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PRISONS NOT REFORMATORIES - WHY? THE producers of crime and misery” enumerated in the last three numbers of this periodical are all at work in society at large; but there are others operating within our prisons, PRODUCING THE VERY EFFECT THEY WERE INTENDED TO PREVENT—increasing crime instead of diminishing it. These may be more easily dealt with than the former, for they have been produced by laws enacted; and by the same means they can be cured, when once the public mind is satisfied the change ought to be made.
(1.) In the first round of legislative mistakes on the subject of criminals we may place the having made our prisons far too comfortable places of abode.
Not a few of our prisons look, at a short distance, like the dwellings of our wealthiest nobles. The interior is lighted, and warmed, and ventilated by all the appliances of modern science. The prisoner is lodged, and fed, and clad as he never was before, and never will be again, until he return to the same abode. A troop of well-drilled servants wait upon him; he has a very moderate amount of work prescribed to him, he has daily exercise, and his supply of interesting books, if he can read them; and the whole is enlivened and made more pleasant by frequent visits from governors and warders; and, finally, he has short periods of instruction from chaplains and teachers. In fact, the complete separation of the prisoners from each other, and the regular employment of chaplains and teachers, are the only thoroughly commendable features in the present system. The separation puts an end to the risk, or rather the certainty, of mutual contamination; and whatever man can do to eradicate evil and implant virtuous principle, is faithfully done by the prison chaplains; they are most of them enthusiasts in their laborious profession, and bring to the discharge of their duties much Christian zeal and much love for perishing souls.
Is it reasonable to expect that such prisons as we now have can be regarded with terror--that the thought of entering them should deter from crime? Such a feeling may exist in those who have never been there; but one short imprisonment breaks the spell and dissipates the alarm for ever.
In fact, with the sole exception that he cannot get out, we know not what there is in a modern model prison which a culprit can desire and lias not. To such an extent is this carried, that it is actually considered by some as a reproach to the governor of a prison, if his men do not increase in weight from month to month. Nay, instances are known to have occurred where a petty crime has been committed for the purpose of procuring the gratuitous cure of disease with more comfort than in an hospital.
It is not enough, however, to look only at the treatment of the prisoner We must look at it in comparison with the loť of the honest hard-working artisan or labourer. Is it right for the State to make the wages of iniquity in every way (excepting personal liberty) higher and better than those of honest industry? This is precisely what our present prison system does. If a poor man commits a theft, he is indeed deprived of his freedom ; but in other respect, he finds himself, during his imprisonment, far more comfortable than he was at home.
No one would propose to make our prisons unhealthy or filthy, or to deprive the inmates of sufficient food and clothing ; but certainly, they need not be pampered as they are at present; and with fewer luxuries, and harder labour, and yet with all due regard to health, our prisons might be made places to which it would be a punishment, not a pleasure, to return from time to time.
Take the case of one of Lord Shaftesbury's little outcasts-scarcely covered by his rags-accustomed to sleep at night in the dry arch of a railway, or inside a garden roller, or under a gravestone; and suppose him guilty of theft, and convicted. He is sentenced by the judge—with many goodly admonitions and warnings—to what? To spend the next month or two of
his life in a most comfortable dwelling, to be well cared for. If this treatment deter from prison, and scare away from crime, it is truly marvellous.
A large proportion of our re-commitments are caused by our prisons having no terrors to the delinquents.
(2.) Another very serious prison evil arises from short sentences. The object of imprisonment ought to be twofold-punishment and reformation. That our prisons are scarcely punitive, has just been shown,-short sentences make it impossible for them to be reformatory.
What can the best of chaplains do in three days, or even in three months, to instruct and reclaim a youth whose mind has never received the smallest trace of instruction, and whose heart is hard as the nether millstone-whose kindly feelings are deadened, and whose active feelings are all depraved: Nothing but a long course of training can have any effect on such a person.
There is, however, decided positive injury done him, for, by committing him to prison, the felon mark is put upon him, and thus, by a short imprisonment, from which he derives no good, the brand of a felon is so effectually burnt as it were into him, that the longest life of honesty may prove in. sufficient altogether to erase it.
Thus, it is not clemency or kindness it is rather positive cruelty-to the culprit, to pass a short instead of a long sentence upon him.
This is no light matter. The world justly draws a strong and well-marked line of distinction betwixt those who have been in prison and those who have not, and it does not make minute inquiries as to circumstances of guilt or the number of offences; but when once a boy has been in prison, most of the doors of admission to respectable industry and labour are shut and barred against him for ever, and he is placed in such circumstances that he must either steal or starve. Masters fear to employ him, apprentices and journey. men refuse to associate with him, the moral jail-fever is upon him, and they dread being brought into contact with him. Nor are they much to be blamed on account of this feeling—it is a popular tribute to virtue, and in this way no small protection to society against crime; but it does render the return of the convict to the paths of virtue doubly difficult; and it makes it imperative on the State to take care that the felon mark be not rashly put on any one.
On looking at prison records, it will be found that a large proportion of the juveniles are committed for periods under two months; and it will also be found, that of the inmates of a prison, from 50 to 70 per cent. are re-commitments.
As a proof of the effect of longer sentences, the Governor of the Edinburgh prison stated, in a Report in 1847, that of those who were sentenced for the first time to six months or upwards, only 20 per cent. were re-committed.
So little terror have short imprisonments, that some spend no small portion of their lives in undergoing them. Some few years ago, there was in Edinburgh jail a woman imprisoned for the 110th time; another in Dundee, under twenty-six years of age, who had been 34 times in Dundee jail, and 28 times in Edinburgh jail, making 62 commitments in all; and other prisons furnish similar cases.
Short sentences are long enough to blast the character for ever; they are too short to do any real good—the oftener they are inflicted the more do they harden the offender. It is high time to try if something better cannot be devised.
(3.) Mischief arises from the forms of cur criminal procedure in trifling cases. In them the whole pomp and dignity of judges, and counsel, and jury, tend not to raise but to lower the majesty of the law—to exalt the little culprit to the honour of a hero or a martyr, and nothing can have a worse effect upon his mind. There seems no occasion for the trial by jury of juvenile offenders. They ought all to be summarily disposed of by the magistrates, even although the case be aggravated by previous conviction; the employment of juries on such occasions is not needful for the protection of the offender, and it is a heavy tax on the time of the jurors.
(4.) Evil is done by the great diversity of sentences pronounced on the same offence by magistrates in different parts of the country. One man inflicts two or three months' imprisonment in cases were another thinks two or three days sufficient. Our criminal population is very migratory-they are tried in all parts of the country, and they speculate on the chance of meeting with short imprisonments, and the diversity teaches them to look on the law as an arbitrary thing of which they are the unfortunate victimsinstead of being a sure and certain rule which is to be invariably applied to them as certainly as they are convicted.
If the views already expressed as to short sentences be correct, then it would not be harshness, but mercy to offenders, to deprive every judge and magistrate of the power to inflict them. If punishment be necessary, it ought to be such as is likely to do good.
Such are some of the more prominent social and prison evils under which we are now suffering:
Different minds will regard them with various degrees of condemnation, but few will doubt that they are all doing, more or less, the fatal work of ruining our lower classes for time and for eternity, and gradually dragging down those above them to the same wretched condition. Some of the evils can be cured-all of them can be abated-by changes in our laws, or in the administration of them. But if we keep up and maintain them, we are preparing for ourselves the sure and certain decline and fall of our mighty empire. We have only to let things alone; the consummation is sure: it may be slow-it must be miserable.
BIRMINGHAM REFORMATORY SCHOOL. At the formation of this infant Institution, C. B. Adderley, Esq., M.P., in supporting one of the Resolutions, said :-"He had not come to the meeting for the purpose of begging their assistance in the promotion of the objects which he had in view; he stood before the meeting in a prouder position; he was there to give, and not to receive. He stood there also as the member of a Committee which for several weeks past had laboured strenuously in the task of elaborating a plan which would afford them the opportunity of discharging a duty which they must have felt, innocently perhaps, that they had too long neglected. In the Report upon the condition of Mettrai, by M. de Metz, that gentleman stated that all good and great men were rallying round the Institution, and that the principle upon which the establishment was conducted, was no longer a matter of doubt or dispute. He was glad to see that in Birmingham the same alacrity was beginning to be felt on the subject. He was happy, also, to be in a position to state that, as in the case of Mettrai
, so in that of this town, a great number of good and great men were rallying round the proposition. Among those to whom he might allude were Mr, Fitzroy, the Under-Secretary of State, who had expressed his warm approval of the plan, had requested that he might be allowed to become a subscriber, and be constantly informed on the proceedings of the Institution ; Colonel Jebb, the Chevalier Bunsen, the Chaplain of the Preston jail, Mr. Dickens, the Chairman of the quarter sessions of the county of Warwick, the Mayor of Manchester; Mr. Å’Beckett, and Mr. Paynter, magistrates of London ; Mr. Oliphant, who had been for some time associated with Mr. Macgregor in London, in establishing an Institution for employing juveniles in various trades and occupations. Mr. Power, the Recorder of Ipswich, the Hon. and Rev. G. M. York, of Birmingham, and numerous other influential gentlemen, had one and all written to him and expressed, either in part or entirely, their complete approval of the proposed plan. He was anxious that the meeting
should not consider that he attended there as an advocate to plead on behalf of criminals,' for those on whose behalf this Institution was proposed were not criminals,' and in no sense could they be called 'criminals.' They might be called destitute, for such, indeed, they were ;---double orphansorphans both in body and mind; but it was a positive injustice to call them criminals. Even Colonel Jebb, who, from his position, would be the last man to sympathise with the criminal, had in his last Report come to the con lusion that these children had been too severely dealt with, that it was monstrous to inflict upon them the brand of criminals, and that it was high time such a stigma was removed from them. If any persons were the criminals it was himself
, those whom he addressed, and others who, having wealth, influence, position, and the opportunity to have taken better care of these children, had neglected to do so. There were, it was true, young criminals to be found in that town and in many other places, and those he would punish even more severely than they were now dealt with ; and they would be able to punish them more severely when their own breasts were clear on the subject of the duty which they had so long neglected, and when the law was so administered, as that those who were really criminal received due punishment, and were not mixed up with other youths who were really not culpable. If there was one point more dangerous than another to this country, it was the fact that in the breast of every magistrate and judge throughout the land there was a feeling that the administration of the law was not just, and the consequence of that feeling was that they did not administer the law as they were told to do, but allowed their feelings and convictions to sway their judgments; and, as a consequence, the greatest uncertainty prevailed in the administration of the law, and a want of equality of justice throughout the land. He really felt that it would be almost better to let the young criminals loose than to administer the law in the uncertain mode in which it was now dispensed; for when once the law was in a state of uncertainty, its operation was little better than tyranny. He was anxious not to be understood as imputing injustice to the law as it now stood. Many of our laws were so vague, that their administration must often be carried out in the rough,' and it was impossible in many cases to attach the responsibility to the proper quarters. They must, therefore, inflict the penalty upon the breach of the law upon the person caught in the act. In the case, for instance, of a little child being passed through a pane of glass, in order to steal what was in the house, the child, if caught in the act, must be punished, though the more guilty parties outside might escape the consequences of their guilt. He would even go further than this, and contend that there was no injustice in the administration of the law in a case which occurred a short time since at Manchester. A little child was, upon the completion of its sentence in the jail, turned out into the streets of Manchester to go to its home—a cellar. On arriving there she found that her parents had left, the door was shut against her, and she was informed by a neighbour that her mother had gone to the workhouse. The child wandered about the street the whole of the day and night, till on the following morning the instinctive pangs of hunger led the child to grasp a loaf of bread to appease the cravings of her hunger. The child was in prison again on the next day. The chaplain tenderly reproached her for having so soon broken her vow of repentance. The blush of shame was not extinct on the poor child's face, she hung down her head, her spirits sunk sadly within her, and on the following day she destroyed herself (sensation.) Who shall say that persons of wealth, of situation, and of influence were not deeply responsible for the untimely end of this poor child ?—for by a different mode of education and treatment the sad end might in all probability have been averted. With reference to the plan adopted by Mr. Ellis, he believed it had been eminently successful, and he was proud to think that through the benevolent generosity of Mr. Sturge the services of Mr. Ellis had been secured to Birmingham. Mr. Ellis did not pretend to give religious instruc
tion; he merely proposed to find the boys homé and employment. The objects with which they had to deal were offences against human laws, and full occupation was in itself almost an antidote to such offences. The great secret of the success of Mr. Ellis was that he used no restraint whatever over the boys. If any person had any misgiving as to the efficacy of his plan, he (Mr. Adderley) would advise them to visit the home where the boys resided, and make themselves acquainted with the means adopted and the results obtained, and he felt confident that no person would, after such an investigation, feel any doubt as to the propriety of securing the services of Mr. Ellis in the management of the Institution which it was the object of the meeting to establish."
THE VOYAGE OF THE RAGGED SCHOOL SHIP.
showers fail ;-
Plans and Progress.
LIVERPOOL INDUSTRIAL RAGGED SCHOOLS. THE following particulars we glean from the Report recently received of this noble and well-conducted Institution :
The number of children on the roll on the 31st of December, 1851, was 111; the number admitted during 1852 was 197; making a total of 308. Of these 173 were bo in Liverpool, 100 in Ireland, and other places. The average number on the roll throughout the year was 113 ; the average daily attendance 101. The number removed during the year was 182, leaving 126 on the roll on 31st December, 1852.
The present object of these schools is to prevent destitute and neglected children from becoming criminals. That there are substantial grounds for concluding they