Document 9B: "Mrs. Kate O'Hare Begins Work for Prison Reforms," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 31 May 1920, p. 2.
MRS. KATE O'HARE
BEGINS WORK FOR
Socialist Leader Who Was
"Doesn't Regret a Day of
14 Months in Prison."
CALLS TERM COURSE
She Prepares Breakfast for
Family at Home--She Was
Met at Union Station by
About 100 Friends.
Mrs. Kate Richards O'Hare, Socialist leader, who was released yesterday from the penitentiary at Jefferson City, was back at work today,12 hours after her arrival here last night. A Post-Dispatch reporter found her this morning at her husband's office in the Holland Building engaged in working upon her study of prison reform, which she began while a prisoner herself.
"I regard the 14 months which I spent in prison as a 14-months' college course in criminology," she said to the reporter. "It was hard, of course, but I feel that what I learned was worth it. I do not regret a day."
Her five-year sentence was commuted Saturday by President Wilson, and Attorney-General Palmer yesterday telegraphed an order for her immediate release.
Upon her arrival at Union Station last night, accompanied by Frank P. O'Hare, her husband, she was met by their four children and about 100 friends who had been notified that she was coming in. After dinner with friends she went to the O'Hare home, 3175 Brantner place.
This morning she got breakfast for her family, and went to the office soon afterward.
Health Good After Imprisonment.
She appears to be in the best of health, and declared she was feeling well. She weighs more than when she entered prison. Her hair, perhaps, is somewhat whiter.
She was convicted of violation of the espionage act in making a speech at Bowman, N. D., in the summer of 1917, that was held to be in opposition to the conduct of the war. It was a Socialist address, such as she had been delivering for many years.
"The pioneer work of Socialism is done," she said today. "The force of events has brought Socialism to that point where the heart-breaking labor of propaganda is no longer necessary. Right now, news of the Socialist party is given a better place in your paper and all the great newspapers, than news of the other two parties."
"If the Republicans and Democrats nominate for President such reactionaries as Wood and Palmer, there will be a tremendous swing to the Socialist party, and there is likely to be such a landslide as elected Lincoln the first time.
"The investigation of campaign contributions by the Senate is opening people's eyes. We Socialists have known for many years that that was the way Republican and Democratic candidates were always selected, but the people didn't believe us. All Socialists know that a few rich men always dominate the nomination of candidates of the two old parties, but this is the first time the beans were ever spilled in public. You don't hear anything of millionaires contributing to Debs' campaign fund."
Mrs. O'Hare was full of the subject of prison reform. She related that when she learned, in 1919, that she would have to go to prison, she prepared an outline for a scientific study of criminology, and took it to prison with her. She has worked steadily upon it throughout her imprisonment, she said.
"I have been going up and down this country for a good many years, and I have seen a good many unfortunates," she said, "but I am convinced that the populations of the prisons are the most hopeless, helpless and friendless lot in the world. Of course, if a prisoner knows a friend of some politician, he is all right--he'll get out, but the great mass of them have no such friends.
"Most people do know that there are more people in prisons in this country today than there are in college. Every year 200,000 of these men and women, some diseased, all embittered, cynical, and harboring a special grudge, are turned loose upon the community under circumstances which make it probable that they will commit another crime.
Congratulations by Wire.
While Mrs. O'Hare was talking, she was continually interrupted by persons coming in to congratulate her upon her release. More than 30 telegrams of congratulation were received today from all parts of the country. Women who came into the [illegible] office embraced her. She had a good-humored greeting for each.
"You're a martyr in a good cause," declared one woman after hugging her.
Mrs. O'Hare laughed in some embarrassment. "No, indeed," she replied. "I learned things that I never would have got in any other way. Think of the poor souls that are still in prisons--they are the ones that deserve sympathy." Turning to the reporter, she continued: "My friends thought it would not have been so bad if I had only stayed in for three months or six months, but that a year was terrible [illegible] come out at the end of six months, I would not have been able to complete my study of prison conditions. It takes a year to really see the physical, mental and moral degeneration of the prisoners take place."
Views as to Criminals.
She said she had become convinced that psycho-analysis, as taught by Freud, furnished the best solution for the "cure" of crime. She believes, she said, that virtually all criminals "are not criminals at all, but are subnormal."
"The Missouri Prison is no worse than the most," she said. "It is the system that is wrong. Warden Painter is a good-hearted man, and a long-headed politician, and when the people of Missouri demand better conditions, he will be only too glad to put them into effect.
"The overall factory where the women work is about like the commercial factory of 15 years ago. I was able to get along in the matter of food because I got much food from the outside. Those who are without money or friends do not fare very well."
She said that for nine hours a day the women prisoners were not allowed to speak to each other--not even to those working next to them. That is one of the worst features, she said.
Kept Up With Events.
Mrs. O'Hare has kept in close touch with events. She spoke of the revelations of W. Jett Lauck, consulting economist for the railroad brotherhoods, on profiteering, and said he was doing wonderful work.
"It's a funny thing about me," she said. "The administration sent me to the pen to get rid of me, and thousands of people who had never cared anything about me, and who wouldn't have gone to hear me speak for anything, have written letters to me, and have become interested in Socialism."
She said she intended to proceed immediately with her work of compiling data on the question of prison reform. She has been in communication with a number of college professors and students of penology.
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