Under the system of biennial State appropriations, nearly all institutions suffer at times from mistaken kindness, and at other times from undue parsimony. Since there is no general supervising board for the two State prisons and the two State reform schools, and no settled ratio of appropriation based upon the number of inmates, the friends of each institution naturally do their best to obtain as large appropriations as possible from each new legislature. Hence arise special visiting committees and combinations between legislators from different parts of the State to "take care of" institutions whose regular annual income should not be dependent in the least upon politics.
The appropriations made by the last two legislatures for all purposes connected with prisons and reform schools, including salaries of officials, are shown in the following table:
State Appropriations from July 1, 1895, to July 1, 1899 (Forty-seventh to Fiftieth Fiscal Years, inclusive).
|Name of Institution.||Sum granted.||Average yearly|
|San Quentin Prison||$615,153.40||$153,788.35|
|Preston School of Industry||237,000.00||59,250.00|
|Whittier State School||403,000.00||100,750.00|
|Transportation of prisoners||150,000.00||37,500.00|
Some small appropriations for improvements are necessarily included in these totals, but nothing more than may be expected every year or two. It is proper to rate the average annual expense of these institutions at nearly half a million dollars, nor can this sum be materially reduced until the State accepts the fundamental principle that prisons should be made nearly or quite self-supporting.
San Quentin was once managed to some extent on the contract system. Furniture-makers and other manufacturers paid half a dollar a day for each convict employed, and at one time as many as eight hundred men were thus utilized, giving the prison an income of twenty-four hundred dollars a week. The system was so violently attacked by labor unions that it was finally abandoned, and now I am told that convict-made furniture, stoves, and other articles such as were formerly made at San Quentin are brought to California from Joliet, Illinois, and other places by the carload.
Having abandoned the contract system, the State decided to make jute bags, chiefly for grain, and to sell them as nearly as possible at cost direct to the consumers, so as to help the agricultural classes. Machinery costing $400,000 was obtained in England, and