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Out of 16 second convictions for the past year, 8 are sentenced for 5 years, 2 for 4 years, 2 for 3 years, 2 for 2 years, 1 for 20, and 1 for 8 years. It is probable that in most instances of second convictions, it is not known to the courts that the prisoner has served one term in the State Prisons; and they therefore escape with shorter sentences. This might be remedied by empowering the Agents or Inspectors of the prisons, upon sufficient proof of the identity of the prisoner, to keep him confined for any term the law may fix, notwithstanding he may have received a shorter sentence.
I trust I shall not be considered as trespassing too much upon the attention of the Board, in submitting my views upon the paramount objects of our penitentiary system. I am induced to do so from the fact, that there seems to be a misconception as to those objects, which if allowed to go uncorrected, will in time be productive of much evil. Protection to society was doubtless the primary object in the establishment of our prisons; humanity and philanthrophy have, however, added the noble and benevolent, and scarcely secondary object, of reformation of the convict. To carry these objects to their greatest perfection, should be, as it has heretofore been, the chief aim of those intrusted with the management of prisons. In promoting these first and most important objects, industry, order and silence have been the means, and the maintenance of the establishments, by their own industry, the results. Hence a third object has been attained, and society has been relieved from the burthen of supporting those whose crimes have forfeited its protection,
If public expectation shall rest satisfied with the attainment of these objects, our penitentiary institutions will continue to maintain their high reputation. But it from false notions of economy, or if from a sordid spirit of gain and profit, they are to be looked to and made the sources of revenue to the State; and are to be estimated according to the dollars they may be made to pay into the treasury, we may bid farewell to their usefulness, and farewell to the hopes of the statesman and philanthropist.
With these views of the penitentiary system, I cannot but hope, that in presenting the operations and results of this prison to the Legislature, the Board will lend their aid in discountenancing the opinion, so far as it may exist in the Legislature, that great pecuniary profit is to be looked for; and that the amount of such profits are to be considered as the standard of excellence in our prisons. If the prisons can support themselves, and keep the buildings in repair, and at the same time afford a fair compensation to those who devote their time and talents to promote the great and primary objects for which they were established, a reasonable community will probably be generally satisfied.
For the number of convicts received, discharged, pardoned, died, &c., the proper tables will be furnished as soon as they can be completed. For the cash receipts and expenditures, and their particular sources and objects, also the carnings and profits of the prison, the Board are referred to the monthly and annual returns.
[Assem. No. 39.]
The chaplain will lay before the Board such information as will enable them to understand the moral condition of the prison. Of the health of the prison, the physician will afford the Board full information. For the condition of the female department, the Board are referred to the matron's report.
I am happy to state, that the officers of the prison have generally, cordially and efficiently co-operated with me in maintaining the discipline, and promoting the interests of the prison.
S. C. DUNHAM, Agent. State Prison, Auburn, Dec. 31, 1833.
Report of the Chaplain.
To the Inspectors of the State Prison,
GENTLEMEN-In my report to your Board last year, I mentioned facts demonstrating the great need of literary and religious instraetion in the prison; represented its apparent effects upon the minds of the convicts, and stated, somewhat in detail, the routine of duties and modes of instruction pursued in the chaplain's department. In reviewing the year now closing, I find very little room for any remarks in these respects, which would not be, substantially, a repetition of last year's statements. The same close connexion has been traced between ignorance, intemperance, irreligion, and crime, and the same means have been employed to enlighten and reclaim, with no less obvious and cheering results.
The general state of feeling among the convicts is gratifying in the highest degree. It is not merely that of humble acquiescence in the justness of their punishment, but of fervent gratitude that they have been arrested and brought under a course of discipline and instruction which has opened their eyes upon the infatuation of their former course of life. There are, indeed, exceptions, but they are few. Though I have never noted the number precisely, I have no hesitation in asserting as a fact, which I should be pleased to have put to the test, that if you were to pass around from cell to cell, and put the question to every convict in prison, the answer, in nine cases out of ten, would be, “I am glad that I was ever locked up in this cell,” and in one half of these instances the tone of expression would be that of the decpest emotion and emphasis. And yet, nothing would be more erroneous than to ascribe this state of feeling, in the least degree, to any injudicious lenity in the management of the convicts, or to a single feature of the discipline at all calculated, in itself considered, to reconcile them to their present lot. Every object and every movement is repulsive to their feelings. Their mental suffering is in most cases intense. I do not believe there are ten convicts in prison who would not gladly purchase a remission of one half of their term of sentence, at the expense of every farthing of property they ever possessed. The benefit, they confess, is dearly bought; but after all, they esteem it more than equivalent to all their present sufferings.Whether the anticipated benefit be realized or not, this is evidently their present impression. They perceive that they have been, hitherto, in a most important sense, beside themselves; their imprisonment has now afforded them, or rather forced upon them, an interval of calm and sober reflection, and they are themselves again. Three-fourths of them were victims of intemperance; the strong arm of the law has wrested them from the
of that relentless tyrant, and they speak of their present bondage as compa. rative freedom. They were, perhaps, ignorant of letters; they have now learned to read in the prison Sunday school, and they seem to themselves to have taken a higher rank in the scale of being. Having been unable or indisposed to examine the Bible for themselves, they had imbibed the notion that it was a fiction of the priests, worthy of the regard of none but the credulous and superstitious; bending over its sacred page in the solitary cell, they have seen, in its accurate and startling reflection of their own image, and in its power of discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart, the impress of an omniscient mind. They had been accustomed to despise and ridicule a caricature, which they called religion; they have here learned to associate with that name the idea of a pure and spiritual form, descended from Heaven, too sacred to be approached with levity, too benignant to be disesteemed, and too desirable an inmate of prison solitude not to be anxiously sought. They had, perhaps, scarcely ever proposed to themselves a higher end of existence than, like the brutes, to eat, and drink, and sleep, and die; now, in many instances, by the blessing of God upon
the instructions of a prison, their bosoms are thrilled with unwavering hopes of that pure and immortal life which is brought to light by the gospel; and they will tell you, with tears of joy, that they would infinitely prefer to die in the darkest and most cheerless prison cell, than to be drawn back into their former views and habits of life.
This, I say, is the general aspect of things in what may be call. ed the moral department of the prison. It is not pretended that the representation will hold true of all the convicts, in any particular; but that these are the actual effects of your well-tempered system of corporeal and mental training, upon a vast majority of them, is capable of demonstration.
But are not these representations discredited, it may be asked, by the re-convictions which often occur, and the many rumors afloat respecting old convicts? No. For every single individual who has been re-convicted or suspected of crime, ten can be named whom you have never heard froni since they left the prison gate, and never wili, till you chance to meet them in some quiet retreat, pursuing the even and noiseless tenor of their way, with the confidence of their neighbors as honest and industrious men, and in not a few instances, adorning the christian profession.
It would be preposterous to expect any penitentiary system whatever, to convert all its subjects into honest men and good citizens. There will always be some, who have been fitly denominat. ed, by way of eminence, “ State-Prison characters," —men whose moral feelings have become so utterly perverted, that their only congenial element is vice, and their proper home the prison. These never leave home without gaining notoriety. Their deeds and their history are published through the land. They are the only conspicuous representatives of the whole mass of discharged convicts; and the natural but hasty and unfair inference is, with many, (and with some, I regret to perceive, whose calling it is to lead the public mind) that the system of penitentiary punishments has, after all, failed to realize the hopes and predictions of its advocates—while, in fact, there are, undistinguished from their honest neighbors around them, ten others to one of this character, who have been either completely reclaimed, or effectually checked in their career of crime. This is not mere matter of opinion and conjecture. We have letters on file, from public officers throughout the State, which show, without a motive for too favorable a representation, that of 206 discharged convicts whom they happened to know, only 28 were decidedly bad, while 20 were somewhat improved, and 146 completely reformed. Between 30 and 40, (fourteen in the above letters, and others of whom I have heard by mere chance,) are reported as consistent professors of religion.
This view of the reformatory tendency and effects of your system of discipline, is strongly corroborated-I might say, clearly proved—by other facts which are matters of record. The whole number of convicis who have been discharged from the prison, is about 1,550; only 103 of whom, (or 1 out of 15,) have been returned or re-convicted.* Now we may suppose even half as many more to have been re-convicted in other quarters, and sent to other prisons, (which is very improbable,) and we still have ten reclaimed, to one who is not.
Besides, by an examination of our criminal statistics, we ascertain the remarkable fact, that there is not only a relative decrease of crime in the State, as it respects its increase of population, but, for the last two or three years, an absolute diminution in the number of State-Prison convictions. In the year 1825, there was, in this State, 1 convict to every 1,372 inhabitants—in 1830, 1 to 1,392— and at the present time, (supposing the population to have increased in the same compound ratio since the last census as before,) 1 to about 1,450.
But the most remarkable fact is, what I have just mentioned, that there has been of late an absolute decrease in the number of convictions. The number in 1832, as stated in the Governor's Message to the Legislature, was less by about 90 than in 1831; and we have now the same authority for stating, that the number in 1833 is 31 less than in 1832—making a decrease, for the last two years, of 121; and this, under the operation of the Revised Statutes, which multiplied the offences punishable in the StatePrison.
* It is stated in the eighth report of the Prison Discipline Society, just published, that, a few years ago, in many of the old prisons, the proportion of re-committals was as I to 4, 1 to 3, and even 1 to 2.
In every view of it, therefore, the conclusion seems to be irresistible, that your institution has accomplished, thus far, even more than its most sanguine friends could have reasonably anticipated.
The aid of the Sunday school has, for some months past, been wanting. This is so important a part of our system of instruction, that the necessity of even a temporary suspension of its influence has been a matter of deep regret to me, as well as to the teachers and scholars. It has, however, been the occasion of exhibiting new and delightful evidence of attachment to the school on the part of the scholars. Nothing could exceed their disappointment in its suspension, or their anxiety and impatience to have it recommenced. We shall also feel ourselves in a measure compensated for this privation, by the great improvement made in remodeling the chapel, which, I am happy to find, will very soon be ready to be occupied, when the school will be resumed.
The following table exhibits a summary view of the more important facts derived from a particular examination of all the convicts discharged during the year, by pardon and expiration of sentence, respecting their former character, as it regards education, habits, parental influence, &c.
This table may be made the basis of a tolerably fair estimate of the character, in the same respects, of the 679 convicts now in prison. It ought to be remarked, perhaps, that in the column under the head of “common education,” one is included who had received a good academical education; and that the column headed “no education," includes not only those who were unable to recite the alphabet, but all those who could not read in the New Testament.' By “moderate” intemperance, in the table, is meant a habit of regular daily drinking, and occasional intoxication, or either.
As the chaplain of a prison is indulged in claiming to be, in a peculiar sense, the prisoner's friend, as well as confidant, it may,