental structure and there take a just survey, would perhaps be found possessed of such a native taint, or bias, or disorder, that their wrong doings, for which they were in prison, would be regarded in the light of misfortunes rather than crimes.
This subject of hereditary mental taint or disorder, in connection with wrong doing, opens to the phrenologist a wide and important field for investigation. But when he is forced to the conclusion that the one has acted from a disordered impulse of mind, uncontrollable, and he therefore not responsible for his acts, it can make no difference with the fact that the wrong doer must be restrained and put where he can not trespass upon the rights of others. It will rather lead to the questions of where he shall be confined, how employed, after what manner treated, and in what light regarded; perhaps showing clearly the need of important modifications in our present system of prison management.
22. The Warden admits presents to prisoners from friends outside. He would permit friends outside to send soothing dainties to the sick, or packages of fruit or home comforts to the well; or florists of the city to send bouquets to stand upon the speaker's desk on the Sabbath, for the prisoners to admire, and each received a flower or sprig to carry to his cell as a memento of innocence and purity, and a stimulus to love the Author of such beauty. It was really gratifying to see what cheer to the fallen these remembrances from the outside world would bring. All packages thus sent to prisoners were most carefully examined by officers, that nothing wrong should pass.
23. Warden decides to resign. He had not found his place a bed of roses. Certainly it possessed its thorns, and these, at times, largely predominated. His efforts for bringing the prison, in all its departments, to what it was, had cost him a great struggle, many anxious hours of planning, and at times perplexities in executing. But his greatest vexation came because of opposition, from certain ones without, to what he felt assured was for the best good of the institution, and from the misrepresentations of those opposed to all prison reform and improvement, who think it an outrage to the State to treat a prisoner better than a brute. He says one complained of him thus: "You give the prisoners too good fare, and make things too comfortable for them, on account of which they will wish to return. Whereas, the prison is a place for punishment, requiring you to keep the inmates on poorer food, and food so prepared that it shall be a punishment to eat it, and make everything around them a source of discomfort, that, after leaving, they may thereby be deterred from crime through dread of being returned."
From all considerations, the warden resolved to resign at the close of the year, yet, while remaining, to continue the usual prison rations and efforts at reform. His wife also heartily joined in his efforts, having from the first done much towards the excellent fare of the prisoners, and seeing that the sick were properly cared for. Hence, on one occasion, finding a man gradually wasting away with consumption, the skin wearing from his emaciated limbs by the hard prison couch, she sent in her own feather bed, that he might pass the remainder of his days in what comfort he could.
But what shall we think of the assertion that "the food should be so prepared that it shall be a punishment to the men to eat it?" Can it be possible, that one in New Hampshire, at this late day, uttered a sentiment like that? So the warden most positively asserts. To say nothing of its inhumanity, common worldly policy would repudiate such an idea. Of food thus prepared one at first would eat as little as possible to live, his powers for labor therefore depart, his appetite gradually fails, and he goes down to death.
All who use horses or oxen, except the worst of men, would scout such a practice. They say, "To have teams work well, feed well." So it must be with men, whether in prison or elsewhere. Power for muscular labor can be furnished only by generous food.
Then the fear that good prison fare would induce the prisoners to return purposely on recommitments, must have been expressed without due consideration, or being taught by prison facts. Statistics show that, where the prison is the most cruelly managed and the inmates are kept on the poorest fare, the greatest number return on second or third sentences. Then as to our own prison, the very year this complaint was made, more pardons were granted, I think, than had ever been before in one year since the founding of the institution. And most surely none refused to accept of the offer and depart. Besides, nearly all who had friends, except those soon to go out by commutation, were constantly importuning them to intercede for their pardon, while those who had none, were persistent in their pleadings with the warden, chaplain and other prison officers to help them in efforts for the desired boon. Why this, if good fare would be an inducement to return? Would the utterer of that sentiment have sanctioned the idea of leaving the prison doors all unlocked and unbolted for one night? What a skedaddling there would have been, old or young, sick or well, the infirm and decrepit, hobbling off as best they could, leaving their good fare behind and their cells "to let."
What an idea! The good prison living, which at best can not be made equal to the comforts in our most common families outside, lead men to desire to be locked up in those gloomy cells for its sake and subjected to the general prison regime! That man may fear it who will.
24. Prisoners' anxiety at the rumored resignation. This rumor soon spread through the prison, not however to bring joy, but sorrow. I had not imagined that the prospect would cause the prisoners so much anxiety. Probably the slave of former days on the auction block, about to be struck off to a new owner, and all uncertain as to his future fate, would experience feelings allied to theirs. Their first anxiety seemed to be about their educational and religious privileges, lest these might be cut off or largely curtailed. Said one, "I have served on board of a whaleman and been accustomed to the most rigid discipline found there. I fear nothing in the line of strictness of rules, but can not bear the idea of being deprived of our school and meeting opportunities. I would do almost anything for the sake of enjoying these." This was the feeling.
Then, they were deeply anxious about the character of the man to be put over them, whether he would be humane, or the reverse. And no wonder, when we consider how completely they are left to his control. Probably no other state officer is so irresponsible as the warden of our state prison,—that is, in a position where those under him are so completely at his mercy, and where he can exercise real cruelty, if disposed, and cover it up with a fair outside show. None but a man of humane instincts, one especially qualified for the post, should be put in that position.
25. Governor and Council memorialized by the prison S. S. teachers and chaplain. Sustaining the relation we did to the prison, we thought it appropriate for us to set forth our views and desires to the Governor and Council touching the appointment of the warden; not respecting who should be appointed, but the principles to be secured. Hence, by a committee, we drew up a paper to be laid before them, giving account of the religious and educational privileges we had been laboring to secure to the inmates for the purpose of throwing around them all the influences possible for securing good order in the prison, and a preparation, on their part, for going out reformed, and duly prepared to act the part of good citizens, and also soliciting their honorable body, that they would so recognize these arrangements and labors of ours, in their contemplated appointment, that they should not be curtailed, but permitted to go on, gathering around them such improved facilities as might be devised from time to time, thus securing the best discipline in the prison and the highest ends of imprisoning.
We were treated on the occasions with due respect, and permitted to speak freely on the points as we judged best. Some of the gentlemen responded in most commendatory terms at what we had been doing, regarding the influence as highly salutary in regard to order and general good in the prison.
26. Prison funerals. The methods of procedure at the interment of the prisoners had been various, at times not very complimentary to a professedly Christian people. But more recently the custom had obtained of having prayer and remarks appropriate to the occasion, the men being arranged in the prison yard, after which they were to retire to their work. In this way we conducted our first funeral after my entrance. At the next, we observed this form: Had all things ready when the men were had eaten, say at twenty-five minutes past twelve, and then took them to the chapel for the usual prayer and remarks, which ended, we conducted them in file through the reception-room for leave-taking of their lifeless comrade, the body being there laid out with some little taste, and then they passed on to the shop. This method is chaste and appropriate, hinders nothing about the shop labor, and manifests due respect for the occasion.
The matter of funerals has ever been held as of great importance by all civilized nations. Nor is it any the less important to a well conducted prison than elsewhere. Proper funeral observances will tend to the good of the prisoners as well as to that of others, and help impress upon them the idea of their own mortal career and accountability. How much more like men they will cause the inmates to feel than would putting the body in a rough box and hauling it off the back way, in a cart, like a dead dog.
27. Educational and S. school summing up. The year closed upon our educational efforts with a good measure of success, though of necessity limited in comparison with what ought to be accomplished by a like number in our public schools outside. For, it will be borne in mind, that all our pupils had to perform their daily tasks at manual labor from early morn till night; that their cells are not the most advantageous rooms for study; that what they obtained they had to gain in these pent up places, in the odds and ends of their time, as best they could. Then, again, we could have our school only when the guards could be spared from their common prison duties. Still, with all the drawbacks, a number of the inmates made commendable proficiency. They did what they could. They had become inspired with the idea of putting themselves earnestly to the task of cultivating their intellects and hearts, so far as they could, and thus be prepared, on leaving prison, for common business. Some had really waked up to what they had lost by their sinful courses, and now appeared determined to do their best, in the future, at making amends. Thus spurred on, they were diligent. And it was truly a pleasure to be permitted to help forward these minds, arousing, as they were, to a higher and better life. Sordid indeed must be that heart which would not fire up with energy for encouraging such to go on.
Some forty of the young were among those who were striving in this direction, a very few others of that class not possessing sufficient mental capacity for learning. Then others had obtained a good education previously, and chose to spend their time in reading from the library, except that some would wish a better knowledge of arithmetic, and perhaps other branches, when about to close their term.
We had been favored with a few interesting lectures from outside gentlemen, with three readings by lady elocutionists, and a number of drill exercises in singing. A gentleman also gave us a number of lessons in penmanship.
We had repaired the books of the library, added nearly two hundred volumes, obtained a new catalogue, two large blackboards for drill exercises in arithmetic, &c., a set of charts on penmanship, a set also of outline maps in geography, purchasing likewise such books or material as appeared needful to the school, expending in all $260.45, being allowed to use in this way the money gathered from the admission fees of visitors, all of which we did not use.
We endeavored to do what we could towards beginning what we confidently hoped would soon become an institution duly established by the State with all needed provision for security. The Sabbath school continued with unabated interest from the first, numbers varying but little, seldom falling below eighty, average, eighty-six.
28. Religious success. From my first day at the prison, the religious state had been encouraging, nothing to mar the interest transpiring. True, there had been no revival at any time, but a steady, healthful drawing in the right direction, that from which the most is ever to be hoped. A goodly number had, at different times, become professedly fixed in the determination to a thorough reform, while the others had, to appearance, largely lost their prejudice against religious truth; and entered more freely into conversation upon those subjects, many admitting the justness of their claims. And, taking all things together, our prospects had never appeared better than at the end of the year, indicating that, should our rulers possess wisdom enough to select the right man for warden, still more cheering results might be anticipated from subsequent efforts.
But we could not presume to judge correctly as to how much of this profession was well founded. That we had to leave for God to take care of. We had one important certainty, however, connected with this matter,—the certainty that all true good is found with just such surroundings as we had at the prison, the love of prayer, interest in God's Word, delight in attending meetings, desire for mental culture and a professed seeking for holiness; but not with the contrary, such as swearing, contentions, hatred of God's truth, and the like.
29. Fourth of July at the prison. The Fourth came with no new warden appointment. Therefore, the incumbent determined that he would celebrate this at the prison as his own yearnings prompted, and as it would be observed at some other prisons. Hence, at early morn, he announced to the men that he was about to give them a real Fourth, causing their hearts to leap for joy.
At 9 o'clock they met in the chapel for the reading of the Declaration of Independence, singing, &c., after which they marched into the prison yard, where were tables beautified by floral decorations and spread by fair hands, with picnic dainties, lemonade being prepared expressly for the prisoners. The blessing asked, the men having done ample justice to the good cheer, and the tables having been removed, speaking by a number of distinguished gentlemen from various towns followed. This ended and prayer offered, the sports followed as various as the different tastes could devise. Nothing rude, boisterous, insubordinate, or unkind appeared from any. One standing outside the walls would not have supposed, from anything heard, that a real, live Fourth was being so greatly enjoyed within. And probably the pleasures of the day were never more keenly felt anywhere, in prison or out. One and another would say, "This is the happiest day of my life." A somewhat large delegation of ladies and gentlemen from various parts of the State was present, who seemed delighted with the occasion. The female prisoners partook of their picnic dainties in their own room, but were permitted, with their attendants, to witness the yard scenes from the chapel windows. Everything passed off satisfactorily. The speaking was excellent, just fitted to the occasion, showing the need of laws and prisons, that those present were here for crimes, yet that they could reform, for which they should strive, that numerous willing hands were reached out for their encouragement and aid.
The time at length came for separating, when each man went to his cell with a cheer of heart which he had never carried there before. And this cheer long pervaded their minds, leading them to obey with greater alacrity. Nor did I hear of a case of a contrary character. They would afterwards often refer to the occasion as that happy day.
30. The true principles of imprisoning and prison-managing on the idea of reform in the convict. For the sake of brevity these principles are here set forth mainly by questions and answers.
What is the object of imprisoning?
This object is fourfold:
1. To prevent the criminal from injuring the public.
2. To deter from committing crime.
3. To punish the wrong doer.
4. To reform the erring.
On the first two of these two points there is no dispute, while some will not admit the third, and others proscribe the fourth. Let us, however, admit the four.
Who has the right to imprison and assign the terms and conditions to the imprisoned?
The State alone, or society organized in a body politic, has this right, and that is to be exercised by due process of law, in which exercise she is, first, in her legislative capacity, to point out clearly, by her enactments, for what a man shall be imprisoned, specify the terms of the imprisoning and the conditions to which the imprisoned shall be subjected; second, in her judicial capacity, assign the wrong doer his merited doom; and, third, in her executive capacity, to carry out in him the decisions she has made, no individual having a right to interfere with this in any way, except as specially authorized by State enactments.
Hence, the criminal, when standing at the bar and hearing the sentence of the judge, can understand exactly what lawfully and justly awaits him, provided that he demean himself uprightly in his new condition.
Suppose the sentence, in a given case, is this: "You are to be confined at hard labor in our State Prison for five years." In this all that can lawfully be inflicted upon the convict is involved. So say the judges themselves. Hence, should any man, or party of men, bring upon him additional infliction during that time, the imprisoned would, just so far, become the sufferer of a wrong, and those making that infliction would be the wrong doers. Let us, then, analyze this sentence and thus ascertain its elements.
Being confined in prison for the term, all admit, involves the idea that he is to enter those walls and not be permitted to pass out till his time is ended.
As the term, "hard labor," is not defined, it must be determined by the common custom of workmen at the same or similar business outside. So say the judges again. To illustrate: if ten hours constitute a day's work with these, so with the prisoners,—not twelve or fifteen. Again, if, in bedstead making, turning one hundred posts, in the one case, is required for a day, so in the other, not one hundred and fifty or two hundred. This laboring day after day, during the specified number of years, constitutes the "hard labor" in the meaning of the court.
The law assigns no further punishment to the imprisoned, if duly submissive to wholesome prison rules. But, should he be stubborn, refusing to perform his task, or obey the regulations generally, or should he rise in rebellion, of necessity discretion must be left with the officers to use such means, even to taking life, as shall be essential in bringing the delinquent to subordination. These means, however, may be limited by law, as they are to a great degree in our State, and are ever to be used as humanity dictates.
What rights does the State take from the criminal in imprisoning?
She takes from him the right to live and act outside of prison walls, to be a master to himself inside, and to receive his earnings as his own. These constitute the sum total. As he had used his liberty and the mastery of himself to the public damage, she justly steps in, deprives him of the one and takes upon herself the other, thereby assuming the guardianship over him during the specified time. She takes his earnings as a compensation, so far as they will go, for his damage and expense to community, and as an important element in his punishment. She becomes his guardian for the purpose of so educating him that, on going out, he shall live an upright, harmless life.
What rights remain to the imprisoned?
There is a wide range, a long list of these, which the State does not pretend to cut off or interfere with, such as the right to suitable food, clothing, lodging, ventilation, drainage, care in sickness or infirmity: in a word, to what will tend to corporeal vigor; the right to means for mental, moral and religious culture, or what will tend to the development in him of true manhood. If this is not so, which right is cut off or curtailed? and where is the law that does it?
What duties does the State take upon herself in thus imprisoning?
These are of two classes, one relating particularly to herself, and the other to the imprisoned.
Duty to herself is done, 1st, in protecting society from the crimes of the imprisoned, which she does by imprisoning; 2nd, in keeping the criminal diligently at work, thereby obtaining pecuniary compensation, so far as can be, for her trouble and expense on his account; 3d, in using all feasible efforts for rubbing off the rust of sin, washing away the corruption of iniquity, found in those taken in charge, and making of them true men,—good, industrious, honest, upright citizens.
The latter part is of the highest moment, far exceeding all considerations of mere dollars and cents, drawing as much real manhood as possible from the material put in her hands. If she takes one who is dangerous to society, and works in him an entire reform, she accomplishes a work in comparison with which gold and silver will weigh but little. Making men is the high mission of the prison, and the State can not be regarded as having performed anything like her whole duty, till she has used every feasible means to this great end.
The duty of the State to the prisoner is performed by securing to him what he needs in his corporeal, mental, moral and religious departments.
If she withholds in any of these, so far she becomes delinquent towards the imprisoned, a violator of his rights just as really as he had been a violator of others' rights when in his wild career of sinning.
More than this. In such withholding she becomes chargeable with real cruelty. For she has put the man in a state where he can not supply his own needs, and, if she neglects them, he must suffer. This is surely a grave matter, one which should be looked to with the utmost care;—a place where the State can afford to be highly generous rather than expose herself to a suspicion of such a wrong.
What are the proper means of reform?
Among these will be found, the State guardianship, the labor system, strict discipline, kind treatment, stimulating hope, mental, moral and religious culture.
The State guardianship will tend to form in the convict the habit of duly regarding the rights of others and of looking up, with respect, to wise and beneficent direction; the labor system, that of uniform industry, of profitably employing the time instead of in idle indulgencies; strict discipline, that of cheerful submission to wholesome rules, regardful of the principles of right. Kind treatment will tend to inspire the recipients with confidence in the sincerity of the reform efforts used, trust in the proffered friendship, and an assurance of success in struggles for good. Stimulating hope will rouse the better nature to action and secure confidence in overseers. Cultivating the intellect will prepare one intelligently to conduct himself in the affairs of life, and open to him sources of satisfaction far above those of his former life. Moral culture will arouse controlling ideas of the bounds of human rights, and the importance of observing them. The religious cultivation, having been made through deep conviction of sin, resulting in a hatred to wrong and a love for good, will lay a broad and deep foundation for a life of right.
Let these means be honestly and efficiently used, and they will most powerfully influence to ways of goodness. None of them can be spared. Each is a link in the chain which will be mighty to elevate the fallen. And if one can not be reformed by them, it is proof positive that he ought not to be at large.
What kind of prison officers are essential?
They should be of good moral character, ever setting proper examples before the prisoners, humanely disposed, capable of complete self-control, alive to efforts for reforming the inmates. Those more especially charged with the administration of affairs will need, in addition, to be good disciplinarians, studying the peculiarities of each and endeavoring to heal the weaknesses of mind.