« PreviousContinue »
1. The improvement of the laws in relation to public offenses
and offenders, and the modes of procedure by which such
2. The study of the causes of crime, the nature of offenders
and their social surroundings, the best methods of deal
ing with offenders and of preventing crime. 3. The improvement of the penal, correctional and reforma
tory institutions throughout the country, and of the government, management and discipline thereof, including the appointment of boards of trustees and of other officers.
4. The care of, and providing suitable and remunerative em
ployment for discharged prisoners, and especially such as may have given evidence of reformation.
One cannot read the papers and discussion of the present volume of proceedings of the American Prison Association without being impressed with the constant and unusual emphasis given to the subject of mental defectiveness in its relation to delinquency and crime.
This emphasis appears whether the subject discussed is discipline, probation, parole, juvenile delinquency, misdemeanants, prevention, discharged prisoners or jail administration. The conclusion is inevitable that we are becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that there is a complicating element, heretofore largely unrecognized, running all through our problem of crime and delinquency.
It is an element that exerts an unfavorable influence upon disciplinary methods; that nullifies in many cases the successful operation of parole and probation; that promotes juvenile delinquency; that is responsible for much of what we call petty crime, the misdemeanant; that renders more or less ineffective efforts at crime prevention; that often taxes and defeats the best efforts in behalf of discharged prisoners; one that in itself is sufficient to make our present county jail system a reproach to civilization if it were not already so. And this element is feeble-mindedness.
We do not yet know its real dimensions; we cannot with precision state just how far it extends; time and scientific research alone will tell us. That our prison and reformatory officials are awake to the importance of pushing this research work is shown in the present volume. While there is much about the subject that we do not know or can only surmise, the facts already developed indicate that the next step in the control and prevention of crime must be the identification and permanent segregation of those who become a menace to society because their criminal tendencies are stronger than their powers of inhibition.
The 1915 Congress brought together representatives from thirty-eight States, Canada and Cuba. It was anticipated that the European War, the long journey across the continent and the distractions of the PanamaPacific Exposition would combine to seriously affect the attendance at and interest in the sessions. Agreeable disappointment was met in both particulars. The number of members at the Congress was much larger than could have reasonably been expected and the interest in the sessions was maintained through to the closing session.
The character of the papers and the more than customary opportunity for discussion contributed to make the Congress a notable one.
On Tuesday afternoon the delegates were guests of Warden and Mrs. Johnson and the Board of Prison Directors at San Quentin. Going direct by boat from the prison to the Exposition grounds in the early evening, the Congress was welcomed by the Exposition officials and presented with a bronze medallion in commemoration of the occasion.
J. P. B.