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Dragooning into Goodness—410. Examples of the evil Effects of a
Crime and Criminals.
THERE are, I believe, few men who can visit for the first time in their lives one of the great prisons of the metropolis of England unmoved by strange and curious sensations.
If the visitor possess a tender heart, his feelings will be stirred within him as they are seldom stirred at sight; if he be one with a thoughtful mind, he will encounter objects which will haunt his brain for weeks. No man can make a series of such visits going the round of the London gaols—without having his attention called, almost coerced, to ponder some of the darkest and most serious questions which perplex society and agitate judges, writers, and statesmen, in our day and generation—the moral and social corruptions which lead men into crime ; its effect upon society generally, and upon the individual who commits it
in particular; the theory of those rights, natural and legal, which it is held to cause the forfeit of; the duties of the social body to those children of misfortune or neglect from which criminals for the most part spring; the nature of the charge which the state assumes when it siezes the person of the law-breaker, and the responsibilities which it thereby takes upon
itself. These questions again serve to open up many others—the moral condition of the poor; the causes of poverty and ignorance; the wide separation and want of sympathy between the higher and lower classes, and the thousand evils which result to society from this unfortunate estrangement. Indeed, the prison may be considered as standing in the centre of a vast and most important group of social problems. But, as a nation, we are only just awaking to a sense of its importance to any other than the criminal class. The prison was long an unknown, and it is still a little known, world. The first glance of it almost always repels, as any one who, in his days of sight-seeing, had been induced to go over Newgate or Giltspur-street Compter, will know when he recalls his own sensations as the heavy door grated back upon its hinge, and the warder bowed him once more into the open air. It is only after many thoughts that the visitor overcomes the preventive power of those feelings of pain and disgust which ever result from a first contact with naked crime. By the help of a little benevolent logic, these feelings in time give place to something better. Curiosity arises perhaps first; then interest; then enthusiasm. From the day when Howard began his labours in the cells of Bedford to our own time, such has been the process with a few men and women of ardent dispositions; but with how few! One may almost count them on the digits of a hand. Onesiphorus Paul, William Wilberforce, Fowell Buxton, Elizabeth Fry, Sarah Martin, Thomas Wrightmare there other besides these worthy to rank in the same class with John Howard ? It would be easy to name many, living and dead, who, by their writings, visits, votes, and benefactions, have done good service to the cause of prison reform, and to the whole circle of social improvements with which the prison is connected; but they would hardly class with these devoted men and women.
There is one reason why so little is popularly known respecting the London prisons to which attention ought to be drawn—the difficulty in obtaining access to them. In the case of the National Pri. sons-such as Millbank, Pentonville, the Hulks, Parkhurst, and the Queen's Prison—it is necessary to obtain a warrant from the Secretary of State ; in the case of the City or County Prisons—such as Newgate and Giltspur-street Compter, or Coldbath-fields and Horsemonger-lane—the visitor must get an order from a magistrate of city or county who happens to be for the time a visiting justice; and for every distinct visit a distinct warrant must be presented. Practically, these prohibitions prevent the general public from gaining admission to these gaols, and learning what is going on in them : even persons