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Convict Labor

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CONVICT LABOR. The introduction of industry into prison life, apart from its use to keep penitentiaries in good order and good repair, is a product of 19th century reforms. Isolated cases it is true occurred before. Mabil lon, a Benedictine monk of the 17th century, urged a cellular system of imprisonment, labor in the cells and gardens where prisoners might rest after the day's work In 1704 Pope Clement XI opened a prison at Rome, where the industrial feature proved successful in the case of boys. A famous prison built in Ghent in 1775 by Viscount Vilain XIV had a well organized labor system, intended to benefit the prisoner and make him useful to the state. Two years afterward John Howard published his work on 'Prison Reform.) But in practice before the beginning of the 19th century, and well into it, labor was considered in a peno logical bearing. only as offering the possibility of severer punishment, an idea excellently typi fied by the Roman system of punishing the city slave by sending him to the country tread-mill, or by the terrible toil of the galley slave in Italy and France. This penal point of view was fol lowed by the fiscal interest of the state and to a certain degree intermixed with it; the state will save, and if possible, make money by means of its use of the time and strength of the convict Then the disciplinary interest became predominant; the convict will furnish us less trouble if we keep him at work. A fur ther step is talon when the object of convict labor becomes moral and the prisoner is put to work to keep him from idleness, spring of so much vice, and to promote his ability to earn an honest livelihood upon his release. In the latest among these stages a distinct effort is made to furmsh the convict with decent and pleasant work, and the old scheme of choosing the most revolting and dangerous, the most degrading and monotonous task has been done away with.

Unfortunately the evolution hinted at has not been completed, and traces of each of the ideals mentioned may still be found in the various systems of Europe and the United States. °At hard labor? for example, is still felt to be a degrading and aggravating addition to the sentence of detention. As far as actual business management is concerned there are two methods of convict labor. In the first, where the °product or profits of labor is shared by the state with private individuals or firms? we may mention three divisions, sufficiently characterized by their common names: the contract system, the piece-price system and the lease system. The second general class, °sys

tems under which convicts are worked wholly for the benefit of the statex' or its parts, away' falls into three divisions, the public-account system, the state-use system and the ways and works system. Theoretically the piece-pnce system is best in the former class, as it keeps discipline in the hands of prison authorities and leaves business to the entrepeneur; moreover it lacks the faults of the contract system, which to a degree interferes with regenerating influ ences by the very monotony of highly special ized and largely divided industries. In the second class, the public account system, by which goods were made in prison, under the control of regular prison officers, and were sold in a rather haphazard way, has bulked so largely in the public eye, by reason .of the attacks made on it by the representatives of free labor (who overlook the fact that cheaper production is offset by slower production), that the other sub-classes have been overlooked. Of these systems the most popular is that which provides that all results of convict labor should be used by the state, and yet this as a system could equally well be attacked by labor unions, which naturally de_sire to supply state institu tions as well as other sources of demand. Al though it has but a limited field, the state-use system is growing; it is used in most of the northern States and is authorized by the Fed eral goverrunent for the Fort Leavenworth penitentiary. Another system is the State farm system, under which, as in several southern and some northern States, large plantations are purchased to be operated by the State with con vict labor, part of the products being used to maintain the prisoners and the unused portions being sold in the public markets. In the North many of these farms are adjacent to the prisons so that they may be worked by the inmates. The State farm system has been in vogue in Massachusetts many years, and in some of the southern States they are highly profitable to the State. In favor of the system it may be said that the prisoners can be kept in permanent places; they are not exposed to public view; they may be instructed in the ways of becoming self-supporting; they have healthful outdoor life; and the system does not arouse a great amount of public opposition.

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