OCTOBER 31, 1949
HYDE PARK, Sunday—Among the state amendments and propositions that will come up on election day, there is one in a nearby state which I hope will go through. New Jersey citizens will be asked to approve a $25,000,000 bond issue to bring their state institutions out of a very inadequate and overcrowded condition. No new taxes will be necessary to pay the cost of the issue, since their 1949 state legislature, in unanimously decreeing that the question should go on the November ballot, also pledged the revenue from state liquor taxes to pay the costs.
New Jersey's situation must be duplicated in many other states which have old institutions and whose current revenues have barely paid for the current operating expenses and the most pressing repairs. With the increase in population in our country, state institutions are bound to become so overcrowded that no program of real rehabilitation can be successfully carried on.
In New Jersey, for instance, they have a century-old prison whose main building dates from 1835. Its capacity is 1,150 people, but at present it houses 1,538, which means that three or four are sometimes placed in one cell. Under these conditions you may find a youthful first-offender placed with an old and hardened criminal, thus acquiring more harm than good in prison. No program for reform can be carried out in such overcrowded conditions.
This same overcrowding exists in the mental hospitals of the state and in the four institutions for the feeble-minded. In the latter case, perhaps the worst feature is the fact that at the end of the last fiscal year there were 564 feeble-minded children in the community awaiting placement in the schools for the feeble-minded. This is serious in families where the mentally deficient child must be kept with the normal children.
In many of these institutions, too, there are real fire hazards. Buildings are old and ramshackle in one institution for epileptics in this state. A tragedy might easily occur if a fire broke out where these afflicted people are sleeping in overcrowded wards.
It is a strange thing, as has sometimes been observed, that states require private institutions to live up to certain standards, yet at the same time they permit in state institutions substandard conditions that injure the patients themselves and create great anxiety for families who are obliged to place these defenseless people in institutions.
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Today (Monday) has been designated in New York City as National Flower Week Polio Tag Day by the Florists Association of New York City. They will donate 500,000 flowers to aid the Greater New York Chapter March of Dimes for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Some 2500 women volunteers in the auxiliaries of the leading veterans organizations will distribute these flowers in the five New York boroughs, soliciting contributions for the March of Dimes. This is the gift of one association in one city, but one hopes that many associations will do similar acts of charity in this year when treasuries in every city and state were taxed for the care of polio patients beyond their expectations. I mention this in the hope that it will serve as a suggestion to other groups throughout the country.