The Quinlan Mirror. (Quinlan, Okla.), Vol. 6, No. 16, Ed. 1 Thursday, July 2, 1908 Page: 4 of 8
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PROBLEM OF THE
HOW SHALL VAGRANCY EVIL BE CHECKED?
Laws of Various States Have Proved Unequal to the
Task—Elaborate System for the Cure of Habitual
Idleness in Force on the Continent of Europe—Is
Striking Contrast to the Futile Efforts That Have
Been Made Here in the United States.
NEW YORK.—The course of the
vagrant's life ts In & vicious cir
clo. Street, park bench, cheap
lodging house, court, Jail, street,
brake-beam, court, jail, etc.; bo it
goes, from month to month, from hand
to mouth, from city to city. More ac
curately stated, the vagrant's course
1b spiral and downward, with accel
erated momentum toward demordiiza
tion, disease and death. Along his
road are certain "rescue BlationB"—
charitable societies, missions, curb-
stone breadlines, Industrial homes,
personnl visitations in alcoholic wards.
These are efforts to extend the help-
ing band, to switch the vagrant from
the circular track to the "straight
ahead line." But generally the mo-
mentum is too great. Failures are re-
corded far in excess of even imagined
successes writes O. F. Lewis of the
Charity Organization society in the
New York Times.
When we seek, by imprisonment, to
deal wilh the individual "vag," what
do we find? Generally Ineffective, In-
adequate, unjtiBt methods of punish-
ment, so futile as to be ridiculous,
were they not so tragic. We find cor-
rectional methods in Jail that, Instead
of correcting, debase, methods as
vagrant as are the prisoners. We be-
lieve that each man who is able
should contribute his Bhare of the
day's work. Nature abhorB a vacuum,
and the community in general abhors
the constitutional idler. If the drone
work not, neither shall he eat. We
believe that crime should be punished.
Vagrancy is a crime under the law.
Punishment is generally and neces-
sarily effected by the restraint of lib-
erty, within a penal institution. Van
rants are imprisoned generally in Jails
But how 7
What are the conditions of Ameri-
Do they check vagrancy?
Do they puniah justly?
Do they reform?
AN ANSWER has recently been
made public which is a scathing
arraignment of conditions In a great
majority of American county Jails, all
the more scathing and staggering be-
cause made after a careful investlga-
Uon by a committee of the National
Prison Congress, which does not seek
sensationalism. The * following para-
graphs are almost random quotations
from the report:
) "If the only or chief purpose of jails
w«re to keep wild beasts In cages,
most of the jails are well enough
adapted for this purpose. . . . The
customary mode of serving food is re-
volting, demoralizing and often dan
gerous to health. . . . Often we must
imagine bunk over bunk, in the same
cell or cage, crowded until the horrors
of stenSh or suffocation are indescrib-
able. . . . Under an open jail system
the filthiest, vilest prisoner punishes
«r tortures those who have not yet
■unk to his level. . . . The very Btruc-
"In Birmingham, Ala., 240 men In 72
cells; 25 women In ten cells. . . .
The Inmates of jails are chiefly of two
daBses—those awaiting trial and con-
victed misdemeanants. . . . The ordi-
nary term of convicted misdemean-
ants, vagrants and inebriates is too
short for any sort of industrial train
ing or systematic production. A care-
ful study of the situation in all parts
of the land has long ago driven muny
to the conclusion that we must have
district labor colonies or workhouses
for those convicted of offenses, and
that the term of degenerates must be
at least two years, If we really intend
to fit them for useful lives."
THE committee plainly showB that
under present conditions and laws
the county jail must provide for males
and females; children, youth and
adults; first, offenders, habitual crimi-
nals, vagabonds, prostitutes; wit-
nesses held for their testimony; poor
debtors whose crime Is their poverty;
idiots, Imbeciles, InBane, epileptics,
persons arrested on suspicion, and
apoplectics whom the sapient police
man could not distinguish from drunk
aids. All these, says the report, are
often under one roof and management,
in a building so built that cries and
whispers travel along a corridor with
cages open at the side.
Now, what chance Is there in the
average jail for the reformation of the
imprisoned vagrant? We may think
that. Jack London draws the long bow
In his picturesque descriptions of life
on (he road, but in his tale of Impris-
onment in the Erie county jail he
never wrote of such horrifying condl
tlons as are described by the report
of the committee, of which Prof.
Charles R. Henderson of the Unlver
slty of Chicago was chairman. What
chance, above all, has the detained
witness or suspect, held In the jail for
his testimony, and innocent before the
law until he is proven guilty? What
chance has he of not suffering con
lamination and gaining a hatred of so-
ciety that will not die? In many coun-
ty Jails the only exercise "enjoyed"
by the prisoners is in a common large
room, with steel grating separating it
from the surrounding corridors, and
called In Jail parlance the "bull pen."
ARE we not then in a wretched di-
lemma, we who urge that the
vagrant receive treatment that will
deter and reform? Shall we, know-
ing Jail conditions, allow him to roam
at large? But the vagrant habit Is fos
tered by Idleness, mendicancy and the
absence of prosecution. Even as it Is.
the unwillingness of many police offi
clals or magistrates to prosecute
tramps Is well known. When the
vagrant is told to "get out of town or
be run In" he of course decamps, and
the town finances are spared, while
the neighboring community receives
the shifted burden. Yet if the con-
victed vagrant is sent to jail he be-
comes a Bource of contamination to
tktOa U Umint b*
Table showing the prisoners committe d in the United States for vagrancy
in 1904, the length of sentences,, and the percentages of commitments
for various periods.
ture of the ordinary jail Is radically
wrftng, and offends against the laws of
health. . . . Almost all the reports
from Jails record the dull, mononton-
oub, maddening tramp of prisoners
walking aimlessly up and down the
corridor. ... It is the path of lunacy.
Why not have walled yards In the
open air, partly sheltered from rain,
covered over with steel wire to pre-
vent escape? But this plau is rarely
thought of. . . . Card playing is the
universal resource for passing the dull
and anxious waking hours."
Many examples are given of exces-
Instances to toe penitentiary. Boston,
Lowell and other Massachusetts towns
report sending some vagrants to the
state farm, where there Is a nine
months' sentence. In these jails and
workhouses the labor required, when
there is any, consists generally of
breaking Btone in quarry or in Jail
yard, roadmaklng, cbalrcaning, chair-
making and farm work. This work is
"on paper." There Is little or no ef
fort made to bring reformative influ-
ences to bear on those serving short
sentences or to teach a trade. Even
at. the Massachusetts slate farm,
where the workhouse conditions are
far better than in most correctional
Institutions Where misdemeanantS of
the vagrant or inebriate class are con-
fined, the Industries maintained seem
to be far more largely carried on as
sentences than as chances to earn
MANY of the cities use the Bertlllon
system of identification measure-
ments. One chief reports asking the
"usual questions," another the "name
and address"—as though a vagrant's
name and address would be of value!
What a contrast is this to the elabor-
ate Belgian system for the Identifica-
tion of vagrants, which centers in the
"easier centrale de vagabondage," a
general identification bureau at Brus-
sels? In Belgium the process of trying
an arrested vagrant Is speedy and
thorough. As soon as the police arrest
a vagrant they communicate by tele-
graph with Brussels. Within a few
hours there !b sent back from Brus-
sels by telegraph a full description of
the vagrant and of his previous career,
If anything of the prisoner Is on rec-
ord. On the following morning the
magistrate, who is a graduate of the
university, has before him sufficient
material about this particular vagrant
ed vagrant is sent to a malson de ref-
uge, which, besides acting as a kind
of almshouse for the aged and handi-
capped, serves somewhat as do the
voluntary colonies of Germany for
those wanderers who at the time of
their coming within the law are unfit
through ignorance, illness or inefficien-
cy to tnake their living.
Thirdly, Belgium does not expect
that any large proportion of Its vag-
rant population will be reformed.
Most of the vagrants at Merxplas are
recidivists, repeaters, who have
reached their present position through
Fourthly, Belgium believes that va-
grancy, being a social diBease devel-
oped through months and years, can-
not be cured by 30 days of idleness In
a demoralizing Jail. The average term
of detention Is 16 months, long enough
to effect a considerable cure, If cure
In Germany and In Switzerland the
treatment of the habitual vagrant Is
similar to that prevailing in Belgium.
There are 24 compulsory labor colo-
nies In Germany, the average length
of sentence being one year. Numerous
Industries are carried on and the cost
Is comparatively small. These work-
houses have diminished vagrancy,
while the 34 voluntary lahor colonies,
accommodating nearly 4,000 persons,
show no evidence of any substantial
improvement resulting from the time
spent In the colonies. In Switzerland
there are several compulsory colonies,
the sentences being from six months
to two yearB.
THE Swiss colony of Wltzwyl, which
Mr. Edmond Kelly has recently de-
scribed In detail In his book on "The
Elimination of the Tramp," shows that
in a certain proportion of cases the
inmates committed to a compulsory
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PRISONERS COMMITTED IN THE UNITED STATES DURING 1904.
Tha table classifies the principal offe nses, showing total number of sen-
tences for each offense and perce ntage of each class of offenses to total
number of sentences, 149,691.
other inmates, and In addition he Is
often glad to hibernate or spend a few
weeks where warmth, food, idleness
and the company of virions fellows Is !
assured. Are we not often, by admin-
istering the law. condemning the vag
rant to further depths of degeneracy?
What do the repprts of chiefs of po-
lice show? The writer recently re-
ceived extended reports from 60
chiefs, representing as many different
cities, representative of large and I
small municipalities. The letters |
showed that in most instances vag- j
rants are committed to jails. Ies3 fre-
quently to workhouses, and In a few
to enable him to form an adequate
Judgment of the case.
Coupled with this carefulness and
completeness of Investigation, regis-
tration, and adequacy of Judgment is
the Belgian system for the punish-
ment of vagrants, which differs so es-
sentially from our opportunist meth-
ods as to be staggering at first to con-
template. We "bunch" our vagrants
in law. In New York state the man
with no money, no work, and no visi-
ble means of support is a vagrant.
That, such a man 1b not often jailed,
unless the case Is aggravated by
other factors, is not the fault of the
law, so to Bpeak, but Is due to the un-
willingness of magistrates to commit
the unemployed homeless, or to the
Indifference of the authorities. But In
Belgium the state of "no work, no
home, no money" Is not a crime, un
less there Is added to that the state of
UT when Belgium does commit a
vagrant, then woe to the liberty of
that vagrant for a long period! Con-
viction Is to a depot de mendicite for
from two to seven years. The depot
de mendicite is at Merxplas, a great
industrial colony with accommodations
for about 5,000 prisoners. Here there
occurs a classification, the worst ele-
ments being at night placed in soli-
tary confinement and otherwise placed
under strict discipline. Intensive la-
bor Is carried on, the work being
graded according to the physical abili-
ty of the individual inmates.
The Belgian treatment of Vagrants
brings out prominently several facts.
the first place, Belgium believes in
gotting vagrants off the streets and
highways. Some years ago the minis-
ter Justice declared that there was
no vagabondage In Belgium. This
statement needs interpreting. There
is probably fairly little vagrancy
along the highways, because every
vagrant must be apprehended and
made to show cause through his pa-
pers, or by the absence of a record at
Brussels, why he should not be sent to
the depot de mendicite. The fact that
Merxplas contains about 5,000 in-
mates, and that the average period of
detention Is 18 months, and that the
majority of the Inmates are returned
to Merxplas for succeeding offenses
of vagrancy, shows that vagrancy If
Belgium is not eradicated from the bo-
clal body, but removed as much as
much as possible from society.
SECONDLY, Belgium does not re.
gard all vagrants alike. If there
are extenuating circumstances, or if
the case of vagrancy seems the result
of physical incapacity, the apprehend-
labor colony do not reform and rejoin
the ranks of the Industrial army. A
trained English investigator stated
recently, regarding Wltzwyl, that
there is no doubt that the fact of hav-
ing worked hard for a year or 18
months makes a man apt to get into
the habit of working, and this is be-
lieved to be the actual result in
What, then, shall we say regarding
the treatment of vagrancy in the Uni-
ted States? First, that at present it
is thoroughly inadequate. As stati.^
tics and the accompanying diagrams
show, 67 per cent, of the commitments
to penal Institutions are to county
jails and workhouses in which the
conditions are often exceptionally
bad. Drunkenness, vagrancy and dis-
orderly conduct were responsible for
more than half the commitments dur-
ing 1904 to penal institutions in the
United States. For these three of-
fenses the county jails and work-
houses, to which the large majority of
offenders are committed, offer prac-
tically no reformative influences. For
more serious crimes, such as burglary,
robbery, assault, forgery, etc., there
are reformatories and state prisons, In
which latter Institutions some reform-
atory influence is felt.
THE sentences for vagrancy are in
over 90 per cent, of the cases for
six months or less, and the largest
percentage of commitments is shown
to be for less than one month. No
cure for vagrancy can bo had under
3tich conditions. New York state
leads all other states of our country
in the number of its commitments for
vagrancy. The burden of vagrancy In
the United States was represented in
1904 hy over 28,000 commitments, be
lug about 20 per cent, of all commit-
ments to penal institutions during
This brief resume of the prerent
conditions Inevitably points to the
necessity of a material change in our
system of combating vagrancy. In
this connection it is of special inter-
est that within recent monthB a bill
has been drafted in New York state
providing for the establishment of a
farm colony upon lines very similar
to- that of the Swiss compulsory colo-
ny, Wltzwyl. This bill, which hes tha
approval of the leaclng charitable so-
cieties cf New York city and of sev-
eral trf.iik lln"s terminating In New
York, and which will be Introduced
Into the next legislature, provides for
the establishment In New York state
of a compulsory labor colony, with In-
determinate sentence, regular labor,
reformatory Influences and classifica-
tion of prisoners.
THE BALLADE OF THE THIN MAN. THE PEBBLE IN HIS SHOE.
can do all that most men do.
That Is In common run of things;
f filiate myself, enjoy It, too,
Can take a clock and mend Its springs.
Jan mow the lawn at break of day,
Full many a poker hand I've dealt;
But, O, I've never learned the way
To wear my trousers with a belt.
smoke until the air ts blur.
And I can blow a dozen rings;
Sometimes I'm out at night till 2,
Like other men I take my flings,
\t 40, baseball I Btill play,
The swiftest pitching I can welt;
Out, O, I've never learned the way
To wear my trousers with a belt.
At Ashing I'm a wonder, too,
I am the man that always brings
Homewards, when my sport is through.
Tie largest flsh, the biggest strings.
What other men can do. 1 say,
To undertake no fear I've felt;
•Jut I have never learned the way
To wear my trousers with a belt.
Prince, If you you're thin as I to-day,
IT nature stingily hath dealt
With you, 1 need not further say,
1 can't depend upon a belt.
—Detroit Free Presa.
"I was very glad." said Dr. Good-
man, "to see you in church last Sun-
Jay—glad, and also flat tered, I had
hardly hoped that my eloquence would
prove more attractive to you than
your regular Sunday morning game of
"Oh," replied the man who believed
in being candid at all times, "it wasn't
your eloquence, exactly. I have re-
cently been having a severe attack
of rheumatism in my right shoulder."
HER CANDID OPINION.
De Auber—How do you like my
landscape? Do you think I can im-
prove it any?
Miss Cutting—You might try. You
can't make it any worse!
Why He Didn't Go.
The German emperor recently can-
celed an engagement to take lunch-
eon with Prince von Hohenlohe-Bar-
tenstein, Prince Von Stolberg-Werni-
gerode, Prince von Solms Lich, Prince
von Stolberg-Rossia, Prince von Salm-
Hostmar, Prince von Benthelm-Stein-
furt and Prince von Salm-Salm. The
people of Germany can't understand
why he didn't go. It is probable that
he was afraid of getting hyphenated.
How She Lost Her Prestige.
Mistress (angrily)—How dare you
talk back to me in that way? I never
heard such impudence! You have a
lot of nerve to call yourself a lady'b
New Maid—I don't call myself that
now, ma'am; but I was a lady's maid
before I got this job.
SHOULD BE CONTENT.
Wife—My dear, you have nothing
to complain of. You have everything
that I want. What more could you wish
Bacon—Your wife's away, isn't she?
"And who is her understudy?"
"Her understudy—who darns your
socks when she's away?"—Yonkers
Can Such Things Be?
She—I see a cooking school and a
nursery are among the innovations to
be tried soon in Seattle.
He—And is there no Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Children fn
Seattle, I wonder?—Yonkers States-
Didn't Broaden Him.
"They say that travel broadens a
man," said the dark wontan.
Well, I don't know about that," re-
plied the light woman. "My husband
has been a conductor on a trolley car
for seven years, and see hi^w thin he
is!"- Yonkers Statesman.
Down along a primrose way
Where gentle breezes sweetly blew
A pessimist fared all the day
And wore a pebble in one shoe.
Ills face was blackened by a frown,
He seemed to bear a nameless dread;
He heard no music sifting down
Through leafy branches overhead.
Although the world was at Its best,
With Peace untroubled on her thronat
He carried sorrow In his breast
And hopelessness was In his tone.
Down along a primrose way
Where gentle breezes sweetly blew
The pessimist fared all the day
And kept tile pebble In his shoe.
—8. E. Kiser. In Chicago Record-Herald.
SHE KNEW THOSE FRIENDS.
Mistress—You must get dressed
early to-day, Jane, for I have friends
coming to see me.
Jane—Yus, mum. An' shall 1 re-
move the humbrellas?
Her Only One.
Mr«. Crlmsonbeak—You ought to be
arrested for making me go on the
street with that same old dress an-
Mr. Crimsonbeak—Well, dear, you'd
probably be arrested If you went on
the street without wearing it!—
It Might Have Been.
"I think," said the ordinary citizen,
"that I have met you before."
"Perhaps you have—perhaps you
have," replied the long-haired young
man who had at last succeeded in sell-
ing one of his poems to a magazine.—
Editor (as a manuscript falls on,
floor, Instead of in the waste basket)
—Even that basket won't accept it!—•
Redd—Don't you believe that de-
lays are dangerous?
Greene—I certainly do. I broke
down in my automobile the other day,
and had nothing to do to amuse the
girl but propose to her.—Yonkers
Wants the Big Ones.
The Major—About 700,000 deml.
Johns are made yearly in this coun.
try, but the largest sizes are Im-
The Colonel—Yes, we all seem to
hanker after Imported things, don't
AN APOLOGY, BUT NOT HERS.
Inoffensive Citizen (who has beeft
trampled upon and nearly had an eye
jabbed out)—Er—I'm slightly deaf.
Perfect Lady—I didn't speak.
Inoffensive Citizen—Oh, forgive me
—I thought you said "I beg your paP-
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Tipton, W. B. The Quinlan Mirror. (Quinlan, Okla.), Vol. 6, No. 16, Ed. 1 Thursday, July 2, 1908, newspaper, July 2, 1908; Quinlan, Oklahoma. (gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc174351/m1/4/: accessed December 12, 2017), The Gateway to Oklahoma History, gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.