Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

devoted man and his warı-hearted mother had attained with some of the most depraved street-boys of the city, awakened fresh interest in the work of juvenile reform. The two valuable volumes of Miss Mary Carpenter, of Bristol, England, upon the causes and cure of juvenile delinquency, presenting the attractive picture of the agricultural colony for boys at Mettray, in France, established under the supervision of Judge De Metz, with its separate houses for twenty boys, without walls or bars or locks, as well as new illustrations of the discipline of the Rauhe Haus under Wichern, and the imitation of the continental schools by England at Red Hill, with a full discussion of the various difficult questions involved in the training of this class of young persons, confirmed the enthusiasm awakened in many benevolent minds in reference to the reformation of young criminals and the rescue of exposed children. In 1853, the Board of Managers of the Philadelphia House of Refuge offered a premium of one hundred dollars for the best essay, and fifty dollars for the next in excellence, upon juvenile delinquency. Forty-four papers were presented, and three of them were published. The highest prize was given to Rev. Edward Everett Hale, and his essay upon the State's care of its children was particularly suggestive and impressive. The others, by Bishop Moore, of Virginia, and by an anonymous writer, approached the subject from different points, and showed how widely extended and profound was the impression that the State was not meeting its paramount obligations to its exposed and criminal youths. Just at this time, the Legislature of Massachusetts appointed a commission of learned and practical gentlemen to prepare a plan and a law for the establishment of a proposed school of reform for delinquent girls. They entered into an extensive correspondence, and presented, in 1855, to the Legislature a very full and valuable report upon the subject. They settled upon what has since been called the “family plan,” breaking up the institution into separate homes of thirty girls each with their three matrons, all united under the general supervision of a male superintendent. The title of Industrial School was afterward given to it, to relieve the after-life of the inmates from any stain arising from a penal name; and upon the system proposed by the commissioners it was constructed at Lancaster,

FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XXIV.-39

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Mass., and has been administered there for about sixteen years. It forms a pretty village scene, with its neat homes, its whitespired church, and its merry children sporting on its grounds. Nearly at the same time, Ohio commissioned thoughtful and benevolent men to elaborate a system for a State reform institution for boys. They were strongly impressed with the Magsachusetts law and system of discipline, and, having made themselves familiar with the noted European establishments, they arranged the well-known State Farm at Lancaster, Ohio, with its family houses bearing their melodious names, and its novel system, in this country, of elder brothers. The conventions of managers and superintendents of reformatory institutions, held in the city of New York in 1857 and 1859, afforded favorable opportunities for practical laborers and the advanced students in the field of juvenile reform to present and compare opinions.

These various public demonstrations in behalf of exposed and criminal children were not withont their natural results. Active measures-hindered indeed somewhat, but not prevented, by the war-were instituted throughout the Northern and Western States for the establishment of State and voluntary institutions for the rescue of the young. It is difficult to obtain a full report of the smaller establishments, and thus secure a clear idea of what really is doing throughout the country in this direction. Quite a number of new institutions are already projected and are in the process of construction. The "family plan,” so called, generally prevails in some modified form in the later institutions, and the sexes are trained in different schools. About the same standard of education is attained in all these Houses of Reform. The same high average as to health and low average as to the death rate, and much the same results as to the reformation of their subjects, according to such statistical tables as have been secured, seem to be reached by the majority of these institutions. But it is quite impossible satisfactorily to compare the institutions with each other. Some have younger children; some reject very hard cases; some have only such cases committed to their custody, juvenile and orphan asylums in their vicinity and children's aid societies skimming the more promising street boys for their discipline and distribution, and leaving the poorest

[ocr errors]

quality, physically and morally, for the House of Refuge;
some retain their children six months, some one year, and
some three; some keep a carefully-written record, and others
base their moral statistics upon general impressions. There
are no positive facts which enable a thoughtful person to form
a safe judgment of the moral and permanent advantages which
one system of juvenile discipline has over another. In inany
instances repeated changes in administration and inefficient
men have rendered a good system helpless to work out its
possible results among the inmates of a reform school. In
some cases, as in the city of New York, the magistrates con-
stantly yield to the importunity of parents, or the demands of
persons having political influence, and by the occasion of flaws
in warrants, or other ready devices in the use of the writ of
habeas corpus, interrupt the efforts of managers to reform
vicious youths, and rarely afford them support in withholding
children from miserable homes and obtaining for them the
wholesome training of the country farm or workshop.

Without doubt, however, every institution is working out benign results, and is constantly correcting its own practical mistakes. We are disposed to criticise each other somewhat severely, because no “power” has bestowed upon us the gift to see ourselves as others see us. After all our criticism, lowever, one class of mind works most freely and successfully under one system, and another under a different. If the great end of reforming youth is gained, by whatever humane and Christian plan it is attained, we will not enter into discouraging controversy with the reformers as to their measures.

The universal want in these institutions is a class of better educated and more devoted subordinate officers. Every person coming near these children should be an example of the Christian virtues, have special intelligence, and be of a reforming mind. The superintendents, taken as a whole, are a superior class of men. But ignorant men, and sometimes immoral men, because the salary paid for the positiou they occupy is small, are found in the lower offices. The oath or sneer in the hall or yard will do more injury than the chaplain can over. come in the pulpit.

Almost all of the institutions suffer for lack of well-arranged, remunerative, and somewhat brisk and hard work. This is

[ocr errors]

indispensable in reform schools for boys and girls. Other vital elements being present—such as sanitary, educational, and moral forces--the success of a reformatory institution will be measured by its wisdom in arranging its industrial discipline. The forms of labor chosen should be those that bring reasonable pecuniary returns-work that may hereafter be followed by the inmate as a trade; it should be allotted in the form of stints, not too severe, to encourage rapid labor, a lengthened period of play rewarding diligence at work; it should stand in some way related to the hour of discharge, so that the inmate will be constantly inspired to improve at his tasks; and at a certain stage it is very desirable that he should share in the pecuniary results of his work.

Effort enough is not put forth to follow and succor the child after its discharge from the Refuge, and to renew the work of reform at the school when it is necessary. The true and full influence of a reformatory cannot be safely measured by the social condition of the youth in the first years after his discharge. His falling into temptation again, and sinking back into a penitentiary even, does not prove that his training received in the Refuge has been inefficient or is lost. Do we give up all hope of an intemperate man, struggling to reforin, who stumbles once, or even twice? The writer has known of repeated cases where boys from a reform school have fallen into crime, and within the cells of a prison have recalled their former instructions, and have taken courage to attempt again a virtuous life and have succeeded. We have had young men in the penitentiary seek the opportunity of coming back to the old home again, and trying once more its encouraging discipline. Even in the case of a young man executed for murder committed in an hour of drunkenness, his penitence, his humility, his proper view of the turpitude of his conduct, his remorse that he had not lived as he was counseled when an inmate of the Refuge, gave undoubted evidence that the whole effect of the moral lessons he had received was not lost.

Some institutions are too indulgent and some too exacting. Absolute justice and kindness secure more contentment among the inmates than constant coaxing and amusement. Facts show, in spite of theories, that walls and securely-closed doors do not depress nor discourage youths of an age suitable to be

[ocr errors]

committed to a reform school, do not unfavorably affect the health nor destroy buoyancy of spirit; but they do allay the Arab fever in the veins of street children, and the demoralizing meditations upon possible plans of escape.

While the farm offers the most wholesome discipline in many respects, and it is very desirable to send away vagrant boys from the city into the country, there are many that will not remain upon a farm, that need for their discipline the more active training of the shop, and who give a far better promise of being rescued from the temptations of the streets if they have a remunerative mechanical trade. Besides, many months in the year the farm offers little work for these institution boys to perform. The shop and the ship are the great promising openings for them.

It is still, however, the era of experiment, and the newer institutions are coming upon the field with the accumulated wisdom of a half-century's trial to aid them at the start. The great leverage of loss still in these establishments, the fall of so many that have enjoyed their instructions, shows that there is work still for thinkers and executive minds to busy their thoughts upon.

While the reform schools have been multiplying, the work of prevention has been carried on with an equal pace. The remarkable success of Dr. Chalmers in Glasgow, in 1820, in carrying the day-school and religious institutions into the most vicious and degraded portions of the city, and changing the whole physical appearance of the vicinity as well as the moral character of the inhabitants, and the repetition of the experiment in Edinburgh in 1845, in streets' to which Burke by numerous murders had given an infamous 'notoriety-where one fourth of the population were on the poor-roll as paupers, and another fourth were known to be street-beggars, thieves, or prostitutes—awakened general interest. Within five years, by the introduction of the simplest form of religious and intellectual culture, the whole character of that locality in Edinburgh was changed. So practicable and effectual was the work, that in this short period it was not known that a single child of a family resident within the "West Port” was habitually absent from school; and from being a dangerous neighborhood, day and night, it became one of the most orderly and

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »