Einstein, Albert (1879 – 1955)
Einstein on Prison Reform: “The disastrous effect of our penal system does not lie in the punishment itself, but in the subsequent destiny of the punished”
An extraordinary two-page autograph article by Albert Einstein on prison reform, with several corrections, on both sides of a single sheet, and signed to the conclusion and dated 1930.
In a commentary that often touches on some astonishingly contemporary trains of thought regarding the penal system, Einstein writes, in full, “Many of the people who populate the state prisonas are affected by congenital psychic disorders. We must pity them, protect society from those who society is unable to normalise. many, however, find their way into prison despite a normal disposition. Chance, need, unfavourable influences, sometimes even noble motives cause a conflict with the law. They are the victims of the inadequacies of our society’s structure; to a degree, also, the lack of effective laws. Those who do not understand what I mean can, for example, look this up in Dornela’s(?) memoirs. But the most disastrous part of the effect of our penal system does not lie in the punishment itself, but in the subsequent destiny of the punished. Harsh condemnation, exploitation, insults of all kinds await those who have been released from detention, which often even send them back on the road to crime, to become cursed, and to cause severe injury to society. To intercede and alleviate this situation is one of the most important and truly neglected social tasks.
Driven by a consciousness to social duty in a great and pure form, Frau Hedwig Wangel, in addition to a highly strenuous artistic career, has engaged all of her working power, her financial resources, and her knowledge of the soul, in the service of caring for released female convicts. I have never witnessed such a degree of voluntary devotion for other than personal gain. Yet it is shameful to see how little support has been allotted to her aspirations. It must not come to pass that she collapses from exhaustion and her work collapses due to shortage of money. Ways and means must be found to relieve her from financial and administrative worries, so that she can devote herself to that work for which she was created – the care, the education and the professional training of her charges. Whoever can and wants to contribute something so that this goal can be attained, I ask him to get in touch with Frau Wangel. Albert Einstein, 1930.”
In fine condition. Hedwig Wangel, a German actress, had dedicated herself to supporting women prisoners through her ‘Gates of Hope’ foundation. She approached much of Berlin’s intelligentsia to support her work, and asked Einstein to write a preface to a book. A superb assocation piece that displays Einstein’s social conscience, as well as his forward-thinking philosophies that resonate to this day.