Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Huber Law: A Reflection

The Huber Law...but first...

Father Carr's Shelter

Numbers dropped in the last several days. I have heard counts of 12 to 20 in the men's shelter.

Mohammed Cartoons

It's being talked about everywhere but have you seen them? I'm going to put the link here but add a word of caution. It is not a good idea to make fun of religious leaders. The cartoons are causing murders and are not to be taken lightly. With that in mind go here.

Darwin's Birthday

February 12 is the date. There are celebrations galore. Some of my most enjoyable times online have been at the Darwin Awards. This is one of the oldest sites on the web and one of the most entertaining. The tragedy of others is amusing because we are still here to read about it!

The Huber Law

Henry Allen Huber 1869-1933 introduced this law into the Wisconsin Legislature and it was passed in 1913. It was the first work-release law in the nation and eventually spread to 49 other states. It was the brainchild of Wisconsin Progressives in the tradition of Fighting Bob LaFollette. Why let certain prisoners rot in jail when they could be let out during the day to work, pay off fines, and support their families? Have them return to the jail at night to prevent them from from leaving their wages in the cash register of the local tavern.

Progressives have always been noted for their willingness to try new things. The Huber Law is a shining example of experimentation. It helped a lot of families over the years.

My own experience with this law was in 1970. I was a low level employee of the Wood County Dept. of Social Services in Wisconsin Rapids. We had some donated warehouse space and two or three afternoons a month I borrowed a small truck from the courthouse maintenance dept. and drove around the county retrieving large donated furniture items. I was sent to the Huber section of the jail to find a couple of guys with strong backs and weak minds. I'd go fetch the truck and they would sign themselves out. The doors were always open to this section of the jail. Any prisoner could walk out at any time. The doors however were locked at night so strangers couldn't walk in. This took a bit of getting used to for me. In my young life it had never dawned on me that there could be a jail with no locks. These 'prisoners' would sign themselves out for haircuts, to go to the laundry, to fill out job applications, and of course to drive to work if they had a license. It was a good system and worked most of the time. On occasion a fellow would pick up a six-pack on the way to the laundromat and get caught while signing himself back in. It was back to the regular jail for those.

In the latter part of the century changes occurred that were not good. The counties began charging for room and board. Prisoners were required to pay taxi fare to and from work. At the same time the good jobs were heading out of the country. Prisoners made less on their jobs and required to pay more of their keep thus increasing the length of their stays...a revolving door so to speak, where they couldn't make enough to stay out and couldn't make do while they were in. They were required to take a lunch from the jail, and charged for it, even if they were working at a fast food place which gave them free or cut rate food. Telephone costs went through the roof. They had to pay for taxi-cabs so there was a log of where they went at what time. This was not the intent of the original program.

The Huber Law has died a slow quiet death with the use of electronic monitoring. It will take a few years to assess its viability.

Mr. Huber and Wisconsin Progressives scored big with the Huber Law. It worked.

Trivia... In the 1988 Presidential Election George Bush used a murder committed by a black man Willie Horton, (who was on work release), in ads with racial overtones to help him get elected.

More... It was reported in a Madison newspaper some years back that Henry Huber was a relative of Joseph Huber, master brewer, of Monroe, Wisconsin, but Henry had never been in the beer brewing business.


AngelAiken AKA Thee U.M.O.G said...

Good work on the blog gary!
I see you got the links fixed, and you've put a link to OPL on.
Good for you!
Need help? dont be afraid to ask!

S.B. said...

Huber is still used, but certainly not with the freedom you describe. It's unfortunate.