Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

It is of course necessary, in a system of prison discipline based upon rewards and punishments, that the inducement to good conduct shall be of sufficient value to influence the prisoners. In addition to the privilege above mentioned, the allowance of food might be increased, and the quality supplied improved; facilities for correspondence with their relations would also form a great inducement to good conduct with the well disposed; with a similar object, it would be worthy of consideration whether the power of remitting a portion of the sentence might not be occasionally exercised with good effect in the case of those whose offences had been committed under peculiar circumstances, and whose conduct in gaol exhibited sure evidence of reform. We do not claim credit for having made this suggestion for the first time. Mr. Field recommends, and shows the propriety of establishing some such provision, and we recognise the principle in the power which has been lately given to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to grant letters of license to convicted felons subject to certain conditions. We would also recommend provision to be made, whereby the Visiting Justices,or the Board of Superintendence, shall be vested with authority to grant officially to the prisoners on their discharge, certificates of good conduct. Such we conceive would form a valuable addition to the inducements to good conduct, and would also prove of advantage in enabling the convict to overcome the obstacles which present themselves to him on his discharge. The following table, which is given by Captain Maconochie as an example, exhibits the method proposed by him to ascertain the progress made by each prisoner in improvement.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

"The successive figures indicate the degree of obedience and submission to regulation exhibited by the individual, which in every case will probably begin low (in ignorance frequently, as well as unsubdued spirit), but will progressively rise almost certainly in all.

"The upper figures in the exertion line, as in all the remainder indicating attainment, I would use them thus-1. To signify a skilful artizan; 2. a good but somewhat inferior one; 3. a smatterer ; 4. a mere labourer ; 5. a stupid, clumsy fellow besides. The under figures in every case indicate the degree of diligence and exertion exhibited, whatever the amount of actual attainment possessed."

The success of the practical application of the principle contended for by Captain Maconochie, has been proved in a very remarkable manner by the results which followed at the Public Prison of Valentia, in Spain. The Prison is a large one, having been built to accommodate 1000 prisoners, but as many as 1500 have been confined in it at one time; in 1835, when Colonel Don Manuel Montesinos was appointed governor, the average recommittals amounted to from 30 to 35 per cent per annum, about the average number in other countries: yet, under the system adopted during the three years preceding 1846, there had not been even one recommittal out of the entire number of prisoners confined. The course of discipline adopted, as we have stated, is in principle similar to that advocated by Captain Maconochie; and whatever objections may be urged against the system in theory, the results which have followed at Valentia cannot be disputed or controverted; "the plan at first was much disliked in the city of Valentia on account of its lenity, but is now universally approved of; crime is said to have diminished in the district since it was matured; and its author has been since appointed, and now is, Visitor General of Spanish Prisons"(Visitador General de los Presidios del Reino.)*

With respect to the important questions-1st, Shall the prisoner have a pecuniary interest in his employment ? and 2nd, Shall the officers of the gaol derive a benefit from the profits realized by the labour of the prisoner? we have a few observations to offer. The profits realized by a prisoner committed for trial, are his own property, and should be subject to his own disposal on his acquittal or discharge. If, however, on the other hand, the prisoner be convicted, we cannot understand why the amount earned, in the interval between his committal and trial, should be exempt from forfeiture, or why it should not be devoted to the expenses of his maintenance. With

• See "Penal Discipline," by Captain Maconochie, R.N., K.H. London: Harrison, Pall Mall, 1853. This pamphlet cannot, for many reasons, one of them being common justice to Captain Maconochie, be too generally known,

respect to those profits earned subsequent to conviction, the question stands on a different footing; we have only to consider the advantage of the prisoner himself with a view to his reformation and improvement; and, regarding the above questions in this light, we do not hesitate to answer them in the negative. We object to give the officials of the gaol a pecuniary interest in the prisoner's labour, because we hold, as already stated, that no prisoner should be forced or urged to work, and by allotting a share of the profits to the gaoler and his assistants, we invite them to violate the very principles we conceive ought to be adopted. Even should the prisoner, of his own accord, exhibit an anxiety to labour for a longer period than that permitted by the regulations of the gaol, we would be unwilling to accede to his request, lest we should interfere with, or curtail those hours for reflection, which, as they were the first cause of his amendment, should be daily passed, during the continuance of his confinement, in the silence and solitude of his cell. Mr. Field writes :

"A plan of industrial training has been adopted in some prisons, conducted on the separate system, and has been strenuously advocated by many persons. In the hope that a habit of industry might be acquired, a strong inducement to continuous labour has been held out, by allowing the prisoner, when his task was completed, some profit on all overwork'. It may be a question whether a permanent habit is ever acquired by such means. But of this there can be no doubt, that the endeavour to promote it may be made at too great a cost. Time may be thus expended which should be spent in far more corrective pursuits. Let us suppose the bribe to the effectual, and the appeal to a merely selfish motive to produce the desired habit. Is the end of imprisonment thus obtained? Is reformation thereby wrought, and correction completed? As a means towards the object proposed, we value, and would make use of habitual labour, but let us not mistake it for the ultimate purpose. An industrious man may still be dishonest. He may still be impetuous. Neither the person or the property of his neighbour may be insured, because, by the incitement of a selfish principle he has become industrious. His temptations, it is true, may be less whilst his hands are employed; but work may be withheld, and his earnings may fail. And in that time of trial he will be proved wanting. Time, then, is shewn to have been wasted in the work-shop, which should have been devoted to corrective instruction. No adequate motives, either to perseverance, amidst difficulties, or to patient endurance have been imparted. Selfishness has been fostered. And now by a recurrence to crime it will be satisfied. It is perilous alike to the criminal and to the state, to suppose that by training the hands we can restrain them from wrong, or that if the head be unfurnished, and the heart uninfluenced, any system of penal discipline can fulfil its design."

Regarding, then, the reformation of the criminal, we ought not to sanction the acquisition of a habit of industry, at the expense of moral improvement or religious education; and indeed we believe that experience has proved the habit to be dearly purchased, in those gaols in which the system of industrial training is encouraged in the manner to which we have referred.

We regret to find that Mr. Hill differs with us upon this question. In his charge to the Grand Jury of the Borough of Birmingham, delivered last October, he makes the following observations:-"Let the prisoner enjoy a portion of the profit, partly in bettering his condition, partly in accumulating a store to assist him upon his discharge. We think there are grave objections to this practice, and that the Committee of the House of Lords, appointed in 1835 to inquire into the state of prisons in England and Wales arrived at the proper and correct conclusion, when they recommended, that neither the prison officers nor the prisoners themselves should have any portion of the earnings, but that the entire profit should be carried to the credit of the prison fund. We would suggest however, as a valuable provision, in the event of future Legislation, that the Visiting Justices should have the power to present to a prisoner on his discharge from gaol, if they thought proper to do so, a small sum of money out of this prison fund, as a reward for good conduct, industry, and improvement, during the period of his confinement.

Before we conclude, we wish to direct public attention to the consideration of two matters, which are generally overlooked, but which, to our mind, are of great importance, and as this paper has already exceeded our proposed limits, we must content ourselves with referring to the opinion of others, in preference to trespassing further upon the patience of our readers with our own views. With regard to the first, we cannot do better than adopt the language of Mr. Hill, (brother of the worthy, learned, and able Recorder of Birmingham,) a gentleman who has devoted a considerable portion of his life to the cause of reformation in prisons and prison discipline. He writes:

"Much valuable assistance in the mental, moral, and religious instruction of prisoners may be obtained by well selected volunteers from the surrounding population; for, to the honour of humanity, the number who thus offer their gratuitous aid is generally sufficient to admit of a considerable choice.

Those, and they are many, who object to such assistance, should recollect that Howard, the first and greatest prison reformer, was

himself a volunteer; and no less so the excellent Mrs. Fry, who worthily followed in his footsteps.

The feeling on the part of the prisoners, that persons who thus, of their own accord, come to visit them, and to labour for their improvement, must have their interest at heart, and cannot be discharging a mere duty for which they are paid, adds much to the power of such instruction; and if discreetly used, this power may be turned to very good account. The ties, too, which are thus formed with some of the best of their species, feeble as such ties may appear, are often of inestimable value after a prisoner's liberation, as is shown by the large number of offenders who have become respectable members of society through the instrumentality of Mr. Wright, of Manchester.

The divine provision, by which he who dispenses good thereby benefits himself, appears to be a strong inducement to this good work. Some time ago, a lady of high rank applied for permission for herself and others to visit the female inmates of a small prison in Scotland; wishing to come, not as a condescending patroness, but as she herself expressed it, as woman to woman,' with a conviction that she, and those associated with her, would derive more profit even than the prisoners themselves. The following paragraph on the benefit of such visits as I have spoken of, is taken from the report of 1850, of the Physician of the Eastern Penitentiary, Philadelphia;

"I have heard various estimates of the amount of intercourse afforded to our prisoners, but they were all very much exaggerated. My own observations, and the opinions, of our most intelligent officers, satisfy me that the average daily conversation of each prisoner does not exceed, if indeed it equals, ten minutes. This is quite too little. "Men of strong and cultivated intellects, with books for companions, might bear uninjured this privation of social intercourse; but the ignorant and weak minded prisoner must be more or less injuriously affected by it. If it were not possible to remedy this evil, how far it might be urged against the system I shall leave others to determine; but, happily, there is no amount of intercourse necessary, that cannot be afforded with the greatest ease. Heretofore, the individuals permitted to visit the prisoners for the purpose of moral instruction, &c. have been invariably confined to the more educated classes. I believe this to be an error. Among those of our citizens who have less pretensions to intellectual culture, many will be found who possess every qualification necessary to render their intercourse with convicts highly beneficial. I would therefore earnestly recommend that their services be immediately solicited.'"*

See "Crime; its Amount, Causes, and Remedies, By Frederick Hill, Barrister-at-law, late Inspector of Prisons." London: Murray, 1853. This is the best book upon its subject which has issued from the press for many years; and possess that ability which its author had shown in his Reports, whilst an Inspector of Prisons for Scotland. To Mr. F. Hill, the Kingdom owes the first promulgation of the theory of "PREVENTION" of crime, in the case of Juvenile Criminals a theory which has been so admirably supported by Mr. Pearson, the City Solicitor for London. The invaluable services of his brother, Mr. Matthew Davenport Hill, Q.C.,Recorder of Birmingham, are too well known to require mention here.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »