Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of London Life (The Great World of London), by Henry Mayhew and John Binny, 1862 - The Convict Prisons of London - The Correctional Prisons of London

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[-274-]

§ 1.—b.

THE CORRECTIONAL PRISONS OF LONDON.

     The Correctional Prisons of the Metropolis are essentially distinct from those of which we have lately been treating. Their main points of difference from the convict prisons may be enumerated as follows:-

  1. The Convict Prisons are for criminals who have been sentenced either to penal servitude or transportation.
        The Correctional Prisons, on the other hand, are for criminals sentenced to short terns of imprisonment, extending from seven days up , to two years.
  2. The Convict Prisons are Government institutions, under the management of Her Majesty's Directors of Prisons, and supported by payments out of the "civil list."
        The Correctional Prisons, however, are county institutions under the management of the magistrates of the shire to which they belong, and supported by payments out of the county rates.
  3. At the Convict Prisons, criminals are put to labour partly with the view of making them contribute, more or less, to their own support, and partly with the design of keeping them occupied at some industrial pursuit.
        At the Correctional Prisons, on the contrary, the criminals are condemned to labour, not with any view to profit (either to themselves morally or to the state pecuniarily, but simply as a punishment; and for this purpose such prisons are generally fitted with an apparatus designed to carry out the sentence of hard labour by rendering the work as irksome as possible.

     The history of these houses of correction explains to us the reason why such institutions were originally made places of hard labour.
     "Houses of correction," says an eminent legal authority, "were first established, as it would seem, in the reign of Elizabeth, and were originally designed for the penal confinement, after conviction, of paupers refusing to work, and other persons falling under the legal description of vagrant." — Stephens' Blackstone, vol. iii., p. 209.
     The Committee of the House of Commons appointed in the year 1597 to determine the best means of decreasing the mendicancy and vagabondage so prevalent at that period, and which committee was composed of Sir Francis Bacon and the, most eminent legislators of the time, came to the conclusion that, while it was necessary to provide means for relieving the deserving poor, it was also requisite to institute measures for the punishment of the idle and dissolute. They therefore prepared the statute 39 Eliz. c. 3, which, for the first time, organized the machinery for the relief of the poor in this country by recommending steps to be taken for encouraging the building of "hospitals or abiding and working houses" for the indigent; and, at the same time, introduced an enactment for the suppression of fraudulent vagrancy by establishing houses of correction, fitted with stocks and materials for the compulsory employment of such as objected to work; so that, while granting assistance to the industrious, they enacted, as we are told, severe penalties against the idle.
     Houses of Correction, therefore, were originally founded to carry out a discipline that the legislators of the period believed would correct the indisposition to labour on the part of rogues and vagabonds. They were, in fact, designed as penal institutions, in which the sturdy beggar's aversion to work was to be taken advantage of, and the very toil that he was endeavouring to fly from to be used as the means of severe punishment to him. But though the committee which originated these measures contained some of the most eminent statesmen of the time, it surely does not require much sagacity now-a-days to perceive that the principle upon which it acted was about as irrational as if a parent, as we have before said, with the view of curing his child's aversion to medicine, were to inflict upon it a six [-275-] months' course of jalap. Such a mode of treatment, it is manifest, so far from correcting an antipathy, could only serve to strengthen it ; and even so the rogue, hating labour, can hardly be made to like it by having it rendered more than ordinarily repulsive to him.
     Yet such was the reasoning that emanated from the wisdom of our ancestors.
     "Well, I always thought labouring for one's living was deuced unpleasant!" exclaims the confirmed rogue to himself, on leaving the House of Correction, "and now, after the dose I've just had, I'm convinced of it. Catch me ever doing a stroke of work again, if I can help it!"
     One would almost fancy that the common sense of the country would long ago have seen that, instead of such institutions serving to correct an indisposition to labour, they really and truly did their best to foster and confirm it. But, no! to the present century belongs rather the high philosophic honour of having contrived an apparatus like the tread-wheel, which combines the double moral absurdity of rendering prison labour not only more than usually irksome, but also more than usually profitless, If our forefathers were foolish enough to expect to cure idleness by rendering work a punishment (instead of endeavouring by industrial training to make it a pleasure), it remained for the sages of our own time to seek to impress lazy men with a sense of the beauty and value of industry, by the invention of an instrument which is especially adapted to render labour inordinately repulsive, by making it inordinately useless.
     "I am a man who don't like work," candidly said an habitual vagabond to the late governor of Coldbath Fields prison; "and, what's more (with an oath), I will not work except when I'm in prison, and then I can't help it!"
    The correctional prisons of the metropolis are four in number—two belonging to the county of Middlesex, one to Surrey, and another to the City of London, viz. :—
     I. MIDDLESEX HOUSES OF CORRECTION—
         1. Coldbath Fields Prison (for adult males.)
         2. Tothill Fields Prison (for females and juvenile offenders).
     II. CITY HOUSE OF CORRECTION—
         Holloway Prison (for all classes of offenders).
     III. SURREY HOUSE OF CORRECTION—
         Wandsworth Prison (for all classes).
     As regards the number of prisoners passing through these institutions in the course of the year, they would appear to amount to no less than 21,860 odd individuals, and to yield an average daily congregation of about 3,000, while their gross expense to the householders of the neighbouring counties is upwards of £60,000 per annum.
     The classes of prisoners confined within these establishments differ, in many respects, from those found at the London convict prisons. At the latter institutions we meet with two distinct kinds of offenders, viz., the long-sentence men, who, in most instances, were once reputable people, and are suffering for their first offence; and the habitual criminal, who, after having gone the round of the correctional prisons for a series of petty larcenies, has at length been condemned either to seven years' transportation, or the more modern four years' penal servitude.
     In the correctional prisons, however, there are three distinct kinds of offenders. (1.) Felons, i.e., those who have been convicted of some offence to which is attached the forfeiture of all property belonging to the offender. (2.) Misdemeanants, or those imprisoned for offences of a lower degree than felony. (3.) Vagrants, or those who have been committed either as rogues and vagabonds or reputed thieves.
     Each of these classes will afford peculiar examples—ranging from the more desperate housebreaker to the cunning "magsman," and even down to the abject "shallow cove."
     [-276-] "I have never been able to comprehend," says Mr. Chesterton, the late governor of Coldbath Fields, while treating of the peculiarities of vagrants in his work upon "Prison Life," "the preference given by hale, able-bodied men, who, rather than face creditable industry, will stand shivering in the cold, with garments barely sufficient to cloak their nakedness — purposely rent and tattered — in order to provoke a sympathy but rarely excited. Their vocation entails upon them endless imprisonments, and the entire life appears to me to be one of so much privation and discomfort, that it is marvellous how any rational being can voluntarily embrace it.
    "The tramps or ubiquitary wanderers," adds the late governor, "display a taste far superior to that of the London 'cadgers'."
    One such tramp assured Mr. Chesterton, that the life he led suited him; he enjoyed the country, he said, realized a pleasing variety, and managed, in one way or another, to get his wants adequately supplied.
    Finally, the localities of the various houses of correction, as well as the distribution of the other kinds of prisons throughout the Metropolis, will be best explained by the following map:—

     [-277-]


 

¶ i.

THE MIDDLESEX HOUSE OF CORRECTION, COLDBATH FIELDS

(FOR ADULT MALE OFFENDERS)

    On a dull summer's morning, when the sky was lead-coloured with an impending storm, and the air was hot as though the thick roof of clouds impeded the ventilation of the City, we left our home to make our visit to this prison. A slight shower had fallen, spotting the pavement with large, round drops.
     The cooks shut up in the cellars of the green-grocers' and barbers' shops, situated in the streets through which we passed, were crowing as if the light that shone down the iron gratings into the dusty area beneath had aroused them, and they were screeching to be released from their confinement. Over a seedman's shop a lark, whose cage faced the east, was welcoming the streak of early dawn with jerks of melody, whilst the little creature stood fluttering on the small piece of turf placed in the bow of its cage. At one of the cheap hair-dressers, too, where a long pole stretched above the pathway like a bowsprit, we could hear the almost screaming din of birds, all singing at the same time—the sound seeming to pour out from the round holes in the shutter tops in positive gusts of noise.
     The whole Metropolis was as yet asleep.
     The dull morning appeared to have made the inhabitants stop in their beds longer that usual; for, as we gazed down the now clear perspective of the different streets, we could see but few persons about. The only chimneys that were sending out their smoke were those at the bakers, but even here the curling streams of soot were gradually diminishing in blackness, as though the night's work was over and the fires dying out. As we hurried along, the town put on a different aspect in the bright, early light; the trees of the squares [-278-] and gardens, and flowers in the balconies, as well as the countless windows, sparkled again, as the black clouds changed into white ones, edged with the many tints of the morning's sun, the panes at length being lighted up by the golden beams, till they shone like plates of burnished metal.
     As we gazed around, a newspaper express cart dashed past, taking the direction of the Euston Square Railway. Policemen, with their capes rolled up like black quivers under their arms, were making their way to the different police stations. On one of the doorsteps in Gower Street was seated a milk-maid, with the bright drum-shaped cans before her, waiting until the servant-maid rose to take in the customary "ha'porth."
     Then the butchers' carts came rattling past, the wheels trembling as they spun over the stones; and the horse, with freshly-greased hoofs, going at a pace which, as the animal turned the corner, threw the vehicle round sideways, and almost jerked the driver from one end of the seat to the other.
     Near to the Foundling we noted, down the stable-yards, a quantity of Hansom cabs ranged in rows, and still dirty with the night's work ; and then, a few paces after crossing the Gray's Inn Road, we caught sight of the dull brick wall that encircles the House of Correction, and in a minute or two more had reached our destination.

     As few persons in easy worldly circumstances care to reside in the neighbourhood of a prison, it may account for the dingy and distressed appearance of the buildings that surround the jail in Coldbath Fields. The red brick dwellings facing the main entrance have all the appearance of having been at one time "capital town mansions," but the daily sight of the prison van driving up, and the dreary look-out from the front windows upon the tall boundary wall and heavily-spiked roofs, has degraded the dwellings down to the rank of old furniture stores, or lodging-houses for single men, who care not where they obtain house-shelter provided the rent be low. Some of the houses hereabouts are sufficiently antiquated—as, for instance, those in Baynes Row—with the words cut in quaint, long spider letters, in the red brick tablet between the drawing-room windows. Again, in Cobham Row, the heavy white sashes to the casements, the curious iron-work, and the peculiar style of brick-work, strongly indicate the old-fashioned character of the buildings.
     Clerkenwell is notoriously the hardest-working quarter of London ; and as soon as the immediate vicinity of the prison is passed, the industry begins to show itself. In Dorrington Street, a small colony of brass-founders have established themselves, and the grocers' canister-makers have also permanently settled on the spot.
     Turning down Phoenix Place, we see the yards converted into saw-mills, and jets of steam bursting out from the midst of tiled sheds ; and we hear, too, the grating, hissing sound of the machinery. One board, over the door of a dingy cottage, tells us that the inmates are "Fancy Brush-board Makers;" and on a closed-up door, the deep-bordered posters of a cheap undertaker caters for patronage for his "Genteel Funerals," at £1 1s.
     At the back, or northern side of the prison wall, lie the enormous yards of Mr. Cubitt, the contractor—some of them filled with paving and flag-stones--others bristling with scaffold poles and tapering ladders—and some again occupied by sheds, under and about which are rusting cog-wheels and old machinery, or stone balustrades and pieces of broken sculpture. Here, too, in the waste unpaved ground about the walls, the boys have established their play-ground, and amuse themselves with pitch-in-the-hole, tossing for buttons, and games at marbles, or else they perform their gymnastic exercises on the thick rails and posts, placed across the broad rude pathway to obstruct the passage of cabs and cattle.
     Whether the jail has ruined the neighbourhood or not, we cannot say, but the surrounding locality wears a degraded look, as if it also had put on the prison uniform of dirty gray.

     We had risen so early, that we reached our destination before the official hour for [-279-] opening the gates, the warders not being admitted until half-past six, when the night watch is relieved, and the business of the day begins.
     One of the main features of the Coldbath Fields prison is the tall brick wall, which surrounds the entire of the nine acres upon which the building stands, and gives to the place the idea of a strong fortress. To the foot-passenger, this high wall hides out every view of the enclosed buildings, and, but for a bell heard now and then ringing within, he might almost imagine the interior to be a burial-ground. It is only at the moment of turning the corner of Phoenix Place, and entering into Dorrington Street, that the first evidence is obtained of the spot being inhabited; for there, at rapidly-recurring intervals, may be seen a black beam darting by, close to the coping-stone of the brick-work, the mystery of which none can fathom but those who have visited the interior of the prison, it being the wings of the fan, or governing machine, which regulates the rapidity of the tread-wheel.
     On one side of the public road, passing along the front of the prison, is an unoccupied piece of ground, about half an acre in extent, which fronts the remaining portion of the wall; here the grass has grown so luxuriantly that it may almost be termed a field, especially as half a dozen sheep are feeding, within the palings, on the long herbage.
     Looking out upon this grass-plot may be seen the back of the governor's house, a narrow, two-storeyed dwelling, of an ancient style of structure, with heavy iron gratings before each window, which are dosed on the basement story, but are thrown back like French blinds at the upper casements.
     The huge prison doorway itself has a curious George the Third air about it, with its inscription of black letters out into the painted stone, telling one that it is

THE HOUSE OF
CORRECTION
FOR THE
COUNTY OF MIDDLESEX
1794

— the writing being similar to that which is seen in old books, and by no means comparable to the well-shaped characters on the sign-boards at the neighbouring public-house. A pair of gigantic knockers, large as pantomime masks, hang low down on the dark-green panels of the folding gates, and under them are the letter-box and the iron-grated wicket, not larger than a gridiron; whilst, arranged in tassels at the top of each side pillar, are enormous black fetters, big enough to frighten any sinful passer-by back into the paths of rectitude. A chevaux de frise, like some giant hundred-bladed penknife, is placed on either side of the doorway, where it towers above the wall, and within reading height are placed black boards, with notices painted white upon them. From these we learn where "Information respecting the Terns of Imprisonment, and the Fines to be paid, may be obtained," and are also told that "No provisions, clothing, or other articles for the use of the prisoners," will be permitted to pass the gates; whilst, in another place, the regulations respecting the visits to the prisoners are exposed to view. The county of Middlesex, as if to show its right of ownership, has also placed its crest immediately above the green-painted doors, and the three sabres hang threateningly over the heads of all who enter. This and the large gas-lamp jutting out from the wall form the only ornaments to this peculiarly quaint old prison-entrance. (See Engraving, p. 277.)
     Before conducting the reader within the walls of the prison, let us set forth, as briefly as possible, the "antecedents," as well as the character of the building.
[-280-]
 

¶ i.—b

The History and Construction of the Prison.

     The term Coldbath Fields, which now stands for a portion of the district lying between Clerkenwell and Pentonville, is said to have been derived from a celebrated well of water that was formerly situate in the fields hereabouts, but which is now covered over, the site being at present occupied by the tread-wheel of the prison.
     The original House of Correction, Mr. Hepworth Dixon tells us, was built in the reign of the first James. "The increase of vagabondage," he says, " had become so great about that time, that the City Bridewell no longer served to contain the number of offenders ; the judges therefore built this prison, the City authorities giving £500 towards it, for keeping their poor employed."
     The oldest portion, however, of the present prison (which stands between the Church of St. James's, Clerkenwell, and the Gray's Inn Road ) dates only from the end of the last century.
     " The House of Correction, at Coldbath Fields," says Mr. Chesterton, the late governor of the prison, in his entertaining new work, entitled "REVELATIONS OF PRISON LIFE,"  "was erected in the year 1794. Its site at that epoch well entitled it to the third term in its designation, which it has ever since retained ; but the magistrates of that day missed an opportunity of purchasing and enclosing, at a comparatively small cost, a much larger tract of land; so that the prison is now overlooked from buildings abutting upon it—an inconvenience which might have been obviated by timely foresight."
     The prison covers a space of nine acres, and "the ground," Mr. Chesterton informs us, " which was purchased for the purpose by the county magistrates, cost £4,350. The original building was constructed at an outlay of £65,656. Comfortably with the notions of that period, the building was massive, overloaded with ponderous iron gates, window-frames, and fastenings ; while narrow entrances and passages were designed to render a sudden outburst of prisoners impracticable.
     " Certain it is," adds the late governor, " that the large outlay of £65,656, at that distant period, merely to produce a structure containing 232 cells, the precise number erected, does appear to be a prodigal expenditure, and quite disproportioned to the accommodation secured."* [*Pentonville prison, built in 1840-42, and fitted with 130 cells, cost £85,000. Brixton prison, built in 1819-20, and fitted with 161 cells, cost (including the purchase of the land) £51,780 and Milbank prison, built in 1812, and fitted with 550 cell, cost £500,000, exclusive of land. ]
     Large additions, however, have been made from time to time, since the date of its original construction. In the year 1832, the unlooked-for increase of numbers had, in the words of the late governor, "necessitated a corresponding extension of the buildings, and soon after the completion (in 1830) of a 'vagrants' ward,' calculated to accommodate 150 prisoners, there was added a female ward' (now the misdemeanants' prison), designed to contain 300. These buildings were erected on a radiating system, but they were designed ere the new lights on prison structure, derived from the United States of America , had penetrated into this kingdom. Conseque    ntly our new buildings were very defective, and much expense was subsequently incurred to amend and enlarge them."
     There are at present two houses of correction for the county of Middlesex—one at Cold-bath Fields, which is devoted to the reception of such adult male prisoners as have not been sentenced to transportation or penal servitude ; and the other at Tothill Fields, appropriated to the female and juvenile portion of the same class.
  [-281-] Coldbath Fields prison has now proper accommodation for 1,450 prisoners*

[* The following return as to the accommodation afforded has been kindly supplied us by the present governor:

NUMBER OF BERTHS AND CELLS CONTAINED IN COLDBATH FIELDS PRISON:-

OLD PRISON

MISDEMEANOUR PRISON

VAGRANT PRISON

Yards Berths in dormitories Cells Yards Cells Yards Cells
First and second 99 66 First 87 First and second 88
Third and fourth 101 71 Second 96 Third and fourth 87
Fifth and sixth 99 76 Third 100 Refractory 2
Seventh and eighth 98 72 Fourth 96   177
Lower gallery   29 Refractrory 7    
Upper gallery   29   386    
Refractory   14        
  397 357        
Cells and Berths 754        
             
  Old Prison 357        
  Misdemeanour Prison 386        
  Vagrant Prison 177        
    190        
  Berth in the Dormitories 397        
    1317        

(919 in separate cells, and 534 in cells capable of containing more than one prisoner), though many more are sometimes thrust into it, causing great confusion of system. The daily average number of prisoners throughout the year 1854-55 was 1,388. Mr. Chesterton tells us that "the prison of Coldbath Fields is one of such surpassing magnitude as to have numbered within its walls, during the year 1854, at one time, no less than 1,495 inmates."*

[* NUMBER OF MALE PRISONERS CONFINED IN THE HOUSE OF CORRECTION, COLDBATH FIELDS, IN THE COURSE OF THE YEAR 1854

1 2 3 4
In custody at the commencement of the year Received under commitments, and who have no been in custody of other Governors Received from the custody of other Governors, and enumerated in their returns Charges, ie. prisoners committed to the prison for examination, but afterwards discharged, not being fully committed.
Prisoners for trial - Prisoners for trial - Prisoners for trial -  
Convicted at assizes and sessions 874 Prisoners transferred to other Governors for trial - Convicted at assizes and sessions 1620  
Convicts under contract with Government - Rendered in court for trial - Convicts under contract -  
Summary convictions 563 Summary convictions 6123 Summary convictions -  
For re-examination - Ditto transferred to other Governors -      
  1437   6123   7743  

Total in the course of the year: 9,180
Greatest number of Prisoners at any one time in the course of the year: 1,495
The daily average number of Prisoners throughout the year: 1,388]


    The prison is in the jurisdiction of fourteen magistrates, appointed at each Quarter Sessions, of whom four go out quarterly by rotation.
    The official staff for the management of Coldbath Fields House of Correction consists of the governor, 2 chaplains, 1 surgeon, 1 chief warder, 34 warders, 66 sub-warders, 4 clerks, 1 engineer, and 1 store-keeper; in all, 112 officers. Hence, as there are altogether 100 warders, and the daily average number of prisoners throughout the year 1854 amounted [-282-]   to 1,388, we find that there is one such officer to about every 13 persons confined within the walls.*  [At Pentonville there are 30 warders to a daily average of 519 prisoners, which is in proportion of 1 officer to about every 17 inmates of the jail. At Millbank, on the other hand, there are 101 warders to a daily average of 702 male prisoners, which is almost at the rate of 1 officer to every 7 men. ]
     The discipline enforced at this prison is that which is termed the "silent associated system," the prisoners working in bodies by day, and being forbidden to hold any communication with each other, either by word or gesture; whilst many of them---some 920—sleep in separate cells at night. "If the system on which the prison is ostensibly conducted," says an author before quoted, were rigorously carried out, all the prisoners would be separated at night; but the number of separate cells is insufficient. The surplus is, therefore, to be provided for in general dormitories, in which officers are obliged to remain all night, to prevent intercourse or disorder."
     Coldbath Fields is one of those prisons at which labour is used as a punishment, rather than a means of industrial training or of self-support among the prisoners themselves—the criminals sent here being often condemned to "hard labour," in addition to a certain term of imprisonment. These hard-labour sentences are worked out either upon the tread-wheel, or else in picking oakum or coir, unless the services of the prisoner be required for some work in connection with the jail. For the due carrying out of the hard-labour sentence, there are at Coldbath Fields no less than six distinct tread-wheel yards, and two of these have each four separate wheels working on one long axis, whilst the four remaining yards have each three wheels fixed upon one axle.
     This prison bears the reputation of being one of the most salubrious in all London.
     The ample space, the full supply of light and air afforded to the prisoners, as well as the general system of the prison," says Mr. Dixon, "causes Coldbath Fields to be one of the healthiest places of confinement in the Metropolis. Though it has an average of from 1,200 to 1,400 occupants the year round, more than three or four persons are seldom found in the infirmary at once—a state of the health-calendar very different from that of Newgate or Millbank, or even that of Pentonville."
     Indeed it will be seen, by the returns before given (p. 239), that Coldbath Fields is not only considerably healthier than either Millbank or Pentonville, but the proportion of sick (22.3 per cent.) to the gross number of prisoners confined within it throughout the year is even 1 per cent. lower than that of Brixton.* [*  In the course of the year 1854-55 there were at Coldbath Fields altogether 131 infirmary cases, and 1,916 cases of slight indisposition, making altogether 2,047 cases of sickness in the course of that year; and as the gross number of prisoners confined within the jail during the same year amounted to 9,180. this gives a proportion of 22.3 cases of sickness to every one hundred prisoners. The per centage of pardons on medical grounds to the daily average number of prisoners at the same prison was 1.0, whilst the per centage of deaths to the daily average number of prisoners was 1.3, which, it will be seen by reference to the previous table (see p. 239), is still considerably lower than at either the Hulks or Millbank, but, on the other hand, higher than either Pentonville or Brixton. ]
     "The House of Correction at Coldbath Fields," says the author of London Prisons," "has the thorough aspect of the old English jail."
     The prison is surrounded by a high wall, varying from eighteen to twenty-three feet, and the prison buildings are in three distinct divisions :-
     1. The principal, or old building, erected in 1794.
     2. The new vagrants' ward, completed in 1830.
     3. The female prison, now "the misdemeanants' ward," completed in 1832.
     The old or "main" prison stands at a little distance behind the principal entrance, and is of a quadrangular form (with two wings attached), divided by a central passage, which is intersected at right angles by the various " yards "--four on either side of the passage, and  [-283-] each having the cells ranged along one side, and with the tread-wheels, in some cases, facing them.
    The vagrants' ward is on the left of the main entrance, and consists of five radiating wings, proceeding from a semi-circular building, upon the half-wheel principle; and these five wings, with the four intermediate airing courts, constitute four "yards" or divisions.


    The misdemeanants' ward, formerly appropriated to the female prisoners, stands at a little distance from the north-eastern corner of the old prison, and constitutes a distinct building, but does not differ much in it plan from the vagrant's ward.
    There are two chapels, one for males, and the other formerly for females, in which there is service every morning.
[-284-]  The main or old prison is principally devoted to the reception of felons, whilst the vagrant ward is set aside for those committed as rogues or vagabonds, including reputed thieves; and that which was formerly the female ward is now appropriated to persons convicted of misdemeanours. At the date (18th October, 1855, ) of the last report of the visiting justices, the gross number in custody was 1,325 adult males; and these were composed of the following classes in the following proportion, viz.:—
 

  Number   Per Cent.
Felons 697 = 52.6
Misdemeanants 496 = 37.5
Vagrants 132 = 9.9
Total 1325 = 100.0

      In the same report the prison is said to be capable of containing 919 prisoners in separate sleeping cells, and 534 where more than one prisoner sleeps in one cell. Rooms and workshops, not intended as sleeping apartments for prisoners, are used, we are told, as dormitories when a greater extent of accommodation is required.*

 

GENERAL WEEKLY REPORT, FROM FRIDAY, 20TH JUNE, 1856
Number in custody last week 1393 Infirmary Patients 2 Foreigners in prison, viz:  
Number unlocked this morning 1375 Convalescent Patients 29 Germans 8
Admitted during the week 134 Number of Irish in prison 100 Poles 1
Discharged during the week 152 Foreigners in prison 38 Portuguese 2
Died during the same week - viz: Americans 2 Spaniards 3
Increase - Swedes 2 Italians 7
Decrease 18 Danes - Greeks -
    Russians 1 Mussulmans -
    Dutch 5 Africans 1
    Belgians 1 Hindoos -
    French 4 West Indians 1

   ** History of the Discipline of Coldbath Fields Prison.—From the history, construction, and present capacity of the building itself, we pass to the history of that system of management which preceded and led to the one at present in force.
     It has been our object to chronicle the origin of the discipline pursued at the various penal institutions of which we have already treated. We have traced the commencement and modifications of the separate system, as carried out at Pentonville Prison—we have given a brief account of the establishment of the Female Convict Prison at Brixton—we have endeavoured to impress the reader with a sense of the utter want of system, and indeed decency, in the management of the Hulks in former times, as well as to give him a notion of the defective arrangements at present existing in those places—we have sought, moreover, to show him how Bentham's crude scheme for a Panopticon merged into the old Penitentiary, where criminals were trained in hypocrisy, and the warders were converted into "Scripture readers," while the governor himself was a gentleman in orders—as well as how this same penitential system was ultimately converted into the present "mixed system" of penal discipline ; and now we proceed, in due order, to explain how the promiscuous association of the prisoners at Coldbath Fields, as well as the iniquities practised by the warders there, and even the governors themselves, at length gave way to the more righteous sentiments of the age, and finally settled into "the silent associated system," of which that prison is not only now regarded as the type, but the metropolitan originator.
     Luckily for the proper execution of this portion of our task, we have the best possible materials supplied us in the recently-published "Revelations of Prison Life," by Mr. Chesterton, the late governor of the jail in question, and the gentleman to whom the public, [-285-] as well as the prisoners themselves, are indebted for the correction of abuses that were a scandal to our country, and who was the first to introduce into it that system of non-intercourse among prisoners, which, at least, if it works no positive change in the criminal character, must be acknowledged to prevent effectually that extended education in crime which arose formerly from the indiscriminate communion of the inmates of our jails.
     This gentleman we have long known in private life, and known only to esteem for the kindness of his heart and the soundness of his views, as well as the fine integrity of his principles—points, indeed, of which his recent volumes afford many happy illustrations.
     Mr. Chesterton, speaking of the prisons of the early part of the present century, says—"Cleanliness scarcely seemed to be a necessary requirement; all care to insure the space indispsnsable to common decency was deemed superfluous, and shameless profligacy unblushingly prevailed. The lowest order of men only aspired to dispense the functions of a jail, while the common allusion to 'jail fevers,' attested the foul contagion inseparable from the foetid bald of the vicious outcast.
     "At that period, there did not exist a more neglected or outraged class than the criminals in our numerous jails. The philanthropy of the great Howard appeared to have become extinct, and to have died with him; while the after exertions of Sir George Paul were circumscribed, and seemed to produce no lasting effect. As far as the county of Middlesex was concerned, no care whatever was bestowed upon the prisons, and consequently vicious administrators were left to perpetrate their corrupt devices."
     It was the custom in those days, he tells us, for country justices to administer their functions in their own houses, and many so unblushingly received fees, that their residences Were known by the by-word of "justice-shops." A magisterial friend of his named one justice then living, who had been distinguished by such discreditable traffic; and in dilating upon the prevailing corruption of the period, Mr. Chesterton's friend expressed his conviction that some magistrates had pocketed gains from the funds allotted for the erection of Coldbath Fields prison.
     "The late Mr. Robert Sibley, well known and much respected as the Middlesex surveyor, has frequently," our author adds, "described to me the scenes he witnessed when he first became acquainted with the county. Men and women, boys and girls, were indiscriminately herded together, in this chief county prison, without employment or wholesome control; while smoking, gaming, singing, and every species of brutalizing conversation and demeanour tended to the unlimited advancement of crime and pollution.
     "Meanwhile, the governor of that day walked about bearing in his hand a knotted rope, and ever and anon he would seize some unlucky wight by the collar or arm, and rope's-end him severely; thus exhibiting a warning example of summary corporeal chastisement calculated to overawe refractory beholders."
     Sir Francis Burdett, at the early period of his career, condemned the monstrosities of Coldbath Fields so vehemently, as to secure for that prison, says Mr. Chesterton, "the name of the ' Bastile.' Governor Aris (who had formerly been a baker in Clerkenwell) was denounced, and became notorious as a reputed tyrant and torturer. He was ultimately ejected from his office, and died in poverty: Many years subsequently to his leaving the prison, Aris and his sons would come and importune me for assistance, and the former never failed to aver that he was unjustly sacrificed to popular clamour.
     "I do not know," continues our friend, "that the Middlesex governor was at that epoch a worse specimen of his craft than others of his brother functionaries throughout the country, for all our penal establishments were such sinks of iniquity, that iris might possibly have been not a whit more guilty than his compeers. However, his accusers prevailed, and he was discarded without provision.
     "During the agitation that existed upon the subject, crowds used to assemble without the walls of the prison, and the incarcerated--fully acquainted with public occurrences—would  [-286-] shriek and shout in order to keep alive popular sympathy, until stories of cruelty perpetrated within aroused indignation and invoked redress.
     "The thieves of the present day still retain in the cant name of the prison at Coldbath Fields, a portion of the appellation which by-gone agitation had conferred upon it. As an omnibus is familiarly styled a 'bus,' so is the word Bastile abbreviated into 'stile,' pronounced 'steel'.
    "There could be no doubt whatever of the infamous management which had long disgraced the jails (in those days), for I have seen a brochure of such times written expressly to demonstrate the iniquity then prevalent within the walls of Coldbath Fields. This brochure is sufficiently intelligible as to the character of that penitentiary, and the scenes enacted therein, to stamp the place as a focus of abomination and impurity.
     " After Aris, the prison became successively entrusted to the management of Governors Adkins and Vickery—both of them having previously been distinguished as expert police officers ; for a notion prevailed in that day that none but police magistrates and their satellites were competent to cope with public plunderers.
     "There is no earthly doubt that these privileged functionaries, the thief-taking governors, held that their primary obligation consisted in feathering their own nests, and at the same time enriching their subordinates. Indeed all their arrangements seemed designed to promote personal privileges and to amass unlimited gains."

     On the 27th of July, 1829, Mr. Chesterton made his debut in the prison, and received from the visiting justices the charge of it. He found it "a sink of abomination and pollution; and so close was the combination amongst its corrupt functionaries, that it was difficult to acquire any definite notion of the wide-spread defilement that polluted every hole and corner of the Augean stable. There was scarcely one redeeming feature in the prison administration," he says, " but the whole machinery tended to promote shameless gains by the furtherance of all that was lawless and execrable.
     "Each 'turnkey' had a fixed locality, and was the supervisor of a 'yard' containing from 70 to 100 prisoners, while every yard contained a yardsman,' i.e., a prisoner who could afford to bid the highest price for acting as deputy-turnkey, and, under his superior, to trade with the prisoners at a stupendous rate of profit to his principal and to himself. Prisoners also occupied the lucrative posts of 'nurses ' in the infirmary, while those of 'passage-men,' and other still more subordinate capacities, procurable by money, all tended to enrich the officers and the chosen prisoners at one and the same time.
     "From one end of the prison to the other, there existed a vast illicit commerce at an exorbitant rate of profit. The basement of all the cells was hollowed out and made the depositories of numerous interdicted articles. Layers of lime-white, frequently renewed, hid beneath the surface an inlet to such hidden treasures ; and thus wine and spirits, tea and coffee, tobacco and pipes, were unsuspectedly stowed away, and even pickles, preserves, and fish sauce, might also be found secreted within those occult receptacles. The walls, too, separating one cell from another, were adapted to like clandestine uses, the key to such deposits being merely a brick or two easily dislodged by any one acquainted with the secret.
     " In vain might a magistrate penetrate into the interior of the prison, and cast his inquisitive glances around him. Telegraphic signals would announce the presence of an unwelcome visitor, and all be promptly arranged to defeat suspicion. The prisoners would assume an aspect and demeanour at once subdued and respectful ; the doors of cells would fly open to disclose clean basements, edged with thick layers of lime-white (deliberately used to conceal the secrets beneath), pipes would be extinguished and safely stowed away, the tread-wheels fully manned, and other industrial arts set in motion.
     " The first question addressed to a prisoner on. his arrival was, had he money, or any-[-287-]thing convertible into money, or would any friend supply him with money.' If the reply were affirmative, the turnkey, or some agent of his, would convey a letter for the requisite contribution, which became subject to the unconscionable deduction of seven or eight shillings, out of every pound sterling transmitted, besides a couple of shillings to the 'yardsman,' and, in many instances, an additional shilling to the 'passage-man.'
     "The poor and friendless prisoner was a man wretchedly maltreated and oppressed. Every species of degrading employment was thrust upon him, and daily inflictions rendered his existence hardly supportable. If he presumed to complain, the most inhuman retaliation awaited him. He was called 'a nose,' and was made to ran the gauntlet through a double file of scoundrels armed with short ropes or knotted handkerchiefs.
     "Here, also," adds the late governor, "I discovered another ample source of profit to those voracious turnkeys. The correspondence of prisoners with their friends was properly defined by an existing regulation, but in this, as in every other particular, rules were nugatory. If, therefore, a prisoner were too poor to pay one shilling or eighteen-pence for a letter, either written to go out, or for one received in, such letter was invariably destroyed. In short, there was no end to the expedients of such corrupt minds, in order to realize unhallowed gains."

     It was not until five years after Mr. Chesterton had entered upon the arduous task of governing and reforming such an institution, that he introduced the silent system as part of the discipline of the prison. The following is that gentleman's version of the circumstances which led to so important a change:-
     "Mr. Crawford having concluded his report upon the prisons of the United States, travelled into the North of England and to Scotland , and, during his excursion, visited certain of the prisons there. He returned to London much impressed with the condition of two, viz., that of Wakefield in Yorkshire, and the Bridewell of Glasgow.
     "At the former, the associated silent system had been recently introduced under the auspices of a zealous magistrate, who was ably seconded by Mr. Shepherd, the governor.
     "The practical eye of Mr. Crawford soon discerned the value of these improvements, and he suggested to Mr. Hoare (one of the Middlesex magistrates, and the brother-in-law of Mrs. Fry), that I should be sent down, first to Wakefield, and thence to Glasgow, to witness these two systems in operation, and report upon the practicability of applying either to Coldbath Fields. The suggestion was communicated to the visiting justices by Mr. Hoare, who strongly advised its adoption; and, consequently, in the month of December, 1834, I set off thus commissioned.
     "Properly accredited to the authorities of both localities, I experienced every desirable attention, and was allowed the facility to make the closest observations. I soon perceived that the paucity of cells at Coldbath Fields presented an irremediable obstacle to the adoption of the separate system, even if that mode of discipline should be preferred, but that some practical alterations would enable us to embrace the silent system.* [*    "Hitherto room had been found, in order to compensate for the deficiency of cells, by sleeping three convicts in each cell; but under the newly-imported discipline this arrangement could no longer be tolerated. We adopted, therefore, the expedient of enclosing in every yard the space under each set of tread-wheels, which were erected on elevated platforms. The previous day-rooms, and every spare room throughout the great building, were then adapted to sleeping, by the construction of berths in three tiers, as in use in the cabins oaf passenger-vessels ; and opposite to these the monitor slept on an iron bedstead. A mode of inspection from without was open to the night watchman."--Note by Mr. Chesterton. ]
     "On my return, I presented a minute report, which was laid before the court and subsequently published in extenso in some of the daily journals. At length the requisite authority was conceded, and all preliminary arrangements perfected; and on the 29th December, 1834, a population of 914 prisoners was suddenly apprised that all intercommuni-[-288-]cation by word, gesture, or sign was prohibited; and, without a murmur, or the least symptom of overt opposition, the silent system became the established rule of the prison.
     "In the outset, it was effected by the employment of monitors, selected by their conduct and intelligence from amongst the prisoners. That practice is now prohibited by law, and the interdiction is undoubtedly both just and politic.
     "In short, all (except the irreclaimably debased) who had watched and deplored the system, now happily superseded, saw cause to rejoice in the change. There was at length a real protection to morals, and it no longer became the reproach that the comparatively innocent should be consigned to inevitable demoralization and ruin."

     Another important change in the discipline in this prison occurred in the introduction of the tread-wheel, though this took place several years prior to the introduction of the silent system. This apparatus, we have before said (p. 174), was first set up in Brixton prison in 1817; and Mr. Chesterton cites the following curious anecdote as to the origin of the contrivance itself:
     "It was the invention of Mr. Cubitt, the engineer of Lowestoft, in Suffolk, a gentleman of science, of extensive professional connections, and of gentle and pleasing deportment. The notion of such a piece of machinery owed its conception in his mind to a singular casualty. I received the following narration from his own lips:-
     "All who may be acquainted with the county jail of Suffolk, at Bury St. Edmonds, or rather as it was twenty years and upwards ago, must be aware of the unsightly feature then existing (after passing through the main entrance), of mere open iron fences separating yards occupied by prisoners from the passage trodden by incoming visitors. The inmates, in repulsive groups, were seen lounging idly about, and the whole aspect indicated a demoralizing waste of strength and time.
     "Under such dispositions, and some years before Mr. Cubitt's relation to me, that gentleman was in professional communication with the magistrates at the jail of Bury, and there he and a magistrate, the one going out, and the other entering, met in the described passage, from which, as they stood to converse, the prisoners, as usual, were seen idly loitering about.
     "''I wish to God, Mr. Cubitt,' said the justice, 'you could suggest to us some mode of employing those fellows! Could nothing like a wheel become available?' An instantaneous idea flashed through the mind of Mr. Cubitt, who whispered to himself, 'the wheel elongated!' and merely saying to his interrogator— 'Something has struck me which may prove worthy of further consideration, and perhaps you may hear from me upon the subject,' he took his leave.
     "After reflection enabled Mr. Cubitt to fashion all the mechanical requirements into a practical form; and by such a casual incident did the tread-wheel start into existence, and soon came into general adoption in the prisons of the country as the type of hard labour."
     At first, the labour on the tread-wheel was excessive. In utter ignorance of the mischief which such an excess of exertion produced, the authorities at Coldbath Fields apportioned to each male individual 12,000 feet of ascent upon it per diem. That ratio, we are told, proved seriously injurious to health, especially under the circumstances of a diet restricted to the minimum of what was deemed adequate requirement.
     "The most robust frames," adds the prison historian, "would become attenuated by it; and a prolonged indulgence in a daily allowance of beer, increased diet, and, in many instances, other prescribed stimulants, hardly sufficed to arrest the mischief. So debilitating were the results of the undue amount of such dispiriting labour, that (before the erection of military prisons) the Royal Artillery abstained from committing their offending men to Coldbath Fields, owing to the injurious effects observable, on their return to their regiment, from the mischievous excess of tread-wheel occupation."
     The present amount of ascent is limited to 1,200 feet per diem.

[-289-]

§ i.—b.

     Interior of the Prison.

     As the hour advanced at which the gates were to be opened, the warders began to assemble. We could see them hurrying down the streets on all sides, and soon the road in front of the jail was filled with a crowd of men in dark-blue uniform, each with a belt of shining leather over one shoulder, supporting, just above the hip, a pouch, something similar to a soldier's cartouche-boa, on which was the brass number that distinguished the official. Some of these warders had fastened on to their stand-up collars, in the same place where a policeman's number is placed, a gilt metal plate, and others a silver one, on which were stamped the Middlesex Arms of the three sabres, this being the distinguishing mark between the warders and the sub-warders.
     Many of the men seemed but half awake. They leant against the railings, some smoking, others chatting, until, at twenty-five minutes past six, the sudden report of a gun was heard, making the silent air ring again, and causing a peacock in the vicinity to begin screaming. Instantly down were dashed the pipes of the warders, and up jumped the men, hurrying along the carriage-way to the gates, which now opened to receive them.
     We entered a stone-paved yard, on one side of which stood the gate-warder's lodge, and on the other stretched out a gravelled court. A canopy of glass, like the roof of a greenhouse, was suspended in the air like an awning, and covered in the path leading to an iron double gate, which lay some twenty feet off in front; the little yard was hemmed round with thick railings and massive gates, through which we could distinguish the governor's house and the protruding sides of the main prison itself, with its small heavily-barred windows. The detached clump of buildings between us and the main prison seemed more like a private residence than part of a prison; and on inquiry it was explained to us, that the erection was that in which the clerk's and governor's offices, the visiting magistrates' committee-rooms, as well as the armoury and the record office, were situated.
     The gate-warder stood by with the bright key inserted in the lock, as the officers entered, ready to turn the bolt at the first order.
     We were not long before we made the acquaintance of the deputy-governor, who, in full uniform, with a crimson shield and gold sabre on his collar, and gold band round his cap, came out to review the warders before they began the duties of the day.
     "Half-past six," said that gentleman to us, pointing to the time-piece, large as a target, over the double-grating, "is is the time to close the gates, but we do not shut them until three minutes past the half-hour, to give the men a little time in case the clocks outside should differ from our own."
     At two minutes peat the half-hour the men came hurrying through the gates, for there is a fine attached to being late on duty.* [* For every five minutes that an officer is behind time, he is fined 6d., until the sun of 2s. 6d, has been forfeited.]
     The gate-warder's office was a room full of wainscotted cupboards, and with heavy ledgers in a rack over the desk on one side; and as we stood here looking at a long row of pigeon-holes, alphabetically arranged, with a few letters in them, the warder told us that the letters had been sent by the prisoners' friends, but that as only one epistle was allowed in three months, those we saw had been kept back until the permitted period arrived. There were barely a dozen such epistles.
     When the order to close the gates had been given, the warders fell into three lines, as if for a review. As some of them carried umbrellas, and others bundles, the spectacle had not a very military appearance.
    [-290-] "Attention!" cried the deputy-governor, and then the warders became stiff and erect. The superior officer passed down the first line, and examined their dress, observing whether their boots and clothing were cleanly and in proper order, and then giving the command of "Two steps forward—march!!" he walked down the alley thus formed between the first and second rows, and inspected the second file.
     This examination over the double iron-gratings were unlocked, and passing through the passage in the centre clump of buildings, we entered the flag-stoned yard facing the main or felons' prison.
     There was no doubt now as to the nature of the edifice before us. The squat front of the whitewashed two-storeyed building was so devoid of any attempt at ornament, that even the small windows with the heavy black gratings before them seemed reliefs to its monotonous aspect. A few stone steps led to a low wicket with a row of spikes on its thick swing-door, the spikes being so arranged that they reached within two inches of the thick crossbars fixed in the circular fan-light over it.
     An officer, with a pale, tired face and disordered hair, and who, armed with a cutlass, had been watching through the night, here met the deputy-governor. " All right," reported the man, and moved on.
     A gang of prisoners, dressed in their suit of dusty gray, now issued from the main building and crossed the yard, with a warder following them. On the back of each criminal was a square canvas tablet stitched to the jacket, and on the bosom was a long badge worn something like that of a cabman. Each of the wretched men, as he descended the stone steps, and caught sight of the deputy-governor, held up his hand to his worsted cap and gave a half military salute.
     "They are vagrants and reputed thieves," explained the officer; " but for want of room in the vagrants' ward they have been sleeping in the felons' cells. We are now waiting," continued the officer, " until the different cells are unlocked, and then it is my duty to make the rounds and count the prisoners."

     *** The Interior of the "Main" Prison and Counting the Prisoners.—All confined within the main prison have, as we have said, been convicted as felons. Ascending the stone steps we passed down a few paces of passage, when a second wicket, similar to the first, was unlocked to admit us. We now stood in a kind of hall about forty feet square, in the centre of which were four stout iron pillars, "to support," as we were told, "the chapel above." This vestibule was so bright with whitewash, that the light reflected was almost painful to the eyes. On the walls were large paper placards printed in bold type, with  religious texts. One was as follows:—"CONSIDER YOUR WAYS, FOR YE SHALL ALL STAND BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST." Another ran—" SWEAR NOT AT ALL," which, in a prison conducted on the silent system, struck us as being somewhat out of place. Whilst a third contained the curiously inappropriate quotation—"BEHOLD HOW GOOD AND HOW PLEASANT IT IS FOR BRETHREN TO DWELL TOGETHER IN UNITY." At each corner of this hall there was a gate of thick iron bars leading to the prisoners' cells.
     Before us lay a long corridor, down which ran a double row of thick columns, supporting a groined roof. These pillars were stout and dumpy, being more than two feet in diameter, and measuring scarcely six feet from the ground to the overhanging capital whence the arches spring. Yet, although the width of the centre passage was but a few feet, still, from the corridor being nearly one hundred feet in length, the effect was picturesque and agreeable, owing to the pleasing perspective of the columns.
     This main building contains eight yards, each one holding from a hundred to a hundred and fifteen prisoners, all felons. The deputy-governor, unlocking one of the strong iron gates in the corner, led us into what is called the first yard. It was an oblong open space, about the size of a racket-ground, lying parallel with the outer wall, or front, of the
[-291-] building, and at right angles with the passage. On one side was what appeared two low wooden sheds built one above the other, and each with long glazed lights running the entire length of the buildings; the under one being the meal-room, and the upper a spare dormitory, at present out of use. As in the other portions of the building we had passed through, here the walls and wood-work were scrupulously clean and fresh with whitewash and paint. Facing these sheds was a row of doors leading, as we found, to the sleeping cells. The doors, with the black bolts drawn back, and the cross-bars slanting upwards, were half opened, showing the inmates had left the cells. Over each door was a massive half-circular grating let into the stone wall, and by means of which the light entered when the men were locked up for the night; whilst at the further end, ranged on one side of the doorway leading to the galleries above, were six slate washing-stands for the use of the prisoners.
     Those of the prisoners who slept in the dormitories and cells, in the upper part of the prison, were entering by the last-mentioned door, in a long file, each carrying a wooden tub, which, as he passed a sink in the centre of the yard, he emptied, and then added the vessel to a pile that kept rapidly increasing in height as one after another went by. Then, still continuing in line, the prisoners entered the wooden shed. These men carried also a bundle composed of a towel, a comb, and Bible, Prayer, and reading book. Soon the under shed was filled with the culprits; whereupon the officers mounting on their tall stools, so situated that from them they could overlook the crowd, kept a strict watch that none of them conversed together.
     The place, as we entered, was silent as a deserted building. The long rows of wretched men in their dusky pauper gray suits, without one particle of white to relieve the monotony of their prison costume, looked like so many rats in a cage. Their faces seemed pale and careworn, and they turned their eyes towards us with a half idiotic expression, in which there was neither surprise at seeing a stranger amongst them at so early an hour, nor even shame at being seen by a visitor in their degraded position. Amongst the prisoners we noticed one, a lad not more than fifteen years old, and three or four old men, who all seemed equally out of place in such an assembly—the one from his youth, the others from their age. A few of the men were already reading, and never raised their eyes.
     The deputy-governor having counted the prisoners, called out the number, and the sub-warders having answered "Right," an entry was made in a book, and the felon's morning toilet commenced. The men took off their coats and opened their blue shirts. Directly the sombre gray clothes were removed, it was strange how altered the appearance of the prisoners became. The colour of the flesh gave them once more a human look.
     Twelve at a time they rose and entered the yard. Then, some at the slate lavatories, others at tubs placed on the paved ground, began to soap their neck and faces, and rub them with their wet hands until they were white with the lather. But a few minutes were allowed to each gang, and at the expiration of the time they returned to the shed, there to adjust their shirts, comb their hair, and put on their jackets.
     Whilst these operations were going on the iron-barred door of the yard opened, and a prisoner, bearing a tin can entered, accompanied by the infirmary warder. This can contained poultices, and the man called out aloud, "Any want dressings ?" A lad, with sores in his neck, had a soda-water bottle given to him, filled with a gray-coloured wash, and he entered a cell to apply the medicine.
     Before leaving the yard the deputy-governor went to a tell-tale clock (similar in construction to those seen at Pentonville, and which, we were assured, were the invention of Mr. Fillary, the engineer to this prison), to see if the night warder had regularly marked the half-hours, and so discover whether he had attended to his duties.
     In all the yards that we visited the same counting and cleansing processes were being gone through.
    [-292-]  In one of the yards we noticed a negro, a tall, bony fellow, with blood-shot eyes ; in another, an old man of eighty, with hair as white as the prison walls themselves, and which was especially striking from the generality of the prisoners being mere youths. He no sooner saw us enter, than hastily putting on his spectacles, he commenced reading, bending his face down as if to hide it in shame. The deputy-governor told us that he had given a false name, but that it was known he once held a high command in the army. He was there for a nameless offence.
     The counting ended, our guide returned to the jail office to consult the locking-up slate, upon which had been marked the number of prisoners within the walls when the doors were fastened the night before. The amount agreeing with the morning's examination, a paper form was filled up to await the governor's signature.

     ***  The Prisoners' Own-Clothes Store.—As we had a few moments to spare, it was proposed to visit the loft where the clothes, taken from the prisoners on their arrival at the jail, were stowed away.
     " Mind you do not knock your head," said the officer, warning us that a beam, as thick as a mast, stuck out in the narrow staircase leading up to the felons' wardrobe. No sooner had we entered the loft, than the disagreeable, gluey odour which attaches itself to moleskin and corduroy, informed us of the materials of which most of the suits were composed.
     The first sight of the dirty bundles, piled on the shelves, reminded us of Rag Fair, where the itinerant flower and crockery vendors expose for sale the results of their day's barterings. Each bundle, tied up as tightly as a boiling pudding, had a wooden label, so as to indicate to whom the ragged contents belonged. Here were a pair of trousers, with the linings dirtier than the once black cloth from which they were made. There a stuff waistcoat, made of stuff that was slowly unravelling itself with wear, and becoming as thready and fibrous as the very oakum its owner would have that day to pick.
     "That's a countryman's bundle, I should say," said the officer, pointing to a pair of heavily nailed and ironed boots, the iron of which had become red with rust, from being so long unworn.
     Some of the hats were "shockingly bad" ones, being as limp as night-caps, and as rusty as if made from cocoa-nut fibre. Others were carefully tied up in handkerchiefs, and some of these had clean showy linings, and a greasy gloss. Our guide told us that occasionally they had some very dandy suits to pack up, taken from the swell-mobsmen, whose fashionable attire often included jewellery.
     Smock-frocks and straw hats denoted culprits from the agricultural districts, corduroy waistcoats, with brass buttons, were evidently some costermonger's property. Soldiers' uniforms, with the coarse canvas linings and big brass hooks and eyes showing, were rather plentiful. "Have you remarked," asked our companion, " that nearly all the pocket-handkerchiefs have a red pattern?" And so it was, with so few exceptions, that red may assuredly be written down as the felon's favourite colour.
     Before this clothing is stored away, each suit is well fumigated with sulphur, to destroy any vermin that it may contain. At a later period of the day we had an opportunity of witnessing this process. In a large oven, with a fire burning beneath it, the suits, wrapped tightly in a roll, are placed on bars, one above another. The oven will contain 150 suits. A pan, filled with brimstone, is lighted and placed in this chamber, and the doors being closed, the temperature is carefully watched, that the heat should not exceed 212', for fear that the bakings should be literally done to rags, or burnt to a cinder. The garments retain, on coming out, rather a powerful smell of lucifer matches, but, when compared with their previous odour, the change is not disagreeable.
   [-293-]
 


     ***  Liberation of Prisoners.—The House of Correction being what may be called a short term prison, men are discharged from confinement nearly every day; indeed, the usual number of discharges for the week amounts to about 150 prisoners.
     We were informed that a gang of twenty prisoners would that morning quit the jail, and asked if we should like to witness their departure. Following the deputy-governor, we hastened to the spot where the men were ranged.
     The deputy-governor, looking at a paper which he held in his hand, said to the gang, "Now, my men, stand forward, one at a time, and call out your names." "W— B—," instantly cried out one of them, quitting the rank. "Go on," was the command then given. "J— T—," shouted another. "Move on," was the rejoinder ; and in this way the whole twenty passed their final examination.
     The utter absence of anything like joy or excitement on the part of the men, at the prospect of their approaching -liberation, was most remarkable. They stood staring stupidly about them, and answered calmly, precisely in the same manner as, a day or two since, they had replied to any question put to them by the warders.
     Whilst the liberation list was being checked in the office, the men exchanged the prison uniform for their own clothes. By the time the papers were prepared, the wretched creatures were also ready. Then the governor himself went up to them, and after kindly congratulating them upon regaining their freedom, added, "Now that you are going to have your liberty, I hope I shall not see you again. Seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and, depend upon it, you will prosper."
   [-294-]  The men once habited in their own clothes, ragged as they were, had a more human look about them, than when, a quarter of an hour since, they wore the prison gray.
     Now began the begging scene, which, we were told, always precedes the departure of prisoners from the jail.
     One—a tall fellow, with his bare feet showing through the holes in his burst and mouldy high-lows—begged for an old pair of prison shoes. "Got a long way to go," pleaded the man. " Where are you going ?" asked the governor. " To Edmonton, sir ; I'm a bricklayer, and got a wife and family," was the answer. " A bad way to help them, coming here," remonstrated the governor, as he gave the necessary order to the storekeeper.
     Another man, whose clothes, full of slits and holes, held together in so marvellous a manner that they seemed like a dirty ragged mass of cobwebs, such as are seen in wine-merchants' windows clinging to bottles of " fine old crusted port," had also got a long way to go, and begged for a pair of socks and a trifle of money. He, too, obtained what he wanted.
     Another and another came up in his turn, and asked to be assisted. "It was curious," as the governor shrewdly remarked, "the long journeys they all had to perform."
     We were standing at the big gate, to enjoy the sight of the men regaining their liberty, when somebody knocked, and, on the warder opening the door, a respectably-dressed person inquired if a man of the name of P—  would not be discharged that day?
     "Are you from the parish ?" asked the warder ; and, from the subsequent conversation, we learnt that during the husband's imprisonment (he had had seven days for drunkenness), his wife and child had been thrown on the parish, and the authorities were now anxious to comply with the forms of law, and hand her back to the husband. Accordingly, when P— left the jail, the parish officer stepped up to him, and gave him a young girl with an infant in her arms. P— quietly said, "All right!" and walked off, leaving the woman to follow.
     Another such case followed, but with this one there were three little children, whom the parish, having brought down in a cab, handed back to the father the moment he crossed the prison threshold.
     We had expected to see, among the crowd gathered about the outer railings, a vast number of the friends of the liberated, and to witness their joy at seeing the long-absent one restored to them. But we were doomed to be disappointed. The "pals" of one or two had certainly come to meet them ; but the welcome was given in a calm, unconcerned, nay, almost business-like, manner. Others walked off from the crowd, with women following them, never even looking back at the females at their heels. One youth, a tall strip of a lad, in a Holland coat that fluttered about his pole of a body, had scarcely shown his face at the gate, before a voice in the crowd shouted out—"Now, Jim, can't you come on!" and we saw a thick-chinned man, with a tall, narrow-brimmed hat, motioning angrily to the late prisoner to make haste.

     ** Arrival of Prisoners.—When the prison-van is seen driving in the direction of the House of Correction, a crowd begins to form outside, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the prisoners alighting. Butchers with joints "wanted in a hurry," fishmongers' lads with fish "to be sent round directly," nursery-maids with perambulators, coster-women with their shallow baskets—all push for a good place at the railings to have a peep at the sight. On the day that we were at the prison, the spectators on the pavement were doomed to be disappointed, for the big outer gates were opened, and the huge hearse-like omnibus was driven into the yard, the horses sputtering about as they tugged at the heavy vehicle.
     " As full as we can cram!" said the conductor, getting down from his small hall-chair-like seat, outside the extreme end of the vehicle. When he unlocked the door, sure enough, [-295-] even the passage between the two rows of closet-fashioned cells, ranged along the inside of the carriage, was filled with men standing there; they were all felons from Newgate, where the sessions had just terminated.
     One by one the men stept out, with a half bound, as if glad to have ended their cramped ride. They stared about them for a second, to see what kind of place they had arrived at, and then, obeying the warder's commanding voice, they passed the double iron gate, where the visits take place, and entered the inner court. There they stood with their backs turned to the main prison, waiting for their names to be called over, and their sentences and offences entered in the prison books.
     There were nineteen of them altogether, all of them with unshorn beards, dirty linen, tumbled clothes, and presenting the appearance of having been up all night. One was in a soldier's uniform; another was a respectable-looking man, of stout build and tall stature, and with silver spectacles, who, despite the dullness of his boots and the dusty condition of his clothes, might be styled the gentleman of the gang. Another, a youth, with eyes and skin as dark as a Spaniard's, whose delicate moustache, loose paletot, and sporting trousers, were after the casino style of fashion, ranked next in gentility of appearance. A lad with a peculiarly-shaped conical head, and who kept nervously buttoning and unbuttoning his surtout, was the next who had anything singular in his look, for all the others had more or less of the thieves' character about them, and wore bright-coloured handkerchiefs loosely tied round their neck, or had rows of brass buttons down their corduroy jackets, and boots made to lace up in front. One was lame and used a crutch, another carried a paper parcel, another a bundle tied up in a handkerchief, whilst the bulgy condition of some of the coat pockets showed that the scanty wardrobe had been stuffed into them.
     Whilst the new-comers were thus standing, a file of prisoners, in their prison suits, passed through the yard. Each of the men, in dingy gray, looked hard at those in their "liberty" suits, and the newly-arrived, in their turn, stared curiously at their future companions on the tread-wheel.
     Presently the voice of the chief warder was heard ordering the first man to enter the office, where the clerk was to make the necessary entries. The tall, stout man, with the silver spectacles, walked up to the desk, and the examinations commenced in a business-like manner, the questions and answers being equally short.
     "Name?" asked the chief warder. "J— C—," answered the prisoner. "Age?" continued the officer. "Thirty-nine," Thirty-nine," replied the man. And then the following questions and responses followed in quick succession :— "Read and write?" "Yes." "Ever here before?" "Oh, no ! " "Trade?" "Clerk." "What were you tried for?" "Embezzlement." "That will do, you can go back," said the officer; and then turning to the entering clerk, he added, "with hard labour." As the prisoner heard this addition, he stopped at the door and remarked, "I thought it was without labour; " but the officer dispelled his hopes by repeating, "with hard labour."
     All the prisoners had to answer to similar questions, all equally short, but often the replies were long, and a kind of cross-examination was required before a decisive answer could be elicited.
     A nattily dressed lad, who had a groom's look about him, said that he had been committed "on suspicion." "That won't do," exclaimed the officer, "try and remember." "That's what it was, sir," the man maintained. "Didn't you steal some tools?" "Yes, sir, but —" "There, no 'buts' about it," answerer the chief warder, who directed the clerk to write down "stealing tools."
     We felt sorry for one of the lads, a modest, well-spoken boy, who kept his eyes on the ground, and replied in a low voice, as if ashamed. He gave the name of "Smith," and, as the officer remarked when the youth had left the office, "it was evidently not his proper name;" and then he added, knowingly, "All 'Smiths' are doubtful."
   [-296-] One youth, with closely cut hair, and protruding ears, when asked whether he had ever been in prison before, without the least hesitation replied, " Never, s'elp me!" " I know better, replied the warder, looking earnestly at him. "I'm sure I haven't," continued the lad, with an innocent expression of face. "We'll see whether some of the officers will recognize you," said the examiner. " But it wasn't for felony, sir," muttered the lad, who plainly saw that further concealment was of no avail.
     The lame man with the crutch was there for highway robbery. A cripple footpad seemed strange enough. "What did you steal?" asked the warder. "Three pound, I think, she said I took off her," was the reply that explained the mystery of his success. This fellow was nervous when he gave his replies, so that when asked, "What religion?" he answered, "Carpenter."
     The soldier, and two others, were sent to prison for stealing a watch in a skittle-alley. He forgot his age, and made himself a year older than when at Newgate. A man in a brown Holland smock had stolen a sheep, and the one with the conical head had purloined photographic lenses. This boy answered so sharply to the questions, that when he had gone all the clerks exclaimed that they had never seen anybody "so cool." The youth with the dark Spanish complexion had been indicted, together with his brothers, for perjury.
     When the examinations were finished, the governor came to look over the list, and then addressing the wretched band, he said, "Now, my men, we shall be some time together, and I hope you will attend to the rules of the prison. You'll find it more comfortable to yourselves to obey the officers!" And, the harangue concluded, a warder led the poor wretches off to the dressing-room, where, after bathing, they would have to exchange the clothes they wore for the prison costume.     

      *** Visits of Prisoners' Friends.—Presently we had an opportunity of being present during the visits paid to the prisoners by their friends. "Two relations or respectable friends," say the prison rules, " may visit a prisoner, in the presence of an officer, at the end of every three months, between the hours of ten and twelve."
     All prisoners, on entering Coldbath Fields, cease to be called by their names, but are christened with a number instead. When a relation or friend calls at the jail on the day appointed for visiting, the criminal is asked for by the number he bears. The officer, to find out which is the man's yard, goes to a huge tablet, almost as large as the top of a kitchen table, and this is a kind of ledger or stock-book of the men in custody. It is ingeniously contrived in this manner :— The numbers from 1 to 1,500 are engraved on the zinc plate forming the tablet, and against each number is a small moveable slip of brass, as big as a key-label, on which is marked the yard and prison in which the man who has received that number is located. For instance, against No. 1,230, was a moveable label with 2 V 60 stamped on it ; this meant that the culprit stood 60th in the 2nd yard of the vagrant prison ; whilst No. 1,231 had marked on the brass label 5 F 24, implying that this man was the 24th prisoner in the 5th yard of the felon prison.
     There are two arrangements in Coldbath Fields by which the prisoners are permitted to see their friends. The one is at the double gate before the building, situate between the entrance doors and the main prison, and the other is at a place built for the purpose in the first yard of the vagrant jail. At the latter a series of niches have been built in the aide wall, each one just large enough for a man to enter. Through gratings the prisoners can converse with their visitors, who stand in almost similar niches, separated by a long passage, where a warder patrols. The gratings before the visitors are almost as close as net-work, in order to prevent anything being passed to the inmates of the jail. Only fifteen minutes are permitted for each interview, and, for the correct measurement of the length of the visit, hour-glasses are fastened up over the niches appropriated to the prisoners' friends, as shown in the annexed engraving. The moment the friends and the prisoner enter, this time-keeper   [-297-]

is turned, and as soon as the sand has run down, all conversation must cease and the strangers depart. An officer keeps watch the while by patrolling, as we said, up and down the passage.
    A man in the felon's gray was, at the time of our inspecting this part of the prison, chatting with his wife and daughter, both of whom were respectably dressed, with gold brooches to fasten their shawls, and other evidences of being well-to-do in the world. This man, together with his son, was in prison for abduction; a young lady of property having been carried off by the father, and forcibly married to the youth.
    "Be sure and let Alfred and Arthur go to school and learn spelling - that's most essential," said the husband to his wife, who by this time, seemed quite resigned to the family "misfortune."
    "Frank's at work in a good situation," answered the woman. And so they continued chatting over the family matters for the permitted quarter of an hour, all of them evidently much calmed and comforted by the meeting.
    The other prisoner was one belonging to the poorer class. His wife wore an old straw bonnet that had turned brown as pie-crust with wear, and she frequently raised to her eyes a pocket handkerchief rolled up as small as an orange, with which she dabbed her tears.
    "Good-bye, love!" said the man, when his time was up; "good-bye, dear, and get some stuff for your rheumatiz."
    The handkerchief went up to the poor creature's red eyes as she muttered her good-bye.
   [-298-] She stopped to see him look round once more as he entered the small wicket-gate of the prison, and then turned round and crept off homewards.
     In the afternoon we witnessed a scene of a more painful and less frequent occurrence than that of visiting. A poor lady came to inquire after her boy, and to entreat the governor not to permit him to leave the prison until she herself came to fetch him, lest his evil companions should once more entice him into wickedness.
     Her dress and manner were those of a wealthy and educated person. Her features were distorted with grief, which every now and then, as she looked up at the small grated windows in the prison walls, seized her suddenly, like a fit. When she began to speak, her throat swelled and choked the words, whilst her arms trembled till her loosely-hanging bracelets clinked with the motion.
     From the careless manner in which her shawl and bonnet were put on, she had evidently come out in a hurry. We could not help imagining to ourselves that perhaps the father had sworn that the boy, who had disgraced his family, should never enter his house again, and forbidden the mother from visiting him, so that the poor, kind soul had to creep out on the sly whenever she wished to make inquiries after her erring child.
     "I am his mother," sobbed the lady, when the governor had come to her; "I am his mother, I am sorry to say."
     "He will be liberated next Tuesday morning at half-past nine," said Captain Colville; but I will manage to detain him here until the others have left."
     "Has anybody been to see him, sir ? " asked the mother, with evident anxiety.
     The answer of "Two of his companions have been here," seemed to cut her to the heart.
     "I'll be here by ten, sir," she added after a time, "and pray don't let him go before that time. I know he will let me take him, if there is no one to tempt him away."
     The governor, who was evidently much interested in the case, accompanied the poor lady to the gate, and by his gentleness of manner, more than by his words, showed his sympathy for her sufferings. When he closed the prison-door, he drew in his breath as if he felt that relief of having accomplished the most distressing of all his duties.
     This lad, we learnt, was of highly respectable parents, and had fallen into evil ways through the temptations held out to him by the companions he had met with.

     ***  Prisoners' Letters.—All letters sent by the prisoners to their friends are opened by the governor before they leave the jail, to we that they contain nothing but matters relating to the family or personal business of the writer.*

[* Every letter sent by a prisoner to his friends has the following printed heading:-

From No. * ..............
Admitted on the  ............................
and who will be discharged (probably at
9 A.M.) on
the .........................................................................

House of Correction,
Cold Bath Fields

    * This No. to be written on letters directed to the prisoner, and to be stated when making inquiries about him.
Prisoners are not permitted to send or to receive more than one letter in every three months, but events of importance to prisoners may be communicate by letter (prepaid) to the GOVERNOR. Letters to or from prisoners are read before delivery; they should not exceed a sheet of letter paper, legibly written, and not crossed. They must contain nothing improper, and no detailed news of the day. Two relations or respectable friends may visit a prisoner, in the presence of an officer, at the end of every three months, between the hours of ten and twelve (Sundays excepted). The visit lasts a quarter of an hour.
    These privileges may be forfeited by misconduct.
    No clothes, books, or other articles, are admitted for the use of prisoners - except postage stamps or money.

 Some of the men, knowing that their epistles are sure to be perused by the governor, endeavour, as is usual at other prisons, to win his good opinion, by giving to their compositions a religious and repentant air, in the hope of easing their labours and bettering their position. For instance, one man whom [-299-]  we saw in the prison had been a cab driver ; we had an opportunity of listening to a conversation between him and the chief authority. He had a fawning manner of obsequious respect that at first made us fancy he was some felonious footman. When we learnt his former occupation, his mode of speaking seemed such as " cabbies" are wont to use to a generous fare ; but there was nothing, either in his bearing or talk, calculated to impress us with the notion that he repented his transgression and was seeking the right path. From a letter written by this man we extract the following passages :—
     " Send me word what Richard is doing, and whethear Farthear sends him to school, for i hope they do not let him Run the streets, for there is no good to be found there. * * * * This is a finishing school for me for i hope this will be a good warning to me for the future please God spare me to come home again i shall be a altard man please God i can get some employment and have my Sunday to myself, please God i hope i shall never neglect my going to church for i am sorry to say that as been a great folly on my part."
     *     *     *     *     *     *
     Another epistle contained the following piece of poetry :—
         " Aunt cousins and friends for a short time adieu Once more I bid adieu to all of you
            I will own liberty is a jewl
           While I myself have been a fool
           My tale myself I will unfold 
           I think you will say in sin I am old

     *     *     *     *     *     *

           O that I ad the wings of a dove
           I would begone with liberty and the birds above."

A third letter, evidently from an old offender, contained a confession of repentance which seemed to be in a measure true, the reasons assigned for it being sufficient and convincing, though hardly to be received as signs of an inward change of character :—
     " I assure you for the four months which I am sentenced to at this prison is a deal more severe than it was at holloway for I had to work no treadwell there, which I find is the hardest thing that I have to do, it has I can assure you learnt me a lesson I never shall forget, and will never again do anything that is likely to get me here again."

§ i.—c.

Of "Hard" and "Prison Labour."

     At the correctional prisons, labour, especially of the kind called "hard," forms part of the punishment to which the prisoners are condemned. Out of the 7,743 persons passing through Coldbath Fields in the course of last year, 4,511, or rather more than 58 per cent., were, according to the official returns, employed at "hard labour ;" and the remaining 3,232, or not quite 42 per cent., at work not being hard labour. We have already given our opinion as to the folly of endeavouring to reform a habit of idleness by making industry a penal infliction, and it now only remains for us to show the nature of the different kinds of labour to which prisoners are subject, when condemned to the hard form of it.
     Men sentenced to hard labour at Coldbath Fields are employed at :—
     Tread-wheel work.
     Crank Work.
     Shot Drill.
     Picking Oakum (3½lbs daily).
     Mat Making.
     Washing.   
     Cleaning.
     Tailoring.
     Shoemaking.
     [-300-] There are likewise other handicrafts, to which the men are put after they have been in the prison for some time, provided their behaviour has been good.*

[* The following is the list of the offences which are usually punished with hard labour:
Abduction.
Assaults, unnatural.
Assaults on women and children, with intent.
Assaults on police constables.
Attempt at burglary.
Bestiality.
Concealing birth of child.
Conspiracies to defraud.
Cruelty to animals (either with or without hard labour).
Cutting and maiming.
Dog stealing.
Disorderly apprentices (either with or without hard labour).
Excise offences (either with or without hard labour).
Embezzlement.
Felonies.
False characters.
Frauds, tried at Sessions.
Frauds, summarily disposed of (either with or without hard labour)
Furious driving, insolence to fares, &c. (either with or without hard labour)
Illegally pawning (either with or without hard labour).
Keeping brothels.
Keeping gaming-house (either with or without hard labour).
Misdemeanours, contempt of court (either with or without hard labour).
Misbehaviour in workhouse.
Riots and assaults (either with or without hard labour).
Receiving embezzled property.
Selling or exposing obscene prints.
Simple larceny.
Stealing fruit, &c.
Threats to deter workmen
Trespassing, fishing, poaching, &c.
Possession of base coin.
Unlawful possession of property (with or without hard labour).
Unlawful collection of dust.
Wilful and corrupt perjury.
Wilful damage (with or without hard labour).
Begging or sleeping in open air.
Disorderly prostitutes.
Fortune-telling.
Gaming.
Indecent exposure of person.
Incorrigible rogues.
Leaving families chargeable.
Obtaining by false pretence.
Reputed thieves and suspected rogues.]

    The first three of the above forms of hard labour come under the denomination of useless or profitless work—being work for mere work's sake, applied to no earthly purpose or object whatever—the very worst form of idleness, viz., idleness with all the physical fame of industry, without any of industry's rewards; and it is with these forms of work more especially that we intend dealing here. We wish it, however, to be distinctly understood, that in the remarks it will be our duty to make upon this form of correctional " discipline, it is far from being our intention to impute the least blame to the authorities of Coldbath Fields prison. It is the system of useless labour generally that appears to us objectionable, and not the mode in which that system is carried out by the officials at any one prison; for the subjoined strictures are as applicable to all correctional prisons (with the exception of the Westminster House of Correction) as they are to Coldbath Fields, where we are happy to acknowledge that the labour-punishment is enforced by the governor with every regard to his duty at once to the public and the prisoners.
    We are well aware of the difficulty with which the subject of prison labour in general, and that of houses of correction in particular, is beset; and we do not hesitate to allow that it would be wrong and unbecoming in the prison authorities to permit prisoners to pass their time louting about in idleness, as was the case previous to the invention of the tread-wheel. We are well aware, too, that in a "short-term prison," where some of the men are confined for only a few days, it is almost futile to attempt to make labour profitable, owing to the impossibility of teaching the majority of the prisoners any handicraft in so short a space of time.
    We are well aware, moreover, how difficult it is to give any pecuniary value to mere physical exertion, especially in towns where field or garden work, on account of the great value and scarcity of land, cannot be adopted on any large scale; nevertheless, if it comes to a choice of two evils, we boldly confess we prefer idleness itself to making industry idle (because useless), and, therefore, hateful in every prisoner's eyes. Besides, what necessity is there for correctional prisons being situate in towns, where they are as much out of place as churchyards, and where prisoners must be put to "grind the wind" simply because they cannot be put to till the land.
    The late governor of Millbank prison (and he is a gentleman whose prison experience extends over nearly a quarter of a century), speaking of prison labour, told us that "it is a great thing to make a prisoner feel that he is employed on some useful work. Nothing 

[-301-] disgusts a man and makes him so querulous, as to let him know that he is labouring and yet doing nothing—as when at the tread-wheel. I am of opinion," he said, " that to employ men on work which they know and see is useful, has the best possible effect upon their characters, and much increases their chances of reformation. Every other kind of labour irritates and hardens them. After twenty thousand prisoners have passed through one's hands, one must have had some little experience on such matters. There was a tread-wheel on the premises here for the use of 'penal' or 'second-probation men,' and those only ; but its use has been discontinued for some months;" and principally, we should add, owing to this gentleman's remonstrances.
    Every man's own experience, indeed, can tell him how irksome it is to see the work he has done prove of no avail.
All human beings, we are bold to confess, even the most honest and industrious, have a natural aversion to labour ; indeed, Scripture tells us that the necessity for it as a means of mere existence was made a curse—"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." If labour were naturally pleasant, men would pay wages to be allowed to work, instead of giving money to others to work for them. There are many instances, however, where physical exertion is agreeable, and then we do not hesitate to part with a considerable sum of money to be permitted to indulge in it, as in dancing, rowing, cricketing, and other muscular exercises, which, because they are pleasing to mankind in general, have been called "amusements" and "sports."
    It is, therefore, in almost every case, the object or utility of the labour which makes it agreeable to us. Some doubt whether the mere labourer takes any delight in his work, though we fancy that even the bricklayer's hodman would be annoyed at having the bricks thrown down from the scaffold as fast as he carried them up. But men generally work, not for any delight they feel in the work, but simply to obtain food, to educate their children, to provide shelter for their family, and to supply the various necessities and luxuries of life. In but a very few instances is work done for mere work's sake, as in gardening, amateur carpentering, turning, literature, painting, &c., &c. ; but even in these cases, men undertake the task, not so much for the sake of the labour as from a delight in its products as works of art or utility, and from the pleasure and pride they feel in being able to create such things. None but children ever build up walls for the mere pleasure of knocking them down again, and there is hardly any form of punishment so irritating as being condemned to work hard at doing something which leads to nothing. Hence, we cannot, but regard tread-wheels, which are intended to grind nothing, and to do nothing; and cranks, which are made to scoop up sand and pitch it down again; and shot-drill, which consists in transferring cannon-balls from one place to another, for no earthly use whatever—but as inventions based upon the same barbarous principle as that which instituted the tortures of the Inquisition, rather than as enlightened and "chastening" punishments.
    Now the evil of this useless hard labour springs from two sources. In the first place, as we have said, the labour is obliged to be made useless, not only because houses of correction are short-term prisons, but because they are built in cities ; for if they were erected in the suburbs, a large portion of land might be attached to them, and the prisoners profitably employed upon market-gardening or field labour—occupations alike healthful and inspiriting, and requiring, moreover, no previous apprenticeship. In the second place, the labour, not only in correctional prisons, but even in all others, can hardly be otherwise than profitless to the workman, because the laws which regulate the world outside the prison walls are essentially altered, if not wholly reversed, inside of them. In society, every man, unless possessing sufficient means to live in ease, is obliged to labour for his subsistence, and the great cares of life among the poor consist chiefly in providing for the morrow's dinner, or the Saturday's rent, or purchasing clothes. But no sooner has a man set foot within a prison than all such anxieties cease. There the rule of human existence is no longer that if any will [-302-] not work neither shall he eat, as Paul says ; for in a jail he soon becomes aware that his daily sustenance is in no way dependent upon his daily labour. Immediately he gets within the gates, he has a good warm suit of clothing given to him; at the appointed hour his dinner is duly served; at nightfall a comfortable bed is provided for him; and all, as he well knows, without being contingent upon the least exertion on his part; for it needs no one to tell him that the tread-wheel work, and crank-work, and shot-drill have nothing at all to do with the procuring of his food, and that really none of these are sufficiently valuable even to furnish the salt he consumes. If the Almighty ordained that labour should be a curse, at least He attached the eating of our bread as a blessing to it. But in prison the sweat of the brow brings no food as its reward; and, therefore, the labour naturally becomes most intolerably irksome to the prisoner, so that his whole nature rebels at it; and when the period arrives for his liberation, he has not only learnt to expect his food to be supplied to him without labouring for it, but he has also learnt to look upon industry as a punishment that he is bound to avoid as much as possible, so that he may taste the sweets of liberty. Instead, therefore, of having increased his self-reliance, of having taught him the very lesson which of all others he required most to learn, viz., to have faith in his own exertions—instead of having inculcated in him a deep and abiding sense that he possesses in himself the means of contributing to his own comfort and enjoyment more than anybody else, we have only demonstrated to him, during his incarceration, that it is possible by crime rather than industry to procure a month or two of good wholesome food for his stomach, warm clothing for his body, as well as shelter for his head.
    "Crime," said the constabulary commissioners, "proceeds from a desire to acquire the good things of this world with a less degree of industry than ordinary labour." In prison, therefore, the culprit has his criminal propensities doubly strengthened. He learns there not only that he can acquire sufficient to satisfy his wants without any industry at all, but also that the labour which he wishes to avoid is even more irksome and useless than he had fancied it to be.
    "But, sir," said the governor of Coldbath Fields to us, you must deter these idle fellows somehow."
    Our forefathers thought so too, and accordingly enacted, in the year 1536 (27 Henry VIII., c. 25), that a "sturdy beggar" was to be whipped the first time he was detected begging, to have his right ear cropped for the second offence, and, if again caught begging, to be indicted for "wandering, loitering, and idleness," when, if convicted, he was "to suffer execution of death as a felon and an enemy to the commonwealth." And yet, in spite of such "deterrents," mendicity and vagabondage not only continued, but increased.
    "Deter!" exclaimed the chief warder of the prison some time afterwards, as we conversed with him upon the efficacy of punishments in general; "if if you were to go out into the streets with a gallows following you, sir, and hung up every thief and rogue you met by the way, you wouldn't deter one out of his evil courses."
    But surely the number of re-commitments every year (and at Coldbath Fields they amount to 32½ per cent. of the entire number of prisoners) is sufficient to show that the present mode of reforming idleness, by rendering labour more than ordinarily repulsive and utterly useless, has been found positively unavailing, and that after more than two and a half centuries' trial of the plan.
    There is but one way that we see of doing away with the folly and wickedness of useless labour; and that is, by returning to those natural laws which the Almighty has laid down for the regulation of human life, and making a man's food and enjoyments, whilst in prison, depend upon the amount of work he does, as is the case with the rest of the world out of prison.
    No man can accuse us of a want of consideration for the feelings and rights of prisoners in general, and it is because we are anxious to win criminals to a sense of the utility and dignity of labour, that we would have every man placed, on his entering a jail, [-303-] upon the punishment diet, i.e., his eleemosynary allowance of food should be only a pound of bread and water per diem. We would begin at this point, and make all creature comforts beyond it purchasable, as it were, by the amount of labour done, instead of first leading the prisoner, as now, to believe that he is entitled to receive such creature comforts without work, and being afterwards obliged to resort to the punishment diet as a means of enforcing a certain amount of work from him.
    Thus, the enjoyments obtained by the labour would make such labour desirable rather than hateful to the prisoner, and so teach him the value of it.
    This appears to us to be the natural and self-supporting plan of prison discipline ; and until prison authorities have the courage, and, we will add, the humanity, to adopt it, in the teeth of mistaken sentimentality, so long must the barbarism of grinding the wind, and crank-work, and shot-drill continue, and continue, too, without avail.

     **The Tread-wheel.---We have before (p. 288) given an account of the origin of the tread-wheel, stating that it was used merely to employ the prisoners, and keep them from loafing about the jail. This invention was introduced at most of the prisons more than forty years ago, but the machine, with but few exceptions, has never been applied, even to this day, to any useful purpose. The prisoners style the occupation "grinding the wind," and that is really the only denomination applicable to it—the sole object of the labour of some 150 men, employed for eight hours a day, being simply to put in motion a big fan, or regulator, as it is called, which, impinging on the air as it revolves, serves to add to the severity of the work by increasing the resistance.
    There are six tread-wheels at Coldbath Fields, four in the felons' and two in the vagrants' prison. Each of these is so constructed, that, if necessary, twenty-four men can be employed on it; but the present system is for only twelve men to work at one time. At the end of a quarter of an hour these twelve men are relieved by twelve others, each dozen hands being allowed fifteen minutes' rest between their labours. During this interval the prisoners off work may read their books, or do anything they like, except speak with one another.
    Each wheel contains twenty-four steps, which are eight inches apart, so that the circumference of the cylinder is sixteen feet. These wheels revolve twice in a minute, and the mechanism is arranged to ring a bell at the end of every thirtieth revolution, and so to announce that the appointed spell of work is finished. Every man put to labour at the wheel has to work for fifteen quarters of an hour every day.*

[*The following official statement as to the size of the tread-wheel, and the number of revolutions made by it, as well as the gross height of the ascent performed by each prisoner working at it, has been furnished to us by the authorities:—

There are 24 steps in the wheel.  
The steps are 8 inches distant from each other.  
This gives 192 inches} as the circumference of the wheel,
or 16 feet}
The wheel performs 30 revolutions in each ¼ of an hour.  
And therefore each man on it ascends  480 feet in ¼ of an hour  
Each man works altogether 15 quarters of an hour a day.  
And so ascends in all 7200 feet or 2400 yards = very nearly 1 mile 3 furlongs per diem.

    Those who have never visited a correctional prison can have but a vague notion of a tread-wheel. The one we first inspected at Coldbath Fields was erected on the roof of the large, cuddy-like room where the men take their meals. The entire length of the apparatus was divided into twenty-four compartments, each something less than two feet wide, and separated from one another by high wooden partitions, which gave them somewhat [-304-] of the appearance of the stalls at a public urinal. The boards at the back of these compartments reach to within four feet of the bottom, and through the unboarded space protrudes the barrel of the wheel, striped with the steps, which are like narrow "floats" to a long paddle-wheel.
    When the prisoner has mounted to his place on the topmost step of the wheel, he has the same appearance as if he were standing on the upper side of a huge garden-roller, and somewhat resembles the acrobat we have seen at a circus, perched on the cask that he causes to revolve under his feet.
    All the men work with their backs toward the warder, supporting themselves by a hand-rail fixed to the boards at the back of each compartment, and they move their legs as if they were mounting a flight of stairs; but with this difference, that instead of their ascending, the steps pass from under them, and, as one of the officers remarked, it is this peculiarity which causes the labour to be so tiring, owing to the want of a firm tread. The sight of the prisoners on the wheel suggested to us the idea of a number of squirrels working outside rather than inside the barrels of their cages.
    Only every other man, out of the twenty-four composing the gang on the wheel, work at the same time, each alternate prisoner resting himself while the others labour. When we were at the prison, some of those off work, for the time being, were seated at the bottom of their compartments reading, with the book upon their knees ; others, from their high place, were looking listlessly down upon some of their fellow-prisoners, and who were at exercise in the yard beneath, going through a kind of "follow my leader" there. In the meantime, those labouring in the boxes on the wheel were lifting up their legs slowly as a horse in a ploughed field, while the thick iron shaft of the machinery, showing at the end of the yard, was revolving so leisurely, that we expected every moment to see it come to a stand-still. We soon learnt that "grinding the wind" was such hard labour, that speed could not be given to the motion of the machine.
    Whilst we were looking on, the bell rang, marking the thirtieth revolution, and instantly the wheel was stopped, and the hands were changed. Those whose turn it was to rest came down from the steps with their faces wet with perspiration and flushed with exercise while the others shut up their books, and, pulling off their coats, jumped up to their posts. There they stood until, at the word of command, all the men pressed down together, and the long barrel once more began to turn slowly round.
    Those who left the wheel sat down, and, taking out their handkerchiefs, commenced wiping the perspiration from their necks and foreheads. One man unbuttoned his shirt-collar, but in a moment the eye of the warder was upon him.
    "Fasten up your collar, you there," he shouted, "and throw your coat over your shoulders." Then turning to us, he added, "They are liable to catch cold, sir, if they sit with their bosoms exposed."
    We inquired if the work was very laborious, and received the following explanation. "You see the men can get no firm tread like, from the steps always sinking away from under their feet, and that makes it very tiring. Again, the compartments are small, and the air becomes very hot, so that the heat at the end of the quarter of an hour renders it difficult to breathe."
    We were also assured that the only force required to move the tread-wheel itself is that necessary to start the machine, and that when once the regulator, or fan, begins to revolve, scarcely any exertion is necessary to keep it in motion. Nevertheless, the power that has to be continually exercised, in order that the prisoners may avoid sinking with the wheel, is equal to that of ascending or lifting a man's own weight, or 140 lbs. ; and certainly the appearance of the men proved that a quarter of an hour at such work is sufficient to exhaust the strongest for the time being.
    Another proof of the severity of the tread-wheel labour is shown by the numerous [-305-] subterfuges resorted to by the men as a means of getting quit of the work; either they feign illness or else maim the body, in order to escape the task. In the course of last year, according to the surgeon's printed report, there were no less than 3,972 such cases of "feigned complaints."
    "We were compelled," writes Mr. Chesterton, the late governor, " to limit the quantity of water, otherwise many would drink it to excess, purposely to disorder the system. In like manner did we narrowly watch the salt, else inordinate saline potations would be swallowed, expressly to derange the stomach. Soap would be 'pinched' (i.e., a piece would be pinched out), and rolled into pills, in order to found the plaint of diarrhoea. Lime white would be applied to the tongue, and any available rubbish bolted to force on a momentary sickness. Daring youths, who winced not at pain, were constantly in the habit of making 'foxes' (artificial sores), and then, by an adroit fall, or an intentional contact with the revolving tread-wheel, would writhe and gesticulate to give colour to their deception. The term 'fox' signifies wilful abrasion of the skin, or laceration of the flesh, and the wounds sometimes inflicted led us to marvel how any rational being could voluntarily court so much torture, rather than heartily perform a practical task and continue sound and active."
    Surely, when we read of such self-tormenting deceptions as the above, we need no better proof of the inefficacy of these degrading penal instruments, which have been disguised under the name of industrial machines. How is it possible that a youth should, on being liberated, seek to earn his living by toil, when his prison experience has filled him with such a dread of it, that he will prefer no slight amount of self-imposed pain to the performamce of his daily task at "grinding the wind." Is it not evident that to such persons a forced sickness or a voluntary wound must have caused them less suffering than that of the "wheel," else why have preferred bodily laceration to muscular exercise? Surely, all but the fatuous-minded must agree with the remark in the Government Report of the Home Inspectors of Prisons, for 1838, which, speaking of the correctional treatment of the criminal, says— "The prison either leaves him to all the baneful effects of utter idleness, or else its discipline consists in teaching him to tread the wheel, an employment which is enough to make him avoid all labour to the end of his days."
    That the labour of the tread-wheel is excessive, is proved by the fact that the gross amount of exertion required for the day's work of four hours and three-quarters, at Coldbath Fields prison, consists in a man having to raise himself (i.e. a weight of 140 lbs.) to a height of 7,200 feet, or through a perpendicular space of one mile and three furlongs in length; and it will be seen below that a bricklayer's hodman, even at his hardest work, when carrying bricks to the top of an ordinary scaffold, does not ascend altogether to a height beyond that of the workers at the tread-wheel.*

* The subjoined statement will enable the reader to compare the labour of the tread-wheel with that of some of the severer forms of work performed by ordinary labourers.
    A ten-roomed house is, measuring from the pavement to the coping-stone, about 36 feet high, and the bricklayer's labourer will, when busy, ascend to this elevation on the average twenty times an hour, or 200 times in a day's work of ten hours. The weight of an ordinary hod is 14 lbs., and the bricks with which it is filled, about 72 lbs.; thus a bricklayer's labourer will, in the course of the day's work, ascend to a height of 7,200 feet, or very nearly 1 mile 3 furlongs, carrying with him a weight, in addition to that of his own body (which may be taken on an average at 140 lbs.), equal to 86 lbs., or about that of a nine-gallon cask of beer, and will descend the same distance, carrying with him 14 lbs. weight.
    The men suffer from a pain in the chest from the stooping position they are obliged to adopt in order to keep the load on the shoulder whilst mounting. A master informed us that a hodman is not fit for the ladder after he is forty years of age.
    The coalwhippers generally work in gangs of nine. During their labour of whipping the coals from the hold of the colliers in the river, they raise during the day 1½ cwt. (or 18 2/3 lbs. for each man) very nearly eight miles high, or four times as high as a balloon ordinarily mounts in the air; and, in addition to this [-306-] the coalwhippers themselves, in running up the steps of an apparatus which they call a "way," ascend rather more than 11/3 mile perpendicularly in the course of the day's work. On some days, when there is a of business, they perform double this labour.
    Dr. Carpenter (following the details given by the author of this work while writing for the Morning Chronicle) cites the labour performed by the "coalbackers" in raising the coal from the hold of a ship as the most violent that can be performed by man.
    These men are engaged in carrying coals on their back from the ships and craft moored outside the wharves, and placing them in the waggons. The sack and the coals together usually weigh 238 lbs., and the depth of the hold of the vessels whence they are raised, average from 16 to 20 feet. The burthen is carried this height up a ladder from the hold to the deck, and the ship is usually from 60 to 80 feet removed from the waggon. Each man ascends this height and travels this distance about ninety times a day; hence he will lift himself, with 2 cwt. of coals and a sack weighing 14 lbs. on his back, 1,440 feet at the lowest calculation, or upwards of a quarter of a mile high (i. e., three and a half times the height of St. Paul's), in twelve hours; and, besides this, he will travel 6,300 feet, or more than 1¼ mile, carrying the same weight as he goes, and returning and descending through the same space after getting rid of his burthen. The labour is very hard, and there are few men who can continue at it. Many of the heartiest of the men are knocked up by the bursting of blood-vessels and other casualties, and even the strongest cannot keep at the labour for three days together.
    The following is a summary of the above facts, showing the power of an average man, as well as the intensity of the labour performed by each of the working men above-mentioned, in comparison with tread-wheel work. Thus

  lbs. In. Sec.   Ft. Hrs. Min. Sec.
An ordinary man can support on his shoulders 330              
An ordinary man can lift with both hands 236              
An ordinary man can lift 100 12 high in 1 of time          
Therefore-                
A bricklayer's labourer can raise himself, and 86 lbs. besides, or altogether 226 5½ " " 1 " which is at the rate of 7200 in 4 31 42
A coalwhipper can raise himself, or 140 8½ " " 1 " " " 7200 " 2 49 25
A prisoner on the tread-wheel can raise himself, or 140 8½ " " 1 " " " 7200 " 2 49 25
A coalbacker can raise himself  and 238 lbs. besides, or altogether 378 31/5 " " 1 " " " 1440 " 1 30 0



Hence it will be seen, that were the same power exerted by all of the above labourers alike, the ascent of the bricklayer's hodman would require about thrice, and that of the coalwhipper, as well as the prisoner an the tread-wheel, about twice, as long a period for the work as that of the coalbacker; but as the tasks are one and all completed in the same apace of time, i. e., in one day's labour, it follows that the hodman, though carrying a lighter weight than the backer, but ascending to a greater height, performs, while rising, a task which requires the exercise of thrice as much power as that of the coalbacker, in order to be accomplished in the same period; whilst the coalwhipper and tread-wheel worker, for a similar reason, exercise twice as much power as the backer, so that the ascending labour of the hodman is thrice as great, and that of the whipper and man on the tread-wheel twice as great, as that of the coalbacker.
    It should be remembered, however, that ascending with such a load forms only one portion of the coalbacker's labour; for, in addition, he has to carry his burthen more than 1¼ mile.

    True, he has his load to carry up in addition to his own [-306-] weight, but then few of these men are able to continue at the occupation when past forty years of age; and we ourselves know one or two liberated prisoners who have been laid up with fever, owing to excessive labour at the wheel. The very fact, indeed, of the prison rules forbidding men to unfasten their shirt-collars, after their work at the wheel, shows that the authorities themselves are well aware that the labour has at least a tendency to induce severe illness; and yet this is considered by some wiseacres to be the best means of teaching men the beauty and utility of industry.
    Assuredly there is no place so remarkable as a prison for its utter ignorance of human nature, as well as its gross violation of all those laws which Omniscience has instituted as  [-307-]

motives to mankind—no place where there is so little wisdom displayed, and yet none where so much is required.

     ***  The Tread-wheel Fan.--As we were leaving the gate we caught sight, for the first time, of an immense machine situated in the paved court, which leads from the main or felons' prison to that of the vagrants'. In the centre of a mound, shaped like a pyramid, and whose slate covering and lead-bound edges resemble a roof placed on the ground, stands a strong iron shaft, on the top of which is a horizontal beam some twenty feet long, and with three Venetian-blind-like fans standing up at either end, and which was revolving at such a rapid pace that the current of air created by it blew the hair from the temples each time it whizzed past.


    This is what is called the regulator of the tread-wheel. By this apparatus the resistance necessary for rendering the tread-wheel hard labour is obtained. Without it no opposition would be offered to the revolutions of the wheel; for, as that power is applied to no useful purpose,* [*We were assured that advertisements have often been inserted in the journals, offering to lease the treadmill power, but without any result.] the only thing which it is made to grind is, as the prisoners themselves say, "the Wind." Another method of increasing the resistance of this "regulator" consists in applying to it the apparatus termed by engineers a "governor." If the regulator revolves too quickly, the governor, similar in action and principle to that of a steam-engine, flies open from the increased centrifugal force, and by means of cog-wheels and levers closes the fans at the end of the beams, thus offering a greater resistance to the air, and, consequently, increasing the labour of the prisoners working at the wheel.

     ***  Crank-labour.--Sometimes a prisoner, tired of working at the tread-wheel, or fatigued [-308-] with the monotony of working at his trade as a tailor or cobbler, will complain of some ailment, such as pains in the back or chest, thereby hoping to obtain a change of labour. In such instances the man is sent to the surgeon to be examined. If he be really ill, he is ordered rest ; but if, as often happens, he is "merely shamming," then he is sent back to his former occupation. Should he still continue to complain, he is set to crank-labour, and it is said that after a couple of days at this employment, the most stubborn usually ask to return to their previous occupation.
    Crank-labour consists in making 10,000 revolutions of a machine, resembling in appearance a "Kent's Patent Knife-cleaner," for it is a narrow iron drum, placed on legs, with a long handle on one side, which, on being turned, causes a series of cups or scoops in the interior to revolve. At the lower part of the interior of the machine is a thick layer of sand, which the cups, as they come round, scoop up, and carry to the top of the wheel, where they throw it out and empty themselves, after the principle of a dredging-machine. A dial-plate, fixed in front of the iron drum, shows how many revolutions the machine has made.
    It is usual to shut up in a cell the man sent to crank-labour, so that the exercise is rendered doubly disagreeable by the solitude. Sometimes a man has been known to smash the glass in front of the dial-plate and alter the hands ; but such cases are of rare occurrence.
    As may be easily conceived, this labour is very distressing and severe ; but it is seldom used, excepting as a punishment, or, rather, as a test of feigned sickness. A man can make, if he work with ordinary speed, about twenty revolutions a minute, and this, at 1,200 the hour, would make his task of 10,000 turns last eight hours and twenty minutes.

     **Shot-drill—This most peculiar exercise takes place in the vacant ground at the back of the prison, where an open space, some thirty feet square and about as large as a racket-court, has been set apart for the purpose, on one side of the plantations of cabbages and peas. There is no object in this exercise beyond that of fatiguing the men and rendering their sojourn in the prison as unpleasant as possible.
    We first saw this drill-ground whilst making the round of the prison gardens. The ground had been strewn with cinders, which gave it the loose, black appearance of bog earth; and surrounded as it was by the light-brown mould of the cabbage rows, it seemed like a patch of different material let into the soil, as though the land had been pieced and repaired like a beggar's coat. Along three sides of this square were as many rows of large cannon balls, placed at regular distances, and at the two ends were piled up pyramids of shot, those at the base being prevented from rolling out of their places by a frame of wood. It was difficult to tell whether the cannon balls so spaced out had been left after some game at bowls, or whether the spot had been cleared for action like the deck of a man-of-war, with the shot ready for the guns. We took up one of these balls to examine it, and were surprised at its weight ; for, although not larger than a cocoa-nut, it required a considerable effort to lift it.
    The shot-drill takes place every day at a quarter-past three, and continues until half-past four. All prisoners sentenced to hard labour, and not specially excused by the surgeon, attend it ; those in the prison who are exempted by the medical officer wear a yellow mark on the sleeve of their coat. Prisoners above forty-five years of age are generally excused, for the exercise is of the severest nature, and none but the strongest can endure it. The number of prisoners drilled at one time is fifty-seven, and they generally consist of the young and hale.
    The men are ranged so as to form three sides of a square, and stand three deep, each prisoner being three yards distant from his fellow. This equidistance gives them the appearance of chess-men set out on a board. All the faces are turned towards the warder,  [-309-]  who occupies a stand in the centre of the open side of the square. The exercise consists in passing the shot, composing the pyramids at one end of the line, down the entire length of the ranks, one after another, until they have all been handed along the file of men, and piled up into similar pyramids at the other end of the line; and when that is done, the operation is reversed and the cannon balls passed back again. But what constitutes the chief labour of the drill is, that every prisoner, at the word of command, has to bend down and carefully deposit the heavy shot in a particular place, and then, on another signal, to stoop a second time and raise it up. It is impossible to imagine anything more ingeniously useless than this. form of hard labour.
    The men, some with their coats and waistcoats off, and others with their sleeves tucked up to the shoulders, were hard at work when we got to the drill-ground. Before we reached the spot, we could hear the warder shouting like a serjeant to raw recruits, constantly repeating, "One, TWO—three, FOUR ! " at the top of his voice; and each command was either followed by the tramping of many feet, or the dull, plump sound of some heavy weight falling to the ground.
    The men did their "work" with the regularity of old soldiers, moving to and fro with great precision, and bending down with simultaneous suddenness.
    "One!" shouted the officer on duty, and instantly all the men, stooping, took up their heavy shot. "Two!" was scarcely uttered when the entire column advanced sideways, three yards, until each man had taken the place where his neighbour stood before. On hearing "Three!" they every one bent down and placed the iron ball on the earth, and at "FOUR!" they shifted back empty-handed to their original stations. Thus, a continual see-saw movement was kept up, the men now advancing sideways, and then returning to their former places, whilst the shot was carried from one spot to another, until it hack travelled round the three sides of the square.
    Stand upright, and use both hands to put the shot down!" shouted the warder, staying for a moment his monotonous numerals. "Pay attention to the word of command," he added. "Now, then, 'three!' " and down ducked all the bodies; ' whereupon there came a succession of thumps from the falling shot, as if fifty paviors' rammers had descended at the same moment.
    After a while the prisoners began to move more slowly, and pay less attention to the time, as if all the amusement of the performance had ceased, and it began to be irksome. One, a boy of seventeen, became more and more pink in the face, while his ears grew red. The warder was constantly shouting out, "Move Move a little quicker, you boy, there !" The shot is about as heavy as a pail of water, and it struck us that so young a boy was no more fitted for such excessive labour than prisoners above the age of forty-five, who are excused.
    The men grew hot, and breathed hard. Some, who at the beginning had been yellow as goose-skin, had bright spots appear, almost like dabs of rouge, on their prominent cheekbones. Now the warder had to keep on calling out either, "Wait for the time, you men at the back," or else, "A little quicker, you in the second row." Many began to drop their shot instead of putting it down carefully; but they were quickly discovered, and a reprimand of "Stoop, and put the shot down, do you hear!" was the consequence.
    When all were evidently very tired, a rest of a few seconds was allowed. Then the men pulled out their handkerchiefs and wiped their faces, others who had kept their waistcoats on, took them of and passed their fingers round their shirt collars, as if the linen were clinging to the flesh, whilst the youth of seventeen rubbed his shirt sleeve over his wet hair as scat uses its paw when cleaning itself.
    Before re-commencing, the warder harangued the troop. "Mind, men, when I say ONE! every man stoop and carry his shot to the right. Now, One! Two! Heels close together every time you take up and put down." And the prisoners were off again, see-sawing backwards and forwards.
     [-310-]  A warder- near to us, with whom we conversed, said, " It tries them worse taking up,. because there's nothing to lay hold of, and the hands get hot and slippery with the perspiration, so that the ball is greasy like. The work makes the shoulders very stiff too."
    This exercise continues for an hour and a quarter. We counted the distance that each man walked over in the course of a minute, and found that he traversed the three yards' space fourteen times. According to this, he would have to walk altogether about one mile and three-quarters, picking up and putting down, at every alternate three yards, a weight of twenty-four pounds. it is not difficult to understand how exhausting and depressing such useless work must be.

     **Oakum Picking.—There are three distinct rooms where the prisoners pick oakum, one in the misdemeanour prison, and the two others in the felons' prison. We shall choose for our illustration and description the larger one in the felons' prison. It has lately been built on so vast a plan that it has seats for nearly 500 men. This immense room is situated to the west of the main or old prison, close to the school-room. It is almost as long as one of the sheds seen at a railway terminus where spare carriages are kept, and seems to have been built after the same style of architecture, for it has a corrugated iron roof, stayed with thin rods, spanning the entire erection. We were told that the extreme length is 90 feet, but that does not convey so good a notion of distance to the mind as the fact of the wall being pierced with eight large chapel windows, and the roof with six skylights. Again, an attendant informed us that there were eleven rows of forms, but all that we could see was a closely-packed mass of heads and pink faces, moving to and fro in every variety of motion, as though the wind was blowing them about, and they were set on stalks instead of necks.
On the side fitted with windows the dark forms of the warders are seen, each perched up on a raised stool. The bright light shines on the faces of the criminals, and the officer keeps his eye rapidly moving in all directions, almost as if it went by clock-work, so as to see that no talking takes place. If a man rest over his work for a moment and raise his head, he sees, hung up on the white walls before him, placards on which text; are printed. One is to the effect that " IT IS GOOD FOR A MAN THAT HE BEAR THE YOKE IN HIS YOUTH;" another tells the prisoners that " GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT IS A GREAT GAIN ;" whilst a third counsels each of them to "GO TO THE ANT, THOU SLUGGARD, CONSIDER HER WAYS, AND BE WISE." *
 

[* One of the peculiarities of Coldbath Fields is the frequent display of Scripture texts, printed in a large bold type, and hung up on every conspicuous part of the prison walls. We believe that this idea originated with the present kind-hearted governor himself—a gentleman whose endeavours to improve the religious feelings of the prisoners under his charge are, from the evidences so plentifully distributed about the prison, unceasing and most enthusiastic. But we doubt very much whether a criminal is to be affected by a printed display of Bible quotations. On the contrary, we rather believe that the constant sight of such placards tends so to accustom him to the religious warnings, that at last he ceases to notice them altogether, and pays no more attention to them than we do to the pattern of the paper on our walls. The obtruded texts become, as it were, part of the furniture, and the felon at last passes them by, giving no more heed to the principles inculcated by them than we do to a notice-board, which, having once read, we do not stop each time we go by to re-peruse. Over the report-office, in the entrance hall of the prison, is placarded, "SWEAR NOT AT ALL," which we before noticed, remarking that in a prison conducted on the silent system such a command appeared to us somewhat superfluous. In explanation, the governor tells us that the men, when reported and brought before him, often accompanied their expostulations of innocence with oaths such as "Strike me dead!" "Upon my soul ! " &c., and that it was on that account he had the text placed over the entrance door. It would appear, however, that the language of the prisoners has not been much improved by the placard, for the same form of vehement asseverations is said to be still indulged in, nor is it likely that a line or two of print should change men, who pay no regard to the laws of society, into persons of gentle speech. Besides, the experiment of these silent warnings has been often tried and failed. The. Mohammedan has the very cornice of his ceiling, and the arabesques on his walls, decorated with quotations from the Koran, and [-311-] yet he cannot order a cup of coffee, or converse on the most ordinary topic, without swearing, "By Allah!" or "By the Prophet!" at every dozen words. The Pharisees, again, are known to have had their phylacteries covered with short passages from the Bible hung about their necks. The old Puritans, too, were accustomed to interlard their conversation with oaths, such as "By God's wounds!" "By God's blood!" "By the agony of Christ!" and yet, although these phrases were intended to carry with them a scriptural sound, everybody of the present day would certainly denounce them as improper and revolting. Again, the same fanatics loved to put up religious signs even at their drinking booths, as "GOD ENCOMPASSES" (now corrupted into the "GOAT AND COMPASSES"), or, in Saxon English, "GOD IMBUTES " (literally, God surrounds--God is about, but now transmogrifled into the "GOAT AND BOOTS"). The Bible texts on the walls of Coldbath Fields seem to us of the same blasphemous character. To our minds—we confess it boldly—they appear very much like using the most solemn phrases "in vain," i.e., idly, or when the mind is not fitted to appreciate them; and surely the plastering the walls of a prison with these religious posting-bills only teaches thieves to adopt the cant, rather than feel the spirit, of true piety. Suppose every boarding in the public thoroughfares was to be covered with texts, would the public be a bit better for it, think you ? or, rather, would not men be rendered worse, and taught to use Scripture as a slang—to chatter it, as Catholic beggars do, their Latin prayers without thinking of what they themselves are saying, and merely as a means of imposition upon others.]

 [-311-] We went to the wall where the warders were, and looked up the sloping floor at the dirty gray mass of life ; the faces of the men seemed like the flesh showing through a tattered garment.
    The building was full of men, and as silent as if it merely contained so many automata, for the only sound heard was like that of the rustling of a thicket, or, better, the ticking of clock-work—something resembling that heard in a Dutch clockmaker's shop, where hundreds of time-pieces are going together.
    The utter absence of noise struck us as being absolutely terrible. The silence seemed, after a time, almost intense enough to hear a flake of snow fall. Perfect stillness is at all times more or lees awful, and hence arises a great part of the solemnity of night as well as of death. To behold those whom we have seen full of life and emotion—some wondrous piece of breathing and speaking organism, reduced to the inanimateness of the statue, is assuredly the most appalling and depressing sight we can look upon. The stillness of the went system, however, has, to our minds, even a more tragic cast about it; for not only is the silence as intense and impressive as that of death itself, but the movements of the workers seem as noiseless, and therefore unearthly, as spectres. Nor does the sense of our being surrounded by some five hundred criminals—men of the wildest passions, and almost brute instincts, all toiling in dumb show and without a single syllable escaping from their lips—in any way detract from the goblin character of the sight.
    The work-room at the dumb asylum is not half so grim or affecting a scene as the five centuries of silent oakum-pickers at Coldbath Fields; for, at the latter place, we are conscious that the wretched mutes before us would speak if they dare, so that we cannot help thinking of the struggling emotions pent up in the several hundred crushed spirits before us. Either the men must have been cowed by discipline into the insensibility of mere automata, or else what gall and bitterness, and suppressed fury, must be rankling in every bosom there, at the sense of having their tongues thus virtually cut out. Nor can we help thinking that the excision of the organ of speech itself (after the manner that barbarous nations deal with offending slaves) would be less inhuman as a punishment; for to leave the tongue in a man's mouth, and yet to deny him the liberty of using it (when every little event in life, every act we witness, every feeling we experience, as well as every thought that passes through the brain, suggests some form of speech from the mere force of association; and then, therefore, the restraint imposed upon a man's lips for the whole of his imprisonment must be one long round of irritation upon irritation—a continual series of checkings and curbings of natural impulses, sufficient to infuriate even the best regulated and least irritable natures)--this is surely a piece of refined tyranny, worthy of the enlightenment, if not the humanity, of the nineteenth century. We are well aware of the evil consequences that ensue when unrestricted intercourse is permitted among criminals; but because thieves and [-312-] vagabonds become more corrupt by speaking together on bad subjects, surely that affords no sound reason why we should deny such people the right of speech altogether, and so cut off from them the only means that all persons have of improvement, viz., by moral and intellectual communion with other minds.
    The quantity of oakum each man has to pick varies according to whether he be condemned to hard labour or not. In the former case the weight is never less than three, and sometimes as much as six, pounds ; for the quantity given out depends upon the quality of the old rope or junk, i. e., according as it is more or less tightly twisted. The men not at hard labour hare only two pounds' weight of junk served out to them.
    Each picker has by his side his weighed quantity of old rope, cut into lengths about equal to that of a hoop-stick. Some of the pieces are white and sodden-looking as a washerwoman's hands, whilst others are hard and black with the tar upon them. The prisoner takes up a length of junk and untwists it, and when he has separated it into so many corkscrew strands, he further unrolls them by sliding them backwards and forwards on his knee with the palm of his hand, until the meshes are loosened.
    Then the strand is further unraveled by placing it in the bend of a hook fastened to the knees, and sawing it smartly to and fro, which soon removes the tar and grates the fibres apart. In this condition, all that remains to be done is to loosen the hemp by pulling it out like cotton wool, when the process is completed.
    By the rays of sun-light shining through the window, you can see that the place is full of dust ; for the bright rays are sharply defined as those streaming through a cathedral window. The shoulders of the men, too, are covered with the brown dust almost as thickly as the shirt-front of a snuff-taker. A prisoner with a bright tin water-can is going the round, handing up drink to the workers, who gulp it down as if choked.
    "You're getting too close together on that back seat," presently a warder shouts to some men on a form against the wall, and who instantly separate, till they are spaced out like tumblers on a shelf.
    We left the building for a time, and when we returned, we found a man lying on the stone floor with a bundle of picked oakum supporting his head, and a warder unbuttoning his shirt and loosening his waistcoat ; he was in an epileptic fit. His face had turned a bright crimson with the blood flown to the head, so that the clenched teeth between his parted lips seemed as white as a sweep's. The other prisoners went on working as though it were no business of their's. After a few minutes a thrill ran down the limbs of the prostrate man, he began to draw in his extended arms, his tightly closed hands opened, and the eyelids quivered. "How do you feel now, my man ?" asked the warder ; but the only answer was a deep-drawn breath, like that of a person going into cold water.
    "We often have such cases," said the officer to us. " After letting them lie down for half an hour they are all right again, and go back to their oakum as well as ever."
    As the day advanced, the pieces of old rope by the prisoners' sides disappeared bit by bit, and in their place the mound of treacle-brown oakum at their feet grew from the size of a scratch wig to that of a large pumpkin. At length the men had all completed their tasks, and sat each holding on his knees his immense tar-coloured ball, waiting to take his turn to go to the scales and have his pickings weighed. Then the silence of the room, which has all along been like that of a sick chamber, is suddenly broken by the warder calling out, "The first three men !" The voice seems so loud, that it startles one like a scream in the night-time. Three gray forms rise up obediently as shepherds' dogs, and, carrying their bundles before them, advance to the weighing-machine. Now the stillness is broken by the shuffling of feet, and the pushing of forms, as prisoner after prisoner obeys the command to give in his oakum.
    Two officers stand beside the weighing-machine, and a third, with a big basket before him, receives the roll as soon as it has been passed as correct. If a prisoner's oakum be [-313-] found to be light, he is reported and punished; many, we were told, are wont to get rid of their junk, and so ease their labour by perhaps a pound.
    This won't do," says the warder, pointing to the puffy hemp in the scales; "it's it's half a pound short."
    "It's all I had, sir," answers the man. "Ask them as was next me if I haven't picked every bit."
    "Report him!" is the warder's answer; and his brother officer writes down the number of the culprit is a book.
    When the men had fallen into line, and been marched off to their different yards, we inquired of one of the warders if oakum-picking was a laborious task. "Not to the old hands," was the answer. "We've men here that will have done their three or four pounds a couple of hours before some of the fresh prisoners will have done a pound. They learn the knack of it, and make haste to finish, so as to be able to read; but to the new arrivals it's hard work enough; for most thieves' hands are soft, and the hard rope cuts and blisters their fingers, so that until the skin hardens, it's very painful."
    The quantity of rope picked into oakum at Coldbath Fields prison would average, says the governor, three and a half tons per week, which, at the present price of £5 the ton, would produce the sum of £17 10s.

     ***  The Tailor.' and Shoemakers' Room.--when a prisoner is brought to the House of Correction, he has the option given him provided he was not sentenced to hard labour—of picking oakum or working at a trade. Through this arrangement the establishment boasts

[-314-] of a numerous staff of tailors and shoemakers, who have a large room, as big as a factory-floor, given up to them, where, under the inspection of three officers, 160 of them pass the day, making and repairing clothing and boots and shoes. After the depressing sight of the tread-wheel yards and the shot-drill, it is quite refreshing to enter this immense workshop, and see the men employing their time at an occupation that is useful, and (judging from the countenances of the men) neither over-fatiguing nor degrading.
    One entire side of this workshop is occupied by a raised platform, on which are seated a crowd of tailors, all with their shoes off, and cross-legged, like so many Turks. Tall rows of gas-lights stand up amongst them, most of which are, now that it is summer-time, serving as convenient places for hanging thick skeins of thread upon, or as pegs to sup- port some unfinished work. The men have a certain grade in their work, beginning with repairing the clothes of their fellow-prisoners, then passing to the making of new suits of gray and blue for the future arrivals, and at length reaching the proud climax of working upon the cloth uniforms of the officers. When there is a lack of employment, some of the younger hands are set to work at shirt-making.
    The earnings of the prison tailors are estimated at from 3d. to 5s. (!) the day, according to their proficiency, the lads who are just learning to use their needle being put down at a merely nominal sum the value of everything made in the prison being estimated at what it would cost if the work had been paid for outside the prison. A great quantity of the clothes, boots, and shoes, sent to Hanwell Lunatic Asylum and the House of Detention, are manufactured at Coldbath Fields. A considerable portion of the "estimated profit of work or labour done by the prisoners,"*

[The following is the account that has been furnished us of the extent and value of the labour performed by the prisoners of different trades at Coldbath Fields prison, for the year ending 30th September 1855:—

Amount of Work done in the Shoemaking Department.
333 pairs of male officers' boots.
2,500 pairs of prisoners' boots and shoes.
172 pairs of female officers' boots.
About 12,600 pairs of boots and shoes repaired.
The aggregate estimated value of the shoemakers' labour, £800.
Tailoring Department.
522 uniform coats.
1,008 prisoners' jackets.
199 uniform waistcoats.
1,068 prisoners' trousers.
320 uniform trousers.
1,104 prisoners' shirts.
23 gambroon coats.
Miscellaneous repairs to officers' uniforms and prisoners' clothing.
223 uniform caps.
153 uniform stocks.
The aggregate estimated value of the tailors' labour, £850.

The value of the labour executed by other trades, such as bricklayers, plasterers, masons, painters gardeners, £1,860.]

given in the annual returns, is earned in this large chamber.
    After the saddening spectacles of the other forms of labour at this prison, the eye is greatly relieved by the busy sight of these tailors and cobblers engaged at their trades. The prisoners here appear to work as though they found a relief in the employment from the silent monotony of their jail life, and certainly have a less dejected and more human expression of countenance than those to be seen in the other portions of the building.
    As we entered the room the tailors' arms were rapidly flying up in the air, and the sound of the clicking of shears told us that, despite the silence, a good amount of work was being rapidly executed. In the centre passage was a stove stuck all over with big irons, almost like half-hundred weights, which the continual roasting had oxidated into a fine squirrel-red. A prisoner, after stuffing his bat-shaped sleeve-board down one of the arms of [-315-] a coat, until it was stretched as tight as the cloth on a billiard-table, moved towards the stove and tested the heat of the irons with his wet fingers, the hot metal hissing as he touched it like a cat spitting. The new, stiff uniforms, with the metal buttons shining like a row of large, brass-headed tacks on a double door, are hung up against the walls. The men bend over their work, silent as mussulmen at their devotions, so that the first impression on seeing the hands moving about is, that they are the gesticulations of so many dumb men.
    The other side of the room is, however, not so quiet; for the eighty prison cobblers, seated on rows of forms, are hammering on their lapstones or knocking in the sprigs. The men wear big leathern aprons, like smiths', and some of them, with the last between their knees, are covering it with the dead black skin, pulling it out with nippers until you expect to see it split, and then tacking it down into its place. Others are bending forward, and screwing up their mouths with the exertion of making the awl-holes round the tough brown soles. Others, again, are throwing their arms wide open as they draw out the waxed threads. Two or three lads, working near the wall, are rubbing some newly-finished boots up and down with a piece of wood, as though they were burnishing the well-tightened calf and foot.

     ***  The Printing-office and Needle-room.—To see the printing-office, where the prison lesson-books are set up in type and worked off, we had to leave the main prison and cross over to that for misdemeanants. We found the prison printers sharing the same room with the "needle-men," for as there is not more typographical work required than will keep three "hands" employed, a separate workshop cannot be spared, so valuable is every bit of space at Coldbath Fields.
    When female prisoners were sent to this jail, all the needle-work was performed by them; but since their removal to Tothill Fields the men have had to do the labour. The apartment, scarcely larger than a back parlour, was filled with the black-chinned needle-workers, who sat on forms, some darning old flannel-jackets, others making up bed-ticks. One, with a pair of spectacles almost as clumsily made as if they belonged to a diver's helmet, was "taking up " some rents in a mulberry-coloured counterpane, but he used his needle and thread somewhat after the manner of a cobbler making boots.
    Against the wall of this needle-room stood a small printing-press, made so clumsily out of thick pieces of wood and unpolished iron, that there was no difficulty in telling that it had been manufactured in the prison. A good-looking lad, with a face smiling as if he had never known vice, stood by the side of the press, with his coat off and shirt sleeves tucked up, busy placing paper, half transparent with dampness, upon the little form of type that he was printing off. He was engaged in pulling a slip entitled, "A FEW TEXTS FROM THE BIBLE "the same as we had seen suspended on the walls of all the cells.
    Close by was the frame on which was placed the case of types, with its square divisions for each letter, like the luggage-label trays at railways. Another lad, with a compositor's "stick " in his hand, was picking up the metal types as quickly as a pigeon does peas, and placing them in their printing order, stopping every now and then to look at the written paper before him. In a side-room, we found the head printer busily folding up sheets of letter paper, with a newly-printed heading, on which the prisoners write whenever they send to their friends.
    The tickets for extra provisions from the kitchen, as well as those certifying the number of men locked up at night and again unlocked in the morning, and indeed all the small printing of the prison, is done in this office by criminals.
We cannot too highly commend the introduction of printing among the forms of prison labour, and we believe that to the House of Correction belongs the honour of being the only jail where it is at present pursued. It is at once a thoughtful, refining, and pleasant [-316-]

occupation, which, in its higher forms, forces the workman to meditate upon not only the proprieties of speech, but the elegancies of thought and sentiment, and which, even when applied to nothing more than the prison forms and lessons, is at one and the same time of great service to the economy of a jail, as well as being, from the nicety of the art, of an elevating tendency to the workmen employed.

     ** Mat-room. Mat-making appears to be a favourite occupation with prison authorities; doubtlessly owing to the facility with which a man can be taught the occupation, and because such kinds of manufacture afford considerable occupation to others in preparing the different materials, "hands" being required, not only to pick the coir, but also to make the rough cordage for the mat; and in a jail labour is so plentiful, that the difficulty is to find sufficient employment for all the prisoners.
    All the mats made at Coldbath Fields are contracted for by a wholesale dealer, who is allowed to place foremen over the prisoners, both to instruct the new, and superintend the old hands. There are thirty-three prisoners employed in the mat-room; but including those who dress the flax and coir, and spin the rope, occupation is afforded for about sixty hands.
    It is a very peculiar sight to enter the large workshop set apart for the mat-makers, especially after leaving the adjacent oakum-room, where the silence of the junk-pickers is only broken by the sound of the moving arms; for the mat-room is alive with the clatter of tools and looms, and all the tumult of a busy workshop, so that the absence of all sound of the human voice appears to be the result of a close application to labour, rather than a prison punishment.
    [-317-] The big room, with its stone-paved floor, and iron-work roof, is as large as if a spacious yard had been covered in, and what with windows and sky-lights, it is almost as light as a photographer's studio.
    The air smells of tan, like a ship-builder's yard; but what first strikes the attention is the long row of looms ranged against the side of the "shop" fitted with windows, and which, at first, give one the notion that they are the frames of so many turned-up press bedsteads, placed out of the way, as on a cleaning day. In a recess, on another side, there are more of these looms; so that the building reminds one of a furniture broker's store. Moreover, mats he about in every direction; some piled up on the table, and others hanging to the walls, or strewn on the floor; and large square baskets filled with coir form reservoirs of rough material to keep the hands at work.
    The looms are used for manufacturing cocoa-nut fibre matting, and cheap hearth-rugs—a form of manufacture, which, compared with silk-weaving, is as different as house-carpenters' work is to cabinet-makers'. The gauze-like threads of the Spitalfields machine are replaced by coarse brown string; and the silk-weaver's shuttle, not so big as the hull of an ivory frigate, which darts with a whiz through the brilliant fibre of the Jacquard loom, is laid aside for one as big as a dressing-case boot-jack; and this had to be pushed and coaxed along the cordage that stretches across the beams like the strings of some coarse musical instrument. The battens come thumping down with a dead, heavy sound, while the muscles, swelling and moving in the bare arms of the weaver, show the exertion required to form the stiff coir into the required position.
    The young men prisoners, seated at spinning-wheels, are rocking to and fro as they twirl round the humming disc that winds off the balls of coarse rope. The older hands are occupied with the harder work of making the rope door-mats; some plying a needle like a skewer, and others hammering with a wooden mallet to make the rows of the design lie evenly.
    "This man is manufacturing what we call a diamond sennit mat," said the officer, lifting up the stiff brown article, and showing to us its back, with the cords crossing each other in a lozenge pattern. "This," he continued, "is is a close mat with a sennit centre," pointing to one with an open-work pattern in the middle of it. Indeed, in the different patterns around, we could recognize all the various kinds of mats which ornament the halls and passages of the Metropolis.
    One of the boys was working at a stand fitted up with immense reels of crimson worsted, pulling off the threads so rapidly that the frayed edges threw out a bright-coloured smoke, Which powdered his shoulders and the ground around as if the reflection of a painted window had fallen there. With this showy worsted the edges of the better kinds of mate are ornamented. The rug manufactory constitutes the fine arts department of the prison mat-room. The overseer, anxious that we should see specimens of the work, called to a man who was clipping down the rough crop of a newly-made door-mat into a smooth lawn of fibre, and desired him to spread out some of the rolled-up rugs before us. "This one," explained the overseer, as we were looking at the rude design of a rose as large as a red cabbage, "is a cheap article, made mostly out of yarn; but here is the best style of goods we make," and another rag was spread out, with a full length tiger worked upon it.

     ***  Artisan Prisoners.- Printing, tailoring, shoemaking, and mat-making are not the only crafts which the prisoners are permitted to follow in Coldbath Fields. The whitewash on the walls has been laid on by prison plasterers; many parts of the prison have been erected by prison bricklayers and masons; the wood and iron work receives its annual coat of colour from prison painters; and even the tin mugs, out of which the men take their gruel, are manufactured by prison tinmen. This is as it ought to be; and the only pity is, that there are less degrading occupations pursued among men who need elevating influences more than any [-318-] other class of persons. We print a list of the handicrafts pursued in the prison, and append the price at which the labour is estimated in the prison books, where it is reckoned as so much profit to the jail, from its saving the necessity of employing and paying for out-door labour.

TRADE.
Bricklayers. Plumbers. Plasterers. Glaziers. Masons. Sawyers. Painters. Coopers. Tinmen. Bookbinders. Blacksmiths. Basket-makers. Upholsterers. Carpenters.

    All men, employed at the above trades, are charged for at the rate of 5s. per diem. Gardeners, working in the garden, are reckoned at the rate of 2s. per diem; and labourers, employed in the works, at the rate of 1s. per diem.

Number of Artificers (other than tailors, shoemakers, and mat-makers) employed throughout the prison . . 25
" "  Gardeners . . . 5
" "  Labourers . . .  18
Total . . . 48

    Some of the valuations of the prison labour appear to us to be somewhat high for instance, we doubt whether many working basket-makers or sawyers ever receive, when free, as much as 5s. for their day's work.
    Now, the estimate for the labour of the prisoners at the Hulks (see p. 203) amounts in the aggregate to only about one-third of the price charged at Coldbath Fields. For instance, the labour of carpenters, blacksmiths, painters, plumbers, and coopers, among the convicts at Woolwich, is valued at 2s. 6d., or exactly one-half of that set down at the House of Correction ; whilst that of shoemakers, tailors, washers, and cooks is reckoned at 1s. 6d. instead of 5s. Hence, either the Hulks are too low, or the House of Correction is too high, in its appraisement, for between them is a difference of 50 and 75 per cent. in the amount charged. Besides, it should be remembered that the greater proportion of the artisans employed in jails are unskilled men; and it is most unfair that one, who is but learning his trade, should be charged for at prices equivalent to that demanded by the quickest and most experienced hands.
    Therefore, calculating the labour at Coldbath Fields at the same value as the Hulks (and, from its being a "short-term" prison, the labour at the House of Correction cannot be even of the same value), the "estimated profit of work or labour done by the prisoners for the benefit of the county, city, or borough," which, in the return of the House of Correction, is valued at £4,320 12s. 8d., ought, at the very least, to be reduced one-half or to £2,160 6s. 4d., and so the cost of the management of the prison should be raised from £16,466 2s. 5d., to the more formidable sum of £18,626 8s. 9d.
    We were told that it was very rarely that working bookbinders came to the prison. This, probably, may be owing to the fact that a large proportion of that kind of labour is now performed by women; and as the House of Correction at Coldbath Fields no longer receives female prisoners, such operatives seldom come within the walls. We congratulate the male portion of the working bookbinders, however, upon this high testimony to their honour and principle.

¶ i--d.

Education and Religious Instruction of the Prisoners.

     ** The School-room.—As we were standing at the entrance of the felons' prison, a gentleman passed us dressed in black, and carrying under his arm a roll of what, from the marbled-paper coverings, were evidently copy-books. We instinctively asked if he were not the schoolmaster, and learnt that he was then on his rounds to collect together his class. The school hours commence at half-past seven in the morning, and end at half-past five in the evening. Each class consists of twenty-four scholars, and these are changed every hour. All the prisoners who are unable to read and write are forced to submit to instruction.
    We directed our steps to the westward portion of the main prison, where, in a kind of outbuilding, the classes are held.
    The prison school-room is about the size of an artist's studio, being large enough to admit of twelve desks, arranged in four rows in front of the open space where the master's rostrum is placed. Each desk is sufficient for three scholars, but, to prevent talking, only two are allowed, one at each end, the middle place being kept vacant.
    In ordinary schools the desks are notched and carved with names and initials, or covered all over with writings and drawings; but in this felon academy they were as white and free from ink or incisions as the top of a butterman's counter. Even the circle of little black dots around the ink holes were of that morning's sprinkling.
    Against the whitewashed walls were hung maps as big as the sheets of plate-glass in a linen-draper's window, and the varnish of these had turned yellow as an old blanket, so that although we knew the two circles, joined in the centre like an hour-glass, to be the chart of the World, and the triangular-shaped one to be England and Wales, yet we were obliged to go up close to another before we could read through the discoloured glazing that it was the Holy Land. Over the master's raised chair was an immense black board, with the letters of the alphabet painted in white upon it; whilst, to impress upon the "scholars " the necessity to be tidy, a printed maxim is hung between the windows, to the following effect :— "A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE."
    Presently the pupils entered, in a long line, headed by the master. Each prisoner seemed to know his seat, for he went there as readily as a horse to his stall. All was silent as in a dumb asylum, the only sound being the rustling of the copy-books on their being distributed. A few minutes afterwards all the "pupils" were leaning over the desks, squaring out their elbows in every variety of position—some with their tongues poked out at the corner of the mouth, and others frowning with their endeavours to write well.
    It was a curious eight to see these men with big whiskers, learning the simple instruction of a village school. Some of them with their large fingers cramped up in the awkward- ness of first lessons; others wabbling their heavy heads about as they laboured over the huge half-inch letters in their clumsy scrawl.
    The schoolmaster is assisted in his duties by two prisoners, who, by their proficiency and good conduct, have been raised to the position of hearers—and to them the scholars repeat their lessons. A. big sailor-looking man, with red whiskers growing under his chin, advanced to the hearer's desk. Not a word was spoken as the copy-book was handed in. The prison-tutor pointed in silence to a mistake, the pupil nodded, and, on another signal, began to read aloud what he had written, "Give to every man that asketh, and of him that taketh away thy goods ask him not again."
    Another—a lad with a bandage round his face, and heavy, dingy-coloured eyes—was sent back for having too many blots and erasures. This man, when repeating his lessons, stumbled over the sentence, "There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth," calling it "genashing" instead.
    [-320-] Once the head master had occasion to speak. A lad with ruddy skin, and light hair, had a defect in his speech, and could not pronounce his "r's," so that he read out, " Whatsoever is wight that shall ye weceive." "Do try and pronounce your r's' better," said the master, kindly ; and thereupon there was a shuffling of feet from the other pupils, as if the only method of laughing under the silent system was with the shoes.
    The books—of which there are three—from which the prisoners are taught are all printed and bound by prisoner workmen in the jail. In the first book the lessons are of the simplest form, beginning with the letters of the alphabet, then gradually comprising letters and words mixed up together, and concluding with short sentences. In the second lesson book one of the objects of the instruction is to make the pupils, by means of nonsense sentences, pay attention to the copy before them, for they are apt to read, we were told, only the commencement of a sentence, and jump at the meaning of the remaining portion. Accordingly these lessons are made into kinds of puzzles, like the following :— "train save thirst ring train thou shall soap save train pick thou." The third book contains lessons from the gospels; and by the time the scholar is able to copy out and read those correctly, his education, as far as the prison limit of reading and writing is concerned, is supposed to be completed.*

[TABLE SHOWING THE STATE OF INSTRUCTION OF THE PRISONERS IN COLDBATH FIELDS PRISON, FOR THE YEAR ENDING MICHAELMAS, 1855.

Can neither read nor write . 2,172
Can read only . . . . . .  395
Can read or write, or both, imperfectly . 3,556
Can read and write well ---
Superior education  ----
Total . . 6,123

"An average of 144 prisoners," says the last annual report of the chaplains, " are daily under instruction;" and of 309 who passed through the school during the year, the state of instruction on admission and discharge, respectively, is represented in the following table :—

TABLE SHOWING THE AGES OF THE PRISONERS IN COLD3ATH FIELDS PRISON, FOR THE YEAR ENDING MICHAELMAS, 1855.

On Admission

On Discharge
STATE OF EDUCATION OF PRISONERS Total Neither read nor write Read imperfectly Read and write imperfectly Read and write tolerably Read and write well Total
Number that could neither read nor write 52 12 18 17 5 - 52
Number than could read imperfectly 138 - 22 54 42 20 138
Number that could read and write imperfectly 111 - - 16 42 51 111
Number that could read and write tolerabl 8 - - - 2 6 8
Total 309 12 40 87 91 77 309

     ***  Chapel—The chapel is situate immediately over the entrance hall of the main or felons' prison. It is a kite-shaped, triangular building, seeming as if it were some spare corner of the prison that had been devoted to the purpose; the clergyman's place—for you can hardly call the little desk and arm-chair set apart for the minister a pulpit—being in a kind of small gallery at the apex of the triangle, and the seats for the prisoners below towards the base. Reckoning the seats in the gallery and on the ground, there is room for about 500 men.
    The chapel is certainly a primitive and curious building. There are three compartments

on the ground-floor, and three in the gallery, separated from each other by a tall, strong, wooden partition, so that each storey presents somewhat the appearance of a huge three-stalled stable. Instead of panelling in front of the men, as in other chapels, stout iron bars rise up, close set together, such as would be placed before an elephant's cage.
The governor, in lieu of a pew, has a comfortable arm-chair placed in the gallery, on one side of the chaplain's desk, and another row of arm-chairs is arranged as tidily as against a drawing-room wall, to receive visitors and the principal warders. Immediately under the gallery, on the ground-floor, is the communion-table, and on one side of it hangs
a notice-board, stating that " COMMUNICANTS DESIROUS OF PARTAKING OF THE SACRAMENT" must give due notice to the clergyman.
    On entering the chapel, in company with the governor, we found the felon congregation already assembled, each cage being as closely packed with men as the gallery of a cheap theatre. On one side of the dirty-gray mass of prisoners, stood up the dark-uniformed warder. All the men had their caps off, showing every variety of coloured hair. There was one man, a big square-shouldered negro, whose white eyes, as he rolled them about, seemed like specks of light shining through holes in his dark skin; and we also observed a Malay, with his slanting eyes and dried mummy skin, whose long, straight hair hung from his pointed skull like the tassel on a fez. Nearly all the congregation appeared to be youths, for we could only here and there distinguish a bald or white head. Some of these elderly sinners had spectacles on, and were busily hunting out in their Bible the lessons to be read that day. The building was silent as a criminal court when sentence is being passed.
    When the prayer was ended, a sudden shout of "Amen" filled the building, so loud and instantaneous, that it made us turn round in our chair with surprise; the 500 tongues had been for a moment released from their captivity of silence, and the enjoyment of the privilege was evinced by its noisiness. It was wonderful to watch the men as they made their responses. No opera chorus could have kept better time. The chaplain's voice, as it read the next line, appeared like a weak whisper, so deadened was the ear; but in a little while we began to grow accustomed to the discharges of sound. We could see, too, that the men took pleasure in their prayers. Whether they understood the true meaning of the words they uttered we cannot tell, but they knew the drill of the service as perfectly as a parish clerk, and appeared to be aware that the only time when they might raise their voices and break through the dumbness man had imposed upon them, was when they were addressing their God, so that to them the consolation of prayer must be especially great.
    One of the lessons of the day was the 7th chapter of St. Luke, and to it the prisoners listened with the earnestness of children hearing a story. As soon as the chapter was given out, some of the men opened their Bibles, and, wetting their thumbs, turned the leaves over rapidly as they sought for the page; others at first sat still, but as the clergyman progressed, their interest became aroused, and they leant their bodies forward, some resting their heads on their hands, others with their ears turned towards the make-shift pulpit as if to catch every sentence of the sacred history.
    The first passage that appeared to fix their attention was that describing how the widow's only son was restored to hie. Probably, many of them had never before heard of the miracle, for as the words were spoken, "Young man, I say unto thee, arise!" a kind of wondering fear seemed to agitate the felons, as of old it did the men of Nain. The congregation was greatly interested as it listened to how a woman in the city, "which was a sinner," brought an alabaster box of ointment and anointed the Saviour's feet, as he sat at meat in the Pharisee's house. It seemed to us that they could hardly comprehend the motive which prompted her "to wash his feet with tears," and wipe them with the hair of her head and kiss them, and they appeared to be expecting to hear of some great reward having been given to her.
    When the morning service had ended, the erring flock, under the guidance of the [-322-] warders, left their pews in the chapel, and in a few moments afterwards were occupied with their different prison duties.
    On Sunday all the men are taken to divine service once a day, part in the morning and the remainder in the afternoon; for the chapel in the felons' prison contains only 507 sittings, and that in the misdemeanants' prison but 274 ; and as the usual number of prisoners in the entire building is seldom below 1,300, of course only half of that number can attend service at one time. Those who are left behind are not, however, allowed to remain without religious instruction. Three men in each yard have been appointed by the chaplain to read aloud to their fellow-prisoners, and each relieves the other every half-hour. The book for the Sunday's reading is issued by the chaplain. It is of a purely religious character, and is usually "The Penny Sunday Reader," containing short sermons. Tracts are also distributed in the different yards, so that those who prefer reading to themselves, instead of listening to what is being read aloud, may do so.
    The governor informed us that this reading aloud is so much liked by the prisoners, that it is not an unfrequent occurrence for boys who, for some breach of the prison discipline, have been placed in solitary confinement, to send him a request to be allowed to be present in their yards whilst the reading is going on. Surely this excellent principle of reading aloud to the prisoners might be applied on a week-day, in the oakum-picking room at least, and the silent system be thereby made productive of some positive good.*

[* The greater proportion of the books given out to the prisoners are those published by the "Christian Knowledge Society." The following is a list of some of the other volumes circulated in the prison :—

Chambers's Miscellaneous Tracts, in volumes.
The Home Friend, in volumes.
The Leisure Hour, in volumes.
Knight's Shilling Volumes.
Travels by Land and Sea.
A number of small Biographical Works. History of England.
History of Ireland.
History of Scotland.
History of France.
Histories of various other countries.
Lives of the Reformers.
Works of the Reformers.
A variety of Tracts and purely Religious Books

The Library consists of—
Bibles . . 1,290.
Prayer Books.  . . 1,290. 
Other volumes . . . 1,330]

 

¶ i--e.

 The Prison Accommodation, Cells, and Dormitories.

    The extent of accommodation at Coldbath Fields prison has already been mentioned (at page 281). The prison is capable of holding, altogether, 1,453 persons, and 919 (or, as at Tothill Fields, not quite two-thirds of the whole) of these can be accommodated with separate sleeping cells. The daily average number of prisoners in the year ending Michaelmas, 1855, was 1,388, while the greatest number at any one time during that year was 1,495 ; so that occasionally the prison contains three per cent. more than it has proper accommodation for. The gross prison population, i.e., the number of different individuals who were confined within the walls in the same year, amounted to 9,180 ; of these, 1,437 were remaining in custody at the end of the previous year, and the other 7,743 "passed through" the prison in the course of that ending Michaelmas, 1855.

     ***  Cells. As regards the "separate sleeping cells," of which we have seen there are 919 altogether, they differ in size in each of the three different prisons, which make up the entire House of Correction. The largest are to be found in the old building, erected [-323-] in 1794, and now set apart for felons ; next in space come those appropriated to the vagrants, built in 1830 ; and the smallest ones are those situate in the misdemeanant's prison, contracted in 1832. We shall describe the cells we visited in the felons' prison, for these may be considered as the best form of the separate sleeping apartments in the entire establishment.
    The cells are situate in the wings and corridors, on the first and second floors of the building, as well as on one side of all the eight exercising yards. The entrance to each cell is guarded by a narrow door, solid as that of a fire-proof deed-box, and just wide enough to allow a man to enter, whilst heavy bars and bolts make the fastenings secure. Every one of them is eight feet two inches long by six feet two inches broad, and has an arched groined roof springing from the aides, at an elevation of six feet, until it attains its highest pitch of ten feet. If it were not for the height of the apartment, the chamber would be about the size of an ordinary coal-cellar.
    The walls and roof are brilliant with whitewash, so that one could almost imagine the cell to have been dug out of some chalk cliff, and the stone flooring has been holy-stoned until it is as clean as the door-step of a "servants' home." Fastened up to hooks set in the stone-work, and stretching across at the farthest end, is the hammock of cocoa-nut fibre, brown and bending as a strip of mahogany veneer, with the bed-clothes folded up in the counterpane rug, tightly as a carpet-bag. Hanging up against the wall are boards, on which are pasted printed forms of the morning and evening prayer, as well as "A FEW TEXTS FROM THE BIBLE" which latter paper has been compiled, we believe, by the governor himself--ever earnest in his efforts to effect the religious reformation of the criminals under his charge. A wooden stool completes the furniture of the cell.
    Over the door is a fanlight window, glazed inside, and protected without by heavy cross. In some of the cells another grated opening is let into the back wall.
    As we entered the cell it felt chilly as a dairy, so we asked the warder if it were not cold. "Not at all," was the answer. "In summer the men like being in the cells, in winter they prefer the dormitories." This desire on the part of the prisoners to quit the cells in winter, induced us to inquire whether, during the cold weather, the building were not heated by hot air or hot water-pipes. We were much startled to find that no such attention had been shown to the necessities of the wretched inmates. Again, seeing that no arrangements had been made for lighting the apartment with gas, we asked how the men managed for light in winter when, long before the locking-up time, the night has set in, and it is perfectly dark at the time of their entering the cells. We were informed that the men in the separate cells went to bed, although in the dormitories, where gas exists, they are allowed to remain reading until ten o'clock. Again, we found that no provision had been made to enable a prisoner to call for assistance in case he was taken ill during the night, and that his only chance of help under such circumstances, depended upon his ability to make sufficient noise to attract attention. Further, the ventilation of the chamber was most imperfect.
    Now, it does not require many lines to point out the defective condition of such places. It was not the object of the law which condemned these criminals to lose their liberty, that they should be deprived likewise of warmth, light, assistance in sickness, and pure air. If their sins against society require that they should be shut out from the fellowship of the world, it forms no part of their sentence that they should suffer also the colds of winter that if suddenly afflicted or attacked by a fit (such as we have detailed as occurring in the oakum-room, accidents, we were told, that are in no way of rare occurrence), they should have no means of invoking immediate assistance, or that, in order to obtain air fit to breathe, they should be forced to ran the risk of an open window afflicting them with influenza or catarrh. Why should books be given out and yet gas-light denied to those in separate cells, especially when, in the dormitories, their no less culpable, but more fortunate, companions in guilt are passing their time in perusing some volume?
    By the 2nd and 3rd Victoria, cap. 56, it is enacted that no cell shall be used for separate [-324-] confinement which is not of such a size, and lighted, warmed, 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. Yet, because at Coldbath Fields the prison is conducted on the silent system, and the inmate is separately confined for only twelve instead of twenty-four hours of the day, the Act does not affect the matter ; and a cell which belonged to the barbarous prison times of the past century, which affords a shelter scarcely superior. to that of a coal-cellar, is appointed as the sleeping-place of a man who may have to pass three years of his existence within it. Either the cells at Pentonville are wantonly luxurious, or those at Coldbath Fields disgracefully defective.
    But if the cells in the old prison, built in 1794, are bad, what excuse can be made for the negligent humanity which permitted those in the more modern buildings erected in 1830, and set apart for the vagrants and misdemeanants, not only to be planned after the old model, but also to be made smaller by several inches in length as well as breadth. In the more primitive felons' jail one might expect to meet with defective arrangements; but in a comparatively modern building it is shocking to find that even a less enlightened scale of accommodation has been adopted.*   

[* The following table contains the number of cubic feet of air contained in the different sized cells of the House of Correction :-
In the old or Felons' prison . 602
in the Misdemeanants' prison . 337
In the Vagrants' prison . . 375
Whilst the amount of air contained in a cell of the Model Prison at Pentonville amounts to 911 cubic feet]

    The prison authorities assert that the ventilation of the cells is sufficient and healthy. They point triumphantly to the extremely sanitary condition of the prison—the healthiest in London they say. In answer to this we urge that the House of Correction is a short-sentence prison, where offenders are sent for terms averaging from three days to three years, and the returns do not admit of its being compared as to its daily average amount of sickness with that of other prisons. From the prison returns for the year 1855, we learn that out of the 7,743 prisoners committed to Coldbath Fields during the twelve months, 1,796 were for terms under fourteen days- 1,424 for terms under one month - 2,342 for terms under three months, and 974 for less than six months. These form a total of 6,536 prisoners for terms ranging from seven days to less than six months, and there remain only 1,207 for the longer sentences.*
    The prisoners are locked up for twelve hours out of the twenty-four. We will, for the

* TABLE SHOWING THE TERMS OF IMPRISONMENT OF THE PRISONERS CONFINED IN COLDBATH FIELDS
PRISON IN THE COURSE OF THE YEAR ENDING MICHAELMAS, 1855.
 

SENTENCES Under Summary Conviction After Trial Total Per Centage
Under 14 days 1786 10 1796 23
14 days, and under 1 month 1414 10 1424 21
1 month, and under 2 months 1630 14 1644 19
2 months, and under 3 months 660 38 698 9
3 months, and under 6 months 538 436 974 12
6 months, and under 1 year 95 633 728 9
1 year, and under 2 years - 282 282 4
2 years, and under 3 years - 20 20 0.2
3 years, and upwards - - - -
Unlimited terms of imprisonment - 177 177 2
Transferred to other governors - - - -
Whipped, fined, or discharged on sureties - - - -
Sentence deferred - - - -
Total 6123 1620 7743 99.2

[-325-] sake of the argument, suppose it to be winter time, when the windows are all closed to increase the warmth. The closely-shut cell in the felon prison contains 502 cubic feet of air. A man breathes about twenty times in a minute, inhaling about eighteen pints of air in that time; or, reducing the calculation to cubic feet, we may say he consumes about sixty cubic feet of air in the twelve hours, evolving in the same period twelve cubic feet of carbonic acid gas. Now, carbonic acid gas is an extremely noxious poison—indeed, one measure of it mixed with five of the atmosphere, is fatal to life. Even when present in very minute quantities, it is highly injurious to health. Professor Brande tells us that, "when so far diluted with air as to admit of being received into the lungs, it operates as a narcotic poison, producing drowsiness and insensibility." And further on he adds—" When the gas is inspired in the lowest poisonous proportion, the symptoms come on very gradually, and the transition from life to death is usually tranquil; this is what we learn from the history of suicides."
    The scientific gentlemen appointed to report upon what should be the size of the separate cells at Pentonville prison decided that the health of the inmate required at least 911 cubic feet of air, and, even with this capacity, it was found necessary to alter the ventilation, so that perfect health might be maintained. Now, is it not unjust that men ordered to perform "hard hard labour" should be doomed to pass twelve hours of the day in an atmosphere which produces "drowsiness and insensibility," and so unfits them for their work?
    We were likewise assured that even the cold of a winter's night, passed in a stone-walled and paved cell, so far from being injurious to the inmates, is, on the contrary, invigorating and healthy. A man leaving a warmed apartment, we were reminded, is very liable to catch cold, and the warders themselves say that they never suffer so much from the cold as after leaving a fire.
    That the prisoners themselves feel the chilliness of the cells acutely is proved by their stopping up with their clothes the cracks and openings of the doors. Some time since, during a severe winter, a man perished in, his cell—it was thought, from cold. Cold forms no portion of the prisoner's sentence; and until it does, the air in the stone cells of Coldbath Fields prison should be raised above freezing point. Moreover, the surgeon's printed report tells us that seventeen deaths out of the twenty-nine, or more than 58 per cent. of those which occurred in the course of last year, are recorded to have been "labouring under various affections of the substance of the lungs and bronchial passages;" in plain English, to have died from the effects of cold.*

[* TABLE SHOWING THE NUMBER OF CASES OF SICKNESS, LUNACY, AND DEATH, IN THE COURSE OF THE YEAR ENDING MICHAELMAS, 1855.

Slight indisposition . . . 1,916
Infirmary Canes  . . . 131
Total . . 2,047

Lunatics . . . 4
Pardons on medical grounds . . . 15
Deaths . . 29
Greatest number of sick at any time . . . 62
Daily average number of sick . . . not given

    Of the twenty-nine who died, seventeen are recorded, says the surgeon's report, as having laboured under the various affections of the substance of the lungs and the bronchial passages. "Amongst the great variety of complaints," it is added, "boils of a carbuncular form have been very prevalent, and numerous abscesses have occurred. The number of these cases has been singularly great this year, amounting to 209, some of a very formidable character, and one proving fatal. Of feigned complaints the number has been considerable-
3,972."—Mr.  Wakefield's Report to the Justices for the County.]

    The prison authorities themselves do not offer a word of excuse for not lighting up the cells. In winter it is dark when the men are locked up in them, and it is dark when they rise, so that twelve hours are passed in total obscurity. Even some of the cells in the galleries are in summer so obscure that it is impossible to distinguish anything in them beyond the white-washed walls. Again we say, why give the men books, if the only time when it is possible to read them is to be passed in darkness? We should see the absurdity of presenting a [-326-] library to a blind school; and yet is not this instance somewhat parallel? Confining a rebellious prisoner in a dark cell forms the greatest punishment the governor has power to inflict, and yet to lock up unoffending prisoners in an unlighted chamber for twelve hours daily is the ordinary routine of this prison.* [* In the year 1850 the Committee on Prison Discipline reported as follows :—" That in regard to some of the details of discipline which have been brought before them, this Committee recommends that the means of lighting every cell (except cells for an infraction of prison rules) should be provided in every prison, and that no prisoner should be left in darkness for more than a maximum time, which can be required for rest, viz., eight hours.]
    As regards the defective arrangements for enabling the prisoners to call for assistance, if attacked by sickness in the night, we were told that a watchman patrols each prison, visiting every yard once in the half hour. Nevertheless, the fact of several sudden deaths having occurred in the cells demands, in our opinion, some such arrangements as exist at Pentonville.
    It appears, however, that there is every probability of the prison being pulled down, a railway company, whose line is to pass through the building, having undertaken to erect another prison in lieu of the existing one.
    In conclusion, however, we should remind the reader that the defects here pointed out are defects of the old school of prison economy, and evidence rather as to the slight regard that was paid even to the physical necessities of prisoners only a few years ago, than as to any dereliction of duty on the part of the present authorities. It is easy to rebuild jails after the very best model—upon paper; but not quite so easy for visiting justices to make improvements in them out of a limited county-rate; and let us in fairness add, that every exertion is used by the present governor to render the House of Correction at Coldbath Fields as commodious and salutary as possible under the circumstances.

    ***  Dormitories. —By the aid of spacious sleeping-rooms the felons' prison, which contains only 356 cells, is made to accommodate 889 prisoners. There are altogether five such apartments at Coldbath Fields, all situate in the old portion of the building, and built on the same plan, the smallest capable of making up 82 beds, the largest 101.
    The dormitories are eighty-three feet in length, and twenty-five feet broad; and if the pointed roofs, with their grained tie-beams, were more lofty, they would do very well for rude chapels. At one end are the lavatories, made out of slate, with a porcelain basin let into each of the ten divisions, the bright brass button showing that water is continually laid on.
    The manner in which the hammocks are arranged is ingenious enough, for every inch of space is taken advantage of. Four stout iron bars, resting on supports a foot from the floor, run along the entire length of the building, the first next the passage, like a long thick curtain-rod just above the ground, and the others ranged at a distance of six feet from each other. To these bars the hammocks are suspended, so that three rows are obtained, while a passage of some five feet wide along one side of the room is still left for the warders to patrol up and down during the night.
During the day-time, when the bed-clothes are folded up into a close bundle, and the brown cocoa-nut fibre of the hammocks is visible, the rows of tightly-stretched beds attached at either end to the long iron bars seem interminable. They form a kind of raised platform, gradually slanting upwards to the wall, as if they were so many sacks that had been carelessly laid across the rails.
    Here, hanging against the wall, is a line of printed forms of the morning and evening prayers, ranged like the slates in a school-room.
    The men lie with their heads to each other's feet, and, being near the ground, the warders, on their raised stools, can command a bird's-eye view of all the sleepers. The [-327-] sides of the hammocks curl round the prisoners' forms, so that they look like so many mummies ranged along three deep.
    We paid a night visit to these dormitories, and the sight was most curious. When we reached the prison it was past eight o'clock, and all the prisoners were locked up in their cells, so that the building appeared deserted. The only warder we met was in the crypt-like corridor, and he wore over his boots slippers of flannel, gliding in and out of the columns noiselessly as a spectre. Though it was yet day-light, we could hear, as we passed the different cells, the heavy snoring or the restless tossing of the inmates.
    When we reached the dormitory, the appearance of the place had curiously changed since the morning. The men were nearly all lying down, some asleep, others stretched oat on their backs, staring up at the timber roof, and all were covered over with their brown-red rags. So silent was the room, it seemed like an immense dead-house--as if we had entered some huge " morgue," where some hundred corpses were laid out on the floor before us.
    Some of the men were sleeping with their clothes on, and as if they had thrown themselves down tired with the day's "hard labour ;" others, with their forms curled up till the knees nearly touched the chest, had stowed themselves away for the night, for under the head was the pillow of rolled-up clothes.
    We had expected to find some of the prisoners sitting up in their hammocks reading ; but, although it was broad day-light, not one had a book in his hand—the men being, probably, too tired with their day's work to care for anything but rest.
    As the evening progressed, some of the prisoners, who had been dozing with their clothes on, seemed to wake up and become aware that they had better prepare for the night's rest. So they got up slowly, like persons half-asleep, and began to undress themselves. It was a relief to see a human being stirring, for it proved that life existed in the prostrate crowd before us.
    Close to where the warders sat were two rings of gas burning beneath tin pots, from which issued the curling steam of the coffee allowed for the officers' refreshment through the night.
    It has been asserted that a great deal of conversation is carried on between the prisoners in these dormitories as the men lie huddled there together. We certainly did not hear any talking, and the place was as still as a church in the night; the heads of the prisoners, however, are within a foot of each other, and the ear is hardly to be relied on in such a case ;
for it may be easily deluded by the lowness of the whisper, so that the matter resolves itself into a trial of skill between the quickness of the warder, and the cunning of the prisoner.
    As we peeped, at a later hour, through the little inspection-hole in the closed door of the dormitory, we could see those who were conversing together. One of the men was lying flat on his back, with his handkerchief raised to his mouth, and though the eye on the side towards the warder was shut as if in sleep, the other one was wide open, and kept on winking at his apparently slumbering neighbour, in a manner which showed that the two men were having a nice quiet chat together. The two warders, however, were not near enough to hear this infringement of the rule, and had we ourselves not advanced very silently to the inspection-hole, we probably should also have been deprived of the chance of witnessing it. There can, indeed, be no doubt that it is utterly absurd in a prison conducted on the silent system, with the special view of avoiding intercourse among the criminals, to herd together a hundred such men, and place them in exactly that position which is the most favourable for intercommunion.
    The ventilation of these immense buildings is of that primitive kind which consists of a hole made in the wall near the top of the roof. When the gas is lighted, and the place becomes heated, a current of air is doubtlessly established; but that the foul atmosphere is not [-328-] entirely removed is proved by the discretionary power vested in the night-warders, to open one of the windows whenever they perceive, by the "closeness" of the room, that the air, despite the openings near the ceiling, has become offensive with the exhalations of the hundred sleepers.

¶ i—f.
Of the Silent System.

    The discipline followed at Coldbath Fields becomes an interesting study, from the fact that it is considered as the type of that form of prison government which is distinguished by the name of the "silent silent associated system."
    We have purposely avoided offering any remarks upon the efficiency of this mode of discipline at other institutions—as, for instance, at Millbank and Brixton prisons—because we were desirous, before hazarding our opinion, of noting its operation at that establishment where all allow it is to be seen in its greatest force.*[* "The best example of the silent system," said Colonel Jebb, in his evidence before the Committee on Prison Discipline, "would, I think, be found in Coldbath Fields or Westminster Bridewell."]
    We have before said, it is almost self-evident that every system of prison discipline, so far as it affects the liberty of communication among prisoners, must be either (1) associative, (2) separative, or (3) mixed.

1. Of the associative form of discipline there pare two widely distinct varieties--
    a. Prisoners may be allowed to associate indiscriminately, and to indulge in unrestrained intercourse one with the other.
    b. Prisoners, though allowed to associate, may be made to labour as well as to exercise, and take their meals in perfect silence.

2. The separative form has likewise two subdivisions—
    a. The partially separate, which consists in dividing the body of prisoners into classes, or groups, according to their crimes, ages, or characters, and so keeping the more desperate and hardened offenders apart from the more inexperienced and hopeful.
    b. The entirely separate, which consists in secluding every prisoner individually from the others, and so putting an end to all intercourse among them, by the positive isolation of each from the rest.

3. As regards the mixed form, there is but one order—
    Prisoners may be placed in separation for a certain term, by way of "probation" (as it is called), and then put to work in association under the silent system.

    The two great experiments, which have of late years been tried in this country, with a view to prevent the further corruption of the inmates of our prisons, are the separate system practised at Pentonville, and the silent associated system pursued at Coldbath Fields.
    The separate system was introduced at the former institution in the year 1842. The silent associated system at the latter in 1834.
    That these two systems are each an eminent improvement upon the old classified system of our prisons, and more particularly upon that more ancient system of indiscriminate intercourse among criminals, and both instituted with the kindest possible intentions towards the criminals themselves, none that are open to reason can for a moment doubt.
    The two systems, however, differ essentially, even in their objects. The silent system [-329-] seeks to put an end to the contamination of prisoners by stopping all inter-communion among them. The separate system seeks not only to do this, but at the same time to bring about the reformation of the prisoners by inducing self-communion. The one endeavours to attain a negative good by checking a capital evil, and the other to work a positive good, in addition to the negative one.
    The two systems again differ in their requirements. That which seeks to compass its end by the individual separation of the prisoners demands, of course, a peculiarly built and specially commodious institution (since it is one of the essential conditions of that system that each prisoner shall be provided with a cell to himself, and such cell must necessarily be of far greater capacity than an ordinary sleeping chamber, as it is required to form at once the work-shop of the man by day and his bed-room by night). The silent system, however (though, in its integrity, it exacts a separate sleeping cell for each prisoners* [* "Under the silent system, properly worked out," said the Inspector-General of Prisons, before the Parliamentary Committee on Prison Discipline, " the prisoner would have a separate sleeping-cell, though the classification of the 4th of George IV. might in some degree be put aside. The prisoners can be assembled together in large numbers under that system, but, whilst they are so assembled, they are under the strictest supervision and control, and are employed in various industrial occupations or at hard labour on the tread-mill."]), may—by the aid of large dormitories, tended with the most active supervision during the night, as well as by the addition of spacious work-rooms, wherein the men can labour in association during the day—be applied to old prisons, even where the cells are not only too few in number, but too small in size for the requirements of the separate system.
    Hence we find that new prisons are generally constructed on the separate plan, whilst in old ones the silent associated form of discipline is usually adopted, the latter circumstance being due partly to that widely-prevailing disposition to cobble and patch up some old worn-out thing, so that it may serve as a make-shift for an office it never was fitted for, rather than be at the expense and trouble of providing a new one, specially adapted to the object in view.
    That the separate system attains the same end as, and far more effectually than, the silent system, there can be no doubt, since the west mode of preventing intercommunion in jails is to prevent the association of the prisoners. To construct a building, however, with a separate cell for each inmate that it is intended to accommodate is likely to be considerably more expensive than the erection of one with large dormitories and associated work-rooms. (Each cell at Pentonville, by-the-bye, cost upon an average £150, whereas the expense of building the old prison at Coldbath Fields averaged not less than £283 per cell.) Nevertheless, in a prison conducted upon the silent associated system, the extra sum required to be paid annually in salaries to warders, so as to ensure that thorough supervision of the prisoners, which is so necessary for the due carrying out of this form of prison government, increases the continual cost of management so far beyond that of one maintained on the "separate" plan, as to render the latter much more desirable even in an economical point of view. For instance, we have before shown that, according to the returns, there is 1 warder at Pentonville to superintend every 17 prisoners, whereas, at Coldbath Fields, 1 warder is required to superintend every 13 prisoners ; so that at the former establishment each warder can watch over upwards of 30 per cent. more persons than he can at the latter one.
    It would hardly require a moment's deliberation, therefore, in order, to decide as to which is the preferable of these two modes of prison government,* 

[* Mr. Chesterton, in his book upon "Prison Life," while arguing against the effects of the separate system, cites, with peculiar paralogical aptness, the following case, as evidence of the evils arising from the physical depression induced by that system ; but as the example strikes us as being a strong instance of the benefits [-330-] resulting from temporary isolation from the world, we quote it here as evidence of the deep impression that can be made by separation upon the hearts of even the most hardened criminal:-
    "John Bishop, the monster who was executed for the cruel murder of the Italian boy, whom he bucked in order to secure the price of the body in the school of anatomy, was," he says, "without exception, the most finished ruffian within my memory. He was a man of powerful frame, of repulsive countenance, and of brutal address and manners. Consigned to my charge on remand, and with the direction to be kept apart (an occasional instance in those days), he entered the prison uttering oaths and execrations, and indulging in the grossest language, while he assailed the subordinates, and even myself, with menace and defiance. He had received no provocation, but gave vent to the irrepressible brutality of his nature. Fourteen days of exclusive self-communing incarceration," continues the late governor, "produced in this abandoned criminal a change so marked and depressing, as to constitute an instructive commentary upon the wear and tear which unrelieved reflection will produce upon a guilty mind. Bishop was, by law, entitled to supply himself with a generous diet, and he was permitted to take daily exercise in the open air, and to have an ample supply of books, so that feebleness could not have been induced by diminished sustenance, nor be referable to anything else than the terror resulting from solitary ruminations. Certain it is, that iron-souled miscreant became so meek and subdued, so prone to tears, so tremulous, and agitated, that at the end of fourteen days, when he was again sent up to the police-office, he could hardly be recognized as the same coarse and blustering bully who had so recently entered the prison. It was impossible to see the effects of solitude upon a conscience stricken by crime more signally exemplified. When committed to Newgate, I found, on inquiry," he adds, "that renewed association with lawless men had revived the brutality so inseparable from his nature."
    That this softening of a criminal's nature is by no means an extraordinary effect of separate confinement, Messrs. De Beaumont and De Tocqueville also bear witness, in their Report upon the system as administered in Philadelphia. "Do you find it difficult to endure solitude?" was a question put by them to one of the prisoners. "Ah, sir,", the man answered, "it is the most horrid punishment that can be imagined." "Does your health suffer from it?" was the next inquiry.  "No!" he replied, " but my soul is very sick." Of another it was said, "he cannot speak long without shedding tears." The same remark, they add, may be made "of all whom we have seen." Some, again, confessed that the Bible, and others that religion was "their greatest consolation."
    Mr. Chesterton argues, that the state of mental depression which separate confinement induces, in sympathetically derived from the physical prostration to which solitude gives rise, and that unreasoning observers are apt to hail that which is merely the effect of bodily weakness as the sign of spiritual conversion and promise of amendment. "In vain," he says, "may the prisoners become imbued with a shallow devotion, and pronounce the study of the Bible a pleasure. They most probably seize upon those resources," he tens us, "because none other are available, and such ebullitions of piety proceed, in most cases," the late governor adds, "from morbid sensibility, which vanishes on the first serious trial of their reality." But though it may be true that the ratio of the annual re-commitments to the separate prison at Glasgow amounted to 50 per cent., or, in other words, that one-half of the prisoners annually committed to the jail have been found to return to it; still this in no way affects the truth of the contrition and religious fervour induced by the separation for the time being; but it merely proves what all admit, that criminals are persons of weak, impulsive natures, incapable of lasting impressions. Nor it of any weight to assert at the mental depression, induced by separation, arises from physical prostration; for such mental depression is the feeling that all who desire the criminal's reformation must seek to produce, as it is impossible for any one to repent his past life, and yet exist in a state of bodily and spiritual liveliness. (See p. 168 of GREAT WORLD OF LONDON.)

were it not that the [-330-]  separate system is found to be so dangerous to the mental health of those subject to it, that the authorities have deemed it necessary, not only to shorten the term of confinement under it, but also greatly to relax and modify the severity of the original discipline. We have before shown that, whilst the average ratio of insanity from 1842 to 1850 was 58 lunatics per annum, to every 10,000 of the gross prison population throughout England and Wales, still, at Pentonville, the average yearly proportion of lunacy from 1843 to 1851, was 62.0 per 10,000 prisoners; so that had the inmates of all the prisons throughout the country been submitted to the same stringent discipline as at the "Model Model Prison," the gross number of criminal lunatics, between 1842 and 1850, would, so far as we can judge, have been increased more than tenfold, or have risen from 680 to 7,173. (See GREAT WORLD, pp. 103-5, 115, 143-4, 168). Now, as the driving of a man mad forms no part of his original sentence, it is clear that prison authorities have no earthly right to submit a prisoner to a course of discipline, which, if long protracted, would have the effect of depriving [-331-] him of his reason. We cannot but concur, therefore, in the opinion of Sir B. Brodie and Dr. Ferguson, that "the utmost watchfulness and discretion on the part of the governor, chaplain, and medical officers are requisite, in order to administer with safety the discipline enforced at Pentonville."
    Now it must in candour be admitted, that the silent associated system as practised at Coldbath Fields is open to no such objections. In the year ending Michaelmas, 1855, there were only four lunatics out of a gross prison population of 9,180, which is at the rate of only 4.3 per 10,000, and even less than the normal proportion for all England (5.8). Let us, however, dismiss all prejudice from our minds, and calmly weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this form of discipline, with the view to discovering whether its defects may not be, in a measure, remedied and its benefits improved.
    "The silent system," writes Mr. Chesterton, who being, as it were, the metropolitan father of that form of penal discipline, may be regarded as its chief advocate, " has never yet been attempted in this country with the space necessary for its perfect development."* [* Revelations of Prison Life, vol. ii, p.23]  Notwithstanding this he proceeds to tell us that, though professional thieves may communicate under it, to a very limited extent, by significant signs—comprehensible to themselves only—and though even unlimited communication (were it possible) among them could not further corrupt their natures, it is still a comforting reflection that, by means of that form of discipline, the uninitiated, who are ignorant of the import of such signs, are safe from the contaminating influence of their more hardened associates. "Moreover," he says, in another part of the same work, "the silent system inflicts no injury upon the health, however protracted the sentence, the bodily and mental sanity being sustained under it to the last, in the ordinary ratio of mankind. The legitimate opportunities it affords," he adds (vol. ii., p. 27), "nay, the demands it makes for the use of speech are numerous. The daily responses in chapel by the prisoners, as well as their communications with the governor, the chaplain, the schoolmaster, and various officers, all tend healthfully to employ the tongue. It is only communication between prisoner and prisoner that is interdicted." "We do all we can in the prison to prevent contamination," the same gentleman observed, in his evidence before the Parliamentary Committee in 1850 ; " and in my opinion the associated silent system, properly carried out, is as effectual for all purposes of prison discipline as any that can be devised. The prisoners do communicate, but I find that all the communications are of a very trifling description, and that nothing like contamination takes place generally among them."
    Here, then, it will be remarked, that the special merit (and it assuredly commends itself as no slight one to those who know what was the state of our prisons in the olden time) claimed for this form of prison government, even by its chief supporter, is, as we have said, of a purely negative character, viz., it does not allow the contamination of one prisoner by another, it does not injure the health of those who are subjected to its regimen.
    Let us, then, endeavour to discover at what expense these eminent advantages are gained. We will in fairness continue to quote from Mr. Chesterton himself. In the course of his examination before the House of Commons, he was asked, "Have you compared the number of punishments in the jail under your system with any other jail upon the separate system?" " Yes, I have," was the answer ; " and I know that our punishments are very great." "You punish for anything like a sign being passed from one prisoner to another?" he was then asked. " Yes," he replied. "Or any attempt to communicate?" " Yes." "Your punishments in 1848 were as many as 11,624." "Yes, they were." Mr. Chesterton, it should be added, defends this excess of punishments by saying he considers that punishments in general tend to soften, and have a beneficial effect upon prisoners' natures.
    We will, however, for the sake of putting this important point clearly before the mind, [-332-] proceed to compare the number of punishments, as well as the number of prisoners punished, at Coldbath Fields and at Pentonville prisons, in the course of the year 1854-1855.

TABLE SHOWING THE ABSOLUTE AND RELATIVE NUMBER OF PUNISHMENTS, AND NUMBER OF PRISONERS
PUNISHED AT COLDBATH FIELDS AND PENTONVILLE PRISONS, DURING THE TRAIL 1854-55.

PUNISHMENTS AT COLDBATH FIELDS PRISON PUNISHMENTS AT PENTONVILLE
Number of Punishments Number of Prisoners Punished Number of Punishments Number of Prisoners Punished
For neglect of work 1,255 Reported once 1,208 For disobedience and disturbing prison 232 Reported once 155
For noise, talking, insolence and bad language 5,421 Reported twice 607 For misconduct in school and chapel and making obscene communications 169 Reported twice 43
For various acts of disobedience and disorder 2,347 Reported three 355 For communicating with fellow prisoners 171 Reported three times 24
Total number of punishments in the course of 1854-55 9,023 Reported four times 138 For trying to send letters out of prison 2 Reported four times 13
Gross prison population 9,180 Report more than four times, "some few" For wilfully destroying prison property 89 Report more than four times 25
Proportion of punishments to gross prison population 98 per cent. Total punished 2,308 For insubordination and false charges against officers 3 Total number  punished 263
  Discharged without having been reported once 4,984 For fighting and wrangling 30 Number unpunished 663
  Others unreported 6,872 For attempting and proposing to others to escape 12 Gross prison population 925
  Gross prison population 9,180 Feigning and threatening to commit suicide, and impositions on surgeon 9 Proportion of prisoners punished to gross prison population, 28 per cent.
  Proportion of prisoners unpunished 75 per cent. For having dirty cells 4 Proportion of prisoners unpunished to gross prison population 72 per cent.
    For purloining bread 22  
    For having tobacco in possession 14  
   

[total] 757

 
    Number of cases punished 601  
    Gross prison population 925  
    Proportion of punishments to gross prison population 65 per cent.  

    Now let us collate these data, as regards the number of punishments as well as the number punished in the year at Coldbath Fields prison, with the same facts at Pentonville.
    By the above comparative table, it will be seen at a glance that, though the proportion of prisoners refusing to submit to discipline, and consequently those upon whom punishment had to be inflicted, was very nearly the same at both Coldbath Fields and Pentonville prisons—or 25 per cent. in the former case, and 28 per cent. in the latter nevertheless, the proportionate amount of punishment required to be inflicted was by no means similar; for, whilst at Pentonville the ratio of the punishments to the gross prison population was only 65 per cent., at Coldbath Fields the ratio was as high as 98 per cent! or, in plain language, it was found necessary to inflict 83 per cent. more punishments upon the refractory prisoners at the Middlesex House of Correction than upon those at the Model Prison.
    That this excess of punishments is to be ascribed to the exactions of the silent system, rather than to any undue severity on the part of the present excellent governor, we are happy to be able to bear witness; and the returns themselves are proof positive upon the point; for, whereas the daily average proportion of the prisoners punished amounted to 3 per cent. of the daily population in Mr. Chesterton's time, it was only 1¾ per cent. in the course of last year.
    Now the excess of punishment required for the enforcement of the silent system, it should be borne in mind, is not only an excess over and above that which is found necessary [-333-] for the maintenance of the discipline at other prisons ; but the whole of such punishments are inflictions which were never contemplated by the law, and which formed no part of the legal penalty imposed upon the prisoner.* [* The nature of the punishments at Coldbath Fields in the course of 1854-55, was as follows:- Placed in handcuffs and other irons 2; Whipped 5; Confined in dark and solitary cells 470; Put upon short diet, and other punishments 8,546 Total 9,023] They are punishments merely for arbitrary offences, or, in other words, offences against an arbitrary form of discipline, known only within the prison walls, and to which the prisoner is sentenced without either jury to try him, or counsel to protect him, and for which, therefore, nothing but the most cogent necessity, as well as the highest moral advantages, can be received as justification with all righteous minds.
    One other stringent objection against the silent associated system of prison discipline is, that speech proceeds from a natural impulse among men to give articulate utterance to the thoughts, and feelings passing within them, and that the silent form of prison discipline not only imposes a wilful restraint upon this innate propensity, but it likewise places prisoners in those very circumstances in which there is the greatest temptation for the continual exercise of it ; so that a man is thrown by the authorities into precisely those conditions which are most likely to lead to a breach of the discipline (that is to say, he is put among several hundreds of others, a large number of whom were probably his former companions, and all of whom are at least his fellow-sufferers " in trouble"), and yet he is punished for the least infraction of the arbitrary prison rules.
    The prisoner under the silent associated system is allowed to mingle with his fellows. He forms one of the five hundred who pick oakum side by side, or one of the twenty-four who tread the wheel, or of the eighty who work as tailors together. But what is strictly denied to him is the right to talk with those who are working at his elbow. If he requires anything, he may address an officer, but he must not utter a word to the prisoner next him. He has, as it were, his tongue taken from him at the same time that his own clothes are changed for the suit of prison gray.
    He has been sentenced, for a certain offence, to lose his liberty for a time ; still, on arriving at the prison, he finds that, in addition to his freedom, he must part, also, with his right of speech. He is then placed amidst hundreds similarly circumstanced to himself, all of them suffering from the same cause, and feeling, therefore, towards each other, a sympathy which longs to vent itself in speech ; but, though surrounded with temptations to speak on every side, he is denied the right to condole with his neighbours ; for there is a retinue of warders continually watching over them all, and ready to have any one punished even for "a significant look or a sign."
    Who can wonder, then, that the punishments under such a system should be found—even though they have been considerably reduced by the present management—to range as high as 33 per cent. over and above what is necessary for the maintenance of order at other prisons!
    The silent system of prison discipline, it is evident, can be carried out only by means of operating in two different ways upon the natures of the various prisoners. The more timid and less sensitive may, by dread of the punishment under it, be cowed into rapid submission to its requirements ; whilst the more irritable and wayward may, after a long course of suffering, be ultimately worried into subjection to the discipline. But neither of these states of mind appears to us to be in any way connected with that reformation of character which every form of prison government should, at least, aspire to induce. Mere slavish obedience to arbitrary forms cannot possibly give rise to that elevation of soul without which the criminal must for ever remain sunk in moral and spiritual turpitude; [-324-] whilst a continual sense of irritation under the most galling control, so for from being connected with either a state of contrition for the past or virtuous resolves for the future, must give rise, rather, to an infinity of deceits and falsities with the view of tricking the warders ; so that the mind, instead of being calm and sedate with its weight of sorrow for past misdeeds, will be busy in planning all kinds of low artifices and dissimulation whereby to hold secret converse with those around; or else being made sullen, as well as taciturn, the men will pass their time in moody moroseness.*

[* "It is impossible," it has been truly said, "to maintain perfect silence, and yet allow of association;"  for the year ending Michaelmas, 1855, the number of punishments, as we have shown, amounted to no less than 9,023, and of these nearly two-thirds, or as many as 5,421 were for noise, talking, insolence, and bad language. The prison authorities themselves confess that it is utterly impossible to stop all intercommunication among the prisoners. "They certainly do communicate," confessed Mr. Chesterton, before the Select Committee on Prison Discipline. A large amount of communication is carried on by signs. "They ask one another,' we are told, "how long they are sentenced for, and when they are going out, and the answers are given by laying two or three fingers on the wheel to signify so many months, or else they turn their bands to express the number of days before unlocking." Again, the Rev. Mr. Kingsmill, in his chapter on "Prison and Prisoners," informs us, that "The position of stooping, in which the prisoners work at picking oakum, 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 whisk 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 up to their faces and pretending to read with the chaplain, that they can carry on the most uninterrupted conversation."
    The principal mode of communication, however, is by talking without moving the lips, and in this practice many of the old prisoners are very expert. One person, lately discharged from the prison, has often exhibited to us his adroitness in that respect, and proved to us that it is quite possible for prisoners to talk even while the warder's eye is fixed intently upon them, without the least signs of utterance being discoverable by sight. Moreover, at Tothill Fields, a series of benches, with high backs, have recently been constructed, and arranged on a slant, in order to put a stop to the talking that, despite the vigilance of the matrons, goes on among the female prisoners. This arrangement, however, has been found to facilitate communication, by acting as a conductor to the sound rather than impeding it; and the matron at that prison informed us, that though she could hear the voice proceeding from a certain quarter, still it was impossible by her eye to detect the actual person speaking.]

    But the silent system, as we have before said, springs from that love of extremes that belongs to the extravagant rather than the rational form of mind. Because the liberty of speech has been found to be productive of evil among criminals, wiseacres have thought fit to declare that henceforth prisoners shall not speak at all, even though it be only by inter-communion that the wisest and best of us have become a whit wiser and better than brutes. Such an injunction is about upon a par in wisdom with that of the old lady who asserted that, because there was danger in bathing, her son should not enter the water until he could swim. But are there no other faculties that prisoners apply to a bad purpose besides speech? Is not sight as much an instrument of evil among them as even the voice itself? Yet, who would be bold enough to propose--as Eugne Sue has with the murderer--that because the faculty of seeing renders criminals more expert and dangerous to society, therefore they should be deprived of sight altogether? Surely, dumbness is not calculated to have a more moral effect upon men's hearts than blindness; and if the object be to decrease the power of doing evil among criminals, we must all feel satisfied that a blind bad man is more impotent for harm than a dumb one. But the main object of all forms of prison discipline should be not merely to prevent men becoming more corrupt in jail, but to render them more righteous; not merely to check bad thoughts, but to implant good ones. Yet what can mere silence teach ?—especially silence in the midst of a multitude that is calculated to distract self-communion rather than induce it. [-335-]

How much time that might be profitably employed is utterly wasted every day in sheer moody taciturnity under the silent system. At Coldbath Fields, we see assembled together some 500 of the most ignorant and depraved portion of our population—a class of people requiring instruction, not so much in mere reading and writing, as in the first principles of religion and morality, of worldly honour, and even common worldly prudence, more than any other body of men, and yet who are allowed to remain, for upwards of eight hours out of the twelve composing the prison day, in a state of utter mental idleness.*

[* The distribution of time followed in the daily routine of discipline at the House of Correction, is as follows:-

6h. 25m. The gun fires, and the prisoners rise.
The officers for the day enter, are mustered, and examined in the outer  yard. Cells are unlocked, and the  prisoners counted in their yards.
7h. Work commences.
8h. 20m. Breakfast and exercise in the yards.
9h. 15m. Prepare for chapel.
9h. 30m. Service commences.
10h. Go to work.
2h. Dinner, and exercise in the yards.
3h. Go to work.
5h. 30m. Supper.
6h. Commence locking up.

Time employed at labour . 8h. 8m.
Time for meals . . 1h. 30m.
Exercise for those not employed at tread-wheel labour . 1h. 30m.]

Surely such stark waste of intellect as goes on under this silent associated system is absolutely wicked, as well as disgraceful to the time in which we live. If there be an age which owes more than any other to the advantages of intercommunication it is the present--distinguished as it is for its railroads, its steam-vessels, its penny postage, its electric telegraphs, cheap literature, and steam printing-presses; so that it becomes a positive marvel of inconsistency, as to how, at such a period, the leading minds of the country could ever have been induced to tolerate a system of prison-government that assumes to make men better by putting a stop to all intercommunication whatever. It is only by intercommunion that the faculties of the human mind become in the least developed. A human being, when left to himself, grows up—like Peter, the wild boy of Bohemia—an unreflective, and indeed hopeless brute; whilst a man of education, by mere intercommunication with the most profound and righteous thinkers, both living and dead, contains stored in his own mind the wisest and best thoughts—the accumulated experience of the principal sages and worthies that have lived almost from the commencement of the world. Those who know and feel this, and know, moreover, what a wondrous faculty is that of speech, and how much of a man's boasted reason is due to the expression of thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds, cannot but see in the silent system a wilful rejection of God's greatest gift, perhaps, to man.
    Surely all that is necessary in order to check unrestricted intercourse among criminals, is to stop all communion on depraved subjects. To go farther than this, and put an end to the communication of even good thoughts among them, by enjoining absolute silence, is not only absurd as over-reaching the end in view, but positively wicked, from the utter waste of intellectual power which results from such a course. In the best regulated tailors' workshops at the west end of the Metropolis, it is not uncommon for the journeymen to pay one of their own body to read to them while they are engaged at their labour. Under the silent system, however, no such educational process is permitted during the work, and the men are condemned to remain two-thirds of the day with their mental faculties utterly in abeyance, or else engaged, from the mere want of better occupation, in planning tricks by which to indulge in some secret communication, in the very face of the warders themselves.
    We would have the terrible and wasteful silence of the oakum-room turned to some good account, rather than allow the men to be left, as now, to brood moodily over their own degraded thoughts, or else to be continually chafing under the irritation of excessive and arbitrary control. We would have the stillness enjoined by that system taken advantage of, and some one put to read to the prisoners from a book that was at once of an elevating and interesting [-336-]character, and we would condemn only those who interrupted the reading to a term of the same painful and unbroken silence as is now enforced.   
    Such a plan has, as we have shown, already been put in practice, at this prison on the Sundays, and we have chronicled, in our account of it, that it is not uncommon even for refractory prisoners to request permission to be present at these readings. W© feel assured were this instructive form of the silent associated system judiciously carried out, not only might the eight hours that are now spent in absolutely unprofitable silence—in silence that is barren of all good as well to the criminal himself as to society in general—be turned to the best possible account by being made the means, not only of implanting some few honourable and righteous principles in the hearts of the prisoners, but likewise, by occupying their minds for the time being, of diverting them from the low tricks and cunning now carried on, and so putting an end to the necessity of such an inordinate proportion of punishment) as is at present required to enforce silence from the listless men.

    ** Stars. —To induce the prisoners to conduct themselves with propriety during their stay in Coldbath Fields prison, the system of stars, as badges of good conduct, has been adopted ; one of these is given for every three months during which a man has not been reported for misbehaviour. These badges are in the shape of a red star, which is stitched to the prisoner's sleeve. We were told that at one time there was a man in the jail who had gained eleven such stars. Half-a-crown is given for each of the good-conduct badges on the day the prisoner is liberated.
    We inquired of one of the warders whether he considered that these rewards had any influence over the prisoners' reformation. He replied that he thought not, and indeed, that he considered the half-crowns given for them as so much money thrown away. "The best-behaved men," he continued, " are the old offenders—those who have been imprisoned before; they know the prison rules and observe them. Do you see that man with four stars on his sleeve?" he added, pointing to a prisoner in the exercising yard; " you observe he has a greater number of badges than any here, and yet it is the third time he has been in jail, as you can tell by the white figure on his other sleeve." Indeed, the prison authorities, examined before the Parliamentary Committee in 1850, one and all admitted that the worst class of offenders outside the prison is invariably the best conducted within the prison walls.
    We may add, by way of conclusion to this account of the regulations at Coldbath Fields prison, that if any of the men should die during the term of incarceration, they are buried at the expense of the county. An undertaker contracts with the prison to do all the funerals at 28s. each ; and, for this, he supplies a one-horse hearse, fetches the body away, and pays for a grave in the Victoria Cemetery, Bethnal Green. All the friends of the deceased receive notice, and, if they choose to attend, a time is fixed for the procession to leave the gates.

    ***  Report Office.—Whenever a warder discovers a man in his yard speaking, laughing, or otherwise breaking the rules of the prison discipline, he enters the prisoner's number in the report-book, and the next morning all those who have thus offended are led into the hall at the entrance of the felons' building, and arranged in rows, to await their turn to be taken in before the governor, and receive his sentence of punishment.
    The day we were at Coldbath Fields prison was a Monday, and consequently there was a considerable number of unruly prisoners to be reported, for the list included the offenders of Saturday and Sunday. We found about fifty prisoners, spaced out at equal distances like so many chess-men, whilst the different warders stood by, carrying under their arms what we at first mistook for tea-trays, but subsequently discovered to be the report-books, which are covered with japanned tin sides. We picked our way through the gathering of offenders, [-337-] passing in and out of them, whilst they remained silent and still as so many statues, and as soon as the governor had entered the "justice hall," we pushed back the spring-door and followed him.
    The apartment was about the size, and had much the look, of a lawyer's back-office. A long mahogany desk ran along one side of the wall; a couple of oak-grained cupboards flanked each side of the fireplace, over which, as an ornament, hung a model of the new building for oakum-picking. The governor took his seat at a small desk before the window at the end, the chief warder perched himself upon a high stool, and then the court was declared to be sitting.
    " Bring in the first case," was the order, and the spring-door creaked as it opened to admit a sub-warder and a youth, whose coarse features were pale with excitement, whilst his firmly-closed lip showed that he was determined on making a vigorous defence.
    Caps were taken off, and the pleadings began.
    "I report this man for insolence," commenced the sub-warder, and, despite the prisoner's nervous ejaculations of "No, No, sir! Please, sir! No, sir! " the officer related how the man had moved a table, and when reprimanded moved it still more loudly and laughed.
    Then the prisoner entered on his defence. "Guv'ner, I did no such thing. He's been down on me ever since I've been in prison. He said to me, says he, 'Don't move that table' which was by accident—and I never touched it, guv'ner, s'elp me."
    "Did he laugh ?" asked the governor of the warder, and on the officer replying in the affirmative, sentence was delivered. "You should attend to what the officers say, and then you wouldn't get into trouble." Turning over the leaves of a report-book, Captain Colvill added, "You have been reported three times this month—you must lose half your dinner;" and the prisoner, with a shrug of the shoulders, as much as to say, "he didn't care," was led from the room.
    The next case was one of a man having given away to another prisoner a portion of his bread. The case was fully proved, despite the culprit's denials, by the evidence of another man in the same yard; whereupon the reported felon meanly "split " upon two others, who, he declared, had often exchanged their gruel and cocoa. This was an important case, and the parties concerned were ordered to be brought forward. They both denied the charge, assuring the "guv'ner," with oaths, that it was "no such thing."
    "If you tell me a lie, I'll punish you worse than for the offence," threatened the governor. But, in spite of the warning, the men vociferated their innocence. A short investigation proved that they were guilty, and the judgment was a heavy one, for the next three days' dinner was docked one-half.
    "You'll find that all the prisoners are innocent," remarked the governor, satirically, whilst the next case was being brought in.
    One, a handsome lad, with a large, bright eye, was accused of having a paper containing some pepper in his possession. He had been employed in the kitchen, and had taken it for no perceptible object beyond the desire to thieve something. He had two red stars on his arm, and as a punishment one was taken off and half a dinner docked.
Another lad, with a clean, respectable-looking face, that betokened education and gentle birth, was brought up for tearing his rug or counterpane. He never spoke, but kept his eyes down; when the governor addressed him he blushed. We were afterwards told that he was very respectably connected, and in prison for the first time. We were glad the case was not fully proved against him, and almost felt personally grateful to the governor for the kind tone and feeling with which he spoke to the boy.
    More than half the complaints were for talking. In each case the warder had scarcely commenced saying "I have to report this man for speaking," when the excited prisoner would exclaim, "It isn't true, guv'ner; may I die, if I said a word." But the evidence in nearly every instance was of a most conclusive nature. One offender--a very bad case---was con-[-338-]demned to three days' confinement on bread and water, the others lost half their dinners, thus causing a considerable saving to the kitchen supplies for the day.
    The prisoner who behaved the worst of all those reported was the youngest, a mere boy of fifteen or sixteen, of short stature, with a narrow forehead and full broad jaw. He had been caught talking, and when detected laughed, and on being reprimanded had commenced dancing. Such a glaring defiance of authority from one so young interested even the chief warder, who, from the top of his tall stool, denounced the stripling criminal as the worst behaved boy in the prison. The lad began crying the moment he entered the office, and the moment he found the case going against him, his little arms and legs went stiff with passion, and he grew abusive. He, too, was condemned to three days' solitary confinement on bread and water, "And," added the governor, "if you don't behave better for the future, I shall have to report you to the magistrates and have you whipped again."
    "I don't care for that !" answered the lad as he was led out.
    After the prisoners, two sub-warders were brought in, accused by their superior officers with breaking the prison rules by sleeping in church during the sermon. Both were fined.
    The punishments over, those who had applications to make to the governor personally were admitted to his presence. One wished to write a letter to a friend to become bail for him; and as the prison regulations only allow the prisoners one letter in three months, a special permission was required. On condition that nothing but the subject of bailing should be touched upon, the request was granted.
    Two applications were for stars for good conduct ; and as no report had been made against either of the men for three months, they, too, were successful.
    Another, who seemed so delighted with the opportunity of talking, that he continued doing so until his breath was exhausted, wished to make some inquiries about three postage stamps which his wife had sent him in a letter, and which he had never received. He insisted upon repeating nearly the whole of his wife's epistle, gave a short outline of why he was in prison, and only quitted the room when he had, for the tenth time, been told that the missing property would be searched for and taken care of.
    The most curious application was from a short, bilious-looking man, who entered blubbering to beg of the governor to let him be confined in a dark cell. Before he came in, the chief warder had prefaced his entry with a hint that "he was not all right in his head." The poor fellow commenced a long tale of his having been in the Crimea, in the land transport service, and said he objected to being stared at as he was. We believe he was subsequently handed over to the doctor.
    An elderly man with large, swollen, watery eyes, and thick lips that worked violently as he spoke, was the last applicant. He bowed with obsequious politeness, and said that since his heavy misfortune had placed him in his present unhappy condition, he was most desirous of sending word to a highly-respectable gentleman, whose friendship he had in more prosperous times been proud to own, to tell him that he wished to give up the lodgings he had taken at his house.
    Never was man so thankful as this polite prisoner for so trifling a favour granted. He repeated, "Thank you, sir, I am indebted to you," three times ; his voice, at each exclamation, growing more expressively grateful. He was in prison for swindling.
    When the business was over, the report-books, with their japanned tin bindings (about twenty in number), were placed in a rack, and the governor declared the court broken up. When we left we found the hall cleared of its crowd, the only prisoners to be seen being the three or four lads who, down on their hands and knees, like the pictures of sportsmen deer-stalking, were holy-stoning the pavement of the corridor.
    [-339-]

¶ i--g

Of the Different Kinds of Prisons and Prisoners, and Diet allowed to each.


    ** Vagrants' Prison.--At Coldbath Fields prison the old and silly classification enjoined by the 4th of George IV. still continues in force, for here are to be found, to this day, special places for vagrants, misdemeanants, and felons—though such a system of separation cannot possibly be of the least avail, since it is well known that the late inmate of the felons' prison not only often gets re-committed as the reputed thief, or rogue and vagabond, and so has a place assigned him among the vagrants, but is afterwards (not unfrequently) sent back to the same prison for assault or fraud, whereupon he is ranked among the misdemeanants, and accordingly located in that part of the jail. If the several branches of the criminal profession were as widely distinct as that of law, divinity, and medicine, and if the utterer of base coin, who legally belongs to the class of misdemeanants, never indulged in thimble-rigging, and thus never rendered himself liable to be committed under the vagrant act for "gaming," nor ever did a bit of simple larceny, nor ever, therefore, came to be indicted and convicted as a felon—then might such a division of prisoners be about as scientific and instructive with regard to the subject of crime and criminals in general, as an alphabetic arrangement of the various members of the animal kingdom might be for the purposes of natural history. As it is, however, the classification enjoined by the 4th George IV. is about as idle for the purpose of preventing the contamination of one class of prisoners by another, as it would be to group together all those who were committed under like aliases; since the John Smith of one session becomes the William Brown of another, even as the felon of to-day is the vagrant or reputed thief of to-morrow.
    The Coldbath Fields House of Correction consists, as we have before said, of three distinct prisons—one for felons, another for misdemeanants, and a third for vagrants. The latter building is situated at the south-western corner, on the Gray's-Inn-Lane side, and occupies the point of ground enclosed by the bending of the outer wall, as it turns down from Baynes Row into Phoenix Place.
    On entering the principal gates, there is seen to the left, through the strong iron railings which enclose the paved court like a cage—towards the quarter where the fan for regulating the tread-wheel is revolving—a broad tower, built in the mixed styles of a chapel and a granary; for it has a half-ecclesiastic appearance, the windows being tall and arched; whilst the walls have become so weather-beaten, that the yellow plastering with which they are covered has turned white in places, seeming as if covered with flour. That tower is the central "argus"-like portion of the vagrants' prison.
    This prison, which was built in 1830, is designed in the half-wheel form, with four wings radiating like spokes from the central building. Though at first only calculated to accommodate 150 prisoners, it has since been enlarged, so that it now contains 177 cells. The second and third yards each contain a tread-wheel.
    The plan of this prison is of the ancient kind. On each side of the yards are ranged the cells, those in the ground-floor opening into the exercising ground, whilst in the galleries, on the first and second floor, the cells are ranged on either side of the passage. The cell furniture here is similar to that allowed to the felons, and consists simply of bedding and a stool, whilst hanging to the walls are boards, on which are pasted forms of morning and evening prayer; the cells, themselves, however, are inferior to those of the felons' prison in respect to size, being one foot less in width and breadth; though in all other respects they are similar in style, and, like them, neither warmed, ventilated, nor lighted.
    Attached to the vagrants' prison is a strong room or cell, for either unruly or lunatic criminals. It is larger than the usual cells, and instead of a door has a strong iron grating before it, through which the incarcerated man can look out into a kind of passage before [-340-] him, and which also enables the warder to watch him without the necessity of unlocking the door. The day on which, accompanied by the governor, we visited this portion of the jail, a man had been placed here for attempting the life of one of the warders. Hearing Captain Colvill's voice, he rose up from the dark corner in which he had been seated, and, advancing to the grating, requested that he might be permitted to have a bath. This prisoner had stabbed one of the officers in the back with a knife stolen from a warder's locker. Had the Millbank tin knives, however, been in use at this prison, such an act could not have been perpetrated.
    The offences which, according to law, fall under the denomination of vagrancy, are
principally as follows :—

Begging or sleeping in the ' open air.
Disorderly prostitution.
Fortune telling.
Gaming.
Indecent exposure of person.
Leaving families chargeable.
Incorrigible rogues convicted at sessions.
Obtaining money by false pretences.
Reputed thieves, rogues and vagabonds, suspected.

    We have already spoken of vagrancy in London (see p. 43, GREAT WORLD OF LONDON), and shown that, judging by the returns from the Metropolitan unions and the mendicants' lodging-houses, as well as the asylums for the houseless, there is good reason to believe that there are 4,000 habitual vagabonds distributed throughout the Metropolis, and that the cost of their support annually amounts to very nearly £50,000. That vagrancy is the great nursery of crime we have said, and that the habitual tramps are often first beggars and then thieves, and, finally, the convicts of the country—.the evidence of all the authorities on the subject goes to prove. Out of a return of 16,901 criminals in London that were known to the police in 1837, no less than 10,752, or very nearly two-thirds of the whole were returned as being of "migratory habits." Moreover, throughout England and Wales there was, between the years of 1840 and 1850, an average of 21,197 vagrants committed to prison every year, so that the gross vagabond population of the entire country may probably be taken, at the very least, at that number whilst in every 100 summary convictions by the magistrates, throughout England and Wales, the number of persons committed as vagrants was no less than 28.9, and those as reputed thieves 23.4, or, together, more than 50 per cent. of the whole. (Seventeenth Report of the Inspectors of Prisons of Great Britain, p. xvii.)
    "I have never been able to comprehend," says Mr. Chesterton, the late governor of Coldbath Fields, while treating of the peculiarities of vagrants in his work upon "Prison Life," " the preference given by hale, able-bodied men, who, rather than face creditable industry, will stand shivering in the cold, with garments barely sufficient to cloak their nakedness—purposely rent and tattered—in order to provoke a sympathy but rarely excited. Their vocation entails upon them endless imprisonments, and the entire life seems to me to be one of so much privation and discomfort, that it is marvelous how any rational being can voluntarily embrace it.
    "The tramps or ubiquitary wanderers," adds the late governor, " display a taste far superior to that of the London cadgers."
    One such tramp assured Mr. Chesterton, that the life he led suited him he enjoyed the country, he said, realized a pleasing variety, and managed, in one way or another, to get his wants adequately supplied.

    **  Misdemeanants' Prison.—Facing the kitchen, at the Bagnigge Wells corner of the felons' prison lies that for the misdemeanants, so that the three distinct prisons are built on a kind of diagonal line, which stretches from the north-eastern to the south-western corner of the boundary wall, across the ground enclosed within it.
    [-341-] The misdemeanants' prison is decidedly the handsomest of the three buildings. It is built of brick, with white stone copings to the windows, which give a liveliness to the brown tint of the front. As seen from the grounds, the structure reminds one of some barracks. In the centre is a handsome, comfortable-looking dwelling-house (the abode of the deputy-governor), with muslin curtains hanging before the windows, and the parlour looking out on to the little terrace, surrounded by a handsome stone balustrade; on each side extends the two-storeyed wings, with the plain brick-work pierced by strongly-bound, half-circular openings, whilst the entrance to the prison itself is through a kind of cellar-door, placed like an arch under the bridge formed by the double flight of stone steps which lead up to the deputy-governor's house.
    The half-wheel style of architecture has likewise been adopted in the erection of this prison, the spokes forming four distinct wings. By excavating the ground, the architect has managed to make the building, which outside appears to have but two storeys, have, in the interior, three; and thus 386 cells have been obtained. All the wings converge to the centre building, with which they communicate by means of covered-in bridges, whose sides of rough unpolished glass give them a light and pleasing look.
    In the first yard there is an extensive oakum-picking shed, capable of holding nearly 200 men; and close to it are the laundry and the washhouse.
    The cells in the misdemeanants' prison are the smallest of all those in the House of Correction, for not only are they less by a foot, both in breadth and length, than those in the felons' building, but they are also one foot less in height. They, too, are neither warmed, well-ventilated, nor lighted.
    Three of the yards have each at their base a wooden shed in which the men take their meals; whilst in the fourth yard the oakum-room occupies the same position. There are also slate lavatories for the men to wash at, on rising in the morning. The other sides of all the yards alike are occupied by cells which open into the paved court.
    Out of one hundred consecutive cases taken at random from the prison books, we found that forty belonged to the misdemeanant class, and that the men had been convicted of the following offences in the following proportions :-

Assault 2
Attempt at Rape 2
Cutting and wounding 3
Fraud 3
Obtaining goods under false pretences. 3
Perjury 1
Uttering 26
 
    ***   Fines.—Nearly one-half (48 per cent.) of the prisoners sent to Coldbath Fields are sent there owing to their not possessing sufficient money to pay the fine for which the police magistrate has commuted their particular breach of the law. Had the offender been in a position to hand over to the clerk of the court the sum of money demanded, he would have been permitted to go at large; but his purse being empty, he is committed to prison. Hence, it is clear that the offender is no longer sent to jail because he has broken the laws of the land, but because he has not sufficient means to discharge the amount of the pecuniary penalty in which he has been mulct; and, consequently, it is equally clear, that the man has changed his position of a criminal into that of a debtor to the State, so that his imprisonment does not in reality differ much from that of a defaulter at the county court, both men being confined in a jail for a small debt that they are unable to discharge.
    It is not our intention at present to discuss the question as to whether it be politic for a State to compound crimes by the payment of so much money in the shape of fines. We are merely talking of the law as it exists, and say that since it is deemed expedient, in certain cases, to change a penal offence into a debt to the State, it is not just that the State-debtor should, after the commutation of the sentence, be dealt with as a criminal.
    [-342-] The question, therefore, becomes, whether it be right to treat a State-debtor with similar rigour to that with which we would punish a felon. That the offenders who are committed to jail by the police magistrates, from inability to pay the fines imposed upon them, are not of a very terrible character, is proven by the fact that a sum of money is considered as an equivalent for their infraction of the law. That they are incarcerated for their poverty, rather than their transgression, is shown by the fact that they may regain their liberty during any period of their sentence, immediately the sum in which they have been mulct is paid to the governor of the prison ; for the moment afterwards, the prison uniform of dirty gray is cast off, and the gates opened for the egress of the offender—a mode of obtaining freedom which is precisely similar to the process gone through at all debtors' prisons.
    Let us put the following case workman, "out upon the spree," takes too much to drink, and being found in a helpless state by the police, is carried off to the station-house, and, the next morning, fined 5s. by the presiding magistrate. Now, it is most probable that this fool either spent or lost all his wages in his dissipation, so that he is unable, at that particular moment, to pay the fine ; consequently, although this man may, in all other respects, be a well-conducted and industrious citizen, yet, for the lack of sixty pence, he must be sent to jail to suffer seven days' imprisonment—even though his labour, and therefore his liberty, be really worth 5s. per diem to him. If he have a wife and family, and the chandler's shopkeeper, hearing of the man's imprisonment, refuse them credit during his absence, the mother and children must go to "the union;" and the frequent attendance of the parish-officers at the prison gates in such cases, when the day of liberation comes round, proves that this is far from being an uncommon occurrence.
    Viewing this matter ill a moral light, nothing can be more disastrous than such proceedings. A person who has been in prison is a marked man in the world. It matters not though he plead that he was only guilty of not having 5s. in his pocket, the answer is, and will continue to be, "you have been in jail." He will find masters turn from him, and refuse him work ; decent landlords will deny him lodgings, and he will, consequently, have to seek shelter in less particular quarters, his children being thus brought into association with the young vagabonds infesting such places ; and if he ever appear again at a police-court, no matter how frivolous the charge, he will be recognized as a jail-bird, and classed among the "known" offenders—until at length, deprived of all character, he will probably enlist himself among the regular criminals, and prefer to live without labouring at all.
    Talking this subject over with one of the head officers at the House of Correction, the official advanced the following case in proof of what we urged :—
    "A mechanic," he said, " goes out, perhaps, for a spree on the Wednesday night, takes a drop too much, becomes riotous, and is fined five shillings. The man has done three days' work (it often happens so), but as he is not paid until the Saturday, he cannot draw his money, consequently, he is sent here, and has to remain with us as a criminal until the pay-day arrives, when his wife obtains the wages, and liberates him."
    The object of wise legislation should be to keep men out of prison as long as possible ; for not only is an impending punishment much more efficacious as a deterrent to men than a punishment which has been already inflicted on them, but the wholesome dread of prison—that dread which acts upon all with any regard for character, even stronger than any abstract sense of rectitude—this feeling once removed, and the man is almost lost to society. The aim of recent legislation, however, seems to be, to multiply rather than decrease the number of imprisonable offences—as the Ordinary of Newgate, has well shown ; so that, now-a-days, it is almost impossible for a poor man to escape jail. A slip of the foot as he walks the streets may cause him to break a pane of glass, and so, if he cannot pay for the damage, gain for him admission within the prison walls. Let a cabman murmur at his fare—a street trader, in his desire to obtain an honest living, obstruct the thoroughfare—a sweep shout out his [-343-] calling in the streets—a dustman ring his bell—or others commit a host of such like petty offences—and to prison they must go, to wear a prison dress, and do the work of felons. What do these persons learn in jail? To dread the place, think you? No, indeed. They find the reality of prison far less terrible than their fancy had imagined it. The place is a palace compared with many of their homes. The cares of life—the struggle for bread that goes on outside—all cease within the prison gates. They are well fed, well housed, well clothed—better, perhaps, than ever they were in their lives before, and without a fear, too, for the morrow.*

[*The following table will give the reader some notion as to the relative proportion of the several offences for which the prisoners are committed to Coldbath Fields; for we find, from calculations based on the returns made to the Justices for the last July quarter, that the per centage of the various crimes for which the prisoners are incarcerated is as under :—

Felonies, with imprisonment and hard labour 43.83 Per Cent.
Common Assaults 13.82
Simple Larceny 10.19
Reputed Thieves 8.25
Unlawful Possession 3.99
Uttering or Possessing Base Coin 3.69
Soldiers by Court Martial 2.62
Frauds tried at Sessions 2.39
Assaults on Police Constables 1.94
Assaults on Women and Children ,with Intent 1.16
Misdemeanour 0.93
Misbehaviour in Workhouse 0.93
Begging or Sleeping in open air 0.77
Unlawful Collection of Dust 0.61
Wilful Damage 0.61
Drunk and Disorderly 0.55
Cutting and Maiming 0.47
Attempt at Burglary 0.38
Illegally Pawning 0.38
Excise Offences 0.30
Indecent Exposure of Person 0.30
Dog Stealing 0.24
Furious Driving and Insolence to Fares 0.15
Abduction 0.08
Leaving Families Chargeable 0.15
Assaults Unnatural 0.08
Bastardy 0.08
Cruelty to Animals 0.08
False Characters 0.08
Keeping Brothels 0.08
Stealing Fruit, Plants, Trees &c 0.08
Trespassing, Fishing, Poaching &c. 0.08
Wilful and Corrupt Perjury 0.08
Obtaining Money by False Pretences 0.08
[total] 100.0]

    "Thirty-three per cent. of re-commitments to Coldbath Fields was the steady ratio for years," writes Mr. Chesterton, the late governor; and the prison returns for the last year inform us that out of a total of 7,743 prisoners, who were sent there during the twelve months, 2,517 had been previously confined in the same prison—being at the rate of 32½ per cent.*

TABLE SHOWING THE NUMBER OF RECOMMITMENTS TO COLDBATH FIELDS PRISON DURING THE YEAR ENDING MICHAELMAS, 1855

The number of prisoners (except debtors) confined in this prison in the course of the year who have been previously committed to this prison Prisoners of 17 years of age and upwards
Committed once before 1,579
Committed twice before 584
Committed thrice before 153
Committed four times or more 201
Total number of re-commitments in the course of the year 2,517
Total number of commitments 7,743

Does this exhibit any very lively dread of returning to the place.
    Now, the principle of punishment by fines appears to us to be an admirable mode of keeping men out of prison and yet of punishing them sufficiently for slight offences. But in order to keep men out of prison as long as possible, every facility should be given to the poor (and they are the principal class fined) for the payment of the penalty. A fine is simply a debt due to the State, and why should the State be a harsher creditor than it permits its subjects to be. Are there no other ways of recovering a debt than by criminal imprisonment. Society, by the establishment of the county courts, where debts are permitted to be paid by small instalments, recognises the great principle of making imprisonment a last resort, and giving the poor every chance of avoiding it. Nor does the legislature hold it just that debtors should be associated with felons and criminals, for it has ordered a special place to be appropriated to the confinement of debtors, apart from thieves and vagabonds.
    [-344-] The government has thus shown that it regards the commingling of debtors and criminals as both iniquitous and impolitic ; then why, we ask, should it persist in sending the very poorest form of debtor—the one who cannot pay even five shillings—to eat and mix with the dregs of society, to pick oakum beside the burglar, and drink from the same tin with the felon? Could not the county court system be applied to the recovery of fines as well as of small debts, and the penalty be liquidated by instalments ? To the honest, but imprudent, man—and this is the class of persons whom we are bound chiefly to consider—such a step would be the greatest of all blessings ; a leniency which, while it punished the offender, would do so without sending his wife and family to the workhouse, and which, by the continued smarting of small weekly payments, would be far more likely than imprisonment to teach him to shun wrong-doing for the future.
    Some may object to this scheme on the ground that it would be difficult to obtain the instalments from the State-debtors, so that a large proportion would escape punishment altogether. Our answer is based upon information obtained from one of the county court judges, who assured us that, out of several thousand goes tried by him in the course of the year, the imprisonments for non-payment of the instalments amounted to less than ten per thousand.
Further, in illustration of the iniquity of the present principle of summary imprisonment for inability to pay a certain fine, we subjoin an extract from Mr. Chesterton's (the late governor's) book, in which an instance is given of a man who, made desperate by the disgrace of being sent to prison, put an end to his existence there. There can be no doubt that this poor creature would have paid the amount if only a few days' grace had been granted him ; for, as the governor tells us, the money was brought to the gate within an hour or two after his death. " Within a short period of my retirement, a man effected suicide by hanging, who had simply been committed for seven days in default of the payment of a very trifling fine. He was discovered in the morning suspended in his cell, the body being perfectly cold. To render this sad event still more afflicting, the paltry fine of a few shillings was tendered on the forenoon of the discovery, and but a few hours of patient endurance would have seen the deceased relieved from a confinement which had so evidently unsettled his intellect."
    But while proposing that the principle of fines in lieu of imprisonments should be extended, and, in conjunction with the principle of payment by instalments, be applied to those minor infractions of social rules, which, assuredly, do not belong to the criminal class of offences (such as crying "sweep," ringing bells by dustmen, obstructing the thoroughfare by street traders, sleeping in the open air, being drunk and disorderly, accidental breaking of windows, hawking without a license, fortune-telling, and a variety of such like peccadilloes), and proposing this change mainly because we hold it to be most politic in a State to keep a man out of prison as long as possible, rather than be too eager to disgrace and corrupt him by thrusting him into it on every paltry pretence—we are, at the same time, well aware that this old Saxon principle of "mulcts" is far from being a just punishment, when the same pecuniary penalty is alike inflicted upon the affluent and the needy. Assuredly the well-to-do and, therefore, the well-educated, have not one tithe of the excuse for their transgressions that can be fairly pleaded by those who have seldom been schooled by any kinder master than want and ignorance. Moreover, the wealthier classes have not only less excuse for their offends, but also greater means of paying whatever penalty may be imposed upon them ; so that to attach a definite fine, or so many days' imprisonment, to a breach of the law, is to enable the very class of people who deserve the severest punishment to get off with the lightest infliction ; whilst it is also to treat with the greatest rigour of the law, those towards whom every principle of humanity, and even equity, commands us to be lenient.
    We would, therefore, while proposing such a change as that here suggested, propose also [-345-] that such fines, instead of being fixed as now at definite sums, to be inflicted alike upon all classes, should be made to bear something like a just proportion to the means of the offenders. For this purpose, it seems to us that the amount of the fine should be based on a per centage of the annual rental paid by the person in custody, the magistrate having a discretion allowed to him to vary the ratio, according to the enormity of the outrage-from say 2½ to 10 per cent. Further, in case of inability to pay, we would have no man's liberty valued at less than an ordinary labourer's wage of 2s. 6d. a-day, and so put an end to the barbarism of some men being committed to prison by magistrates on account of non-payment of fines, for a term which estimates their freedom at 4½d. per diem, while others value the luxury of being at large as high as 3s. 1½d. a-day. On the 29th September, 1855, the official returns tell us that—
    The total number of prisoners in Coldbath Fields was . . . . 1,301
    Of these- -The number convicted at assizes and sessions was . . . . 823
    summarily 478
    [total] 1,301
    Hence, it appears that more than 36 per cent. of the prisoners there are committed by the magistrates.
    It will be seen, by the facts cited below, that some regular scale requires to be laid down as to the proportion that the term of the imprisonment should bear to the amount of the fine imposed by their worships; so that, henceforth, summary decisions may be rendered less incongruous, and less like mere caprices of the moment. The magistrates all obviously entertain different notions as to the imprisonment that should be attached to the non- payment of each fine--one awarding fourteen days for a 5s. offence, another considering seven days to be a just period in lieu of a fine of 22s.* That our magistrates are honourable [-346-]

[* In proof of the above assertion we subjoin an analysis of forty-eight cases of fines, taken from 100 consecutive offences, selected at random from the prison books.
    Thirteen of these were for common assaults, one of which got seven days, or 10s. fine; another, seven days, or 20s. fine; another, twelve days, or 32s. fine; two others, fourteen days, or 20s. fine; another, fourteen days, or only 10s. fine; one other, twenty-one days, or 60s. fine; another, thirty days, or 20s. fine; two others, thirty days, or 40s. fine; and two, thirty days, or 60s. fine.
    Further, ten more of the offences consisted of assaults on the police, and for these the punishments were as follows:- One had five days, or 10s. fine ; another, seven days, or 5s. fine ; a third, the same number of days, and yet 10s. fine; a fourth, eight days, or 20s. fine; a fifth, ten days, or 30s. fine; a sixth, fourteen days, or only 10s. fine; and two others, the same number of days, and yet 20s. fine; another, twenty-one days, or 60s. fine; and the last, thirty days, or 20s. fine.
    Nine of the cases, on the other hand, were for assaults on females. Of these, one had fourteen days, or 20s. fine; two, thirty days, or 40s. fine; one other, forty-two days, or 60s. fine; and the remaining five, sixty days, or 100s. fine.
    Besides the above, there were seven cases of being drunk and riotous, and three of these were sentenced to seven days, or 5s. fine; three to seven days, or 10s. fine; and one to fourteen days, or 20s. fine.
    Against the Cab Act there were two offences; the one was sentenced to seven days, or 22s. fine, and the other to fourteen days, or 20s. fine.
    For illegally pawning, one ease got fourteen days, or 8s. fine, and the other as much as sixty days, or 140s.. fine.
    Then, for damage done to a window, of which there were two instances; one of the offenders had seven days, or 6s. 6d. fine, and the other fourteen days, or 5s. fine.
    For stealing fruit, the punishment was seven days, or 5s. 2d. fine; and, in a bastardy case, thirty days was given in lieu of 22s. fine.
    Nor did the London magistrates seem to have any more settled notion as to the daily value of a man's liberty than they had concerning the punishments which they adjudged it necessary to inflict for the same offence ; for, whilst some justices appraised the luxury of being at large at the rate of 4½d. per diem, others estimated it at no less than 3s 1½d. a-day, e.g. :-
    On analysing these same forty-eight cases in which fines had been inflicted, we found that in one of them [-346-] a British subject's liberty was valued at 4½d. a-day ; this consisted of damage done to glass, for which the sentence was fourteen days, or 5s. fine.
    In the next case the freedom was estimated at 6¾d. a-day, and this was for illegally pawning-the sentence being fourteen days, or 8s. fine.
    Then came three cases where the liberty was considered to be worth 8d. per diem. These were-one common assault, one assault on police, and one bastardy case, in all of which the sentence was thirty days' imprisonment, or 20s. fine.
    After this we have six cases, valuing the liberty at 8½d per diem. Three of these were for being drunk and riotous, and one for an assault on the police, each of which was sentenced to seven days' imprisonment, or 5s. fine ; whereas the other two cues, which consisted of a common assault and an assault on the police, were respectively sentenced to fourteen days, or 10s. fine.
    Then followed one case in which the liberty was appraised at 8¾d a-day. This was for stealing fruit, the sentence being seven days, or 5s. 2d, fine; and another (breaking a window) valuing the liberty at 11d. per diem, the punishment being seven days, or 6s. 6d. fine ; and a common assault, in which the magistrate thought the liberty was worth 1s. 1¾d. a-day, and adjudged the offender either to forty-five days' imprisonment, or 50s. fine.
    In the next four cases, the worth of the liberty was estimated at ls. 4d per diem ; two of these were for common assault, and two for assaults on females, all being alike sentenced to thirty days' imprisonment, or 40s. fine.
    Next we find the liberty rise, in the magistrate's opinion, to ls. 5d. a-day ; for two cases of common assault, and assault on the police, and three cases of being drunk and riotous, were alike condemned to seven days, or 10s. fine ; and there were several other cues at the same rate, of which seven were adjudged to fourteen days' imprisonment, or 20s. fine ; and the last to forty-two days' imprisonment, or 60s. fine - consisting of such different acts as two common assaults, two assaults on police, two assaults on females, and one against the Cab Act.
    In five other cases the value of the liberty was increased to 1s. 8d. the day. These were all assaults on females, and the punishment, in every case, was sixty days' imprisonment, or 100s. fine.
    On the other hand, 2s. a-day was the price affixed to the men's freedom ; in five cases the sentence being thirty days' imprisonment, or 60s. fine, for two common assaults, and five days, or 10s. fine, for an assault on the police.
    Moreover, in a case of illegally pawning, the value of the liberty was set down at 2s. 4d. the day, the sentence being sixty days, or 140s. fine.
    Again, in an assault on the police, the estimate of the value of the liberty was not less than 2s. 6d. the day, for in that case the decision was eight days, or 20s. fine.
    Then, by another gentleman on the bench, the price of the liberty was raised to 2s. 8d. the day, for a common assault, which was punished with twelve days, or 32s. fine ; whilst, in another assault case, in which the adjudication was seven days, or 20s. fine, the average value of the liberty was taken at 2s. 10d. per diem; whereas, in another common assault, as well as one on the police, the amount of the appraisement leaped up to 2s. 10¼d. a-day ; for the sentence, in both of these cases, was twenty-one days, or 60s. fine.
    In another assault on the police, however, 3s was reckoned to be the worth of a man's freedom, as the penal infliction was ten days, or 30s. fine ; and lastly, in an offence against the Cab Act, which got seven days, or 22s. fine, it was found that the valuation for the liberty, in this instance, was taken at an average of 3s l¾d. per diem.
    Nor did these vague ideas and fluctuations in the liberty market, at the London police-offices, arise from any specific difference in the offences themselves, but simply from the different sense of justice in the magisterial mind.
 

 men, stern and upright in their judgments, neither allowing themselves to be influenced by wealth or poverty, not even the most suspicious can do other than believe. Still they are afflicted with human constitutions and human ailments, and their minds, like those of other men, are influenced by the derangements of their bodily systems. A disordered stomach may make even the most righteous nature see that act as a heinous offence, and worthy of the severest punishment, which the same person, in a state of perfect health, would regard as but a trivial error.

    **  Of the Prison Kitchen and Diet. -The kitchen, where the daily food of the 1,300 inhabitants of Coldbath Fields prison is cooked, is as large and lofty as a barn, so that despite the heat required for the culinary purposes, the air is cool, and even the panes in the [-347-] sky-lights let into the slanting wood roof, are free from condensed vapour. Everything is cooked by steam, and the whole place seems to be conducted on the gigantic scale of an American boarding-house ; for there is but one pot to be seen, and that holds at least ten gallons. In a kind of recess, surrounded by an iron railing, are the two boilers for generating the steam, the black round tops arching up from the crimson brick-work, and each with a small white plume of steam hissing out of the safety valves. The different articles of food are being prepared for the prisoners' dinners in the immense square iron tank—for they are more like cisterns than boilers—ranged against the wall. In one, with the bright copper-lid, which is so heavy that it has to be raised by means of an equipoise, are 100 gallons of cocoa, the red-brown scum on the top heaving and sinking with the heat; in another are suspended hampers of potatoes; whilst other compartments contain 150 gallons of what, from the "eyes" of grease glittering on the surface, you guess to be soup, or which, from its viscid, pasty appearance, you know to be the prison gruel.
    It takes two cooks three hours and a half merely to weigh out the rations required for this enormous establishment. One of these stands beside a mass—high as a truss of hay—of slices of boiled meat, and, with extraordinary rapidity, places pieces of the pale lean and the yellow fat in the scales, until the six-ounce weight moves. The other is occupied with the potatoes, dividing the hamper filled with the steaming, brown-skinned vegetables into portions of eight ounces each. The sight of such immense quantities of provisions, and the peculiar smell given off from the cooling of boiled meats, has rather a sickening effect upon any one, like ourselves, not hungry at the time. All the soup is made out of bullocks' heads; and in the larder, hanging to hooks against the slate-covered wall, we beheld several of these suspended by the lips, and looking fearfully horrible, with the white bones showing through the crimson flesh, so that the sight called up in n our mind our youthful fancies of what we had imagined to be the character of Bluebeard's closet.
    A curious use is, by the by, made of the jaw-bones of these bullocks' heads. After the flesh and all its "goodness" has been boiled from it, the "maxilla inferior," as doctors call it, is used to form ornamental borders to the gravel walks in the grounds, in the same way as oyster-shells are sometimes turned to account in the nine-feet-by-six gardens in the suburbs.
    The dinner hour for the prisoners is two o'clock ; and as 1 pint of gruel and 62/3 ounces of bread do not coincide with an Englishman's notion of that meal, we were desirous of seeing whether the prisoners ate their rations with any appearance of relish after their labour.
    In the yard which we visited, the men were being exercised until the repast was ready; marching up and down in a long chain, as smartly as if the object was to put a finishing edge upon their appetites. Big tubs, filled with thick gruel, had been carried into the dining-sheds, and a pint measure of the limpid paste had been poured into the tin mugs, and this, together with a spoon and the 612/3 ounces of bread, were ranged down the narrow strips of tables, that extend in three rows the whole length of the place. As the clock struck two, the file of prisoners in the yard received an order to "Halt," and, after a moment's rest, the word of command was given to take their places at the table. Then the chain moved to the door; and, as each human link entered, he took off his old stocking-like cap, and passing down between the forms reached his seat. The men sat still for a second or two, with the smoking gruel before them, until the order was given to "Draw up tables!" and instantly the long light "dressers" were, with a sudden rattle, pulled close to the men. Then the warder, taking off his cap, cried out, "Pay attention to grace!" and every head was bent down as one of the prisoners repeated these words :—
    "Sanctify, we beseech thee, O Lord, these thy good things to our use, and us to thy service, through the grace of Jesus Christ." A shout of "Amen!" followed, and directly afterwards the tinkling of the spoons against the tin cans was heard, accompanied by the peculiar sound resembling "sniffing," that is made by persons eating half-liquid messes [-348-]


with a spoon. Two prisoners, carrying boxes of salt, passed along in front of the tables, from man to man, while each in his turn dipped his spoon in and helped himself. The "good things," as the water-gruel and bit of bread are ironically termed in the grace, were soon despatched, and then the men, reaching each little sack of books which had been sus- pended above their heads from the ceiling, like so many fly-catchers, passed the remainder of their dinner-hour reading.
    There is one point in the prison dietary for which we can see no sufficing reason. All prisoners committed to jail for fourteen days and under (and whose crimes are therefore the lightest) are made to live on gruel and bread, whilst those whose term of imprisonment exceeds fourteen days and does not extend to two months, obtain a somewhat improved diet; and all sentenced to any term above two months (and who have therefore been guilty of the heaviest offences) are allowed meat or soup every day, and, indeed, partake of the best kind of food permitted by law in a prison.
    The dietary adopted at Coldbath Fields is based upon that recommended by the prison inspectors, and ordered by Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department. It differs, however, slightly in the weight of food. Thus, the daily allowance of bread recommended by the government for prisoners confined for terms under fourteen days is 24 oz., whilst that served out at the House of Correction is limited to 20 oz. Again, the House of Correction prisoners, who are sentenced to more than fourteen days and less than two months, have their breakfast and dinner bread docked of a slight weight; but, on the other hand, the meat served twice a-week is doubled. Therefore, the criminals who suffer the moat, owing to this difference between the government and county allowances of food, are those who have [-349-]
been guilty of the slightest offences, i.e., the class whose term of imprisonment does not exceed fourteen days.
    In framing the prison dietaries, the length of the term to which the prisoner is condemned has been taken into consideration, and for the following reasons:—" Imprisonment," say the authorities, "has naturally a depressing influence over the mind, which greatly diminishes the powers of nutrition in the body, and the longer the term the more marked will be the effect." To counteract this evil, recourse is had to the stimulus afforded by an increase of food—the loss of health and strength being, as Sir James Graham has humanely expressed it, "a punishment not contemplated by law, and which it is unjust and cruel to inflict."

DAYS

FIRST CLASS - i.e. all Prisoners whose terms of Imprisonment exceed two Months

SECOND CLASS. - i.e. all Prisoners whose terms of Imprisonment do not exceed two months, and do exceed fourteen days THIRD CLASS- i.e. all Prisoners whose terms of Imprisonment are 14 days and under
  Breakfast Dinner Supper Breakfast Dinner   Supper Breakfast Dinner Supper
  Bread Cocoa Bread Meat Potatoes Soup Bread Gruel Bread Gruel Bread Meat Potatoes Soup Gruel Bread Gruel Bread Gruel Bread Gruel Bread Gruel
  Oz. Pint Oz. Oz, Oz. Pint Oz. Pint Oz. Pint Oz. Oz. Oz. Pint Pint Oz. Pint Oz. Pint Oz. Pint Oz. Pint
Monday 62/3 1 62/3 6 8 - 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 - - - 1 62/3 ½ 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 ½
Tuesday 62/3 1 62/3 6 8 - 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 6 8 - - 62/3 ½ 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 ½
Wednesday 62/3 1 62/3 - - 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 - - 1 - 62/3 ½ 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 ½
Thursday 62/3 1 62/3 6 8 - 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 - - - 1 62/3 ½ 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 ½
Friday 62/3 1 62/3 - - 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 - - - 1 62/3 ½ 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 ½
Saturday 62/3 1 62/3 6 8 - 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 6 8 - - 62/3 ½ 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 ½
Sunday 62/3 1 62/3 - - 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 - - 1 - 62/3 ½ 62/3 1 62/3 1 62/3 ½
  462/3 7 462/3 24 32 462/3 7 462/3 7 462/3 12 16 2 3 462/3 462/3 7 462/3 7 462/3

    Hence, the greater allowance of diet granted to the longer sentence men rests upon the fact that the minds of such prisoners are more depressed than those committed for a shorter period. The meat and soup for dinner are given as a species of medicine, which the short-term men, who carry to jail a body healthy with recent liberty and a mind supported by the knowledge of a speedy liberation, are not supposed to require.
    But is this really so ? Which of these two classes of men, the one who enters a prison for the first time, or the one who has been recommitted again and again, is the more likely to be affected by his degraded position ? First offenders are seldom severely punished, whereas the old jail-birds, after many recommitments, get heavy sentences. The man, therefore, who is sent to prison for a few days, is likely to be more depressed than he who is committed for two years.
That the greatest mental depression is experienced on first entering a prison, there are numerous and convincing proofs. The cases of suicide in a jail are those committed by newly-arrived criminals. Whenever a prisoner has attempted to starve himself to death, it has generally been at the commencement of his incarceration, and it is only after he has in a measure become reconciled, by a few days' sojourn, to the scenes around him, that he has relented of his purpose, and taken food.
    Again, is not this rule of giving better diet to long-term prisoners productive of evil, as offering a premium, as it were, for heavy offences. The professed thieves, many of whom pass a good part of their lives in a jail, are well acquainted with the discipline and dietary of every prison in the Metropolis. They are aware that gruel and bread await them if they attempt and fail in some petty undertaking ; and therefore manage so that by a three months' committal they can enjoy the luxury of the highest class of diet, or that which provides meat or soup for their dinner every day out of the seven. We must bear in mind that, with this class of society, food forms one of the greatest enjoyments ; indeed, all the gains of their robberies are disposed of in eating and drinking, and other animal propensities ; so strongly, indeed [-350-] are they influenced by the quantity of their meals, that very lately a prisoner at Coldbath Fields, on the mere supposition that the bread served to him at dinner was smaller than that of his neighbour, was So angered, that, breaking open one of the warder's boxes, he obtained possession of a knife, and, two days after the imaginary wrong had been committed, stabbed the officer whom he taxed as the author of it.*

[* TABLE OF EXPENDITURE AND RECEIPTS OF COLDBATH FIELDS PRISON IN THE YEAR 1854, COMPARED WITH THE AVERAGE FOR ALL OTHER PRISONS IN 1853.

COST OF PRISON PER ANNUM RECEIPTS OF PRISON PER ANNUM
  Gross Cost per Annum Coldbath Fields All other Prisons in England and Wales   £ s d £ s d
  £ s d £ s d £ s d Net Profit received for manufacturing or other Work done by the Prisoners 2,056 7 7      
Total cost of Prison Diet and Extra Allowances by order of the Surgeon, and Wine, Beer, &c. 12,617 11 2 9 1 5 4 11 Estimated Profit of Work or Labour done by the Prisoners for the benefit of the County, City or Borough 4,320 12 8      
Total cost of Male Clothing, Bedding and Straw 1,665 11 4 1 4 0 1 7 2 Gross Earnings of Prisoners 6,377 0 3
Total cost of Officer's Salaries and Rations, and Pensions to Retired Officers 11,014 2 8 7 18 10 7 6 Amount received for Subsistences of Military and Naval Prisoners 52 13 0
Total cost of Fuel, Soap, and other cleansing materials, Oil and Gas 1,475 14 8 1 1 3 1 19 6 Amount received for the Support of Vagrants*

[* This is money found in possession of vagrants while begging, and ordered by the committing magistrate to go towards their support in prison.]

81 10 9
Total cost of Stationery, Printing, and Books, Furniture and Utensils, &c., Rent, Rates and Taxes 630 15 0 1 9 1 0 13 Amount received from Treasury for Removal of Transports 81 10 9
Total cost of Support of Prisoners removed under Contract to be confined in other Jurisdictions, and removal of Convicts and Prisoners to and from Trial, and to other Prisons for punishment, &c. 955 5 0 0 13 9 0 12 Amount received for the Subsistence of Revenue Prisoners 176 11 6
Sundry Contingencies not enumerated 1,708 18 3 1 4 1 1 Amount charged to Treasury for Maintenance of Prisoners convicted at Assizes and Sessions, and Weekly Rate per head 9,509 2 0
Total expenses for the Prison for the year, not including Repairs, Alterations, and Additions 30,067 18 1 21 13 21 7 Other Receipts 259 7 10
Total Repairs, Alterations and Additions in and about the Prison in the course of the year 928 14 2 0 13 2 9 5 Total       £16,466 2 5
Repayment of Principal or Interest of Money Borrowed - - - - - - 26 9 Average Earnings of each Prisoner per annum 4 11 10½
Grand Total 30,996 12 3 22 6 7 29 9 Ditto on all Prisons of England and Wales 2 1 5
Daily average number of Prisoners       1,388 16,691  
Gross cost of Prison, per head, per annum, exclusive of repairs £21 13

NETT COST OF THE PRISON TO THE COUNTY FOR THE YEAR, ETC.

Total Expenses of the Prison for the year, not including Repairs, Alterations, and Additions £30,067 18s. 1d.
Total Receipts of Ditto  £16,466 2s. 5d.
Cost to the County, City, or Borough, not including Repairs, Alterations or Additions £13,601 15s. 8d.
Repairs, Alterations and Additions during the year £928 14s. 2d.
Total Expenses of the Prison for the year, including Repairs, Alterations, and Additions, and excluding Receipts £14,530 9s. 10d.
Nett cost of each Prisoner, at Coldbath Fields, per annum £10 9 4¼
Nett cost of each Prisoner in all Prisons of England and Wales, per annum £18 8 6¾
Nett cost of each Prisoner at Coldbath Fields, per diem £0 0s. 6¾
Nett cost of each Prisoner in all Prisons of England and Wales, per diem £0 1s. 0d.

Now, by the above comparative table, we perceive that the average gross cost of Coldbath Fields prison is [-351-] a fraction less than the average for all the other prisons of England and Wales ; for, though the average expense of the diet for each prisoner is nearly as much as 75 per cent. more than the average coat per prisoner for all England and Wales, the average cost of management (notwithstanding the exigencies of the silent system) is upwards of 30 per cent. less, whilst the cost of bedding, as well as of lighting, washing, and cooking, are also considerably below the mean. On the other hand, the average nett annual cost of each prisoner at Cold-bath Fields is as much as 75 per cent. less than the average nett cost for all other prisons. This is owing partly to the earnings of the prisoners at Coldbath Fields being over-estimated (see ante, p. 318), so that, whilst the average sum annually earned by each prisoner throughout England and Wales is £2 ls. 5d., the individual earnings at Coldbath Fields are made to appear as high as £4 11s. 10½d. per annum ; but it is principally due to the fact, that the sum charged to the Treasury for the maintenance of prisoners convicted at assizes and sessions amounts (at 4s. per head per week) to no less than £9,500 ; and, as this is very nearly one-third of the gross cost of Coldbath Fields prison, it is manifest that the nett cost of that establishment to the country must fall considerably under the mean.

[-351-] We can see no sure remedy for these dietary evils, but by the introduction into prison management of the principle we have before spoken of—that of making the increased comfort of the prisoner dependent upon his own labour. Let "punishment diet" be the only eleemosynary allowance ; but, at the same time, give each class of criminals alike the opportunity of adding meat to their meal, by making the luxury contingent upon a certain quantity of work done.*

[* Since writing the preceding article, the Nineteenth Report of the Inspectors of Prisons has been published; and as this furnishes us with the means of comparing the proportion of punishments at the Middlesex House of Correction with that of all other prisons throughout England and Wales, we append the following table :--

TABLE COMPARING THE NUMBER OF PUNISHMENTS, AS WELL AS THEIR PER CENTAGE TO THE GROSS PRISON POPULATION, AT COLDBATH FIELDS HOUSE OP CORRECTION, WITH THE NUMBER AND PER CENTAGE AT ALL OTHER PRISONS IN ENGLAND AND WALES.

PUNISHMENTS COLDBATH FIELDS, 1854-55

Gross Prison Population, 9,180

PRISONS OF ALL ENGLAND AND WALES, 1853

Gross Prison Population, Adult Males } 96,891

 

Excess of deficiency per cent.
  No. of punishments Per centage of punishments to gross prison population No. of punishments Per centage of punishments to gross prison population
Placed in handcuffs and other irons 2 0.02 70 0.07 -0.05
Whipped 5 0.05 115 0.11 -0.06
Confined in dark and solitary cells 470 5.11 9,743 10.05 -4.93
Stoppage of diet and other punishments 8,456 93.09 32,928 33.98 +59.20
TOTAL 9,023 98.27 42,856 44.11 +54.16

Hence, we perceive that whilst at Coldbath Fields the heavier punishments, such as handcuffs, whipping, and confinement in dark or solitary cells, are, in round numbers, 6 per cent. less than at other prisons, the slighter punishments there, such as stoppage of diet, are, within a fraction, as much as 60 per cent. more.
    It is but just to add, before closing this article, that the governor of Coldbath Fields prison remonstrates against the opinion given (at p. 336) as to the effects of the "star system;" and it would certainly appear, from the subjoined return, that that gentleman is right and ourselves wrong. It is due to our own judgment, however, to say, that our ideas on the subject were derived from communications with the warders of the prison, and that they seem to have formed their opinions somewhat too hastily. The governor says, "I deny that the worst men are the best-conducted prisoners ;" and in proof of the statement, he furnishes us with the [-352-] annexed table, showing that the smallest proportion of stars (viz., 2½ per cent.) is obtained by the old "jailbirds," and the greatest proportion (58 per cent.) gained by those who have never been in prison before :—

TABLE SHOWING THE SENTENCES AND NUMBER OF RE-COMMITTALS OF THE PRISONERS OBTAINING "STARS" AT COLDBATH FIELDS PRISON:-

Sentences Men Stars Per centage Sentences Men Stars Per centage
Not in prison before Under 6 months 7 7   In prison twice before Under 6 months - -  
6 and under 12 70 81   6 and under 12 7 8  
12 and upwards 103 185   12 and upwards 17 36  
TOTAL 180 273 58 TOTAL 24 44
In prison once before Under 6 months 2 2   In prison more than twice before Under 6 months 1 1  
6 and under 12 26 28   6 and under 12 1 1  
12 and upwards 54 101   12 and upwards 5 9  
TOTAL 82 131 30 TOTAL 7 11

Total number of stars worn on 2nd August, 1856 . . . Men: 293; Stars: 459

NUMBER OF STARS PAID FOR ON DISCHARGE, FROM 18TH JUNE TO 18TH AUGUST 1856:-

To prisoners sentenced to less than six months. Men: 69; Stars: 69
To prisoners sentenced to 6 months and under 12. Men: 80; Stars: 122
To prisoners sentenced to 12 months and upwards. Men:37; Stars: 110

No account as to former imprisonments.

N.B.--Several men sentenced to three months are paid for stars on discharge, if they have not been reported; but these never wear the stars, as they are discharged when entitled to them.
    Against such arguments it is impossible to say a word, except to acknowledge ourselves in fault, which we do most readily. The governor adds, with exemplary consideration for those under his care, "In many cases I think it advisable to reward men for good conduct, and to give prisoners, on discharge, some chance of looking for honest employment, if so disposed."
    The star system appears, also, to be beneficial as inducing conformity to discipline by means of rewards, rather than enforcing it by means of punishments. The only external motives to human conduct are some such rewards and punishments; both lead to the same end, but the one attains the object by attraction and the other by repulsion. As in a magnet, these attractions and repulsions (of rewards and punishments) are the two forces that induce motion, in human beings, in a given direction. Some men, it must be admitted, require deterrents or repellents to cause them to act as we wish; such characters seem to be comparatively deficient in the attractive qualities of human nature, or, in other words, almost incapable of being moved by some prospective good. Nevertheless, all persons are assuredly not of this kind, and therefore stars and good-conduct badges strike us as being excellent methods of leading men to comply with discipline, and those prison rules and regulations which are necessary for the orderly government of a jail. Hence the star system, judiciously applied, is likely to prove an admirable mode of reducing the amount of punishments at Coldbath Fields prison; and no one would rejoice at such a result more than the writer of this article—unless, indeed, it were the governor himself.]

Let such a task be the price of so much food, and not only will it be found to act as a premium and incentive to the industrious, but it will have the still more beneficial effect of proving to those who least understand the value and object of labour, that it has its rewards and consolations; and that the same strength which was employed and failed in breaking open a door or forcing a lock would, if devoted to more honourable pursuits, be [-352-] sure to succeed in gaining an honest and reputable existence; so that, when they quit prison, they may leave it intent on earning their own living for the future.*

[* It gives us, likewise, great pleasure to be able to record the fact here, that since writing the preceding remarks on the silent system, the governor of Coldbath Fields, ever ready to avail himself of any suggestion as to the improvement of the characters of those under his charge, has tried the plan of reading aloud, as proposed (at p. 335) in this work, and we are happy to add, in the words of the governor himself, "it any very well." With commendable prudence, Captain Colvill made the experiment first in the smaller workrooms, saying that he feared "it would lead to irregularity where many were together." In a later communication to us, however, he writes, "the reading aloud seems to answer very well, and I am trying it with greater numbers. It was proposed by one of our visiting justices some time back." All honour, then, to the justice for the proposal of such a plan, and to the governor for the execution of it. ]