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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/669

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647
THE CALIFORNIA PENAL SYSTEM.

after many difficulties a factory was established at San Quentin. The price of raw material fluctuates greatly, and the mill has sometimes lost money, sometimes made a somewhat nominal profit. During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1891, for instance, 2,574,254 pounds of goods were manufactured at a total operating expense of $160,084.07, and were sold at a price which nominally gave $40,275.07 profit. But no sinking fund was allowed for, to cover wear and tear of machinery, nor did the operating expenses include even the maintenance of the convicts while at work. The following fiscal year the profit estimated in the same way was $39,293.18. During the fiscal year 1893-'94 the loss on the jute mill was $14,660.22; in 1894-'95 there was a profit of $6,670.56; and in 1895-'96 a loss of $12,288.45.

In five years, therefore, there was nominally a profit of about $60,000 in this department, but since neither interest, sinking fund, nor maintenance of the laborers is included among the expenses, the system can be looked upon only as a means of giving needed exercise to the prisoners and cheap grain sacks to the farmers. Financially it is a burden to the taxpayers. The old contract system had its drawbacks, but it at least afforded a profit, and gave convicts a chance of learning something about certain trades at which they could perhaps work when released; the jute mill not only offers no such opportunity, but is in other ways peculiarly unfit for modern prison requirements, since all operations in such mills can be stopped or delayed by the misbehavior of a few operatives. Far better are industries wherein small groups or individuals are engaged in various separate minor operations. Besides this, the sacks made by prison labor will probably have only local uses hereafter, because of a recent act of Parliament which is held to prevent wheat shipments in such sacks.

The Folsom Prison owns a magnificent water power and enormous quarries of granite. Between 1888 and 1894 convict labor amounting to 683,555 days were expended upon a dam, canal, and powerhouse, and over 2,000 horse power can already be used. About 250 horse power is now utilized by the prison for electric lights, ice manufacture, and other purposes. The quarries are being worked to some extent, and crushed rock for roads is sold at cost or nearly so. There is a farm that supplies many articles at less cost than if purchased in the market, At Folsom, as at San Quentin, the authorities do all in their power to economize, and to utilize convict labor, but the policy of the State prevents definite progress.

Meanwhile the reports of the prison directors and wardens and the messages of Governors have urged in the strongest terms a change. The biennial report of 1892-93 and 1893-94 says respecting the great Folsom water power: "If we can use this power solely with re-