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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Personal Volume

Prisons and Prisoners

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Prisons and Prisoners

To-night I propose to address you on one phase of our social life—on our prisons and prisoners. It is a branch of a much larger question—namely, in what relationship does the individual stand to the State? The State is the name we use for the community as a whole. The individual is a part of the State: he has, it is said, his rights or his privileges, and the State power is not unlimited. What the exact relationship is to be has, in the past, led to much discussion, and even at times to civil war. It is doubtful if the problem of "the One and the Many" in State action, or in metaphysics, has been solved, or ever will be solved. The problem changes as man develops, and if it is said our views of morality have changed, and will yet chance, as Professor Frazer points out in his preface to his work on 'Taboo,' we must expect that this relationship of "the One to the Many" may assume different phases as time goes on. In all social life wherever men are living in a community there must be rules for the guidance of conduct, and these rules must be observed by the dwellers in the community. There must be some tribunal to enforce these rules. Were this not the case, the strongest, the most tyrannical, and the most uncoscientious would rule, and slavery, not liberty, would prevail. Order in its truest sense would be unknown. We must recognise that all human beings are not equal. There is not equality of physical strength, of mental ability, nor of moral quality amongst our people. It has been so in the past. We recall the career of tyrants, as well as the lustre shed on humanity by men and women of genius, and the lives of persons of both sexes whom we call saints. But though we recognise that disparity, not equality, prevails amongst human beings, we still lay it down as the basis of our social life that there are certain inalienable human rights—the right to live, the right of freedom and of liberty so long as the exercise of that freedom and that liberty does not interfere with the liberty and freedom of the other members of the community. Our hope is that the moto of the French Revolution. "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," will have an abiding home in all communities.

In dealing with the subject of 'Prisons and Prisoners' we must begin by acknowledging that there must be rules—we call them laws—in our social life. As Professor Frazer has pointed out, the most primitive social communities had such rules, and, if they were infringed, swift and sometimes drastic punishment was inflicted on the offender. Wherever there is any community, however primitive—or, as we sometimes say, savage—or however developed, enlightened, or free, the offender against the laws of the community is punished. It is so in our private societies or associations or unions. The most democratic of our voluntary societies punishes the in finger of its laws. It may be by a fine, or by the expulsion of the offender, or it may be by giving him an opprobrious name. Have we not heard a fellow being called a "blackleg" if he has offended the rules of some trade union? And the calling of that name may have an injurious effect—perhaps more injurious than even a short term of imprisonment. All communities, there fore, recognise that there must be rules, and that these rules must be enforced; and if the community is a free community they will be enforced by an enlightened public opinion through independent tribunals.

The rules of the community are made for the preservation of life and of liberty. A breach of such social rules constitutes a crime which, when committed, strikes a blow at social order. No free community can permit disorders which threaten the lives and the liberty of its people. These must be put down. The question is how host to prevent their occurrence and recurrence.

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You may remember what the author—a New Zealand settler—wrote in his book called 'Erewhon' about the treatment of those who broke the laws of that community. The public offender in 'Erewhon' was sent to a hospital, and the sick were sent to gaol. I wonder if the founder of the Moutessori system of child education had read 'Erewhon.' In a school, conducted according to the Montessori methods, a child who is "naughty," who breaks the rules of the school is treated as being sick, and is quarantined in the school room. No other child goes near it, and though the child has books, pictures, and the usual Montessori articles given to it, it is left severely alone until released from quarantine. We have not yet followed the example of the people of Erewhon, but our ideas of prison management have greatly changed, and who knows but that we may yet come to recognise that the proper name for our prisons is "Erewhon hospitals." In the past it was believed that criminals were possessed by demons. Some of us may have heard of a man being indicted—that is, formally charged in our courts as a murderer, the indictment stating that "not having the fear of God before his eyes, hut being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, . . . "did kill and murder "... the person named. The Courts did not require this statement to be proved. We use no such terms nowadays in our indictments. The time was when our gaols were "pest" houses, and the danger of prisoners spreading the contagion was so great that flowers were placed on the bench to prevent infection. As an example of how long old customs tarry with us, you will often see a bunch of flowers put on our bench at criminal trials. The belief in Demoniac possession is dead save amongst a very few illiterate superstitious people, and the health of our prisoners is higher than that of law-abiding citizens.

The treatment meted out to out public offenders is according to the offence committed being proved before a jury or admitted by the accused. Our statutes provide that in cases of murder a capital sentence is imposed. For less offences there are these provisions:—
1.The offender may be allowed free "on parole," it may be termed—that is, he or she is allowed to go free, and will not be called up for sentence unless there is some new misbehaviour. "Parole" is sometimes granted even though the offender may have been previously convicted. In such a case ho is not imprisoned.
2.If he is a first offender, and has hitherto borne a good character, he may be released on probation—that is, he is not sent to prison, but he has to obey certain rules or conditions. Some of these may be that he has to pay the whole or part of the cost of his prosecution, or take work approved of by the probation officer, or reside in a certain district, or not go out after 6 o'clock or some other hour at night, or not smoke cigarettes, or not enter a hotel, or not taste intoxicating liquor, or report himself to the probation officer at certain times, or pay some recompense to the citizen he may have injured.
3.He may he sentenced to reformative detention. On this senence, if he is a youth, he is generally sent to one of our out-of-door prisons like Waikeria or Kaingaroa, or to Invercargill. The main difference between such a prisoner and one sentenced to ordinary imprisonment is that he is at once placed Wider the jurisdiction of the Prisons Board. The are may recommend probation or discharge. A reformative detention sentence is sometimes given alone, and it may be for any term not exceeding 10 years. It is sometimes given in addition to and along with a sentence of imprisonment, with or without hard labor. This imprisonment sentence is called the "head sentence," and the Prisons Hoard's jurisdiction does not arise till the head sentence has been served.
4.He may be sentenced to n term of imprisonment with or without, hard labor. If the sentence exceeds two years' imprisonment, the Minister of Justice may, when half the sentence has been served, allow the Prisons Hoard to consider the case, and the board may treat the prisoner as one sentenced to reformative detention.
5.An offender who has been guilty of two sexual offences or four other offences of a specified kind may be declared an habitual criminal. This declaration alone may be made, or he may be sentenced to imprisonment and this declaration added. If declared an habitual criminal his sentence is an indeterminate one, and he is only released from gaol on the recommendation of the Prisons Board, unless he is pardoned by the Governor. There is also provision for those guilty of continued minor offences being declared habitual offenders, and these are dealt with as if they were habitual criminals. This declaration is not often made.
The First Offenders Act was passed in 1886, and; has proved very beneficial. So far, it may be said that between 80 and 90 per cent, of those released on probation have not cmur again before our Court as offenders. Many habitual criminals have been let out on probation, and some have page break been discharged after a term of probetion some have been released several times on probation. Many of these seem incorrigible, but the Prisons Board has wisely determined that they will not close the door of hope even to the hardened offender. The board realises that it must try and try again to give even the worst habitual criminal a chance to reform, so long as he is not a menace to the lives of our citizens. Some have been redeemed, and are now, as far as is known, living honest lives. And of others what James Russell Lowell said is true:

Men ain't made angels in a day,
No matter how you would and labor 'em.

Before dealing with the prisons. I may mention that provision is made for habitual criminals and the reformative detentionists earning some money when in gaol. The amount that may he earned is 3s 3d per week. This is banked for them, and earns interest. When thew are released the money is paid to them, or used for enabling them to become industrious citizens. I understand this privilege is to be extended to all prisoners.

There is no need to mention police or minor prisons, where only persons on remand, or who have had minor sentences passed on them, are, confined. The principal prisons which illustrate the method followed in our detention system are:—

1. Invercargill, which has our most upto-date prison. It is a fine building, built of brick, stone, and concrete, entirely by prison labor. The cells are airy and well lighted, and to most of them the sun has access during some part of the day. It has a large gymnasium and a lecture or school hall. The building is well situated, well drained, has a garden round it, and it has every convenience. Most of the inmates work out of doors. Very important reclamation works have been done over a large area, and part of this reclamation has been set aside for a prison farm. The prisoners work well, and appear to work harder than free men. In the gaol concrete blocks are made, and concrete roofing for buildings. Telegraph poles are made of reinforced concrete. There is n school and a schoolmaster provided. This new depaiture in prison life has been very successful. In Invercargill, however, as elsewhere, there are mental degenerates that are almost impossible of much development. Provision is made for physical drill and gymnastic exercises. There are also lectures delivered in the winter evenings, and debates are held amongst the prisoners. The prisoners have the rise of a library. Physically, the prisoners are much improved by their detention in Invercargill. They gain in weight and in muscular development. The rations here are larger than in the North. Everything is done to encourage mental development and moral stability.

2. Poparua is a new farm prison, It is situated a few miles out of Christchurch, on the plains. Buildings have been put up by the prisoners; the land is used by a farm. In 1916—I have not yet seen the 1917 report—there were, outside the gress-area, 210 acres under cultivation. 122 acres were in oats, 22 acres in potatoes, 6 in mangolds, 17 in turnips and silver bet, 24 in mixed grasses, 16 in lucerne, and 3 in ordinary vegetables. There were about 450 head of sheep, and the increase of lambs was 120 per cent. Many improvements have been male on the farm. The prisoners generally lead an open-air life but, in addition to farm work, a few of them are making reinforced concrete telegraph poles and concrete building block.

3. Lyttelton is one of the old type of prisons, and will no doubt soon be declared obsolete. There is some quarrying done by the prisoners. Inside this goal all the boots, shoes, and slippers required by he prisoners in the various prisons are manufactured. There are also some made for inmates of mental hospitals. The workmanship is very good.

4. Addington is the female prison for the Dominion. We have very few female offenders. Of the daily average of prisoners in all the Dominion prisons in 1916. 895 were males and only 82 females. This is much to the credit of our women. The prison buildings stand in the middle of a large garden. The inmates do gardening work, raising both vegetables and flowers. They have also done much Red Cross work in making garments, etc., for our troops. No less than 5424 articles were made by them in 1916. Lectures ave given occasionally to the prisoners. There is much need of the classification of prisoners, especially in this prison, where hardened offennders are associated with young girls and first offenders.

5. Wellington Prison is an old prison, and is badly arranged, and will no doubt soon be declareed obsolete. Prisoners in Wellington do brickmaking at Mount Cook Reserve. There are two workshops there, where engineering work is done. At Point Halswell various public works have been constructed, such as houses, jetties, roads made etc. In 1916 801,000 ricks were made. There is a large tailoring estalishment in the prison, which furnishes the uniforms for the prison staff of the Dominion and clothing for the prisoners.

6. Waikeria is a prison farm of about 1,200 acres in extent. A fine brick and stone and concrete building has been erected by prison labor. The building is well arranged, and well lit and comfortable. The farm is being improved, and roads made in and near it. In time it page break will become an excellent farm, and I hope it will remain a prison farm, and become a place for training prisoners to scientific farming.

7. The Waipa Prison Camp has, unfortunately, been closed in the meantime. It was an ideal situation, overlooking the Green Lake, and is not far from Rotorua. It had cubicles for prisoners in a garden full of flowers and vegetables, and the inmates did gardening and tree-planting. There were no walls surrounding it, and the beauty of its situation is not excelled by any house site in New Zealand. The words of the old poem by Lovelace was true of it:

Stone walls do not a prison make.
Nor iron bars a Cage.

8. Kaingnroa is a prison camp arranged on somewhat similar lines to Waipa, Here are cubicles in a flower garden, each prisoner having a separate room for himself. The prisoners are engaged in tree-planting and gardening, and do a little farming. They raise all live vegetables they require. In 1916 they planted 2,933,100 trees, and dug 1,583,700 holes for tree-planting. At this camp there is a fair library, and a room that can be used as an assembly room. The prisoners sent here are mainly first offenders or others of good conduct. There are in this prison camp several prisoners held for breaches of the Defence Act and Military Regulations. A public conscience is evidently becoming awakened even amongst lawbreakers, for some prisoners who were confined for ordinary crimes refused to speak to the defence and military prisoners, saying they would not work with them, as they were a disgrace to the Dominion in shirking their responsibilities under our military law.

9. Auckland has a large and splendidlybuilt stone prison. It was built by prison labor. It is the finest building of its class in New Zealand. In if are almost all the habitual criminals. The only out-ofdoor work done is quarrying and some building work on the gaol site. There is a school connected with the prison, with a schoolmaster in charge, meeting three nights a week. There is excellent physical drill in the prison. It is a building of the old common type of gaol, and it is so situated that there is little opportunity for out-of-door work.

We have had a prison camp near Rotoaira, where prisoners have made a most useful and necessary road from Waimarmo Plain towards Tokaanu.

The Minister of Justice has lately published the returns of the value of the work done in the gaols for 1917. It amounts lo £43,211, whilst the total cost of the prisons was £81,000. The earnings included, amongst others: Farm improvement, £3.645; boots, shoes, and slippers, £1,283; domestic work, £5,000; treeplanting and public works, etc., £15,083; etc., etc. The number of trees planted up to the end of 1916 for 16 years is 36,539,800. It is only just to our gaol management under our provincial system to state that in Dunedin, before the abolition of the provinces, in some years the value of the work done by the prisoners would, if it had been done by free labor, mure than equalled the total maintenance of the gaol.

I think we may congratulate ourselves on what has so far been accomplished in prison management. Many prisoners are being trained to an industrial life. Many are liaving a neglected education improved. They are free from any temptation; they are living a healthy life; and their wills are being disciplined, in one or two of the gaols they are not denied what may be termed pleasures and amusements. Much, however, remains to be done. May 1 sketch some things which could be done without entailing much expenditure.

The records show, as I have stated, that female offenders are relatively few in number. We have, however, some who have had many convictions recorded against them. Their offences have never been very seriors, but they are going in and coming out of gaol perhaps two or three times a year. Many of them seem incorrigible, and they ought not to be associated with young women or with first offenders. In my opinion, just as we recognise that there are persons who are chronic invalids, and for whom we provide a special home, so we should establish a home for these chronic offenders. It should be in a garden some distance from the town, and their sentences should be indeterminate. For their own sakes and for the safety of the community they should not be released until it was clear that they could not physically nor morally barm others. The reformation of drunkards should be attempted by similar methods. No doubt the Salvation Army has done good work at Roto-Roa and Pakatoa but there is not, and cannot be, the strict discipline in these Army homes that exists in a Government institution. The Salvation Army retreats could still be utlised by those who desire to go to them for voluntary treatment. There should be some training in self-reliance given to all our prisoners. We know what has been done in some places in the United States. There games are allowed, such as baseball, etc., and there is a tribunal established, presided over by prisoners that deals with prison offences. Some prisons there have mutual welfare leagues that provide for classes and lectures. It is page break said that the prisoners who sit in judgment on prisoners for breaches of the rules of the prison are more strict than visiting justices. Might we not try this system in New Zealand for the purpose of training our prisoners in self-control aind self-government. A prisoner should not only feel and know that he is (and for, arid that our community desires to Sit him, a good citizen, but he should fuel that he is trusted, and be should be allowed to begin to rule himself and realise his duty as a citizen. Further, in my opinion, all our gaols should be openair gaols, and the moro work that our prisoners can do out of doors and in the sun will be the better for them.

There is another reform to be undertaken, so that industry and thrift—two of the things which prisoners usually lack—should be encouraged. Our prisons are not at present self-supporting. Why should they not be self-supporting? Prisoners ought to be able to make the farms pay. Suppose we gave them the buildings free, and charged them a moderate rent for the farm proper, and credited them with the work done in improvements, and with some share of the profits on the sale of the produce, if there was a profit alter all expenses were paid they should get credit for it.

Were they made participators in the profits there would be a great incentive to work, to become efficient and to be thrifty. Prisoners require to learn the industrial spirit and the habit of thrift They need educating; they need discipline; they need industrial training; but they are human beings, and we must give them hope, and their lives should be made pleasant so long as discipline and training are not neglected. We have got rid of the idea of Demoniac possession Let us make another advance forward; perhaps a spark of goodness lies hid in the worst of them that we can develop.

Is there any hone that crime will ever cease? It was said long ago that the poor would always be with us, and we must make up our minds that there will be lawbreakers till the public conscience is awakened and the millenium arrives. But humanity is progressing, and we must have faith in the future, and we must have patience whilst ever working for a higher social life. If one considers the causes of crime, the need of work, of hope, and of patience will manifest. Heredity plays an important part in the causation of crime. We recognise heredity in the physique of men, and we know that mentality descends. There are abundant instances of both physical and mental traits being inherited. We have proof of that in the history of many families. For instance, many most eminent scientists claim Erasmus Darwin as all ancestor, and the Gregory Family has a record of more than a score of eminent and literary and scientific members. The Stephen family is equally celebrated, and so is the Cecil family, whose history stretches back to the days of Queen .Elizabeth. One representative of to-day is Mr Arthur Balfour, and he is as able as any of his ancestors in the Elizabethian era. Moral and immoral tendencies are also hereditary. One degenerate family during three or four generations produced about 300 undesirable citizens—forgers, thieves, prostitutes, etc., etc., and in our Eaols we find authenticated examples of eredity. Then we have criminals every now and again coming to us—from beyond the seas—whose past habits give no guarantee that they will become good citizens. We have also mental degenerates in whom only is a thin partition dividing them from the insane. Poverty in some eases leads to crime, and above all, there are social habits and social surroundings that tend to destroy strength of will, and which cloud the moral faculty. We have, for example slums, with overcrowding, which makes decent life Impossible. There is not much of this in New Zealand, but it is not entirely absent. Further, there is the menace of drug habits. We have not yet realised that alcohal is a poisonous drug that weakens the will of men and women and directly leads to crime. Directly, at least, one-third of our crime can be attributed to alcoho. This I know from my own experience in dealing with crimes and criminal:. Indirectly, perhaps, it has even a greater effect in the causation of crime. It car not-be questioned that some people can use alcohol without apparently any injurious results, but every year alcohal claims as its victims a third of our prsoners and perhaps half of our inefficients. And even the cigarette habit has a most deleterious effect on our youths. In deaing with these two drugs alcohol and tobacco—people who wish to see crime lessened and etlicicncy promoted can rerder most valuable service. We must have what is termed a State or a public conscience. We have heard much of late of "private consciences." It is well to have a conscience of some kind, it is well to be guided by moral considerations; but if a man or a woman sets his or her conscience above the dictates of the public conscience it does not bespeak an exalted moral attitude. I am not referring to those who are called "conscientious objectors" to our laws. Some of them, as the Quakers, having an heredity and a history behind them, are honest. The Quakers have ever been forward in public services. There are some not Quakers whose "conscientious" objections are but page break disloyalty to our State and thinly-veiled treason. If in the peril which besets the State some of her citizens do not rise to help her to maintain her existence they certainly should not be allowed to take part in the governance of the community, nor allowed the liberty, privileges, and freedom that loyal citizens possess. Fortunately there are not many such amongst us; but there are a few. They are just as criminal as the men who do not recognise the right of liberty and the claims of property.

We need a public conscience. We need to make sacrifices for the welfare of our people and of humanity. Emerson said that it we desire reform we should begin to reform ourselves. Are we now doing our duty to our country? Passing through our public gardens we often see notices placarded thus "Protect Your Own Property." That we need such notices shows that the public conscience is not fully developed. Why should we treat property that belong to the Government or the State with less care than we give to our own? Why should juries sometimes give verdicts in actions against the Government they would not give against, an individual? Would such a thing happen if we had developed a keen public conscience? And seeing how many of our weak fellow-citizens fall through the alcohol habit, is it not right that we should appeal to the strong amongst us for their help in combating this evil? Should we not feel an obligation to prevent the downfall of the criminal and the inefficient amongst us who stumble through our social habit of alcohol drinking? The National Efficiency Board have recommended that alcohol shall be abolished. Will you help? Unitarians do not rely on past sacrifices for the salvation of humanity; they recognise that if humanity is to go forward men and women of to-day must, make sacrifices for their race and for humanity here and now. Let us as individuals set an example by following the example of the United States and Canada in abolishing the trade in intoxicating liquor.

I understand that a suggestion has been made that New Zealand shall—to use an American phrase—become "dry" but that a vast sum of money some £4,000,000 or £5,000,000) shall be paid to those engaged in the traffic as compensation for depriving them of the monopoly to sell intoxicants. The basis for this proposal is first, that alcohol drinking is a great social evil; and, second, that the traffic is a must profitable one. If these grounds are admitted. I fail to understand on what principle of civil or moral right, compensation should be paid. There has been no pledge by the State that this monopoly can be or will be continued. Many districts of New Zealand are "dry," and no compensation has been paid. Most of the United States and most of the provinces of Canada are "dry,"' and no compensation has been paid. Then we have had the bars of our own hotels closed at 6 o'clock, and no compensation has been paid. Why compensate or compromise with those who are injuring the State? If we have vast sums of money to spend there are many reforms for which money is required. We need money for our industries, for our public health, for the introduction of electricity, for the completion of our railways, etc. If compensation is to be paid, would it not be more just to compenstate the dependents who have been injured through the drunkenness of the father or the mother? In our prisons and in our mental hospitals are many victims of alcohol, and, alas! there are many who have come to an untimely end by its use. Should not the families of these be compensated? In some of the American States there is a Civil Damage Law, which enables a family that has been injured by the breadwinner being hurt or killed through alcohol to sue for compensation from the supplier of the liquor. If the conscience of the Stale were keen, is there any doubt how the moral issue would be settled? Further, what is this but a compensation for an unearned increment? The Error! Hyperlink reference not valid of public-house property has been raised by public-house licenses being restricted and by the increase of population.

Let us realise our duty to the State and to humanity. If we do we shall be content to sacrifice much to ensure progress and to procure the weak and the fallen to be re-established. The individual conscience must be subervient to the public conscience. The need of selfsacrifice must be realised by the men and women of to-day. There are many calls on us; there are many social problems to be solved, and it is only by keeping the ideals of duty and self-sacrifice ever before us, and obeying the conscience for the benefit of the State that we can hope for advancement. True manhood and womanhood rests on self-government, self-knowledge, and self-sacrifice. As Tennyson has said:

Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control—
These three alone lead life to sovereign power;
Yet not for power (power of herself
Would come uncalled for), but to live by law,
Acting the law we live by without fear;
And because right is right, to follow right
Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.

Star Print, Dunedin,