100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Report Condemns New York Prisons And Institutions

The New York Department of Efficiency and Economy (NYDEE) was established in May 1913, but staff was not in place until January 1914 because of delays in the implementation of civil service exams and eligibility lists. It’s purpose was to investigate waste and inefficiency of state-run institutions. In September 1914 an investigation of state hospitals for the insane was began by the scope expanded to “an exhaustive investigation” of the prisons, reformatories and correctional institutions led by John H Delaney, Commissioner of the NYDEE,

John H Delaney Commissioner of the New York Department of Efficiency and Economy

John H Delaney
Commissioner of the New York Department of Efficiency and Economy

On February 1, 1915 The Delaney Report, a 933-page report titled “Annual Report of the New York Department of Efficiency and Economy Concerning Investigations of Accounting, Administration and Construction of State Hospitals for the Insane, State Prisons and State Reformatory and Correctional Institutions” was released, condemning New York-run incarceration facilities. It examined the policies, practices, and prospects of 24 institutions, including 14 mental hospitals and 10 penal facilities. It was critical of the current situation in all these facilities and described them as dangerous, expensive, extravagant, inefficient, poorly designed, overcrowded, unsafe, unsuitable, and wasteful.

“There is a routine of everyday life in the prisons, but no systematic plan of operation. In some prisons dungeon cells and bad food brutalize the inmates, while in others the effort of sentimentalists have produced a condition where men who have committed serious crimes against society are treated with the most distinguished consideration. Large associations of sympathetic men and women are continuously agitating in favor of more privileges for the criminal population. The natural and logical outcome of their efforts would be to make crime attractive as a means of securing an idle and comfortable living at the expense of the State. One prison in this State appears to be a prison only in the sense that the occupants must sleep and eat there.”

It was found that the New York Training School for Girls in Hudson was “most extravagantly conducted” yet discipline based on “absolute silence” was barbarous, severe, and unwholesome; officer attitudes toward girls in custody “defeat the purposes for which the institution was created,” and the institution’s “system of punishments” should be changed. “To accomplish the reformation of wayward girls, to give destitute girls or girls having had improper guardianship right ideas concerning life and its duties, a broad-minded, sympathetic and gentle woman is required, one who can teach high ideals by persuasion and not by punishment.”

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