Note: The Federal Bureau of Prisons expected the worst in the Henri Young case. Win or lose, Director James Bennett and Alcatraz Warden James Johnston realized that people would wonder if there was any truth in the prisoners' stories. The following statement was prepared and released by the Bureau shortly after the Young trial.
I am firmly convinced that the jury which tried Henri Young for murder of another inmate in the Alcatraz Penitentiary has been misled about conditions at the prison. It has been impressed by tactics which sought to free Young through disparaging and attacking a public institution performing humanely and intelligently a most difficult task in protecting the public from hardened and unregenerate criminals. Young has been described by former United States Attorney Simpson and Federal Judge Stanley Webster of Spokane, Washington, as "the worst and most dangerous criminal with whom they ever dealt" and as "one who would not hesitate to kill anybody who crossed his path." He has been permitted to go virtually unpunished on the basis of inferences and innuendoes made by inmates whose criminal records and life-histories show them to be wholly unreliable and who were able to commit deliberate perjury with impunity since they could not be reached by any effective legal process. From such information as I have about the trial, it is apparent that the Jury had before it no first-hand information or reliable evidence as to the policies or methods followed in the management of the most difficult and desparate group of prisoners ever assembled.
Alcatraz is now and always has been open to inspection and investigation by any qualified or properly commissioned person or groups. It has been inspected by Judges, Congressmen, penologists and qualified private citizens and has been approved as a modern and intelligent method of protecting the public from those desperate criminals who have proved themselves to be wholly intractable.
The institution, for instance, was recently inspected by experts of The Osborne Association of New York, a private philanthropic organization devoted primarily to the investigation of prisons, and was pronounced by them as well managed and operated and as using no improper system of discipline. Members of the Appropriations Committee of Congress in the course of their examination of our estimates recently inspected the institution and made no criticism of its methods or operations.
I have visited Alcatraz frequently as have various members of our staff and know personally most of the inmates, including Young. As a matter of fact, I have on several occasions personally interviewed Young and done everything possible to obtain his cooperation. I have never found or had called to my attention any authentic case of brutality or inhumanity at Alcatraz.
Corporal punishment is prohibited in all the Federal penal institutions including Alcatraz. We stand on our record as the most modern and humane penal system in the world. I have every confidence in Warden Johnston. He is a just, humane, and intelligent prison warden capably performing the most difficult job any warden was every [sic] asked to do. The entire institution staff has consistently displayed their courage, patience, and devotion to the public service. They deserve the support of every fair-minded citizen whose homes and safety they have helped to protect.
The statements made by the prisoners so far called to my attention have already been carefully investigated by the Department and found to be wholly unfounded. When, however, a transcript of the testimony has been received, it will be carefully gone over as in every other case, and if any evidence or facts are found showing brutal or inhuman treatment, vigorous corrective measures will be taken.
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