Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

Amongst the publicat subjects of this Record, Prevention, by Mr. Thot just as we were going to notice in our present num with Mr. Thomson's Soci no recommendation of t all our friends-read it.

The following, from the i Paul, for May, 1857, will in Catholic readers.

JUVENILE REFORMATORIES.

The President of St. James' Conference, Spanish-place, having been called upon by the President, gave some details of this interesting Work. First, by co-operating with this Work, the Brothers were assisting the magistrates and the police in deterring Catholic children from future crime, or even offence against the laws. For the children would the more hesitate before any delinquency when they found that, besides having to do merely with the police, they were followed up by the Brothers; and so surely sent to a reformatory school. In the second place, this gave the Brothers an opportunity of coming into contact with the parents, who might be thus morally benefitted. In the third place, the exertions of the Brothers might draw the attention of Government more and more to the Reformatories and their results. Now, any one visiting Blythe House would see how many boys were there rescued from vice, and made to learn useful trades. Excellent shoes were now made at that establishment, and actually the boy who finishes them is only fourteen years old. His time is nearly up, and he prefers remaining in the establishment, where he will now receive wages. Thus, the Brothers might see what good might be done if all the Conferences agreed together to carry out the Work. We must say, from the experience of St. James' Conference, that they had met with the greatest civility and even kindness from the magistrates, and they had just now succeeded in persuading them to order to the boys to the Reformatory at Mount St. Bernard, since Blythe House was full. This had established a most useful precedent.

The work was carried on in this manner :-The Brothers had to get up pretty early (say six o'clock), as at half-past nine the boys were taken from the station to go before the magistrates. The Brothers divided the work, so that one Brother undertook to be present at the police court, to claim the boy for the Catholic Reformatory, at the time of his going to be sentenced. The other Brother undertook to visit the police station.

QUARTERLY RECORD OF THE PROGRESS OF REFORMATORY AND RAGGED SCHOOLS, AND OF THE IMPROVEMENT OF PRISON DISCIPLINE.

Philadelphia has long been noted for its Penitentiary: through the kindness of a Philadelphian friend we are enabled to present the following interesting account of a visit to the Eastern Penitentiary of that city:

Every Philadelphian is familiar with the great frowning Bastile which lifts its granite head on the north side of Coates street, about Twentieth. Everybody who has ever journeyed to Fairmount knows the external appearance of the building, while comparatively few have ever penetrated to the inside. The walls which enclose the ten or twelve acres of ground appropriated to the prson are thirty feet in height, and very unpromisiug to the prisoner who may remember them and who contemplates an attempt at escape after having through his evil deeds got himself lodged inside. The front, which is of massive hewn granite, looks even stronger and less getout-of-able than the rear and side walls. The facade is six hundred and seventy feet in length, and rests upon a terrace. In the centre is the grand gateway, twenty-seven feet high, with two heavy square towers, each fifty feet high, surmounted with projecting embattled parapets. Then there is an octagonal turret, and "embrasures," and munnioned windows," and "loop holes," and all that sort of fortress-like arrangement to strike terror to the hearts of out-door rascals, and to keep them safe when they become graduates in crime and "bring up at Cherry Hill." The walls which present so pretentious an appearance are by no means "all show." They are no less than twelve feet thick at the base, becoming thinner as you go towards their summit.

But after all, these towers and turreted and castellated et ceteras, are only the outward flourishes of the institution, for they form no part of the prison proper, except so far as they constitute a barrier between it and the outside world. The prison is composed of several distinct blocks of buildings, each of which forms a corridor. Each corridor has cells ranged upon either side, and they are in double tiers, or two stories in height. The lower cells are all furnished with small yards in which the prisoner may, if he behaves him. self, enjoy the luxury of the fresh air for a brief period daily. The upper range of cells have no yards, and as a compensation for this deprivation the cells are in pairs, or connected together by communicating doors. One cell is usually used as a work-shop by the prisoner, while the adjoining apartment is his chamber, parlor, re ception room, library, and dining and breakfast room.

There are seven of these corridors, each diverging from a common

A

centre. The central building, which is called the Observatory, is the hub and the seven corridors are the spokes radiating therefrom. The overseer who plants himself in the centre of the Observatory, by merely revolving around on his stand point, has a view of every cell door of every corridor on the floor on which he is standing.

Although there are at present three hundred and forty prisoners in the institution, the visitor would almost imagine that the place was uninhabited except by the few officials who are loitering about. The long corridors are almost entirely deserted, but the sound of the loom and the shuttle denotes that industry is active within the walls.

66

The Pennsylvania system of prison discipline requires that each prisoner should be kept in solitary confinement at hard labor;" and let his time be long or short, he is immured in a cell where he is never seen except by the officers of the prison, by a few privileged officials, who may, if they choose, exercise the right; and, once in three months, he may, by special order of an inspector, receive a visit, of ten or fifteen minutes' duration, from a near relative. But even this poor privilege can only be enjoyed in the presence of a keeper. The ordinary visitor will therefore be disappointed if he enters the institution in the expectation of seeing the prisoners. If, however, his cicerone is disposed to be obliging, he will afford him an opportunity of inspecting the special quarters of some of the prisoners, but, of course, during their temporary absence from their cells. The great mass of these apartments are precisely alike, both in regard to construction and in respect to the condition in which they are kept by their occupants. The cells are all arched; they are eleven feet nine inches long, and seven feet six inches wide; they are lighted from the ceiling, and they are generally well warmed and ventilated. Whitewashed walls, an oaken floor, a grated door, and a door of heavy plank outside of the latter, constitute the architectural peculiarities of each cell. In the matter of furniture an iron bedstead and a small table generally form the entire inventory. There are, however, several exceptions to this rule. Some of the cells are adorned in an extravagant and even a tasteful manner by their occupants. During our recent visit, Mr. John S. Halloway, the worthy Warden, afforded us an opportunity of inspecting several apartments which had been elaborately bedizened by the prisoners who occupied them. The walls were adorned in imitation of paper hangings of showy patterns, and numerous articles of taste, and even of luxury, were scattered about. These articles (providing they are not such as would interfere with the discipline of the prison,) the prisoners are permitted to receive as gifts, or to purchase with the proceeds of their overwork. There is the same diversity of taste and character exhibited among the inmates of the prison as there is among mankind outside the walls. Some of the prisoners care for nothing but the gratification of their animal wants, and they can scarcely be compelled to comply with the prison rules and keep their cells decently clean; others spend their earnings in procuring good books and in little ornamental articles which exhibit taste, while others yet display a genuine African fondness for display in the embellish

ment of their apartments with such little odds and ends of tawdry finery as they can get hold of. A little bit of mother-of-pearl, a piece of painted wood, or a fragment of bright-colored calico are interspersed upon the walls with pictorial newspaper cuts of John Wesley and the Pirate's Retreat, Bishop White and a dance at the Five Points. There are yet others who are of a poetic turn, and who grace their walls with rhyming effusions which often do more credit to their composers than do the doggerels which sometimes appear in the columns of literary newspapers. To our thinking the most touching ornament we saw in a cell, was a few straggling halffaded flowers in a tin cup. The plants, although half-withered, had evidently been carefully nursed by the poor prisoner, and they brought vividly to our mind the beautiful lines of Mrs. Hemans: Bring flowers to the captive's lonely cell, They have tales of the joyous woods to tell; Of the free blue streams and the glowing sky, And the bright world shut from his languid eye; They will bear him a thought of the sunny hours,

And a dream of his youth-bring him flowers, wild flowers! Who knows but those withering plants had done for their lonely possessor what the budding little flower did for the French prisoner in the exquisite story of "Picciola "-softened a stubborn and wayward spirit, and opened a door into his heart for the admission of gentle influences.

Almost all the prisoners who occupy the cells upon the ground floor cultivate the grounds in their little yards. Some plant vegetables, and in season they luxuriate upon radishes, onions, lettuce, &c.; others turn their attention to flowers, while others yet succeed in raising choice fruits. We recollect to have paid a visit, some five years since, to the institution, and while there were shewn a cell which was occupied by a colored man, and which was embellished in the most extravagant manner by its tenant. The prisoner had contrived an arbor which extended over the whole of his little yard, and which at the time of our visit, was rich with clusters of delicious looking grapes. The convict had at that time three years of a ten years' sentence to serve. His time has since expired, and he left the prison about two years since. His cell is now occupied by a notorious counterfeiter from the interior of the State, but the new tenant has suffered all the finery of his predecessor to go to decay. As we looked at the bright green clusters of grapes ripening in the sunshine, we thought with a sigh of the poor prisoner who lightened and cheered a ten years' solitude by cultivating the fruit, and of the stranger who would enjoy it.

Solitary confinement operates with terrible severity upon some who are compelled to submit to it, Most of the prisoners have been accustomed to lead active, unrestrained lives, and nearly all have spent much of their time in the midst of unnatural excitement. The monotony of solitary confinement, the strictness of prison discipline, the plainness of prison fare, and the certainty of being compelled to submit to these things during a long term of imprisonment, operates severely, even upon the most philosophical minds. Some become

moody and reserved, others grow violent, while others chafe against their prison bars as restlessly as a caged lion, or a bird just made captive. Most persons become reconciled to their inevitable fate in the course of a reasonable time; others commence planning escapes which can never be consummated: while in some melancholy instances the mind yields and insanity is the result. In former times this sad end was more frequent than at present. It has been found necessary to abate the severity of the solitary system, and when the mental or the physical health of the prisoner requires it, he is afforded out-door exercise and more frequent intercourse with his fellow man. Educated, intelligent prisoners generally become reconciled to their fate more speedily than the ignorant and untrained. The latter have no mental resources to fall back upon, and they fret and chafe like a wild beast in a trap. With prisoners, as with the rest of mankind, Hope is their great comfort and support in their time of adversity. Even though the prisoner is sentenced for a term so long that it is virtually a sentence to imprisonment for life, he forthwith commences to count the years, the months, and the days which will elapse before he is once more at liberty, and this hope cheers him up until death steps in and sets him free from the prison walls; but let him be sentenced for life, without hope or the prospect of release, and the poor wretch becomes a victim to despair. There is many a drama of real life acted out within the walls of the Eastern Penitentiary; but there is no audience to behold the thrilling scenes and witness the struggle of Man against Fate, nor will the curtain ever be raised to entertain wondering spectators.

The prison is kept scrupulously clean in every part, and it is well supplied with water from a reservoir upon the grounds. The food of the prisoners is plain but wholesome. It consists of as much bread as they want, with an allowance of a gallon of molasses per month. Tea for breakfast five mornings in the week and coffee the other two mornings. For dinner, beef or mutton and vegetables, and for supper, black tea and butterless bread.

Uneducated prisoners are taught to read and write if they are dis. posed to learn, and proper attention is paid to the moral and religious culture of the inmates of the institution.

The principal trades at which the prisoners are employed are weaving, shoemaking, chairmaking, cane-seat making and plain sewing. There are, however, other branches of industry at which the inmates are employed.

During the year 1856 the convicts earned 17,910 dollars 92 cents, while the cost of their support was 24,034 dollars 76 cents-leaving a deficiency of 6,123 dollars 84 cents. There were also expenses to the amount of about 10,000 dollars, to be added to this deficiency, and carried to the account of profit and loss.

One hundred and forty-six prisoners were admitted to the institution during the year 1856. Of these 118 were white males and 9 white females. 17 were colored males, and 2 were colored females.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »