JULY 5, 1952
HYDE PARK, Friday—I got back to Hyde Park Thursday night and we are having a delightful time with my niece, Mrs. Edward P. Elliott, and her four children as guests for the month of July. Also here for the weekend are my old friends, Mr. and Mrs. D.V. Sandifer of Washington, D.C. They have just seen their daughter off to Europe with some friends. What an experience that must be for a youngster and how much freer they are today to enjoy it than my generation was.
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I have just read in Coronet magazine a little article called "Pilot Light for Boys' Prisons" by James Patrick.
It is the story of a camp at Natural Bridge, Virginia, an old CCC camp maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for juvenile delinquents. The program includes—perhaps taken from the old CCC camps idea—the useful out-of-doors work, such as clearing of forests, banking of roads, building and improving their own camp. Here they even made their own cinder blocks and built a large gymnasium.
This is one of a number of experimental institutions where doors are not locked, where officers are known as counselors and do not carry firearms and where young and tough delinquents often learn a trade which they can use later to earn a living. Perhaps for the first time in their lives the youngsters find themselves among friends and so busy they haven't time to be bad.
This camp had the trouble that nearly all institutions of this kind have. At first, many of the boys ran away. There is nothing to prevent such action because there are no walls and no locked doors. Soon, however, the boys themselves began to explain to the new boys that running away wasn't a good idea, and now, after the first month, they rarely have a runaway.
There are disappointments in work of this kind and heartaches, but there are also great rewards. This magazine article tells about a few of them.
I had not known before that the Federal Bureau of Prisons was making experiments with such institutions. This sounds more forward-looking than anything we have in the State of New York under the State Bureau of Prisons and Reform Schools.
The little school across the river from me, called Wiltwyck, which is for delinquents committed between the ages of seven and 12, is run on much the same pattern. But Wiltwyck is a private institution, working with the courts in New York City.
I hope that some time in the not-too-distant future I can go to one of these Federal camps to see for myself such an experiment that holds the greatest promise in the field of preventative, progressive treatment of delinquents. Too often in the past we have seen young delinquents become permanent inmates of state and federal prisons.
Rehabilitation such as is taking place at Natural Bridge is the sort of work one can be proud of. When it is undertaken by the government it shows what government can do on a practical as well as an idealistic basis.