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advocates of the abolition of the death penalty claim that in the southern states where the death penalty is in force there is vastly more lynching so far as colored criminals are concerned, and that in the case of white inurderers there is less chance of conviction than in countries and states in which the death penalty is abolished. It may readily be claimed that one reason for the recent rapid conviction of four criminals in Paterson, N. J., is that the jury under the law could agree on a verdict for murder in the second degree, involving imprisonment only, when they could not agree on a conviction for murder in the first degree, involving a death sentence.
The governor of Indiana, in his annual message, suggested that kidnappitig, like murder, should be punished by the death penalty.
Convict Labor.-The system of leasing out convicts to private parties, which has been in force in Louisiana for thirty years, came to an end on the first of the year, anticipating the provisions of the constitution of 1898, which prohibited the leasing of convicts after the expiration of the existing lease in March of the present year. The problem of selecting the right kind of labor for the convicts has been a puzzling one to the board of control of the state penitentiary, but selection has been made of a sugar plantation in one locality and a cotton plantation in another. Both properties are said to be well equipped with the necessary machinery to cultivate and handle the crops. The young able-bodied colored convicts however are to be employed in building levees under state care, while some of the white convicts and the more intelligent negroes are to remain in the penitentiary proper, employed in industries to be created. Several other southern states, where the mild climate permits of outdoor work nearly the whole year, are trying the effect of convict labor on the state farms.
Successful experiments have been made in Oneida County, N. Y., in employing convicts in road-making. It is held that road-building competes less with free labor than most other occupations. Good roads are needed and there is small prospect of free labor building enough of them. In Monroe County men have been employed in raising large crops of oats, potatoes, cabbages and onions. The diversification of the industries of convicts is to be commended, especially in the direction of those occupations which are physically and morally healthful.
The experiment has attracted much interest and the subject has been taken up actively in the legislatures of several other states. The warden of Kings County Penitentiary, Brooklyn, has proposed a plan by which the convict labor of the entire state so far as necessary be utilized in constructing a great state highway from New York City to Buffalo.
The “Charities Review.”—The “Charities Review," of which Mr. Herbert S. Brown has been editor, has been incorporated with “Charities,” the weekly periodical published by the New York Charity Organization Society, and will henceforth appear as a monthly number of that periodical.
The “Review" has completed the fourth of its historical studies in American Philanthropy of the Nineteenth Century. Those which have thus far appeared are: “Children, Destitute, Neglected and Delinquent,” by Homer Folks; “ Care and Relief of the Poor in their Homes,” by Edward T. Devine; “Hospitals, Dispensaries and Nursing," by Henry M. Hurd; “Institutional Care of Destitute Adults," by Robert W. Hebberd. “The History of Preventive Work,” by Joseph Lee, is still in progress and will be continued in the monthly “Charities Review” number of “Charities."
Prevention of Fires in Institutions.—The “Charities Review" for February contains some trenchant paragraphs on the subject of the failure to take proper precautions against fires in charitable institutions:
“ It is nearly a year since we last had occasion to note any specially disastrous institution fires. The season of overheated flues has returned, however, and the story begins once more. It is hardly worth while to try to locate specifically the responsibility for the fire at the Rochester orphan asylum by which some thirty of the inmates have met their death. Of course, the building was inflammable; of course, there was no night watchman; of course, there was not any very good way of getting out in a hurry: these things cost money, and charitable institutions must economize. In possibly five hundred other institutions in this country the conditions which made the Rochester disaster are duplicated. No one thinks of accusing the management of any of these institutions of criminal negligence. On the contrary, they are felt to be showing a commendable spirit of thrist in getting along with the least possible drain on their contributors. For instance, the managers of the Buffalo orphan asylum, with perhaps one hundred and fifty inmates in an old building of wood and brick of the rapidburning type, with wooden staircases, supplemented by two narrow iron ladders, with no night watchman, and with no fire-drill, are said to be patiently plodding along in the hope of a new fireproof building some day; in the meantime doing the best they can with the money which charitable people have given them to work with.' The Rochester society happened to get caught, the Buffalo institution to escape. The conditions were identical and the responsibility is identical.
“But economy is not the only factor in evidence in our annual list of fire fatalities. Inexcusable indifference on the part of managers, coupled with inexcusable indolence on the part of superintendents, brings about a condition of affairs such as is reported in a statement before us, presumably correct, regarding a fire in the insane annex of a county almishouse in Ohio. Here, it is stated, the discovery of the fire so demoralized the attendants that the keys to the 'cells' were lost and doors had to be broken open. One old man could not get out. Aside from the fact that if Ohio legislators had a keener eye for lasting economy there would have been no insane 'cells' in this almshouse, it is perfectly evident that the superintendent of this particular institution had not seriously considered what he and his helpers would do in case fire broke out.
“It is just at this point that the value of a state supervisory board comes in. So long as the local overseers are the final arbiters in all matters relating to the almshouse, so long will there be found some institutions run with complete indifference to the welfare of inmates; some with a robust kind of care which means well, but which knows little; none with the complete equipment of experience which an inspecting and advising board carries from one institution to another and from other states to its own. Who is to suggest to the isolated county superintendent the utility of a fire-drill if not the state board ?
“State boards of charity are not yet very strongly established in the American body politic, and their power, even when statutory or constitutional, has yet to be enforced with the utmost mildness and indulgence, lest they lose what hold they have. Scarcely a legislative season passes in which an effort is not made in several states to overthrow or cripple these boards, either to satisfy the spoilsman or to wreak vengeance for some 'interference on the part of the board for better conditions in institutions.
“The evidence is so completely against the decentralization of administration in charity,—at least of supervision of charity,—that one is compelled to admit that the successful introduction of a central supervising board of charity is for any state a distinct step toward both economy and humanity. On the other hand, any effort to cripple such a board, even on the ground that it does its appointed work unsatisfactorily, must be made facing the only alternative to these boards that history has yet given,-indifference to the welfare of public wards, varying from simple neglect to mediæval inhumanity; economy, if any at all, that stints the beans of to-day while it breeds the beggars of to-morrow; discipline that restrains and rebuffs the hungry and sick, but keeps open house to the calloused vagabond; education for the child with almshouse for kindergarten, workhouse for intermediate, and jail, hospital, or asylum for the finishing touches."
The “Review” proceeds to give an account of the rescue of the charitable institutions of the State of Indiana from the political spoilsmen, a reform which has required over ten years for its accomplishment, and which is full of significance to the states which have not yet reached the same plane and those other states which, having reached it are in danger of retrogression.
Annual Reports of Charity Organization Societies in New York and Massachusetts.—The New York charity organization society publishes a report which gives evidence of condensation and even omission in order to bring within reasonable compass a review of its diversified activities. Tenement-house reform is placed foremost.
The report contains, however, a general survey of charitable legislation in the state and of charitable administration in the city of New York, giving special attention to the reform instituted by the society two years ago in preventing the breaking up of families and the commitment of children to iustitutions, when this can be done by providing assistance privately at home. It is reported that in some instances parents are so auxious to keep their children that the task is easy, even though the amount of money required is considerable. The gratitude shown for the assistance through which it becomes possible to avoid the dreaded separation and the stigma of becoming a charge upon the public treasury, is ample reward for all those who have had a share in the undertaking. In other instances, a large amount of work besides the supply of relief has been necessary. For example, in one case the agent of the society induced an employer to lend money to get the family out of furnished rooms, secured the discharge of children from an institution in Brooklyn, arranged for the admission of the woman into a maternity hospital, later brought about the arrest and imprisonment of the husband, persuading the wife to appear against him in court, and relatives to shelter the woman and children for a short period, secured a suspension of sentence and parole for the man, and by visiting the former employer secured his return to his former position, and obtained an excellent friendly visitor for the family. In a word, the breaking up of the family, repeatedly threatened, was averted, there having been every reason to believe that the man contemplated desertion after the children were committed. The greatest difficulty arose in the not infrequent cases in which the head of the family deserts the wife and children in order to secure the commitment of the latter.
One of the causes of the large number of applications from certain elements of the foreign population is a current misconception of the status of inmates of institutions. A Syrian priest, for example, has remarked that there is a strong prejudice among Syrians in favor of the "school," and all who are familiar with the magistrates' courts or with the department of charities know of the prevalent notion among Italians that their children are being “sent to college.” It does not appear that there is any difference, in the minds of many people, between attendance in the public school and entire maintenance in an institution where an education would be obtained and perhaps a trade learned at the expense of the city. One family living in affluence in an expensive apartment was very much astonished when an examiner from the department of charities suggested that the expenses of the education of the children should be met by the parents. In another instance one of the managers of an institution indignantly demanded whether the agent of the charity organization society wished to make paupers of the family. What the agent had proposed was that the mother should be helped privately to keep her children instead of having the city pay for them in the institution. It is a curiously distorted view that would make a pauper of a family which is helped privately at home, but does not recognize as a pauper one whose children are a public charge.
Another still more striking instance is that of a West Indian negro who is quite capable of supporting his family, but who left them to their own resources, with the result that at least one of the children has been committed as a public charge. The father, whose whereabouts were unknown for a time, has been located as a student in a university in a neighboring state, the president of which writes concerning this student: “He is in our sophomore class. He is diligent and successful in his studies. We regard him as a very reliable and promising man. He appears to be under the control of good principles, and we are glad to cherish toward him a growing confidence.”
The Buffalo charity organization society, in its annual report, concentrates attention upon the constructive work of its district committees, pointing out that for some time this has been comparatively neglected as compared with the attention given to incidental and later features.
A recent great extension of the church district plan makes it cover very nearly the whole city. This is one of the most interesting experiments uow in progress in the field of organized charity. The plan itself was described in the “Charities Review" for March and May, 1898. The report of last year confessed a partial failure due to the unwillingness of the district committees to refer their families to the churches which on the invitation of the society have accepted the responsibility for particular districts. A rule was adopted in November, 1899, abolishing the discretion of the district committees, and requiring the reference of all families residing within the assigned districts,