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The Human Weeds In Prison
by [?]

How shall we approach a prison to see it fairly and to study it intelligently?

Let us imagine ourselves visitors from a world outside of this.

Far off in infinite space there is a small whirling planet–our earth.

Little creatures move about this planet, chained to it by the force of gravity. But they MOVE as they choose, and they call themselves FREE.

There are millions of free square miles, and hundreds of millions of free human beings.

But there just below us is the prison at Auburn. There the human beings are not free. There suffer those who for any reason have violated the established rules of the little globe that supports them.

They have not even the freedom of the little patch of soil fenced in for them. They cannot walk, speak, sit down, lie down, or stand up as they please.

They have broken some of the rules established for the protection of all. They have misused their freedom, and in punishment their freedom is taken away from them.

They live in small cells, in a very big prison.

Gray stone, iron bars, striped suits, enforced silence, enforced work, enforced regularity of life–all these punish most keenly those whose first crime was lack of self-control and lack of regularity. —-

In every prison and in every prisoner there are lessons for each of us. You will not waste time to-day if you walk through this great Auburn prison and think of the men there think why they came there, think how they could have been saved, think what will gradually empty prisons and make them unnecessary.

A man with one arm opens the first iron gate–his mutilated body foreshadows the mutilated minds and souls within.

Before the door of the prison there are bright flowers–the name of the prison itself stands out in brightly colored blossoms to prove the gardener’s ability and strange sense of the appropriate. Many of the causes that bring men there are written out in just such bright colors–when first seen–and many a prisoner must have thought of that as he passed through the iron door.

A party of six or seven go through the prison with you.

There is a woman of middle age, stout and cheerful, in a bright purple dress. There are two children, a moon-faced man, a tall, thin man, and others whom you do not notice.

Carelessly they look at a nervous woman sitting in the reception room talking to a convict. They take no interest in her, no interest in the convict. To you the prison guide says:

“She comes here to see him as often as the rules allow. She’s his wife. She’s been coming for seven years. I tell you, women get the hard end of it in this world.”

Women do indeed get the hard end of it. There are twelve hundred men in that prison–and every one of them has caused some woman to suffer. And every one has broken the heart of one other woman–his mother.

Through a narrow door you travel with your fellow-visitors.

At every step you marvel at the curious indifference of average humanity to the one interesting thing–their fellow-man.

There are shown to you piles upon piles of loaves of bread–fresh and brown. The guide says: “We bake every day. Nine hundred loaves a day.”

The stout woman in purple sighs with amazement, the children gape, the man with the round face has an anxious look–he seems to be a taxpayer.

But not one looks at or thinks of the convict who turns quickly away to hide a thin, white face. To you the guide says: “He’s a forger. You can see he’s sensitive about being here. Some of them never seem to get used to it.” —-

The stout woman in purple is delighted with the enormous copper vats for making the convicts’ coffee. She is charmed with the great iron pots for boiling soup.