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appears to us, is the mistake of many excellent men who busy themselves (and wisely and humanely busy themselves) about prisons. Their first object seems to be the reformation of the prisoners, not the reformation of the public; whereas the first object should be, the discomfort and discontent of their prisoners; that they should become a warning, feel unhappy, and resolve never so to act again as to put themselves in the same predicament; and then as much reformation as is compatible with this, the better. If a man says to himself, “ This prison is a comfortable place,” while he says to the chaplain or the visitor that he will come there no more, we confess we have no great confidence in his public declaration ; but if he say, “ This is a place of misery and sorrow, you shall not catch me here again,” there is much reason to believe he will be as good as his word ; and he then becomes (which is of much more consequence than his own reformation) a warning to others. Hence it is we object to that spectacle of order and decorum--carpenters in one shop, tailors in another, weavers in a third, sitting down to a meal by ring of bell, and receiving a regular portion of their earnings. We are afraid it is better than real life on the other side of the wall, or so very little worse that nobody will have any fear to encounter it. In Bury jail, which is considered as a pattern jail, the prisoners under a sentence of confinement are allowed to spend their weekly earnings (two, three, and four shillings per week) in fish, tobacco, and vegetables ; so states the jailer in his examination before the House of Commons—and we have no doubt it is well meant; but is it punishment? We were most struck in reading the evidence of the Jail Committee before the House of Commons, with the opinions of the jailer of the Devizes jail, and with the practice of the Magistrates who superintend it.*
“Mr. T. BRUTTON, Governor of the Gaol at Devizes.—Does this confinement in solitude make prisoners more averse to return to prison? I think it does.-Does it make a strong impression upon them? I have no doubt of it. Does it make them more obedient and orderly while in gaol? I have no doubt it does.—Do you consider it the most effectual punishment you can make use of? I do.—Do you think it has a greater effect upon the minds of prisoners than any apprehensions of personal punishment ? "I have no doubt of it. Have you any dark cells for the punishment of refractory prisoners? I have. —Do you find it necessary occasionally to use them ? Very seldom.-Have you, in any instance, been obliged to use the dark cell in the case of the same prisoner twice? Only on one occasion, I think.—What length of time is it necessary to confine a refractory prisoner to bring him to his senses ? Less than one day.-Do you think it essential, for the purpose of keeping up the discipline of the prison, that you should have it in your power to have recourse to the punishment of dark cells? I do; I consider punishment in a dark cell for one day has a greater effect upon a prisoner than to keep him on bread and water for a month.” —Evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1819, p. 359.
* The Winchester and Devizes jails seem to us to be conducted upon better principles than any other, though even these are by no means what jails should be.
The evidence of the Governor of Gloucester jail is to the same effect.
“Mr. Thomas CUNNINGHAM, Keeper of Gloucester Gaol.-Do you attribute the want of those certificates entirely to the neglect of enforcing the means of solitary confinement ? I do most certainly. Sometimes, where a certificate has not been granted, and a prisoner has brought a certificate of good behaviour for one year, Sir George and the Committee ordered one po or a guinea from the charity. - Does that arise from your apprehension that the prisoners have not been equally reformed, or only from the want of the means of ascertaining such reformation? It is for want of not knowing ; and we cannot ascertain it, from their working in numbers. They may be reformed? Yes; but we have not the means of ascertaining it. There is one thing I do which is not provided by the rules, and which is the only thing in which I deviate from the rules. When a man is committed for a month, I never give him any work; he sits in solitude, and walks in the yard by himself for air; he has no other food but his bread and water, except twice a week a pint of peas soup.
I never knew an instance of a man coming in a second time, who had been committed for a month. I have done that for these seventeen or eighteen years.- What has been the result? They dread so much coming in again. If a man is committed for six weeks, we give him work.-Do you apprehend that solitary confinement for a month, without employment, is the most beneficial means of working reform? I conceive it is.-Can it operate as the means of reform, any more than it operates as a system of punishment? It is only for small offences they commit for a month. — Would not the same effect be produced by corporal punishment ? Corporal punishment may be absolutely necessary sometimes : but I do not think corporal punishment would reform them so much as solitary confinement.—Would not severe corporal punishment have the same effect? No, it would harden them more than anything else. Do you think benefit is derived from the opportunity of reflection afforded by solitary confinement ? Yes. — And very low diet also ? Yes.”—Evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1819, P. 391.
We must quote also the evidence of the Governor of Horsley jail.
“Mr. WILLIAM STOKES, Governor of the House of Correction at Horsley.Do you observe any difference in the conduct of prisoners who are employed, and those who have no employment ? Yes, a good deal ; I look upon it, from what judgment I can form, and I have been a long while in it, that to take a prisoner and discipline him according to the rules as the law allows, and if he have no work, that that man goes through more punishment in one month than a man who is employed, and receives a portion of his labour three months ; but still I should like to have employment, because a great number of times I took men away who had been in the habit of earning sixpence a week to buy a loaf, and put them in solitary confinement ; and the punishment is a great deal more without work.--Which of the prisoners, those that have been employed, or wose unemployed, do you think would go out of the prison the better men? I think, that let me have a prisoner, and I never treat any one with severity, any further than that they should be obedient, and to let them see that I will do my duty, I have reason to believe, that if a prisoner is committed under my care, or any other man's care, to a house of correction, and he has to go under the discipline of the law, if he is in for the value of a month or six weeks, that man is in a great deal better state than though he stays for six months; he gets hardened by being in so long, from one month to another.
-You are speaking now of solitude without labour ; do you think he would go out better, if he had been employed during the month you speak of? No, nor half; because I never task those people, in order that they should not say I force them to do more than they are able, that they should not slight it; for if they perform anything in the bounds of reason, I never find fault with them : the prisoner who is employed, his time passes smooth and comfortable, and he has a proportion of his earnings, and he can buy additional diet; but if he has no labour, and kept under the discipline of the prison, it is a tight piece of punishment to go through.-Which of the two should you think most likely to return immediately to habits of labour on their own account ? The dispositions of all men are not alike; but my opinion is this, if they are kept and disciplined according to the rules of the prison, and have no labour, that one month will do more than six ; I am certain, that a man who is kept there without labour once, will not be very ready to come there again.”— Evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, pp. 398, 399.
Mr. Gurney and Mr. Buxton both lay a great stress upon the quiet and content of prisoners, upon their subordination and the absence of all plans of escape ; but where the happiness of prisoners is so much consulted we should be much more apprehensive of a conspiracy to break into than to break out of prison. The mob outside may, indeed, envy the wicked ones within ; but the felon who has left, perhaps, a scolding wife, a battered cottage, and six starving children, has no disposition to escape from regularity, sufficient food, employment which saves him money, warmth, ventilation, cleanliness, and civil treatment. These symptoms, upon which these respectable and excellent men lay so much stress, are by no means proofs to us that prisons are placed upon the best possible footing.
The Governor of Bury jail, as well as Mr. Gurney, insists much upon the few prisoners who return to the jail a second time, the manufacturing skill which they acquire there, and the complete reformation of manners, for which the prisoner has afterwards thanked him, the governor. But this is not the real criterion of the excellence of a jail, nor the principal reason why jails were instituted. The great point is, not the average recurrence of the same prisoners, but the paucity or frequency of commitments, upon the whole. You niay make a jail such an admirable place of education that it may cease to be infamous to go there. Mr. Holford tells us—and a very curious anecdote it isthat parents actually accuse their children falsely of crimes in order to get them into the Philanthropic Charity! and that it is consequently a rule with the governors of that charity never to receive a child upon the accusation of the parents alone. But it is quite obvious what the next step will be, if the parents cannot get their children in by fibbing. They will take good care that the child is really qualified for the Philanthropic, by impelling him to those crimes which are the passport to so good an education.
“If, on the contrary, the offender is to be punished simply by being placed in a prison, where he is to be well lodged, well clothed, and well fed, to be instructed in reading and writing, to receive a moral and religious education, and to be brought up to a trade; and if this prison is to be within the reach of
the parents, so that they may occasionally visit their child, and have the satis, faction of knowing from time to time that all these advantages are conferred upon him, and that he is exposed to no hardships, although the confinement and the discipline of the prison may be irksome to the boy, yet the parents may be apt to congratulate themselves on having got him off their hands into so good a berth, and may be considered by other parents as having drawn a prize in the lottery of human life by their son's conviction. This reasoning is not theoretical, but is founded in some degree upon experience. Those who have been in the habit of attending the committee of the Philanthropic Society know that parents have often accused their children of crimes falsely or have exaggerated their real offences for the sake of inducing that Society to take them, and so frequent has been this practice, that it is a rule with those who manage that institution never to receive an object upon the representation of its parents unless supported by other strong testimony.”-Holford, pp. 44, 45.
It is quite obvious that if men were to appear again six months after they were hanged, handsomer, richer, and more plump than before execution, the gallows would cease to be an object of terror. But here are men who come out of jail, and say, “ Look at us—we can read and write, we can make baskets and shoes, and we went in ignorant of everything : and we have learnt to do without strong liquors, and have no longer any objection to work; and we did work in the jail, and have saved money, and here it is.” What is there of terror and detriment in all this? and how are crimes to be lessened if they are thus rewarded ? Of schools there cannot be too many. Penitentiaries, in the hands of wise men, may be rendered excellent institutions ; but a prison must be a prison-a place of sorrow and wailing ; which should be entered with horror, and quitted with earnest resolution never to return to such misery ; with that deep impression, in short, of the evil which breaks out into perpetual warning and exhortation to others. This great point effected, all other reformation must do the greatest good.
There are some very sensible observations upon this point in Mr. Holford's book, who upon the whole has, we think, best treated the subject of prisons, and best understands them.
“In former times, men were deterred from pursuing the road that led to a prison, by the apprehension of encountering there disease and hunger, of being loaded with heavy irons, and of remaining without clothes to cover them, or a bed to lie on: we have done no more than what justice required in relieving the inmates of a prison from these hardships; but there is no reason that they should be freed from the fear of all other sufferings and privations. And I hope that those whose duty it is to take up the consideration of these subjects will see that in Penitentiaries offenders should be subjected to separate confinement, accompanied by such work as may be found consistent vith that system of imprisonment, that in Gaols or Houses of Correction they should perform that kind of labour which the law has enjoined, and that in prisons of both descriptions, instead of being allowed to cater for themselves, they should be sustained by such food as the rules and regulations of the establishment should have provided for them—in short, that prisons should be considered as places of punishment, and not as scenes of cheerful industry, where a compromise must be made with the prisoner's appetites to make him do the common work of a journeyman or manufacturer, and the labours of the spinning-wheel and the loom must be alleviated by indulgence.” *
This is good sound sense, and it is a pity that it is preceded by the usual nonsense about “the tide of blasphemy and sedition.” If Mr. Holford is an observer of tides and currents, whence comes it that he observes only those which set one way? Whence comes it that he says nothing of the tides of canting and hypocrisy which are flowing with such rapidity ?-of abject political baseness and sycophancy-of the disposition so prevalent among Englishmen to sell their conscience and their country to the Marquis of Londonderry for a living for the second son, or a silk gown for the nephew, or for a frigate for my brother the captain? How comes our loyal carcerist to forget all these sorts of tides?
There is a great confusion, as the law now stands, in the government of jails. The justices are empowered, by several statutes, to make
* “That I am guilty of no exaggeration in thus describing a prison conducted upon the principles now coming into fashion, will be evident to any person who will turn to the latter part of the article ‘Penitentiary, Millbank,' in Mr. Buxton's Book on Prisons. He there states what passed in conversation between himself and the Governor of Bury Gaol (which gaol, by-the-bye, he praises as one of the three best prisons he has ever seen, and strongly recommends to our imitation at Millbank). Having observed that the Governor of Bury Gaol had mentioned his having counted
34 spinning-wheels in full activity when he left that gaol at five o'clock in the morning on the preceding day, Mr. Buxton proceeds as follows :—' After he had seen the Millbank Penitentiary, I asked him what would be the consequence if the regulations there used were adopted by him? “The consequence would be,” he replied, "that every wheel would be stopped.'”. Mr. Buxton then adds, 'I would not be considered as supposing that the prisoners will altogether refuse to work at Millbank—they will work during the stated hours; but the present incentive being wanting, the labour will, I apprehend, be languid and desultory.'. I shall not, on my part, undertake to say, that they will do as much work as will be done in those prisons in which work is the primary object; but, besides the encouragement of the portion of earnings laid up for them, they know that diligence is among the qualities that will recommend them to the mercy of the Crown, and that the want of it is, by the rules
and regulations of the prison, an offence to be punished. The Governor of Bury Gaol, who is a very intelligent man, must have spoken hastily, in his eagerness to support his own system, and did not, I conceive, give
Ι himself credit for as much power and authority in his prison as he really pos. sesses. It is not to be wondered at that the keepers of prisons should like the new system : there is less trouble in the care of a manufactory than in thatof a gaol; but I am surprised to find that so such reliance is placed in argument on the declaration of some of these officers, that the prisoners are quieter where their work is encouraged, by allowing them to spend a portion of their earnings. It may naturally be expected, that offenders will be least discontented, and consequently least turbulent, where their punishment is lightest, or where, to use Mr. Buxton's own words, by making labour productive of comfort or convenience, you do much towards rendering it agreeable ;' but I must be permitted to doubt, whether these are the prisons of which men will live in most dread.”—Holford, pp. 78–80.