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needed to counteract the fearful amount of demoralization which association in idleness cannot fail to produce. But no! here the “reporters" are only romancing The schoolroom is a dirty, miserable room, miserably small, and, at the time of our visit, was graced by the presence of three small boys learning to spell. The apartment would not hold the scholars, if the criminals were to desire instruction; but there appears to be a regulation against it. In one of the day-rooms, disorderly enough in all conscience, some of the prisoners, on being asked if they spent no part of their time in reading, said they could not read. “But have you no desire to learn ?”—“Yes,” replied a man of about thirty, who seemed to be a dustman or carter, “ I should like it very much.”—“ Then why don't you go to the school ?”—“We can't, Sir: they don't let us.”—And then he added, with something of moroseness in his expression, as he thought of what he felt to be a wrong, “ This is your good government. We that want a little learning most, and wish to get it, can't. That's what our good government does for us. If we were felons, we could go to school,” (these persons were all in prison, not for positive crimes, but for being so poor as to be unable to procure “ ties” to keep the peace, &c.) “but as we are only poor and ignorant, we can't. A very good government !" It is difficult to answer such an argument; but there are men who are called upon to ponder it. all take the subject to heart.
There was one man in solitary confinement : he
was a poor simple countryman, committed for ten or fourteen days for a petty trespass. His term was up within a day. He was moped almost out of his senses -which did not seem ever to have been quite up to the standard. He had no books—could not read: they would give him no work : he had no resource but to mope about his room. He complained of this treatment, though without bitterness. He thought only of the moment when his sentence would expire.
Before leaving the male side, one is shown into a small room, the walls of which are covered with manacles. “ You do not mean to say that these irons are ever used ?”—“ Not very often," said the warder; “bread and water and the dark dungeon are generally enough to bring a man to; but sometimes they are put on.”—“That is as a punishment for prison offences ?”_"Just so. To the person conversant with the discipline of Pentonville, Millbank, and Coldbath-fields, it seems as if there could be no prison offences at Horsemonger-lane : the things which are offences in all well-conducted gaols not being so here
- such as attempting to communicate with each other, &c. The criminals have much their own way in all things. Merely to say that the discipline is defective, would be a perversion of terms. There is nothing that can, even by courtesy, be called discipline in the prison. Every thing appears to live on by virtue of its traditions, and the old abominations flourish with an ever-renewed juvenility. The beforementioned “report” boasts, with an air of conscious triumph, “ That it may be concluded that the dis
cipline of the gaol has undergone improvement, from the fact that punishments for breach of prison discipline are two less this year than last.” Truly, the visiting magistrates can find cause for self-gratulation in very small things ! But does this balance of two --two out of 169-really indicate improvement ? Is it not quite as likely to be the result of relaxation ? We can no more accept the reporters' philosophy than we can their facts.
The cooking and wash-houses on the female side are disgraceful to the country. But the crowning abomination of the whole gaol, is the way in which these poor creatures are forced to sleep at night. There are fifty-eight female prisoners to twenty-eight cells. What is the consequence ? This—that a cell which is barely large enough for one, is forced to receive two, and in some cases three inmates! This is, in point of fact, slow murder; the blackhole of Calcutta on a small scale. Nor is this unnatural crowding the only consequence of the want of accommodation. There is in each cell a plank, about fifteen inches wide, fastened in the wall, and on this plank the blanket is spread to lie on. It is obvious, however, that three persons cannot possibly lie on a board fifteen inches broad ; they are therefore compelled to spread their thin bedding on the floor, and sleep upon the hard cold stones! Why, in the name of mercy, is not this circumstance noticed in the report ? The form of the report contains a column for “ general observations." In this column the governor of the prison has written the emphatic word “none.”
Almost on the summit of Brixton-hill, in one of the most open and salubrious spots in the southern suburbs of London, stands one of the metropolitan Houses of Correction for the county of Surrey ; the other, Horsemonger-lane, we have already visited and described. Though, for London, not a large prison, it is in some respects rather a notable one. It is the only gaol in the capital into which the innovating and reforming spirit abroad during the last ten or twelve years, has failed to penetrate : it is entirely a tread-wheel prison; it enjoys the reputation of being very disorderly; it is unhealthy in spite of its admirable situation ; and it is almost inaccessible to public inspection and control. For some time we knocked at its gates vainly : no admission could be got. The orders were strict ; and for our consolation we were informed that many noble lords—his grace the Duke of Wellington was particularly named amongst others—and members of the House of Commons had been turned back and refused admittance.
In the external appearance of the Brixton House of Correction, you notice its first serious fault : the boundary wall is much too low. More than one person has been known to leap from the top without being at all hurt; it is, in fact, so low as to offer a pressing temptation to escape, and attempts are, therefore, not unfrequent; sometimes, as in a recent case, with most disastrous consequences. A man had got on the wall, with the design of regaining his freedom : he was observed, and chased by the officers and governor. A quantity of bricks (loose) are placed on the wall, to increase its height; and these furnished the man with defensive weapons, by which he was enabled to keep his pursuers at bay. Seeing no other means of capturing him, one of the officers (not the governor, as was stated in the newspapers at the time) fired at and seriously wounded him. It was thought at first, and so reported, that the wretched man was killed ; but, fortunately, it proved otherwise. He is now in the infirmary, and is likely in time to recover.
But the moral of his case remains the same. In a gaol like this of Brixton—so very insecure, offering so many facilities for escape—we think it is too ample and grave a discretion, to allow a prison officer to shoot at a man merely because he is trying to escape. The desire of personal freedom is so natural to the heart of man, that we can hardly look upon an attempt to escape, when no violence is used, as a serious crime. Howard took this view of the matter, and he relates with much approval an