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Newspaper Page Text
THE PRESENT CRIMINAL FINING SYSTEM' IS
DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD
BY JANE WH1TAKER
That the system of fines for criminals is an unfair system has such
an overwhelming weight of evidence that it cannot be contested. If a
rich man is fined for an offense he reaches down in his pocket and drags
out a roll of bills, tosses his fine to the clerk and leaves the courtroom free.
If a poor man is fined for the same offense he goes to the Bridewell
to work out that fine on a basis of fifty cents a day.
That alone is evidence of its unfairness, but a still more terrible evi
dence of it is the system of fining women of the streets, for it reverses the
admonition of the Christ to the Magdalene: "Go and sin no more," and
necessitates the prostitute going out on the street again to make up the
amount she has taken out of what she had saved or that she has bor
rowed from someone else.
Of course, she can go to the Bridewell, and some of them do go
there when they are so far down the scale of life that no one will loan
them the money to pay this fine.
But it is a farcical way to prevent prostitution, and a day in the Morals
Court would convince one of that.
I am not criticizing any judge of the Morals Court; for many times
I have sat in this court while Judge Hopkins presided over it and have
ieit tnat it was a good Providence
that put such a man there to act as
a merciful judge.
But even Judge Hopkins, who, in
my opinion, is one of the kindest
judges on the bench, was powerless
when it came to administering fines,
for he of necessity had to administer
them when the evidence proved a
woman guilty of prostitution.
But at least he was merciful, and
he made the fines as light as he could
and consequently placed the mini
mum penalty on the woman. Wheth
er Judge Goodenow, who is now in
charge of this court will follow in the
footsteps of Judge Hopkins remains
to be seen, but the system should be
The girls who come in that court
are pitiable. Some of them have
gone under in the industrial struggle;
some of them are subnormal; some
of them have sinned through love and
then paid the penalty that all women
pay so long as the world refuses to
recognize the right of a woman to be
as weak as her nattfre and allows
only a man that privilege.
But if a girl goes under througn
any of these reasons, at the present
time there is little or no chance for
her rehabitation. It is possible that
the girl who succumbed to industrial
injustice may be given a position
which would enable her to live, but it
is doubtful. The panacea in. this
case is usually a job at housework
in some home where the girl is paid
low wages and given no respect be
cause of her lapse.
And if the girl is subnormal she
needs treatment just the same as
though she were physically ill, and
this treatment is not secured through
placing a fine upon her which drives
her on the street again.
And if she is a girl who has yielded
to love there is little to be said, for
only that girl knows just how bitterly
she may have tried for rehabilitation
and found that the good people in the
world are too narrow to judge her by
a human understanding.
If we would abolish prostitution we
would have to supply positions for
girls who were unable to live on
what they previously earned and in
dustrial training for those unskilled.
We would have to provide medical
treatment for the girl who is sub-
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