« PreviousContinue »
TUESDAY, November 20, 1894. The hearing was resumed at four o'clock P.M., Chairman HALLSTRAM presiding.
DISCUSSION IN REGARD TO FURTHER EVIDENCE.
Mr. Chairman, I received to-day this letter :
Socta Boston, November 18, 1894. TO ALDERMAN LOMASNEY, City Hall :
Hon. SIR: I was refused to see the Investigation Committee when they were here, and as I have a story to tell, and I wish you to hear it, I cannot put it here, as this goes through the officer. Can I see you or will you get permission off the Mayor so I can write you a sealed letter? If you do not get this letter, there will be a certain party ask you if you received a letter from me.
ED. S. FELTON. HOUSE OF CORRECTION.
Now, Mr. Chairman, we visited, as an Investigating Committee, the House of Correction. I had several letters from the institution and I called one witness who sent me a letter. There were a number of other witnesses called, but from this letter it appears that one individual was denied the right to appear before the Investigating Committee, and there is no evidence before this committee that any other prisoner in that institution was told that the investigatiog committee were there and ready to hear charges, if there were any, and asking to have them brought before them. When we first went to the House of Correction I asked the Chair how we were going to proceed, how the prisoners were going to know that we were there, and the purposes for which we were there. However, nothing was done. Now, Mr. Chairman, it seems to me if you are going to have an investigation that is thorough and complete the prisoners who are in the institution, within the walls, should be given the opportunity to appear before the committee; and, Mr. Chairman, I now move you, sir, that the chairman of this committee be authorized to notify every prisoner in the institution that the committee for the purpose of investigating public institutions will attend there on a certain day, and if they desire to testify that they be allowed to communicate that fact to the chairman of this committee in a sealed letter and without losing a monthly letter for that purpose.
The CHAIRMAN. - Do I understand the alderman to make a inotion ?
The stenographier repeated the motion.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee has heard the motion as read by the stenographer. Are you ready for the question ?
Ald. LEE. Mr. Chairman, while I do not desire to oppose any motion that may be made by the alderman on my left as to any individual prisoner who may have a complaint to make to this committee as to the management of the institution or his tre ment while confined there as a prisoner, whether inside or outside the walls of the institution, it seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that the motion which the alderman has made is a sweeping one; and if discipline is going to be maintained in the ipstitution, and a committee, whether from the State or from the city, is to go in there and tell the prisoners either in their cells or in their workshops that a committee is there ready to hear them, then, Mr. Chairman, show me the man who may be the superiutendent of that institution, with all his officers, who can maintain discipline and good order. If, Mr. Chairman, you want riot and insurrection to prevail in your penal institutions, then pass that order. I will go, Mr. Chairman, as far as any member upon this cońmittee, and devote as many hours and as much time to go there and listen to any prisoner who may have a complaint to make. I understood at the last meeting we had there that all the people they had that they desired to hear were heard. As I understand it from the alderman, he has received this letter since we closed our javestigation in part at the House of Correction. Am I right?
Ald. LOMASNEY. This morning.
Mr. Chairman, here is a man who has a complaint to present. I believe we should hear it. I believe if there are any others there who may send letters to either the superintendent or any member of this committee, having a complaint, that we should hear them; but don't let the responsibility come upon this committee, Mr. Chairman, of placing the penal institutions of this county in such a state, by any vote or any act of ours, that we may be criticised, not only in our own city, but throughout the whole country. I again say, Mr. Chairman, that I will vote to hear the evidence of any man within its walls who has a complaint to make, no matter how trivial it may be. As I understood it, Mr. Chairman, “I may not understand it correctly,
the committee intended to visit the institution again, having beard but one side. I believe there was one witness who was called there who was called through some misunderstanding. Now, if we are going there again we can hear this person and any others that may have complaints to make. But, Mr Chairman, and I make it as an honest and earnest appeal to the committee, don't vote to direct either the commissioners or the superintendent in this matter; and I do not believe, Mr. Chairman, that if we did so vote to direct, either the commissioners or the superintendent would do it. It is against good order, and certainly against the safety of the citizens whom we are here to protect. I trust, Mr. Chairman, that my friend will modify his motion, that we may hear them all, but not making it so sweeping and so broad.
Ald. LOMASNEY. — Mr. Chairman, I am certainly willing to avail myself of any suggestion that Alderman Lee will make that will
get the facts before this committee. We have been investigating these iustitutions for very nearly a year, and we have spent two days in the House of Correction. During this entire year no system has been adopted by the committee by which the prisoners in that institution who had any complaint to make were notified ; and before we opened the first hearing there, Mr. Chairman, you will recall that I said to you,
“How do you propose to have these prisoners notified that they have an opportunity to come before the comınittee?" You said, “ Let every person call the witnesses.” And I called one person who wrote me a letter.
He was the only person, Mr. Chairman, that I called. I have on a piece of paper eight or ten other prisoners whose names are on letters from that institution. Not one of those people has been calleil. Now, I do not propose — I would not be a party and I know this committee would not be a party to anything that would destroy the discipline of that institution, and I am really here and now to vote for any man that will secure the prisoners in that institution an opportunity to appear before the committee. Presumably, Mr. Chairman, they had known that we were there, but low do we know that? Let us admit, for the sake of argument, that they did know, — then this letter disproves it. Now, Mr. Chairman, I say, pick out any ten, twenty, five -- I don't care who they are; but certainly, Mr. Chairman, if you are going to find out anything of the condition of affairs in the House of Correction you must find it out from the inmates as well as the officers. You have heard certain officers testify,-- you have head the deputy superintendent, you have heard officers of the institution, you have heard the physician, and why shouldn't you hear the inmates? Certainly very few of the officers have any reason to find fault. You don't expect to find them coming up here with tales of woe or of brutality. It is the inmates, and when you get to the inmates, how do you know now that they were aware that this committee was there? No menıber of this committee went into the prison, no authority, and said they were there and ready to hear them testify. There is no reason to suppose they were notified of that fact, particularly when you get a letter signed by a prisoner showing that he asked to come before this committee and was refused. Now, Mr. Chairman, I believe in discipline. I believe when a person goes to a penal institution he should be made to conform to the laws and live up to the requirements. But I believe he should be protected in his rights as a prisoner, and that he should be subjected to no more brutality or punishment than the statutes authorize. I will accept now, Mr. Chairman, any motion that Alderman Lee may make, that will show these prisoners that we are ready to hear them, and give them an opportunity to come before the committee. That is all I desire. I certainly would not desire to interfere with the discipline of the institution it inust and should be maintained, no matter what the cost. The citizens of Boston would not tolerate any interference with the discipline of The institution. This committee has done nothing during its whole course that would allow any person to suggest that they had any such purpose in view, because we have been careful and prudent, and, Mr. Chairman, the officers of the institution should
see that the prisoners are given an opportunity to appear before
If they do not, why, Mr. Chairman, you cannot claim that this has been an investigation.
Ald. SANFORD. I would like to inquire if this committee has not passed a vote to the effect that on or before a certain day all evidence in regard to charges against the institutions sliould be in, and if that day has not been reached ?
The CHAIRMAN. The vote passed by the committee, if the Chair recollects aright, was that in the sense of the committee all evidence in relation to charges should be ended on or before the 15th of November.
Ald. LEE. — I quite agree with the ruling of the Chair upon the question raised by Chairman Sanford; but, as I understood that vote, Mr. Chairman, we were to close the investigation so far as the material and the witnesses they had on hand was concerned. But here is something that comes to light now and I am going to ask now, Mr. Chairman, and through you, just one question, and then I will try with Alderman Lomaspey to frame a motion that I think will carry into effect what he desires, and what I believe every member of this committee desires — to have the fullest investigations, and not bar anybody out that may want to be heard, but to hear them all before we come to our conclusions. As I read this letter directed to Alderman Lomaspey, dated November 18, 1894, and directed here to City Hall to him, the writer says, “I was refused to see the Investigation Committee when they were bere.” Now, Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask, through you, and I don't think that I am getting at all away from the line of the investigation, one question from the superintendent now. I hardly think there will be any objection to that question. He may answer it yes or no, simply that.
Mr. PROCTOR. - I will answer for him.
The CHAIRMAN. - Colonel Wbiton, the superintendent, is here. If be thinks proper he can answer the question of Alderman Lee.
Ald. LEE. - Edward S. Felton says in this letter, " I was refused to see the Investigation Committee when they were here." Now, that is a simple question and I don't propose, in asking him that question, to allow any cross-examination at the present time, and I don't think anybody wants it. We want to go right.
Mr. PROCTOR. What is the question ?
Ald. LEE. I wanted to ask, through the chairman of this committee, of the Superintendent of the House of Correction, if Edward T. or Edward S. Felton - I think it is Edward S. Felton - was refused the opportunity of appearing before the committee, or if he asked, from the superintendent or any of the officers, to his knowledge, to appear before the committee at any time during this investigation? I believe we were over there, how many times, Mr. Chairman ?
The CHAIRMAN. Two days.
Col. WHITON. – Mr. Chairman, the deputy told me after you had gone, that Felton had requested to see the committee. I told
him, as I understood it, that if the committee wanted him they would call him. I will say, further, that he has not asked me to write to the alderman. If he had I should have given him permission.
Ald. LEE. — Now, Mr. Chairman, I think the alderman had better ask that his motion might be referred to the whole board, and that we determine what course we will pursue in order to get at the various witnesses we may have letters from or may want to hear. I have some, Mr. Chairman. I have had some information, and I am sorry I haven't the letters with me. I propose, through the courtesy and the kindness of the chairman here, -- whom I know will agree with me in this matter,
that each and every member who may want to hear any prisoners there may have an opportunity to do so. I do not desire to make the motion, unless it is agreeable to Alderman Lomasner. I believe we ought to refer that to committee of the whole, and we can there discuss the best and safest way for us to proceed in hearing the prisoners.
Tbe CHAIRMAN. Does the alderman mean to refer it to the committee?
Ald. LEE. The whole board, the whole committee in executive session.
Ald. BARRY. To be acted upon this afternoon?
Ald. LEE. At any time the committee desires to act upon it in executive session,
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair cannot see but what the communication and the remarks are before the committee now. The Chair cannot understand what the alderman means by referring it to the committee.
Ald. Lee. Well, I may be a little thick, Mr. Chairman. I do not doubt that I am. I always have to admit that.
But as I understand it, a motion has been made here by Alderman Lomasney, and arguments have been made for the motion and have been made against it. Now, my position is that I think the motion is too broad and too sweeping. In order that we may get at the matter, and not only satisfy Alderman Lomasney, but everybody interested, and especially the committee, Mr. Chairman, who are the most interested, as they must make up their verdict, — I move that that matter be referred to the whole committee, and that they determine which is the best way rather than his way of getting at the prisoners and bringing them before the committee, rather than having somebody going into the shops and standing there and saying, “Who has got any complaint to make ?” That is my idea. I think we can argue in committee and can arrive at a conclusion that will be satisfactory to each and every one.
The CHAIRMAN. — I suppose the alderman means that it be laid on the table and acted upon possibly at some executive session?
Ald. LEE. Yes, or referred to the committee when in executive session. That, I suppose, Mr. Chairman, would be parliamentary.
Ald. LOMASNEY. – Mr. Chairman, I am perfectly willing to agree to anything that Alderman Lee says in regard to that, so long as we have an opportunity to hear what the prisoners have