Sydney Smith.

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ishment of refractory prisoners ? I have.
Do you find it necessary occasionally to
use them ? Very seldom. Have you, in
any instance, been obliged to use the dark
cell, in the case of the same prisoner, twice?
Only on one occasion, I think. What
length of tune is it necessary to confine a
refractory prisoner to bring hm to his
senses ? Less than one day. Do you think
it essential, for the purpose of keeping up
the discipline of the prison, that you should
have it in your power to have recourse to
the punishment of dark cells? I do; I
consider punishment in a dark cell for one
day has a greater effect upon a prisoner
than to keep him on bread and water for
a month." (Evidence before the Com-
mittee of the House of Commons in 1819,
p. 359.)

The evidence of the Governor of
Gloucester jail is to the same effect.

" Mr. THOMAS CUNNINGHAM, Keeper of
Gloucester Gaol. Do you attribute the



* The Winchester and Devizes jails seem
to us to be conducted upon better principles
than any other, though even these are by
no means what jails should be.



want of those certificates entirely to the
neglect of enforcing th'e means of solitary
confinement ? I do most certainly. Some-
times, where a certificate has not been
granted, and a prisoner has brought a cer-
tificate of good behaviour for one year, Sir
George and the Committee ordered one
pound or a guinea from the charity. Does
that arise from your apprehension that the
prisoners have not been equally reformed,
or only from the want of the means of as-
certaining suchreformation? It is for want
of not knowing ; and we cannot ascertain
it, from their working in numbers. They
may be reformed ? Yes ; but we have not
the means of ascertaining it. There is one
thing I do which is not provided by the
rules, and which is the only thing in which
I deviate from the rules. When a man is
committed for a month, I never give him.
any work ; he sits in solitude, and walks in
the yard by himself for air; he has no
other food but his bread and water, except
twice a week a pint of peas soup. I never
knew an instance of a man coming in a
second time, who had been committed for a
month. I have done that for these seventeen
or eighteen years. What has been the re-
sult ? They dread so much coming in again.
If a man is committed for six weeks, we give
him work. Do you apprehend that soli-
tary confinement for a month, without
employment, is the most beneficial means
of working reform ? I conceive it is. Can
it operate as the means of reform, any
more than it operates as a system of pun-
ishment ? It is only for small offences they
commit for a month. Would not the same
effect be produced by corporal punish-
ment ? Corporal punishment may be ab-
solutely necessary sometimes; but I do
not think corporal punishment would re-
form them so much as solitary confinement.
Would not severe corporal punishment
have the same effect ? No, it would harden
them more than any thing else. Do you
think benefit is derived from the opportu-
nity of reflection afforded by solitary con-
finement ? Yes. And very low diet also ?
Yes." (Evidence before the Committee
of the House of Commons in 1819, p. 391.)

We must quote also the evidence of
the Governor of Horsley jail.

" Mr. WILLIAM STOKES, Governor of the
House of Correction at Horsley. Do you
observe any difference in the conduct of
prisoners who are employed, and those who
have no employment? Yes, a good deal;
I look upon it, from what judgment I can
form, and I have been a long while in it, that
to take a prisoner and discipline him ac-
cording to the rules as the law allows, and



336



STATE OF PRISONS.



if he have no work, that that man goes
through more punishment in one month
than a man who is employed, and receives
a portion of his labour, three months ; but
still' I should like to have employment,
because a great number of times I took
men away, who had been in the habit of
earning sixpence a week to buy a loaf, and
put them in solitary confinement; and the
punishment is a great deal more without
work.- Which of the prisoners, those that
have been employed, or those unemployed,
do you think would go out of the prison the
better men? I think, that let me have a
prisoner, and I never treat anyone with se-
verity, any further than that they shouli
be obedient, and to let them see that I will
do my duty, I have reason to believe, that,
if a prisoner is committed under my care,
or any other man's care, to a house of cor-
rection, and he has to go under the disci-
pline of the law, if he is in for the value
of a month or six weeks, that man is in a
great deal better state than though he
stays for six months ; he gets hardened by
being in so long, from one month to an-
other. You are speaking now of solitude
without labour ; do you think he would go
out better, if he had been employed during
the month you speak of? No, nor half;
because I never task those people, in order
that they should not say I force them to
do more than they are able, that they
should not slight it ; for if they perform
any thing in the bounds of reason, I never
find fault with them: the prisoner who
is employed, his time passes smooth and
comfortable, and he has a proportion of
his earnings, and he can buy additional
diet; but if he has no labour, and kept
under the discipline of the prison, it is a
tight piece of punishment to go through.
Which of the two should you think
most likely to return immediately to habits
of labour on their own account ? The dis-
positions of all men are not alike; but my
opinion is this, if they are kept and disci-
plined according to the rules of the prison,
and have no labour, that one month will
do more than six; I am certain, that a
man who is kept there without labour
once, will not be very ready to come therr
again." _ (Evidence before the Committe
of the House of Commons, pp. 398, 899.)

Mr. Gurney and Mr. Buxton both
lay a great stress upon the quiet and
content of prisoners, upon their sub-
ordination and the absence of all plant
of escape ; but, where the happines
of prisoners is so much consulted, w
should be much more apprehensive o



a conspiracy to break into, than to
>rcak out of, prison. The mob out-
ide may, indeed, envy the wicked
jnes within ; but the felon who has
eft, perhaps, a scolding wife, a bat-
ered cottage, and six starving children,
las no disposition to escape from
egularity, sufficient food, employment
vhich saves him money, warmth, ven-
ilation, cleanliness, and civil treat-
ment. These symptoms, tipon which
hese respectable and excellent men
ay so much stress, are by no means
)roofs to us that prisons are placed
ipon the best possible footing.

The Governor of Bury jail, as well
as Mr. Gurney, insist much upon the
ew prisoners who return to the jail a
second time, the manufacturing' skill
which they acquire there, and the
complete reformation of manners, for
which the prisoner has afterwards
;hanked him the governor. But this
is not the real criterion of the cxcel-
ence of a jail, nor the principal reason
why jails were instituted. The great
ooint is, not the average recurrence of
;he same prisoners ; but the paucity
or frequency of commitments, upon
the whole. You may make a jail such
an admirable place of education, that
it may cease to be infamous to go
there. Mr. Holford tells us (and a
very curious anecdote it is), that
parents actually accuse their children
falsely of crimes, in order to get them
into the Philanthropic Charity ! and
that it is consequently a rule with the
Governors of that Charity never to
receive a child upon the accusation of
the parents alone. But it is quite
obvious what the next step will be,
if the parents cannot get their children
in by fibbing. They will take good
care that the child is really qualified
for the Philanthropic, by impelling him
to those crimes which are the passport
to so good an education.

"If, on the contrary, the offender is to
be punished simply by being placed in a
prison, where he is to be well lodged, well
clothed, and well fed, to be instructed in
reading and writing, to receive a moral and
religious education, and to be brought up
to a trade; and if this prison is to be
within the reach of the parents, so that



STATE OF PRISONS.



337



they may occasionally visit their child, and tions upon this point in Mr. Holford's
have the satisfaction of knowing, from j book, who upon the whole has, we
time to time, that all these advantages are ! think? best treated t h e subject of
conferred upon him and that he is exposed j and best understands them .
to no hardships, although the cjnniieiueiit j r

and the discipline of the prison may be i "In former times, men were deterred
irksome to the boy ; yet the parents may from pursuing the road that led to a prison,
be apt to congratulate themslves on having by the apprehension of encountering there
got him off their hands into so good a berth, disease and hunger, of being loaded with
and may be considered by other parents heavy irons, and of remaining without
as having drawn a prize in the lottery of clothes to cover them, or abed to lie on: we
human life by then- son's conviction. This have done no more than what justice re-
reasoning is not theoretical, but is founded , quired in relieving the inmates of a prison,
in some degree upon experience. Those i from these hardships; but there is no reason
who have been in the habit of attending
the committee of the Philanthropic So-
ciety know, that parents have often ac-
cused their children of crimes falsely, cr
have exaggerated their real offences, for the
sake of inducing that Society to take them;
and so frequent has been this practice,
tliat it is a rule with those who manage that
Institution, never to receive an object upon
the representation of its parents, unless
supported by other strong testimony." -*
(Holford, pp. 41, 45.)

It is quite obvious that, if men were
to appear again, six months after they
were hanged, handsomer, richer, and
more plump than before execution, the
gallows would cease to be an object of
terror. But here are men who come out



of jail, and say, "Look at us we j to make j^ do the



read and write, we can make
baskets and shoes, and we went in
ignorant of everything : and we have
learnt to do without strong liquors,
and have no longer any objection to
work ; and we did work in the jail,
and have saved money, and here it
is. " What is there of terror and detri-
ment in all this ? and how are crimes
to be lessened if they are thus re-
warded ? Of schools there cannot be
too many. Penitentiaries, in the hands
of wise "men, may be rendered excel-
lent institutions; but a prison mu^-t
be a prison a place of sorrow and
wailing; which should be entered with
horror, and quitted with earnest reso-
lution never to return to such misery;
with that deep impression, in short,
of the evil, which breaks out into
perpetual warning and exhortation to
others. This great point effected, all
other reformation must do the greatest
good.

There are some very sensible observa-
VOL. L



all other sufferings and privations. And I
hope that those whose duty it is to take
up the consideration of these subjects will
see, that in Penitentiaries, offenders should
be subjected to separate confinement, ac-
companied by such work as may be found
consistent with that system of imprison-
ment ; that in Gaols or Houses of Correc-
tion, they should perform that kind of
labour which the law has enjoined; and
that, in prisons of both descriptions, instead
of being allowed to cater for themselves,
they should be sustained by such food as
the rules and regulations of the establish-
ment should have provided for them; in
short, that prisons should be considered as
places of punishment, and not as scenes
of cheerful industry, where a compromise
must be made with the prisoner's appetites
work of a



journeyman or manufacturer, and the
labours of the spinning-wheel and the loom
must be alleviated by indulgence." *



* " That I ain guilty of no exaggeration
in thus describing a prison conducted upon
the principles now coming into fashion
will be evident to any person who will turn
to the latter part of the article ' Peniten-
tiary, Millbank,' in Mr. Buxton's Book on
Prisons. He there states what passed in
conversation between himself and the Go-
vernor of Bury gaol (which gaol, by the bye,
he praises as one of the three best prisons
he has ever seen, and .strongly recom-
mends to our imitation at Millbank). Hav-
ing observed, that the Governor of Bury
gaol bad mentioned his having counted 3*
spinning wheels in full activity when he left
that gaol at 5 o'clock in the morning on
the preceding day, Mr. Bnxton proceeds as
follows: 'After he had seen the Miil-
bank Penitentiary, I asked him what i would
be the consequence, if the regulations
there used were adopted by him ?
consequence would-be," he replied^ "that

be con-
sidered as supposing that the prisoners
will altogether refuse to work at Millbank
they will work during the stated hours



every wheel would be stonped.
Buxton then adds, ' I would not



338



STATE OF PRISONS



This is good sound sense; and it is
a pity that it is preceded by the usual
nonsense about " the tide of blasphemy
and sedition." If Mr. Holford is an
observer of tides and currents, whence
comes it that he observes only those
which set one way? Whence comes
it that he says nothing of the tides
of canting and hypocrisy, which are
flowing with such rapidity? of ab-
ject political baseness and sycophancy
_ of the disposition ' so prevalent
among Englishmen, to sell their con-
science and their country to the Mar-
quis of Londonderry for a living for
the second son or a silk gown for
the nephew or for a frigate for my
brother the captain? How comes our
loyal careerist to forget all these sorts
of tides ?

There is a great confusion, as the
law now stands, in the government
of jails. The justices are empowered,
by several statutes, to make subor-
dinate regulations for the government
of the jails; and the sheriff supersedes
those regulations. Their respective

but the present incentive being wanting,
the labour will, I apprehend, be languid
and desultory.' I shall not, on my part,
undertake to say that they will do as much
work as will be done in those prisons m
which work is the primary obiect; but, be-
sides the encouragement of the portion of
earnings laid up for them, they know that
diligence is among the qualities that will
recommend them to the mercy of the
Crown, and that the want of it is, by the
rules and regulations of the prison, an
oftence to be punished. The Governor of
Bury gaol, who is a very intelligent man,
must have spoken hastily, in his eagerness
to support his own system, and did not,
I conceive, give himself credit for as much
power and authority in his prison as he
really possesses. It is not to be wondered
at, that the keepers of prisons should like
the new system: there is less trouble in
the care of a manufactory than in that
of a gaol ; but I am surprised to find that
so much reliance is placed in argument on
the declaration of some of these officers,
that the prisoners are quieter where their
work is encouraged by allowing them to
spend a portion of their earnings. It may
naturally be expected, that offenders will
l>e least discontented, and consequently
least turbulent, where their punishment
is lightest, or where, to use Mr. Buxton's
own words, 'by making labour productive
of comfort or convenience, you do much
towards rendering it agreeable;' but I
must be permitted to doubt whether these
are the prisons of which men will live
in most dread." (Uolford, pp. 7880.)



jurisdictions and powers should ba
clearly arranged.

The female prisoners should be under
the care of a matron, with proper as-
sistants. Where this is not the case,
the female part of the prison is often
a mere brothel for the turnkeys. Can
anything be so repugnant to all ideas
of reformation, as rf male turnkey
visiting a solitary female prisoner ?
Surely, women can take care of wo-
men as effectually as men can take
care of men ; or, at least, women can
do so properly, assisted by men. This
want of a matron is a very scandalous
and immoral neglect in any prison
system.

The presence of female visitors, and
instructors for the women, is so ob-
viously advantageous and proper, that
the offer of forming such an institution
must be gladly and thankfully received
by any body of magistrates. That
they should feel any jealousy of such
interference is too absurd a supposition
to be made or agreed upon. Such
interference may not effect all that
zealous people suppose it will effect;
but, if it does any good, it had
better be.

Irons should never be put upon,
prisoners before trial; after trial we
cannot object to the humiliation and
disgrace which irons and a parti-co-
loured prison dress occasion. Let
them be a part of solitary confinement,
and let the words " Solitary Confine-
ment," in the sentence, imply permis-
sion to use them. The Judge then
knows what he inflicts.

We object to the office of Prison
Inspector, for reasons so very obvious,
that it is scarcely necessary to enu-
merate them. The prison inspector
would, of course, have a good salary;
that, in England, is never omitted.
It is equally matter of course, that he
would be taken from among Treasury
retainers ; and that he never would
look at a prison. Every sort of atten-
tion should be paid to the religious
instruction of these unhappy people,
but the poor chaplain should be paid
a little better; every possible duty
is expected from him and he has
one hundred per annum.



STATE OF PRISONS.



339



Whatever money is given to pri-
soners, should be lodged with the
governor for their benefit, to be applied
as the visiting magistrates point out
no other donations should be allowed
or accepted.

If voluntary work before trial, or
compulsory work after trial, be the
system of a prison, there should be a
taskmaster ; and it should be remem-
bered, that the principal object is not
profit.

Wardsmen, selected in each yard
among the best of the prisoners, are
very serviceable. If prisoners work,
they should work in silence. At all
times, the restrictions upon seein
friends should be very severe; and no
food should be sent from friends.

Our general system then is that a
prison should be a place of real punish-
ment ; but of known, enacted, measur-
able, and measured punishment. A
prisoner (not for assault, or refusing
to pay parish dues, but a bad felonious
prisoner; should pass a part of his three
months in complete darkness ; the rest
in complete solitude, perhaps in com-
plete idleness (for solitary idleness
leads to repentance, idleness in com-
pany to vice). He should be exempted
from cold, be kept perfectly clean,
have sufficient food to prevent hunger
ur illness, wear the prison dress and
moderate irons, have no communica-
tion with anybody but the officers
of the prison and the magistrates, and
remain otherwise in the most perfect
solitude. We strongly suspect this
is the way in which a bad man is to
be made afraid of prisons ; nor do we
think that he would be less inclined
to receive moral and religious instruc-
tion, than any one of seven or eight
carpenters in jail, working at a com-
mon bench, receiving a part of their
earnings, and allowed to purchase with
them the delicacies of the season. If
this system be not resorted to, the next
best system is severe work, ordinary
diet, no indulgences, and as much se-
clusion and solitude as are compatible
with work; always remarking, that
perfect sanity of mind and body are to
be preserved.

To this system of severity in jails



there is but one objection. The present
duration of punishments was calculated
for prisons conducted upon very dif-
ferent principles; and if the discipline
of prisons were rendered more strict,
we are not sure that the duration of
imprisonmjut would be practically
shortened ; and the punishments would
then be quite atrocious and dispropor-
tioned. There is a very great disposi-
tion, both in judges and magistrates, to
increase the duration of imprisonment;
and, if that be done, it will be dreadful
cruelty to increase the bitterness as well
as the time. We should think, for in-
stance, six months' solitary imprison-
ment to be a punishment of dreadful
severity ; but we find, from the House
of Commons' Report, that prisoners are
sometimes committed by county magis-
trates for two years* of solitary con-
finement. And so it may be doubted,
whether it is not better to wrap up the
rod in flannel, and make it a plaything,
as it really now is, than to show how it
may be wielded with effectual severity.
For the pupil, instead of giving one or
two stripes, will whip his patient to
death. But if this abuse were guarded
against, the real way to improve would
be, now we have made prisons healthy
and airy, to make them odious and
austere engines of punishment, and
objects of terror.

In this age of charity and of prison
improvement, there is one aid to pri-
soners which appears to be wholly
overlooked; and that is, the means of
regulating their defence, and providing
them witnesses for their trial. A man
is tried for murder, or for housebreak-
ing, or robbery, without a single shil-
ling in his pocket. The nonsensical
and capricious institutions of the Eng-
lish law prevent him from engaging
counsel to speak in his defence, if he
lad the wealth of Crasus ; but he has
no money to employ even an attorney,
or to procure a single witness, or to
take out a subpoena. The Judge,
we are told, is his counsel, this is
sufficiently absurd; but it is not pre-
tended that the Judge is his witness.
lie solemnly declares that he has three
or four witnesses who could give a
* House of Commons' Report, 355.
Z 2



340



MAN TRAPS AND SPRING GUNS.



completely different colour to the trans-
action; but they are sixty or seventy
miles distant, working for their daily
bread, and have no money for such a
journey, nor for the expense of a resi-
dence of some days in an Assize Town.
They do not know even the time of the
Assize, nor the modes of tendering their
evidence if they could come. When
everything is so well marshalled against
him on the opposite side, it would be
singular if an innocent man, with such
an absence of all means of defending
himself, should not occasionally be
hanged or transported ; and accord-
ingly we believe that such things have
happened.* Let any man, immediately
previous to the Assizes, visit the pri-
soners for trial, and see the many
wretches who are to answer to the most
serious accusations, without one penny
to defend themselves. If it appeared
probable, upon inquiry, that these pooi
creatures had important evidence
which they could not bring into Court
for want of money, would it not be a
wise application of compassionate fund?
to give them this fair chance of estab-
lishing their innocence? It seems to
us no bad finale of the pious labours o<
those who guard the poor from ill
treatment during their imprisonment.
to take care that they are not unjustly
hanged at the expiration of the term.

* From the Clonmel Advertiser it ap-
pears, that John Brien, alias Captain
Wheeler, was found guilty of murder at
the late assizes for the county of "Waterford
Previous to his execution he made the 'fol
lowing confession :

" I now again most solemnly aver, in the
presence of that God by whom I will soor
be judged, and who sees the secrets of mj
heart, that only three, viz. Morgan Brien
Patrick Brien , atidmy unfortunate self, com
mitted the horrible crimes of murder and
burning at Bally garron, and that the fou
unfortunate, men who have before sufferec
for them were not in the smallest degre
accessary to them. I have been the cause
for which they have innocently sufferer
death. I have contracted a debt of justic
with them and the only and least rest!
tution I can make them, is thus publicly
solemnly, and with death before my eyes
to acquit their memory of any guilt in th
crimes for which I shall deservedly suf
fer ! ! 1 " (Philanthropist, No. 6. 208.)

; Pereunt et imputantur.



MAN TRAPS AND SPRING

GUNS. (E. REVIEW, 1821.)
teports of Cases argued and determined
in the Court of King's Bench, in Hilary

Term, 60th Geo. III. 1820. By Richard

V. Barnewall, of Lincoln's Inn, Esq. Bar-

rister-at-Law, and Edward H. Aldersou,

of the Inner Temple, Esq. Barrister-at-



Online LibrarySydney SmithThe works of Rev. Sydney Smith : including his contributions to the Edinburgh Review (Volume 1) → online text (page 61 of 66)