THE PRISON SYSTEM.
(By J. F. W. DICKSON.)
CRITICISM BY NEW HEAD. MR. DAUAED TAKEN TO TASK.
There are so many revolutionary statements and such unfair criticism made in the Prisons Report which is ssued for the years 1925-2s, prepared by Mr. Dallard, that unless some action is taken, the efficiency of the prison adminstration must suffer and the proposals jrejudicially affect the prisoners and ;heir innocent dependents. The late Mr. C. E. Matthews was, it is generally admitted, one of the most competent administrators that has been in charge of the prison system of New Zealand.. It was he who first introiuced the probation system, and also the partial maintenance of innocent dependants of prisoners. Mr. Dallard, who has no experience in prison administration, in his report, condemns the staff at present administering prisons; the probation system; the prisons themselves, and by his present action is going to injure the prison staff, prisoners, and the relatives. To deal with the first point, the prison staff was chosen by Mr. Matthews and has proved its efficiency. Mr. Dallard, in his report on the question of proper classification of offenders, states: —"As the present prison staffs are not competent to undertake character studies or to appreciate the psychological significance of a prisoner's behaviour, it is evident that if classification is to be attempted on a scientific basis the question of the appointment of competent officers will require to be faced." "An Insult to the Staff." You will notice that Mr. Dallard states that the prison staffs are incompetent to undertake character studies or appreciate the psychological significance of a prisoner's behaviour. It sounds almost American for Mr. Dallard to use the words "psychological significance of a prisoner's behaviour," but the charge of incompe+ency of the staff is a serious one, and ' is causing great discontent in the prison service. On pages 11 and 12 of the report, referring to the staff and the Borstal system, Mr. Dallard states that it is essential that delinquents "should be entrusted only to intelligent people who are capable of understanding the complex phasec of human behaviour, and of administering the proper physical, educational, and disciplinary treatment." To suggest that the present staffs do not comprise intelligent people is an insult to the whole staff and is much resented. Mr. Dallard, the gentleman who has never been in charge of a prison, knows nothing about prison administration, other than a few months' experience, has never visited the Auckland gaol, and has not been inside many of ] the other gaols in this country, says about the female warders:—"At Point Halswell Borstal Institution, for example, it is noticed that the absence of a constructive programme sets up among the inmates many irritative mental reactions to environmental conditions. which seek expression or relief in wrongdoing, such as misbehaviour, escapes, disobedience, etc. Several of the girls have stated to official visitors and others that they have misbehaved solely in order to break the irksome monotony of the daily routine." Making Criminals. After referring to what he considers to be the proper treatment, Mr. Dallard eaye:—"lt is because of the disregard of this psychological factor, through lack of trained understanding on the part of the staff, that it has been found that penal institutions if improperly organised make criminals rather than reform them." This, of course, is a direct reflection on the lady who is head of the Point Halswell Institution. Lady Astor, who visited Point Halswell Borstal Institution a few months ago in company with another lady visitor, whb is connected with the Borstal Institution in England, stated that Miss Simpson was the finest type of woman she had seen in charge of any institution, and Lady Astor added that she had been over the whole of the English Borstal institutions. In addition, Lady Astor stated that we have nothing to learn from England. I think we may be perfectly justified in accepting Lady Astor's opinion in preference to that of Mr. Dallard. Another important matter is the question of not only the punishment of the delinquent, but also the alleviating of the suffering of the unfortunate innocent dependents of the prisoners. At present, the wife, when her husband is in gaol, gets from 18/ to 22/ per week. This is largely the result of the administration of the Department under Mr. Justice Herdman, when he was Minister in charge, and the good work done by Mr. Hawkins. Mr. Justice Herdman, in 1914, decided to organise prison industries. The revenue in 1914 from prison industries was £9162, and it is now £79,099. This year it reached its highest mark under the guidanop of Mr. Hawkins. Mr. Matthews believed that prison industries should be used for the purpose of increasing the maintenance payable to wives and children of prisoners, and believed that he could make the payments up to from 6/ to 7/ per day. Mr. Dallard was appointed to reorganise jrison industries. The first thing Mr. Dallard did waa to close the sawmill at Waikune prison. This really was closed because of pressure brought to bear by the Sawmillers' Association. The earnings for the year by this prison were £7405, and a profit of £1100, and this was earned, although the Public Works Department, who were supplied with the timber; got the timber at 25 per cent off list price. Family Maintenance. Again, the brick yards have been closed down, it may be temporarily, by Mr. Dallard. The position then is going to be that instead of carrying out the progressive policy of the late Mr. Matthews in allowing wives, children and dependents of prisoners to obtain a fairly adequate maintenance whilst the breadwinner is in gaol, Mr. "Dallard's policy, if carried into effect, will result in these unfortunate persons, if they cannot obtain work or other assistance, being a burden on the public purse. Again, to show the outlook of Mr. Dallard, on page 5 of the report he makes this extraordinary statement, which almost reminds one of what happened when the cotton weaving machines were first introduced into England, and the workers destroying them because they would prevent employment, at least they thought so! Mr. Dallard states:—"lt must not be overlooked that the conduct of industry on modern lines involves expenditure on the installation of labour saving machinery, which, of course, largely negatives the primary purpose of the establishment of the industry—viz., employment for prisoners, Modern technique tends to defeat the purposes of industrial undertakings as labour providing agencies."
Prison Quarry Earnings. Was ever a more ridiculous statement made by a man, particularly one who is to be in charge of the industries of prison administration? To show how absurd this statement is, the Auckland prison quarries earned originally £1800 per year. Since the introduction by Mr. Hawkins of modern machinery, the earnings have gone up to £22,000 per year, and I have not yet heard of it being suggested that the Mount Eden prison quarries employ less men, or that it in any way is prejudicial to prison administration. The revolutionary suggestions made by Mr- Dallard are so serious that 1 suggest there should be a commission to inquire into the whole question, particularly as to who would be the most capable person to fill the position of Con-troller-General of Prisons; the charges if 'incompetency," and want of "intelligence" on the part of the staff. The whole prison system is now in a state of ferment, and it is a matter of public interest that there should be an inquiry into the whole position.
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THE PRISON SYSTEM., Auckland Star, Volume LVII, Issue 282, 27 November 1926
THE PRISON SYSTEM. Auckland Star, Volume LVII, Issue 282, 27 November 1926
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