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Reformatory CP - January 1910

Corpun file 22058


The New York Times, 10 January 1910

Jersey Home Board Upholds Whipping

Trustees of Trenton Institution for Women Malefactors Say It Is the Only Way to Control Them.

Abolished in Other Places

Annual Report Shows That the State Reformatory is Badly in Need of Money for New Buildings.


Press cutting

Few persons even in New Jersey realize that an institution still exists in that State, supported by the taxes of the people, in which girls and young women in their twenty-first year are whipped with leather lashes for the infraction of the institution's rules. The annual report of the Trustees of the State Home for Girls at Trenton was made public a few days ago, and revealed the fact that these conditions existed there.

In the opinion of some of those who have seen it, the most amazing thing about the report was that labored effort was made to justify that way of dealing with grown women. By the word of the Trustees themselves the thong is the only means of disciplining young women, the Superintendent whose duty it is to inflict the lash reporting to them that the concensus of opinions gathered by her in visiting similar institutions and attending conferences is that corporal punishment alone is sufficient to maintain proper discipline.


Jersey Alone Tolerates Whipping.

The Trustees express surprise and resentment in the report that the management has been criticized in the press. So far as could be learned yesterday New Jersey is the only State in this part of the country, if not in the Union, that tolerates this mode of punishment for young women.

New York State has nothing like it, though perhaps a dozen similar institutions are maintained. In the State Home at Hudson, N.Y., to which comes a similar class of girls from far scattered parts of the State the lash is unknown. It is declared to be unnecessary and positively injurious to the moral character of the girls thus punished.


The Trustees thereupon take up the Report of the Commission on Dependency and crime, the last body investigating the home, made to Gov. Fort early last year, quoting the reference to the home and replying to its strictures. The commission says:

[...] Corporal punishment should be abolished, as its use leads to overaction, and its application to women cannot help reformation, as it breaks down self-respect, which is a quality to be encouraged and not discouraged in a reformatory. [...]

The Trustees retort by saying:

[...] As to corporal punishment, the findings before the Investigating Committee shew that it was used in Jamesburg and in Father Moran's institution, and the consensus of opinion gathered by our Superintendent in visiting other institutions similar to this, is that corporal punishment is necessary in order to maintain proper discipline. As a matter of fact, in this institution it did not average over one case a month, and is now administered by the Superintendent, with the assistance of the women officers, and is permitted by the express resolution of the board.

It is no pleasure to the Superintendent to be compelled to resort to this means of preserving discipline over a vicious and unruly girl.

Press cutting

Those holding that the lash for girls holds no part in modern civilization point to the systems of discipline employed in similar or nearly similar institutions, as the Washington Square Home for Friendless Girls and the House of Mercy in this city, and the New York Training School for Girls at Hudson.

Whip Abolished in Other Homes.

Miss Anna E. Coyne, Superintendent of the Washington Square Home, said yesterday that the resort to a whip in the home she controls is a thing unthought of. While the girls she receives are as a class perhaps less difficult to control than those sent to a State institution, she has never found great difficulty in managing the most refractory by far more humane means than the whip. She regarded the injury done the girl's self-respect by the application of a whip under any circumstances as far outweighing any possible good likely to come from its use.

Miss Coyne said she used confinement or isolation of the disobedient girl in extreme cases, or the denial of the privileges enjoyed by the other girls when necessary to administer punishment. The padded cell was unknown. The appeal to the reason and the better nature of the inmate was its substitutes.

Sister Gertrude of the House of Mercy at Inwood receives many girls from perhaps no better environment than many of those sent to the Trenton Home. many of those at Inwood are committed by the courts, as is the case at Trenton, yet she controls them, teachers them, and sends them away, in many cases, but no rawhide strap is ever used.

In the New York State Training School at Hudson, of which Dr. Hortense V. Bruce is Superintendent, the conditions under which girls are received, the class of girls admitted, and the problem of control are identical with those confronting the New Jersey Home. But the lash has not been used for twelve years.

Dr. Bruce said yesterday she would not dare take the responsibility of whipping a girl, the certain injury to her self-respect, to build up which every effort is used, being too great. Besides, she had found such extreme punishment unnecessary even if in an isolated case it might be thought useful. There were too many other ways without its degrading influence to bring a wayward girl to obedience.

"The very troublesome cases are relatively few," Dr. Bruce said. "For such, we use baths, hard physical exercise under direction, restraint in some form for violence, and isolation." [...]

Every one acquainted with the conditions at the Trenton Home admits that new buildings and enlarged and more modern equipment are urgently needed, and that the Legislature should promptly respond, but they object seriously to an attempt to justify whipping young women under any circumstances. [...]

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