Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/279

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267
EDITOR'S TABLE.

hood and disease which, in a state of nature, would be fatal. It is necessary, when humanity thus restrains the operation of the laws of Nature, that it should supply a correlative supplement to prevent disastrous consequences. If civilization and philanthropy can not permit Nature to accomplish its inexorable decrees in its own way, they must provide some other way, or finally be overwhelmed."

The practical question may therefore be very simply stated: Can a sufficient amount of public attention be concentrated on the evils that threaten us, through the disproportionate multiplication of criminals, paupers, and physically defective persons, to cause effective measures to be taken to combat those evils, and, as far as possible, extirpate their cause or causes? Mr. Boies shows clearly enough the measures to be taken, and, on the whole, we must say that we find very little to dissent from in his suggestions. He pours just denunciation on our present method of turning criminals loose upon the community after a certain term of imprisonment without the slightest guarantee, moral or other, for their future good behavior. He calls attention for the thousandth time to the evils wrought by our unwholesome methods of Jail administration. "It is the unanimous testimony," he says, "of every one who is conversant with the management of county jails that they are nothing more or less than breeders of criminals, where they are, as is generally the case, committed to the superintendence of political sheriffs." Of the jails of the State of Pennsylvania—and here the author professes to speak from personal knowledge—he says: "These jails permit a promiscuous and unrestrained commingling of the most depraved and vilest professional convicts with children, accused persons, and detained witnesses, without let or hindrance. In many cases even sexes are not separated." Upon a recent visit to the jail of Sunbury, Northumberland County, the author found, among fifty-four inmates of all classes, "two bright, nice-looking boys, one thirteen and the other fourteen years old, who had been incarcerated already two months and would have to remain two months longer before trial. They were accused of stealing four bottles of ginger beer!" Along with them was a depraved and vicious-looking boy charged with attempted rape. There are, we are told, in the United States, seventeen hundred and fifty-eight county jails and only forty-four juvenile reformatories. Great Britain, on the other hand, supports over four hundred reformatories and industrial schools, and has in consequence been able to close fifty-six out of one hundred and thirteen prisons and jails within ten years. In this country during the same period there has been a constantly increasing expenditure for prisons and jails, as might be supposed from the fact stated by the author at the outset, that our criminal population has increased in almost double ratio to the general population.

The most important suggestion made by the author is, that incorrigible criminals and all the hopelessly defective members of the community who are thrown upon the public care should be segregated under conditions that shall absolutely prevent them from propagating their kind. He proposes, indeed, that the problem shall be simplified by calling in the aid of surgery "to remove or sterilize the organs of reproduction," an operation, he adds, which if "bestowed upon the abnormal inmates of our prisons, reformatories, jails, asylums, and public institutions, would entirely eradicate those unspeakable evil practices which are so terribly prevalent, debasing, destructive, and uncontrollable in them." The proposed application of this remedy will be considered by most too sweeping; but as regards incorrigible criminals, particularly those whose crimes take the form of violence and lust, it will not be