Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. THURSDAY, MARCH, 12, 1914. BLINDFOLD METHODS.
The letter of our correspondent "A New Zealandcr," in this issue, re-opens a subject of. far greater importance to the com-, munity than some that the recent conference of the W.C.T.IJ. discussed so earnestly. It is strange, indeed, that the good ladies of the Union should have found time to discuss the gambling evil, of which their knowledge is necessarily extremely limited, and yet failed to even refer to this great social evil, which is deserving of being classed as one of the most "serious menaces in New Zealand to-day. Some months back we had occasion to refer to the alarming increase in the numbers of assaults upon women and children, and quoted Mr Justice Chapman's statement that the question of corporal punishment would have to be considered in future cases that came before him.. Our cor-
respondent writes feelingly on this subject, and the facts warrant even more extravagant language ithan he uses. But his proposed remedy is far too drastic to meet with general approval. In the majority of cases that come before the Courts the services of a surgeon would be more humane and efficacious than would those of a hangman. Society takes all kinds of precautions to protect itself against petty offenders, and for more serious offences by normal criminals—if it be conceded that criminals can be classed as normal—imprisonment is regarded as adequate- punshment. But for the abnormal class which is the subject of our correspondent's letter, imprisonment is absolutely ineffective. As in many other branches of science, America is showing the way in the direction of eliminating these mental perverts. While in countries under British rule they are regarded simply as criminals, and are temporarily placed where they can do no harm, in the United States they are properly regarded as hereditary defectives, and prompt measures are taken to ensure that they shall be neither a danger to others nor reproduce their kind. Laws permitting or enforcing sterilisation have been passed by i'the States of Indiana, Washing!- --! ton, California,/ Connecticut, Nevada, lowa, New Jersey, and ISlew York. In Indiana a commission, consisting of three surgeons, is empowered to select for treatment from reformatories or other State institutions of a similar nature '' persons deemed by them to be unimprovable mentally and physically, and unfit for procreation." During the past three years 125 operations were com- • piu'lsorily performed. In California the persons subject to operation are inmates of State hospitals for the insane and i homes for the feeble-minded, in-
indies of State prisons committed for life or showing sexual or .moral perversion, also those who have been twice committed for sexual ■"■offences'.' 1 The selection is made on the recommendation of the Superintendent or resident physician to a Board consisting of himself, three general superintendents, and the secretary of the Slate Board of Health. And whereas in Indiana the motive of the State in passing the law is purely eugenic, in California: the principal object is the physical, mental, and morn] improvement of the persons operated upon. In all, 220 persons, 94 of _ them women, have been treated in the Jeffersonville reformatory since November, 1910. Somewhat similar provisions against the sexual pervert were contained in the Mental Deficiency Bill introduced into the British Parliament in 1912, but it was opposed principally on the ground that it interfered' with individual liberty, an objection which might reasonably be made to all laws for the pro-
tection of society, A law which grants to an individual the liberty.to be a distinct danger to women and children is surely a travesty on justice. Yet that is the position created by the law at present in existence in New Zealand. For fear of offending the susceptibilities of a sensitive public, our judges hesitate to step from the beaten path of a custom that is neither a punishment nor a palliative, and the result is that every year dozens of innocent children and numbers of helpless women are made the prey of these inhuman ghouls.