War Days Bring Increases in Admissions, Paroles at State Farm for Women at Niantic

[Helen M. Hey, New London Evening Day, 29 Apr 1944]


The physical appearance of the Connecticut State Farm for Women at Niantic hasn't changed one iota by war times. The pleasing-to-the-eye panorama of grassy acres, architecturally attractive buildings, the lake, and the herds of sheep and other cattle at pasture remain the same.

The true barometer of war-time effects on the State Farm is found in statistics showing admissions, paroles, types of cases, etc.

As evidence there are these pertinent facts: For the first time in its history there are more women on parole than are in the institution - 21 per cent more; the number of new commitments has doubled since the start of the war, with a considerable increase shown in pregnancies among women taken to the farm, and the battle to curb social diseases and remove or at least drastically reduce a great menace to the men in service.

Miss Elizabeth Munger, superintendent, in an interview, advanced the information that during the period July 1, 1942 to July 1, 1944, the institution will have received 550 new cases while in a similar period new admissions averaged 300.

Facts such as these, which result when a nation dons a uniform, present an appalling picture. But they also indicate this state institution has geared it operations for action to meet the situation, and is doing so capably.


241 On Parole

Its present population numbers slightly more than 200 adult inmates, 241 on parole and 65 babies. This census does not include numerous other cases, such as behavior problems referred from other state institutions, which receive attention.

In reference to the women on parole, Miss Munger said 41 per cent are employed in domestic service and 57 per cent are working in hospitals and in essential war industries. Only two per cent of the parolees are unemployed.

Speaking of reasons for the high percentage of paroles, the superintendent laid it to several factors, but principally to the great increase in the number of commitments and the constant pressure from the communities for women workers.

To emphasize that the institution is in no way relaxing its strict policies in granting paroles, Miss Munger asserted "although we have, in some cases, shortened the term in the institution in order to keep our doors open to new admissions, we have not deviated from our policy of paroling only those who are physically fit and for whom employment and a proper home can be provided."

Despite the high parole rate the State Farm's parole staff of five has not been increased, but they are "loaned" institution workers to help out on some of the routine trips.


Beneficial Training Program

The days of the women at the farm are busy ones, for all those physically able to do so must take part in a beneficial training program. This is based almost exclusively on the various types of maintenance work and is domestic and industrial in character.

Cooking, serving, sewing, laundry, gardening, poultry raising, dairying and care of infants are all in the day's work. Assignments are made in rotation or with a plan to develop aptitudes in more than one vocation.

The power sewing room, the power laundry and the larger kitchens and the cannery might be said to offer the industrial training, while the hand sewing classes, the hand laundry work, the cooking school and the work in private homes on the grounds furnish the domestic training.

Work in the fields and the gardens is regarded as chiefly of therapeutic value for those who arrive undernourished and anemic. But, as a war measure, Miss Munger said, every able bodied woman that can be spared is being pressed into service in the fields.

School work, she added, is also planned mainly as mental therapy and emphasis is placed upon the stimulation to good reading which the school and library foster. Foreign women, illiterate in English, are taught to read and write.

All of which equips the women to be better citizens and better prepare themselves to provide for their own needs on their release.


Babies Kept at the Farm

The babies at the farm, Miss Munger admitted, seem to be the biggest attraction to those visiting the institution, and they always want to know "what happens to them?"

The law governing the institution, it was explained, provides that infants under one year may be admitted with the mother, but the superintendent said most of the babies have been born right at the farm. The babies are housed with some of the mothers, and all of the pregnant women, in a separate maternity hospital where they have the services of a physician and a corps of competent nurses and attendants.

Some time before a child reaches two years of age, a plan based upon the individual case is made for its placement. "If the mother or her family can offer a satisfactory solution, we arrange matters ourselves, but, if there is no adequate person or persons in the family, the child is committed to the bureau of child welfare to be placed in a licensed boarding house," stated Miss Munger.


Acts as Clearing House

Perhaps the State Farm's most important function during the present emergency is that of acting as a clearing house for social disease cases.

Not quite eight months after this country took up arms - Aug. 1, 1942 - Chief Justice William M. Maltbie of this state's supreme court of errors, in letters to all Connecticut judges having criminal jurisdiction, called their attention to the alarming increase in venereal disease in the state. He warned that a critical situation threatened unless the courts acted to curb the evil and offered suggestions as to some of the things that might be done toward that end.

The following is the portion of his letter which concerns the Niantic institution's part in the drive to prevent and treat cases of venereal infection:

If a woman is found to be infectious or if, in default of facilities for a proper examination, there is, under the circumstances, reasonable ground to believe that she is infectious, the following course may be taken and is strongly recommended.

"The State Farm for Women has consented, for the emergency, to open its splendid facilities for dealing with cases of this nature, to the extent that it is able to do so.

"Upon conviction of a plea of guilty, the woman may be committed to the farm under the usual mittimus for an indefinite term. The court may, however, indicate on the mittimus that the commitment is for the purpose of treating her for infectious disease by writing on it, after the statement of the offense [f]or which she has been committed, these words: 'Report requested within 60 days.' The superintendent of the farm will understand, if these words are used, that the woman is committed primarily for treatment."

The justice, in his letter, explained that ordinarily a case may be rendered non-infectious within considerably less than the 60 day period. To this, he added, "as soon as she is found to be in that condition and, at least at the end of the period designated for the report, the superintendent will report to the court, with a recommendation as to the further disposition of the case by the authorities of the farm: discharge, parole or retention at the institution."