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Take the Reason Prisoner   By: (1917-1981)

Take the Reason Prisoner by John Joseph McGuire

First Page:

Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact & Fiction November 1963. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.


No process is perfect ... but some men always feel unalterably convinced that their system is the Be all and End all. Psychology now, should make prisons absolutely escape proof, and cure all aberrations....


Illustrated by George Schelling

Major general (Ret.) James J. Bennington had both professional admiration and personal distaste for the way the politicians maneuvered him.

The party celebrating his arrival as the new warden of Duncannon Processing Prison had begun to mellow. As in any group of men with a common interest, the conversation and jokes centered on that interest. The representatives and senators of the six states which sent criminals to Duncannon, holding glasses more suited to Martini drinking elephants than human beings, naturally turned their attention to the vagaries in the business of being and remaining elected.

Senator Giles from Pennsylvania and Representative Culpepper of Connecticut accomplished the maneuver. Together they smoothly cut the general out of the group comparing the present tax structure to rape, past the group lamenting the heavy penalties in the latest conflict of interest law, into a comparatively quiet corner.

"Well general, no need to tell you that we are all as happy to have you here as Dr. Thornberry seemed to be," Senator Giles said.

Bennington nodded politely, though he had not been much impressed by the lean, high voiced man who had greeted him with such open delight. Dr. Thornberry had expressed too much burbling joy when he had been relieved of his administrative job as Acting Warden, had been overly happy about resuming his normal duties as Assistant Warden and Chief Psychologist.

"I'm very much interested in some of your ideas on reducing the overhead here, general," Culpepper said, "although I'm also wondering if they may not cost my good friend, the senator, some votes in his district."

"That will be no real worry," Giles said thoughtfully, "if I can show the changes are real economies. Today that's the way to gain votes and I'd come up with more than I'd lose."

"But your turnover," Culpepper said. "I can see that in a regular prison, where they have the men a long time, it's easy to train them in kitchen work and supply. But here.... How long do you plan to keep them, general?"

"I'll try to get back to the original purpose in setting up Duncannon as quickly as possible," Bennington said. "Dr. Thornberry agreed that five days is the maximum time his sections need to complete the analysis of a prisoner and decide what prison he should go to. After that, we will have sound reason to start charging the individual states for each day we have to keep their consignment."

"Complicated," Giles said. "I mean, the bookkeeping."

"Not at all. I'll either hold the next top sergeant that comes through here or borrow one from Carlisle or Indiantown Gap. He can set up a sort of morning report system, and when the states learn they will have to pay us to handle the men they should be feeding, we will soon see ... well, there won't be six hundred and fifty men, women and children stuffed into barracks designed to hold three hundred and fifty."

Bennington had spoken calmly and he lifted his glass casually. But over the rim of his drink he caught the eye of another old soldier.

Ferguson, who had been a private when Bennington had been only a captain in Korea, eased himself to within earshot.

The two had risen in rank and grade together. Thirty three years had taught them the value of an unobtrusive witness to the general's conversations... Continue reading book >>

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