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Administration Of Charitable And Correctional Affairs

( Originally Published 1915 )

Necessity of Care. — The foregoing chapter makes clear how necessary it is that the strong and normal should care for the weak and the abnormal. But to do this in such a way as to increase the strength and sanity of society requires great skill. If it were merely an individual matter, the unfit would probably be weeded out by natural selection in the struggle for existence. But in society it is impossible to permit natural selection to do its work in the old brutal fashion and at the same time preserve our sentiments of pity for the weak — sentiments produced in the course of hundreds of generations. It is impossible for the same reason to apply a stern method of social selection which would eliminate the socially unfit. It is neither possible nor desirable to behead people who are unfit for cooperative life, or even to commit them to a painless lethal chamber. Hence, all that society can do is to endeavor to make people fit for social life and to prevent the increase of unfitness. There is less objection to measures which would insure the dying out of a degenerate stock like the feebleminded or the insane, although voices are raised against even such suggestions. In doing this, great care must be taken that the weak and the vicious are not perpetuated, and also that they do not become a burden to the strong whose vitality might thereby be sapped.

The reformation of the reformable is highly desirable. So costly is it to raise a human being that society can ill afford to destroy one of whom there is any hope. We find it difficult, however, to train even normal people into good social usage. It is far more difficult to train the abnormal. Greater care is needed, therefore, to train those who are educable and to carefully segregate and care for those who are not, for the sake of society as a whole. Because of the lack of scientific care in the treatment of the weak and the vicious, crime, insanity, epilepsy, pauperism, and degeneracy are increased.

Methods of Administration. Charitable and correctional institutions may be classified in two general divisions, namely, private charities and public charities. The care of the poor was for a long time left to private charitable agencies. Gradually, however, it has come to be recognized as a part of the duties of the state. In other words, society is conscious that all its members should be responsible for the care of the few weaker ones. So also in the early history of society crime was a personal matter and individuals were allowed to punish those who wronged them, or, in case of death, the relatives of the deceased were bound to pursue the murderer and destroy him. Gradually, however, it became the duty of the state to punish criminals. To-day the hand of the individual is restrained by law from punishing those who wrong him. On the other hand, he has the right to demand that the state protect him and his property and punish all offenders. In like manner gradually it is coming to be seen that both relief and correction, not in alleviation and repression alone, but also in the doing of constructive remedial work as well as providing preventive agencies, must come under the management of public authorities as fast as private agencies by experiment point the way in which it may best be done. There is need of the private agency, but to assert that it is impossible for public relief agencies to command the men, means, and methods necessary to do the needed work is a counsel of despair which democracy is not ready to accept. Each type of work has its peculiar advantages and drawbacks. Each has its field of work. Each must supplement the work of the other.

So far as charity is concerned, private administration has the advantage of sympathy, enthusiasm, and independent action, but it lacks unity and comprehensiveness. Public charities, on the other hand, have the advantage of complete supervision within a given territory, and are always open to public inspection. Their dangers are failure to get full return for the money expended and the interference of politicians in work which can be well done only by experts. Public charities, being supported by. taxation, have a more stable income than most private charities which are dependent upon the contributions of individuals. Nevertheless, there is frequently more humanity in the private charity than in the public, which is liable to become a cold, formal machine of administration. Private charity can attempt more experiments than public. Its constituency is smaller, more compact, probably more intelligent as to needs and methods to meet those needs. It can respond more quickly to an emergency. Public charity is less scientific, more wasteful, and less efficient. These shortcomings, however, are not inherent, but are incidental to the lack of an enlightened public opinion. What is needed is more public interest in the care of the poor, and a general appreciation of the relation of poverty to social welfare. Does any one doubt that if the general public were as well informed as to the ideals and methods of proper relief of the needy as the small body of constituents of the private organization, the public could do it as well as the private organization? The probabilities are that it would do the job much better.

Methods of Public Administration. — There are various methods of public administration of charities and correction which have risen largely under different conditions. The states have, therefore, different laws and varying methods of procedure. Some states have a separate board for each institution, leaving the oversight to the legislature, which usually commits it to a special committee to visit the institution and report. A state board of charities, with supervisory powers, each institution having a local board, is also quite common. In a few states, such as Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, has been established a state board of control which manages all the charitable and penal institutions. In these cases there usually is no supervising body aside from the board of control. In Kansas a board of control has charge of all charitable institutions, but the penitentiary and industrial reformatory are each under separate boards.

While the state board of control represents the most complete method of supervision, it is in danger of the formality of machinery, and lacks the independent judgment as to how ad-ministration might be made better afforded by a board of state charities purely advisory in its capacity. On the other hand, the state board of charities that visits, inspects, and has advisory powers only, is usually more progressive in the determination of the best systems of conducting charitable institutions and in the scientific care of the unfortunate. In the latter case usually the penal institutions are conducted by a separate management. However, the state board of control as instituted in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and Kansas is growing in favor in the West.

In Massachusetts there is a state board or commission on lunacy, which has special supervision over all the insane, epileptics, and weak-minded. There is supposed to be some advantage in having a special board for a specific institution or group of institutions. It is claimed that it gives an opportunity for members of the board to become proficient in a given line. Moreover, it is claimed that when a single board attempts to manage all the charitable and penal institutions of a large state, while its administration may be perfect, it is in danger of failing to understand all the institutions under its control, and therefore the best methods of caring for the wards of the state are not obtained. On the other hand, it is held that when a board is provided for such institution, the members usually do not give all their time to the work and therefore the management of the institution falls naturally into the hands of the paid superintendents, as the experience of Iowa has shown.1 There is the further difficulty that each institution endeavors to obtain from the legislature more than its just share of the state's money without regard to the needs of the other institutions of similar character. The legislature has neither the time nor experience necessary to judge between these claims. A state board of some kind is needed to study the whole situation, make recommendations to the legislature, and thus secure an orderly and symmetrical development of the state's charitable and correctional institutions in accordance with the just needs of each institution. It has been suggested that the penal institutions of a state should constitute one group; the charitable institutions, such as care for orphans, insane, epileptics, and imbeciles, another group under a separate supervision. Schools for the blind and the deaf and dumb should be placed under the department of public instruction. In this way the state would not be burdened with the multiplicity of boards and the work would be subdivided so as to produce the best results. Where the population of the state is large and the number of charitable and correctional institutions grows, some such division of labor is best. On the other hand, in a state with but few institutions a paid board of members devoting all their time to the institutions seems to be best.

Segregation of Wards of the State into Separate Institutions. — The first important thing in dealing with dependents and delinquents is a careful segregation of these in different institutions. There should be a penitentiary for the hardened criminals, a reformatory for younger criminals susceptible to reform, and industrial schools for incorrigible boys and girls. Great care should be exercised in sending each individual to the proper institution. While this general plan is being carried out in the United States, there is much neglect in specific in-stances of the proper classification. Often insane are kept in county poorhouses or sent to prison, and epileptics are found in insane asylums and institutions for the feeble-minded. Some-times this is due to lack of adequate provision for one or more of these classes. Often it is due to failure to apply scientific tests to determine to which class a person belongs. The epileptics, the insane, the feeble-minded, and the habitual drunkards should be treated in separate institutions. The modern alms-house or county poor farm often has no classification whatever. There we find the pauper, the victim of misfortune, the imbecile, the insane, the epileptic, the criminal, and sometimes those afflicted with chronic diseases. By careful classification each one could be helped in accordance with his specific needs, and much time and money saved. From the standpoint of the social welfare the placing of young offenders with old criminals in the jail or penitentiary is utterly inexcusable. Next to it is the collection of broken parcels of humanity in the county almshouse. The mingling of the insane and epileptics in the same institution is a palpable error. The first principle of good administration is classification. Each individual must be treated according to his characteristics as well as his needs. Men can-not be reformed in phalanxes, much less in a heterogeneous mass.

The Classification of Inmates. — Classification should extend further. The inmates of each institution should be classified according to sex, age, health, temperament, habits, etc. Good or evil may arise from association in any of these institutions. Only those should be thrown together who are mutually helpful, or at least those who are not mutually harmful. As man is a social being, it is useless to ignore the helpfulness of proper association. Human beings of the unfortunate classes, or those of a vicious character may be made to help each other, if the proper classification and the right method be used. For example, it has been found that in many cases feeble-minded women take great pleasure in caring for the young children in the institution. So a careful study of the different people in a poorhouse often will enable the authorities to put people together who are con-genial in their tastes and habits. Mrs. Coolidge reports that the matron of the San Francisco almshouse for women contrived to solve the problem of bad snorers by ingeniously putting them with deaf persons?

The Merit System among Employees and Officials. —Appointment of officers and attendants should be made with the greatest of care as to the fitness of the applicant. The using of positions in the charitable and penal institutions as rewards for party workers is extremely pernicious. Men who have served their party must have a place, or they have friends who must have positions as rewards for such service. The world is full of " hungry incapacity " seeking an office, and many appointees to public service are " mere pegs to hang an office on." Men or boards with appointive power are besieged by this class, and it requires great skill, patience, and courage to secure the right person for the right place.

Civil service has its advantages as a means of securing efficient servants of the people. Civil service, however, is not an automatic process by which capable officials are secured ; it is only a method which may be useful if great care be exercised. The merit system should have much flexibility, and if the appointing power is intelligent and conscientious and brave enough to resist political pressure, it is usually better than the hard and fast rules of a formal civil service system. Since these qualities are often lacking in the high officials, civil service has been found a defense — perhaps a rather poor one — to prevent the institutions from being delivered over to the tender mercies of the politicians.

In actual practice the heads of the institutions and of the boards are usually appointed, while the subordinates are chosen from the civil service lists.

But it is preposterous to make sweeping changes in officials and attendants every two years as the party in power changes, as has been done in some instances. The best economy is to find the best officials that can be had anywhere for the positions, and to keep them as long as they are the best. After all, it depends upon the character of the men in the business, whether a high degree of success is possible or not.

The public administration of charities is of great importance to the welfare of society in general. For if the dependent, delinquent, and defective classes are not well cared for, either within institutions or without, there is a tendency to increase the number of the defective and criminal classes. This makes society more abnormal and adds to its burdens. The enormous sums spent for the care of the weak and the vicious cannot be justified unless the world grows better thereby. The socially constructive point of view must dominate all charitable and penal affairs, or we but add to the misery and degradation by our efforts to care for the helpless. It would be better to let nature take her course in weeding out the unfit than through improper methods and defective administration to increase and perpetuate a stock of degenerates.


BLACKMAR, F. W. "State Supervision and Administration," Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1903, pp. 358—366. CLARK, A. W. Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1904, pp. 18o—187.

HEBBERD, R. W., and STEWART, W. R. Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1907, pp. 18-23.

HENDERSON, C. R. Modern Methods of Charity, pp. 407—413; Dependents, Defectives, and Delinquents, Rev. Ed., 1901, pp. 202—209.

SCANLAN, M. J. Proceedings, National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1905, pp. 167-179.

WARNER, AMOS G. American Charities, Rev. Ed., 1908, Chap. XVIII.


1. What would be the effect upon normal society if the number of dependents were multiplied fourfold?

2. Why is it not cheaper to allow the poor to get along as they may and relief to be given as any one wishes to have it done rather than to have super-vision ?

3. Outline the method of supervision practiced in your state by public authorities with reference to the public charities and the correctional institutions. With reference to the private charities.

4. Outline dearly the scheme of a state board of supervision, or, as it is commonly called, a board of state charities. Of a board of control. What is the essential difference between the two plans ?

5. Give arguments in favor of each of the two systems.

6. What arguments can be advanced in favor of the supervision of private charities by public authorities? Against it?

7. What classification is possible in your state of the defective, dependent, and delinquent classes? State the reasons why they should be cared for in separate institutions.

8. What classification of inmates is practiced in your insane asylums? In the jails of your state? In the poorhouses of your county?

9. State the reasons in favor of careful classification of inmates of institutions.

Outlines Of Sociology:
Poverty - Its Causes And Remedies

Charities And Charity Organization

Crime - Its Causes And Prevention

Social Degeneration

Administration Of Charitable And Correctional Affairs

Field Of Investigation

Methods Of Investigation

Social Philosophy

Science Of Society

Read More Articles About: Outlines Of Sociology

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