Mr. Smith to Mr. Blaine.

No. 17.]

Sir: After a session of 9 days, the Fourth International Penitentiary Congress closed its regular work on Tuesday, the 24th ultimo, amid many mutual congratulations and expressions of good will. The conclusion of its formal labors was followed, upon the invitation of the Russian authorities, by an excursion of 3 days to Finland and another of 4 days to Moscow. Mr. Randall participated in the former, and all of the American delegates in the latter, which ended yesterday.

[Page 699]

The session of the congress is generally regarded as quite successful. In the fullness of its deliberations, in the practical character of its discussions, in the opportunity for a comparison of experience and progress in prison management, and in the substantial unanimity of its conclusions, it realized the best expectations. Most of the delegates were men directly associated with penitentiary administration in the various countries, who brought the training and knowledge of experts to the consideration of the several questions embraced in the programme. It is not my province to make a detailed review or summary of the discussions and conclusions of the congress. That survey will be made by Mr. Randall in the report which, as the expert delegate, he will present to the Bureau of Education. But there were some features of the congress which will be of interest to the Department of State, and to which I may properly refer.

In the first place, there was no discussion of the internal system or methods peculiar to any particular country and no reference to any such subject. The questions submitted for the consideration of the congress were, under the usual practice, determined by the International Penitentiary Commission, which is a permanent body and which constituted the commission of organization; they were enumerated and defined in the proposed programme, which marked the scope and limits of the congress. The papers on the different topics which were the main theses of discussion were furnished and printed in advance, and the deliberations did not go outside of the proposed outline. There was no suggestion in any quarter of any attempt to invade the domain of policy or of administrative discipline, which each government must reserve for itself. Whether the penal system in any country has phases which are open to criticism, or whether, irrespective of its general principle, there are faults in its practical application, were matters outside of the functions of the congress.

Even upon those questions which were treated as coming within the proper province of the congress it was recognized that the conclusions must be affected by the conditions existing within the different countries and that those conditions must be respected. This was true, for instance, as to the application of the contract system to prison labor, and as to the question whether prison labor should be directed to objects which would not involve competition with the free labor of surrounding communities. Among the questions considered were the character and requirements of legislation with reference to juvenile delinquents, the organization of instruction in penitentiary science, the principle and manner of suspending or discontinuing punishment involving conditional sentence, the treatment of incorrigible criminals, the method of dealing with intoxication and offenses growing out of it, the nature and variety of work to be adopted in prisons, the modes of assisting discharged prisoners and their families, the relation of charitable bodies, the correctional and reform systems, and the whole subject of preventive measures. Upon many of these questions the practical discussions, with the information and comparisons which they elicited, were of more value than the formal conclusions.

The declaration of the congress upon the subject of extradition may have special interest for the Department, and I append to this dispatch (inclosure 1) the text of the question as submitted and of the conclusions adopted, together with translations of the same. It will be seen that, while the congress sanctions and supports the general principle of extradition, with all the reserve which each state must exercise for itself, it recognizes the difficulty of a uniform definition of crimes [Page 700] subject to extradition growing out of the differences of penal legislation; that, with a view to the advancement of a general agreement, it recommends the special enumeration in international conventions of offenses to which extradition will not be accorded, instead of the enumeration of those which are subject to extradition; and that it urges efforts towards a common agreement among writers on criminal law to the end of giving the same name and definition to violations of the law which should be subject to extradition.

The growing interest in questions of prison administration, science, and reform will be indicated by certain comparative statistics of the several successive congresses at London, Stockholm, Rome, and St. Petersburg, which, as taken from the bulletin of the congress, I inclose, marked 2.

During the course of the congress Mr. Randall, as the expert delegate from the United States, took occasion to make some statements as to the progress of penitentiary and penal studies in our country, and, incidentally, as to its friendly attitude towards Russia. He expressed the sentiment of the United States towards the congress and its work, and explained why our prisons and correctional institutions were not represented in the exposition, which was chiefly due to the great distance. He remarked that the delegates of the United States were specially gratified that this congress had assembled at St. Petersburg, since the United States and Russia had always been bound together in the closest ties of friendship. Russia had attested her good will at a crisis when our national existence was at stake, and we could never forget her aid, for its memory was deeply engraved in our hearts. Mr. Randall added that the progress which Russia had made in penal science was known and appreciated in America. He referred briefly to the contributions which the United States had made to penitentiary reform and to the influential part which an American citizen, the lamented Dr. Wines, had borne in the original organization of the International Penitentiary Congress. He concluded by expressing the congratulations and good wishes of the American Government and people for the success of the congress. The paper of Mr. Randall, and especially the references to the friendly relations of the United States and Russia, were received with emphatic marks of approval.

It was decided that the next congress should be held in Paris.

It only remains to add that the Russian Government and the municipalities of St. Petersburg and Moscow did everything possible for the comfort and pleasure of the delegates, and that their hospitality was as hearty as it was lavish and unstinted. By command of the Emperor the congress was entertained at a sumptuous dinner at the Winter Palace, and numerous other banquets testified to the cordial welcome and kindness of our Russian hosts.

I have, etc.,

Chas. Emory Smith.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 17.—Translation.]

The first question on the programme of the first or legislative section was the following:

By what proceedings and in what manner is it possible to bring about for the different countries a common name and a precise definition of the infractions of the penal law which should appear in the acts or the treaties of extradition?

Mr. Spassovitch was designated to present the report upon this question to the general assembly of the congress, a report which embraced the following conclusions:

That treaties of extradition being in close dependence upon the special penal legislation of the different countries, and this legislation being as yet irreducible to [Page 701] any single form whatever, it would be useless to undertake now to introduce into international conventions uniform definitions of unlawful acts, for the definition of these acts can not be identical.
That it is desirable that special penal legislation should adopt the principle of extradition as the general rule, with all the reserve by which each state finds it necessary to restrict it.
That the exception tending to become the rule, if extradition were adopted in principle in special legislation, international conventions upon extradition might change the proceedings, and in place of the enumeration of unlawful acts subject to extradition they might contain the enumeration of unlawful acts to which extradition will not be accorded.

Mr. Reynaud, for himself and some of his colleagues of the first section, presented the following separate conclusion: The congress expresses the judgment that a study should be made of a common agreement between the writers on criminal law of various countries to the end of giving the same name and a precise definition to infractions of the penal law which should be the object of extradition.

The three conclusions reported by Mr. Spassovitch were adopted, and the proposition of Mr. Reynaud was adopted as an additional conclusion.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 17.—Translation.]

Statistics of the International Penitentiary Congress.

Congress of—
London, 1872. Stockholm. 1878. Rome, 1885. St. Petersburg, 1890.
Total of members inscribed 341 297 234 740
Of the countries which entertained the congress 192 155 141 563
States represented 24 26 25 26
Official delegates 76 45 48 69
Questions inscribed on the programme—
Of the first section (penal law) 10 4 6 8
Of the second section (penitentiary) 13 6 8 11
Of the third section (preventive means) 5 4 8 6
Total 28 14 22 25
Number of preparatory works (reports presented upon the questions on the programme):
First section 9 11 25 46
Second section 3 21 24 57
Third section 4 17 18 36
Total 16 49 67 139
Questions upon which the congress has indicated a solution:
First section 2 4 5 7
Second section 8 6 5 11
Third section 5 4 7 6
Total 15 14 17 24