Reformatory, State Industrial.In former years the idea of a prison was to punish, but as the question was studied by sociologists and criminologists a movement was inaugurated to make some prisons reformatory in character, the object being to convert the men committed to the institutions to a better way of living. The first reformatory in the United States was established at Elmira, N. Y., in 1876.
The general plan in the modern reformatory is to train the prisoner in some occupation, so that when he goes out he will be able to earn an honest living and desire to become a useful citizen. Kansas was one of the pioneer states in this work. On March 12, 1885, the legisiature passed an act authorizing the governor to appoint three commissioners "to be known as the industrial reformatory commissioners," who "shall proceed to locate a prison or industrial reformatory at some place west of the 6th principal meridian, in the State of Kansas." The board was authorized "to procure by purchase or donation" a site for the reformatory, have charge of "the grounds, and designs and construction of buildings," etc. The act further provided that when the reformatory was completed the governor should appoint three persons to act as a board of managers; to have general charge and superintendence of the reformatory; and to appoint a warden, physician, chaplain, inspector of discharged prisoners and clerk. All the other officers were to be appointed by the warden.
The act provided that the board of managers should "receive and take into the reformatory all male criminals between the ages of 16 and 25, not known to have been previously sentenced to a state prison." An apropriation[sic] of $60,000 was made for carrying out the provisions of the act. Gov. Martin appointed John Severance, John E. Bonebrake and Edward R. Smith commissioners for the selection of the site and erection of the buildings. Mr. Severance was elected chairman of the board, Mr. Bonebrake treasurer, and Mr. Smith secretary. The board visited the New York reformatory at Elmira, to gather information concerning such institutions, and on its return held a meeting on May 25, when it was determined to inspect the various locations suggested by cities west of and near the 6th principal meridian. The competitors were Salina, Concordia, Beloit, Minneapolis, Ellsworth, McPherson, Great Bend, Nickerson, Hutchinson, Halstead, Newton, Wellington and Wichita. Newton and Wichita being east of the meridian were rendered ineligible by the provisions of the law.
Hutchinson was finally selected, the people of that city agreeing to donate a section of land, and preparations for the erection of buildings were commenced. In 1887 the board presented estimates to the legislature for $250,000, and asked for an appropriation for that amount. The appropriation was reduced to $100,000, as it was intended to transfer 200 prisoners from the state penitentiary and utilize their labor in the erection of reformatory buildings. The board subsequently decided that the employment of convict labor was not practicable, and again there was delay. On March 23, 1889, the legislature appropriated another $100,000 to "complete the cell-blocks now partially completed, and such other portions of said reformatory in connection with said cell-blocks, as may be necessary for the occupancy thereof."
By the act of March 1, 1895, much of the former legislation relating to the reformatory was repealed and the governor was authorized to appoint a new board. Gov. Morrill appointed John Armstrong, Tully Scott and J. M. Humphrey, and this board held its first meeting March 11, 1895, at Hutchinson. John Armstrong was elected president and J. M. Humphrey secretary. On the 12th H. F. Hatch of Arkansas City was appointed superintendent. He resigned on July 9. The members of the board also tendered their resignations, and on the 25th the governor appointed S. R. Peters, T. J. O'Neil and M. B. Nicholson as a new board, which met on July 27, 1895, and organized by electing Mr. Peters president, Mr. O'Neil treasurer, and Mr. Nicholson secretary. The board appointed J. C. O. Morse superintendent and N. L. Hallowell assistant superintendent. Work was started at once to prepare the cell-blocks for occupancy, requisition was made upon the board of managers of the state penitentiary for convicts who could carry on the necessary work, and 30 prisoners were transferred from the penitentiary to the reformatory on Aug. 29. Two days later Dr. A. M. Hutchinson was appointed physician, and Rev. Alfred Brown chaplain.
As an encouragement to and reward for good conduct the convicts were divided on Jan. 1, 1896, into three grades. Good behavior for 60 days entitled any one to admission to the first grade and allowed him certain privileges. In 1898 a system of credit marks was adopted, giving inmates of the reformatory a reward for good conduct and inflicting a penalty for bad behavior by causing him to be reduced to a lower grade in case he should fail to earn the required number of credits.
The school work is arranged in grades upon the general plan of the public schools of the state. Each inmate is examined upon entrance and assigned to classes accordingly. During the winter season lectures are delivered to the inmates by eminent men of the state and this plan has been found to be a potent agency in awakening new desires and ambitions among them. The parole system is used by the reformatory but no convict is eligible to parole until he has reached the eighth grade in school work, except when physically disqualified to learn. By the act of 1901 it was provided that not more than two of the managers should belong to the same political party, thus placing the control of the institution in the hands of a bi-partisan board, and no citizen of Reno county should be eligible for appointment.
The inmates of the institution make all their clothes, except hats, shoes and suspenders. Among the occupations followed by them are stone cutting, cabinet-making, blacksmithing and farming, and the income of the laundry is about $1,200 per month. A brass band has been organized, a printing outfit has been installed, and a monthly publication called the Herald is issued by the convicts. Saturday afternoons are holidays, when the inmates are relieved from their labors and permitted to indulge in athletic sports, such as base ball, foot races, etc. A library is maintained in connection with the institution, which compares favorably with similar institutions in other states.Pages 567-569 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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