Richard Frith Quinton.

Crime and criminals, 1876-1910 online

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they did formerly under the short-sen-


tence system. The only remedy for
this state of affairs appears to be that
recommended by the Committee — that
the State should take over into its own
hands the management and mainten-
ance of the reformatories. The inquiries
of the Committee show clearly that this
course would be the most economical,
as well as the most efficient for carrying
out the intentions of the Act ; it would
enable the Courts to exercise their powers
more freely and confidently, and relieve
magistrates of the obsession of victim-
ising the ratepayers — a consideration
which has hitherto distinctly tended to
check progress.

Occasional drunkards also need some
fresh incentives to sobriety, and some
better methods of treatment, with a
view to strengthen their will power and
self-control, and to rescue them from
the danger of lapsing into the regular
drink habit. A sentence of three days
may be adequate for a first offence of
simple drunkenness, but it is a futile


penalty for a third or fourth, and it has
the additional drawback that it does not
even secure the important object that a
man shall be quite free from the effects
of the poison when he is expected to turn
over a new leaf. If State control were
once established over the reformatories,
adequate accommodation provided, and
proper working of the Inebriates Act
ensured, the risk of becoming " an in-
ebriate under the Act," which is at pre-
sent hardly worth considering, would at
once operate as a powerful deterrent on
the occasional drunkard. In the mean-
time, however, he should have his will
power stimulated or stiffened by a more
free exercise of the powers which magis-
trates already possess for dealing with
drunkenness and the aggravations which
too often accompany it.

When all the reforms foreshadowed
in the recommendations of the various
Committees are carried out, and when
vagrants, feeble-minded persons, and in-
ebriates cease to be mixed up in prisons


with ordinary responsible offenders, much
benefit will accrue to prisons as well as
to prisoners. Another reform which I
should like to add to the list is the re-
moval of all criminal lunatics from prison
to asylums. If criminals are insane they
should not be in penal institutions — the
very name of prison in this connection
being opposed to all modern ideas on the
subject of insanity. Hitherto prisons have
been made a dumping-ground for every
sort and variety of the general flotsam
and jetsam of society which has been
shot into these institutions promiscuously
without any regard to fitness or ordinary
justice. Prison authorities have been
criticised in their attempts to classify and
assimilate the motley collection, but the
community has sins of its own to answer
for in neglecting to sift out from the
mass those who, from their limited re-
sponsibility, should not find a place in
any penal institution. It is perhaps in-
evitable that prisons should continue to
some extent to be temporary havens for


persons of doubtful mental or moral char-
acter pending the settlement of their
condition, but it is quite contrary to
public policy that such persons should
become regular inmates of prisons. The
proper use for these establishments is to
be houses of detention for those who are
charged with offences against the law,
or houses of correction, in a liberal sense
of the term, for those sane and respon-
sible persons who commit such offences.
Hitherto their smooth working has been
considerably impeded by crowds of the
industrially unfit who, constantly coming
in and going out after short sentences,
gain no benefit whatever from their brief
sojournings in prison, and cause an enor-
mous amount of work, trouble, and ex-
pense, without making any appreciable
return to the State. Under different
conditions, and with longer periods of
detention, these wastrels can be trained
to steady work of some kind, and taught
profitable industries, so as to contribute
to their own keep and supervision. Their


disappearance from the prisons will enable
the permanent staff (which is at all times,
under existing conditions, so inadequate
as to need reinforcement by hundreds
of temporary officers) to concentrate its
energies on the instruction and improve-
ment of the reformable criminals in
custody. Incidentally the gain, from
a public point of view, will be no less
important. Large numbers of persons
who are socially inefficient — some from
physical degeneracy, others from mental
deficiency, and others from confirmed
inebriety — will be secluded for consider-
able periods, and prevented for the time
being from propagating their kind ; whilst
the public, on whom they depend for
their living, will be spared much pecu-
niary loss, and much untold misery
which these wretched folk inflict on
their relatives and all who are connected
with them.


The Borstal System — Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society —
Prison population likely to decrease when the new
Acts come into force — Better classification will result
— Some system of selection needed for a scientific
treatment of criminals — Cost to the State of proposed
changes — Failure of the short sentence system for
some classes — The prevalence of an idle class — Borstal
treatment for females.

Of the various reforms that have either
been already adopted by the legislature,
or officially recommended by Royal Com-
missions and Departmental Committees,
with a view to the reduction of crime,
I have already adverted to those which
deal witli criminals in esse — the habitual
criminal, the vagrant, the feeble-minded,
and the inebriate. Other measures of a
similar kind aiming at the same object
are : — ^The Probation of Offenders Act,
which enables magistrates to deal very
leniently with first offenders by placing


them under the care of a probation
officer with a view to their rehabilita-
tion ; the Children's Act, which prohibits
children under fourteen years from being
sent to prison, and young persons be-
tween fourteen and sixteen years from
being imprisoned, unless they are ot so
unruly a character that they cannot
safely be sent to a place of detention
as provided in the Act, or unless they
are of so depraved a character that they
are unfit to be so detained ; and. lastly,
the Prevention of Crimes Act, Part I.,
which deals with the reformation of
young offenders between sixteen and
twenty-one years of age. This last
measure is of great importance. It is,
in reality, based on the experimental
treatment which the Prison Commis-
sioners have been applying to youths
of this age for several years past, and
generally known as the Borstal System,
and which has been attended with such
striking success. It is based on the
principles of strict discipline, tempered


with several valuable rewards and privi-
leges for good conduct and industry.
The youth is made to work at some
skilled trade in which he can take an
interest, he goes through a regular daily
course of physical drill, and, on the
moral and intellectual side, his general
education is specially forwarded, while
he is encouraged to read literature that
is improving as well as instructive, and
he hears lectures on subjects that are
likely to attract and interest him. The
results of the scheme, so far, have been
of a most encouraging nature. The
material to be experimented on looked far
from promising at first sight. INIost of
these young offenders had already appren-
ticed themselves to crime, and were on
the high road to lives of professional
criminality, having many previous con-
victions against their names for acts of
larceny, hooliganism, and other kinds of
lawlessness. They already bore the prison
stamp, and — -a worse feature still — gloried
in it as a distinctive mark of heroism.


INIedical examination showed that they
were physically much below the proper
standard of their age and class, while
many were afflicted with disease, de-
formity, or disablement of some kind.
It was soon found, however, that with
proper training and physical drill the
slouching and undersized loafers gained
rapidly in height, weight, chest measure-
ment, and general muscular development,
so as to acquire a smart, well-set-up
appearance, which frequently heralded
the dawning of self-respect. No better
object-lesson could be exhibited of the
benefits of universal military training.
Simultaneously, strong efforts were made
to improve their general intelligence, and
to add to their mental and moral equip-
ment, and lastly, they were armed with
sufficient skill in some form of industry
to enable them to make a fresh start in
decent life.

Further, an After-Care Association
was formed of benevolent people who
took an interest in the rescue of young


offenders, and these voluntary workers
have contributed largely to the success
of the scheme by giving freely time,
money, and personal energy, by finding
work for them on discharge from prison,
and by keeping a kindly and watchful
eye on their progress afterwards.

A modification of the system was also
devised for those whose short sentences
excluded them from the full benefits of
the scheme, for which a period of at
least twelve months was necessary.

The practical results are that from 60
to 70 per cent, of those who were dealt
with under the full scheme are known
to be at work and doing well, while 58
per cent, of those under the modified
benefits are also known to be doing
well, and 11 per cent, only have been

It is a singular fact that during the
last ten years in which the Borstal treat-
ment of these young offenders between
sixteen and twenty-one has been in
practice, the number of male persons


of these ages received in prison on con-
viction has fallen from 15,302 to 12,645.
The numbers of this class fluctuate a
good deal from year to year, but the
average of the five years ending 1897
was 16,178, so that it is clear there has
been a marked decrease in the numbers
recently. It may be unreasonable to
ascribe this decrease solely to the Borstal
System, but there are good grounds for
thinking that the system has had much
to do with it. We know that boys
of this age are chummy and clannish
generally, and that many of these youths
work in gangs, which it is the object
of the police, as a matter of the firs;:
importance in their eyes, to break up.
The removal of the heads, or of the
leading spirits, to other spheres of in-
dustry at once damps the energies of
the remainder, and leads to the disband-
ment of the entire gang. Many of the
hooligan heroes of these gangs have
been dealt with under the Borstal System,
and turned into respectable citizens.


It is on the substantial basis of the
results obtained from this experimental
treatment of these youths, started by
the Prison Commissioners, that Part I.
of the Prevention of Crimes Act is
founded. Under this Act, the sentence
passed by the Court will " be detention
under penal discipline in a Borstal
Institution for a term of not less than
one year, and not more than three years,
and the persons liable to such detention
will be between the ages of sixteen and
twenty-one, whom, by reason of criminal
habit or tendency, it is expedient to
detain for lengthened periods, under such
instruction and discipline as may appear
most conducive to reformation and repres-
sion of crime." The Act also gives the
further power of holding these persons
on licence after discharge, and it is to
apply to females as well as males. Bor-
stal prison, and parts of Lincoln and
Aylesbury prisons, are declared " Borstal
Institutions" under the Act.

It is expected that the Courts will


now avail themselves of the advantage
offered by the Act for deahng with this
difficult class of criminals who have
hitherto, on account of their youth,
escaped with very light sentences that
have had neither a reformatory nor a
deterrent effect, and that they will
readily send them in future to Borstal
Institutions, with the knowledge and con-
fidence that they will have the benefit
of the most enlightened reformatory
treatment, without incurring the rigour
of the ordinary penal discipline of a
prison, or the risk of contamination by
hardened criminals.

The various Discharged Prisoners' Aid
Societies, which are attached to all the
prisons, although they are not new
agencies for the repression of crime,
take a large sliare in the encouragement
of those offenders who show any willing-
ness to make a fresh start in life, and
to give up evil ways, 'i'hey helped in
various ways no less than 57,774 dis-
charged prisoners in 1908-9. Their


total income arising from local sub-
scriptions, Government grants, and
gratuities amounted to over £24,000,
and over £13,000 was distributed
amongst the prisoners in the form of
clothes, railway fares, tools, stock, main-
tenance, and cash — the latter seldom.
They are in close touch with the various
societies which have labour homes, and
also with various employers, and they
find much employment for promising

These Societies offer special tempta-
tions to the vagrants and beggars who
do not like to see the more deserving
prisoners helped, and who often have
the hardihood to beg even in prison.
Occasionally veterans, who look on
prison as their home, will apply on the
chance of seeing some one who will not
probe their case too deeply, but the
Societies are very expert at the sifting
out business, and at economising their
funds for tlie benefit of deserving appli-
cants, and so they make short work of


old hands whose records show them to
be beyond hope of reform. Clothing on
discharge is a very common subject
of application. I was present on one
occasion when a prisoner applied to a
member of the Visiting Committee, who
represented the Aid Society, for a pair
of trousers. It happened, curiously
enough, that he had stolen a pair of
trousers, for which offence he had re-
ceived a short sentence, but he did not
look on this fact as in any way detrimental
to his claim. The magistrate, however,
made some inquiry into the prisoner's
domestic affairs, in the course of which
the prisoner let slip a remark about
"the young woman who lives with me."
The magistrate, who was a stern dis-
ciplinarian, and always liked to get in a
word in season, stopped him at once,
and said solemnly : " Prisoner, I set such
a high value on morality, that you have
forfeited all claim to my sympathy,"
whereupon he stalked out of the cell,
leaving the prisoner in utter ignorance



as to what it all meant. The language
might as well have been in an unknown
tongue, so far as he was concerned.
Presently, however, he asked the warder
what the gentleman had said. The
warder told him that the magistrate
did not approve of his " living with a
young woman," but his only remark
was : " Yes, but what does he si abaht
the trahsers ? "

The incident reminded me of Spurgeon's
advice to the young minister not to preach
so much over the heads of his congrega-
tion, as though he were addressing an
assembly of giraffes.

I remember this same magistrate ask-
ing a regular street urchin who was being
sent to a reformatory what was his
religion. The boy did not understand,
so the question was put differently —
" Where do you go on Sunday ? " The
reply was — " Me and feyther collect rags
and bones of a Sunday."

It may be expected that these various
measures, which have been already adopted.


or are in the course of adoption, for the
prevention and repression of crime, will
in course of time exercise a very decided
effect in reducing the prison population,
and supplying the Prison Commissioners
with the extra accommodation which they
require to relieve the existing congested
state of the prisons, and to provide for
the preventive detention of " Habitual
Criminals" for long periods under the
Prevention of Crimes Act. It is clear,
however, that the reforms will not result
in a reduction of the numbers of our
public institutions, for which England is
so famous, that an observant Frenchman
remarked : " One half of the people of
England seem to be in institutions main-
tained by the other half" Nevertheless,
the attainment of a better classification,
and sorting out, of the waste products of
society, will constitute a social reform of
the first magnitude. The old indis-
criminate method of scrapping the entire
mass in one huge dust heap, and treating
all alike was both illogical and wasteful.


It is obvious that some system of
selection is an essential preliminary to
the scientific treatment of such a hetero-
geneous collection of individuals, some of
criminal, and some of non-criminal, habit
and character.

The cost of these changes to the State
in the first instance will probably be con-
siderable, but when we bear in mind that
the class of people to be dealt with are
already social parasites, who live at public
expense in the prisons for the greater part
of the year, and at other times put the
State to enormous expense by the never-
ending series of legal proceedings neces-
sary to get them into prison again (to be
maintained again at public expense), the
ultimate gain to the community in a
material, as well as a moral, point of
view, hardly admits of doubt. The short
sentence, as hitherto applied to these
offenders, has proved a most expensive
remedy, and it has tended, in the opinion
of those best qualified to judge, to the
encouragement, rather than to the sup-


pression, of crime. It must not be
thought, however, that we are yet in
sight of the millennium. The ingenuity
and persistency of those who are crimin-
ally inclined will either devise means of
evading the law, or will urge them openly
to violate the law, when evasion is im-
possible, without regard to risk of de-
tection. Habitual criminals will still
ply their trades ; beggars, vagrants, and
inebriates will still succumb to the
mysterious attractions of an idle life, a
nomadic life, or a drunken life, but their
ranks will be considerably reduced. Short
sentences will be reserved as a kind of
warning treatment for beginners. Longer
periods of detention, under a system rest-
ing on an industrial rather than a penal
basis, will enable the authorities to re-
claim the reclaimables, and, if they do
not succeed in inculcating the work habit,
they will at least "preventively detain"
idlers from living on other people.

A particularly audacious specimen of
this latter class of idler was reported at a


recent meeting of Poor Law guardians to
have chalked up on the wall of the casual
ward — " If Tariff Reform means work for
all, then I am for Free Trade." He is
unfortunately a type of a much larger
class than is generally supposed. I have
already shown that prisons alone received
over 25,000 of them in a year. If we add
to these the probably larger numbers in
the workhouses of the country, and those
who are at large in the intervals of their
visits to these alternative institutions, we
shall find that the idlers are not all at
the top of the social scale, and that the
numbers of the vagrant class have already
reached almost intractable dimensions.
The problem of dealing with them, in
their ever increasing hosts, is one that
calls urgently for legislative treatment
on the lines laid down in the official
recommendations of the Royal Com-
mission, and at the earliest possible
date. It is obvious that no Right-to-
Work Bill is likely to find favour with
these drones unless it contains some


stringent provisions for securing un-
limited Right-to-Rest also.

What effect will these reforms have
on female offenders ? Unfortunately the
field for reformatory effort is much more
limited, and less promising in the case of
women than men. To begin with, their
numbers are much smaller, and further,
the sentences are shorter, while at the
same time those of plastic age, who are
susceptible specially to reformatory in-
fluences, form but an insignificant pro-
portion of the whole number. Serious
crime amongst women is in reality in-
considerable when compared with general
population statistics. If we take the
standing population of female convicts
as a measure of the worst kind of crime,
we find that the daily average population
of these convicts is only 131. If we take
from the local prison sentences for a com-
plete year (amounting to over 40,000)
those exceeding twelve months, we find
that there were only 56 such sentences,
while the sentences of twelve months


were only 98, those of nine months 70,
and those of six months 444. The actual
figures of crime amongst women are
mainly due to offences under the heads
of " simple drunkenness," and " drunken-
ness with aggravations," which account
for 19,300 out of a total of 40,000.

In regard to age, in its bearing on the
prospects of reform for these women,
only 1234 were between 16 and 21, while
24,500 were between 30 and 50, and 8800
between 21 and 30.

A further indication of the unpromising
character of this material is found in the
percentage of previous convictions re-
corded against them, which is as high
as 78'8, compared with 57 1 amongst

These figures undoubtedly confirm the
general opinion held by those who work
amongst female prisoners, more especially
drunkards, that they are much more
hopeless to deal with than men, and
that it is very difficult to wean them
from evil habits.


Under the new Act, however, a Borstal
Institution for females has been already
established at Aylesbury, and is in work-
ing order. Prisoners can be committed
there direct from the Courts, or trans-
ferred there from prisons under a special
section of the Act, if their sentences
exceed four months. It is hoped that
the Courts will now pass longer sentences
of detention in Borstal Institutions for
girls between 16 and 21, instead of send-
ing them to prison for the shorter terms
which have hitherto proved as ineffectual
in checking drunkenness and prostitution
amongst women as they have in the case
of vagrancy amongst men.

Time is, of course, essential for carry-
ing out the objects aimed at by the
Borstal scheme for both sexes, if they
are to be given the industrial training
which, in the case of young women, is
specially necessary for them when they
are discliarged from the Borstal Institu-
tions, and handed over to the After-Care
Associations to be provided with work,


and with the opportunities of starting
new and useful hves. This industrial
training is in reality one of the most
important features of the scheme. Not
only is it of economic value, but it is also
a factor of great weight — which is apt
to be overlooked — in the strengthening of
character, which so many of these young
offenders need, if they are to be kept
out of the criminal class. I have already
shown the beneficial effects of produc-
tive industry on the general conduct of
prisoners, and, if we are to regard con-
duct in any measure as an index to, or
reflex of, character, we must look for
similar beneficial effects from an indus-
trial training on the character of those who
have received it at a plastic age. The
acquisition of the work habit is, in fact,
a powerful antidote to criminal inclina-
tions, while the loss of it leads directly
to a deterioration of character which too
often ends in actual crime.

Female prisoners of the Borstal age
are peculiarly susceptible to contaminat-


ing influences. Chaplains of experience
are at much pains to keep young first
offenders from the degrading association
of some of the older hands, whom they
look on as pestilent disseminators of
moral contagion.

For young girls who are beginning to
turn to the streets for a livelihood, but
who are not yet past reclamation, this
kind of companionship is a curse, and
generally proves fatal to their rescue.
We had at Hollo way Prison exceptional
facilities, of which full advantage was

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Online LibraryRichard Frith QuintonCrime and criminals, 1876-1910 → online text (page 6 of 11)