A Summary of Clarence Darrow’s “Address to the Prisoners in the Cook County Jail”
Clarence Darrow, an American lawyer, was already one of the most famous labour attorneys when he was invited in 1902 to give a speech to the Chicago’s Cook County Jail prisoners. In his address to the inmates (a stenographic copy of his speech was published in Crime & Criminals: Address To The Prisoners In The Cook County Jail & Other Writings On Crime & Punishment) Darrow states his believes that majority of the offenders fall behind the bars because of circumstances beyond their control. Darrow points out in the opening of his speech that he doesn’t believe in crime, people in and out of jail are “equally good and equally bad”(pg. 4). He explains that while there are people in jail who would pick his pockets, nearly everybody outside would do it as well, giving multiple examples as the gas company, streetcars and the oil company (namely Mr. Rockfeller), who would overcharge for their services. It’s the wealth of the rich that gives them the power to shape the law, own “all the earth” (pg.6) and control the society by building universities and churches where would be conveyed the ideas of how to be good. Darrow believes that it’s not only the lack of free will, but also the state of raw capitalism and greed that pushed so many into crime. He challenges the views that most crimes are done out of hate and all criminals are bad and analyzes the enviroment and social system at the beginning of the 20th century. During this period very few people enjoyed the luxuries as piped and hot water, indoor toilets and electricity. Hours of work while shorter in the United States than in most other nations in 1900 were tipically ten hours a day, six days a week. Women worked from dawn to dusk, or even longer by the light of oil or kerosene lamps. Caring for sick children lengthened those hours further. Paid vacations were almost nonexistent in 1900. Many employers would hire children and...
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