My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Thursday—Yesterday afternoon the Egyptian Minister came to bring me a gift from the first factory which had been opened in Egypt. They have always imported their linen and cotton material and for the first time they are actually making cotton and linen articles. It seemed almost incredible to me when one realizes how much cotton is grown there and that they had had no factory before for its manufacture into articles of everyday use.

We were alone at dinner except for some friends of Franklin, Junior's, and I worked until fairly late while the boys enjoyed a movie.

This morning I set off to drive myself to the District Jail. For the first time I was to drive a new car and my brother insisted on going with me as he evidently distrusted my ability to understand its mechanics! So he also had to go through the jail. On coming out his comment was: "In Birmingham, Michigan, they have a modern one that has this one beaten a mile!"

It wouldn't be at all difficult to beat this one in a great many ways. Except for very able administration it might very easily be a breeding place for crime. The food seems to be excellent for the money spent. The jail is so clean and as well ventilated as it possibly can be considering its construction. This could be ameliorated by the use of modern ventilation fans and I think if I were the warden I would be saying a prayer every night for an addition where I could segregate the young offenders and have sufficient space for a modern hospital, and appropriation enough to allow for adequate medical examination of every one who is taken in, as well as a safe place to care for them while ill.

Our district jails throughout the country are probably where we should begin in communities to familiarize ourselves with the crime situation and what we as communities can do to ameliorate it. These are the least known institutions, very rarely visited and yet they are the nearest prisons which most people might see.

I hold no brief for individuals who visit public institutions as a mere matter of curiosity but I think every citizen should familiarize himself with all the institutions of government in his vicinity. As a taxpayer he is responsible for their support and for the way in which they are run, and in the course of his survey he may find something really valuable that he as an individual can do. The mere sight of the barred windows and doors, and the thought of what nights must be with all that closely packed humanity thinking no very happy thoughts, makes me shiver as I go in, and breathe a prayer of gratitude as I come out again into the air and sun, free.

E.R.
TMsd 14 January 1937, AERP, FDRL