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some regulation, and prevents both fraud and idle
To meet the dietary and other expenses of the Queen’s Prison, the whole of the Welsh and English counties are taxed according to the provisions of 53 Geo. III., c. 113, to the rate of 1,5001. a-yearthe amount levied upon each separate county for this purpose being regulated by the numbers of the population. The London districts, of course, pay a very large portion of the whole. Formerly no allowance was made to the prisoners at all. The poorer class of debtors starved on the proceeds of a few inadequate charities, and in severe winters hundreds of persons have been known to die of cold and want in the Queen's Bench and the Marshalsea. The proceeds of these ancient bequests are now distributed at the discretion of the governor. ' About 1201. per annum in the relief of prisoners, and about 1301. in their release, are the amounts so dispensed from them. It is, however, a standing rule not to pay more than 171. for the clearance of any one prisoner. If his debt be less than that-a rare case in the Queen's Prison—the whole may be discharged ; if more, the creditors will sometimes compound, and take the 171. as a final dividend. There is also a charitable Society for the relief of debtors in the Strand, the directors of which do much good in a quiet way, without going to the prison at all. Every inmate has the liberty, at his discretion, of writing to this Society to draw attention to his case.
The totality of one's impressions, after a careful inspection of every part of the Queen's Prison, is that of pain and melancholy. Dirt and idleness, with all their attendant vices, meet the visitor at every turn. The questions present themselves again and again : Is it absolutely impossible to have work and cleanliness in a debtor's gaol? Are discipline and instruction more difficult than in a house of correction or hulk ? We fancy not. Newgate was once no worse than Coldbath-fields in these respects ; but even in Newgate some improvements have been introduced. Its governor, in the days of Elizabeth Fry, thought it impossible to introduce any kind of industrial occupation—as the governor of the Queen's Prison believes of his establishment now. But time explodes such errors. We see no reason why fraudulent debtors should be supported in idleness at the expense of the State. Compulsory labour—a sterner discipline — would instantly make many people honest who know not how to be so under existing circumstances. Amongst the detenues in this prison is a whole colony of low beggars and letter-writing impostors. One man is shown to the visitor who has been in the prison seven-and-twenty years. He won't go out. His liberty has been all the while in his own hands. By filing a schedule of his property he might go home at any time. He won't do it. He likes the idleness, the excitement, and the profits of a prison life. Some minds are so sordid as to feel intense pleasure in the knowledge that they live at the expense of the country. There are many such in this prison.
They make no attempt to obtain their release. The place suits their habits and fancies.
Their only object is to improve their condition as much as possible in it to make their cells and diet more and more agreeable. With this idea in their heads, they are always grumbling, pestering the officers to do something for them, or complaining at the Homeoffice of their ill-treatment. Sometimes these complaints come into the courts of law.
We have used the term “profits” of a prison life. This phrase may perhaps require a word of explanation. Many persons in the Queen's Prison, it should be known, make a trade of begging; and a very lucrative trade it is in the hands of some of these
One man is pointed out who sends out and receives almost as many letters as the famous Joseph Ady. “The Queen's Prison" is a first-rate address for a begging impostor. The word itself is full of horrid meanings to those sons and daughters of luxury who know it not better ; but the munificent should remember that the really deserving are not the persons likely to adopt such a trade.
We would strongly counsel every one to make proper inquiries before sending money to persons confined in the Queen's Prison, however plausible the tale of their distress may seem.
The officers can usually give the information that is desired.
The Hulk s.
EVERY one has heard of the hulks: most of the holiday makers from the land of Cockayne have seen the convicts at work in the arsenals and dockyards of Woolwich or Chatham. Not every one, however, is acquainted with the origin of this system of employing criminals, and we shall therefore go briefly over the principal points in the hulksystem history in this country; the more willingly, as this method will best demonstrate the absolute vices of the present arrangement of the dockyard, and prove its unfitness—as now conducted—for a permanent working institution.
The hulks were first adopted as a temporary expedient for overcoming a temporary difficulty: they have been continued from that utter repugnance to change anything which is once established, however bad, characteristic of the official routine of our government. With it, whatever is, is right. Up to the middle of the last century, England had been in the habit of shipping off its crime to its American colonies, much as it has more recently done to Australia. It was an original idea, that of the transportation system—one of which our country has a right to be proud. It is thoroughly English ; for, notwithstanding all the advantages which have accrued to us from it, no other nation in Europe has had the sense to follow the example which we have set. Even the United States, with all their keenness, have missed this noble bequest from the parent country; utterly forgetting how much this national institution has tended to increase our virtues at home and our glory abroad. Well, if other societies will not evade their duties to the crime and criminals engendered in their bosoms—if they will not sow their festering corruptions broadcast upon the shores of infant and innocent communities—if they will not people new continents with the demons of a highly wrought civilization, and create new Van Diemen's Lands and new Norfolk Islands in the fair oceans which Providence seems to have given up to the dominion of the Caucasian-England cannot help it. She, at all events, has done her best in the way of vicious precept and practice. If the Frank, the Teuton, and the Sclave will not follow the leading light of Europe, she is not to blame. If they will persist in thinking themselves bound to cure their own corruptions—to take charge of the sins which their social life gives rise to-she can only say that she has never condescended to such folly ; and that the consequence is, she is still the first country in the world—the envy of surrounding nations !