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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 6, 2005


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(13):1566. doi:10.1001/jama.293.13.1566-d

THE JOURNAL has called attention repeatedly to the evils existing in our state prisons where contract labor has been abolished by law. There is no place where rational employment is more necessary to mental and bodily health than in state prisons, and a penitentiary sentence without it may be equivalent to the infliction of hopeless insanity as a punishment for any kind of felony. The law does not contemplate this, but that is often the practical result. It has been proposed in the state of Illinois, in order to meet the conditions brought about by the laws enacted at the instance of labor organizations, to employ the inmates of the penitentiary in certain public works, such as improvement of the highways, etc. This would involve the necessity of transporting the convicts to their places of labor and probably the establishment of convict camps at various points throughout the state. So far as meeting the sanitary requirements, provided the law is humanely carried out, the plan is unobjectionable. Outdoor work and outdoor life for even a portion of the year would be a great safeguard against the mental and physical deterioration that idle prison life involves. There are objections, however; one is the expense, others relate to matters of discipline and safety and still others are sentimental to a certain extent. All of these will have to be carefully considered and the last perhaps not the least.

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