Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 244
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 244
 
use of the slum, and the classic war-cry, “To the victor the spoils,” made over locally to read, “I am not in politics for my health,” still interpret the creed of the political as of the “slugging” gang. They draw their inspiration from the same source. Of what gang politics mean every large city in our country has had its experience. New York is no exception. History on the subject is being made yet, in sight of us all.
 
 
Children’s Playground. Good Citizenship at the Bottom of this Barrel.
 
  Our business with the gang, however, is in the making of it. Take now the showing of the reformatory, 1 to which I have before made reference, and see what light it throws upon the matter:77.80 per cent of prisoners with no moral sense, or next to none, yet more than that proportion possessed of “good natural mental capacity,” which is to say that they had the means of absorbing it from their environment, if there had been any to absorb. Bad homes sent half (47.79) of all prisoners there; bad company 97.60 per cent. The reformatory repeats the prison chaplain’s verdict, “weakness, not wickedness,” in its own way: “Malevolence does not characterize the criminal, but aversion to continuous
Note 1. “Year-Book of Elmira State Reformatory,” 1901. The statistics deal with 10,538 prisoners received there in twenty-seven years. The social stratum whence they came is sufficiently indicated by the statement that 15.96 per cent were illiterates, and 47.59 per cent were able to read and write with difficulty; 32.39 per cent had an ordinary common school education; 4.06 per cent came out of high school or colleges. [ back ]

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