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of asking one of these adorers of the throne and constitution, if there are no honest and meritorious poor in Notts to whom a good Christmas dinner of this old English kind would not be acceptable. He looked astou ded, and I have no doubt set me down for a Chartist, or Red Republican at least. This indulgence calls to mind the circumstance, that the ordinary eating and drinking in this gaol are on a much higher scale than the average.
The prison diet is stated in the last return to cost 3s. 2d. per week for each prisoner. The average for all English prisons is about 2s. 5d.; for Scotch prisons, about ls. 9d.
Thus it costs you, gentlemen of Notts, nearly twice as much for the feeding of your criminals in gaol, because you allow them to live in idleness, subject to every deteriorating influence which can easily be brought to operate upon them, as it costs the magistrates of Glasgow and Aberdeen for theirs ! Here is surely a case for reform.
If other reasons fail to induce you to remove or amend your gaol, this consideration should have some weight. You do not get enough for your money; and you are not the less defrauded because defrauded by your own mistakes, and your misplaced confidence in your old traditions.
ONE of the points to which the attention of prison reformers may be usefully directed, is the consolidation of prisons. Large gaols are not only much better managed on the whole than small ones, they are also much more economical. If Millbank, the largest prison in the country, was broken up
into half a dozen different establishments, the cost of its 1,400 criminals would probably be three times greater than it is now. All the expenses of criminal management and inspection are increased by the multiplicity of petty prisons. A really good governor would administer a prison with 1,500 or 2,000 prisoners quite as efficiently as one with 150 or 200. Chaplains, and all the more costly functionaries could discharge their duties in the same manner. In large prisons there is also great saving in the first outlay ; the more cells there are so much the less is the average cost. This is a truth obvious to common-place. But the question of economy is not the only one which should induce us to prefer large prisons. They offer superior advantages in the sense of discipline. Men are easier to manage in masses. A person who has ever attended a public meeting must have noticed this circumstance. There is a contagion of sympathy among multitudes. You may carry a point with a thousand men assembled together, with less trouble perhaps than you could have carried it with any one of them individually. We are not here to discuss the merit of this fact, only to state it, and to urge that it is the part of wisdom to avail itself of it for the production of beneficial results in the management of gaols.
The old borough gaol of Nottingham has recently been amalgamated with the house of correction, with benefit to both. What valid reason is there against the further amalgamation of these with the county gaol? The distinction maintained between these institutions is of the paltriest kind. It has less regard to the prisons or the prisoners, than to the personalities of the two magisterial bodies. County prisons, not only in Nottingham, but in the country generally, are placed under the jurisdiction of the “ landed” aristocracy ; those in the boroughs are under the control of the “ citizen ” magistracy. The two magisterial bodies, it seems, cannot meet together at the same board or on the same bench. The land must support its dignity. And for this petty hauteur, the public have to pay. A good round number of hundred thousands are wasted every year in the mere matter of prisons, in order that no par
come betwixt the wind and their nobility.” Pride is, no doubt, a very fine thing; but
like other “magnificences,” it is sometimes put to very miserable shifts to maintain itself.
The Nottingham House of Correction is an old gaol—and not a good one by any means.
Yet it is, both as to construction and discipline, infinitely superior to its more aristocratic rival. Here, at all events, there is no idleness—and not very many reprehensible indulgences. On these points the citizen magistrates appear to have much sounder notions than their neighbours on the opposite side of the street. They have no work-rooms such as those in Coldbath-fields ; but that is perhaps the consequence of originál faults of construction. The
are not left alone in idleness all day long, crowding and crouching over a fire. They are compelled to work. The tread-wheel goes nearly nine hours daily in summer, and from light to dark in winter. There may be objections to this species of labour-objections of which the gravity is admitted, but they lie against it only as compared with other descriptions of labour. When weighed against idleness, no question can arise as to its utility and desirableness. The prisoners, moreover, are employed in the menial and domestic offices of the prison-in cleaning, washing, cooking, and service, and this enables the magistrates to dispense with superfluous paid servants. The consequence is, that although it is a third or more larger than the county gaol, and is really managed, which the other is not, it has only one more of a staff official.
Every prisoner works. No trade is, however,
taught in the gaol. Unskilled labourers go, as a matter of course, to the wheel. A shoemaker is set to mend all the shoes, a tailor the clothes, a carpenter to do repairs, and so on. All is industry. But, in the matter of instruction, the method is far less commendable. There is no adequate provision for a proper training of the prisoners mentally. The only instruction vouchsafed at all, is a little reading. The office of schoolmaster, for want of a better, is held by a turnkey: an arrangement so palpably injudicious, that it only needs to be indicated in order to be condemned.
The system in force in this prison is, in other respects, far from objectionable. Silence is maintained in the gaol, in the kitchen, and on the wheel. At night, there is complete separation. There are no dormitories. The cells are of all sizes and shapes : and much good space is lost by the eccentricities of the architect. But as far as the capabilities of the building will admit, the best use appears to be made of what is left. Though some of the cells are constructed for three beds, not more than one is placed in any of them, except in cases of extreme necessity. This is as it should be. Considering the intractability of the materials with which they have to deal, the care and prudence evinced by the magistrates of the borough of Nottingham in the management of their gaol do them no discredit.
Near the county gaol, and in front of the County Hall, the capital sentences for the county of Notts are carried into effect. The instrument of death has