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templates that they shall be. If he still misconducts himself it is with a thorough knowledge of what he risks by indulging a vicious habit. Not so at Reading -the authorities of Berkshire think proper to dispute the wisdom of government in giving the offender so much information as to what may be his future, and as to the amount of control which he himself possesses over that future—and they refuse to place the notice in their cells.
Mr. Charles Pearson charges the Reading system with being contrary to the law of the land. Here is a point on which there can be no dispute. Government, in execution of the law, says, “ Place this notice in a conspicuous part of every cell ;” the magistrates of Berkshire say, “We will not.” Is Sir George Grey aware of this refusal to obey his mandate?
This defiance of the mandates of the Home-office by the Berkshire Bench is not the result of a mere caprice; neither does it arise from any mere wrongheaded jealousy of the executive power on the part of the local authorities. It has a deeper source. In fact, the reasons for it embrace all the dogmata on which the Reading system-so far as it is peculiar, so far as it is distinguishable from the separate imprisonment as exhibited at Pentonville—is founded. It is directly contrary to the principles of the Berkshire discipline to appeal to the motives——to suggest the results of good conduct mentioned in the government order.
Government says to the criminal, “You have committed a crime. You have violated that law
which is the bond and protection of society—without the uninterrupted action of which it could not exist for an hour. By this act you have put yourself out of its protection. You have forfeited that liberty which the law guarantees to every man who obeys its behests. By the injury you have done to society, by so much have you become a debtor to the State. It has seized upon your person, and sequestered your time and energies until reparation shall be made, or a moral guarantee be given that, on any portion of your offence being pardoned, you will not abuse the clemency of the law by committing fresh offences against it. It makes known to you its beneficent intentions. The rest is in your own power.
The guarantee that is required of you now is—good conduct. If during your period of probation you are industrious, submissive to your officers, cleanly in your person and habits, orderly towards your fellow prisoners, and obedient to the rules and regulations of the gaol in which you are confined-all these things will be considered as signs of an improved condition of character, and will lead to a relaxation of the more penal parts of the discipline to which you are subject, and to a diminution of your term of confinement. Misconduct, on the contrary,idleness, profanity, disorder, disobedience to the rules, contempt of authority-all these things will cause punishment to be added to your punishment, discipline to be enforced in its utmost severity, and the term of your imprisonment to be prolonged."
The authorities of Reading would say not a word of this to their prisoners. They consider that the criminal is a criminal because he is without religion. He has fallen into crime because the love of God is not in his heart—the fear of God not before his eyes. If these sentiments are not evoked in him, they regard all other effort as so much waste. With them the treatment of criminals is altogether a religious matter : it has no other phase or aspect. Their panacea for every offence is a text of Scripture. If a boy steals an apple from an orchard, he gets, say fourteen days, and five chapters by heart.
A man who robs a butcher's shop of a leg of mutton, gets, say six months—and the four Evangelists.. The transport who has to pass his term of eighteen months will have to fasten in his memory from St. Matthew to Revelation. Every one must undergo the regimen. The magistrates have one remedy for every form of the disease. They make no exception. The infinite variety of the criminal mind is to them only a table on which to rewrite the letter of the Gospel. That done, all is supposed to be done. Religious admonition-committal to memory of the written word of the New Testament,—these are the two elements of the discipline of Reading Gaol.
This being understood, it is easy to see why the authorities of Berkshire are at issue with the Homeoffice. Those authorities entertain a superb contempt for so vulgar a means of influencing the prisoner for good as the promise of an earthly reward. They will not accept of good unless they can obtain it after their own fashion. They test everything by their
foregone conclusion. Having settled that religion is the only agent by which the prisoner can be amended, they will not have him improved in any other way. They do not want the convict to know that industry, attention to order, the strict fulfilment of his duties, will lead to such vulgar, tangible results as a shortening of his sentence and a relaxation of its severities. No; they would owe his good conduct to the grace of Heaven, and to that alone. No meaner motive should impel to virtue. Is the withholding of such precious information as the government offers to the offender fair ? Is it legal ? Is it honest ?
. Observe, that it is withheld on the strength of a mere dogma, and a dogma open to much question. No doubt the reverend chaplain of Reading Gaol is convinced that this dogma is an absolute verity. It becomes his profession to have confidence in the supreme efficacy of religious feeling where it can be awakened ; but he will admit that the worldthe educated world-looks upon his theory as at least debateable. And being so, ought it to be pushed to such an extreme as to deny to every agency the opportunity of acting for good? Can the law of the land be justifiably set aside on such a pretence ?
There appears on the face of it to be another reason why the mandate of the Home-office is set at defiance. The instruction issued tells the prisoner that among other evidences of good conduct, his industry will be particularly noted. Now in Reading Gaol, as there is little or no work allowed, it would
be absurd to tell the convict that his industry would be accounted to him for righteousness. To men longing for work—begging daily for something to do, with more fervency than the Christian prays for his daily bread, such an intimation would be a cruel mockery. Labour forms no part of the discipline carried out at Reading. The system,” like the style of the architecture, is “ a mixture of the castellated and the collegiate,”—that is, it is a mixture of idleness and study.
In the description of the daily life in the prison, we have seen how much of the time is devoted to receiving instruction. The advocates of the plan avow the principle which informs their practice. Mr. Merry, one of the most zealous and well-informed of the county magistrates of Berks, declared before a parliamentary committee of inquiry, that the discipline of Reading Gaol consisted “in nothing but education.” Labour may be said to be unknown within its walls; such light employment as knitting, stitching, and even cobbling, is permitted to a few of the longer sentences, to prevent them from altogether losing the faculty of labour ; but none of this can, by any stretch of fancy, be thought work. If it be, then is Berlin-wool wasting, also, work.
We know of few sadder things than looking into these cells of Reading Gaol, and seeing great brawny fellows dawdling over texts of which they understand not the beauty, and care not for the meaning ; fellows whose minds are blanks, who have no thoughts, no subject-matter for reflection. We went into a great