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“The duty which I impose upon you is, I know, onerous.
At the present time there is no provision of law enabling me to compensate you for your labors or your expenses. I feel warranted, however, in assuring you that the Legislature, at its next session, will not fail to provide a just and liberal compensation.
Knowing that the people will have the same confidence that I have in your fitness for this very important trust, I make an earnest request that you will, out of regard for the general good, accept the duty.
* Very truly yours,
“JOHN T. HOFFMAN.
“ To Hon. Francis C. Barlow, Attorney-General, M. B. ANDERSON,
LL. D., President Rochester University, Thomas Hun, M. D.,
In accordance with this request we have visited and examined the Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum, and several other of the asylums of the State, to wit, the establishments known as Sandford Hall, at Flushing, Brigham Hall, at Canandaigua, the establishment of Dr. Kittredge, at Fishkill, and the State Lunatic Asylum at Utica, and we have heard the statements of those who, after public notice of our meetings, chose to come before us, including those by whom the charges against the Bloomingdale Asylum, mentioned in the letter of Governor Hoffman, were made.
The inquiries made by us have been limited by what we conceived to be the object and motives of our appointment.
Complaints and charges in the public prints had created a fear in the public mind that the several insane asylums of the State were made instruments of oppression, by the incarceration of persons who were not of unsound mind, and stories of abuses in the treatment of patients had excited apprehension in those whose friends were necessarily committed to the care of these institutions.
We conceive that the information of the public on these two points was the object of our appointment.
It would serve no good purpose for us to publish the mass of evidence taken by us, or to go into all the details of our investigations, or to set forth a variety of minor points in regard to which we might feel inclined to criticise the management of these institutions. We could only say in conclusion, what we now say, that, in our opinion, there should be some system of public supervision.
Having early come to the conclusion that the possibility of abuses in these institutions, without reference to their actual existence
at the present time, is such that some system of supervision and inspection by the public authorities is desirable, we have not considered it necessary to continue our investigation further than we have above stated; and we therefore submit our general conclusions upon the points indicated, and we unite in recommending the passage of some law providing for a system of visitation and inspection.
First. We are of opinion that there is no just foundation for the apprehension that persons not insane are improperly confined in these institutions.
There will always be some cases in which there may be doubt as to the degree of the unsoundness of mind, and as to the danger to himself and others which would result from the going at large of the patient.
Not being experts on this subject, we obviously could not attempt to pass upon these doubtful cases; but as long as the persons in charge of these institutions are believed to be upright and skillful, the decision of these questions is more properly left to them with their large experience and opportunities of examination.
We would not be understood as intimating that we have doubts as to the propriety of the confinement of any of the persons
who under our observations, for we have not.
Having recommended the passage of a law for a supervision of asylums by persons skilled in the treatment of the insane, we do not feel it to be our duty to do more than express our opinion that these institutions, so far as we have visited them, are not knowingly and designedly made instruments for the incarceration of sane persons.
We do not hesitate to say that, in our opinion, the public anxiety on that point is wholly unfounded.
Second. As to the treatment and discipline of the insane, and the internal management and regulation of asylums, we do not consider it within our province to make any extended criticism of the methods of treatment and discipline pursued, or to point out any improvements which we might think could be made in the details of management.
A proper system of licensing and supervision will result in the laying down such rules and regulations as science and experience shall approve.
We only think it necessary to inform the public whether we find any gross abuses in the treatment of these unfortunate persons.
The great difficulty to be met with in these institutions is to protect the patients from the harsh and impatient treatment of the attendants. It is very difficult to find persons of kindness, patience and consideration, who are willing to spend their time in the care of the insane, and the difficulty of ascertaining, among the numerous complaints of persons of disordered minds, whether any particular ones are well founded, must be obvious.
Instances of abuse occur in all asylums, and attendants are not unfrequently discharged for that reason.
The utmost vigilance cannot entirely prevent it, and all that can be required of the managers of such institutions is an active and vigilant scrutiny into all cases of complaint.
We have no doubt that any such conduct on the part of attendants would be promptly punished in the asylums above named whenever brought to the knowledge of the officers, but it is obvious that such officers do not properly discharge their duty unless they are ever wakeful and vigorous in detecting such abuses, and in maintaining a most thorough supervision over all subordinates.
In regard to the charges made against Bloomingdale Asylum in the public prints, we think that in order to do justice, both to the institution and the public, we may fairly say this: That the gross cases of mismanagement and misconduct charged against it have not been substantiated, and that great injustice has been done to the institution in representing it as the scene of outrages and habitual maltreatment of patients.
At the same time we are compelled to say that some instances of the improper treatment of patients by attendants have been fairly proven before us, and that we do not think that the utmost vigilance
, in detecting and guarding against this kind of abuse has prevailed in this asylum during the past summer.
Nothing but the sternest discipline, and the most careful watching over attendants, and the most searching and prompt investigations into, and suggestions or suspicions of harsh treatment by them, should be tolerated in an institution of this kind, and we think there has been some laxity in this respect.
It is proper to say that one of the attendants, charged with improper treatment of the patients, had been discharged before our visit to the asylum, and that any relaxation of discipline during the past summer may have been the result of the absence of the superintend
ent for a considerable period by reason of the illness of himself and his family, and of the illness and death of one of the assistant physicians. We are bound to state the facts as we found them.
We have also visited the insane asylams at Ward's Island and Blackwell's Island, but as controversies were going on between the Commissioners of Charities and Correction and some of their physicians in regard to the management of these asylums, and the subject of the conduct of some of the attendants was then before the courts, it became clear to us that any investigation by those who, like ourselves, had no power of examining witnesses under oath, would be of little value, and we, therefore, did not press the examination.
In regard to the legislation needed to place insane asylums under supervision, we differ among ourselves.
Dr. Anderson is of the opinion that authority should be given to State Board of Public Charities to appoint a superintendent of lunatic asylums, whose duties and powers should be defined by law, and who shall be associated in the discharge and exercise of those duties and powers with the members of that board.
General Barlow and Dr. Hun believe that such commissioner should be appointed by the Governor and Senate, and that he should be an officer separate and distinct from the Board of State Charities, and they submit a bill herewith creating such officer and defining his powers.
It is, perhaps, not of much consequence who has the appointment of such an officer, but it is the opinion of General Barlow and Dr. Hun that when appointed he should have the powers indicated in the accompanying bill, and that the various asylums should be put under the strict supervision provided for therein.
While differing as to the method of supervision, we all agree that in some way the public authorities should have control over this large class of helpless citizens.
We do this, not because we distrust the management of the various asylums and institutions which we have visited, for we believe that, subject to the criticisms herein before made, they are conducted and managed by skillful and humane men, but because we believe that a proper system of supervision would relieve the public anxiety in relation to these institutions, and at the same time be a protection to the asylums themselves from unjust suspicions and aspersions.
We have found the managers and officers of the several asylums and institutions heartily in favor of some system of public supervision.
FRANCIS C. BARLOW.
An Act to create a “State Commissioner in Lunacy," and to pro
vide for the visitation and inspection of lunatic asylums, and to regulate proceedings on habeas corpus so far as they affect persons detained in such asylums.
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows :
SECTION 1., There shall be appointed by the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, an officer to be called the State commissioner in lunacy, who shall be a person familiar with mental diseases. He shall hold office for five years, shall have his office in the city of Albany, ard shall have power to appoint such clerks and assistants as shall from time to time be authorized by law. Said commissioner and said clerks shall receive such compensation as may be fixed by law.
$ 2. The said commissioner shall have the power to visit and inspect, at all times, any asylum, poor-house, establishment, institution or house in this State, either public or private, where insane persons, or persons of unsound mind, are received, treated or confined, and to inquire into the propriety and legality of such confinement, and into the treatment and management of the inmates of such places, and the conduct of the officers, superintendents, physicians, attendants and employes thereof, and the condition of the buildings, grounds and other property connected therewith, and into all matters pertaining to the efficiency and good management of such asylums, institutions, establishments or houses, and the propriety of the detention of and the treatment of their inmates, and for that purpose said commissioner shall at all times have free access to the inmates, grounds, buildings and all books and papers of such places.
$ 3. Said commissioner shall have the power to administer oaths, and to examine any person under oath in relation to and upon all matters and things in regard to which he may be authorized to inquire, including investigations and
investigations and proceedings under the tenth section of this
and willful false swearing under such oath is hereby declared to be perjury. Said commissioner may compel the attendance of witnesses before himself, at a place to be designated in such subpena, for the purposes