State Parole Cooperation Hailed by Prison Farm Head

Miss Munger Sees New System Helpful in the Reclamation of Women After They Are Freed

[Source unknown, 1939]


Application and perfection of all the new techniques developed for the handling of women prisoners is a job that will take the next fifty years to accomplish, believes Miss Elizabeth Munger, superintendent of the Connecticut State Farm and Prison for Women. She is a member of the board of directors of the American Prison Association, which has just concluded its annual congress here.

However, there is one new development whose full possibilities, she believes, are only beginning to be realized among penologists. That is the cooperation between States in the matter of parole.

"Formerly if a parolee had to be sent into another State because his family lived there, or he could find a job there, he had to be discharged from supervision," she said. "Interstate cooperation in parole is a coming thing, I believe, and we have been able to work out arrangements in certain cases with both New York and Massachusetts. It brings us to a more satisfactory solution of some problems."

Preparation of prisoners for parole is the clue to much of the work done at the institution at Niantic, where Miss Munger superintends an average of 250 inmates and 65 infants under 2 years of age. Under supervision, they are allowed to go freely about the grounds, which cover 1,000 acres, and a lake where they swim in Summer.



Rehabilitation Sought

When Miss Munger became superintendent fourteen years ago, a group of old farmhouses comprised the institution, and a building program has been carried on steadily since that time. But there has been opportunity also for development and application of newer theories of the rehabilitation of prisoners.

Penologists at the congress were outspoken in the high opinions held of the conduct of women's institutions. Techniques have been developed, they noted, in the handling of inmates, with the result that there are few sensational occurances today, and few disciplinary problems. Sanford Bates, former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, summed up the general feeling by saying, "Both here and abroad, the women's and girls' institutions of America are acknowledged to be on a distinctly higher plane of management than those for men and boys."

One reason advanced in explanation was that women are more likely to make penal service a career, and make definite preparations for their work. An equally strong determining factor, Miss Munger believes, is the smaller populations in women's institutions.


Small Groups Aid Handling

"With smaller groups, we can take the time to study each case and follow up recommendations made for each individual," she said. We see each woman oftener than is possible in the men's institutions, and we can check on her progress. Under these circumstances, conditions are more favorable in every respect; we can carry out experiments and work out standards for our work.

"Another point is that we no longer make the mistake of making an issue of everything that happens, and thus stir up the feelings of the entire group. We can see trouble approaching and meet it before it comes by straightening out a situation that threatens. There is seldom any occurance in a woman's institution so serious that we need to call in outside help. Sensational stories and disciplinary troubles have been diminished as a result."

Of the great range of types which are sent to Niantic Farms on indeterminate sentences up to three years, the most difficult, she finds, are the women of good educational background. "They either stay bitter about their fate, or lose sight of the fact that they are in an institution, and find fault continually. It is very difficult to please them."

Before she took up her work at Niantic, Miss Munger was assistant to Dr. Mary B. Harris when the latter was head of the State Home for Girls at Trenton, N.J.