Listen to New Voices on Studs Terkel our partnership with 826CHI-here! Read the Story

00 / 00

On location in Melun, France at Maison Central Melun prison ; part 1

BROADCAST: 1962 | DURATION: 00:00:01


Studs tours the prison and speaks with prison director Jean Blayrat and a lady referred to as Madame B translates. They talk about the crimes of the a few of the prisoners and the rehabilitation programs the prison system uses in France.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel [Noise from traveling in a car] We're heading down the autoroute C. The outskirts of Paris to the suburb of Melun. We're here; Centrale de Melun is a prison that we're about to visit with a possibility of talking to a couple of the inmates, who are in for serious crimes. The subject, rehabilitation, and in this car heading down this turnpike heading to the south, I'm in the company of my contact, my guide who has a way of getting things done, who I might say is as close to the spirit of Paris, the upper world and the half-world as well as anyone. We shall call her Madame M. Now then, this place to which we're headed Madame B, I should s-- let's say B, I'll call you B. This place to which we're headed, this prison.

Madame B Yes.

Studs Terkel Would involve, who are the inmates, the nature of the crimes? Are these light crimes or felonies? Are these are serious crimes?

Madame B Yes. Serious. Very serious.

Studs Terkel And among those people to whom we might talk, are some who have been chosen for rehabilitation?

Madame B Yeah. Yeah. That is so.

Studs Terkel With this, this, this project itself, is this is a new development in French penology, this rehabilitation project?

Madame B Yeah, but it is already, you know this project is now definite and everybody is working on that since years already. I could say fifteen years.

Studs Terkel About fifteen years?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel There is there was a way, I suppose there was a way of choosing certain of the men who would be subject to this, isn't there?

Madame B Yeah. Of course. They are chosen for different reasons. Because we must have hope to succeed when we are choosing them.

Studs Terkel Well, in the, the in the matter of choosing, what are some of the, or should I save this 'til I get to the prison? Are are.

Madame B Oh, behavior. Behavior. And also chiefly behavior during their imprisonment. And also how they are going through the different phases that are decided before they are liberated.

Studs Terkel Are are, is there also a looking into the man's past, into the man's background?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel I know they have have certain.

Madame B Yeah yeah yeah.

Studs Terkel Aspects.

Madame B Because every convict has a file. The juridic one? Juridical?

Studs Terkel The what?

Madame B What do you say?

Studs Terkel Juridical you say.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel During the trial.

Madame B Before the trial and after that they have also the [side conversation? pause in recording?]

Studs Terkel So you say the, the, the, when you say quoted you mean the director offers his opinion.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel As to the behavior of the man during the year he observed him.

Madame B Yeah, yeah [about?] improvement and which degree in this improvement. And I think that it is done every year.

Studs Terkel So we then, as we come closer to the prison, we'll be invited inside. We're passed through a certain routines, and inspection. And then there's a possibility of our meeting and talking to some of the men.

Madame B Yeah, at first, you will speak to the director of this house and he will explain you the aim of our work. And also how it is runned. And after that he will authorize you - maybe, I don't know - to speak to one or two of these convicts.

Studs Terkel Perhaps visit the cells too.

Madame B You will, you will visit everything.

Studs Terkel You know.

Madame B Everything. That means that you will have a visit of the detention, where they are working, where they are sleeping, where they are eating, and so and so. Because some of them, depending of the phase where they are now have personal cells.

Studs Terkel Ahah, I see, so.

Madame B And the others, those who are in the first phase are in dormitories, for instance. And after that, they have personal cells.

Studs Terkel All there there are matter the-- there are a matter of phases involved.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Matters of phases.

Madame B Matter of phases and also

Studs Terkel Much more and more privileges, more and more privileges.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Is allowed.

Madame B Yeah. Yeah.

Studs Terkel I see.

Madame B And also many things are allowed depending the phase where you are. But all that will be explained by the director.

Studs Terkel After we talk to this director.

Madame B And you will see yourself.

Studs Terkel This director whom we're about to meet as we're nearing the prison now.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel This director then, he is a criminologist? He has been interested in new

Madame B Of course of course.

Studs Terkel [the] elements of rehabilitation [matters].

Madame B With his own ideas.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Madame B To run, you know? To run the house.

Studs Terkel I see now the outlines of a prison ahead of us there I think so, and the trees and we're some distance, we're 40 kilometers or so from Paris?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Madame B, we await and see what happens.

Madame B Yeah. [pause in recording]

Studs Terkel Where we're parked for a moment under the viaduct in the, in the, in the village of Melun and apparently it's just noon, about 12 o'clock, five after twelve, and the people are all going home to lunch. Is that right Madame B? This, all these bicycles we see here and these scooters, there are hundreds of them there.

Madame B They are going to lunch. Cars, bicycles are rushing to eat and to come back to the mill to work.

Studs Terkel We would know

Madame B That is specifically French, to have one hour and a half to eat, and or I could say two hours. Usually two hours.

Studs Terkel Two hours and for for [casual?], easy lunch.

Madame B For lunch, for lunch.

Studs Terkel And they work a little later though as a result.

Madame B And they are rushing to home to lunch. At home.

Studs Terkel Now this is not a very big city it's obvi-- a small town on the outskirts of Paris but the the jam, the streets the road is jammed with these bicycles. Just jammed with it. We noticed th-- the chimneys. Smoke stacks of a couple of the mills. I guess most people work in these two or three mills, don't they here?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel And they're heading, watch out for these bikes. All over: men, women, old, young, all driving the bikes. [pause in recording] There's something you just said to me Madame B, as we just about to enter the gates of the prison. You said think about the quietness of this town. What was that you said?

Madame B I said that it is a very quiet town without stories and the stories inside the high walls of the MCM.

Studs Terkel MCM being the initials of the prison itself. The story behind the walls and we're about to enter now. [pause in recording] Just looking at the prison from the outside, one is impressed with the, strangely enough, with the colorfulness. With the rocks, brick red, some gray, and there are red thatched roofs of buildings within the confines of the high walls. We enter. OK. [Background noise of many people] We are in the canteen of a prison. This is a canteen where I see a bar with wines and men are all eating, some in uniform some out. These men are, I take it Madame B, these are the guards of the prison?

Madame B Yeah they are guards. Chief guards and also some people because some guards are coming from Algeria and they have the children with them. We have not room enough for them. We are obliged you know to mix all that.

Studs Terkel So I see there's some families eating here then, too. Guards and the families.

Madame B Yeah. And also the manager of the canteen is running the canteen. He is not [sentenced?]. He's from out of the jail. And some convicts are yeah you know, they are waiters. Waiters and cook.

Studs Terkel Oh I see. The cook, the cook we met earlier the man there, and the waiter said.

Madame B The tall one, the tall one is a cook. And the one who is at our left, he's a waiter.

Studs Terkel Oh he's a convict?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel You have no idea what he's in for, do you? You have no idea what the nature of the crime was, do you?

Madame B I know.

Studs Terkel Oh.

Madame B Yeah, but I am not supposed to know.

Studs Terkel No but, no but, that's OK. We we don't know his name so but.

Madame B I know the name but I am.

Studs Terkel No no no I don't want the name I mean what, the nature of the crime.

Madame B No I cannot say that, no.

Studs Terkel Oh I see.

Madame B That is.

Studs Terkel Was it a felony?

Madame B That [unintelligible] later on.

Studs Terkel I see. OK. It was serious though?

Madame B Very serious.

Studs Terkel Ah, ok. But he's a good waiter? He's very--

Madame B He's a good waiter, and a good man too. Why not?

Studs Terkel Alright [laughs]. And very friendly. Madame B and I have just finished a meal in the canteen, a simple repast and yet very very healthful one, apparently satisfying. One with salad and cabbage and various meats; pear or cheese for dessert. Some tea or coffee coming up and some wine before. Observing the canteen, it's a small room. Must be about thirty, forty people seated here right now as I look upon it. More accustomed to it. Most people are in civilian clothes Madame B, they're guards you say, and yet most of the people are in civilian clothes. Very few uniforms. Do some of the guards wear civilian clothes?

Madame B Some of them but but few.

Studs Terkel Oh the others then, most of the civilians here are clerks. They do paperwork. I see, I see.

Madame B Yeah they are clerks in the jail. That mean accounters [sic], operators, and so on so.

Studs Terkel Well how do you explain that some women and children here too to some extent? Are these the families of some of the people who do the work here?

Madame B No they are family of Algerian guards that you are, that we have to reintegrate in the jails. [Our job?]

Studs Terkel These are the, I should point out, these are the French Algerians you're talking about. You might have raised a delicate point here. You say reintegrate them. This is a model prison, one that does rehabilitation. Yet how do the new arrivals who are guards, who are have been colons in Algeria, what is their attitude toward convicts?

Madame B What do you say Studs?

Studs Terkel No, I was thinking about the Algerian, the new Algerian. Is their readjustment.

Madame B They're French, [but a way?]. Their job was in Algerian jails.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Madame B So they are coming, they are back now to France. And they must have a job.

Studs Terkel Yes. I mean do they adjust. The tea is now being served as Madame B. Do they adjust, the Algerian former Algerian guards, do they adjust readily to this technique?

Madame B They were, they were in Algeria.

Studs Terkel Yes, I'm speaking of the colons now. I'm speaking of the French who were in Algeria. But I mean do they adjust to this new format, the rehabilitation format, in their attitude toward the convicts? The new arrivals, I mean.

Madame B They have their job to do here as they were doing their job in Algerian jails.

Studs Terkel Yes. No, I mean this is a different kind of jail we're in now.

Madame B Of course, of course, because that is a special house for rehabilitation.

Studs Terkel No I mean, these new guards who have come from Algeria. They are just, they are they are told there's a different relationship involved here, is there not?

Madame B Of course. They must follow the leader of this house.

Studs Terkel I hope you don't mind if I can describe our waiter and our cook. No names of course, but if I may since Madame B said that they're here both on very very serious crimes. Let me describe our waiter. He's he looks intellectual looking. Wears glasses. He he is very gentle and walks lightly, wears Keds as I do on occasion, and seems though he could make an excellent waiter at the Ritz Hotel. He seems to know exactly what to do. The cook whom I'm watching right now wears a lumberjack shirt. Very handsome. Very clean cut. He's coming toward the table now. Very sweet looking. And Madame B says the, about the most serious of crimes. So then these are human beings who are being rehabilitated. They are both, they are both in the process of rehabilitation. Well this is just the beginning for us as we will walk and soon meet the director of the prison, Monsieur Blayrat, Monsieur Blayrat, Jean Blayrat who is the director of the prison which would be equivalent in America to the warden of the prison. In a moment. These are, I assume you hear voices in the background of the people eating here in the canteen [uninitelligible] the prison and of the waiter and the cook [unintelligible]. It's lunch as would be anywhere else. [change of venue, background conversation] We're sitting in the guard room right now. Madame M is joshing with the chief guard and a couple of the guards here. This is the guards' room is it not Madame M?

Madame B Yes of course, the first.

Studs Terkel You say this is the first.

Madame B It is the first guards' room.

Studs Terkel There are several others inside.

Madame B Of course, of course.

Studs Terkel I see they're step by step. I'm sitting in the guard's, I'm sitting at the chief guard's chair at this moment. The throne. And the book is here the book that has the journal of the day's events.

Madame B Visitors.

Studs Terkel The visitors, okay.

Madame B [Ca?] okay?

Studs Terkel We are seated in the office of Monsieur Blayrat. A Jean Blayrat who is the director of the MCM. I believe it is the Maison Centrale de Melun. This is the model prison to which Madame M, Madame B was referring. Seated next to Directeur. In America we would say the warden. The director of MCM, which is a model prison. You know for many years, for many years now in America, and I'm sure in all countries the challenge of rehabilitation has occupied the minds of penologists, criminologists, sociologists. In Chicago, in Chicago was a celebrated case recently of one Paul Crump who was guilty of murder. Found guilty of murder, but the case of Paul Crump became a celebrated one because of the obvious rehabilitation of the man and recently his sentence to be executed was commuted by the governor of the state. Today he is serving life imprisonment and in jail in the state of Illinois, but he seems to be a wholly different man as a result of what happened to him in prison. And thus perhaps Madame if you could translate to Director Blayrat.

Madame B To Mr. Blayrat. [French]

Studs Terkel Then the, the, the question to ask of Director Blayrat is are the is the challenge similar in this particular institution?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B Mr. Blayrat, Jean Blayrat, Director of the MCM answers to Mister Steds Studs Terkel, pardon, that it is the same challenge here, he has in this house. Murderers who were condemned to death, and commuted, not executed, commuted and they are no more the same man as they were when they were sentenced.

Studs Terkel This course is the is the question that interests a great many people in Chicago, I'm sure all over the world. The changing of a man from an enemy of society into someone who can be integrated ultimately into that society. This is the challenge isn't it. How long has this been a prison cons- in the matter of rehabilitation?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B Since fifty, 1950.

Studs Terkel Some 12 years ago.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel And the question comes into being, the nature the nature of the regiment here, the nature of how.

Madame B [French].

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B The regime at the MCM is a progressive regime.

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B This regime is made of four phases.

Studs Terkel We may now where those four phases?

Madame B Yeah.

Director Blayrat [French]

Studs Terkel The first and second phases then.

Madame B Yeah. As soon as the prisoners are brought here, automatically they are in the first phase. This first phase consist in to be isolated from everything from everybody.

Studs Terkel So isolation then is the first phase?

Madame B And this phase lasts nine months.

Studs Terkel May I ask then before we leave the first phase, why this nature, why this particular approach? Isolation.

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B Well, there, there is a first phase and in isolation because this man has to think of what he did before to be sentenced. And he has to take conscience of the past life and know where he is. And also the educator has to come to him and to know who he is.

Studs Terkel Let's inquire--

Madame B Just a second. [French] To see to see that you know, to see this man alone, I mean isolated and not, this educator has not to see him among other people. Only alone in order to to to see that very clearly. To clear up this man.

Studs Terkel So then you have this you have the conduct of a man who may be guilty of murder, let us say.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel He is isolated for nine months. This at the moment seems first impression seems quite harsh, you know. It seems that way to me at the moment, you see? Then he sees, the only man who sees then is this sociologist, this educator?

Madame B Just a second. Mr. Studs Terkel [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B The educator asked to get in touch with him in order that he will understood, show the educator what he did in the past. He has to.

Studs Terkel The nature of his crime?

Madame B Yeah. He has to realize, know exactly not the the the crime itself but what he did. How he behaved. You know he has to understand that, so does the educator.

Studs Terkel Pardon Madame, when you say educator, do you mean the psychologist? He'd be the psychologist.

Madame B You know.

Studs Terkel [We talked of that, right?]

Madame B Psychologist.

Male Voice Yes, psychologist, yes.

Madame B Maybe it's it's more than that. It's [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B He is not exactly a psychologist. He is an observer. And he must make the man understanding what was good and bad, you know, in the past, and that he must realize that now we must prepare the future. But, a better future.

Studs Terkel So this then is the first phase. The man, after nine months we assume.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel If it succeeds in this.

Madame B Yeah. And please I apologize to cut you, but I must [emphasize? point out?] that also he is visited by the [psychiatric?], by the social worker, the priest. That's not the priest. You know in jail.

Studs Terkel Chaplain.

Madame B Chaplain, yeah chaplain. The chaplain. I, pardon, I apologize. And at first I must say before all these people I must say by the director, the under-director and all these people like [French word or name].

Studs Terkel So then this is the first.

Madame B Psychiatric

Studs Terkel This is the first phase?

Madame B That is the first phase.

Studs Terkel In which the inmate, the convicted man, will begin to understand.

Madame B Yeah, he's supposed.

Studs Terkel The nature of his crimes.

Madame B He's supposed, during this first phase to understand all that and to realize all that.

Studs Terkel Now suppose, suppose, I'm asking this question deliberately now, these maybe seem like harsh questions I'm really probing.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Suppose that the the convicted man does not succeed in the nine months in understanding this according to the--

Madame B Yeah, OK. [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B [Unintelligible or French] you know is put in second phase. But after a committee has decided about the future.

Studs Terkel What is the second phase? The second phase?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B The second phase [is? as?] a convict. Okay, okay.

Studs Terkel Second phase?

Madame B Yes the second phase. The convict has work and then the sports and walking you know with other convicts, with other convicts, and or after that he has lunches and dinners and so and so. And dormitory with alone, alone,

Studs Terkel Alone.

Madame B Alone. Isolated.

Studs Terkel So this second phase then is the beginning the partial social life?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Not wholly but you see he still isn't alone, but there is some beginning of social life.

Madame B Yeah. He's only alone you know to to sleep--

Studs Terkel At night.

Madame B At night.

Studs Terkel Alone in his room.

Madame B Yeah, in his room, in his room.

Director Blayrat Each in his room [background conversation].

Studs Terkel Personal cell.

Madame B Personal cell, yeah.

Studs Terkel Personal cell. Does he have a personal cell when he- Oh, of course the first comes in he's in isolation so each has a personal cell here, from the beginning?

Madame B Yeah, [French]

Director Blayrat [French in conversation with Madame B.]

Madame B At the second phase they are changing of cell.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Madame B It is also a personal cell--

Studs Terkel Still a personal cell.

Madame B that they are changing of cell.

Studs Terkel Now we come to phase number three.

Madame B Alors, I think that maybe Mr. Jean Blayrat has something about to say--

Studs Terkel Oh, oh!

Madame B About the second phase.

Madame B Oh, some more. Oh, perhaps, I'm sorry. Monsieur?

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B In the second phase he is already you know in social situation and at this time you must prove that he already improved in the way you know that is for the futures.

Studs Terkel This is the second phase?

Madame B This is the second phase. He must already prove that he improved.

Studs Terkel Well again I must ask the question. Suppose in the second phase there is no improvement?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B He will stay till the end of the sentence in the second phase and he will have nothing allowed you know, as in third and fourth phase.

Studs Terkel Now then, with improvement, and we assume this is the case in the great many.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel [With? unintelligible] we come now to the third. Phase number three. Beginning of--

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B At the end of the second phase every observer, observer, psychiat [sic] and so and so, people I mentioned at first have, are in committee you know and they are deciding definitely if he's brought in third phase.

Studs Terkel So then you have, yes.

Madame B After after to have deliberate together following how he behaved in first phase you are in the first phase and how we behave during the second phase.

Studs Terkel Now what is the what is the nature of a third phase? Third phase, the nature of it itself?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B People, convicts who are brought in third phase are supposed to be able to live to be brought in society, reintegrated in society. During the third phase they are supposed to be able to be [orient to going?] to definitely.

Studs Terkel That much, that that ready now? They are that ready to be integrated

Madame B They are ready.

Studs Terkel You mean--

Madame B They are supposed to be

Studs Terkel Almost ready to be released then?

Madame B Yeah, exactly. And to be released in fact and to to to live free.

Studs Terkel Well then what is the fourth- ah, yes.

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B That is the phase in which the improvement is definitely--

Studs Terkel Obvious.

Madame B Yes, and agreed by observers and chiefly the Director.

Studs Terkel Well if at the end of the third phase the prisoner is ready for reintegration into society, what's the nature of the four- Why the fourth phase? What is the fourth phase?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B So as in third phase these men are supposed to be able to live completely free. The first phase is to permit, to allow, to allow these men to go out to work out as [is their way out?]. Definitely free but to come back to the house and to sleep here, and every morning they are leaving the house completely free. They are working [all?] day and they are coming back to sleep here.

Studs Terkel At what time then do they not-- When is that stage when they are no longer required to come back to sleep here? In that stage [four?]

Madame B So.

Studs Terkel Did you follow that? I know you're--

Madame B Of course, of course they are allowed to sleep out of the house when they are definitely--

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Madame B Liberated. I mean frame you know.

Studs Terkel Ah, yes.

Madame B Free from the sentence.

Studs Terkel So now the, there are so many questions to ask. The phases the nature the percentage the percentage of the convicts--

Studs Terkel Yeah, okay.

Studs Terkel Who come here who have reached the fourth phase.

Madame B Okay. [French]

Director Blayrat [French, in conversation with Madame B]

Madame B As soon as they are integrated in the fourth phase the result is 98 percent.

Studs Terkel That's successful. Ninety-

Madame B Yes, very successful.

Studs Terkel Ninety-eight, it was 98 percent of those who've come into this prison in the last 12 years have been integrated into society?

Madame B No.

Studs Terkel Oh.

Madame B No I say those who are integrated in first phase.

Studs Terkel Ah hah, ah hah.

Madame B Now ask Mr Jean Blayrat about the percentage regarding from the first till the fourth.

Studs Terkel That's right, yes.

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B Now for those who are sentenced not so heavy, I mean about eight years of [reclusion?] or ten years, the question you know there is no matter because they are never in fourth phase. You know they only [go right before?].

Studs Terkel Oh, when the sentence is over.

Madame B Yeah. But otherwise if you can't see the you know the heavy sentences.

Studs Terkel So let's say someone sentenced to life.

Madame B Yeah, to life. About 10 percent

Studs Terkel Ten percent.

Madame B Ten percent.

Studs Terkel Have been integrated into society.

Madame B Yes.

Studs Terkel The- are there cases of someone who has been sentenced to be executed who has had his sentence commuted as a result of rehabilitation because of having having been here and reached the four phases, four phases?

Madame B [French] Mr. Jean Blayrat says that when prisoners are here everybody [understands?] that is quite right to consider the man instead of to consider the man with the sentence, or the sentence by itself. So if he thinks of that very deeply, he can say that in the people who were condemned to death and commuted it is a great percentage that, who improves.

Studs Terkel So then there is this study this a key point--

Madame B And nobody here nobody has idea to figure these cases you know? Statistics, to make statistics.

Studs Terkel No it's not a question--

Madame B Why? Because they are considering a man instead of instead of the sentence. I know that in USA you know you are the country of statistics [Studs laughs] but not in France.

Studs Terkel Here then you consider them- you're talking about considering the man?

Madame B Yeah, chiefly as a man.

Studs Terkel I think there are a great many penologists though in America who are

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel On that very subject, considering that same point. Consider the man rather than the crime, the nature of the crime. Consider the man himself rather, he's not a statistic but a man.

Madame B I know, but all the same you have statistics for everything [Studs laughs].

Studs Terkel This editorial comment by- perhaps you, you could explain this byplay here to be Monsieur Blayrat as as we go along. Then I should like to ask Monsieur Blayrat how many how many such institutions are there in France such as this in which the rehabilitation of a prisoner is the core of the work?

Madame B Houses. How many houses?

Studs Terkel How many such?

Madame B [French]

Studs Terkel Monsieur Blayrat is thinking.

Madame B Four. [background conversation]

Studs Terkel There

Director Blayrat are, there are-- There are four. Four establishments.

Studs Terkel There are four establishments

Director Blayrat Yes.

Studs Terkel Such as this one. What is the, I was about to say enrollment as though it were a college. What is the number, the number of inmates, the number of prisoners say, for here?

Madame B Here?

Studs Terkel What is the size, yes.

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Studs Terkel Trois-cent [repeating Director]

Madame B Three hundred twenty. Now

Studs Terkel Three hundred--

Madame B but you had more, Monsieur Blayrat [trails off].

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B It can be you know, four hundred.

Studs Terkel It's flexible.

Madame B Yeah. Or four hundred fifty.

Studs Terkel Four--

Madame B They have room enough for four hundred fifty.

Studs Terkel Four, four hundred and fifty.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel In the years that Mr. Blayrat has been here, by the way how long has Mr. Blayrat been the director of this institution?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B About four years.

Studs Terkel About four years. In your time, I'll ask Mr. Blayrat perhaps about his own background or what led him into this this work, this interest before that, are there the convicts come from all walks of life I assume, are they or are they one special area of living, the convicts, the prisoners?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Studs Terkel I take they're from all walks.

Madame B The poisoners are of every level of society and of course bourgeoisie. They are less from bourgeoisie than poor people. They are more, you know?

Studs Terkel Are most of the crimes, is there are way perhaps, again the statistic the American, the statistical categorizing. But is there a way is there are these primarily crimes of passion?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B No that is not the more, the more, no.

Studs Terkel The more would be what then, premeditated?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B That is the murder or hold-up.

Studs Terkel But it occurs to me this is and then I want to ask Mr. Blayrat, Jean Blayrat about his own life and interests. That it would be easier would it not, this is a question, to rehabilitate a man who has committed a crime of passion and one who let us say premeditatedly--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Is a predatory figure.

Madame B Yeah. [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B Yeah he's saying that the same thing. They must be rehabilitated. You know both. But he saying that the one who is a passionel murderer, he has a lower intelligence than the one who is a hold-up murderer and and maybe but let's, let us--

Studs Terkel Oh no, I'd like to know more. This is a, this point is a rather astonishing one to me. You say the man who commits the crime of passion as a rule as one of a lower intelligence?

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel And one who is premed--

Madame B Yeah exactly.

Studs Terkel Oh really? May I ask him how he's come to this conclusion.

Madame B Yes [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B You know Mr. Blayrat having enhanced so many murderers, you know, prisoners and so and so, he concluded himself you know after absorbing so many prisoners that the passionel murderers were lower of a lower intelligence than the others.

Studs Terkel The plan-- This is an ironic obser-- I mean the man who plans to be an enemy of society uses a bit more intelligence than one who was accidentally a--

Madame B Exactly. [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B The one who's making hold-up, you know, has more time to think of what he's planning and doing than the one who is murdering somebody you know impatient and emotional emotional you know state.

Studs Terkel I'm sure there's some dramatic case I'm sure that Monsieur Blayrat has very vivid memories of specific cases. Is there one or two, are there one or two that come to his mind, particularly dramatic cases?

Madame B Yeah. [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B In which way dramatic, please?

Studs Terkel I mean something in one way some, the case, a case itself

Madame B [French]

Studs Terkel Of someone-- I know he has to think about it for a moment. I thought a case of-- that come to mind of someone who seemed utterly hopeless. Or a crime that seemed so heinous so outrageous and --

Madame B Yeah, yeah, yeah. [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B You know it's a case of passionel murder, Mr. Blaryat thinks that it is suddenly they are becoming heinous because love is very near, you know, hate. But after that as soon as they have murdered somebody it's it's finished. Suddenly, you know, as it come, as it came. Those who are making hold-up usually you know they are killing when they are surprised by somebody but they did not come with the intention to murder somebody. And those who are torturing for example, that is a logical you know following of ideas that brings them in the state you know to torture somebody because they want mon-- they want money, they cannot have money, so at this time the thing is they torture somebody. They will know where is money.

Studs Terkel I see where Mr., Monsieur Blayrat is a very sensitive man in associating love and hate, the proximity of the two.

Madame B Sure sure.

Studs Terkel But I was asking about, I thought there may be a case, perhaps difficult to think of it at the moment. A case, a specific one. Without mentioning a name, of course.

Madame B Yeah, yeah, okay.

Studs Terkel That came to his mind, that seemed hopeless, and the man is out today already rehabilitated. I thought a dramatic one.

Madame B Yeah, yeah, okay. [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B It's very difficult [to know? you know?]. To present you to have in mind the case as you ask for. Because the murderers we were sentenced to death, and commutated [sic], have to stay in jail 15 or 20 years before to be completely liberated and free.

Studs Terkel So--

Madame B And reintegrated in society.

Studs Terkel So in a particularly profound or a heinous crime it might-- rehabilitation process may take some 15 years possibly, it might.

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B It is very difficult to answer you about this matter because some of these murderers can be able to be reintegrated in society after seven years. Some of them later on but for justice you know it's quite impossible to be sentenced to death and to be commute-- commutated [sic]. And after that to be liberated before 20, 30 years--

Studs Terkel I see So there's a double--

Madame B Because it was the worst crime.

Studs Terkel So there is a--

Madame B You understand?

Studs Terkel There is a work on a double level here as I understand it. There's the level of humanity itself, understanding the man you say, theman is judged. And then there is the legal level too--

Madame B Of course.

Studs Terkel That a certain amount of time must take place.

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B You know the director gives as I told you already, his opinion about the convict to be liberated and so and so, but definitely it is the jury, the justice who decide definitely if he must be reintegrated in society.

Studs Terkel Now I should ask how it was that Jean Blayrat became the director of this unusual institution. Background was penology, criminology his interest from way back?

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B You know he was not at first in his background devoted to this life you know, penitentiary administration and reform. But because he was, the background. Mr. Jean Blayrat background is officer from Saint-Cyr, one of highest schools of officers.

Studs Terkel A military officer?

Madame B Military officer, yeah. And because war, last war and because he was prisoner and so and so, after that you know he thought that this--

Studs Terkel Yes.

Madame B What would you, could I say, this profession you know, was--

Studs Terkel Well I must ask this question, I hope it will not be misinterpreted by Monsier Blayrat.

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel In the, originally in my mind immediately the association of a military officer--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel With a humanistic approach--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel To a criminal does not seem to gel. How does this come to be, you see?

Madame B Yeah, okay. [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B When he was officer he was always interested you know by humanism level. And to study men to observe and to help them. But when he was officer, all the same, you are thinking that he would train young men on humanism basis.

Studs Terkel So then here again a man is must be judged for himself. This is specifically a case of Jean Blayrat--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Not a military officer, any, but Jean Blayrat, former military officer who is now obviously a humanistic director--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Of this institution.

Madame B Yeah. [French cut off]

Studs Terkel Using the very yardstick the very technique.

Madame B Yeah,yeah.

Studs Terkel [I must judge?] the very technique that he uses on the--

Madame B Yeah [French]. Cut! Cut! [tape edit] You will cut this part. Mr. Jean Blayrat thinks that now he has to observe these men and to help them and to practice his humanism, but in jail instead of to practice it as officer with young men to train, he's practicing this humanism in this house.

Studs Terkel Could I ask perhaps one last question?

Madame B Yes.

Studs Terkel Could I ask Jean Blayrat one last question. The warden of the Cook County Jail--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel In Chicago--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Whose name is Jack Johnson--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel And this is the jail in which Paul Crump was rehabilitated is opposed to capital punishment. See there is capital punishment the state of Illinois, some states don't have it. I'm curious to know how penologist, criminologist, humane director of this institution this prison feels on the subject of capital punishment.

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B Mr. Jean Blayrat says that when you are reading or hearing about a crime that this man committed and [in?] and the circumstances and how he committed the crime at first you know you have in mind to say yes he must be sentenced to death. But after that when this man is brought to you in jail you know and living with you and among other people, and when you can know this man better and not definitely but better, you are thinking that this man had not to be sentenced to death, [as mean?] at least executed because he is not the same man as you believed before you have him in hands.

Studs Terkel Here then perhaps it's the philosophy of Jean Blayrat expressed. I think philosophy of all enlightened penologists all over the world that it is possible for a man to change. It is possible for a man to be better than he has been.

Madame B [French cut off]

Studs Terkel That, that, redemption, in short, in short--

Madame B That is redemption.

Studs Terkel He believes then in redemption of man.

Madame B [French]

Director Blayrat [French]

Madame B Mr. Jean Blayrat thinks that, believes, that the worst murderer is able to be rehabilitated better than a small thief, I mean no important thief who will continue you know to to be a robber the whole life.

Studs Terkel So then the more profound the crime--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel And earlier the associated love and hate--

Madame B Yeah.

Studs Terkel Which I think was rather significant, more profound the crime the better the chance of the commission of that crime--

Madame B Re[unintelligible], yeah, redemption.

Studs Terkel To be redeemed. But perhaps the key word for me and what is to me been a very rewarding conversation with Monsieur Jean Blayrat is that redemption indeed is the key, the cornerstone of this institution. We trust there will be more of them throughout the world. Merci beaucoup, Jean Blayrat.

Madame B [French]

Studs Terkel Merci.

Director Blayrat Merci. [pause in recording]

Studs Terkel I'm in a London hotel now, I have just listened to the conversation with Mr. Blayrat about a week has passed and perhaps I should describe the director of this prison. He's a slim, high-cheekboned sensitive man with a full brown mustache. He told a bit of his life to me after we sat about and relaxed, and I think it should be mentioned that while he was an officer he and serving in World War Two, he spent five years in a concentration camp. But these were all officers. And I asked him about the film "Grand Illusion," whether that fit his particular category of the treatment, enemy's treatment of officers being so different from that of [many? men?]. He said this is true to some extent but nonetheless there were 200 officers in one barracks. And what impressed him in a terrible way was the need for solitude, the longing for solitude, hardly having a chance to be by himself during this incarceration by the enemy. There wasn't much physical work that were given because they were treated much less harshly than the, than the non-officers, the privates, the ordinary soldiers were treated. But nonetheless this need to be alone plagued him. After his release when he found it difficult to be alone with his family, he found it difficult to be with his family, the need for solitude there to obsessed him and thus it is that in this prison he senses, it's a double level sensing on this director's part. The men are in solitary, seems harsh for a long time, and yet he sees the therapeutic value of solitude to some extent as a result of his own experience. I must say he was a mild-mannered seemingly colorless looking man. Yet after the conversation after rehearing it now a most remarkable man. [pause in recording] Perhaps I misuse that word, I meant he was in a prisoner, a German prisoner of war camp rather than a concentration camp. And when I speak of his seeing and his men, his, the subject his wards in the prison in solitary I refer to the first phase that he referred to earlier. They are not wholly in solitary and from the second phase on, but in the first phase. Nine months in solitary. He sees this as having, this from a personal point of view, a somewhat therapeutic effect, harsh though it be. This comment I'm making now I say is a week after this interview. I've left Paris I'm now in London. I haven't yet begun the London conversations but on the other side of this tape we will return, we return to the week before to the Melun prison. And we'll hear some of the, I think we're walking through various parts of the prison but we'll also hear some brief interviews with three of the prisoners.