Typical classroom setting in the 1940s.

Teaching the Unteachable --
A Genuine Program Is Offered

In 1937, an assistant teacher was hired who, with the head teacher, offered instruction to the 4th grade level. Five years later, the education program gained a great supporter with the appointment of Major Thomas J. Hanlon -- formerly assistant superintendent at Elmira -- as superintendent in 1942. Despite having to deal with wartime shortages of staff and supplies, Hanlon set about implementing the kind of program Dr. Thayer had theorized when the IDD opened 21 years earlier.

The IDD still had only two teachers, but Hanlon was insistent on overcoming all obstacles, including the inmates' defectiveness. He told new employees that, if the inmate did not leave the institution better than he entered it, the staff-uniforined and civilian were derelict in their duties. Hanlon considered every guard a potential teacher, telling them they did not need college degrees to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic to defectives. . . .

Hanlon persuaded the psychologist to spend 50 percent of his time in individual literacy tutoring, and had the three institution chaplains teaching organized classes of religious education. Hanlon administratively linked the parole and education departments and, within two years, renovated the library.

Before Major Hanlon's arrival, about 200 inmates were enrolled in the school program. Within a year after his appointment, over 800 were in an organized academic program, 183 in vocational training, 240 in general and social education programs, 90 in arts, crafts, and clubs, and 450 in organized physical education and athletic activities with another 425 in the military training program. . . .

By 1955, there were special classes in lettering, nutrition, Jewish and American History, public speaking and dramatics, checker and canasta clubs, and an Alcoholics Anonymous group.

Major Hanlon badgered Albany year after year until defective inmates, like the inmates in NY's regular prisons, received wages for their work in the shops. He pestered for a central radio system with earphones in the cells and dorms, as had existed for years in the state prisons. (Television came later, with the first set donated in 1954 by a visitor.)

In February, 1955, toward the end of Major Hanlon's 13-year tenure, the internationally famous criminologist Sanford Bates accompanied six prison administrators from Egypt on a tour of the Napanoch institution. . . . Bates wrote, "Napanoch was an eye-opener, not only to our friends from Egypt but to myself... If there were more [institutions] conducted along the lines we have seen here, there would not be so many unfavorable criticisms against our correctional systems." It was a nice note on which to end a career marked by cheerful optimism and good will toward a class of inmates formerly considered unreachable, hopelessly incorrigible, and fit only for life-long custodial care. Three months after the Egyptians' visit, on May 27, 1955, Hanlon died in office.

Major Hanlon was succeeded by John V. Harding, who served a little over a year. On August 30, 1956, Charles L. McKendrick was appointed superintendent of the Institution for Male Defective Delinquents. By the time McKendrick left 11 years later, the IMDD had ceased to exist.

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