Page images
PDF
EPUB

policeman would have been there to protect the citizens; but this old man had to pass a number of danger spots infinitely worse and much more dangerous, so that it required a bodyguard, and he had it. After working for us for a few months, I noticed one day he was getting liquor and when he started, he went very fast and we had to exclude him from the prison. That man tried perhaps harder than any man in this room to do the right thing, but he was the victim of an appetite. We know the battles that he lost but we do not know the victories he won; and for years I have hoped that when the time comes for that man to die that he will be in prison; for if he dies in prison I am perfectly satisfied he will go to the Kingdom Come, but I am not so sure that he will go there if he dies in the slums of this city. I think it is Burns who says, “What is done we partly may compute, but know not what's resisted,” and I never think of that old man but I think of those lines of Newman's,

There's a wideness in God's mercy.

Like the wideness of the sea;
There's a kindness in His justice,

Which is more than liberty. That man is typical of twenty per cent. of the average prison population, and when you analyse what he has to contend with your attitude towards him is of a very different character.

Something more than two years ago a young man came to me in the prison corridor one day, and asked me if I would take him up to the farm at Guelph. He was about twenty-eight years of age. He was doing his fifth term. I said, “I can't take you up; you and I have had a lot of trouble.” He said, “Yes, but haven't I done well this time?” I said, “Yes, you have done exceedingly well this time.” “Well,” he said, “then give me a chance," and I gave him the chance. I took him out. I stayed myself about six hours, and he stayed about twenty-six hours. We apprehended him a few days later in the town where Trinity College School is, in my old town, Port Hope, and when he was brought back into prison I happened to be standing in the same place where he and I had this conversation a few days previously. If ever

my heart ached for a man, it ached for him; for if ever you saw contrition and remorse and regret depicted upon the human face, it was on the face of that young man; and I was the one who had made the mistake. I had placed a burden of self-denial and responsibility upon him that he was not able to stand, and under which he had gone down. That young man would only grade about eighty-five per cent. mentally and he represents at least twenty per cent. of those who come to prison. There are more men go to prison through weakness than through wickedness. I do not think that more than fifteen per cent. of the average prison population is intrinsically criminal in character. I have given you these types to give some idea of the material with which we have to deal.

You expect me to-day possibly to say something about our prison farm. Two years ago last April we took the first eleven men out to the farm. From that day to this we have taken out seventeen hundred men. Out of those seventeen hundred men, twenty-two have escaped-something less than one and a half per cent. Does that seem large? If it does, please remember that the desertions among the twelve apostles were greater than that, and they were all picked men. There is an undefinable something in God's out-of-doors that heals and elevates. I cannot tell you what it is. Nature elevates unquestionably. It does not ask: Is a man good or is he bad? The rain cometh alike on the just and unjust. When the great German dramatist despaired of saving his hero, he threw Faust back on nature. Shakespeare says there are "tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” Some years ago Professor Carruth, of the University of Kansas, wrote a little poem which to my mind is a very delightful one, and one of the verses reads,

A haze on the far horizon,

The Infinite tender sky,
The ripe, rich tint of the corn-fields,

And the wild geese sailing high.
And all over upland and lowland

The charm of the golden-rod,
Some of us call it Autumn,

And others call it God.

1

Do you catch the spirit of those beautiful lines? They tell what I should like to tell, if I were able, how God speaks to our delinquents through the hazy atmosphere and the golden sunsets, and how God speaks to man through the growing and opening grain, and through the song of the birds that soar over their heads. It recalls that beautiful verse by Browning :

This world, as. God has made it,

All is beauty;
And knowing this is love,

And love is duty.
That is the poetry of penality.

Let us go back to prison. Of the men we have taken out to the farm I have asked a great many the same question–different types, different times, and different places. I have asked them all this question: "What do you find the greatest difference between the prison in Toronto and life out here on the farm ?” and every man without exception has given me the same reply in one form or another, and it is this—"It is getting away from that cell.” As one young man said to me one day, and he did not say it to be disrespectful or irreverent, “Warden, to sit in that cell all day Sunday, and Saturday afternoon, and every night, and see that cell gate staring you in the face, it is Hell.” One day a gentleman in the city here came up to the prison and asked to go into the factory. He had his boy of about eleven or twelve years

of

age with him and he said, “May I take my child in?” I said, "Certainly,” and as the boy was coming in, when he came to the cells and saw those gates all in a row, he grabbed hold of his father's hand, and said, “Father, are there beasts in there?” The first year or two I was in the prison I never heard a cell gate clang but it went through my heart. But I have lost that. However, when this boy asked his father that question I then prayed the prayer of Robert Louis Stevenson,

Lord, thy most pointed pleasure take,

And stab my spirit wide awake. The result of these episodes has been that in our new prison at Guelph there are not going to be any cell gates. (Applause) I do not believe it is possible for a young man in the formative years of his life to spend six months in a prison cell and ever be quite the same afterwards. I believe it has a hardening, degrading, callousing effect, which must leave an indelible impress upon his future life.

On the farm at Guelph we have our quarry where we are quarrying stone that enters into the construction of our building. We have our lime kilns where we burn lime. We have our hydrating plant where we hydrate the lime. We have our tile plant where we construct the tile that goes into the construction of these buildings. We have our cement brick plant where we make our own brick. We are doing practically everything that enters into the construction of those buildings except the metal, and producing the timber. Our average population in Guelph for several months past has been three hundred, and those three hundred men work better than any three hundred labourers we could hire in the Province of Ontario.

I am not emphasizing the honour phase of this. I think a good deal of magazine work that has been done in the last few years emphasizes the honour phase too much. These men do not stay there purely from the standpoint of self-denial. If they did, they would have a lot of us people on the outside beaten a hundred ways. They would be so good they would never have gone to prison. They stay there because we keep them there; but we have learned this, that it is infinitely more easy to control the delinquent class than has previously been thought. We find that a firm and kindly supervision is all that is required, and although we have three hundred men up there day and night with only some eight or ten officers, there is not a gun and there never has been a gun or a weapon of any kind on the place, (applause) and I very much doubt if there ever will be. I hope not. Then comes the economy of it; I have not time to-day to go into that more than to say that the financial 'feature is most satisfactory,

If we can reinstate these men in society and make them social units and relieve the state of an immense expense in taking care of them and watching them, is that not good financing? In dealing with delinquents it is the personal touch that tells; but the personal touch is powerless unless it is backed up by spiritual sincerity. I often think of that passage in the New Testament where our Saviour asked who it was that touched Him, and the disciples replied, with apparently some astonishment at the question, "Do not the multitude throng thee?" Oh yes, the multitude was there, but the personal relationship was only established with one. Longfellow was right when he said:

Ah, how skilful grows the hand,
That obeyeth love's command,
It is the heart and not the brain,
That to the highest doth attain,
And he who followeth love's behest,
Far exceedeth all the rest.

Who are they for whom we should do these things? What claim have they upon our effort and our sympathy? Have you heard of the young Scotch girl who one day was carrying a cripple boy over a street crossing in Edinburgh, and a gentleman seeing her so burdened hastened to aid her; but the girl looked up smilingly, and replied, “Ah, sir, I dinna mind it, he's my brither.” (Applause)

« PreviousContinue »