Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

A man may

door in the yard, we enter the day-room of this ward. There are benches and tables down the sides, as in some of the cheap coffee-houses in London ; and a large fire at the end, at which each man cooks, or has cooked for him, his victuals. On the wall, a number of pigeon-holes, or small cupboards, are placed, each man having the key of one, and keeping therein his bread and butter, tea and coffee, and so forth. These things are all brought in, and no stint is placed upon the quantity consumed. exist in the prison who has been accustomed to good living, though he cannot live well. All kinds of luxuries are prohibited, as are also spirituous drinks. Each man may have a pint of wine a-day, but not more; and dice, cards, and all other instruments for gaming, are strictly vetoed. Chess, however, is permitted ; and to a chosen few the game serves to relieve the tedium of a duresse which has no other time-consuming occupation. This day-room—the best, perhaps, in the whole establishment—is anything but agreeable. Store-room, cooking-room, sitting-room, dining-room, reading-room, and smoking-room, for about forty to sixty persons—it is necessarily full of many scents, and is all but as foul as the streets of Cologne. Yet every man who is sent hither, answering to the condition of the ward, is compelled to take his share of the crowd and stench. There are no private apartments—no means of getting either quiet or privacy. The gentleman occupies the same day-room and night-room as the vagrant. There is no distinction of persons in Whitecrossstreet gaol. The unfortunate soldier, barrister, or merchant, is compelled to eat, herd, and sleep with the lowest vagabonds of his sex. There, in the dayroom, is a man half buried in a mass of papers: he is a solicitor by profession, and has been accustomed to live and move in good city society. The two coarse fellows sitting near him, making the noise which seems to distract him so much, are coalheavers. He cannot escape from them. They dine from the same bench, and sleep in the next bed. That man would give a finger, probably, to bave quiet and to be alone. In the Queen's Prison, each person has a private room : whether the city magnates have less compassion for the fallen in fortune, or fancy the grievance too sentimental for practical men to notice, we do not know ; here they are. The bedrooms are above, and arranged in long chambers in like manner, sixteen or eighteen in a room. So that, between the public dormitory, the public yard, and the public day-room, a man has his choice; in one or the other he must find his retirement some of these men have the habits of gentlemen !

The bedrooms are all badly ventilated. When the prison is full, it must be horrible to sleep in them. And the water-closets are in a disgraceful condition. The sanitary commission should instantly look to this particular. There is abundance of water : yet, for want of a little machinery, there is only one flushing a-day ; sometimes not that. The stench is exceedingly disagreeable, and some of the detenues complain of it very much. The defect might

And yet

be remedied at an expense of a few shillings, by adopting the apparatus now in use at the Bridewell and at several railway stations, by which the opening and closing of the closet door causes a flush of water to fall into the pan.

The other wards are in general character much like the Middlesex, and the one description will therefore serve for all. We will notice only the differences. The Poultry and Giltspur-street ward is occupied by city debtors who are not freemen : the Ludgate ward by city debtors who are freemen. There are very few in this latter ward-only seven at present; and it is the wealthiest in point of donations. In the Dietary ward are placed those persons who are unable to maintain themselves. Here is the saddest sight of all. Most of these persons are in for very small sums, indeed ; and the fact of their accepting the prison diet is the best proof of their poverty. The county allowance is, however, liberal, consisting (for males) of 10 lb. 8oz. of wheaten bread; 1 lb. 5oz. of cooked meat, without bone; 2 lb. of potatos, cooked ; 3 pints of soup; and 14 pints of oatmeal gruel, per week ; the total cost of which is 4s. 3d.

per

head. The females have rather less bread, and cocoa instead of gruel; the cost being 4s. 1d. per head. This ward is full of miserable objects; and the effluvia of tobacco, cooking, and confined air in the day-room are almost overpowering. These day-rooms ought to be improved. The cooking should be done elsewhere ; smoking in them ought to be at once prohibited,

(let the disciples of the fragrant weed enjoy it in the open yard, where it would be less offensive to non-smokers ;) and the floors and tables should be scoured more frequently than they appear to be now.

The Remand ward is the most strictly kept in the gaol. The inmates are compelled to take the prison diet. Remands, commitments for fixed periods for contempt of court, and fraudulent debtors, are sent hither. The diet is the same as that last described. The female ward is attended by a matron; and the debtors therein have not permission to receive the visits of their male friends or relatives. They may, however, speak with them through an iron grating

There is nothing like order or discipline in this prison. The inmates do much as they choose. No restraint, except in extraordinary cases of insubordination, is placed upon their acts or conversation. The governor is responsible for their personal safety, but nothing further, except—and he has no authority to deal with them unless their safe custody be imperilled—as before said, in extreme cases of unruliness, when he has power to place the refractory party in solitary confinement, in a very cold, unpleasant, underground cell, for forty-eight hours giving him for nourishment only bread and water This is seldom necessary. The detenues have so much latitude allowed them, that they can have scarcely a wish for more. Letters are sent out for every post. Several copies of the morning journals are taken in, and books are admitted at discretion. There is a workroom in the dietary ward for such as prefer to work at their trades. But very few do so, because it is so difficult to obtain employment from the world without. People do not like to send their work-tailoring, shoemaking, &c.-into a gaol ; and those who try to support themselves by their prison labour almost always fail, and, after a time, throw themselves on the county allowance.

« AnteriorContinuar »