London, Volume 5

Knight, Charles

1843

CXXI.-Prisons and Penitentiaries.

CXXI.-Prisons and Penitentiaries.

 

About criminals and other persons (exclusive of debtors) pass through the Metropolitan gaols, houses of correction, bridewells, and penitentiaries, every year. In the year the number of persons taken into custody by the metropolitan police was equal to the whole population of some of our largest towns, being . The disproportion of the sexes was not greater than in the colony of New South Wales, there being females and males. The numbers taken up for drunkenness were males and females, or nearly - of the whole number: the amount taken from drunken persons and restored to them when sober was , in . The number of disorderly characters apprehended in , was males and females; together persons; besides disorderly prostitutes, for common assaults, and for assaults on the police; and of vagrants the number was . There were common larceny cases; and persons were apprehended as

suspicious characters.

In the class of cases already enumerated are included persons. Altogether, of the persons taken into custody there were at once discharged by the magistrates; were summarily convicted or held to bail, and were committed for trial, of whom were convicted. Larcenies in a dwelling-house were most numerous in Whitechapel in , and in in the Borough, in . Larcenies from the person were most common in Covent Garden in the year and in Shadwell in the other. Highway robberies, burglaries, house and shop-breaking occurred

322

most frequently in the suburbs--as in Whitechapel, , , Mile End, and Poplar; but the number of this class of offences, in the whole of the metropolitan district in , was under . The parish of St. James's furnished, in , the largest proportionate number of cases for the police under the head of drunkenness, disorderly prostitutes, and vagrancy. Clerkenwell was distinguished for the largest number of cases of horse-stealing, assaults with attempt to rescue, and wilful damage. Common assaults were most frequent in Covent Garden in , and in in the East in ; coining and uttering counterfeit coin in Clerkenwell and Covent Garden; embezzlement in Whitechapel and Clerkenwell; and pawning illegally in Mile End and . Murder was most prevalent in Clerkenwell and Whitechapel; manslaughter in and Clerkenwell; and arson in Marylebone and . thing is at least clear, that Clerkenwell holds a bad pre-eminence for the number and nature of the offences committed within its limits; but district returns must be continued for a series of years before the character of any particular division of the metropolis can be fully brought out. Comparing Middlesex (including London) with England and Wales, we find that in assaults the county is very much above the average, a result which probably arises in a great degree from the presence of a numerous and efficient police force, which, by affording the means of immediate arrest in cases of this nature, augments the number of cases brought before the magistrates; and the same cause will account for the smaller proportion of murders, as interference frequently takes place before quarrels proceed to a fatal termination. The assaults on peace-officers are also few in number, from its being well known that the aid of additional policemen can be easily obtained. The valuable property in shops and warehouses is usually so well protected in London, both by the presence of a police force and internally by bolts and bars, that the average of burglaries is also fewer than in the country; and the same may be said of housebreaking, which crime, as already stated, chiefly occurs in the suburbs. Robbery, with violence, is also below the average; but in malicious offences against property, the disproportion in Middlesex is very striking, which is to be accounted for by the difficulty of finding means to gratify private vengeance in this way, while, in the country, stack-burning, and killing and maiming cattle are crimes of easy commission. But in crimes which call for dexterity and intelligence the preponderance in Middlesex is very great, as in the case of larceny from the person (pocket-picking) and forgery. Lastly, the disproportion of female criminals in the metropolis is very considerable. In , out of female offenders, were committed in Middlesex, or between onefifth and -, instead of about -. In the Metropolitan police district the amount of loss by robberies in was , and the number for which a police force could fairly be responsible was , involving a loss of , including cases of robbery by

means unknown.

At the commencement of the present century Mr. Colquhoun, himself a police magistrate, estimated the amount of depredations on property committed in the metropolis and its vicinity at ! Is it to be supposed that, with the present most efficient police force of about persons, less than per cent. of the felonies should now become known? It is quite clear, indeed, that Mr. Colquhoun's statement was either very far wide of the mark, or that a most enormous saving has been effected by an improved system of police.

323

 

Still there is no manner of doubt, that, from the number of persons living habitually by depredations on property, the amount of loss must be very great. The Constabulary Commissioners, who had access to the best sources of information, made a return of the number of depredators and offenders against the law, or who had been subjected to the law, or brought within the cognizance of the police in the metropolitan police district, and the following was the result of their investigation. They divided the whole number into classes :--l. Persons who have no visible means of subsistence, and who are believed to live by violation of the law, as by habitual depredation, by fraud, by prostitution, &c. . Persons following some ostensible and legal occupation, but who are known to have committed an offence, and are believed to augment their gains by habitual or occasional violation of the law. . Persons not known to have committed any offences, but known as associates of the above classes, and otherwise deemed to be suspicious characters. The following is the return:

Character and Description of Offenders. Class. Class. Class.

Burglars77228
Housebreakers591734
Highway robbers19811
Pickpockets51475154
Common thieves Forgers16671338652
Obtainers of goods by false pretences030
Persons committing frauds of any other description331080
Receivers of stolen goods2311841
Horse-stealers740
Cattle-stealers000
Dog-stealers454848
Coiners2512
Utterers of base coin2025461
Habitual disturbers of the public peace7231866179
Vagrants108918620
Begging-letter writers121721
Bearers of begging-letters224024
Prostitutes, well-dressed, living in brothels8136220
Prostitutes, well-dressed, walking the streets14607973
Prostitutes, low, infesting low neighbourhoods3533147184
Classes not before enumerated402438
Total1044443532104
 

This return, tested as it was by the average length of career of offenders passing through the prisons of the metropolis, is no doubt as near the truth as possible. Besides this return, the Constabulary Commissioners also obtained another, giving the number of houses open for the accommodation of delinquency and vice in the same district; and this return we subjoin:

Houses for the reception of stolen goods227
Ditto suppressed since the establishment of the police131
Houses for the resort of thieves276
Ditto suppressed since the establishment of the police159
Average number of thieves daily resorting to each17
Number of brothels where prostitutes are kept933
Average number of prostitutes kept in each4
Number of houses of ill-fame where prostitutes resort848
Number of houses where prostitutes lodge1551
Number of gambling-houses32
Average number of persons resorting to each daily20
Mendicants' lodging-houses221
Average daily number of lodgers at each house11

324

 

Now, in , Mr. Colquhoun gaye, in his

Police of the Metropolis,

an

Estimate of Persons who are supposed to support themselves in and near the metropolis by pursuits either criminal, illegal or immoral,

and, dividing them into classes, he made out the number to be , of whom were prostitutes! The male population of London, within the Bills of Mortality, was then only from to , after deducting children and aged persons. The official station of Mr. Colquhoun, at time, gave great weight to his statements, and well were they calculated to keep up the country idea of London vice and roguery.

The proportion of known bad characters in the metropolis was in , according to the table given above, which is a more favourable proportion than exists either at Liverpool, Bristol, Bath, Hull, or Newcastle. In London, this class fix themselves in particular districts. In the parish of St. George the Martyr, , the total number of notoriously bad characters, according to the Constabulary Commissioners' Report, was , or in , or to every adults.

If,

as it has been observed,

only

three

persons form the family or society of each of these characters, nearly

1

in every

20

of the population is thus rendered vicious, or is exposed to the contamination of a constant familiarity with profligacy and vice.

[n.324.1]  The Mint and the scarcely less notorious are in this parish. The Mint was the scene of

the life, character, and behaviour

of Jack Sheppard; and within the same precincts, at the Duke's Head, still standing, in Redcross Street, his companion Jonathan Wild kept his horses. The Mint and its vicinity has been an asylum for debtors, coiners, and vagabonds of every kind ever since the middle of the century. It is districts like these which will always furnish the population of the prisons, in spite of the best attempts to reform and improve offenders by a wise, beneficent, and enlightened system of discipline, until moral efforts of a similar nature be directed to the fountain-head of corruption. There are districts in London whose vicious population, if changed to-day for of a higher and more moral class, would inevitably be deteriorated by the physical agencies by which they would be surrounded, and the following generation might rival the inhabitants of or the Mint.

In London, it is not vice only which leads to distress, poverty, and absolute want, the general precursors of crime, but unavoidable misfortunes. The death of parents, the failure to obtain employment, may be the occasion of distress as well as vicious indulgence, indolence, or the loss of character.

It is lamentable,

says the chaplain to the Reformatory Prison at Parkhurst,

to observe how large a majority of the prisoners here consists of destitute or otherwise unfortunate children, suffering either from the loss, the negligence, or the vice of their relatives. For example, out of

131

prisoners,

13

only appear to have been brought up in any way approaching to decent and orderly habits; and but

14

are possessed of such connexions as afford them a prospect of a livelihood in future, so far as their native country is concerned. Of that number also

51

are either friendless, or with prospects even more wretched through the crimes of their relations.

The

period of criminality,

in the case of these juvenile criminals, appears to have been as follows :--Pilfered early from parents and friends, ; robbed out of doors for several years, ; for or years, ; for under a year, ; little, or none professed, . If we had space, we should here trace the

325

usual progress of the London thief, until, after having probably been several times an inmate of the gaol or house of correction, he is sent out of the country.

In there were prisons in London, some of them of very ancient date. Newgate (the City gate) was a gaol in the reign of King John. The prisonhouse pertaining to of the Sheriffs of London, called the Compter, in the Poultry, hath been there kept and continued, says Stow, time out of mind,

for I have not read of the original thereof.

About the old Poultry Compter became too much out of repair to be used as a prison, but the night charges were still taken there. The Marshalsea and King's Bench were both very ancient prisons. In , the rebels of Kent, says Stow,

brake down the houses of the Marshalsea and King's Bench in

Southwark

, took from thence the prisoners, brake down the house of Sir John Immorth, the marshal of the Marshalsey and King's Bench, &c.

It was to the latter prison that Henry, Prince of Wales, afterwards Henry V., was confined by Judge Gascoigne, for striking him when on the bench. During Lord George Gordon's riots the King's Bench was thrown open, about prisoners released, and the prison set on fire. The Marshalsea was so called from having been originally placed under the control of the Knight Marshal of the royal household. Its jurisdiction extended miles round , the City of London excepted. The persons confined there before its discontinuance in were pirates and debtors; and it contained rooms and a chapel. This prison originally stood near . The King's Bench originally stood near the spot occupied by the Marshalsea, in the . In Stow's time there was a prison in called the White Lion, on Hill (now called the ), near : it was originally the county gaol for Surrey, before the in was built at the suggestion of Howard. It was called the White Lion,

for that the same was a common hosterie for the receipt of travellers by that sign;

that is, it was probably built on the site of an inn so named. Stow says :

This house was

first

used as a gaol within these

forty

years last,

and it was then the county gaol for Surrey. In the century the postern of Cripplegate was used as a prison,

whereunto such citizens and others as were arrested for debt or common trespasses were committed, as they be now (says Stow) to the Compters.

Speaking of Ludgate, he says:

This gate was made a

free

prison in

1378

;

and in ,

it was ordained that all freemen of this City should for debt, trespasses, accounts and contempts, be imprisoned in Ludgate; and for treasons, felonies, and other criminal offences, committed to Newgate.

The munificence of Dame Agnes Foster to the prisoners of Ludgate has been noticed in a former part of this work. was given by Edward VI. to the City in , to be a workhouse for the poor and idle persons of the City. The Tower was the great state prison, from the middle ages down to the present times, The number of the metropolitan prisons is now only . The and the Marshalsea were discontinued in S, and the prisoners (debtors) were transferred to the Queen's Bench, now called the Queen's Prison. It is situated at the bottom of the , , contains rooms, and the number of debtors has often exceeded . The new Act for its regulation abolishes the day-rules. The old practice was for the

rulers

to pay

326

guineas for the , and guineas for each succeeding for which they were in custody. Liberty to go out of the prison for days was purchased at the rate of for the day, for the , and for the . These days were specified on the

liberty tickets.

Of course, good security was given to the Marshal that the

rulers

should not decamp. The emoluments of this officer in were stated to be a-year, of which arose from the sale of beer, and from the rules. The regulations of the prison are in future to be framed by of the Secretaries of State; and the Act provides for the classification of the prisoners. Some notice of the characteristics of a debtor's prison has already been given, and to it we must at present refer the reader.[n.326.1]  The Borough Compter, removed to , , is now used exclusively for debtors from the Borough of ; the prison in is also exclusively a debtors' prison for London and Middlesex. Debtors are also confined in the Surrey County Gaol, ; and in the , ; both likewise prisons for criminals. Debtors were confined in Newgate and before the prison in was built. The late Sir Richard Phillips, in a letter on the

Office of Sheriff,

published in , said:--

The very circumstance of being committed for debt to

Newgate

has a tendency to degrade an unfortunate individual, more than confinement from the same cause in any other prison.

It is very probable that the majority of the prisons will never be seen by the casual visitor to London; but this is not the case with Newgate, and its use is at once apparent, for there is not a more characteristic edifice in London, and it is admirable both in spirit and design. Old Newgate prison, built after the fire of , was pulled down and rebuilt between and ; but during Lord George Gordon's riots in the latter year it was broken open, the prisoners were released, and the rioters set fire to the prison and to the keeper's house, which were destroyed. At the commencement of the present century nearly prisoners were confined at time in Newgate, and in consequence of its crowded state a contagious fever broke out. Many improvements have been made since this period. In , in consequence of the strenuous exertions of Sir Richard Phillips, a committee of the Common Council passed a resolution for building a new prison for debtors, and in Newgate ceased to be a debtors' prison, the debtors being transferred to Compter. This latter place ceased to be a debtors' prison in consequence of the erection of prison. In public attention was strongly directed to the subject of penitentiary houses, and some attempts were made at a classification of the prisoners in Newgate. Still it has often been stigmatised as of the worst managed of the large prisons of England. The duties of the chaplain of Newgate years ago, in return for an income of above a year, are thus described in a Parliamentary Report of :--

Beyond his attendance in chapel and on those who are sentenced to death, Dr. Forde feels but few duties to be attached to his office. He knows nothing of the state of morals in the prison; he never sees any of the prisoners in private; though

fourteen

boys and girls from

nine

to

thirteen

years old were in Newgate in April last, he does not consider attention to them a point

of his duty; he never knows that any have been sick till he gets a warning to attend their funeral; and does not go to the infirmary, for it is not in his instructions.

The duties of the chaplain are now of course performed with as much zeal as in any other prison. In Dr. Forde's time the attendance of the prisoners at chapel was entirely voluntary! Gambling and drinking, and tales of villainy and debauchery were the only occupations. The old prisoners instructed the younger ones in the deftest feats of robbery. The want of classification, and the entire idleness in which the prisoners spent their time, rendered Newgate a positive institution for the encouragement of vice and crime. The casual offender, committed on some slight charge which scarcely affected his moral character, was thrust into the companionship of beings scarcely human, men transformed into demons by the vilest passions and a life nurtured from infancy in the lowest depth of vice and infamy; the young were placed with the old, the healthy with the sick, the clean with the filthy, and even the lunatic was there the sport or the fear of the prison. From the contaminating nature of such association there was no escape, and the young offender came out of prison fit for any desperate scheme of villainy.

I scruple not to affirm,

says Howard,

that half the robberies committed in and about London are planned in the prisons by that dreadful assemblage of criminals and the number of idle people who visit them.

Should the uninitiated in crime at shrink from intercourse with the prison rabble, he was subjected to every species of annoyance until, openly at least, he was compelled to embrace the brotherhood. His contumacy, so long as it lasted, became the subject of mock trials, in which generally the oldest and most dexterous thief acted as judge, with a towel tied in knots hung on each side of his head for a wig; and he was in no want of officers to put his sentences into execution.

Garnish,

or

footing,

,or

chummage

(for it was called by all the names), was demanded of all new prisoners.

Pay or strip,

was the order, and the prisoner without money was obliged to part with a portion of his scanty apparel to contribute towards the expense of a riotous entertainment, the older prisoners adding something to the

garnish

paid by the new-comer. The practice of the prisoners cooking their own food had not been long discontinued in . Among other objectionable practices were the profits which the wardsmen derived from supplying prisoners with various articles, so that often they benefited by means which tended to promote disorder. The difficulty of introducing a proper classification of prisoners in Newgate led the Parliamentary Committee on Metropolitan Gaols in , to propose the classification of the prisons themselves, as Newgate for felonies, before trial; and other prisons for different classes of convicted offenders.

It is now nearly years since Mrs. Fry commenced her well-known attempts to improve the female prisoners in Newgate. In , according to Sir Richard Phillips, the number of women in Newgate was usually from to . The breadth allotted to each in their sleeping-room was only eighteen inches! The untried were mixed with the convicted, the young and repentant offender with the hardened and profligate transgressor. When Mrs. Fry commenced her benevolent task, the female wards were a scene of uproar and confusion which defies description. The occupations and amusements of the place, as Mrs. Fry states, were

swearing, gaming, fighting, singing, dancing, drinking, and dressing up in men's clothes.

Some, however, were destitute of

328

clothing, and unfit to be seen. girl spent in day for beer, obtained in the name of other prisoners. Some of the women had scarcely sufficient food to support existence, while others enjoyed delicacies sent in by their friends. There was no certain supply of soap, and towels were not provided.

Notwithstanding that gradually a number of improvements have taken place in the discipline and administration of Newgate, it is still defective, and radically so, for the present building does not admit of the application of a proper system of discipline. In the Inspectors of Prisons justly found fault with the evils of gaol-contamination which prevail within its walls. The prisoners were enabled to amuse themselves with gambling, card-playing and draughts. They could obtain, by stealth it is true, the luxury of tobacco and a newspaper. Sometimes they could get drunk. Instruments to facilitate prison-breaking were found in the prison. Combs and towels were not provided, and the supply of soap was insufficient. In the Inspectors reported, that

this great metropolitan prison, while it continues in its present state, is a fruitful source of demoralization.

In their last Report (the ), dated , the Inspectors say :--

It has been our painful duty again and again to point attention to the serious evils resulting from gaol association and consequent necessary contamination in this prison. The importance of this prison in this point of view is very great. As the great metropolitan prison for the untried, it is here that those most skilled in crime of every form, those whom the temptations, the excesses, and the experience of this great city have led through a course of crime to the highest skill in the arts of depredation and to the lowest degradation of infamy, meet together with those who are new to such courses, and who are only too ready to learn how they may pursue the career they have just entered upon, with most security from detection and punishment, and with greater success and indulgence. The numbers committed, nearly

4000

per annum, which have rapidly increased, and are still increasing, render this a subject of still greater moment. Of this number about

one

-

fifth

are acquitted; many of these return to their associates with increased knowledge and skill in crime; with lost characters; with more hardened dispositions from their association here with others worse than themselves; and with their sense of shame and self-respect sadly diminished, if not utterly destroyed, by exposure to others, and by increased gaol acquaintances. Many others are sentenced to short terms of imprisonment, and in like manner soon get back again to their former courses and companions; and each of these becomes a source of greater mischief to the public, and of danger and seduction to the unwary and inexperienced. We most seriously protest against Newgate as a great school of crime. Associated together in large numbers and in utter idleness, frequently moved from ward to ward, and thereby their prison acquaintance much enlarged, we affirm that the prisoners must quit this prison worse than they enter it. It is said that prisoners are here but for a short time, and therefore that much mischief cannot be done. Many of them are here for

three

weeks and more, and are locked up together in numbers from

three

to

twenty

, for

twenty

out of

twenty-four

hours, without the restraining presence even of an officer, without occupation or resource, without instruction, except that afforded by the daily chapel service, and by the short visits which a chaplain can pay from ward to ward in so large a prison, and by the books which are

placed in the wards. At the end of

three

weeks what remains to be learnt that any inmate of a ward can teach? what narrative of guilty or sensual adventure remains untold? what anticipation of future success and indulgence that has not been dwelt upon? Some few have courage to fly from such mischievous companionship, and ask, after a few hours' experience of the wards of Newgate, to be placed in the separate cells; but it is not to be expected that many will voluntarily fly from company which distracts thought, to seclusion and their own unhappy reflections. The arrangements however for these few are such as to deter them from availing themselves of them. The solitary cells are the old condemned cells of Newgate, which are now used as refractory cells for those who offend against the discipline of the prison, or for those charged with unnatural offences, or with the most brutal crimes; and if a young man, who has never before been in prison--who wishes to retain the little good that remains to him-and who is disgusted with the characters he has met in the prison, and the language and conversation he has been obliged to hear, requests to be put apart, he is removed to

one

of these cells. They are cold, ill ventilated, dark, small, and even without a seat to sit upon. At our last inspection we found

two

young men of comparatively respectable appearance, who, disgusted with the bad conversation, the oaths, and the indecent language which they said they had heard in the wards, requested to be alone; and who preferred solitude in these wretched cells to such companionship.

One

had been a month in separate confinement under the most unfavourable circumstances possible; and yet did not regret the choice he had made.

Within less than a stone's throw of Newgate is Compter, now used for criminals only, the debtors having been removed on the completion of the prison. It is under the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, and is both a prison and a house of correction. Since , night-charges have no longer been sent here, but to the police station-houses. The front looks west upon St. Sepulchre's Church and down ; and on the south it is bounded by the north side of ; and on the east and north by the buildings of . The balls of the scholars often fall into of the prison-yards. What a contrast between the institutions and their respective inmates! There is only entrance, in the centre of the front building. The area within is occupied by a multiplicity of wards, yards, and sleeping-rooms, constructed without order or regularity, and which defy the application of correct principles of prison discipline. Prisoners of every denomination and character are here crowded together, with as little classification as in Newgate. The solitary confinement of this prison consists in the prisoner being consigned to apartments in the front of the building, which enable him to command a view of of the greatest thoroughfares in the metropolis, with its numerous moving incidents; and although, when there is an execution in front of Newgate, he cannot see the criminal turned off, the street groups below keep alive his interest in the proceedings. About prisoners are annually committed to this prison; and either their behaviour must be most admirable, and is a most excellent penitentiary, or the officers of the prison are most indulgent, for the number of prison punishments in year was only ! This is of the least secure of the metropolitan prisons, and

330

the escapes from it have been the most frequent. The Inspectors of Prisons, after alluding to or causes which render the prison insecure, remark:

There is another circumstance which renders this prison very insecure, but which we do not think it prudent to notice.

The number of visitors admitted daily averages about , and on Sundays double this number. It is right to add that considerable improvements have taken place within a very recent period in the discipline and management of the prison, and that the City authorities have shown a most laudable desire to amend the defects of a former period; and, as a proof of their zealous and enlightened spirit in this case, they have determined upon pulling down the old prison, except the building fronting the street, and to rebuild it upon the most improved principles of prison construction. When these changes are effected, Newgate cannot long resist amendment.

, another place of confinement within the City of London, is under the jurisdiction of the Governors of and Bethlehem Hospitals, but it is supported out of the funds of the Hospital. The entrance is in , Blackfriars. The prisoners confined here are persons summarily convicted by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, and are for the most part petty pilferers, misdemeanants, vagrants, and refractory apprentices sentenced to solitary confinement; which term need not terrify the said refractory offenders, for the persons condemned to

solitude

can with ease keep up a conversation with each other from morning to night. The total number of persons confined here in was ; of whom were under , and were known or reputed thieves. In no employment was furnished to the prisoners. The men sauntered about from hour to hour in those chambers where the worn blocks still stood and exhibited the marks of the toil of those who, as represented in Hogarth's prints, were employed in beating hemp. The tread-mill has been now introduced, and more than -sixths of the prisoners are sentenced to hard labour, the

mill

being employed in grinding corn for , Bethlem, and the House of Occupation. The Report of the Inspectors of Prisons on the City is as follows:

The establishment answers no

one

object of imprisonment except that of safe custody. It does not correct, deter, nor reform; but we are convinced that the association to which all but the City apprentices are subjected, proves highly injurious, counteracts any efforts that can be made for the moral and religious improvement of the prisoners, corrupts the less criminal, and confirms the degradation of the more hardened offender. The cells in the old part of the prison are greatly superior to those in the adjoining building, which is comparatively of recent erection, but the whole of the arrangements of which are exceedingly defective. It is quite lamentable to see such an injudicious and unprofitable expenditure.as that which was incurred in the erection of this part of the prison.

If we proceed from Newgate in a north-west direction, there are important prisons, Coldbath-fields and Clerkenwell. The former, according to the Inspectors of Prisons,

is the largest and most important in the kingdom for criminal purposes.

Coldbath-fields is in the parish of St. James, Clerkenwell, between the church and , and is under the jurisdiction of magistrates, appointed at each Quarter Sessions, of whom go out quarterly by rotation. It is for criminals from all parts of the county of Middlesex. The number of prisoners confined in the course of the months

331

ending Michaelmas, , was , namely, males and females: as many as have been committed here in year. The greatest number confined at time was ; and the daily average for the year was . The management of so large a number, and the regulation of the details and routine of the daily discipline and proceedings of the prison, is a task which few men are qualified to undertake. The Governor is assisted by paid officers, including chaplains; and wardsmen and monitors are selected from the prisoners. There are different kinds of books of account kept. The prison is surrounded by a high wall, varying in height from to feet; and the prison buildings are in distinct divisions:--The principal, or old building, erected in ; . The new vagrants' ward, completed in ; and, . The female prison or wards, completed in . The old prison forms a square with wings; and both the centre and the wings are divided into parts, of which belong to the centre and to the wings. These divisions facilitate the classification of the prisoners, though, from general structural defects, this classification is comparatively nugatory. The vagrants' ward, used also for reputed thieves, consists of radiating wings proceeding from a semicircular building, and these wings, with the intermediate airing courts, constitute yards. The female wards constitute a distinct building, which does not differ much in its plan from the vagrants' ward. There are chapels, for males, and the other for females, in which there is service every morning. Some of the ladies connected with the British Society for the Reformation of Female Prisoners visit the female department of the prison to read the Scriptures, &c. There are schools for the instruction of boys; also an adult school; and tread-mills, each calculated for persons. Sentences of hard labour are worked out on

the mill,

or in picking oakum or coir, in menial offices, labour in the yards, in handicrafts necessary for the service of the place, and in scouring and washing. Labour of this kind, in a smaller proportion, is assigned to those who are not sentenced to

hard

labour. The discipline enforced is that called the

Silent System;

the prisoners working in bodies, and silence being preserved by great vigilance on the part of the officers of the prison and the wardsmen, their assistants. At night, prisoners sleep in separate cells. Visitors are only received during hours of the day, on week days; and an order must be obtained from a magistrate, who only grants it under pressing circumstances. If granted, the visitor's interview lasts only a quarter of an hour, at a double iron grating, the visitor on side and the prisoner on the other, a turnkey being stationed between the gateways. The general practice, as it regards intercourse by letter, is to prohibit a convicted person receiving a letter until months of his imprisonment have elapsed, and afterwards the permission only extends to letter a month. It is impossible to practise gambling under the discipline adopted at this prison, which is highly distinguished for its efficiency. The Prison Inspectors, in their Report, observe,

This prison continues to maintain its high character for cleanliness, order, and strict government; and the management throughout is most creditable to the Governor and the officers under him.

The prison offences for the year ending Michaelmas, , were,--for neglect of work, ; noise, talking, insolence, bad language, ; various acts of disobedience or disorder, ; other offences for which prisoners were put in the cells, ; altogether, offences.

332

It is needless to remark that the internal police of a prison is very materially affected by the

Silent System

of discipline: half the punishments in Coldbath-fields originate in this conventional restriction. In the prison penal code the stoppage of a meal, half a pint of gruel, is the smallest penalty, and solitary confinement on bread and water for days, the maximum. Handcuffs are used when violence is attempted. The cat-o'---tails and the birch rod are used, the latter, perhaps, too sparingly, for only experienced its smart in , and the

cat

was used in only cases. Whipping takes place in presence of the offender's class, and the worst characters in the other classes.

Clerkenwell Prison, , is the general receiving prison of the county of Middlesex for persons committed either for examination before the police magistrates, for trial at the sessions, for want of bail, and occasionally on summary convictions. The prison was established by patent granted by James I. to the Liberty of Clerkenwell; but the greater part of the present building is of the date of , when the prison was altered and enlarged at an expense of ; but it is an ill-constructed edifice, and not at all in accordance with the present improved plans of prison construction. On sides the prison yards are overlooked from the adjacent houses. The number of persons confined here in the course of the year ending Michaelmas, , was ; and the greatest number at any time was . The Inspectors of Prisons have frequently directed attention in their Reports to the demoralizing effects of imprisonment in this gaol. Prisoners for re-examination are subjected to the hardship of associating with some of the worst criminal characters in the metropolis. A new gaol for untried prisoners must, they remark, sooner or later be erected for the county of Middlesex.

The in Tothill-fields is a new building, erected at a cost of , and was occupied by prisoners in . It consists of principal divisions :--the gaol for males before trial; the house of correction for male convicts; and the female prison, each on the radiating plan, and comprising wards with corresponding airing yards; day-rooms, and single sleeping-cells. The centre of the prison forms an octangular court-yard, feet across each way. The untried are associated, and so are the convicted, but the latter are subjected to the discipline of the

silent system.

The number confined in the prison in , was .

Prison, in , , is under the jurisdiction of the Surrey county magistrates, and is a substantially-built structure, capable of receiving criminals. It is of a quadrangular form, with stories above the basement, and was completed for the reception of prisoners in . side, appropriated to debtors, consists of divisions- for the masterdebtors, for the common debtors, and the for the inferior class of debtors and the female debtors. The criminal division occupies the other sides of the building, arranged in wards, and the whole is surrounded, or nearly so, by the prison garden. Prisoners have been drafted to the from Coldbath-fields, and the consequence is that many of the advantages of classification which it enjoyed are lost; and, properly speaking, this prison is for criminals and debtors from the city and liberties of . The

silent system

is in operation for the convicted prisoners. The number of prisoners

333

confined during the year ending Michaelmas, , was , including debtors; and the greatest number of prisoners at any time was .

Before noticing the Penitentiary, and the Model Prison at , we must briefly advert to the history of improvements in prisons and prison discipline. These began with the labours of Howard, who, in , published his work on

The State of the Prisons in England and Wales.

The manifest evils of gaol association led to the publication of Bentham's

Panopticon, or the Inspection House,

and in he presented to Mr. Pitt his plan for prison management, on the principle of his

Panopticon.

Mr. Pitt and several of the ministers entered into his views with the greatest readiness, but years were spent in a fruitless struggle to bring them into operation, and it is now well known that they were thwarted by the obstinacy of George III. The land on which the Penitentiary now stands was paid for at the price of , though a much more advantageous site could have been obtained at for half the money. The Penitentiary at was not commenced until . It was intended at for males and females; but in an Act was passed authorising the completion of accommodation for C males and females; and years afterwards another Act extended the design, and males and females were to be provided for. In another Act further increased the extent of the Penitentiary, and adapted it for the confinement of males and females. There are now above separate cells, and by subdividing a few of the larger the number might be increased to . The Separate System in England was brought into operation in , at the Gloucester County Gaol, under the auspices of Sir George Paul, a magistrate of enlightened views, who, in conjunction with Howard and Judge Blackstone, devised a plan for a national penitentiary; and Sir George Paul, then an active magistrate of Gloucestershire, induced the other magistrates of the county to give the plan a trial. It is an error to suppose that the separate system was introduced in the penitentiaries of the United States. From to it was in most successful operation at Gloucester, until the increase of population outgrew the accommodations of the prison.

The Penitentiary is in the parish of St. John, , but an act was passed for making it extra-parochial. It stands on the left bank of the Thames, about half a mile from the Houses of Parliament, and not far from the foot of . The soil on which it is built is a deep peat, and the prison buildings are laid on a mass of concrete. Still the lowness of the situation, the extent of the mud-banks exposed at low tides to evaporation, the number of deleterious manufactures carried on in the vicinity, render the prison any thing but healthy. It was occupied by prisoners in , when a part only of the Penitentiary was completed, and the whole was finished in . At the end of , in consequence of the prevalence of an alarming epidemic, the place was temporarily abandoned, the prisoners being removed to the hulks, under a special Act of Parliament, and it was not re-opened until . The cost of the buildings has exceeded half a million sterling, or at the rate of for each cell, but as the number of prisoners has only once been so high as (in ), and the number of late years has not averaged , it is not extravagant to assume that the mere lodging of each prisoner involves an amount of capital sunk of not less than , for which a builder would expect interest at the rate of or

334

a year. By an Act passed in the session of , the name of the Penitentiary has been changed, and in future its proper designation will be the Prison. It is under the control of the Secretary of State, but is more immediately under a Committee, not exceeding nor less than , nominated by the Queen in Council. The prisoners are chiefly persons sentenced to transportation or to death, whose punishment has been commuted to imprisonment; and military delinquents. In their last Report but , the Superintending Committee remark, that

in consequence of a distressing increase in the number of insane prisoners, the separate system has been relaxed.

The prohibition of intercourse is now limited to the months; then a modified system of intercourse is allowed, consisting of permission to converse during the hours of exercise, with or more fellow prisoners, a principle of classification being observed with reference to age, character, and conduct; and the privilege is liable to be suspended. In their last Report the Committee state that eighteen months before the alteration of discipline took place, prisoners became insane; in the eighteen subsequent months only . The Inspectors of Prisons in their Report state that the existing system of discipline

is neither calculated to deter from crime, nor contribute to the personal reformation of the offender.

The defective health of the prisoners has always been a great obstacle to the maintenance of an efficient discipline.

The boundary wall of the Prison is nearly miles in extent, with only entrance-gate. It encloses an area of acres, of which are occupied by the prison-buildings and airing-yards, and the remainder is laid out as garden-ground. The plan of the prison-buildings is most intricate: arranged in the form of a pentagon, though a angle has been added. In each pentagon there are cell-passages, each feet long, or feet in each pentagon, or feet in the --a length of cell-passages miles in extent. These passages are broken most inconveniently by angles, into lengths of yards each; so that to command a view of yards of the passages it is necessary to stand at of the angles. Besides these cell-passages there are others communicating with the infirmaries, the chapels, airing-yards, punishment-cells, &c. There are circular staircases, and square staircases, each of which is the same height as the building; making, in all, a distance of miles to be traversed in going over that part of the building appropriated to prisoners. The Inspectors of Prisons state, that in consequence of the injudicious plan of construction, or times as many officers are required in the Penitentiary as would have been necessary under a better arrangement.

It is at the new Model Prison at that we must expect to see carried out the views of the most enlightened minds of the present day on the subject of prison discipline. The contest between the

Silent System

(recommended by a committee of the in ), and the

Separate System

seems to have gradually become most favourable to the latter mode of discipline, though the

Separate System

has often been confounded with the punishment of solitary confinement. The Model Prison is a place of instruction and probation, and not a gaol of oppressive punishment. It is for adults between the ages of eighteen and : the Reformatory Prison at Parkhurst, in the Isle of Wight, for juvenile offenders, is on the same principle. The Commissioners for

335

the control of the Model Prison are nominated by the Queen in Council; and the correct name of the place is

The Model Prison, on the Separate System.

The objects to be kept in view are thus explained by Secretary Sir James Graham, in a letter addressed to the Commissioners in :--

I propose that no prisoner shall be admitted into

Pentonville

without the knowledge that it is the portal to the penal colony; and without the certainty that he bids adieu to his connexions in England, and that he must look forward to a life of labour in another hemisphere. But from the day of his entrance into the prison, while I extinguish the hope of return to his family and friends, I would open to him fully and distinctly the fate which awaits him, and the degree of influence which his own conduct will infallibly have over his future fortunes. He should be made to feel that from that day he enters on a new career. He should be told that his imprisonment is a period of probation; that it will not be prolonged above eighteen months; that an opportunity of learning those arts which will enable him to earn his bread will be afforded under the best instructors; that moral and religious knowledge will be imparted to him as a guide for his future life; that at the end of eighteen months, when a just estimate can be formed of the effect produced by the discipline on his character, he will be sent to Van Diemen's Land, there, if he behave well, at once to receive a ticket of leave, which is equivalent to freedom, with the certainty of abundant maintenance, the fruit of industry; if he behave indifferently, he will be transported to Van Diemen's Land, there to receive a probationary pass, which will secure to him only a limited portion of his own earnings, and which will impose certain galling restraints on his personal liberty; if he behave ill, and if the discipline of the prison be ineffectual, he will be transported to Tasman's Peninsula, there to work in a probationary gang, without wages, deprived of liberty, an abject convict. This is the view which should be presented to the prisoner on the day when he enters

Pentonville

; this is the view which should never be lost sight of, either by him or by those in authority over him, until the day when he leaves the prison for embarkation; and when, according to the register to be kept of his conduct, the Governors will determine in which of the

three

classes he shall be placed.

The Model Prison is situated between and Holloway, and occupies an area of acres, surrounded by lofty boundary walls. The stone of the prison building was laid in , and it has been completed at an expense of The cells are each feet long, feet broad, and feet high, and are all of uniform dimensions. Each is provided with a stone water-closet pan, a metal basin supplied with water, a -legged stool, a small table, a shaded gas-burner, and a hammock, with mattress and blankets. There is a bell in each cell, which when pulled causes a small iron tablet inscribed with the number of the cell to project on the wall to direct the officer on duty. Each cell is warmed by hot air, and the ventilation is effected by means of perforated iron plates above the door of the cell, which communicate with a lofty shaft. None of the prisoners will ever be seen by each other, and in chapel each has his separate box. The officers wear felted shoes, and can inspect the prisoners, whether in the cell or in the airing-yard, without being either heard or seen.

Each prisoner will be visited hourly during the day by a keeper, daily by the

336

deputy-governor and chief officer; and the surgeon and schoolmaster will be frequently in attendance upon him. Books will be supplied to him, and the trade which he exercises will occupy his mind. The prisoners are to be permitted to lay their complaints before the visiting Commissioners. Many modes of secondary punishment have failed, but the to be pursued at the Model Prison is an experiment founded on past experience of the deficiency of other systems, and promises at length to be successful.

The Philanthropic Institution and the Refiuge for the Destitute belong rather to another class of institutions, though they are partially of a penitentiary character; but we shall notice them elsewhere.

 
 
 
Footnotes:

[n.324.1] Statistics of the Parish of St. George the Martyr, by the Rev. George Weight.

[n.326.1] No. LXXVIII. Fleet Prison, vol. iv.

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