After this analysis had been carefully made, we excused the young man and explained that thirteen of his twenty-six years had been spent in jail. He had been left an orphan early in life and secured so little education that he was almost entirely illiterate.
As soon as he was old enough, he was set to work at the only thing he could do, namely, manual labor. He was small and slight for his age, and the services he was able to render were not worth much. He, therefore, received very small pay. Because of his physical disabilities, he was behind the other boys in his gang and suffered frequently from the tongue-lashings of an unsympathetic foreman. His pay was not commensurate with his tastes. He constantly felt the desire for finer, better, cleaner things than he was able to earn. The work was hard for him; he suffered much from the punishment inflicted upon his tender hands, from muscular soreness and from weariness. As the days rolled on, he grew weaker, rather than stronger, and became weary earlier in the day. Finally, the time came when he felt that he could endure the taunts of his foreman no longer, and he was about to give up when the foreman, exasperated with his inefficiency, his clumsiness, and his weakness, discharged him.
Having been discharged, it was difficult for him to find another place to work. At this critical stage, being out of money, and having fallen in with idlers—and worse—he was influenced to use his keen intellect and ability in plans and schemes, to commit a small crime, which yielded him $10 or $15. Being a novice in crime, not naturally a criminal, he did not protect himself from discovery and punishment, and, as a result, was sent to a reformatory. After a short term in the reformatory, his behavior was so good that he was released. After his release, a kind-hearted person, who had observed him and liked his appearance, secured another position for him. This also was at manual labor. At first he entered upon his new work with a determination to succeed, to live down the stain upon his character caused by his previous speculation, and, therefore, to live an honorable and successful life.
He worked hard and did his best, but the best he could do was not good enough. He possessed no manual skill, he had no strength, and little by little he again became physically tired out, mentally discouraged and sore, and, having once committed a crime, found it easy to seek his former associates and drop again into the old ways. An opportunity presented itself to rob a companion’s pocket of a few dollars, and he did so. Again he was sent to the reformatory, this time for a longer term. Then, until he came to our office, his career was a repetition of what has already been related. A few months or a year or two in a reformatory, a jail, or a penitentiary, a month or two trying to rehabilitate himself in some form of manual labor, and, then, inefficiency, incompetency, lack of skill, lack of strength, and discharge, to be followed by another attempt to add to his resources by some petty crime.