The Pious Prisoners

 The studies of the three Franciscan priests reported in Crime and Religion were made almost twenty years ago.  The defenders of Roman Catholicism might contend that the morals of the faithful have improved since then.  After all, they blamed much of the criminality of the twenties on the uneducated immigrants from Catholic countries such as Italy , Mexico and Ireland , where ignorance and illiteracy were widespread.  Since then, under our new immigration laws, that tide has been slowed somewhat.  Furthermore, the parochial school system has been expanded enormously, so that official figures now claim that sixty per cent of all Catholic children are in Church controlled schools.

It seems important, therefore, to find out how the Roman Catholic hierarchy has more recently been represented behind the bars of America 's prisons and reformatories.  While on speaking engagements across the country, I have searched the public libraries of Los Angeles ,

Chicago , St. Louis , Kansas City and many other cities, only to find nothing on the subject. Why not take a leaf from Messrs.  Gallup and Kinsey and conduct my own survey?  Interested friends said I would receive no responses.  But it seemed worth trying.  A Phoenix deputy sheriff obtained for me the local sheriff's copy of the 1954 Official Guide and Directory of the Police and Sheriff Association of North America, as well as the call letters of every police radio station, and the names, location and warden of every state prison and reformatory in America .

The following letter-questionnaire was sent to 287 institutions:

 This Hospital has a psychiatric department.  Several doctors are interested in the possible correlation of religious belief and psychic phenomena and the further correlation, if any, between crime or delinquency and religion.  We would appreciate your kindness in answering the questions on this page.  A self-addressed envelope is enclosed for your convenience.  

Total number of inmates

Number of Protestants

Number of Catholics

Number of Jews


No religious affiliation

 Of those queried, sixty-two per cent or 198 institutions responded.  Eleven of the respondents kept no religious statistics.  The other 187 answered all the questions, with 153,857 prisoners covered.'

 One of the most astounding facts revealed was that only 989 or six-tenths of one per cent of the inmates were Jewish.  Some institutions sent reports broken down in such complete denominational detail that they should interest theological schools.  Confusion is evident regarding the term "Protestant." Some prisons consider as "Protestant" all those who belong to the various denominations.  Some label as "Protestant" those who call themselves Protestants and lump under "others" those who call themselves Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.  Other wardens consider every prisoner who is not a Jew or Catholic as a "Protestant."

From my study, I have abstracted the percentages of Roman Catholics in America 's state penal institutions as compared with official percentages of the Catholics in the total population of each state, as found in the National Catholic Almanac.  However, the latter figures are inflated and unreliable, because they are merely parish estimates.  We must remember, too, that parish guesses include those fifteen million or so who have left the Catholic Church.  As one priest said of me: "There are no ex-Catholics; there are merely bad Catholics."

When this information is used to revise the statistics, one sees that the proportion of Catholics in the total population is less than that shown in Table 11, and the high percentage of Catholic criminals becomes even more striking.  These penitentiary figures were not merely guessed at by a parish priest.  The individuals listed themselves as Roman Catholics.  In other words, where the actual Colorado State Penitentiary figures show 41.9 per cent against a hierarchical boast of 16.7 per cent, or almost exactly two and a half times as many Catholics in jail as their percentage outside, the true figures are probably four to one.'

 In 1954 1 conducted a personal survey among psychiatrists, which will be treated in detail in a coming chapter.

 Table 11.  Percentages of Catholics in American Prisons and in

Total Population

                                                       Catholic    Catholic

                                                         Prison          State

                                                   Population Population

        Alabama                                                               2.5

          Draper Prison                                2.8

          Negro Industrial School                 4.4

          Tutwiler Women's Prison               3.0

            State Cattle Ranch                          0

            Boys' Industrial School                4.1

            Atmore State Prison                     3.0

         Arizona                                                               22.0

            Arizona State Prison                   32.5

            Fort Grant Industrial School for Boys             50.9

            Convent of the Good Shepherd  50.0

         Arkansas                                                              2.1

            Arkansas State Penitentiary         11.2

            Girls' Training School                  3.3

            Fargo School-Girls (Negro)            0

            Arkansas Boys' Industrial School 2.0 

        California                                                            22.2

            Folsum Prison                           38.3

            San Quentin Prison                    33.3

            California Terminal Island Fac.   40.0

            Preston State School-Industrial   48.7

            California Youth Authority          32.1

            Nellis School for Boys-Whittier  50.8

            Fricot Ranch School-Bovs         46.0

                                                             Catholic  Catholic

                                                               Prison        State

                                                        Population Population

              Lomond Forestry Camp                 46.0

             Los Guilucos School-Girls             60.3

             Coarsegold Forestry Camp            57.1

             Paso Robles School-Boys              49.1

             Corona Institution-Women             40.3

             Chino Institution-Men                     31.8

             Ventura School-Girls                      49.7

               Devel Vocational Institution          44.6

             Colorado                                                            16.7

               State Industrial School-Boys        70.0

               Colorado State Penitentiary          41.9

               Colorado State Reformatory         62.4

             Connecticut                                                        37.3

               Connecticut State Prison              49.0

               Long Lane School                        39.1

             Delaware                                                             11.6

               New Castle County Workhouse     27.5

               Ferris School for Boys                 20.0

             District of Columbia                                            25.0

               Department of Corrections           27.8

             Florida                                                                 4.5

               Appalachia Correctional Institution 12.1

               Florida State Prison                      20.1

               Industrial School for Girls              5.6

               Industrial School for Boys             5.8

              Georgia                                                              1.0

               Georgia State Prison                      9.5

                                                           Catholic  Catholic

                                                             Prison       S tate

                                                      Population Population


            Idaho                                                                 5.3

             Idaho Industrial Training School   10.1

             Idaho State Penitentiary                16.6

             Illinois                                                              26.8

             Sheridan State Boys' Reformatory 37.7

             State  Penitentiary-Menard            24.4

             State  Boys' Training School        33.9

             State  Farm                                  18.9

             State  Penitentiary-Pontiac            32.0

             State  Reformatory-Women          19.8

             State  Girls' Training School         29.0

             Indiana                                                             11.7

             Indiana Boys' School                   14.2

             Indiana Girls' School                      6.3

             Indiana Woman’s Prison              14.8

             Indiana State Prison                     12.4

             Indiana Reformatory                    18.2

             Indiana State Farm                       11.0

             Iowa                                                                 13.9

               Iowa State Penitentiary               24.0

             Iowa Training School-Boys          12.7

             Anamosa Men's Reformatory       18.2

               Iowa Training School-Girls         13.8

             Women's Reformatory                 20.8

             Kansas                                                             10.6

               Kansas State Penitentiary            16.4

               Industrial School-Boys                 7.1

               State Industrial Farm-Women     15.2

               State Industrial Reformatory       22.4

               Beloit Industrial School-Girls      10.1

             The Pious Prisoners                                          47

                                                          Catholic    Catholic

                                                             Prison          State

                                                       Population Population

             Kentucky                                                              8.4

               Kentucky State Penitentiary          9.5

             Kentucky Women’s Reformatory 10.3

             Louisiana                                                            33.5

             Louisiana State Penitentiary          28.6

             State Industrial School-Girls         28.0

             Industrial School-Negroes            17.2

             Louisiana Training Institute           34.0

             Maine                                                                 24.8

             State Women's Reformatory         38.8

             State Schol. for Boys                   37.2

             Maine State Prison                       88.2

             State Reformatory-Men                19.8

             Maryland                                                            14.8

             Maryland Penitentiary                   25.5

             Massachusetts                                                    47.3

             Massachusetts State Farm            69.4

             Norfolk State Prison Colony         53.7

             Massachusetts State Prison          61.7

             Lyman State School for Boys       70.0

             Industrial School for Girls            48.3

             Shirley Industrial School-Boys      80.5

             Michigan                                                             21.8

             Southern Michigan Prison             21.3

             Michigan Reformatory                  23.8

             Cassidy Lake Technical School    30.0

             Detroit House of Correction         29.9

             Girls' Training School-Adrian       28.2

             State House of Correction            36.4

                                                     Catholic    Catholic

                                                       Prison          State

                                                Population Population

       Minnesota                                                           22.8

        State Youth Reception Center        33.8

        State Training School-Boys          30.8

        Minnesota State Prison                 35.4

        State Reformatory-Women           38.2

        Home School-Girls                      29.0

        Willow River Forestry Camp        19.0  

      Mississippi                                                           2.5

          Mississippi State Penitentiary        5.0

          Oakley Training School                 3.5

       Missouri                                                             15.0

          Chillicothe Training School-Girls 11.5

          Training School-Negro Girls       16.7

          Missouri Women's Penitentiary     7.8

          Intermediate Reformatory           20.8

          State Training School-Boys        17.5

       Montana                                                             21.5

          Montana State Prison                 32.0

          Vocational School-Girls             51.0

       Nebraska                                                            15.6

          Nebraska State Penitentiary         51.0

          Nebraska State Reformatory       22.7

          State Reformatory-Women         23.7

       Nevada                                                               17.2

          Nevada State Penitentiary           36.0

          Nevada School of Industry         16.7

         New Hampshire                                                 85.1

          New Hampshire State Prison      50.5

                                                         Catholic  Catholic

                                                           Prison        State

                                                    Population Population

                                                                  7.             7.

          New Jersey                                                       36.8

            New Jersey State Penitentiary        36.5

            Annandale Farms                         42.5

            Menlo Park Center                       42.0

           New Mexico                                                     41.5

            Girls' Welfare Home                     61.3

            New Mexico Industrial School      71.6

           New York                                                         29.8

            Elmira Reception Center               56.0

            Inst. Male Defective Delinquents   42.1

            Dannemora State Hospital             49.2

            Green Haven Prison                     45.4

            Elmira Reformatory                      42.6

             State School-Warwick                52.2

            Attica Prison                                39.5

             State Training School-Girls         31.7

            Woodbourne Correctional Inst.    51.4

             Sing Sing Prison                         41.3

             Wall Kill Prison                          44.1

             State Vocational Institution         60.1

           North Carolina                                                    0.7

             Butner Youth Center                    4.2

             Raleigh Wom&s Prison                3.2

             Goldsboro Youth Center              2.8

             East Carolina Training School       0.7

             State Horne and Girls' Industrial School           0

            Stonewall Jackson Training School 1.0

            Morrison Training School           0.5

           North Dakota                                                  21.8

            North Dakota Penitentiary         36.1

                                                     Catholic    Catholic

                                                       Prison          State

                                                 Population Population

                                                              %              70

      North Dakota Training School        48.1

      North Dakota State Farm                35.8

       Ohio                                                                   19.4

        Ohio State Penitentiary                 25.6

        Ohio Prison Farm                        21.8

        Marion Training School                 21.4

        Ohio Reformatory-Women             7.9

       Oklahoma                                                             3.6

        Oklahoma State Penitentiary           8.7

        State Training School-Negro Girls 11.1

       Oregon                                                                 7.4

        Oregon State Penitentiary             20.3

          MacLaren School-Boys              14.0

          Hillcrest State School                 18.4

       Pennsylvania                                                       27.3

          State Penitentiary-Graterford       27.0

          Penn Training School                 28.3

          Pennsylvania Industrial School    30.9

          Industrial Home-Women            26.1

         Pennsylvania Inst. Defective Delinquent      24.9

       Rhode Island                                               58.9

        Providence Co. jail-Howard        68.4

        State Reformatory-Men              75.3

        State Reformatory-Women         53.8

       South Carolina                                               1.0

        So. Carolina Penitentiary              1.4

          So. Carolina Girls' Industrial School              0

                                                                 Catholic    Catholic

                                                               Prison       State

                                                               Population      Population

              So. Carolina Industrial School-Boys           1.1

             Richards Industrial School              1.0

             So. Carolina Industrial School-Negro Girls       2.7

             South Dakota                                                 17.1

             South Dakota Penitentiary           31.5

             South Dakota Training School    25.6

             Tennessee                                                        1.5

               Brushy Mountain Penitentiary     5.7

             Vocational School-Girls               1.2

               Fort Pillow State Farrn               3.9

               Vocational School-Girls-Colored 5.7

             Texas                                                            18.9

               Huntsville Prison                      23.0

               State School for Boys              27.9

               State School-Colored Girls         3.4

               Ramsey State Farm                  10.5

             Utah                                                                4.4

               Utah State Industrial School      19.7

             Vermont                                                        29.0

               Vermont State Prison               51.1

               Women's Reformatory             53.3

               Weeks School                          49.5

             Virginia                                                           3.1

               Virginia State Penitentiary           3.8

               Virginia Industrial School-Boys  5.9

               Virginia Labor School-Negro Boys 0

               Virginia Sstate Farm                   5.3

               State Industrial Farm-Women     6.2

               Bon Air Industrial School           3.3

                                                       Catholic  Catholic

                                                          Prison        State

                                                  Population Population

       Washington                                                        11.0

         State Boys' Training School           23.6

        State School-Girls                          30.1

       West Virginia                                                        4.7

        W. Va. Penitentiary                          8.0

        W. Va. Girls' Industrial School          1.7

        W. Va. Industrial School-Negro Boys 2.2

         Industrial Home-Negro Girls               0

        W. Va. Industrial School-Boys         1.9

         Medium Security Prison                   7.3

       Wisconsin                                                          29.7

        Wisconsin State Prison                  39.2

        Wisconsin Home for Women         47.5

        Wisconsin State Reformatory         36.4

         Division of Corrections                  40.7

         Wisconsin School for Girls            29.7

       Wyoming                                                            16.6

        Wyoming State Penitentiary            26.0

         Wyoming Girls' School                  24.6

 These are the facts.  What do they mean?  What do they indicate as to the effectiveness of the Catholic moral code and the ability of the parochial school to mold responsible citizens in America ?

The Catholic press contends that large numbers of these prisoners are mere nominal non-practicing Catholics, or the children of nominal Catholics, who are merely besmirching the Churches fair name.  Is this true?  Are these criminals men and women who were merely baptized but not brought up in the Church and its school system, and who lay claim to a religion to obtain preferential treatment from Catholic wardens and guards?  Monsignor Francis Lane , chaplain of the Elmira State Reformatory in New York , said of the prisoners there: "The average time since they had received the sacraments was a little over two years."' In other words, they had been reared and educated completely as Catholics.  In July, 1955 there were 1,423 inmates in that institution of whom 606 or 42.5 per cent were Roman Catholics.

My survey does not show the percentage of prisoners who had attended parochial schools.  Crime and Religion pointed out twenty years ago that forty-seven per cent of all Catholic prisoners had been in parochial schools.  With the tremendous growth of the parochial system, it can be assumed that the percentage has remained constant, if it has not increased.  The Roman Catholic press now contends that at least half of all Catholic children attend parochial schools.

But not all-Catholic "criminals" are or have been in jail.  American gangsterism during Prohibition days was largely a Roman Catholic monopoly.  From those days into our own time emerged the Mafia, totally Roman Catholic in fact and in origin, shaking the very foundations of America 's ability to rule itself.  It has brazenly Plundered the nation in extortion rackets, payoffs, and police "protection." It has debased or destroyed thousands of lives through murder, prostitution, bribery of public officials, and control and exploitation of labor unions.  And when these gangsters have crossed the Great Divide either through disease or by being 'rubbed out" by their friends, the Church usually attempted to hasten them out of purgatory with its most elaborate requiem services.

The American hierarchy is vocal enough sanctimoniously so  At annual meetings the cardinals, archbishops and bishops always piously and noisily fulminate against something-sinful motion pictures, materialistic public schools or the trend toward mental conformity, but on the lawlessness and criminality of the Mafia, the silence is deafening.

The lists of the names of members of juvenile gangs harassing our large cities in recent years read like a junior Mafia.  The "pachucos" of the Southwest with their molls, their chain beatings and their forced tattooing of innocent Mexican boys and girls were almost all Catholics.

Perhaps it is only a coincidence that the great American cities that have been exposed as saturated with graft, immorality and corruption have invariably been the same ones that were the subject of boasts in unguarded moments and at Communion Breakfasts as Catholic cities, with Catholic civil servants high in their municipal functions.  Boston , New York , St. Louis , Chicago , New Orleans , Philadelphia , Pittsburgh and San Francisco are merely a few of the better known and more frequent offenders.

Tammany Hall with its tolerated robbery of New York is a shame not only to the Democrats but much more so to the Irish Catholics.  It worked as a teammate with the Catholic ruler of the city, the Cardinal ' whose office, the "Power House," has certainly been much more assiduously used to control elections than to promote morality.

I can distinctly recall that while still a priest I hired an Irish-American nurse from Boston to work in the hospital.  I was teasing her one day about the pillaging of her home town by Curley.  She readily admitted his thefts but excused his guilt with the remark: "Sure he robbed Boston .  But that's all right.  He donated a good part of it back to the Church."

Next Chapter  A Crime Trip Around the World     

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