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Proceedings of Consultation Convention of 350 leading Colored Men of Georgia. Held in Macon, Georgia, January 25th and 26th, 1888


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the evidence of an undeveloped, or of a degenerated social order. Why are criminals punished? Let a sane and just man ask himself the question. In his own thoughts he will find a threefold answer.

1. For the safety of society, for grave offences criminals are locked up or put to death, to protect the law abiding people.

2. Punishment is to deter them from repeating their evil deeds and to warn others not to imitate their example.

3. In a sensible and good government, a real thorough and incidental design is punishment, that is capital, is the criminal reformation. His reformation is sought for two reasons. First, as a guarantee to society that he will not continue attacks upon its order and peace. Secondly, to make him a better man. The second consideration though a noble one is perhaps least considered.


Reformation of criminals has nothing in common with the Maudlin sentimentalism that makes martyrs out of condemned murderers: heroes out of convicted felons. It does not send women to the cells of the justly condemned with rare delicacies and costly flowers; it is ashamed of those who do such things. It does not sign petitions for executive clemency simply because somebody presents them, it judges those who do such things with indiscriminating sensibility to be foolish and weak people who have small comprehension of the true principles of social order. The doctrine of prison reform believes in the enforcement of law, it insists upon the proper punishment of criminals as necessary to the security of society and the promotion of virtue, and as best every way, for criminals themselves. Underlying and vitally related to prison reform are certain simple and obvious truths that hardly need statement, much less argument. No government has a moral right unnecessarily to put the bodily health of its criminals in jeopardy. When governments lock a man up it is sacredly bound to make its hygenic conditions of his incarceration as good for him as prison life allows. There are to be no good excuse for doing less than this when the prison is filthy, so crowded, so badly ventilated, so hot, so cold, so poorly fed, or so cruelly governed, as to make the breeding of disease a certainty, lawlessness dies at the door. No government then has a right to imprison men, that is so poor that it can not provide reasonably for their health. When the prison death rate is exceptionally large, it is the evidence of negligence or oppression. The government that neglects or oppresses its prisoners, is guilty of an unpardonable sin. It makes punishment, persecution and justice, vengeance.


1 No just government will utterly deprive prisoners of the opportunity for mental and moral improvement. The right to punish crime does not involve the right to reduce to mental or moral imbecility.


2 No good government will allow conditions of prison life that make increasing immortality a certainty as the normal and inevitable result of these conditions. For example: Government in the name of the law violates the law and commits a crime against God and man when it incarcerates mere youths and hardened, accomplished villians in common prisons. In such a case, the government supports and conducts a normal school of vice. It has often came to pass, that what was ostensibly designed to protect society against criminals, has turned loose upon men graduated in the arts of crime, good people, by taxation, paying the tuition of those who learned in prison how to prey upon them upon their release. For example again: Government that allows the herding of men and women together, is not only criminal, it is barbarous. It promotes vice, and taxes the virtuous for the expense account. An illegitimate birth in a jail or penitentiary, is an appalling moral monstrosity in a civilized and christian country.


No government can be true to itself and adopt a plan of keeping criminals simply for the sake of making or saving money. Good and wise legislation never yet existed where money considerations were paramounts. Farming out the inflictions of the penalties of law, morally and politically, falls below the old Roman and the modern Turkish practice of farming out the taxes; it is no better than selling out the poor to the lowest bidder. History has made record of the atrocities of the system of farming out the taxes. It debauches government; it made the tax-gatherers corrupt, repacious, cruel; it

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