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A CROSSROAD PRISON LAMAR TECH FIRINGS AND STANDARDS but the system still managed to produce 8,700 balesdouble the 1950 production: on less land. “We would have done even better in ’58,” says Ellis’s deputy R. C. Jones, “but the September floods ruined 3,000 bales. We actually made the crop and couldn’t harvest it.” The loss cost the prison system $600,000 that was ticketed for capital improvements. The system is in the hog and cattle business up to its earsl0,400 stocker cattle and 11,400 hogs, over $1 million; in meat on the hoof. By maximum use of its captive labor supply, the prison management has been able to pour over $5 million in farm income into capital improvements to help stem overcrowding, at the same time operating the overall system at less cost per man than in all the states save two. \(Only Mississippi and Arkansas, both of which use prisoners as guards, have a lower cost per day than the Texas figure of 96.2 cents per inmate. By c o m p a r ison, Massachusetts spends $6.68, Connecticutt $6.25, and there are nine states whose per day cost is above $4 per inmate. 10 states above $3, and 14 In 1959, however, the prison system is at the point of no return. “As of now, 8,500 is the maximum number of prisoners we can keep productive. We’re way over that now and growing every day,” Jones said. Breeding Crime Overcrowding in the state prison system contains, as Ellis told the legislature, the seeds of potential riot. There is yet another consideration, as Ellis told the Observer: the flood of prisoners has inundated the gains in rehabilitative programs to turn out parolees who are a good bet to go straight and not return as second or third offenders. Overcrowding is breeding crime. The Department of Corrections and the prisoners have addressed the problem. At no cost to the state, the productivity in the Huntsville farms and shops has been increased from 100 to 200 per cent, providing over $5 million for capital improvements, NEW WAVERLY A lot is being said these days about hospitals. I am for hospitals. I think they are wonderful. But I suppose it was not always so. There is the history of the doctor who was very much disturbed at the maternity and infancy death rate. He was the first to have the idea it would be a good thing for doctors handling maternity cases to wash their hands. Radical. He was abused for it. But he was stubborn. He put a wash pan of water at the door of the maternity ward. Read that book; it will make your hair stand on end. Women used to beg to be allowed to have their babies’ in the gutter in the street. They more often ‘survived. I wasn’t born, in a hospital. It simply wasn’t done in those days. So my first experience was for a simple matter and I chose to ‘have it in a Catholic institution. The usual Job’s comforters went with me to the room and there beheld a crucifix at the head of my bed and bewailed its presence. .I had not noticed it, but I came out from under the ether weeping bitterly over the ‘suffering of my Lord and demanding that my doctor should ease His pain. Instead he eased mine so as to get back Page 6 March 21, 1959 The system produced twice as much cotton: on less acreage, last year than in 1950 and dollar returns .have been ‘boosted in shops producing shoes, textiles, license plates,, and other goods. This income; ‘augmented by legislative appropriations, has permitted the system almost to double its capacity since Ellis took over as director in 1948. Although room for 3,958 inmates has been added, the prison population has increased 5,735. Today the prison system, built for 8,316, bulges with 10,809; the excess of new inmates over parolees is now mounting at the rate of 1,200 a year. There is literally no place to put them. \\ The two new prison units requested by Ellis in his biennial budget will not ease the situation, he says, but will permit the system to maintain the present level of overcrowding. “If they gave us everything we asked for, we could fill them today, even if it were possible to build them in one day,” Ellis says. Teeming tanks and cells make the corrective and rehabilitative process more difficult and weaken the actual control and discipline over the prisoners. This contributes not only to perversion but domination of inmates by more aggressive prisoners. “We keep a sharp eye for the strong ones and the weak ones,” says the warden. “But this is a negative accomplishment, keeping a situation from getting worse. What is needed are positive accomplishments, helping a man get hold of himself, finding the right work for him so he can get on his feet before he gets out of here. Overcrowding thwarts this.” In a calm, logical manner, Ellis went on to explain his efforts to modernize the prison system staff with psychiatrists, psychologists, and sociologists. “We need them for the same reason a hospital does, we have sick people in prison. Everybody has a cracking point if you screw the lid down tight enough. There is a level, which we call normal, and another, say abnormal. Men in prison have a lower frustration point than what we call normal. We need professional men, psychiatrists and sociologists, to tell us where a man’s point is, so we can shape the work accordingly, help him get a hold on himself.” his finger from the hold, I had on. it. The same Job’s comforter related to me the story of a patient whose feet were so badly burned by an electric pad that she would never walk again. So the next time I rose to the ‘surface of consciousness I heard myself saying, with hypocritical gentleness, “… please, please take that hot pad away from my feet.” After a few years I had to go again for another simple matter and that time I learned to say about pain, “It will pass.” I cannot say how valuable that has been to me as the years have gone by. Pain, sorrow, disappointment … they come to all of us. Next I had the measles. It was midwinter. Awful. It was my first Washington visit.. It was during World War I. It was not tactful to ,* have the measles in the middle of a war meeting. I was hastily but firmly removed to Garfield Hospital, a bleak affair with one wing for contagious miscreants. There were a good many nurses to look after us until night came on moonlighted a n d bitter, bitter cold. So all the nurses stole out and went tobogganing. At the foot of the hill they wrecked themselves and all except one was badly injured. That one had 24 The New Units Ellis is pitching ‘hard for legislative appropriations to fight the dual battle of productivity and rehabilitation. Ferguson Farm \(to house 1,000 minimum security insecond requested unit is to be located on 8300 acres of farm land that Ellis wants to buy. The land will cost $1.2 million and the buildings $3 million. Some of the money, but not all of it, can be raised by sale of prison land, 660 acres of w i c h are located within the city limits of Houston and are quite valuable. The Legislative Budget Board turned down the request for the “new unit” in the next biennium on the ground the exact amount of money needed wasn’t known and couldn’t be known until Ellis first sold his prison-owned land. The Governor’s budget carried recommendations for both units. Just before last week’s House deadline on the filing of new bills, Rep. Jamie Clements of Crockett introduced measures transferring title of Blue Ridge farm from the prison system to the state and appropriating, in exchange, $1,250,000 needed to purchase the 8,300 acres of farm land for the new unit. If the House appropriations committee does not include the new unit in its budget, Clements’s measureas a single shot appropriation billmust await House passage of the general appropriation bill and the taxes to pay for it. Both the Governor and the Legislative Budget Board approved Ellis’s requested $250,000 for an industrial building at the Wynne Farm for the physically handicapped to manufacture brooms, mops, mattresses, and garments. None of the 1,132 inmates at being “worked.” How has Ellis prevented any major trouble? “We’ve been lucky for one thing,” he said. “The good Lord has been with us. And there are a couple of things. on our side that work for good morale. The men know we’re building as fast as we can. They can see the evidence, the new buildings. We said produce and you’ll get the benefit. They did and we did. The men are all right when they think they’re getting a fair shake.” L. G. hour duty and all the measles patients. Awful. But even at that a hospital was better than no hospital. Then. … shall I go on? I had food poisoning. Awful. In Levy’s. There were two of us and we plead for a doctor or to be sent to a hospital. But people were busy and we were a nuisance. Finally, I whispered weakly: “We are dying and you do not even know our names or where to send our bodies.” That brought a doctor and he brought mbulancestwo of therAand we were carried out on stretchers and went in procession with sirens to clear our way, to that longed for hospital. Wonderful. We lived. So I broke my arm on the ice one cold day on the farm when I was feeding the cattle. That day there were 17 broken arms in that hospital and all were taken care of. I actually did not care when, at three a.m., I came out from under the ether to find myself still in my work shoes and cattle feeding dress, but warm and comforted with my arm all set. I am for hospitals. And I truly wish that the legislature would break down and tax all of us, “according to the ability to pay” and invest an adequate amount of the proceeds in hospitals: special and general. M.F.C. BEAUMONT Poor student work on a large scale has caused officials at Lamar State College to instigate a study-analysis of the school which in turn caused a flareup among faculty members and the dismissal of one full professor of history. The Observer interviewed the professor, Dr. Merrill Rippy, and the college president, Dr F. L. McDonald, to amplify published reports concerning 40 to 44 per cent unsatisfactory work in freshman courses, reduced work loads, physical education instructors teaching history, classrooms of 85 students, and a faculty meeting in which three to six instructors walked out in protest. MacDonald acknowledged the administration had become concerned about 44 per cent poor work among freshmen math and science students and 40 per cent poor work in freshman English and had started an analysis leading toward possible academic adjustments. He said of 3,259 students enrolled in science and mathematics, 1,433 were currently scholastically unsatisfactory, and of 1,150 English students, 454 did unsatisfactory work \(grades less by Rippy that the school had sought’ to lower reading requirements and “ease up” on grading in an effort to stem the flow of failures. He at first denied but later said “I’d better not say for sure” that the dean of the college had talked to the faculty about state funds the college was losing through students dropping out of school. He denied he had told Rippyas stated by Rippy to the Observerthat “you are a good teacher, you will get another job; you belong to the classical school like they have at the University of Texas where professors run the departments. I’m not going to have that here.” Rippy’s dismissal came in the form of a letter that his contract would not be renewed, in which McDonald told him, “I find your walking out of a faculty meeting an act of insubordination which I will not tolerate on this campus.” McDonald said no disciplinary actions was being taken against two other history professors who walked’ out of the same meeting. “They’re ba c k in my good graces,” he said. The events leading up to the faculty meeting date back to the fall of 1957 when a letter came down through the college administrative channels to the history department to restudy reading requirements with a view toward adjusting them \(“lower,” said Dr. Rippy; “achieve some uniformity,” only full professor of history other than the department chairman, conducted the study together with the other professors and found that the requirements then in existence “were reasonable.” The requirements were not altered. In the summer of 1958, Dr. Rippy said he was told by the department chairman, Dr. Preston Williams, that the track coach and the football coach would be used to teach history and government. Rippy said he was informed the college “had to have jobs for the coaches during the summer and the only way to pay them was to have them teach.” Rippy said the track coach had no training that qualified him to teeth government and that the football coach “may have a minor in history to go with his major in physical education but he has never taught history in the years he had been on this campus.” Last February, Rippy said, the dean called Williams about the number of failures and drop-outs in history. Two professors \(not ticularly at fault. Rippy said both professors had three large sections of 85 students each instead of the normal load of five sections of 25 to 30 students each. He said the actual number of failures was ten per cent, but that another two per cent dropped out, making a total of 35 per cent, which the college thought was too high. Rippy said the department took the position that ten per cent was a “not unreasonable” number of failures and that it felt it was not accountable for the drop-outs. “On February 22nd,” Rippy said, “I had coffee with President McDonald and was quite heartened to hear him say that he was not trying to lower standards and that the two of us had had a misunderstanding. I went away feeling pretty good, but that very night there was a faculty meeting. Dean 0. B. Archer \(Dean of statement was ‘What would you say if someone had taken $600 out of your pocket?’ I could see then,” Rippy said, “that we were going to have another discussion about student failures, so I just politely got up, and without sayMy anything, I left. “Unfortunately, after I left, some four other history professors and one administrator left also, and some of them went out the back door, which slammed. That is the one thing I regret …” Advised later Dean Archer had been personally insulted, Rippy said, “We replied that we certainly meant nothing personal, our differences were academic, and if Dean Archer felt personally aggrieved, we would apologize, and we did. The following Sunday, the other two professors were called in to President McDonald’s office. The same day, I received a letter saying my contract was not being renewed in May.” President McDonald told the Observer “T here was no relationship between our analysis of the failures and Dr. Rippy’s leaving. He walked out of a faculty meeting can’t have that.” When asked about Dean Archer’s statement about the school losing money, McDonald said he “heard no such remark.” As for the athletic instructors teaching gov