Texts excerpted from
The work of the Department of Correction during the past year has entitled the City of New York to a place among the foremost of those communities that have conceived of the problem of correction in the light of the latest achievements of criminology and of penal administration.
Had the improvements of the year been merely steps towards greater efficiency in the administration as such, the department might still be entitled to credit for that.
However, the real progress of the year consists in having made the beginnings of the application of truly modern principles of correction (along with the accepted principles of efficient administration) to the complicated problem of both caring for a large number of inmates and of concentrating the activities of the institutions upon the problems of the rehabilitation of the prisoner.
With the beginning of the year 1916, the Parole Commission for the City of New York, established by the Legislature and put into effect by the Mayor of the City of New York, began its activities.
From that time on, it has been impossible to think of the Department of Correction, so far as its dealing with the prisoners is concerned, without taking account throughout of the importance of the Commission.
Practically all the inmates of the Penitentiary and of the Reformatory, and also a considerable number at the Workhouse, are subject to the jurisdiction of the Parole Commission. Up to November .29. 1916, these numbered 3,333, of whom there were:
It is not, however, the actual number subject to the jurisdiction of the Parole Commission that is alone important; nor the fact alone that through the work of the Commission and its staff of parole officers, it is possible to make an individual study of all persons received in the department and to deal with them, so far as possible, in accordance with the results of such investigations.
The natural advantages of an indeterminate sentence include the possibility of the development of rational and progressive standards of treatment and of efficient systems in the industrial activities of the institutions, and in the academic and trade education afforded inmates. It is therefore, very difficult to dissociate the general improvements in the Department of Correction from the Parole Commission and the indeterminate sentence, and that other great step, the establishment of a clearing house.
In view of the existence of the Parole Commission and of the indeterminate sentence, of which it is the administrator and of the beginnings of a clearing house, such improvements or plans for improvements as the systematic treatment of drug addicts, the development of a municipal farm, of a farm for women, of an industrial penitentiary on Hart's Island, and of an educational reformatory for the young at New Hampton, assume a new importance and a new meaning.
While attempts were being made to obtain a larger drug ward for the men. plans were at the same time drawn up for the erection of a separate hospital for drug addicts on Riker's Island. The cost of this hospital was to be provided by private subscription. It has [proved], however, too costly to be covered by the original private guarantee, so that the City appropriated a supplementary sum of $12,000. Work on the construction has not yet been started but is promised for the spring of 1917.
Already, a good part of the filled-in ground has been graded, the soil sifted and cleaned up of glass, tinware and other rubbish; some of it has actually been under cultivation during the summer of 1916. The housing facilities have been increased so that almost 1,000 men may now be accommodated, and a plan for the ultimate distribution of buildings has been prepared.
While there is still some disagreement as to the possibilities of raising all kinds of vegetables, the indications are more clearly than ever that the expectations for an ultimate farm are justified.
It is to be seriously regretted, however, that the project of a Detention House and Examining Station for women in connection with the courts, has had to be abandoned in order to make the money appropriated therefor available for the purchase and construction of such a prison farm.
The Prison Association has not been in sympathy with the City authorities in turning that money over for other purposes; and while it rejoices in obtaining a farm for the women where they may be housed and treated more reasonably and decently than at the present Workhouse, it nevertheless deplores that step. However, so far as the progress of the Department of Correction is concerned, such a farm certainly is an advantage and will materially contribute to the unification of the departmental treatment of its wards.
Hart's Island has come considerably nearer the intended goal of becoming the industrial prison of the Department of Correction.
During the year, several of the industrial shops, particularly the shoe shop, tailoring and one of the brush shops, were moved from the Penitentiary on Blackwell's Island to Hart's Island.
In the latter place, practically all of building No. 5 has been turned over for the use of the industrial department.
For the development and completion of New Hampton Farms (the City Reformatory for misdemeanants), very generous appropriations were made towards the end of the calendar year of 1916. There were granted $800,000 on corporate stock, and the development of that institution is daily progressing.
A similar appropriation of $32,000 for the remodeling of the Industrial Building of the Penitentiary on Blackwell's Island, will make possible the organization at that institution of a psychological and psychiatric laboratory that will supply one of the chief instrumentalities for the clearing house to be established there.
The House of Detention for women which was to solve that problem at least in part, has been indefinitely postponed; but once the man or woman has been sentenced to any institution of the Department of Correction (other than a City Prison and for a very limited time), the correctional organization of the Department begins to work.
It is true that not all sentences are as yet for an indeterminate period. Those prisoners transferred from counties outside of New York City, and a majority of those sentenced to the Workhouse, are still sent for a definite period generally not exceeding six months.
The results of these examinations are combined and one copy made available for the Warden of the institution and another for the Parole Commission. Had it not been for the organization of a parole body and the necessity of obtaining such information for them, this material, greatly needed by the institutional authorities, would probably not have been obtained for many years. This is the first instance, therefore, of the far-reaching effects upon institutional treatment of the organization of the parole work.
For the present this is not done: first, because the psychological and psychiatric clinic has not yet been organized; secondly, because the clearing house, as such, has not yet been fully organized; that is to say, the principles of distribution within the department have not been fully worked out. What such a clearing house should be and how it shall utilize information at its disposal for the best interests of the Department as well as of the inmates, has been tentatively outlined in a memorandum to the Department by the Prison Association.
The establishment of the Parole Commission for the City of New York is a step of such importance in the progressive development of the treatment of the offender sent to an institution, that it will be well for the whole country to follow closely the developments in the work of that Commission. It is hoped that work will not be interrupted. Attempts have been made last year and again this year, to hamper the work of the Commission or even to abolish it entirely. It is hardly likely, however, that such a backward step will ever be taken. . . . .
NYC Parole Commission's initial rules.
The NYC Parole Commission operated half-century before it was eliminated in September 1967 when its parole cases were assumed by the state parole agency. The maximum sentence to be served in a NYC Department of Correction facility was capped at one year.
Click the image below of NYC Parole Commission's 1941 letterhead to access elsewhere on this website the NYC Parole Commission's own description (from a 1937 report) of how it worked