As a former prosecutor and public defender, I found Thomas Fleming’s May Perspective, “Law and/or Order,” to be very wise. However, I noticed one oversight—no mention of the workfarm, or work camp, as a place of incarceration for some convicts.
When I started practicing in 1969, St. Louis county had a workfarm operated by Mel Abrahamson, who was tough, but very fatherly. Wild, young men would get, upon their first adult felony conviction, a year at the farm. They would hoe onions all day, which gave them time to think about a life of crime and periodic incarceration.
But then they changed the farm into a correctional center for rehabilitating “clients,” who were “consumers of the criminal justice system,” according to one memo I saw. Mel, not being degreed in criminology, was forced to retire. Required work was out, peer group therapy was in.
I recall one likable client who got a year in prison and my lecture on how he was accountable for his actions and should do his best to profit from the experience. A year or so later I ran into him on the street. He was bitter; he was now a victim of his childhood environment, he said, learning this in “transactional analysis.”
—Thomas J. Bieter