Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

The female wards were, on the whole, in a more satisfactory condition. They were cleaner and more orderly. The results are, however, little, if at all, better. The very intelligent schoolmistress appeared to be painfully impressed with the hopelessness of trying to effect any permanent reform in her charge. The work to be done, she said, was not to be done in a prison. The same children came to her again and again. Once brought under her notice, she seldom lost sight of a girl until she heard of her death or transportation. The wretchedness at home-the neglect of parents—the bonds of evil companionship -absolute want—these were things which no amount of care in gaol could remove or contend against successfully. There is only too much justice in these remarks. But still there is a large margin in which discipline in prison may be useful. At all events, we should carefully guard against doing any harm in gaol. If we cannot reform, let us be cautious not to corrupt.

In a prison like this of the borough of Liverpool, it is absolutely impossible to prevent corruption. For a long time past the corporation have been aware of its irredeemable faults, and they have been trying to obtain a site for a new one. They have at length fixed upon Walton, and preparations are makingvery slowly-for commencing the works. The new prison is expected to cost from 120,0001. to 150,0001. We hope the magistrates will be eclectic in their choice of the system to be adopted. The best elements of the "separate" and "social" systems admit, in our opinion, of harmonious and practicable combination ; and the soundest parts of Captain Maconochie's theory are capable of engraftment upon any system. Mr. Hill's suggestion respecting the new building being partly in cells and partly in rooms, as Millbank has recently been made, is both wise and forethoughtful.

CHAPTER XXI.

Prestau Gaul.

The House of Correction at Preston has acquired a reputation among prisons. Foreigners of distinction visit it from all parts of the continent. Englishmen of all ranks think it worth an inspection. It is open to all comers. In the pages of its visitor's book may be seen the superscription of the Russian or German prince and the Yorkshire artisan, the French marquis and the Preston hand-loom weaver, the minister of state, the journalist, the magistrate and the peasant. This is as it should be in all prisons. Every penal institution should be open to the public. There ought to be no secrets in such places. The treatment should be severe, but open to the control of general manners and opinion. It is bad policy to make a mystery of a punishment which depends for its exemplary effect upon its being accurately understood. In some of the American gaols, they have adopted the plan of admitting all visitors, under proper regulations, at a small charge. The plan of the governor and chaplain of the Preston House of Correction is far preferable. No one, without some

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

solid
reason,

is refused admission : but the truth is, few prison officials in this country can so well afford to invite a public scrutiny of their labours as Colonel Martin and Mr. Clay.

The Preston House of Correction fronts and frowns on the town from the Manchester road. And a formidable and imposing edifice it is : with its massive granite front, flanked with towers, from which large pieces of ordnance yawn on the main artery of the place. This military parade is strongly out of harmony with the character which the prison enjoys abroad for its mild and Christian discipline. At first sight, it suggests the idea of an Austrian or Italian state prison :-you expect to hear the challenge of a sentinel, and to see his bright steel glancing in the sun ; and begin to surmise that

you

have made some mistake in reading the well-known reports of Mr. Clay. But knock. The ponderous gate swings back, and you find

your face on a level with the huge mouth of a brass cannon, placed at three yards' distance, so as to command the entrance to the gaol and the open space before it.

This show of war in such a place is mischievously absurd. We do not so much object to prisons being well defended ; for we remember a time when this very prison was saved from the assault of a mob through the intrepidity of its governor. But we think these powerful weapons of destruction should be kept out of sight—at least in ordinary times. The very openness of the preparation for resistance suggests, and with certain daring minds tempts,

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Z

aggression. They answer no good purpose now; and let us hope to hear of their removal—at least out of the public sight.

Preston House of Correction, like Kirkdale, Wakefield, and Millbank, consists of two distinct portions—the old prison, a structure of the time of Howard, when prison architecture in this country was in its infancy; and the new building appropriated to the separate system. There is nothing particularly noticeable in the old prison in point of design it is irredeemably bad ; it is intended to be demolished as soon as convenient. Those prisoners who have trades are employed at them for the benefit of the county ; and tailoring and shoemaking are sometimes taught. There is no tread-wheel. The inmates are chiefly collected in one large room, where they are employed in picking cotton wool—a merely nominal employment, fit only for young children. The order preserved in this room is, however, admirable ; in fact, too admirable. The prisoners' eyes never wander from their occupation. To a certain extent this is desirable ; but the discipline may be pushed to a ridiculous excess; and when Mr. Clay boasts that they would not raise their eyes even if ladies and strangers entered the room, we confess our inability to see the virtue and the merit of the abstinence. The order observable in chapel, during time of worship, is more distinctly useful and desirable. We have never seen a congregation behave better than the prisoners in Preston House of Correction. From first to last-Mr. Clay,

« AnteriorContinuar »