« AnteriorContinuar »
this we have failed—for crime has not decreased, if we take groups of years.
Perhaps it would be worth while to try the other extreme. Even failures are fruitful in lessons. The experiment would have mercy in its favour. But the interests concerned are of the gravest, and may not be lightly disturbed. Whatever the form of punishment, if social security is to result from it, it must include a power to deter. Reform of the criminal may be the first object of prison discipline ; but the ultimate end is the prevention of crime. To society this is all-important; in dealing with the offender you must not forget the world outside the court. Without it seethes and festers a huge mass of criminality which must also be dealt with from the judgment-seat. If each crime stood alone, it would be easy enough to deal with it; but as it is, the whole mass of undetected crime must be spoken to in the sentence of the petty item. Justice is needed on both sides. The great object is to reconcile the good done to the violator of the law with the interests of society. There must be no premium placed upon crime. The gaol must not be made the means of social elevation. We must throw no temptation in the way of honest poverty. Above all, we must not make the gaol a college which can give diplomas of character and ability to its élèves. Nothing can be more undesirable than a state of things in which the having been in prison would be a recommendation. Nor, with all proper deference to Captain Maconochie, is this possible. Skill may be acquired in prison—but not
character. So long as prisons are the chosen places of punishment for crime, a stigma, healthy and wholesome, will necessarily attach to them. No amount of teaching can remove the taint. Industrially, even intellectually, the convict may be improved in prison ; but socially, morally, he must inevitably be lowered. Under the best of systems, he must lose more than he can gain : and there need be little fear that the honest will forget their virtues-give up their characters - to obtain the most perfect education which a prison could afford.
4. With respect to the mode of dealing with discharged criminals. Some facts of interest are noted in connexion with this topic in the reports on Coldbath-fields and Preston House of Correction, but the doings in this line to which I attach the most importance are those of Thomas Wright, of Manchester.
At the time of one of my visits to the New Bailey, my attention was called by Mr. Councillor Adshead to the case of two brothers who were among the boys. Their name is Kelly. They are Roman Catholics ; they formerly attended St. Augustine's chapel in Granby-row, and went to the Sundayschool connected with that establishment. They lived in Little Ireland—the lowest and most disorderly part of the city—and belong to a numerous class in all the great towns of Lancashire, the Englishborn children of pauper Irish parents. Their ages are eleven and fifteen, and there is another brother of twenty-four. Their father is a street-sweeper.
The child of eleven years was then undergoing his second sentence of six months' imprisonment, and it was his fourth time of being in gaol. The boy of fifteen was lying under sentence of transportation for seven years—that being his tenth time of recommitment. The young man of twenty-four I subsequently saw in Lancaster Castle, where he is now idling out a twelve-months' sentence—being his eleventh time of imprisonment. Together, these three brothers have been in prison four-and-twenty times; and the cost of their mere apprehension and trials amounts to 1911. 18s. 6d. This is, however, only a trifle of the expense to which they have put the community. Their maintenance in gaol must have cost 1501. more. The one now sentenced to transportation will cost the country another 1001. at the lowest estimate. Then there is the most important item of all—the cost of their depredations. As a rule—a vague approximation probably, but still a sort of rule which has been suggested by experience—the amount and value of a life, or part of a life, devoted to crimes against property, admits of valuation. These Kellys have all been engaged in a course of pocket-picking, shop-lifting, and other petty felonies.
Now, of course, in order to make a life of crime at all eligible, a boy must do a certain amount of business. Like other professional men, the thief can only reckon upon a per centage of profit upon his transactions. In disposing of stolen property, large sacrifices must be made. The receiver —the “ Fence," as he is called in the vernacular of crime—will only give a fraction of the value for any article offered for sale. This is to be expected ; his risks are great, and he must be compensated. Hence the loss to the public and the gains to the thief bear but a remote relation to each other. Colonel Chesterton proved by inquiries that, one day with another, the pocket-handkerchief stealer must get in six a-day, or things of the same value-less will not “pay.” If a man can't do that, he is obliged to abandon the business—and turn to some more profitable line. Now, six pocket-handkerchiefs, value two shillings each, make twelve shillings a-day loss to the public -sold at half price to the Fence, six shillings gain to the thief. This multiplied by seven days will give an income of forty-two shillings a-week. There is other evidence to the same effect. Some time ago, the police commission made it appear that the average income of London thieves is not less than forty shillings a-week each. Forty shillings clear gain to the thief represents—as will be understood from what has just been said about the Fence—at least eighty shillings clear loss to the honest part of the community. This is a low estimate,—for it is a notorious fact that stolen goods will sometimes only fetch a tenth or twelfth part of their value from the “ Fences.” Thus, after moderating the estimate on every side, taking the lowest terms in every part of the process, it appears that in London, boys following in the traces of the Kellys, plunder the community at the rate of eighty shillings a-week each, so long as their career lasts. How long it lasts is also a
matter of returns. The general average of the career of crime, in this country, before transportation, is about six years : in that period the offender will undergo three or four imprisonments, and commit hundreds of offences. The eldest of these Kellys has been lucky in this respect : he has had more than his share of imprisonments, and long since passed his period of probation for a penal colony. Now, if we suppose the career of these three brothers to represent twenty years of crime, and take the amount of their depredations at only sixty shillings a-week, the loss to the community will amount to no less than three thousand one hundred and twenty pounds. The account then stands thus : Twenty-four prosecutions
£191 18 6 Maintenance in prison .
150 0 0 Seven years' transportation for one 100 0 0 Value of depredations
. 3,120 00 £3,561 18 6
This enormous sum—and it is purposely much understated—these three boys have already cost the public. How much more will they cost it? The boy of 11 is only just beginning his active career : he of 24 is now a hardened, it may be feared, an incorrigible offender. Of this promising family there are five still
younger children. With such connexions, what will become of them ? How much will society suffer on their accounts? And this is only looking at the matter in the lowest sensethat of the money-cost of the mischief. Who shall