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both light and air are admitted in very insufficient quantities for the purposes of health. All these faults characterized the Bridewell when it was inspected by Howard, and they will continue to characterize it so long as the present building stands. No alteration short of absolute re-erection could make it a good prison; yet, on the other hand, it is not to be classed for a moment with such places as Giltspur-street Compter and Horsemonger-lane Gaol. It is infinitely superior to either of these in one prime respect indeed it is superior to any gaol in London, except Pentonville and the Middlesex House of Detention, in this : it has separate sleeping apartments for all its inmates. But on the whole, it is a bad specimen of a prison for a civilized country, and ought to be disused for such a purpose.
The number of prisoners is generally about a hundred—of whom thirty will be females. The sentences are mostly for three months' hard labour. The only work enforced here is that of the wheel and oakum picking—the great majority of offenders being placed upon the former. The wheel machinery is erected within the body of the building. It is entered
upon from an almost dark corridor, through small iron gates.
As you enter this wing of the building from the open court, the prisoners seem to be working in absolute darkness. Peering through the grating, the motion of the wheel and the straining figure of the criminal may be dimly seen. The absence of any human sound—the dull, soughing voice of the wheel, like the agony of drowning men
the dark shadows toiling and treading in a journey which knows no progress,—force on the mind involuntary sensations of horror and disgust.
The system of discipline pursued in the Bridewell is a mere mockery of the silent system. Communication is forbidden during hours of work, but not prevented. The walkers of the wheel are commanded not to talk; but from the straggling nature of the building, and the paucity of prison officers, complete inspection and control are out of the question. And practically they talk just as much as they think proper, as, when at work, only a thin wooden partition separates one from another : nothing less than the presence of a warder could prevent them.
They who are not sentenced to hard labour are confined in the opposite wing of the prison. Underground are two small, miserable cells--the day rooms of this departinent. They are very cold and damp; consequently fires have to be kept in them,-a circumstance fatal to all discipline. In each of these rooms, at the time of our visit, there were eight or ten prisoners shut up, picking oakum. They were quite alone : that is, no officer was with them in the
Occasionally they receive a visit; but by far the greater portion of the day they are quite alone, lolling over the fires, and instructing each other in their favourite arts. How different this to the workrooms of Millbank or Coldbath-fields !
There is no school in this prison. This is the fitting climax of its other faults—the crowning absurdity of the whole system of mismanagement. If
book-teaching be absolutely required anywhere—if it promise to be successful, to operate for good, anywhere—surely it is here in the Bridewell. Being summary
convictions, the inference is, that persons come here to get their initiation into the prisonworld. And the fact is so generally. The ill-directed youth of the city who commits his first petty offence is most likely to be sent hither. Upon the impressions which he takes away may depend the entire future of his existence : for good or evil, in a course of reform or a career of guilt, his incarceration in the Bridewell is the starting-point. One thinks with pain and sorrow of the education which such a youth must get here now, and of the direction most likely to be given to his energies by the persons he will meet with. Three months' imprisonment here is enough to ruin any child for life. The boy must have powerful elements of good in him who can leave it no worse for ninety days' contact with its contaminations. Instead of sulojecting the unfledged criminal to the pollution of unrestrained intercourse with offenders worse than himself, every care should be taken here, upon the threshold of his career, to lead him back from the fatal path into more reputable and honest courses. The negative act is not enough. He should not alone be kept from peril : he should also be put into the way of good. Two means are patent for this purpose—work and teaching. The work should be severe but useful : such as a man, in whom it was sought to foster habits of self-respect, might be asked to do. The instruction
should be sound and regular. What the criminal mind wants most is discipline. Formerly there was a school at Bridewell : it has, for unknown reasons, been given up.
Fatal mistake! If anything could atone for the faults of the City Bridewell, it would be the institution attached to it, called the House of Occupation, in St. George'sfields. This is, in fact, an industrial school. It has about 200 inmates, half male, half female. It is not a criminal establishment. The majority of its scholars have not been in prison ; the minority have -in the Bridewell. Children who are idle, unruly, disposed to be troublesome to their parents and to the community, are taken in, educated, and instructed in a trade, and after several years of careful training, are placed in situations, or permitted to go home to their parents, on the latter making proper application. The instruction given to them is sound and practical: the discipline enforced strict but not rigid; and the general result highly successful. The boys are taught trades : at present there is one or more learning each of these useful employments-engineering, painting, tailoring, shoemaking, masonry, brewing, baking, carpentry, rug-making, rope-making. The girls are being taught every species of domestic arts—washing, sewing, cooking, ironing, knitting, &c. Great care is also taken with the education of their minds. They are said to make admirable domestic servants, and very rarely indeed does one turn out ill. They are in great request : there being usually from twelve to twenty applications for servants on
the books of the institution. As they are ready, they are put out.
From the Bridewell the magistrates have a power of removal to the House of Occupation, and by this change of scene—this removal from old haunts, old comrades, and old temptations--hundreds of poor boys are placed in a position for becoming useful and productive, instead of dangerous and expensive members of society. Would that we had more such institutions!