Giving Convicts a Real Chance
How the Prison Farms of Florida have superseded the inhuman leasing-out system
By Ewing Galloway
���A gang of convicts at Bradford Farms grading a lot for an electric powerhouse, ice plant and steam laundry. One of the two locomotives belonging to the prison is seen in the background
��A FEW years ago Florida's penal sys- tem was one of the crudest, the most brutal that ever existed in the United States. All able-bodied male con- victs were leased to private concerns to work in lumber and turpentine camps, and thousands of them were overworked, under- fed, and housed in cages unfit for wild beasts. Often those who failed in the slightest degree to please guards or over- seers were beaten unmercifully.
Magazines and newspapers revealed the truth about the lumber and turpentine camps, and as a result of their exposures the State Government established a prison that might serve as a model for agricultural states or principalities throughout the civilized world. In 1913, aft- er thirty-three years of leasing out all convicts capable of earning money for private con- cerns, the State authori- ties bought 17,000 acres of pine forest and swamps in Bradford County and started the de- velopment of what is now known as
���The wards are as light, clean make them. The men rise
��Bradford Farms. In November of that year crews of convicts began clearing and draining this tract of wilderness and laying the foundations of some of the buildings. To-day they have three thousand acres in a high state of cultivation, a prison town of thirty- five buildings, all- the implements, livestock and poultry they can use to ad- vantage, and a steam railroad of their own construction running to all important sections of the plantation.
Offenders serving time at Bradford Farms are not made to feel that they are despised outcasts upon whom the State is wreaking vengeance. They are treated as misguided persons to be corrected morally and trained for lives of usefulness. They are given wholesome food, housed in clean, airy buildings, en- couraged to improve their personal hab- its, and em- ployed at healthful and instr uc ti ve labor.
The field la- borers work only nine hours a day, which is about two hours less than the time spent
��and airy as the State could at 4:30 and retire at 7:30