JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer
Reiling, Assistant Editor.
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.
PRISON LABOR LEGISLATION.. JAMA. 2005;293(13):1566. doi:10.1001/jama.293.13.1566-d