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Sub-division A.-The Metropolitan Institutions, and People connected with the Administration of the Criminal Law.
THE CRIMINAL PRISONS AND PRISON-POPULATION OF LONDON.
There is a long and multifarious list of prisons distributed
throughout London, if we include all the places of confinement, from the state
or political stronghold down to the common jail for the county - from the debtor's
prison to the sponging-house - from the penitentiary to the district
"lock-up." Thus we have the Tower and the Hulks; and Whitecross Street
prison, and the Houses of Correction and Detention; and the Queen's Bench, and
the Penitentiary at Millbank; as well as the Female Convict Prison at Brixton
and the common jail, Horsemonger Lane; besides the "Model" at
the New City Prison at Holloway, and the well-known quarters at Newgate; together with the cells at the several station-houses of the Metropolitan and
City Police, and the sponging-houses in the neighbourhood of Chancery Lane - all of which come under the denomination of places of safe custody, if not
of punishment and reform.
We shall find, however, amid the apparent confusion of details, that there are in London only three distinct kinds of places of safe custody, viz.:-
POLITICAL or STATE PRISONS - such as the Tower and the Strong-room of the House of Commons;
CIVIL or DEBTORS' PRISONS - as the Queen's Bench and the one in Whitecross Street, together with a portion of Horsemonger Lane Jail; and
CRIMINAL PRISONS; of which we are about to treat.
Of these same Criminal Prisons there are just upon a dozen scattered through London; and it is essential to a proper understanding of the subject that we should first discriminate accurately between the several members of the family. As yet no one has attempted to group the places of confinement for criminals into distinct classes; and we have, therefore, only so many vague terms - as "Convict" Prisons (though, strictly, every offender - the misdemeanant as well as the transport - is after conviction a convict) and "Houses of Correction", "Houses of Detention, " Bridewells, &c., to prevent us confounding one species of Criminal Prison with another.
Formerly every class of criminals and graduate in vice - from the simple novice to the artful adept - the debtor, the pickpocket, the burglar, the coiner, the poacher, the highwayman, the vagrant, the murderer, the prostitute - were all el them huddled together in one and the same place of durance, called the "Common Jail" (for even "Houses of Correction" - for vagrants and thieves only - are comparatively modern inventions) ; and it was not until the year 1823 that any systematic legal steps were taken to enforce a separation of the great body of prisoners into classes, much more into individuals - the latter being a regulation of very recent date.
Of late years, however, we have made rapid advances towards the establishment of a kind of criminal quarantine, in order to stay the spread of that vicious infection - which is found to accompany the association of the morally disordered with the comparatively uncontaminated; for assuredly there is a criminal epidemic - a very plague, as it were, of profligacy - that diffuses itself among the people with as much fatality to society as even the putrid fever or black vomit.
Consequently it becomes necessary, whilst seeking here to arrange our present prisons into something like system, to classify them according to the grades of offenders they are designed to keep in safe custody; for it is one of the marked features of our times that [-81-] the old Common Jail is becoming as obsolete among us as bull-baiting, and that the one indiscriminate stronghold has been divided and parcelled out into many distinct places of durance, where the reformation of the offender obtains more consideration, perhaps, than even his punishment.
Now the first main division of the criminal prisons of London is into-
Prisons for offenders before conviction; and
Prisons for offenders after conviction.
This is not only the natural but just division of the subject, since it is now admitted that society has no right to treat a man as a criminal until he has been proven to be one by the laws of his country; and hence we have prisons for the untried - distinct from those for the convict, or rather convicted.
The prisons for offenders after conviction are again divisible into places of confinement for such as are condemned to longer or shorter terms of imprisonment. To the latter class of institutions belong the Houses of Correction, to which a person may be sentenced for not more than two years; and Bridewells, to which a person may be condemned for not more than three months.*
[* "There is a species of jail," says the new edition of Blackstone, "which does not fall under the sheriff's charge, but is governed by a keeper wholly independent of that officer. it is termed, by way of distinction from the common jail, a House of Correction, or (in the City of London) a Bridewell. These houses of correction (which were first established, as it would seem, in the reign of Elizabeth) were originally designed for the penal confinement, after conviction, of paupers refusing to work, and other persons falling under the legal description of vagrant. And this was at first their only application, for in other cases the common jail of the county, city, or town in which the offender was triable was (generally speaking) the only legal place of commitment. The practice, however, in this respect was, to a certain extent, altered in the reign of George I., when vagrants and other persons charged with small offences' were, for the first time, allowed to be committed to the house of correction for safe custody, before conviction and at a subsequent period it was provided that, as to vagrants, the house of correction should be the only legal place of commitment. The uses, however, of a jail of this description have been lately carried much further; for by 5 and 6 William 1V., c. 38, s. 34, reciting that great inconvenience and expense had been found to result from the committing to the common jail, where it happens to be remote from the place of trial, it is enacted that a justice of the peace or corner may commit, for safe custody, to any house of correction situate near the place where the assizes or sessions are to be held, and that offenders sentenced in those courts to death, transportation, or imprisonment, may be committed in execution of such sentence to any house of correction for the county." - Stephens' Blackstone, 3rd ed., vol. iii., p. 209.
The City Bridewell (Bridge Street, Blackfriars) has been closed for the last two years. The prison here was originally a place of penal confinement for unruly apprentices, sturdy beggars, and disorderly persons committed to jail for three months and less. Where the City Bridewell now stands there is said to have been anciently a holy well of medicinal water, called St. Bride's Well, upon which was founded an hospital for the poor. (Stowe. however, says nothing of this, speaking only of a palace standing there.) After the Reformation, Edward VI. chartered this to the City, and whilst Christchurch was dedicated to the education of the young, and St. Thomas's Hospital, in the Borough, for the cure of the sick, Bridewell Hospital was converted into a place of confinement and "penitentiary amendment" for unruly London apprentices and disorderly persons, as well as sturdy beggars and vagrants. "Here," says Mr. Timbs, in his curious and learned work on the Curiosities of London, "was a portrait of Edward VI. with these lines-
'This Edward of fair memory the Sixt,
In whom with Great Goodness was commixt,
Gave this Bridewell, a palace in olden times,
For a Chastening House of vagrant crimes.'
After this, the houses of correction in various parts of the country got to be called "bridewells "-the particular name coming, in course of time, to be used as a general term for a place of penitentiary amendment. A "house of correction" is now understood to be a place of safe custody, punishment, and reformation, to which criminals are committed when sentenced to imprisonment for terms varying from seven days up to two years.
The prisons, on the other hand, for the reception of those
condemned to longer terms, such [-82-] as transportation and "penal service," are those at
and Brixton, as well as the Hulks at Woolwich.
The prisons, moreover, which are for the reception of criminals before conviction, are either -
Prisons in which offenders are confined while awaiting their trial after having been committed by a magistrate - such as the prisons of Newgate and Horsemonger Lane, as well as the House of Detention; or "Lock-ups," in which offenders are confined previous to being brought up before, and committed by, the sitting magistrate - such as the cells at the various station-houses.
According, then, to the above classification, the Criminal Prisons admit of being arranged into the following groups:-
I. PRISONS FOR OFFENDERS AFTER CONVICTION
A. "Convict" Prisons* [* This is the Government term;- the law distinguishing between a "convict" (or, literally, a convicted felon) and a "convicted misdemeanant.] - for transports and "penal service" men.
1. Pentonville Prison
2. Millbank Prison
3. Female Convict Prison, Brixton
4. Hulks, Woolwich
B. "Correctional" Prisons - for persons sentenced to short terms of punishment
1. City House of Correction (Holloway)
2. Middlesex Houses of Correction
a. Coldbath Fields Prison, for adult males
b. Tothill Fields Prison, for boys and adult females
3. Surrey House of Correction (Wandsworth Common)
II. PRISONS FOR OFFENDERS BEFORE CONVICTION
A. Detentional Prisons - for persons after committal by a magistrate.
1. Middlesex House of Detention (Clerkenwell).
3. Horsemonger Lane Jail.** [** This is the only existing Common Jail in London, i. e., the only place where debtors are still confined under the same roof as felons.]
B. Lock-ups - for persons previous to committal by a magistrate.
1. Metropolitan Police Cells.
2. City do do.***
[*** The cant or thieves' names for the several London prisons or "sturbons" (Ger. ge-storben, dead, and hence a place of execution), is as follows:-
Pentonville Prison The Model.
Millbank Prison The 'Tench (abbreviated from Penitentiary).
The Hulks, or any Public Works The Boat.
House of Correction, Coldbath Fields The Steel.
House of Correction, Tothill Fields The Downs.
City Bridewell, Bridge Street, Blackfriars The Old Horse.
Newgate The Start.
Horsemonger Lane Jail The Lane.]
*** Of the Prison Population of London. - The number of offenders said to pass annually through the metropolitan prisons is stated at about 36,000. These statistics, however, are of rather ancient date, and proceed from no very reliable source. We will therefore endeavour to sum up, with as much precision as possible, the great army of criminals that pass through the several jails of London in the course of the year:-
NUMBER OF PRISONERS "PASSING THROUGH" THE LONDON PRISONS DURING THE YEAR.
Pentonville Prison (A.D. 1854-5) . . . . . 925
Millbank ,, ,, . . . . . 2,461
Brixton ,, ,, . . . . 664
Hulks ,, ,, . . . . . 1,513
Total Population of the London Convict Prisons . . 5,563
City House of Correction (AD. 1854-5) . . . . 1,978
Coldbath-flelds ,, ,, . . . . 7,743
Tothill Fields ,, ,, . . . . 7,268
Surrey ,, ,, . . . . 5,170
Total Population of the Correctional Prisons . . 22,159
House of Detention . . . . . . . 11,262
Newgate . . . . . . . . . 1,840
Horsemonger Lane Jail . . . . . . . 3,010
Total Population of the Detentional Prisons . . 16,112
Grand Total of the Population of the London Prisons. 43,834
Metropolitan Police Stations (1854) . . . . 76,614
City Police Stations ,, . . . . . 4,487
Total Population of the London Police Stations . . 81,101
Total Population of all London Prisons and Lock-ups . 124,935*
[* The returns above given rest upon the following authority :-The number of criminals in the convict prisons is quoted from the Reports of those prisons. The numbers of the correctional and detentional prisons have been kindly and expressly furnished by the Governors of those institutions respectively; whilst those of the Metropolitan Police are copied from the last report on the subject, and those of the City Police supplied by the Commissioner.
The number of debtors confined in the Metropolitan prisons in the summer of 1855 was as follows :-
Whitecross Street Prison (on the 18th August, 1855) . . . . 233
Queen's Bench ,, . . . . 134
Horsemonger Lane Jail (on the 20th August, 1855) . . . . 46
But a considerable proportion of this large number of
prisoners appear more than once in the returns, as they pass from the
police-stations, after committal by the magistrates, to the detentional
prisons, there to await their trial, amid are thence transferred, after conviction,
either to correctional or "convict" prisons, according as they are
condemned to longer or shorter terms of imprisonment. Moreover, even of those
condemned to three, or indeed to six, months' imprisonment, many appear repeatedly
in the aggregate of the correctional prisons for the entire year; so
that it becomes extremely difficult to state, with any exactitude, what may be
the number of different offenders who enter the London prisons in the
course of twelve months. The sum-total may, however, be roughly estimated at
about 20,000 individuals; for this is a little less than the aggregate of the
convict and correctional prisons of the Metropolis, and of course includes those
passing first through the detentional prisons and lock-ups, the difference
between that aggregate and the sum of the convict and correctional prisons
being a set-off against those who appear more than once in the year at the
houses of correction.
This, however, is the successive prison population for the whole year; the simultaneous prison population, on the other hand, for any particular period of the year, may be cited at somewhere about 6,000 individuals; for, according to the Government returns, there were at the time of taking the last Census rather more than that number of criminals confined within [-84-] the metropolitan jails - and this is very nearly the population of the entire town of Folkestone.*
[ * The gross number of prisoners passing through the prisons of England and Wales, in the course of the year 1849, was as under:-
Criminals of both sexes 157,273
Hence it follows that the criminals passing annually through the London prisons (43,834) form more than one-third of the entire number passing, in the same period, through all the prisons of England and Wales; for out of every 1000 offenders entering the jails throughout the whole country during the twelvemonth, 284 appear in the jails of London alone.
Such is the successive ratio between the prisoners confined in the London prisons, and those of all England and Wales. The simultaneous ratio on the other hand is as follows:-
The number of prisoners (debtors inclusive) confined in the prisons of England and Wales on the day of taking the last Census was 23,768
The number of prisoners confined in the London prisons on the same day 6,188
Thus it appears that in every 1000 prisoners confined in the prisons of England and Wales at one and the same time, 280 belong to London.]
Further, the gross annual expense of these same criminal prisons of London is about £170,000, or very nearly one-third of all the prisons in England and Wales, which, according to the Government returns, cost, in round numbers, £385,000 per annum.**
[** The total yearly expense of the several London prisons (exclusive of repairs, alterations, and additions), and the average cost per head, is as follows
Convict Prisons- TOTAL EXPENSE EXPENSE PER HEAD £ s d £ s d Pentonville (AD 1854-55) 14912 18 9 26 11 8 Millbank 33175 0 6 25 10 4 Brixton 12218 0 0 17 9 1 Hulks at Woolwich 26297 9 10 27 13 0 Correctional Prisons Coldbath Fields 30067 18 1 21 13 3 Tothill Fields (AD 1849) 14798 16 0 19 9 10½ City House of Correction, Holloway (AD 1854-55) 4599 3 3½ 25 7 10½ Surrey House of Correction, Wandsworth 12158 4 4 18 8 7½ Detentional Prisons- House of Detention (AD 1854-55) 7141 9 1 55 4 2 Newgate 5800 6 2 37 8 2 Horsemonger Lane Jail (inclusive of debtors) 4693 1 9 30 0 8¾
Now, by the above list, the items of which have been mostly supplied expressly for this work by the officials, it will be found that the total expense of all the London prisons for one year amounts to £158,733 1s. 1d.; whilst, according to the Fifteenth Report of the Prison Inspectors, the total expense of all the prisons in England and Wales is £385,704 18s. 4½d., so that the coat of the London prisons is nearly one-half of those throughout the whole of the country.
*** Of the Character of the London Criminals.-In the Report of the Constabulary Commissioners, published in 1837, and which remains the most trustworthy and practical treatise on the criminal classes that has yet been published - the information having been derived from the most eminent and experienced prison and police authorities - there is a definition of predatory crime, which expresses no theoretical view of the subject, but the bare fact-referring habitual dishonesty neither to ignorance nor to drunkenness, nor to poverty, nor to over-crowding in towns, nor to temptation from surrounding wealth, nor, indeed, to any one of the many indirect causes to which it is sometimes referred, but simply declaring it to "proceed from a disposition to acquire property with a less degree of labour than ordinary industry." Hence the predatory class are the non-working class-that is to say, those who
love to "shake a free leg," and lead a roving life, as
they term it, rather than settle down to any continuous employment.
To inquire, therefore, into the mode and means of living peculiar to the criminal classes, involves an investigation into the character and causes of crime. Crime, vice, and sin are three terms used for the infraction of three different kinds of laws-social, moral, and religious. Crime, for instance, is the transgression of some social law, even as vice is the breach of some moral law, and sin the violation of sonic religious one. These laws often differ only in emanating from different authorities, the infraction of them being simply an offence against a different power. To thieve, however, is to offend, at once socially, morally, and religiously; for not only does the social, but the moral and religious law, one and all, enjoin that we should respect the property of others.
But there are offences against the social powers other than those committed by such as object to labour for their livelihood; for the crimes perpetrated by the professional criminals are, so to speak, habitual ones, whereas those perpetrated occasionally by the other classes of society are accidental crimes, arising from the pressure or concomitance of a variety of circumstances.
Here, then, we have a most important and fundamental distinction. All crimes, and consequently all criminals, are divisible into two different classes, the habitual and the casual - that is to say, there are two distinct orders of people continually offending against the laws of society, viz. (1) those who indulge in dishonest practices as a regular means of living; (2) those who are dishonest from some accidental cause.
Now, it is impossible to arrive at any accurate knowledge of the subject of crime and criminals generally, without first making this analysis of the several species of offences according to their causes; or, in other words, without arranging them into distinct groups or classes, according as they arise, either from an habitual indisposition to labour on the part of some of the offenders, or from the temporary pressure of circumstances upon others.
The official returns on this subject are as unphilosophic as the generality of such documents, and consist of a crude mass of incongruous facts, being a statistical illustration of the "rudis indigestaque moles" in connection with a criminal chaos, and where a murderer is classed in the same category with the bigamist, a sheep-stealer with the embezzler, and the Irish rebel or traitor grouped with the keeper of a disorderly house, and he, again, with the poacher and perjurer.
Thus the several crimes committed throughout the country are officially arranged under four heads:-
1. Offences against the person - including murder, rape, bigamy, attempts to procure miscarriage, and common assaults.
2. Offences against property. (a) With violence - as burglary, robbery, piracy, and sending menacing letters. (b) Without violence - including cattle-stealing, larceny by servants, embezzling, and cheating. (c) Malicious offences against property - as arson, incendiarism, maiming cattle, &c.
3. Forgery, and offences against the currency - under which head are comprised the forging of wills, bank notes, and coining.
4. Other offences - including high treason, poaching, working illicit stills, perjury, brothel-keeping, &c.
M. Guerry, the eminent French statist, adopts a far more philosophic arrangement, and divides the several crimes into-
1. Crimes against the State - as high treason, &c.
2. Crimes against personal safety - as murder, assault, &c.
3. Crimes against morals (with or without violence) - as rape, bigamy, &c.
4. Grimes against property (proceeding from cupidity, or malice)-as larceny, embezzlement, incendiarism, and the like.
[-88-] The same fundamental error, however, which renders the legal and official classification comparatively worthless, deprives that of the French philosopher of all practical value. It gives us no knowledge of the people committing the crimes, since the offences arc classified according to the objects against which they arc committed, rather than the causes and passions giving rise to them; and such an arrangement consequently sinks into a mere system of criminal mnemonics, or easy method of remembering the several crimes. The classes in both systems are but so many mental pigeon-holes for the arbitrary separation of the various infractions of the law, and farther than this they cannot serve us.
Whatever other information the inquirer may desire, he must obtain for himself. If he wish to learn something as to the causes of the crimes, and consequently as to the character and passions of the criminals themselves, he must begin do novo; and using the official facts, but rejecting the official system of classification, proceed to arrange all the several offences into two classes, according as they are of a professional or casual character, committed by habitual or occasional offenders.
Adopting this principle, it will be found that the crimes committed by the casual offenders consist mainly of murder, assaults, incendiarism, ravishment, bigamy, embezzlement, high treason, and the like; for it is evident that none can make a trade or profession of the commission of these crimes, or resort to them as a regular means of subsistence.
The habitual crimes, on the other hand, will be generally found to include burglary, robbery, poaching, coining, smuggling, working of illicit stills, larceny from the person, simple larceny, &c., because each and all of these are regular crafts, requiring almost the same apprenticeships as any other mode of life-house-breaking, and picking pockets, and working illicit stills, being crafts to which no man without some previous training can adapt himself.
Hence, to ascertain whether the number of these dishonest handicrafts-for such they really are-be annually on the increase or not, is to solve the most important portion of the criminal problem. It is to learn whether crime pursued as a special profession or business is being augmented among us-to discover whether the criminal class, as a distinct body of people, is or is not on the advance.
The casual or accidental crimes, on the other hand, will furnish us with equally curious results, showing a yearly impress of the character of the times; for these, being only occasional offences, the number of such offenders in different years will of course give us a knowledge of the intensity of the several occasions inducing the crimes of such years.
The accidental crimes, classified according to their causes, may be said to consist of
1. Crimes of Brutality and Malice, exercised either against the person or property of the object-as murder, intents to maim or do bodily harm, manslaughter, assaults, killing and maiming cattle, ill-treating animals, malicious destruction of property, setting fire to crops, arson, &c.
2. Crimes of Lust, Perverted Appetites, and Indecency - as rape, carnally abusing girls, unnatural crimes, indecently exposing the person, bigamy, abduction, &c.
3. Crimes of Shame - as concealing the birth of infants, attempts to procure miscarriage, &c.
4. Crimes of Temptation, or Cupidity, with or without breach of trust - as embezzlement, larceny by servants, illegal pawning, forgery, &c.
5. Crimes of Evil Speaking - as perjury, slander, libel, sending menacing letters, &c.
6. Crimes of Political Prejudices - as high treason, sedition, &c.
Those who resort to crime as a means of subsistence when in extreme want, cannot be said to belong to those who prefer idleness to labouring for their living, -since many such would willingly work to increase their sustenance, if that end were attainable by these means; but the poor shirt-makers, slop-tailors, and the like, have not the power of earning more
than the barest subsistence by their labour, so that the
pawning of the work intrusted to them by their employers becomes an act to which
they are immediately impelled for "dear life," on the occurrence of the
least illness or mishap among them. Such offenders, therefore, belong
more properly to those who cannot work for their living, or rather, cannot live
by their working; and though they offend against the laws in the same manner as
those who object to work, they certainly cannot be said to belong to the same
The habitual criminals, on the other hand, are a distinct body of people. Such classes appertain to even the rudest nations, they being, as it were, the human parasites of every civilized and barbarous community. The Hottentots have their "Sonquas," and the Kaffirs their "Fingoes", as we have our "prigs" and "cadgers." Those who object to labour for the food they consume appear to be part and parcel of every State - an essential element of the social fabric. Go where you will - to what corner of the earth you please - search out or propound what new-fangled or obsolete form of society you may - you will be sure to find some members of it more apathetic than the rest, who will object to work; even as there will ho some more infirm than others, who are unable, though willing, to earn their own living; and some, again, more thrifty, who, from their prudence and their savings, will have no need to labour for their subsistence.
These several forms are but the necessary consequences of specific differences in the constitution of different beings. Circumstances may tend to give an unnatural development to either one or the other of the classes. The criminal class, the pauper class, or the wealthy class may be in excess in one form of society as compared with another, or they may be repressed by certain social arrangements - nevertheless, to a greater or less degree, there they will, and, we believe, must ever be.
Since, then, there is an essentially distinct class of persons who have an innate aversion to any settled industry, and since work is a necessary condition of the human organization, the question becomes, "How do such people live?" There is but one answer - If they will not labour to procure their own food, of course they must live on the food procured by the labour of others.
The means by which the criminal classes obtain their living constitute the essential points of difference among them, and form, indeed, the methods of distinction among themselves. The "Rampsmen," the "Drummers," the "Mobsmen," the "Sneaksmen," and the "Shofulmen," which are the terms by which the thieves themselves designate the several branches of the "profession," are but so many expressions indicating the several modes of obtaining the property of which they become possessed.
The "Rampsman," or " Cracksman," plunders by force - as the burglar, footpad, &c.
The "Drummer" plunders by stupefaction - as the "hocusser."
The "Mobsman" plunders by manual dexterity - as the pickpocket.
The "Sneaksman" plunders by stealth - as the petty-larceny boy. And
The "Shofulman" plunders by counterfeits - as the coiner.
Now, each and all of these are a distinct species of the criminal genus, having little or no connection with the others. The "cracksman," or housebreaker, would no more think of associating with the "sneaksman," than a barrister would dream of sitting down to dinner with an attorney. The perils braved by the housebreaker or the footpad, make the cowardice of the sneaksman contemptible to him; and the one is distinguished by a kind of bull-dog insensibility to danger, while the other is marked by a low, cat-like cunning.
The "Mobsman," on the other hand, is more of a handicraftsman than either, and is comparatively refined, by the society he is obliged to keep. He usually dresses in the same elaborate style of fashion as a Jew on a Saturday (in which case he is more particularly described by the prefix "swell ), and "mixes generally in the "best of company," frequenting, for the purposes of business, al~ the places of public entertainment, and often being a regular attendant at church, and the more elegant chapels - especially during charity sermons. The [-90-] mobsman fakes his name from the gregarious habits of the class to which he belongs, it being necessary for the successful picking of pockets that the work be done in small gangs or mobs, so as to "cover" the operator.
Among the sneaksmen, again, the purloiners of animals (such as the horse-stealers, the sheep-stealers, &c.) all - with the exception of the dog-stealers - belong to a particular tribe; these are agricultural thieves; whereas the mobsmen arc generally of a more civic character.
The shofulmen, or coiners, moreover, constitute another species; and upon them, like the others, is impressed the stamp of the peculiar line of roguery they may chance to follow as a means of subsistence.
Such are the more salient features of that portion of the habitually dishonest classes, who live by taking what they want from others. The other moiety of the same class, who live by getting what they want given to them, is equally peculiar. These consist of the "Flat- catchers," the "Hunters," and " Charley* [*A "Charley Pitcher seems to be one who pitches to the Ceorla (A.S. for countryman), and equivalent to the term Yokel-hunter.] Pitchers," the "Bouncers," and "Besters," the "Cadgers," and the "Vagrants."
The "Flat-catchers" obtain their means by false pretences - as swindlers, duffers, ring-droppers, and cheats of all kinds.
The "Hunters" and "Charley Pitchers" live by low gaming - as thimblerig-men.
The "Bouncers" and "Besters" by betting, intimidating, or talking people out of their property.
The "Cadgers," by begging and exciting false sympathy.
The "Vagrants," by declaring on the casual ward of the parish workhouse.
Each of these, again, are unmistakably distinguished from the rest. The "Flat-catchers" are generally remarkable for great shrewdness, especially in the knowledge of human character, and ingenuity in designing and carrying out their several schemes. The " Charley Pitchers" appertain more to the conjuring or sleight-of-hand and black-leg class. The "Cadgers," on the other hand, are to the class of cheats what the "Sneaksman" is to the thieves - the lowest of all - being the least distinguished for those characteristics which mark the other members of the same body. As the "Sneaksman" is the least daring and expert of all the "prigs," so is the "Cadger" the least intellectual and cunning of all the cheats. A "Shallow cove" - that is to say, one who exhibits himself half-naked in the streets, as a means of obtaining his living-is looked upon as the most despicable of all creatures, since the act requires neither courage, intellect, nor dexterity for the execution of it. Lastly, the "Vagrants" are the wanderers-the English Bedouins-those who, in their own words, "love to shake a free leg" - the thoughtless and the careless vagabonds of our race.
Such, then, are the characters of the habitual criminals, or
professionally dishonest classes - the vagrants, beggars, cheats, and thieves -
order expressing some different mode of existence adopted by those who hate
working for their living. The vagrants, who love a roving life, exist
principally by declaring on the parish funds for the time being; the beggars, as
deficient in courage and intellect as in pride, prefer to live by soliciting
alms from the public; the cheats, possessed of considerable cunning and
ingenuity, choose rather to subsist by fraud and deception; the thieves
distinguished generally by a hardihood and comparative disregard of danger, find
greater delight in risking their liberty and taking what they want, instead of
waiting to have it given to them.
In prisons, the criminals are usually divided into first, second, and third class prisoners, according to the amount of education they have received. Among the first, or well-educated class, axe generally to be found the casual criminals, as forgers, embezzlers, &c.; the second, or imperfectly educated class, contains a large proportion of the town criminals - as pickpockets, smashers, thimblerig-men, &c.; whilst the third, or comparatively uneducated class, is mostly [-91-] made up of the lower kind of city thieves, as well as the agricultural labourers who have turned sheep-stealers, and the like. Of these three classes, the first and the last furnish the greater number of eases of reformation, whilst the middle class is exceedingly difficult of real improvement, though the most ready of all to feign conversion.
As regards the criminal period of life, we shall find, upon calculating the ratio between the criminals of different ages, that by far the largest proportion of such people is to be found between the ages of 15 and 25. This period of life is known to physiologists to be that at which the character or ruling principle is developed. Up to fifteen, the will or volition of an individual is almost in abeyance, and the youth consequently remains, in the greater number of cases, under the control of his parents, acting according to their directions. After fifteen, however, the parental dominion begins to be shaken off; and the being to act for himself, having acquired, as the phrase runs, "a will of his own." This is the most dangerous time of life to all characters; whilst to those who fall among bad companions, or whose natures are marked by vicious impulses, it is a terra of great trouble and degradation. The ratio between the population of 15 and 25 years of age and that of all ages, throughout England and Wales, is but 19.0 per cent.; whereas the ratio between prisoners from 15 to 25 years old and those of all ages is. for England and Wales, as high as 48.7; and for the Metropolis, 49.6 per cent.; so that whilst the young men and women form hardly one-fifth of all classes, they constitute very nearly one-half of the criminal class. The boys in prison are found to be the most difficult to deal with, for among these occur the greater number of refractory cases.*
[* The following tables, copied from the Census of 1851, furnish the data for the above statements:-
AGES OF PRISONERS IN ENGLAND AND WALES
From 5 to 10 years old 20 " 10 " 15 " 875 " 15 " 20 " 5081 " 20 " 25 " 649 " 25 " 30 " 3693 " 30 " 35 " 2402 " 35 " 40 " 1568 " 40 " 45 " 1278 " 45 " 50 " 826 " 50 " 55 " 684 " 55 " 60 " 333 " 60 " 65 " 207 " 65 " 70 " 132 " 70 " 75 " 73 " 75 " 80 " 23 " 80 " 85 " 13 " 85 " 90 " 3 " 90 " 95 " 1 Total of all ages 23768
Per centage of prisoners between 15 and 25 to those of all ages, 48.7
Total population of all ages in England and Wales
Ditto between 15 and 25 in ditto
Percentage of persons between 15 and 25 years to persons of all ages, 19.0
AGES OF PRISONERS IN LONDON PRISONS
From 5 to 10 years old 1 " 10 " 15 " 299 " 15 " 20 " 1413 " 20 " 25 " 1659 " 25 " 30 " 863 " 30 " 35 " 596 " 35 " 40 " 362 " 40 " 45 " 325 " 45 " 50 " 223 " 50 " 55 " 191 " 55 " 60 " 81 " 60 " 65 " 39 " 65 " 70 " 25 " 70 " 75 " 4 " 75 " 80 " 1 " 80 " 85 " 1 Total of all ages 6188
THE LONDON CONVICT PRISONS AND THE CONVICT POPULATION.
The Convict Prisons of the Metropolis, as we have shown,
consist of four distinct establishments - distinct, not only in their localities,
but also in the character of their construction, as well as in the discipline to
which the inmates are submitted. At Pentonville Prison, for instance, the
convicts are treated under a modified form of the "separate system" -at
Millbank the "mixed system" is in force; and, at the Hulks, on the other
hand, the prisoners, though arranged in wards, have but little restraint
imposed upon their intercommunication; [-92-] whilst at Brixton, which is an establishment for female
convicts only, a different course of treatment, again, is adopted.
The convict prisons, with the exception of the Hulks, were formerly merely the receiving-houses for those who had been sentenced by law to be banished, or rather transported, from the kingdom.
The system of transportation is generally dated as far back as the statute for the banishment of dangerous rogues and vagabonds, which was passed in the 39th year of Elizabeth's reign; and James I. was the first to have felons transported to America, for in a letter he commanded the authorities "to send a hundred dissolute persons to Virginia, that the Knight-Marshal was to deliver for that purpose."
Transportation, however, is not spoken of in any Act of Parliament until the 18th Charles II., c. 3, which empowers the judges either to sentence the moss-troopers of Cumberland and Northumberland to be executed or transported to America for life. Nevertheless, this mode of punishment was not commonly resorted to prior to the year 1718 (4th George I., c. 2); for, by an Act passed in that year, a discretionary power was given to judges to order felons, who were entitled to the benefit of clergy, to be transported to the American plantations; and, under this and other Acts, transportation to America continued from the year 1718 till the commencement of the War of Independence, 1775. During that period, England was repeatedly reproached by foreign nations for banishing, as felons, persons whose offences were comparatively venial-one John Eyre, Esq., a gentleman of fortune, having, among others, been sentenced to transportation for stealing a few quires of paper (November 1st, 1771); and, even as recently as the year 1818, the Rev. Dr. Halloran having been transported for forging a frank to cover a tenpenny postage.
After the outbreak of the American War, a plan for the establishment of penitentiaries was taken into consideration by Parliament, but not carried out with any vigour; for in the year 1784, transportation was resumed, and an Act passed, empowering the King in council to transport offenders to any place beyond the seas, either within or without the British dominions, as his Majesty might appoint; and two years afterwards an order in council was published, fixing upon the eastern coast of Australia, and the adjacent islands, as the future penal colonies. In the month of May, 1787, the first band of transports left this country for Botany Bay, and in the succeeding year, founded the colony of New South Wales.
This system of transporting felons to Australia continued in such force that, in fifty years from the date of its introduction (1787-1836), 100,000 convicts (including 13,000 women) had been shipped off from this country to the Australian penal colonies. This is at the rate of 2,000 per annum; and according to the returns published up to the time that the practice was modified by Parliament, such would appear to have been the average number of felons annually sent out of the country: thus-
|In 1851||In 1852|
|The number of prisoners remaining in the Convict Prisons throughout the Kingdom at the beginning of the year was||6,130||6,572|
|The number received during the year||2,903||2,953|
|The total convict population during the year||9,033||9,525|
|The number embarked for penal settlements, and otherwise disposed of||2,548||2,658*|
|The number remaining in convict prisons at the end of the year||6,485||6,867|
[*The numbers embarked in these years for the penal colonies were 2,224 in 1851, and 2,345 in 1852. There were, moreover, 37 convicts in 1851, and 43 in 1852 removed to other institutions; and 147 pardoned in the first year, and 125 in time second. Besides these, 9 escaped, and 111 died in the one year, and 14 and 137 in the other year.]
Th the month of August, 1853, an Act (16 and 17 Vict., c. 99)
was passed, "to substitute, in certain cases, other punishment in lieu of
transportation;" and by this it was ordained, that "whereas,
by reason of the difficulty of transporting offenders beyond the seas, it has
become expedient to substitute some other punishment;" therefore,
"no person shall be sentenced to transportation for any term less than
fourteen years, and only those conveyed beyond the seas who have been sentenced
to transportation for life, or for fourteen years and upwards;" so
that transportation for the term of seven or ten years was then and there
abolished, a term of four years' penal servitude being substituted in lieu of
the former, and six years' penal servitude instead of the latter.
This Act was passed, we repeat, in August 1853, and accordingly we find a great difference in the number of convicts embarked in that and the following years, the Government returns being as follows
|The number of convicts remaining in the convict prisons throughout the kingdom, at the beginning of the year, was||6,873||7,718||7,744|
|The number received during the year||2,354||2,378||2,799|
|The total convict population||9,227||10,096||10,543|
Disposed of during the year-
|Embarked for Western Australia and Gibraltar||700||280||1,312|
|Removed to other institutions||45||29||66|
|Expiration of sentence||0||6||6|
|Total disposed of||1467||2322||4006|
|The number remaining in the convict prisons at the end of the year||7760||7774||6537|
Hence we perceive that, though the Act for abolishing the shorter terms of transportation was passed only at the end of the summer of 1853, the number of transports embarked in the course of the year, had decreased from 2,224 in 1851, and 2,845 in 1852, to 700 in 1853, 280 in 1854, and 1,312 in 1855; whilst the number of pardons, which was only 147 in 1851, and 125 in 1852, had risen as high as 560 in 1853, and 1,826 in 1854, and 2,491 in 1855 - no less than 276 convicts having been liberated in the course of 1853, and 1,801 in 1854, and 2,459 in 1855, under "an order of license," or ticket-of-leave, as it is sometimes called, an item which, till lately, had not made its appearance in the home convict returns.
Now, it forms no part of our present object to weigh the advantages and
disadvantages of the altered mode of dealing with our convicts. We have only to
set forth the history and statistics of the matter, for we purpose, in this
section, merely estimating the convict population of the Metropolis, and
comparing it with that of the country in general.
Well, by the preceding returns we have shown that the convict population of Great Britain averages rather more than 9,000 individuals, whilst the convict population of the Metropolis may be stated at upwards of 3,000, so that London would appear to contain about one-third of the whole, or as many convicts as there are people in the town of Epsom.
We have shown, moreover, that this same convict population is annually increased by an influx of between 2,000 and 3,000 fresh prisoners, so that in a few years the hand of convicted felons would amount to a considerable army among us if retained at home. Nor [-96-] do we say this with any view to alarm society as to the dangers of abolishing transportation, for, in our opinion, it is unworthy of a great and wise nation to make a moral dust-bin of its colonies, and, by thrusting the refuse of its population from under its nose, to believe that it is best consulting the social health of its people at home. Our present purpose is simply to draw attention to the fact that-despite our array of schools, and prison-chaplains, and refined systems of penal discipline, and large army of police, besides the vast increase of churches and chapels-our felon population increases among us as fast as fungi in a rank and foetid atmosphere.
Now the gross cost of maintaining our immense body of convicted felons is not very far short of a quarter of a million of money, the returns of 1854-5 showing that the maintenance and guardianship of 8,359 convicts cost, within a fraction, £219,000, which is at the rate of about £26 per head.
The cost of the four London establishments would appear to be altogether £86,600 a-year, which is, upon an average, £24 13s. 2d. for the food and care of each man.*
[The following table is abridged from the returns of the Surveyor-General of Prisons
COMPARATIVE ABSTRACT OF THE ESTIMATES FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF THE CONVICT PRISONS FOR THE YEAR 1854-5, SHOWING THE AMOUNT UNDER EACH HEAD OP SERVICE, THE NUMBER OF PRISONERS, AND THE COST PER HEAD.
HEADS OF SERVICE PENTONVILLE 561 Prisoners MILLBANK 1,300 Prisoners BRIXTON 700 Prisoners WOOLWICH HULKS 9561 Prisoners SUMMARY OF GOVERNMENT PRISONS 8359 Prisoners Gross Cost Cost per prisoners Gross Cost Cost per prisoners Gross Cost Cost per prisoners Gross Cost Cost per prisoners Gross Cost Cost per prisoners £ s d £ s d £ s d £ s d £ s d £ s d £ s d £ s d £ s d £ s d Salaries of Principal Officers and Clerks, and Wages of Inferior Officers and Servants and of Manufacturing or Labour Department 5971 6 6 10 12 10 13371 0 6 10 5 8 3373 10 0 4 16 2 8214 5 7 8 12 9 72014 3 6 8 12 4 Cost of Rations and Uniforms for Officers and Servants 730 0 0 1 6 0 2244 0 0 1 14 6 530 0 0 0 15 2 1782 11 10 1 17 5 13920 0 0 1 13 3 Victualling Prisoners 5105 2 0 9 2 0 9750 0 0 7 10 0 4900 0 0 7 0 0 9034 10 0 9 10 0 74816 2 0 8 19 0 Clothing Prisoners 1262 5 0 2 5 0 2600 0 0 2 0 0 1225 0 0 1 15 0 2858 0 0 3 0 0 24841 5 0 2 19 5 Bedding Prisoners 147 5 3 0 5 3 325 0 0 0 5 0 175 0 0 0 5 0 475 10 0 0 10 0 2773 5 3 0 6 8 Clothing and Travelling Expenses of Prisoners on Liberation 50 0 0 0 1 9 30 0 0 0 0 0 250 0 0 0 7 1 1066 2 10 1 2 5 6380 0 0 0 15 3 Fuel and Light for General Purposes 700 0 0 1 4 10 3000 0 0 2 6 2 800 0 0 1 2 10 675 4 5 0 14 2 10450 0 0 1 5 0 Other Expenses 947 0 0 1 13 1 1855 0 0 1 8 6 964 10 0 1 7 10 2196 5 2 2 6 3 13767 0 0 1 12 11 Gross Total 14912 18 9 26 11 8 33175 0 6 25 10 4 12218 0 0 17 9 1 26297 9 10 27 13 0 218961 15 9 26 3 10
The following is an estimate of the cost of transporting and taking care of 100,000 convicts in the penal colonies, from the year 1786 to March 1837 - about fifty years
Cost of Transport £2,729,790
Disbursement for General Convict and Colonial Services 4,091,581
Military Expenditure 1,632,302
Deduct for Premium on Bills . . . , 507,195
The average cost of transport for each convict was £28 per head, and the various expenses of residence and [-97-] punishment £54; or, altogether, £82 per head. The average annual expense entailed upon this country by the penal colonies, since the commencement of transportation to 1837, amounted to £160,000.
Since the latter period, however, the cost of transportation and maintenance of convicts abroad has considerably increased, the Government estimate for the Convict Service for 1852-3 having been as follows:-
Transport to Australian Colonies £96,000
Transport to Bermuda and Gibraltar 6,041
Convict Service at Australian Colonies . . 188,744
Convict Service at Bermuda and Gibraltar . . . . 48,842
In 1853 there were 6,212 convicts in Australia, and 2,650 in Bermuda and Gibraltar.
The gross annual expense for the convict service in 1852-3, inclusive of the convict prisons at home, was estimated by the Surveyor-General at £587,294; whereas the estimates for the modification of the system, in substituting imprisonment at home for a proportion of the sentences of transportation abroad, are £337,336
RETURN SHEWING THE NUMBER OF CONVICTS WHO ARRIVED AT VAN DIEMEN S LAND IN EACH YEAR FOR 20 YEARS, FROM THE 1st OF JANUARY, 1831 TO 31st OF DECEMBER, 1850.
Years Number of Arrivals Years Number of Arrivals Years Number of Arrivals Years Number of Arrivals 1831 2241 1836 2565 1841 3488 1846 2444 1832 1401 1837 1547 1842 5520 1847 1186 1833 2672 1838 2224 1843 3727 1848 1158 1834 1531 1839 1441 1844 4966 1849 1729 1835 2493 1840 1365 1845 3357 1850 2894 Total in each 5 years 10338 9142 21058 9411
OF PRISON DISCIPLINE
Appendix. - § 1 - a.
We have said that at each of the different prisons of the Metropolis a
different mode of treatment, or discipline, is adopted towards the prisoners.
Hence it becomes expedient, in order that the general reader may be in a
position to judge as to the character of the London prisons, that we should give
a brief account of the several kinds of prison discipline at present in force.
*** Condition of the Prisons in the Olden Time - The history of prison improvements in this country begins with the labours of Howard. In the year 1775 he published his work entitled, "The State of the Prisons in England and Wales;" and in the first section of this he gave a summary of the abuses which then existed in the management of criminals. These abuses were principally of a physical and moral kind. Under the one head were comprised-bad food, bad ventilation, and bad drainage; and under the other- want of classification, or separation among the inmates, so that each prison was not only a scene of riot and lawless revelry, and filth and fever, but it was also a college for young criminals, where the juvenile offender could be duly educated in vice by the more experienced professors of iniquity.*
[* It appears, by parliamentary returns, says the Fifth Report of the Prison Discipline Society, that, in the year 1818, out of 518 prisons in the United Kingdom (to which upwards of 107,000 persons were committed in the course of that year) in 23 of such prisons only the inmates were separated or divided according to law; in 59 of the number, there was no division whatever-not even separation of males from females; in 136 there was only one division of the inmates into separate classes, though the 24th George III., cap. 54, had enjoined that eleven such divisions should be made; in 68 there were but two divisions, and so on; whilst in only 23 were the prisoners separated according to the statute. Again, in 445 of the 518 prisons no work of any description had been introduced. And in the remaining 73, the employment carried on was of the slightest possible description. Farther, in 100 jails, which had been built to contain only 8,545 prisoners, there were at one time as many as 13,057 persons confined. The classification enjoined by the Act above mentioned was as follows :-(1) Prisoners convicted of felony; (2) Prisoners committed on charge or suspicion of felony; (3) Prisoners committed for, or adjudged to he guilty of, misdemeanours only; (4) Debtors; (5) The males of each class to be separated from the females; (6) A separate plane of confinement to be provided for such prisoners as are intended to be examined as witnesses on behalf of any prosecution of any indictment for felony; (7) Separate infirmaries, or sick wards, for the men and the women.
Formerly, we are told, the prisons were farmed out to individuals, willing
to take charge of the inmates [-98-] at the allowance of threepence or fourpence per day for each;
the profit from which, together with fees made compulsory on the prisoners when
discharged, constituted the keeper's salary. The debtor - the prisoner discharged,
by the expiration of his term of sentence, by acquittal, or pardon from the
Crown - had alike to pay those fees, or to languish in confinement. A committal to
prison, moreover, was equivalent, in many cases, to a sentence of death by some
frightful disease; and in all, to suffering by the utmost extremes of hunger and
cold. One disease, generated by the want of proper ventilation, warmth,
cleanliness, and food, became known as the jail fever. It swept away hundreds
every year, and sent out others on their liberation miserably enfeebled. So rife
was this disorder, that prisoners arraigned in the dock brought with them on one
occasion such a pestilential halo, as caused many in the court-house to sicken
and die. In some jails men and women were together in the day-room; in all,
idleness, obscenity, and blasphemy reigned undisturbed. The keeper cared for
none of these things. His highest duty was to keep his prisoner safe, and his
highest aspiration the fees squeezed out of their miserable relatives. - (v. Chapters
on Prisons and Prisoners).
This system of prison libertinism continued down to so recent a period, that even in the year 1829 Captain Chesterton found, on entering upon the office of Governor of Coldbath Fields Prison, the internal economy of that institution to be as follows:-
"The best acquainted with the prison," says the Captain, in his Autobiography (vol. ii., p. 247), "were utterly ignorant of the frightful extent of its demoralization The procurement of dishonest gains was the only rule - from the late governor downwards - and with the exception of one or two officers, too recently appointed to have learned the villainous arcane of the place, all were engaged in a race of frightful enormity It is impossible for the mind to conceive a spectacle more gross and revolting than the internal economy of this polluted spot The great majority of the officers were a cunning and extortionate crew, practising every species of duplicity and chicanery From one end of the prison to the other a vast illicit commerce prevailed, at a rate of profit so exorbitant as none but the most elastic consciences could have devised and sustained, The law forbade every species of indulgence, and yet there was not one that was not easily purchasable. The first question asked of a prisoner was- 'Had he any money, or anything that could be turned into money? or would any friend, if written to, advance him some?' and if the answer were affirmative, then the game of spoliation commenced. In some instances, as much as seven or eight shillings in the pound went to the turnkey, with a couple of shillings to the 'yards-man,' who was himself a prisoner, and had purchased his appointment from the turnkey, at a cost of never less than five pounds, and frequently more. Then a follow called the 'passage-man' would put in a claim also, and thus the prison novice would soon discover that he was in a place where fees were exorbitant and charges multiplied . . . If a sense of injustice led him to complain, he was called 'a nose,' and had to run the gauntlet of the whole yard, by passing through a double file of scoundrels, who, facing inwards, assailed him with short ropes or well-knotted handkerchiefs . . . . The poor and friendless prisoner was a wretchedly oppressed man; he was kicked and buffeted, made to do any revolting work, and dared not complain . . . If a magistrate casually visited the prison, rapid signals communicated the fact, and he would walk through something like outward order . . . Little, however, was the unsuspecting justice aware that almost every cell was hollowed out to constitute a hidden store, whore tobacco and pipes, tea and coffee, butter and cheese, reposed safe from inquisitive observation; and frequently, besides, bottles of wine and spirits, fish-sauce, and various strange luxuries. In the evening, when farther intrusion was unlooked-for, smoking, and drinking, and singing, the recital of thievish exploits, and every species of demoralizing conversation prevailed. The prisoners slept three in a cell, or in crowded rooms; and no one, whose mind was previously undefiled, could sustain one pure and honest sentiment under a system so frightfully corrupting Upon one occasion, during my nightly rounds, continues the late governor, "I overheard a young man of really honest principles arguing with two hardened scoundrels. He was in prison for theft, but declared that, had it not been for a severe illness, which had utterly reduced him, he would never have stolen. His companions laughed at his scruples, and advocated general spoliation. In a tone of indignant remonstrance, the young man said, 'Surely you would not rob a poor countryman, who had arrived in town with only a few shillings in his pocket!' Whereupon, one of his companions, turning lazily in his crib, and yawning as he did so, exclaimed in answer, 'By God Almighty, I would rob my own father, if I could get a shilling out of him.'"* [*Peace, War and Adventure, an Autobiography, by Charles Laval Chesterton]
Further, Mr. Hepworth Dixon, writing on the London prisons - even so lately as the year 1850 - says, "The mind must be lost to all sense of shame which can witness the abominations of Horsemonger Lane or Giltspur Street Compter" (the latter has since been removed), "without feelings of scorn and indignation. In Giltspur Street Compter, the prisoners sleep in small cells, little more than half the size of those at Pentonville, though the latter are calculated to be only just large enough for one inmate, even when ventilated upon the best plan that science can suggest. But the cell in Giltspur Street Compter is either not ventilated at all, or ventilated very imperfectly; and though little more than half the dimensions of the 'model cells' constructed for one prisoner, I have seen five persons locked up at four o'clock in the day, to be there confined [-99-] till the next morning in darkness and idleness, to do all the offices of nature, not merely in each other's presence, but crushed by the narrowness of their den, into a state of filthy contact, which brute boasts would have resisted to the last gasp of life . . . Could five of the purest men in the world live together in such a manner, without losing every attribute of good which had once belonged to them?"
At Newgate, on the other hand, continues the same authority, "in any of the female wards may be seen a week before the sessions, a collection of persons of every shade of guilt and some who are innocent. I remember one case particularly. A servant girl of about sixteen, a fresh-looking healthy creature, recently up from the country, was charged by her mistress with stealing a brooch. She was in the same room - lived all day, slept all night, with the most abandoned of her sex. They were left alone; they had no work to do, no books - except a few tracts, for which they had no taste - to read. The whole day was spent, as is usual in such prisons, in telling stories - the gross and guilty stories of their own lives. There is no form of wickedness, no aspect of vice, with which the poor creature's mind would not be compelled to grow familiar in the few weeks which she passed in Newgate awaiting trial. When the day came the evidence against her was found to be utterly lame and weak, and she was at once acquitted. That she entered Newgate innocent, I have no doubt; but who shall answer for the state in which she left it ?"* [*London Prisons, by Hepworth Dixon, pp.7-10]
*** Of the Several Kinds of Prison
Discipline.- The above
statements will give the reader a faint notion of the condition of some of the
metropolitan prisons, even in our own time. As a remedy for such defective
prison-economy, no less than five different systems have been proposed and
tried. These are as follows:-
(1.) The classification of prisoners; (2.) The silent associated system; (3.) The separate system (4.) The mixed system ; (6.) The mark system; to which must be added that original system which allows the indiscriminate association and communion of prisoners as above described, and which is generally styled the "city system," or no system at all - the chief negative features of which, according to Mr. Dixon, are "no work, no instruction, no superintendence; " while its "positive features" are "idleness, illicit gambling, filthiness, unnatural crowding, unlimited licence (broken at times by seventies at which the sense of justice revolts), and universal corruption of each prisoner by his fellows.* [*Ibid]
*** The Classification of
Prisoners.-As regards that
system of prison discipline which seeks to prevent the further demoralization of
the criminal, by the separation of prisoners into classes, according to the
offences with which they are charged or convicted, it has been said, by the
Inspectors of Prisons for the Home District:-* [*Vide 3rd Report,
pp.59,60.] "A. prison would
soon lose its terrors as a plate of punishment, if its depraved occupants were
suffered to indulge in the kind of society within the jail which they had always
preferred when at large; and, instead of a place of reformation, the jail would
become the best institution that could be devised for instructing its inmates in
all the mysteries of vice and crime, if the professors of guilt confined there
were suffered to make disciples of such as might be comparatively innocent. To
remedy this evil, therefore," the Prison Inspectors add, "we must resort to classification.
The young," they say, "must be separated from the old; then we must make
a division between the novice and practised offenders. Again, subdivisions will
be indispensable, in proportion as in each of the classes there are found
individuals of different degrees of depravity, and among whom must be numbered,
not only the corrupters, but those who are ready to receive their lessons."
But though it would seem to be a consequence of this mode of discipline, as Colonel Jebb well observes, in his work on " Modern Prisons," that "if each jail class respectively be composed of burglars, or assault and battery men, or sturdy beggars, they will acquire under it increased proficiency only in picking locks, fighting, or imposing on the tender mercies of mankind;" nevertheless, it was found, immediately the classification of prisoners was brought into operation, that "a very difficult and unforeseen condition had to be dealt with. The burglar was occasionally sent to prison for trying his hand at begging-a professed sheep-stealer for doing a little business as a thimblerig man - and a London thief for showing fight at a country fair." Hence, by the classification of prisoners according to the offences of which they were convicted, such people were brought into fellowship, during their imprisonment, with a class wholly differrent from their own, and "often came to be associated for some months in jail with the simple clown who had been detected, perhaps, in his first petty offence."
"Classification of prisoners," says Mr. Kingsmill, too, "allows no approach, seemingly, towards separating the very bad from the better sort. They are continually changing places; those in for felony at one sessions being in for larceny or assault the next, and vice versa."
"Farther," observe the Home Inspectors, " grades in moral guilt are not the immediate subject of human observation, nor, if discovered, are they capable of being so nicely discriminated as to enable us to assign to each individual criminal his precise place in the comparative scale of vice, whilst, if they could be accurately perceived by us, it would appear that no two individuals were contaminated in exactly the same [-100-] degree. Moreover, even if these difficulties could be surmounted, and a class formed of criminals who had advanced just to the sumac point, not only of offence, but of moral depravity, still their association in prison would be sure to produce a farther progress in both.
When, therefore, public attention was called to the defective construction, as well as to the demoralizing and neglected discipline of the prisons of this country, some twenty or thirty years ago, "it was most unfortunate for all the interests concerned," writes the Surveyor-General of Prisons, "that a step was made in the wrong direction; for it was considered that if prisoners could be classified, everything would be effected that could be desired in the way of punishment and reformation.* . . . .
[* The Act of Parliament enjoining the classification of prisoners was the 4th of George IV. (A.D. 1823), cap. 64, and bad the following preamble :-" Whereas the laws now existing relative to the building, repairing, and regulating of jails and houses of correction in England and Wales are complicated, and have in many code, been found ineffectual: And whereas it is expedient that such measures should be adopted and such arrangements made as shall not only provide for the soft custody, but shall also tend more effectually to preserve the health and improve the morals of the prisoners confined therein, as well as ensure the proper measure of punishment to convicted offenders And whereas due classification, inspection, regular labour, and employment, and religious and moral instruction, are essential to the discipline of a prison, and to the reformation of offenders. &c., &c. ; therefore the following rules and regulations (among others are ordained to be observed in all jails:-
"The male and female prisoners shall be confined," says this statute, "in separate buildings or parts of the prison, so as to prevent them from seeing, conversing, or holding any intercourse with each other.
"The prisoners of each sex shall be divided into distinct classes, care being taken that prisoners of the following classes do not intermix with each other:-
In Houses of Correction 1st. Debtors and persons confined for contempt of court or civil process. 1st. Prisoners convicted of felony 2nd. Prisoners convicted of felony. 2nd. Prisoners convicted of misdemeanors. 3rd. Prisoners convicted of misdemeanors. 3rd. Prisoners committed on charge or suspicion of felony 4th. Prisoners convicted on charge or suspicion of felony. 4th. Prisoners committed on charge or suspicion of misdemeanours 5th. Prisoners convicted on charge or suspicion of misdemeanors, or for want of sureties. 5th. Vagrants
Such prisoners, adds the Act, "as are intended to be examined as Witnesses in behalf of the Crown in any prosecution shall also be kept separate in all jails and houses of correction."
Again, by the 2nd and 3rd of Victoria (A.D. 1839), cap. 56, it is enacted, "that the prisoners of each sex in every jail, house of correction, bridewell, or penitentiary, in England and Wales, which, before the passing of this Act, did not come within the provisions of the 4th of George IV., and in which a mere minute classification or individual separation shall not be in force, shall be at least divided into the following classes (that is to say):
1st, Debtors in those prisons in which debtors can be lawfully confined.
2nd. Prisoners committed for trial.
3rd. Prisoners convicted and sentenced to hard labour.
4th. Prisoners convicted and sentenced to hard labour.
5th. Prisoners not included in the foregoing classes.
"And that in every prison in England and Wales separate rules and regulations shall be made for each distinct class of prisoners in that prison.]
Accordingly, vast sums of money were expended in the erection of prisons calculated to facilitate the classification of prisoners. New prisons for carrying out this discipline were constructed on a radiating principle - a central tower was supposed to contain an Argus (or point of universal inspection), and from four to six or eight detached blocks of cells radiated (spoke-fashion) from it - the intervals between the buildings forming the exercising yards for the different classes. Each of the detached blocks contained a certain number of small cells (generally about 8 feet X 5); and there were day-rooms in them, where the prisoners of the class would sit over the fire, and while away time by instructing each other in the mysteries of their respective avocations; for it was not intended by this mode of discipline to check the recognized right of each class to amuse themselves as they pleased. In fact," adds the Colonel, "had it been an object to make provision for compulsory education in crime, no better plan could have been devised."
*** The Silent Associated
System.-Next as to the
"silent," or, as it is sometimes called, the "silent associated,"
system, the following is a brief review of its characteristics and results.
Whilst the classification of offenders continues to this day to be the
discipline carried out in many prisons, the prevention of contamination is
sought to be attained in others, where hardily any ouch classification exists,
by the prohibition of all intercourse by word of mouth among the prisoners.
"If the members of each class of prisoners," says an eminent authority,
"instead of being left, as they are in most prisons, to unrestricted social
intercourse, were compelled to work under the immediate superintendence of an
officer whose duty it would be to punish any man who, by word of mouth, look, or
sign, attempted to communicate with his fellow-prisoner, we should have the
silent system in operation." But as minute classification is not, under the
silent system, so absolutely necessary as when intercourse is permitted, the
usual practice is to associate such classes as can be properly brought together,
in order to economise superintendence; and hence its name of the Silent
Associated System, in contradistinction to the Classified System, under which
intercommunication is permitted.
[-101-] The silent system originated in a deep conviction of the great and manifold evils of jail association, the advocates of that system naturally supposing that the demoralization of criminals would be checked if all communication among them were cut off; and the greater number of prisons, in which any fundamental change of discipline has been effected during the last twenty years, are now conducted on the silent plan. At Coldbath Fields Prison this system has been carried to its utmost. It was introduced there on the 29th December, 1814. "On which day," says Captain Chesterton, in his Autobiography, "the number of 914 prisoners were suddenly apprised that all intercommunication by word, gesture, or sign was prohibited; and without any approach to overt opposition, the silent system thenceforth became the rule of the prison. . . . Those who had watched and deplored the former system," adds the late Governor, "could not but regard the change with heartfelt satisfaction. There was now a real protection to morals, and it no longer became the reproach of authority, that the comparatively innocent were consigned to certain demoralization and ruin. For eighteen years has this system been maintained in this prison with unswerving strictness. . . . I unhesitatingly avow my conviction, that the silent system, properly administered, is calculated to effect as much good as, by any penal process, we can hope to realize."
The objections to the system, however, appear to be manifold and cogent. First, the silent system seems to require an inordinate number of officers to prevent that intercommunication among prisoners "by word, sign, or gesture," which constitutes its essence. At Coldbath Fields Prison, for instance, no less than 272 persons (54 warders + 218 prisoners, appointed to act as monitors over their fellow-criminals) were employed to superintend 682 inmates, which is in the ratio of 10 officers to every 25 prisoners. Nevertheless, even this large body of overseers was found insufficient to prevent all communication among the criminals - the rule of silence being repeatedly infracted, and the prison punishments increasing considerably after the silent system had been introduced. "Punishments," says the late Governor, " are more frequent now than when we began the system." Indeed, "in one year," we are told, "no less than 6,794 punishments were inflicted for talking, &c" *
* The number of punishments which were inflicted under the silent system, in three London prisons, in the course of one year, was as follows
Number of Prisoners (Male and Female in the course of one year) Number of Punishments for Offences within the Prison in the course of one year. Brixton House of Correction 3,285 1,171 Westminster Bridewell (Tothill Fields) 5,524 4,848 Coldbath Fields House of Correction 9,750 13,812
(Second Report of Inspectors of Prisons for Home District.)
The average expense of each convict kept in a house of correction, under the silent system, is about £14 per annum, or between £55 and £56 for four years.
But if it be difficult to prevent prisoners from audibly
talking with each other, it is next to impossible, even by the most extensive surveillance,
to cheek the interchange of significant signs among them.
"Although there is a turnkey stationed in each tread-wheel yard," says the
Second Report of Inspectors of Prisons for the Home District, "and two
monitors, or wardsmen, selected from the prisoners, stand constantly by, the
men on the wheel can, and do, speak to each other. They ask one another how long
they are sentenced for, and when they are going out; and answers are given by
laying two or three fingers on the wheel to signify so many months, or by
pointing to some of the many inscriptions carved on the tread-wheel as to the
terms of imprisonment suffered by former prisoners, or else they turn their
hands to express unlockings or days."
Again : "The posture of stooping, in which the prisoners work at picking oakum or cotton (we are told in the Rev. Mr. Kingsmill's "Chapters on Prisons and Prisoners"), gives ample opportunity of carrying on a lengthened conversation without much chance of discovery; so that the rule of silence is a dead letter to many. At meals, also, in spite of the strictness with which the prisoners are watched, the order is constantly infringed. The time of exercise again affords an almost unlimited power of communicating with each other; for the closeness of the prisoners' position, and the noise of their feet render intercommunication at such times a very easy matter . . . Farther, the prisoners, attend chapel daily, and this may be termed the golden period of the day to most of them; for it is here, by holding their books to their faces and pretending to read with the chaplain, that they can carry on the most uninterrupted conversation."
Not only, however, is the silent system open to grave objections, because it fails in its attempt to prevent intercourse among prisoners promiscuously associated, but it has even more serious evils connected with it. "The mind of the prisoner," it has been well said, "is kept perpetually on the fret by the prohibition of speech, and it is drawn from the contemplation of his own conduct and degraded position, to the invention of devices for defeating his overseers, or for carrying on a clandestine communication with his fellow-prisoners, deriving no benefit meanwhile from the offices of religion, but rather converting such offices into an opportunity for eluding the vigilance of the warders, and being still farther depraved by frequent punishment for offences of a purely arbitrary character; for surely to place a number of social beings in association, and then not only interdict all intercourse between them. but to punish such as yield to that most powerful [-102-] of human impulses - the desire of communing with those with whom we are thrown into connection - is an act of refined tyranny, that is at once unjust and impossible of being thoroughly carried out.
Separate System. - It is almost self-evident
that every system of prison discipline must be associative, separative, or
mixed. 1. The prisoners may be either allowed to associate indiscriminately, and
to indulge in unrestrained intercourse; or else, in order to prevent the evils
of unrestricted communion, among the older and younger criminals, as well as the
more expert and the less artful, when associated together, the prisoners may be
made to labour as well as take their exercise and meals in perfect silence.
2. We may put a stop to such association, either partially or entirely, by separating the prisoners into classes, according to their crimes, ages, or characters, or else by separating them individually, each from the other, and thus endeavour to check the injurious effect of indiscriminate intercourse among tine depraved, by positive isolation rather than classification. 3. We may permit them to associate in silence during the day, and isolate them at night-the latter method constituting what is termed the mixed system of prison discipline.
The separate system is defined by the Surveyor-General of Prisons as that mode of penal discipline "in which each individual prisoner is confined in a cell, which becomes his workshop by day and his bed-room by night, so as to be effectually prevented from holding communication with, or even being seen sufficiently to be recognized by a fellow-prisoner."
The object of this discipline is stated to be twofold. It is enforced, not only to prevent the prisoner having intercourse with his fellow-prisoners, but to compel him to hold communion with himself. He is excluded from the society of the other criminal inmates of the prison, because experience has shown that such society is injurious, and he is urged to make his conduct the subject of his own reflections, because it is almost universally found that such self-communion is the precursor of moral amendment.
No other system of prison discipline, say the advocates of the separate system - neither the classified nor the silent system - has any tendency to incline the prisoner to turn his thoughts back upon himself - to cause him to reconsider his life and prospects, or to estimate the wickedness and unprofitableness of crime. The silent system, we am told, can call forth no new resolves, nor any settled determinations of amendment, whilst it fails in wholly securing the prisoner from contamination, and sets the mind upon the rack to devise means for evading the irritating restrictions imposed upon it.
The advantages of individual separation, therefore, say those who believe this system to be superior to all others, are not merely of a preventive character-preventive of the inevitable evils of association - preventive of the contamination which the comparatively innocent cannot escape from, when brought into contact with the polluted; but separation at once renders corrupt intercourse impracticable, and affords to the prisoner direct facilities for reflection and self-improvement.
"Under this discipline," says the Rev. Mr. Kingsmill, chaplain of Pentonville Prison, "the propagation of crime is impossible - the continuity of vicious habits is broken off - the mind is driven to reflection, and conscience resumes her sway."
The convicted criminal, under this system, is confined day and night in a cell that is fitted with every convenience essential to ensure ventilation, warmth, cleanliness, and personal exercise. Whatever is necessary to the preservation of the prisoner's well-being, moral as well as physical, is strictly attended to. So far from being consigned to the gloomy terrors of solitary confinement, he is visited by the governor as well as by the chaplain, and other prison officers daily ; he is provided with work which furnishes employment for his mind-has access to profitable books - is allowed to take exercise once in every twenty-four hours in the open air - is required to attend every day in the chapel, and, if uneducated, at the school; and, in case of illness or sudden emergency, he has the means of making his wants known to the officers of the prison.
"On reviewing our opinions" (with respect to the moral effect of the discipline of separate confinement), says the Fifth Report of the Board of Commissioners appointed to superintend the working of Pentonville Prison, "and taking advantage of the experience of another year, we feel warranted in expressing our firm conviction, that the moral results of the system have been most encouraging, and attended with a success which we believe is without parallel in the history of prison discipline." Farther, the Commissioners add due result of our entire experience is the conclusion, that the separation of one prisoner from another is the only sound basis on which a reformatory can be established with any reasonable hope of success."
Again, the Governor of Pentonville Prison (who has watched the operation of the system from its introdruction in 1842) says, in his Sixth Report, "If I may express an abstract opinion on the subject, not supported by facts and reasons, it shall be to this effect - that having at the first felt confidence in the power and capabilities of the system for the accomplishment of its objects, and that no valid objection could be raised against it, if rightly administered, on the ground of its being injurious to physical or mental health; a period of more than five years of close personal experience of its working has left that sentiment not only unimpaired, but confirmed and strengthened."
Such are the eminent eulogiums uttered by the advocates of the separate system of penal discipline; and let us now in fairness give a summary of the objections raised against it. It is alleged, in the first place, [-103-] that the discipline is unwarrantably severe. It is represented as abandoning its victim to despair, by consigning a vacant or guilty mind to all the terrible depression of unbroken solitude. Indeed, it is often condemned as being another form of solitary confinement, the idea of which is so closely connected in the public mind with the dark dungeons and oppressive cruelty of the Middle Ages, as to be sufficient to excite the strongest emotions of abhorrence in every English bosom.
Colonel Jebb tells us, that there is a wide difference between separate and solitary confinement. He says, that in the Act (2nd and 3rd Victoria, cap. 56) which rendered separate confinement legal, it was specially enjoined that "no cell should be used for that purpose which is not of such a size, and lighted, and warm, ventilated and fitted up in such a manner as may be required by a due regard to health, and furnished with the means of enabling the prisoner to communicate at any time with an officer of the prison." It was further provided, too, by the same Act, that each prisoner should have the means of taking exercise when required; that he should be supplied with the means of moral and religious instruction-with books and also with labour and employment. "Whereas, a prisoner under solitary confinement," says the Surveyor General of Prisons, "may be not only placed in any kind of cell, but is generally locked up and fed on bread and water only, no farther trouble being taken about him. A mode of discipline so severe," he adds "that it cannot be legally enforced for more than a month at a time, nor for more than three months in any one year."
"Under solitary confinement," another prison authority observes, "the prisoner is deprived of intercourse with all other human beings. Under separate confinement, he is kept rigidly apart only from other criminals, but is allowed as much intercourse with instructors and officers, as is compatible with judicious economy" - Burt's Results of Separate Confinement.
A second objection to the separate or cellular system is, that it breaks down the mental and bodily health of the prisoners - that it forces the mind to be continually brooding over its own guilt - constantly urging the prisoner to contemplate the degradation of his position, and seeking to impress upon him that his crimes have caused him to be excluded from all society; and that with the better class of criminals, especially those with whom the ties of kindred are strong, it produces not only such a continued sorrow at being cut off from all relatives, and indeed every one but prison officers, but such a long insatiate yearning to get back to all that is held dear, that the punishment becomes more than natures which are not utterly callous are able to withstand; so that, instead of reforming, it utterly overwhelms and destroys. With more vacant intellects and hardened hearts, however, it serves to make the prisoners even more unfeeling and unthinking; for sympathy alone develops sympathy, and thought in others is required to call forth thought in us. In a word, it is urged that this mode of penal discipline cages a man up as if he were some dangerous beast, allowing his den to be a entered only by his "keeper," and that it ends in his becoming as irrational and furious as a beast; in fine, say the opponents of the system, "it violates the great social law instituted by the Almighty, and so working contrary to nature, it is idle to expect any good of it."
Now, let us see whether there be truth in such strictures, or whether they be mere empty rhodomontade. Fortunately, we possess ample means, and those of a most trustworthy character, for testing the solidity of these objections. Let us see, than, what is the proportionate number of criminal lunatics to the total prison population in England and Wales ; and in order to guard against the errors of generalizing upon a small number of particulars, let us draw our conclusions from as large a series of phenomena as possible.
The tables given in the Fifteenth Report of the Inspectors of Prisons for the Home District, extend over eight years (1842-1849, both inclusive), and show that in the course of that period there were altogether 680 cases of lunacy (or an average of 85 eases per annum) occurring in all the prisons of England and Wales, among an aggregate of 1,156,166 prisoners (or an average yearly prison population of 144,520 individuals). This is at the rate of 5.8 criminal lunatics in every 10,000 prisoners, and such may, therefore, be taken as the normal proportion of lunatic eases in a given number of criminal offenders.*
[* The following are the returns from which the above conclusions are drawn:-
Years Total Prison Population in England and Wales No. of Criminal Lunatics No. of Criminal Lunatics to 10,000 Criminals. 1842 153136 76 4.9 1843 152445 64 4.1 1844 143979 96 6.6 1845 124110 99 7.9 1846 123236 92 7.4 1847 131949 96 7.2 1848 160369 89 5.6 1849 166942 68 4.0 Total 1156166 680 5.8 Annual Mean 144520 85 5.8
Fifteenth Report of Prison Inspectors, p. xxxiv
If, therefore, any mode of prison discipline be
found to yield a greater ratio of lunatics to the number of offenders brought
under that discipline, we may safely conclude that it is unduly severe; and vice
versa (assuming crime itself to be [-104-] closely connected with mental aberration), if it yield a less
proportion than the above, then it is exerting a beneficial agency on the
The returns of Pentonville prison are for a period of eight years also (from the 22nd of December, 1842, to the 31st of December, 1850), and these show that in an aggregate of 3,546 prisoners (or an annual mean of 443 individuals), there were no less than 22 attacked with insanity, which is at the rate of 62.0, instead of 5.8, cases of lunacy in every 10,000 prisoners; so that the discipline pursued at this prison yields upwards of ten times more lunatics than should be the case according to the normal rate.*
[* The subjoined is the Table given by the Rev. Mr. Burt, in his "Results of Separate Confinement at Pentonville:"-
TABLE, showing the Criminal Character and Sentences of Twenty-two Prisoners attacked with Insanity, from the Opening of the Prison to the 31st December, 1850; also the Proportions between the Number admitted and the Number attacked in each Class; also the Numbers of Single and Married Men admitted and attacked.
Classes of Prisoners No. of Prisoners attacked with Insanity No. of Prisoners admitted since the opening of Prison No. attacked with Insanity in every 1,000 of each class Sentenced to seven years and under ten 10 1777 5.62 Sentenced to ten years 8 1263 6.33 Sentenced to above ten years 4 506 7.90 Stealing, larceny, and felony undefined 9 1744 5.2 House-breaking and robbery 6 876 6.9 Horse, sheep and cattle stealing 3 306 9.8 Forgery and uttering 1 98 10.02 Rape, and assault with intent, &c. (including unnatural crimes) 1 69 14.5 Stabbing and shooting with intent, &c. (cases of manslaughter and cutting and wounding being included) 2 71 28.2 Not included in the above classes 0 382 0 Not known to have been previously convicted 10 1835 5.4 Previously convicted 12 1711 7.6 Married 4 964 4.1 Single and widowers 18 2582 6.9 Totals of all classes 22 3546 6.2
The above returns are very useful, in another point of view, as showing an what classes of criminals there is the greatest tendency to madness. Thus we perceive that those who have a tendency to commit bodily injuries are the nearest to insanity - those whose offences are of a libidinous character are the next in the scale of proximate aberration - the forgers and "smashers" the next - the cattle-stealers the next - the burglars the next - whereas, of all criminals, the common thieves have the least disposition to madness. It shows, moreover, that the longest sentences produce the greatest number of canes of mental derangement; those who have been convicted more than once being more frequently diseased in mind than those undergoing their first conviction.]
According to these returns, therefore, we find that had the
prisoners confined at Pentonville prison been treated in the same manner as at
the other jails throughout the country, there would, in all probability, have
been only 2 instead of 22 cases of lunacy in the eight years, among the 3,546
prisoners (for 1,156,166 : 680 : : 3,546 : 2); and, on the other hand, had the
million and odd criminals confined in the whole of the prisons of England and
Wales been submitted to the same stringent discipline as those at Pentonville,
the gross number of lunatics among them would, as far as we can judge, have been
increased from 680 to 7,173 (for 3,546 : 22 1,156,166 7,173).
These figures, it must be confessed, tell awful tales of long suffering and deep mental affliction; for the breaking down of the weaker minds is merely evidence of the intense moral agony that must be suffered by all except the absolutely insensible. Nor can we ourselves, after such overwhelming proofs, see one Christian reason to justify the discipline-especially when we add, that in addition to there being upwards of tenfold more madmen turned out of Pentonville prison than any other jail in England and Wales, no less than 26 cases of "slight mental affections" or delusions, and 8 suicides also having occurred there within the eight years above alluded to! Nor is this an isolated case: Dr. Baly, the Visiting Physician of Millbank, in his Report on Separate Confinement, published in the year 1852, gives a table which shows that in a period of 8 years (1844-51, both inclusive) there were 65 cases of insanity there, among an aggregate of 7,393 prisoners; this is at the rate of 87.5 cases (instead of the normal proportion of 5.8) to every 10,000 individuals. Moreover, in America, in pursuance of a law passed in 1821, 80 convicts were selected, and, as a matter of experiment, placed in solitary cells, which had been prepared for the purpose, under the direction of the Inspectors of the State Prison, at Auburn. In 1823, however, about eighteen months after the commencement of the experiment, it was found that the most disastrous results had followed, especially as regarded insanity - the greater number of the convicts being attacked with mental disease.
Now, to show that separate confinement - the seclusion of the separate cell - is allowed, even by the advocates of the system, to "have some tendency to produce insanity, by withdrawing those vicious alleviations to the mind which are supplied by the intercourse of prisoners in association" (these are the words of the late assistant chaplain), we may add that the Rev. Mr. Burt says, in his "Results of Separate Confinement" (page 136), that "It is one of the few known laws of mental disease, that periods of transition from [-105-] one extreme feeling to its opposite, are marked as critical to reason. Men inured to suffering will bear misery without much danger. It is the sudden inroad of misfortune which either overwhelms the mind, or calls forth too violent an effort of resistance. That excessive effort will be followed by a prostration of mental energies, and derangement will, in some cases, ensue, or the mind will be left in the power of slight disturbing causes until it is rallied under new and invigorating influences. "Upon the mind of the criminal in separation, especially upon the convict under sentence of transportation," Mr. Burt tells us, "there are three classes of adverse influences in operation- (l.) The heavy blow of punishment. (2.) Excessive demoralization of character. (3.) The withdrawal of those associations which in ordinary life divert and sustain the mind. But," he adds, "the disturbing influence of each one of these causes is greatest during the early period of imprisonment" - in plain language, if the poor wretch do not go mad under the treatment in the first twelve months, then he will bear being caged up as long as we please.*
[* Mr. Burt, who is a staunch advocate for the separate system, and that carried out to its full extreme, cites the following table, in order to show that the majority of the cases of insanity occur within the first twelvemonths of the term of imprisonment. How strange it is a gentleman of his generous nature should never have asked himself the question whether, as there were such a large number of cases of insanity occurring within the earlier period of the discipline, the separate system were really justifiable in the eyes of God or man.
TABLE showing the Periods at which all Cases of Mental Affection have occurred at Pentonville during Eight Years, from the opening of the Prison, on the 22nd of December, 1842 to the 31st of December, 1850.
Description of Mental Affection Six Months and Under From Six to Twelve Months From Twelve to Eighteen Months From Eighteen Months to Two years Total Insanity 14 5 3 0 22 Delusions 13 9 2 2 26 Suicides 2 1 0 0 3 Total 29 15 5 2 51
The prison authorities, however, speak far more cautiously,
and, we must odd, considerately, as to the working of the separate system, than
the late Assistant-Chaplain at the Model Prison; indeed, the very fact of the
period of confinement there having been changed from eighteen to nine months is
a tacit acknowledgment that the original term of separation was more than
ordinary natures could bear without derangement.
"Beyond twelve months," says Colonel Jebb, the thoughtful and kind-hearted Surveyor-General of Prisons, in his Report for 1853, "I think the system of separate confinement requires greater care and watchfulness than would perhaps be ensured under ordinary circumstances. And there are grounds for believing that it is neither necessary nor desirable so to extend it."
Again, Mr. Kingsmill, the Chaplain of Pentonville, says, "There seems to be no sufficient reason for wishing for any extension of separation beyond eighteen months, but the reverse;" for the experiment appears to him, he tells us, not to have succeeded, as regards the advantages of separate confinement for longer periods than fifteen or eighteen months. "Where the ties of kindred are strong," he adds, "the galling feeling at the loss of liberty and society is increased, and though the mass are still patient and cheerful to the last, it may well be questioned whether it be safe to keep them longer separated, when the mind has ceased to be active in acquiring knowledge." To this Colonel Jebb subjoins, "it is not the use but the abuse of separate confinement that is to be guarded against - that is, pressing it beyond the limits under which advantage is derived from placing a prisoner, under favourable circumstances, for reflection and receiving instruction." Further, the Surveyor-General assures us, that the statistics of the medical officer "afford convincing proof that diminishing the extent of the imprisonment from what it had originally been - increasing the daily exercise - substituting rapid exercise for that which was taken in the separate yards-improving the ventilation by admitting the outer air direct to the cells, and at once relaxing the discipline when any injury to health was apprehended - have been found to have a favourable influence.
*** Of the "Mixed "System of Prison Discipline - This is the system pursued at Millbank Prison. It consists of a combination of the silent and separate modes of criminal treatment - that is to say, the men work together in silence by day, and sleep in separate cells by night. It has all the faults of the silent system, and but little, if any, of the good derivable from the self-communion and worldly retirement of the separate system.
*** Of the "Mark"
System of Prison Discipline .- As this
system, so far as our knowledge goes, forms part of the discipline at no penal
establishment in this country at present, it requires but little explanation
here. The great feature of the mark system, according to Mr. Hepworth Dixon,
who styles it "the most comprehensive and philosophical of all schemes of
criminal treatment in this country," is, that "it substitutes labour
sentences for time sentences." Instead of condemning a man to fourteen years'
imprisonment, Captain Maconochie, the author of this peculiar mode of
discipline, would have him sentenced to perform a certain [-106-]
quantity of labour - the labour being represented by
"marks" instead of money - whence the name of the system. The whole of this
labour, we are told, the convict would be bound to perform before he could
regain his freedom, whether he chose to occupy one year or twenty years about
The advantages of this mode of prison discipline, its advocates aver, are, that it places the criminal's fate, to some extent, in his own power. Labour punishment, they say, gives a convict the feeling of personal responsibility, which the present mode of punishment robs him of. The man serving a fixed period has no object but to kill the time. An absolute disregard of the value of time is thus begotten in the mind of the convict - time becoming associated with the idea of suffering and restraint. The time sentence puts the offender under restraint for a term, but does not force him to do anything to make any active reparation to society for the crime, and it takes away all stimulus to exertion on the part of the criminal, who knows that, "idle or industrious, dissolute or orderly, he must still serve out an inexorable number of weeks and years. The labour sentence, on the other hand, induces a habit of hard work, and the habit which is thus made to earn for the man his liberty will afterwards become the means of preserving it."
As yet this system has been tried only in Norfolk Island - where, it is alleged, no conceivable system would or could work well - amongst transported transports, the most self-abandoned human beings, perhaps, on the earth's surface. But "even there," adds Mr. Dixon, "it did not fail."
*** Conclusion- Such, then, are the several modes of
discipline that at present make up the science of what is termed "penology."
Now the objects of all penal inductions and treatment are, of course, twofold - punishment and reformation; the one instituted not only as a penance for a particular offence, but as the means of deterring future offenders; and the other sought after with the view of correcting the habits of the present offenders.
Hence we are enabled to put the several forms of criminal treatment pursued in this country to a practical test ; for if our methods of penal discipline are really deterring future offenders and reforming present ones, we ought to be able to show the result in figures, and to point to the criminal statistics as a proof that we are reducing crime among us by the regimen of our jails. The subjoined table will enable us to see if such be the case:-
NUMBER OF CRIMINALS IN ENGLAND AND WALES DURING THE FOLLOWING YEARS
1834 . . 22,451 1844 . . 26,542
1835 . . 20,731 1845 . . 24,303
1836 . . 20,984 1846 . . 25,107
1837 . . 23,612 1847 . . 28,833
1838 . . 23,094 1848 . . 30,349
[total] 110,872 135,134
1839 . . 24,443 1849 . 27,816
1840 . . 27,187 1850 . . 26,813
1841 . . 27,760 1851 . . 27,960
1842 . . 31,309 1852 . . 27,510
1843 . . 29,591 1853 . . 27,057
[total] 140,290 137,156
[total] 255,162 272,290
Increase in crime between first and last year 20.5 per cent.
Increase between the first and last ten years 8.0 per cent.
Increase in population of England and Wales from 1841-51 12.6 per cent.
Absolutely considered, then, we find that, despite the spread
of education among us, and increase of churches and chapels, together with the
greater activity of the ministry of all denominations, and the rapid development
of benevolent and religious societies, including "Home Missions" and
"Reformatories2 - despite all these appliances, we say, the crime of the
country has increased no less than twenty per cent, within the last
twenty years; whilst considered relatively to the increase of the population, we
find that it has decreased only to the extent of four per cent, in ten
years. Hence, if we take into consideration the vast external machinery
for improving the morals and instructing the minds of the people in the present
day, we shall see good reason to conclude that the internal economy of
our prisons has made but small impression upon the great body of criminals.
Nevertheless this is hardly a precise mode of testing the value of the several forms of penal discipline at present in vogue, as the greater proportion of the offenders included in the totals above specified may be regarded as being, so to speak, young in crime, and as never having been in prison before, so that the treatment pursued within the jails could not directly have affected them.
[-107-] The number of the recommittals, however, may be cited as positive proof upon the matter; and hence the following table, copied from the Fifth Report of the Inspectors of Prisons for the Home District, becomes the most condemnatory evidence as regards the inefficacy of our treatment of criminal offenders:-
ENGLAND AND WALES.
Years / Total of Criminal Committals / Total of Recommittals / Per Centage of Recommittals to Committals.
1842 . . . 112,927 . . . 53,862 . . . 29.9
1843 . . . 112.752 . . . 34,383 . . . 30.5
1844 . . . 107,243 . . . 34,731 . . . 32.4
1845 . . . 99,049 . . . 33,113 . . . 33.4
1846 . . . 98,984 . . . 32,458 . . . 32.8
1847 . . . 105,041 . . . 32,925 . . . 3l.3
1848 . . . 124,342 . . . 37,225 . . . 29.9
1849 . . . 129,697 . . . 39,826 . . . 30.7
Increase of recommittals between first and last year. . . 0.8 per cent.
Thus we discover how utterly abortive are all our modes of
penal discipline, since the old "jail-birds," so far from being either
reformed or deterred from future offences, are here shown continually to return
to the prisons throughout the country. Moreover, of the number of criminals who
are recommitted in the course of the year, many have appeared more than once
before in the jails; and the Report from which the above table has been
extracted has another table whereby we find that-though in 1842 there was no
less than 6 per cent, of criminal offenders who had been recommitted four times
and more - nevertheless the per centage of that class of inveterate criminals had
risen as high as 7.7 in 1849.
There must, then, be some grave and serious errors in our present penal system, since it is plain from the above facts that our treatment of criminals neither deters nor reforms.
Let us endeavour, therefore, to detect where the errors lie.
Now, it appears to us - and we speak with all humility upon the subject - that the first substantial objection against the prison discipline of the present day is, that our silent systems and separate systems are as much in extremis as was the old plan of allowing indiscriminate intercourse to take place among all classes of prisoners. Society, some years ago, opened its eyes and discovered that to permit the young offender to associate and commune with the old, and the comparatively innocent with the inveterately depraved, was to convert the jail into an academy for inexperienced criminals, where they might receive the best possible tuition in vice. Therefore, in the suddenness of our indignation at the short-comings of such a method of dealing with the inmates of our jails, we rushed to the opposite extreme, and declared that because the liberty of speech among such people was found to be fraught with evil, they should henceforth not speak at all; and because it was dangerous to allow them to associate, they should for the future be cut off from all society, and caged, like animals in a menagerie, each in separate dens.
A love of extremes, however, belongs to the fanatical rather than the rational mind, and perhaps the worst form of all bigotry is that of disciplinarians who invariably sacrifice common sense to some love of super-strictness.
Surely all that is necessary, in order to check the evils of unrestricted intercourse among criminals, is to prevent them talking upon vicious subjects one to the other. To go farther than this, and stop all communion among them, is not only absurd as overreaching the end in view, but positively wicked as ignoring the highest gift of the Almighty to man - that wondrous faculty of speech, which some philosophers have held to be more distinctive of human nature than even reason itself.
Moreover, by overstepping what Shakspeare beautifully terms "the modesty of nature," we force the poor wretches, whose tongues we figuratively cut out, into all kinds of cheats and low cunning, in order to gratify what, if rightly used, is not only a harmless but a noble impulse. It seems, therefore, that the entire object which the silent system has in view would be attained by placing an intelligent officer to watch over a certain number of prisoners, and whose duty it should be not only to restrain them from conversing upon vicious subjects, but to read to them, while they were at work, from interesting and high-minded books, as well as to lead the discourse at other times into innocent and elevated channels. Nor should this officer be one who would be likely to "bore" the people with prosy views and explanations upon matters of philosophy or religion. We have sufficient faith in goodness to believe that he is but a poor disciple of the Great Teacher, who cannot make that which possesses the highest beauty a matter of the highest attraction, even to the lowest minds - who cannot speak of the wonders of creation or of the loving-kindness of Christ without being as dull as a religious tract, or as dry as a lecturer at a mechanic's institution. We would have it received as a rule, that inattention on the part of the prisoners was a sign of inability on the part of the officer, or the authors selected by him, to discourse pleasantly - to clothe interesting subjects in an interesting form; and, indeed, that it arose from a fault in the teacher (or the books) rather than the scholars, so that instead of [-108-] blaming the latter, the former should be dismissed from his office - even as the dramatist is hissed as an incapable from the stage, when he is found to lack the power to rivet the attention of his audience.
By curb an arrangement, it is obvious that all necessity for imprisoning the criminals in separate cells would be at end. Hence all dangers of insanity would cease, and the mind and conscience rather be brought to their proper mastery over the passions and desires, than deprived of all power by long-continued depression.
But one of the main evils of the present systems of penal discipline is, that they one and all make labour a punishment to the criminal. This, in fact, is the great stumbling-block to reformation among the class. The only trite definition of crime, so far as regards the predatory phase of it, that we have seen, is that laid down in the Report of the Constabulary Commissioners, and which involves neither an educational nor a teetotal view, but simply a matter-of-fact consideration of the subject, asserting that such crime is "simply the desire the acquire property with a less degree of labour than by ordinary industry;" in a word, that it arises from an indisposition to work for a livelihood.
Now that this expresses the bare truth, and is the only plain practical explanation to be given of the subject, none can doubt who have paid the least attention to the criminal character; for not only is the greater proportion of those who are of predatory habits likewise of a vagabond disposition (out of 16 000 such characters known to the police, upwards of 10,000 were returned in the same Report as being of migratory habits), but this same wandering nature appertains to their minds as well as their bodies; for so erratic are criminals both in thought and action, that it is extremely difficult to fix their attention for any length of time to one subject, or to get them to pursue any settled occupation in life. hence labour becomes extremely irksome to them, and (as the mind must busy itself about something) amusement grows as attractive as regular work is repulsive to their natures. Legislators seem to have taken this view of the question, and to have sentenced such people to imprisonment with hard labour, simply because they believed that work was the severest punishment they could inflict upon thorn. But punishments, especially those which are begotten in the fury of our indignation for certain offences, are not always remarkable for their wisdom; since to sentence a criminal to a term of hard labour because he has an aversion to work is about as rational as it would be to punish a child who objected to jalap, by condemning it to a six months course of it.
So far, indeed, from such a sentence serving to eradicate the antipathy of the criminal to industrious pursuits, it tends rather to confirm him in his prejudice against regular labour. "Well," says the pickpocket to himself, on leaving prison, "I always thought working for one's living was by no means pleasant; and after the dose I have just had, I'm blest if I a'n't convinced of it."
The defect of such penal discipline becomes obvious to all minds when thus plainly set before them; for is it not manifest that, if we wish to inculcate habits of industry in criminals, we should strive to make labour a delight rather than use it as a scourge to them?
Now the great Author of our natures has ordained, that, though labour be a curse, there should be certain modes by which it may be rendered agreeable to us, and these are-(1) by variety or change of occupation; (2) by the inculcation of industrial habits; (3) by association with some purpose or object.
The first of these modes by which work is made pleasant is the natural or primitive one. Every person is aware how the mere transition from one employment to another seems to inspire him with fresh energy, for monotony of all kinds fatigues and distresses the mind; and as active attention to any matter acquires a continuous mental effort in order to sustain it, therefore those natures which are more erratic and volatile than others become the sooner tired, and consequently less able to support the sameness of a settled occupation.
The second mode of rendering labour agreeable consists in the wonderful educational power of that mysterious principle of habit by which any mental or muscular operation, however irksome at fist, comes, by regular and frequent repetition, to be not only pleasant to perform, but after a time positively unpleasant for us to abstain from.
The third and last method of making industry delightful to us is, however, by far the most efficaciousm, for we have but to inspire a person with some special purpose, to make his muscles move nimbly, and agreeably too. It is the presence of some such purpose that sets the more honest portion of the world work in for the food of themselves and their families; and it is precisely because your true predatory and migratory criminal is purposeless and objectless, that he wanders through the country without any settled aim or end now turning this way, now that, according to the mere impulse of the moment. Nor is it possible that he should be other than a criminal, the slave of his brute passions and propensities, loving liberty and hating control, and pursuing a roving rather than a settled life, until some honourable motive can be excited in his bosom.
If therefore, we conclude, society seeks, by any system of penal discipline, to change criminals into honest men, it can do so only and securely by working in conformity, rather than in opposition to the laws which the Almighty has impressed upon all men's being ; and consequently it must abandon all systems of silence and isolation as utterly incompatible with the very foundation of social economy/ It must
[-111-] also give up every notion of making labour a punishment, and
seek to render it a pleasure to one who is merely a criminal because he has an
inordinate aversion to work. The "mark" system attains the latter object, by
making labour the means of liberation to the prisoner; but this motive lasts
only so long as the term of imprisonment, for there is no reason to believe that
when the liberty is attained the prisoner will continue labouring beyond that
period. What is wanted is to excite in the mind of the prisoner some object to
work for, which will endure through life. No man labours for nothing, nor can we
expect criminals to do so. Industry is pursued by all, either for the love of
what it brings - money, honour, or power - or else for the love of the work itself;
and if we desire to make criminal offenders exert themselves like the rest of
the world, we must convince them that they can obtain as good a living, and a
far more honourable and pleasant one, by honest than dishonest pursuits.
Still, some good people will doubtlessly urge against the above strictures on penal discipline, that no mention is made of that religious element from which all true changes of nature must spring. The Rev. Mr. Kingsmill has put this part of the subject so simply and forcibly before the mind, that it would be unfair to such as profess the same opinions not to cite the remarks here.
"No human punishment," says the Chaplain of Pentonville Prison, "has ever reformed a man from habits of theft to a life of honesty - of vice to virtue; nor can any mode of treating prisoners, as yet thought of, however specious, accomplish anything of the kind. Good principle and good motives are the sad wants of criminals. God alone can give these by his Spirit; and the appointed means for this, primarily, is the teaching of his word. 'Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way, even by taking heed thereto according to thy word.'" Now in answer to this, we say that it is admitted by every one that these same conversions are miracles wrought by the grace of God; and we do not hesitate to declare our opinion that it is not wise, nor is it even religious (betraying as it does an utter infidelity in those natural laws which are as much institutions of the Almighty as even the scriptural commandments themselves), to frame schemes for the reformation of criminals which depend upon miraculous interferences for their success. Almost as rational, indeed, would it be to return to the superstition of the dark ages; and, because divine goodness has occasionally healed the sick in a marvellous and supernatural manner, therefore to go forth with the priest, in case of any bodily affliction, and pray at some holy shrine, rather than seek the aid of the physician who, by continual study of God's sanitary laws, is enabled to restore to us the health we have lost through some blind breach of His Will in that respect. To put faith in the supernatural, and to trust to that for our guide in natural things, is simply what is termed "superstitious"; and surely the enlightened philosophy of the present day should teach us that, in acting conformably with natural laws, we are following out God's decrees far more reverently than by reasoning upon supernatural phenomena; since what is beyond nature is beyond reason also, and has no more right to enter into the social matter of prison discipline, than the feeding of people with manna in the wilderness should form (instead of the ordinary laws of ploughing, manuring, and sowing) a part of agricultural economy.
Moreover, we deny that the majority of individuals who abstain from thieving are led to prefer honest to dishonest practices from purely religious motives. Can it be said that the merchant in the city honours his bills for the love of God? Is it not rather to uphold his worldly credit? Do you, gentle reader, when you pay your accounts, hand the money over to your tradesman because the Almighty has cleansed your heart from original sin? and would even the jail chaplain himself continue to labour in his vocation, if there were no salary in connection with the office?
If, then, nine hundred and ninety-nine in every thousand of ordinary men abstain from picking pockets, not because the Holy Ghost has entered their bosoms, but from prudential, or, if you will, honourable motives - if it be true that the great mass of people are induced to work for their living mainly, if not solely, to get money rather than serve God - then it is worse than foolish to strive to give any such canting motives to criminals, and certainly not true, when it is asserted that people cannot be made honest by any other means than by special interpositions of Providence. If the man who lives by "twisting," as it is called - that is to say, by passing pewter half-crowns in lieu of silver ones - can make his five pounds a week, and be quit of bodily labour, when he could not earn, perhaps, a pound a week by honest industry - if the London "buzman" (swell mobsman) can keep his pony by abstracting "skins" (purses) from gentlemen's pockets, when, perhaps, he could hardly get a pair of decent shoes to his feet as a lawyer's clerk - do you believe that any preaching from the pulpit will be likely to induce such as these to adopt a form of life which has far more labour and far less gains connected with it?
We do not intend to deny that supernatural conversions of men from wickedness to righteousness occasionally take place; but, say we, these are the exceptions rather than the rule of life, and the great mass of mankind is led to pursue an upright course, simply because they find that there is associated with it a greater amount of happiness and comfort, both to themselves and those who are near and dear to them, than with the opposite practice. To turn the criminal, therefore, to the righteous path, we must be prepared to show him that an honest life is calculated to yield to himself and his relatives more real pleasure than a dishonest one; and so long as we seek by our present mode of prison discipline to make saints of thieves, just so long shall we continue to produce a thousand canting hypocrites to one real convert.