Drunken Sailor

Wednesday, December 18, 1946

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

NYC Department of Correction radio program produced by WNYC. Rod Serling plays a sailor who slugs a couple of people and steals money from them. He ends up in jail. After drama, the classification board reviews his case.

A sailor leaves home to work in the big city, where he spends his time thinking of his wife and missing home or running around town drunk. A friend tries to steer him in the right direction, but he gets even more upset and brushes the friend off. Desperate for money to feed his drinking, he punches a kid and steals $7. Later he gets caught for stealing money from someone else. He tells the cops he's no criminal and he wants a chance to start over. The conviction is for hitting two civilians while still in uniform and stealing money from them. Dishonorably discharged from the Navy.

Classification Board (Philip Heimliech, Director of Youth Council Bureau, City of New York; Alfred A. Chasen, Senior Parole Officer, New York State Division of Parole; Randolph B. Grasheim, Deputy Warden, Riker's Island; Herman K. Spector, Director of Education and Recreation, Department of Correction; George E. Mears, Probation Officer, Kings County; Norman M. Stone, Correction Department Executive Secretary) reviews his case.

Mears: This is a common case, a war case. This is a first offender, used an imitation pistol, accused of desertion. The child of a broken home, the younger of two children, a good work record. He has an IQ of 116, in the superior group. Scores high on clerical aptitude test, low on mechanical aptitude test.

First they must determine the underlying causes: was it truly the result of the war, or caused by the man's makeup? Try to plan an intelligent, worthwhile program for him.

Spector: This man would have acted the same under these circumstances even if the war had not been in his past. He is weak and depends on his good home environment; away from home, it was much easier for him to find means of utilizing the "recreational activities" available to him.

Grasheim: This would have happened with the war or not. Without his family, the man lost his anchor.

Heimliech: We have to go further back than what we know of him. A normal life up to the age of 17, when his father was sent to a mental hospital. This could have something to do with an event that also impacted the boy. He marries at 18, which indicates some irresponsibility. He worked right along until he got in to the Navy. He was inducted late, just before the end of the war; why was he not inducted earlier? He would have reacted the same whether or not he was in the Navy.

Chasen: Inclined to believe that the reasons for this behavior may not be attributed to the war. There was a personality defect which the war developed and exposed. We're dealing with a young man who was 32 years old; for 32 years he was a well adjusted member of the community. No indication of criminal behavior, yet that defect was always there. Defect exposed itself due to war time conditions; any stress of that type will develop that defect.

Mears: All of us have a need to be recognized and feel secure. This man does not have these characteristics and seeks them through drinking and aggressive behavior. Lack of security, due to the home situation; he went to drinking to gain recognition. He sees no alternative to not having money than to rob people. No indication of delinquent behavior for 32 years. A first offender of this nature should have been given probation, rather than sent to prison.

Unanimous opinion of the board that this man would have had trouble with any abnormal shock in his life.

Heimliech: Technically a first offender, but we do know he had previously committed a crime. A psychiatrist would easily classify him as a psychopath.

Chasen: Attributed to lack of adequate recreational facilities? Local recreational facilities and social ties in Ohio; probably knew few people in the Navy and received little guidance.

Stone: So if this man had lived in a small community, he'd have been fine. The stress of the war and isolation from family caused this stress. Plan a program that will help him in the institution and after.

Grashiem: Not too much of a custodial problem, except for the fact that he may have to be watched for a short time as he may display some emotional upset until he makes an adjustment to the institution. Medium security would be sufficient. He has a non-mechanical history and in line with his previous experience, more clerical work should be considered.

Spector: Wants to complete his high school education. One of the most genuine and repentant men in the institution. Recognizes the seriousness of his error and wants to return to the armed forces.

Heimliech: Not a normal case, needs careful watching. He has never been able to adjust himself to any organized community. Other men are able to get adequate recreation from the services. His whole life must be gone through by a psychiatrist because of the breakdown in his family during childhood.

Chasen: Should be interviewed and studied by a case worker. Undue reliance upon father, mother, and wife. An educational program, an athletic program to increase self reliance. Good material for medium security. Excellent material for parole.

Mears: Inmate wants to return to his wife, and a letter has been directed to her with the hope of learning what her feelings are in the matter. If she agrees, an agency will work out a reconciliation. Doctors should look in to this condition of insomnia.

Stone: Routine clerical assignment would be of no use to him or the institution because of his high intelligence. Could he work as a clerk or aid to a staff member?

Spector: Good sportsman, wise to be close and observe his work. Indication in everyday activities as to what his difficulties are.

Heimliech: Chaplain could help him.

Stone: He has not been attending services. Unanimous opinion of the board that this man be referred to the institutional psychiatrist to discover the underlying motive to his abnormal behavior. Then he will be brought up for reclassification in a month or so. Then maybe special assignment. Weak recreation could be helped by assignment in the recreation department. Look in to record of insomnia. In need of religious guidance. Reclassified again 3 months after assignment in recreation office.

Closing credits list actors.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 8642

Hosted by:

Norman M. Stone


Alfred A. Chasen, Kit Davidson, Randolph B. Grasheim, Philip Heimliech, Jack Lazarre, George E. Mears, Helen Richards, Rod Serling and Herman K. Spector


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About Toward a Return to Society

With a mix of drama and industry assessment, this program (1946) aims to cast prison time as rehabilitative rather than punitive time. General details are provided about each inmate's health, mental state, and crime.  

From the program announcer, “WNYC will offer the first of a new series of public service programs tonight from 8 to 8:30 o’clock when ‘Toward a Return to Society’ makes its premiere broadcast…Designed to acquaint New Yorkers with the work of the Classification Board of the Department of Correction, the series will present radio sessions of the board’s meeting during which actual cases will be discussed…

“Composed of psychiatrists, penologists, wardens, social workers and psychologists, the Classification Board sits in review of each convicted person’s case. Members to be heard during the first four broadcast sessions are Commissioner of Correction Peter F. Amoroso, Norman M. Stone, George E. Meares, Herman K. Spector, Capt. Jerome Adler and Dr. Bertram Pollens.

“Dramatic portions of the script are written by Lilian Supove and the entire presentation is under the supervision of Seymour N. Siegel.”


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