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ART. II. 1. Thoughts on the Criminal Prisons of this Country, occasioned by the Bill now in the House of Commons, for Consolidating and Amending the Laws relating to Prisons; with some Remarks on the Practice of looking to the Task-Master of a Prison rather than to the Chaplain for the Reformation of Offenders; and of purchasing the Work of those whom the Law has condemned to Hard Labour as a Punishment, by allowing them to spend a Portion of their Earnings during their Imprisonment. By GEORGE HOLFORD, Esq. M. P. Rivington.


2. Gurney on Prisons. Constable & Co. 1819.

3. Report of Society for Bettering the Condition of Prisons. Bensley. 1820.

THERE are, in every county in England, large public schools, maintained at the expense of the county, for the encouragement of profligacy and vice, and for providing a proper succession of housebreakers, profligates, and thieves. They are schools, too, conducted without the smallest degree of partiality or favour; there being no man (however mean his birth, or obscure his situation) who may not casily procure admission to them. The moment any young person evinces the slightest propensity for these pursuits, he is provided with food, clothing, and lodging, and put to his studies under the most accomplished thieves and cut-throats the county can supply. There is not, to be sure, a formal arrangement of lectures after the manner of our Universities; but the petty larcenous stripling, being left destitute of every species of employment, and locked up with accomplished villains as idle as himself, listens to their pleasant narrative of successful crimes, and pants for the hour of freedom, that he may begin the same bold and interesting career.


This is a perfectly true picture of the prison establishments of many counties in England, and was so, till very lately, of almost all; and the effects so completely answered the design, that in the year 1818, there were committed to the jails of the United Kingdoms, more than one hundred and seven thousand persons! * a number supposed to be greater than that of all the commitments in the other kingdoms of Europe put together.

The bodily treatment of prisoners has been greatly improved since the time of Howard. There is still, however, much to do; and the attention of good and humane people has been

* Report of Prison Society, xiv.

lately called to their state of moral discipline.

It is inconceivable to what a spirit of party this has given birth ;-all the fat and sleck people,-the enjoyers,-the mumpsimus, and well as we are' people, are perfectly outrageous at being compelled to do their duty; and to sacrifice time and money to the lower orders of mankind. Their first resource was, to deny all the facts which were brought forward for the purposes of amendment; and the Alderman's sarcasm of the Turkey carpet in jails, was bandied from one hard-hearted and fat-witted gentleman to another: But the advocates of prisonimprovement are men in earnest-not playing at religion, but of deep feeling, and of indefatigable industry in charitable pursuits. Mr Buxton went in company with men of the most irreproachable veracity; and found, in the heart of the metropolis, and in a prison of which the very Turkey carpet Alderman was an official visitor, scenes of horror, filth and cruelty, which would have disgraced even the interior of a slave-ship.

This dislike of innovation proceeds sometimes from the disgust excited by false humanity, canting hypocrisy, and silly enthusiasm. It proceeds also from a stupid and indiscriminate horror of change, whether of evil for good, or good for evil. There is also much party spirit in these matters. A good deal of these humane projects and institutions originate from Dissenters. The plunderers of the public, the jobbers, and those who sell themselves to some great man, who sells himself to a greater, all scent, from afar, the danger of political change-are sensible that the correction of one abuse may lead to that of another-feel uneasy at any visible operation of public spirit and justice-hate and tremble at a man who exposes and rectifies abuses from a sense of duty-and think, if such things are suffered to be, that their candle-ends and cheese-parings are no longer safe: And these sagacious persons, it must be said for them, are not very wrong in this feeling. Providence, which has denied to them all that is great and good, has given them a fine tact for the preservation of their plunder :-Their real enemy is the spirit of inquiry-the dislike of wrong-the love of right-and the courage and diligence which are the concomitants of these virtues. When once this spirit is up, it may be as well directed to one abuse as another. To say you must not torture a prisoner with bad air and bad food, and to say you must not tax me without my consent, or that of my representative, are both emanations of the same principle, occurring to the same sort of understanding, congenial to the same disposition, published, protected, and enforced by the same qualities. This it is that really excites the horror against Mrs Fry, Mr

VOL. XXXV. No. 70,


Gurney, Mr Bennet, and Mr Buxton. Alarmists such as we have described, have no particular wish that prisons should be dirty, jailors cruel, or prisoners wretched; they care little about such matters either way; but all their malice and meanness is called up into action when they see secrets brought to light, and abuses giving way before the diffusion of intelligence, and the aroused feelings of justice and compassion. As for us, we have neither love of change, nor fear of it; but a love of what is just and wise, as far as we are able to find it out. In this spirit we shall offer a few observations upon Prisons, and upon the Publications before us.

The new law should keep up the distinction between Jails and Houses of Correction. One of each should exist in every county, either at a distance from each other, or in such a state of juxtaposition, that they might be under the same governor. To the jail, should be committed all persons accused of capital offences, whose trials would come on at the Assizes;-to the house of correction, all offenders whose cases would be cognisable at the Quarter-sessions. Sentence of imprisonment in the house of correction, after trial, should carry with it hard labour;sentence of imprisonment in the jail, after trial, should imply an exemption from compulsory labour. There should be no compulsory labour in jails-only in houses of correction. In using the terms Jail and House of Correction, we shall always attend to these distinctions. Prisoners for trial should not only not be compelled to labour, but they should have every indulgence shown to them compatible with safety. No chainsmuch better diet than they commonly have-all possible access to their friends and relations-and means of earning money if they chuse it. The broad and obvious distinction between prisoners before and after trial, should constantly be attended to; to violate it is gross tyranny and cruelty.

The jails for men and women should be so far separated, that nothing could be seen or heard from one to the other. The men should be divided into two classes; 1st, those who are not yet tried; 2d, those who are tried and convicted. The first class should be divided into those who are accused as misdemeanauts and as felons; and each of these into first misdemeanants and second misdemeanants, men of better and worse character; and the same with felons. The second class should be divided into, 1st, persons condemned to death; 2d, persons condemned for transportation; 3dly, first class of confined, or men of the best character under sentence of confinement; 4thly, second confined, or men of worse character under sentence of confinement. To these are to be added, separate places for king's evidence, boys, lunatics, and

places for the first reception of prisoners, before they can be examined and classed:-a chapel, hospital, yards, and workshops for such as are willing to work.

The classifications in jails will then be as follows.

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Prisoners on their first reception.

And the same divisions for Women.

But there is a division still more important than any of these; and that is, a division into much smaller numbers than are gathered together in prisons:-40, 50, and even 70 and 80 fellons, are often placed together in one yard, and live together for months previous to their trial. Any classification of offences, while there is such a multitude living together of one class, is perfectly nugatory and ridiculous; no character can escape from corruption and extreme vice in such a school. The law ought to be peremptory against the confinement of more than fifteen persons together of the same class. Unless some measure of this kind is resorted to, all reformation in prisons is impossible.

A very great, and a very neglected object in prisons, is Diet. There should be, in every jail and house of correction, four sorts of diet; 1st, Bread and water; 2dly, Common prison diet, to be settled by the magistrates; 3dly, Best prison diet, to be settled by ditto; 4thly, Free diet, from which spirituous liquors altogether, and fermented liquors in excess, are excluded. All prisoners, before trial, should be allowed best prison dict, and be upon free diet, if they could afford it. Every sentence for imprisonment should expressly mention to which diet the prisoner is confined; and no other diet should be, on any account, allowed to such prisoner after his sentence. Nothing can be so preposterous, and criminally careless, as the way in which persons confined upon sentence are suffered to live in prisons. Misdemeanants, who have money in their pockets, may be seen

* We should much prefer solitary imprisonment; but are at present speaking of the regulations in jails where that system is excluded.

in many of our prisons with fish, buttered veal, rump steaks, and every kind of luxury; and as the practice prevails of allowing them to purchase a pint of ale each, the rich prisoner purchases many pints of ale, in the name of his poorer brethren, and drinks them himself. A jail should be a place of punishment, from which men recoil with horror-a place of real suffering, painful to the memory, terrible to the imagination: But if men can live idly, and live luxuriously, in a clean, well-aired, well-warmed, spacious habitation, is it any wonder that they set the law at defiance, and brave that magistrate who restores them to their former luxury and ease? There are a set of men well known to jailors, called Family-men, who are constantly returning to jail, and who may be said to spend the greater part of their life there,-up to the time when they are hanged.

Minutes of Evidence taken before Select Committee on Gaols.

Mr WILLIAM BEEBY, Keeper of the New Clerkenwell Prison.— Have you many prisoners that return to you on re-commitment? A vast number; some of them are frequently discharged in the morning, and I have them back again in the evening; or they have been discharged in the evening, and I have had them back again in the morning. Evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1819, p. 278.

FRANCIS CONST, Esq. Chairman of the Middlesex Quarter-sessions. Has that opinion been confirmed by any conduct you have observed in prisoners that have come before you for trial? I only judge from the opposite thing, that, going into a place where they can be idle, and well protected from any inconveniences of the weather, and other things that poverty is open to, they are not amended at ail; they laugh at it frequently, and desire to go to the House of Correction. Once or twice, in the early part of the winter, upon sending a prisoner for two months, he has asked, whether he could not stay longer, or words to that effect: It is an insulting way of saying they like it. '—Evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons in 1819. p. 285.

The fact is, that a thief is a very dainty gentleman. Male parta cito dilabuntur. He does not rob to lead a life of mortification and self-denial. The difficulty of controlling his appetites, in all probability, first led him to expenses which made him a thief to support them. Having lost character, and become desperate, he orders crab and lobster and veal cutlets at a public house, while a poor labourer is refreshing himself with bread and cheese. The most vulnerable part of a thief is his belly; and there is nothing he feels more bitterly in confinement than a long course of watergruel and flour-puddings. It is a mere mockery of punishment to say, that such a man shall spend his

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