Crime in the United States: Reforms Demanded -- By: Albert H. Currier

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 068:269 (Jan 1911)
Article: Crime in the United States: Reforms Demanded
Author: Albert H. Currier


Crime in the United States: Reforms Demanded

Albert H. Currier, D.D.

One naturally inquires, after reading the story of the Progress of Prison Reform in Great Britain,1 what our success has been in this country in the same line of endeavor — whether our treatment of criminals has been wise and our efforts to repress crime have been crowned with equally good and adequate results. In view of the advanced position of this country in prison management in the early part of the last century, as the result of Howard’s philanthropic work, one would think and expect that our prison system would be found among the best in the world, and that our success in the treatment of criminals and the repression of crime would appear to be second to none.

In this expectation the inquirer would be both right and wrong. We have admirable prisons and efficient methods of prison management in a considerable number of our States; but these have been associated with and hindered by serious defects in their laws and the administration of justice, so that in our practical dealing with the problem of crime, take the country as a whole, the highest wisdom has been coupled with stupendous folly. Consequently our country has not fulfilled its early promise of dealing successfully with the criminal class. Accepting as true the declaration of General R. Brinkerhoff, of Mansfield, Ohio, the former President of the Nation-

al Prison Association, and, by reason of his long study and extensive investigations of the problem of crime, one of the highest authorities upon the subject, the United States has yet a long way to go before she comes up to England in her endeavors to check the prevalence of crime. “During the first half of the nineteenth century,” says General Brinkerhoff, “the United States was in advance of all other nations in prison management. Since then we have fallen behind, and other nations, having adopted all that was best in our methods and system, have added large improvements of their own.”2 While in Great Britain there has been a great and steady decrease — nearly one-half — within the last fifty years, in the number of criminals (for reasons given in my previous article), though her population has increased fifty per cent in this period, in the United States there has been during this time a vast and appalling increase at a ratio exceeding that of the population. As evidence of this, we present a few facts. In I860, the inmates of our state prisons were as 1 to 1647 of the population of the whole country; in 1870, 1 to 1171; in 1880, 1 to 855; in 1890, 1 to 760; and in 1900, 1 to 72...

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