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Statement on Plans for Federal Prison Reform.

August 06, 1929

THE PRESIDENT, in response to an inquiry from the press, said:

"I have one question this morning that I can comment on. It arises out of the incident at Leavenworth and the situation of the Federal prisons.

"I have had an opportunity for lengthy discussions with the Attorney General, and I have the recommendations of Mr. [Sanford] Bates, who is the new Director of Prisons, and I have accepted their view that further Federal accommodations for prisoners cannot be any longer delayed. We will ask Congress at the regular session to give us the necessary authority and appropriations to revise the system.

"Atlanta is 120 percent over capacity in inmates at the present time, and Leavenworth 87 percent, all of which is the cause of infinite demoralization and the direct cause of outbreaks and trouble.

"Of course, the increased number of prisoners is due to the general increase in crime, the largest item in our Federal prisoners being the violators of the Narcotics Act. They comprise now about 33 percent of the inmates at Leavenworth and Atlanta. Prohibition contributes about 14 percent. The balance is made up of increases all along the line.

"Our plans necessitate an expenditure of about $5 million, and will comprise some additions and revisions of the old prisons, and probably a new prison somewhere in the Northeastern States.

"It is proposed also to ask authority of Congress to increase the [p.246] number of probation officers, as Mr. Bates is convinced he can find a larger number of prisoners who merit probation, and not only their own good but the good of the Federal Government will be served by having them out, but we have no staff now adequate to take care of increased probation. So with a new appropriation we hope to get some later."

Note: On August 1, 1929, a riot at the Federal prison at Leavenworth, Kans., involved some 900 inmates and lasted 5 hours. One prisoner was killed and three wounded in the riot.

Herbert Hoover, Statement on Plans for Federal Prison Reform. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/212164

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