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Is Michigan A Modern Sodom?

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To the Editor of the Detroit Tree Press: Will you kindly give a woman opportunity through your columns to reach many other women in the state, who must be heartsick over the apparent impossibility of securing for little girls protection from criminal assault? As a matter of course, the whole community is profoundly shocked over the recent crimes. But this avails nothing. What we need is a remedy for the present awful condition of things, and the remedy will not come of itself. Mere invective may relieve our minds; it is to be feared that it also quiets our consciences as to any individual responsibility, for out of it grow no suggestions of possible defense for of the helpless little children. Surely it is to an effort in this direction that we are, each one, summoned according to the measure of our influence. It is conceded that there are difficulties in the question, and the most effectual remedy not easily apparent, but there must be one, and light will come to us on this, as in all other problems, as we give ourselves earnestly to the search for it. The startlingincrease in these frightful crimes may be largely the result of the laissez faire theory, for there has been a steady growth in this evil thing. Shall we dare longer to withhold our efforts to do something? And can there be more sacred work for the women of Michigan that the concentration of their hearts and brains in a concerted effort to devise effectual action? In the sphere of moral reform, women are not accustomed to serving as a forlorn hope, and their endowments of perseverance and high courage in matters appealing especially to the heart and conscience may well be taken as an indication that such work rests especially upon us, and may not be declined, but rather must be accepted unshrinkinglv. Perhaps it may suggest a starting point, to give briefly the result of an effort made by a woman singlehanded during the past year. It seemed to her that it might avail to petition the State Board of Corrections and Charifies to take under consideration the subject of further legislation for the protection of woraen and children from criminal assault. In reply, assurances came that the petition would receive the careful attenlion of the board; and no doubt it did receive such attention, for after three or four months the final answer was that the law which provides for "imprisonment for life, or for any term of years," could scarcely be said to be inadequate; and that the frequency of the crime illustrated the fact that in many cases severe penalty fails to act as a deterrent. As this same view seems to be largely held, it may be well to meet it with an inquiry as to what are the practical results of this large discretion of the judge as to the length of sentence. As an illustration, within, the last few months four perpetrators of this crime, the victims ranging from 7 to 9 years of age, have been sentenced in the courts of Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Bay City, to terms of three, five and seven years' imprisonment. This means, it may be inferred, that the physical injury being considered not incurable, the crime was regarded as a light one. It is plain that in these cases the judge took no account of theinaffecable moral taint inflicted, nor of the danger to other innocent children, in having these human fiends ever again at large. Again, to illustrate how far the] action of a judge thoroughly awake to his duty may be nullified, let us examine what you have fitly termed "Gov. Luce's jaildelivery" just before he went out of office. Among the crimináis thus let loose upon the community was one Sawdry, from Ottawa county, sentenced in 1880 for thirty years, for criminal assault. Two reasons were given for this act of clemency: First; the extraordinary one that the man was drunk when the crime was committed; and secondly, that he had "reformed." How this last fact was proven is not stated. Another criminal, Shaffer, under a life sentence for assault upon a child nine years old, had his sentence reduced tolessthan nine years. So that after 1893 it will be no longer impossible for this lecherous monster to figure in a second Dimondale tragedy. Surely this last illustration shows ihat there is one change in the law to be immediately and persistently demanded. In cases of conviction for assault upon a child there should be absolutelyno pardoning power lodged in any human hands underany circumstances. If the bill for the restoration of the death penalty becomes a law, we may expect to hear it said in many quarters that under it juries will not convict of capital crimes. If thisbe true, then it is a cali to the women of the state to undertake the education of public sentiment to an intelligent appreciation of the nature of crime, and the supreme duty of legal protection for the weakest and biest. Juries are made up of the husbands and fathers and brothers of the women whq have it in their power to make a beginning towards changing a demoralized public conscience, so that there shall be a growing willingness, and finally an earnest desire, to see the law of the state execute the law of God, acting as His minister. If this must be a long crusade the unfinished work can go down to the children that come after us as a sacred legacy. Will not prominent women all over the state combine quietly and promptly to sludy out a remedy and work for its accomplishment? If it shall appear that there is danger of successful opposition to the Henze capital punishment bilí they can greatly strengthen the hands of those who are working for it bymemorializing the Legislature in favor of its passage. There is another effort we can make, to which attention has already been called by a woman. Ignorant and careless mothers must be roused to the duty of guarding their little girls. The mother, who last summer, allowed oiie of the farm hands to sleep in the room with her children, aged four, seven and ten, with horrible consequences to them all, may have her counterpart in utter irresponsibility in many quarters. In the crowded homes of some no doubt it requires a steady effort to preserve the decencies and separate the sexes. Certainly the recent horrors supply a text upon which the plainest teaching to this class of mothers may be based. Almost daily the newspapes report atrocities in our own state which must rival the deeds of those cities of the plain which were blotted out by fire from Heaven. And all this, in the nineteenth century and in a Christian community, passes without any uprising of popular indignation as might prove remedial. The dulled public conscience sees no way to protect the helpless, and feels no fear of a day of awful accountability for its sins of omission. Even our pulpits are silent. Last winter a little girl about six years old was assaulted by her drunken father withsuch results that she spent months in a hospital. No complaint was made against this man, for the mother was the sole witness, and the law made it incompetent for her to testify against her husband. So the wretched brute went free, but when his poor little victim was pronounced "cnred" she was sent to a prison - the House of the Good Shepherd, as I am informed. Certainly a prison, especially if it be a christian prison, was a better place for her than her own home. But was there ever such a travesty of justice. Detroit, February 6, 1891.