Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

again been there for intemperance before they were fifteen years old. Now it is brought almost to an absolute certainty, that if these children could have been placed in our House of Reformation, nearly every one of them might have been recovered from intemperance and from disposition to crime. Placed, however, as they have been, it is about as certain that every one of them will be intemperate through life, and either paupers or criminals. The number here stated is indeed small. But is it too small to be worthy of very serious regard, even in view only of our own immediate interests? Will the depredations they will probably make upon the property of others be small? Will the cost of supporting them in prisons and almshouses, at the expense of the honest industry of others, be small? But, above all, looking only to this number, and seeing them in the connexions in which our religion brings them before us, is our responsibility in regard to them small? I appeal alike to interest and to conscience, repeating only my own settled conviction, that if half the zeal were felt among us for the salvation of children of this class, which is felt for objects which have no comparative claim upon public interest, nearly the whole of them might be saved. A regard only to economy, however, will do little or nothing in this case. If higher principles cannot be awakened in the cause of these, and of other equally exposed children among us, they will continue to be, as they have been, lost.

Again. There is yet another class of facts which furnish an important argument for Houses of Refuge, or of Reformation, I refer to the facts which illustrate the tendency of short terms of imprisonment for the first offence. The keeper of the Glasgow Bridewell, which

is a penitentiary jail on the plan of strict solitary confinement, states, that he has observed that offenders committed for the first time for only a short period, almost invariably return to Bridewell for new offences. But if committed for a long period, they return less frequently. This fact is established by the following table, formed on an average of ten years, ending 25th of December, 1825 :

60 66

[ocr errors]

Of prisoners sentenced to 14 days' confinement, there were returned for new crimes, about

75 per cent. Of those sentenced to 30 days to 40 days

50 to 60 days

40
to 3 months

25
to 6 months
to 9 months
to 12 months

4
to 18 months

1 to 24 months

none.

10 66

And during these ten years, ninetythree persons were committed for the first time for two years.' Now let it be considered, that if a lad shall be imprisoned for a first offence, it must almost necessarily be for a short time. His

age will plead for him. And the character of his first offence will not, probably, justify a long imprisonment in a jail or a penitentiary. But this first imprisonment will probably be an extinguisher of every moral sentiment in his heart. On the other hand, if he shall be sent to an Institution for Juvenile Delinquents, it will not be for a specified time. Nor, in truth, will he feel that the stigma of a prison convict is impressed upon him.

Children who might have been sent to prison for one or two or three months, for crime, are

sent to our House of Reformation for instruction and discipline, till it shall be thought proper by those who have there the charge of them, to place them out as apprentices. And even when apprenticed, they are still so far in the care of the Directors of the Institution, that these Directors hold the masters of these children to be responsible to them ; and the children can and do look to these Directors, and to the Superintendent in whose immediate charge they have been placed, as their legal guardians. I would respectfully submit these facts, and the argument deduced from them, to the consideration of those, whose opinion and influence will be for moral deliverance or for moral destruction to many hundreds of the children of our city.

Again. Of three hundred men who have been in the Sunday School of the Auburn State Prison, eighty five did not know the alphabet; and two hundred were able to read only in easy lessons for children, and by spelling some of the words.*

Again. I am told by the indefatigable Secretary of the Prison Discipline Society, on the authority of the chaplain of the prison in Wethersfield, Connecticut, that there are a few less than two hundred convicts in that prison; and that, of these, fortytwo per cent cannot write; sixteen per cent cannot read; thirtytwo per cent were deprived of parental protection before they were ten years old; and twenty per cent more met with a similar deprivation before they were fifteen years old.

Again. For the answers to the following questions, I am indebted to the kindness of the very respectable chaplain of the State Prison in Charlestown. It is

*

Peport of the Auburn Prison. In Senate, Jan. 24, 1831.

proper to remark, the number of convicts who were personally examined by Mr Curtis, with reference to these inquiries, is two hundred and fiftysix.

1st. How many of the convicts in the State Prison in Charlestown did not know the alphabet at the time of their commitment? Answer, 20.

2d. How many could read only in easy lessons for children? Answer, 21.

3d. How many could not write? Answer, 64.

4th. How many were accustomed to use ardent spirits before they were 16 years old ? Answer, 127. 5th. How many of the convicts do you

believe were men of intemperate habits? Answer. I am satisfied that at least three-fourths of the congicts in this, and other prisons with which I have been conversant, were inen of intemperate habits.

6th. Of how many were one, or both parents, intemperate? Answer, 50.

7th. How many were guilty of petty thefts before the age of 16 years? Answer, 45.

8th. How many were brought up without any regular employment? Answer, 82. 9th. How many,

before the age of 21, left their parents without their consent? Answer, 68.

10th. How many, before their conviction, lived in a general violation of the Lord's day? Answer, 182.

11th. How many are foreigners? Answer, 48.

In a note appended to the oth question, respecting those who early left their home without the consent of their parents, Mr Curtis says, -' On this subject I would remark, that, in addition to the number here stated, many lost one, or both of their parents, during their childhood or youth; and thus were thrown upon the

world without that guardian care, which is so important in the first stages of life. And many others, who left home with the consent of their parents to learn some trade or business, left their masters or employers before the expiration of the time for which they were apprenticed, and thus fell into the paths of the destroyers.'

The largest number of these facts has been obtained from the confessions of the prisoners. I leave them without comment, respectfully commending them to the consideration of those to whose judgment and influence, under Providence, we are to look for the character of our institutions, and the well-being of our society.

Is it asked, what are the remedies of these evils, and what the means for their prevention? I answer, that they are not far off; nor, if we were truly disposed to avail ourselves of them, difficult to be obtained. But little thought or care is yet given to these subjects, compared with the greatness of the interests which are comprehended in them. Public sentiment is yet vague respecting the causes of pauperism and crime; and new and more efficient measures should be taken, to bring these subjects, in all their relations and bearings, before the whole body of our citizens. I would say, therefore, in the first place, that if a few of our most intelligent and philanthropic men, men of leisure and influence, would unite for the study of these subjects; not merely, or principally, by consulting books, but by an extensive personal communication with the poor and with criminals; if these gentlemen would meet frequently, - for example, one evening in every week, – to bring together their facts, and to compare their opinions; if they would occasionally publish these facts and opinions,

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »