Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

the sturdy stocking-weaver of Middleton has described this more prosaic scene and the incidents of that memorable time.

The New Bailey is one of the Howard-prisons. It was built during the public excitement caused by the labours of the great Philanthropist, on the plans of Mr. Blackburn, a well-known architect of last century. The foundation-stone bears the following inscription :-"THAT THERE MAY REMAIN TO POSTERITY A MONUMENT OF THE AFFECTION AND GRATITUDE OF THIS COUNTRY TO THAT MOST EXCELLENT PERSON, WHO HATH SO FULLY PROVED THE WISDOM AND HUMANITY

OF THE SEPARATE

AND SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

OF

[ocr errors]

OFFENDERS, THIS PRISON IS INSCRIBED WITH THE NAME OF JOHN HOWARD.”

Some slight alterations and many additions have been introduced into the New Bailey during the last eighty years, but substantially it remains in the same condition as in Howard's time. To describe the general plan in words would not be easy ; for it is marvellously complicated. However, if any one can imagine Giltspur-street and Horsemonger-lane gaols happily jumbled together, so as to confound still more their present confusion, the result will give him some notion of the arrangements of the Salford prison. In a word, we may say, it is thoroughly bad ; and we entirely concur in the opinion of the Inspector of Prisons for the northern district, that nothing less than a complete re-erection will suffice to bring it up to the present standard of prison architecture. Even a cursory inspection makes this apparent.

The total number of prisoners at the time of our inspection was 700,—of whom 151 were females ; a heavy proportion against the “better sex.” The largest number in the gaol during 1848, was 748 ; the lowest, 538. The daily average of the year was 651. We have already remarked upon the comparative exemption from crime of Lancashire as compared with some other counties. Mr. Bagshawe, the chaplain of the New Bailey, insists on a recognition of this fact, no less earnestly than Mr. Clay. It is notorious that 1848 was a bad year in respect to crime. For the whole country the excess of convictions over previous years was very large. The gaols were more crowded than they had previously been from 1842—in some respects a similar and equally exceptional year. Distress, stagnation of trade, and political excitement, are causes quite sufficient to explain these facts. We must bear them in mind when weighing 1848 against previous years. The daily average for 1848 was 651 prisoners ; for seven years last past it was 644; for eighteen years, 627. That is, the New Bailey prison in 1848 has only a daily average of 24 more than for the previous eighteen years, notwithstanding all the unfavourable circumstances of the time, and an increase in the population of Manchester and Salford of nearly 50 per cent. This is certainly a very strong fact. And in further explanation, it is remarked that two other independent causes now operate to swell the returns : the commitment of juveniles and small debtors under new acts, and the influx of pauper Irish

a class hitherto unknown in the prison population, who refuse to give information which might enable the overseers of the parish to return them to their own homes, in order that they may be sent to prison, where they know that they are sure to find shelter, food, warmth, and clothes. And this evil may not unreasonably be expected to augment. The increase of 1848 took place wholly in the summary commitments.

Faults of structure are not, however, the only not the most prominent faults of the New Bailey. Its directors cannot lay that flattering unction to their souls. The blame is more justly fixed upon the present than the past. The machinery is defective, as has been pointed out, but the system is worse. The discipline is loose, irregular, and unsatisfactory. The system nominally adopted is the silent system, but it is only partially enforced. In truth, the building is ill-adapted to any proper discipline. Inspectionthat is, inspection complete and constant, such as alone is worthy of the name—is next to impossible without a very considerable addition to the expenses of management—a consummation devoutly to be deprecated. The present staff of the prison consists of 42 superior and subordinate officers; but they complain of inefficiency on account of their too limited numbers. Double the amount of inspection would not be too much. The consequence of the neglect is, a comparative state of insubordination exists amongst the inmates, and prison offences are marvellously numerous. The last “ Gaol Returns

[ocr errors]

give the following facts in reference to this matter, which are not a little significant :--Total number of persons in the prison during the year, 4,941. · Of this number the re-commitments will most likely have amounted to about half - we have not the exact account at hand. But take 3,000 as the total number of different prisoners, and compare them with the prison punishments. During the year, there were 7 persons publicly whipped ; 2,143 were placed in dark cells, and allowed only bread and water for sustenance ; 6,257 were punished in other ways and in minor degrees. That is, 8,407 distinct offences, of sufficient gravity to require legal inflictions, were perpetrated by—we believe — less than 3,000 persons. This proportion is monstrously high. But, considering the organization of the gaol, it is not wonderful. The wonder would be great if it were otherwise. It would not be easy to find a prison of equal importance, excepting the Borough Gaol in Liverpool, out of the City of London, so ill suited for any efficacious system of prison treatment as the New Bailey, in Salford.

And the discipline is no better. imaginable fault flourishes here. Of course, there is a tread-wheel : that is the invariable mark of a bad prison. The prisoners work in clogs and particoloured dresses. There is no classification. At work, at school, at meals, at exercise, at chapelbefore trial and after sentence alike vagrants, felons, coiners, burglars, deserters — men, youths, mere children—the innocent, the first offender, the

Almost every

hardened criminal-all are cast together to contaminate and corrupt each other. In a prison like this, one can well understand the force of the old aphorism —“Once in gaol, always in gaol.” On the treadwheel you see them, old men and young children, told not to converse, but left alone to themselves, with no officer within hearing ! Of course, they obey the injunction : every one must feel that. In truth, the thing is too absurd. There is no doubt of it—they converse with impunity. There are several yards of tread-wheel workers. Knowing that such a degrading species of labour was in existence in the New Bailey, the visitor might not unreasonably expect to find juvenile offenders in a yard by themselves, the felons in another, and so on. Even an imperfect classification is generally thought to be better than none; but the organizers of the system in the Manchester New Bailey were inspired by no such common-place idea,—they adopted a method of arranging them far more curious and original. “What!” it is probable they asked themselves“What! does not every one know that adult offenders will contaminate each other, if put into free association ? We cannot prevent the wheel-workers from talking ; our building is too bad, and our force too small, for that; we will therefore separate them on the wheel itself.” And so they did ; with what result the learned in such matters will judge for themselves. But how? This way—and genius is seen in the novelty and daring of the idea,—they placed a boy between every couple of men, as honest

« AnteriorContinuar »