Prison Farm for Women Described by Miss Munger

[Cedar Rapids Gazette and Republican, 11 Oct 1932.]

The "inside" point of view of a woman's reformatory, its organization and work was told by Miss Elizabeth Munger, superintendent of the Connecticut State Farm for Women at Niantic, who spoke at a special meeting of the College club Monday evening at the Hotel Montrose.

"It makes such a difference," Miss Munger said, "if you are on the outside looking in, or the inside looking out. We get to know these delinquent women, know them as cases and individuals."

The Connecticut State Farm is one of the largest and most modern institutions in the country. It is valued at one million dollars, its "campus" includes 1,000 acres and at present time it houses 230 women, 80 babies and 65 members of the staff. There are 150 women on parole.

Miss Munger reviewed the history of penal and corrective institutions for women, their recent development and their pressing need. She pictured her own institution, a "gentleman's estate" with its rolling acres and landscaped grounds. The Connecticut State Farm includes both the reformatory and the women's state prison.


Cites Caste Among Prisoners

There is caste even among criminals, she said. "The women in the prison feel themselves to be the aristocrats, because they have only committed one clean-cut 'decent' crime," remarked Miss Munger, "while those in the reformatory, who have a lower intelligence, have lived a life socially and physically immoral." In order to feel their superiority the prison women insist on wearing a particular uniform which distinguishes them.

When a girl is committed to the farm she goes through a complete physical examination, and then is isolated for two weeks. This is the hardest and most uncertain part, for she may have hysteria, may try to escape or to attempt suicide. After her isolation she is examined by a psychiatrist for mental diseases and a psychologist for intelligence.


Ask Prisoner's Opinion

After we get a complete picture of the girl, we hold a staff meeting to decide what procedure to take, what she needs, what treatment and what work on the Farm she is best fitted to do. Then we call her in, tell her our decision, and ask for her opinion. Perhaps she likes some work better than another. Perhaps something is troubling her or worrying her, and if there is we try to help her." All but the heavy work on the farm is done by the women. They raise nearly all that they consume, except some staple foods, making the cost per capita only 7 cents a day. On certain evenings they have movies, dances, singing, a review of current events and religious services.

After a period of nine months the girls in the reformatory are ready for parole. They are found jobs in domestic service and their wages are turned back to the state farm where a portion is saved to be given back to the girls after their discharge. The babies are kept at the farm until they are 2 years old when they are turned over to boarding houses until they are 4. Then they are taken to county homes, or cared for by the towns from which their mothers were taken.

Miss Munger is a charter member of the College club and is a sister of Grant B. Munger and James L. Munger of Cedar Rapids.