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Vol. IX.—No. 8, PRISON CONGRESS. ADDRESS BY WARDEN WOLFER ON THE PAROLE SYSTEM- A System of Penology Based on Humane and Rational Foundation. ITS EFFECTS ARE BENEFICIAL Much has been said and written and much speculation indulged in concern ing the trend of modern penology. Be tween the theorist and the practical worker there is ever open a field for de bate. In discussing the subject assigned to me, “The Parole System in Peniten tiaries," I desire to present only a few brief thoughts that have occurred to me in the experience we have had in what I believe to be the practical ap plication of the grading and parole system in a prison. As a champion of the system, I wish to record it as my honest conviction that the grading and parole system, properly applied, furnishes the only foundation for the adjustment of a humane and rational system of prison government. When I say prison gov ernment, I mean all that may be im plied as necessary in the management of penal institutions—prisons as well as reformatories. If the parole system is good for the reformatory it is also good for the prison, for it is conceded that all pris ons should be reformatory in character, in so far as they may be made so by the adoption of the best means attain able for the bringing out of reforma tory effects. Our experience in the application of the grading and parole system has stimulated a growing con fidence in its efficacy. It will enable the management to come nearer reach ing all grades and conditions of men (criminals) than any other system yet introduced. Environment, one of the most potent factors in the development or retrogression of human character, is here strongly exemplified. It places the prisoner in his prison community as the citizen in the enjoyment of all his rights. As he obeys the laws and keeps in harmony with the require ments of good government, he makes progress. In proportion as he fails to do so he retrogrades. Every inducement is thus aiTorded the prisoner for the cultivation of habits of obedience, industry, vigilance and the best application of his mental and physical abilities. It recognizes every honest, manly effort put forth on the part of the prisoner to raise him self in the scale of manhood. In other words, the administration, through the help of well regulated grading and pa role system manages to govern well by governing as little as possible. The adjustment of the system is the govern ment itself, and its operation is in har mony with the internal elements of in dividual rights and self respect, thus creating a powerful leverage for the regulation of human conduct. It has the sympathy and support of the best elements of the prison population. Any prison government, or, for that matter, any government that does not have the support of its best members cannot succeed, as the object of all prison government is for the protection of society and reformation of the criminal. All systems of prison govern ment that do not conduce to this end are failures. My experience has been that there can always be found material in any prison upon which the grading and parole system can be made to work with perfect success. It brings out the best elements of a prison popula- tion and relegates to the rear the un worthy. Those who cannot or do not wish to qualify as worthy of parole privileges will be at least benefited by its presence. Its judicial application will raise the moral tone of the prison and will teach every inmate, in spite of himself, some of the most salutory les sons of life, thus laying a foundation for self government and discipline which would have saved many of them from the felon’s cell had they enjoyed its benefits earlier in life. By careful supervision it will give the manage ment almost perfect control of all its wards under such favorable conditions as to inspire in the prisoner an inner consciousness that he is and must be master of himself; that whatever dis ciplinary measures are inflicted are self-imposed; that in proportion as he succeeds in gaining a good grade stand ing he contributes to a condition of self government and makes himself a better man. This knowledge stimulates him in his efforts to overcome his weaknesses and in the cultivation of habits of in dustry, good order and manly conduct. I’nder its stimulus the whole atmos phere of the prison is raised to a higher plane. Cheerful obedience to all rules and regulations are given in a spirit of good will. The prisoner must recog nize and cannot but feel (unless wholly bad) that the interests of the adminis tration are his own best interests; that in proportion as it succeeds he also must succeed. As the object of imprisonment and prison government is for the protec tion of society and for the reformation of the prisoner, it is plain that the state does not discharge its obligation until one or both of these objects have been clearly accomplished. If the prisoner can not be reformed he should remain in prison indefinitely. The general use of the grading and parole system in our prisons, together with its concomitant, the indeterminate sentence, seems to me to open up the way for the accomplishment of both of these results. The lines along which the parole system operates are in har mony with and a necessary part of the indeterminate sentence. The best prison managers of the country, as well as other students of penology, have in dorsed the indeterminate sentence. It seems to me that their harmonious co operation will soon bring about in all of our prisons such a uniform system of prison government as will embrace not only the grading and parole system in a high degree of elliciency, but also its capsheaf, the indeterminate sen tence, together with such a perfect sys tem of identification as will enable the management to quickly apprehend and return to prison those who will not abstain from lives of crime. All students of penology agree that a person convicted of crime should be committed to prison as the insane per son to an asylum, to remain there un til cured or until it shall appear reason ably safe to test his purpose and ability to lead an honest life, and that when the prisoner has given such evidence of his purpose to lead an honest and self-supporting life, he is entitled to trial. How 7 can he be schooled for cit izenship in prison without the grading system? How tried, w r hen he has ap parently given all necessary proof of his ability to live honestly, without the parole system ? And finally, how can substantial benefits be derived in the way of protection to society and the reformation of the criminal without the indeterminate sentence ? Men convicted of crimes w 7 ho possess criminal instincts and follow lives of crime from choice dislike nothing so much as the grading and parole system, the indeterminate sentence, and the Bertillion system of measurement for the identification of criminals. In all of these systems he almost intuitively “IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO MEXD.” STILLWATER, MINNESOTA, SEPTEMBER 26, 1895. discovers great danger to his liberty. Once prove to this class of our criminal population that the grading and parole system, the indeterminate sentence and the Bertillion system of identification have come to stay as a part of a uni form system of prison government, to be administered by trained and efficient prison officers, and you will have re duced the prison population by one half in a comparatively short time. All who have observed the criminal and his ways know that speedy apprehension and punishment for crimes committed are to the criminal the most powerful deterrents. Under our present imper fect system, as a whole, lacking in uni formity and methodical management, the criminal sees many loopholes for possible escape. He commits crime with impunity, consoling himself with the thought that if apprehended he will manage somehow to escape punish ment; that if imprisoned, it will be but a short time at most, because, as he be lieves, he will soon work his way to lib erty by the various methods so well known to the criminal. Ilis easy ex- HENRY WOLFER. WARDEN MINNESOTA STATE PRISON. perience in defeating the ends of jus tice adds zest to his appetite for new 7 adventures, and he goes forth with renewed zeal to again try his luck, determined on profiting by past experience to the extent only of avoiding future meshes along the same road. The hazardous excitement attending this kind of a life has its chai as for the adventurous criminal, so ng as there are so many chances for scape. Cut off these chances, and he vfll be among the first to discover the aanged condition. Demonstrate that t..e crim inal will be vigorously and intelligently dealt with by a uniform system of prison government, such as I have out lined, and by one master-stroke you wilL have influenced one-half of our criminal population to abandon lives of crime. Reduce his chances of escape, and you will lessen in a corresponding degree his desire for following a life of crime. Convince the criminally in clined that they cannot escape the con sequences of violated laws, or that their chances are reduced to a mini mum, and you will have struck a tell ing blow at the very roots of crime. Since medical science has discovered and demonstrated the germ theory of disease, a growing feeling exists that all disorders to which tiesh is heir are more or less contagious. This, I believe to be equally as true of crime. Turn one shrewd, cunning criminal loose in a community, and he will sow seeds of crime wherever he can find susceptible ground. The damage he is capable of doing is incalculable. Suddenly we hear of some criminal act in our midst perpetrated by one we have known for years. We are shocked and grieved, and cannot fathom its meaning. But a careful investigation into the details of his life will show that while there has been a gradual moral degeneracy going on for some time, the seeds of that disorder were sown some years be fore and the crime is but the budding of the seeds sown on fruitful ground. I)o away with this death destroying, seed-planting leper and fewer criminals will be made. The system of prison government I have outlined is admirably adapted for the treatment of the habitual criminal, and for caring for him indefinitely when he cannot be cured. I believe that it is the experience of every prison man that there are few reforms in well developed criminal natures under our present imperfect system of manage ment. The criminal by nature is a migratory animal, traveling from one state to another, lie learns about the laws and methods of prison manage ment in practice in the different states. He is alert and wide-awake. When arrested for crime he makes a most able defense guided by ripe experience in a life of crime, and nine times out of ten, if convicted at all, gets a lighter sentence than the accidental criminal. I believe that every experienced prison warden here will agree with me when I say that at least one-third of all the prisoners discharged from our pris ons intend at the time of their release to again return to lives of crime. When this fact can be demonstrated almost to a mathematical certainty before a man is released from prison, what a travesty upon justice to turn them loose. What an injustice to society. How r un fair to the criminal himself. The state, TcD ,,c,. ( SI.OO per year, in advance i Six Months 50cents. in the enactment of laws, promises pro tection to its citizens. Does she do it when she turns an habitual criminal loose upon.the unsuspecting public? It has been suggested that the grading and parole systems in our prisons will open the way for the release of danger ous criminals. We can say, after over three years' experience, that if the dan gerous criminal is thus liberated, it is not the fault of the system. I will not contend that it cannot occur, but I do assert that when it does occur, it is not the fault of the system, but in the im perfect method of its application and in a shortsighted judgment of the man agement. Properly administered, the grading and parole system is the greatest pos sible protection against the premature release of the criminal. Under its in- fluence a humane and healthy standard of discipline can be maintained with very little severe punishment. The prisoner is taught that he must be mas ter of himself, lie makes his existence in prison fairly tolerable, or can render it as turbulent and disagreeable as he pleases. Whether in the school room or at the work bench, these conditions are ever present and must decide ‘Tor weal or for woe.” What better op portunity can be desired on the part of the management to study the pur pose and character of a prisoner ? The best proof that we have had that the grading and parole system is inline with a high order of prison manage ment is the fact that the only dissatis fied members of our penal body politic are the so-called professional criminals. Among some of the safeguards adopted by the management of our prison to prevent deception and to guard against the release of the unworthy on parole, I will mention the following: When first admitted the prisoner is carefully examined. A brief history of his life is recorded. When length of time served, conduct, as indicated by grade standing and by personal observation as to character make him eligible to parole as far as his prison record is con cerned, he is again called into the War den's oflice for personal examination. lis past history is gone over again. He is required to tell the complete personal story of his past life, giving names of people he has worked for, places where he has lived, dates, etc., together with the names and addresses of at least one half dozen reputable people who can vouch for the truthfulness of state ments made. All this may be veriiied by correspondence. With such a knowl edge of the history, character and ante cedents of the prisoner, together with what has been learned during his term of imprisonment, it furnishes the man agement with a knowledge that should enable it to judge wisely in granting paroles. These precautionary measures will serve to discover the professional criminal every time, no matter how well he wears the mask. As proof that our management has been reasonably successful in this respect and that few mistakes need be made in granting pa roles, I will say that out of 130 prison ers paroled out of our prison in the last three years only three have broken their paroles and became fugitives from jus tice. Ten, all told, have been returned to prison for not living up to parole laws. Only one out of the whole num ber paroled, so far as the management has been able to ascertain, has returned to a life of crime. The sifting process of individual ex amination that the safe application of this system requires fixes the character identity so clearly that few mistakes need be made. This is evidenced, I think, in the record made by the man agement of our prison, which is made all the more apparent when the fact is taken into consideration that many of the prisoners have been held under pa role from one to two years, instead of six months, a 3 required generally under reformatory sentences.