The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 4

Allen, Thomas

1827

Penitentiary.

After nearly half a century spent in deliberation, even when the necessity of the measure was acknowledged, a penitentiary, as-a substitute for transportation, was erected at an expense of more than

238

half a million of money; and, after an experiment of years, the mal' aria of has defeated the views of the legislature, and the principal part of the prisoners have all been removed either to the ci-devant Ophthalmic Hospital, , or the hulks at Woolwich.

So early as the year , a plan was formed for a system of penitentiary imprisonment, calculated to reform offenders; and an act was drawn up under the direction of sir William Blackstone, with the advice and concurrence of Mr. Howard. In the preamble of this act (which passed the legislature), a conviction was expressed, that

if many offenders convicted of crimes for which transportation has been usually inflicted, were ordered to solitary confinement, accompanied by well regulated labour and religions instruction, it might be the means, under Providence, not only of deterring others from the commission of the like crimes, but also of reforming the individuals and inuring them to habits of industry.

years after this declaratory statute had passed, it was followed by a new act of parliament for carrying the plan into effect, and a contract was entered into with Mr. Jeremy Bentham for that purpose; but so many difficulties arose in the mode of carrying this measure into execution, that the contract was re-purchased for the sum of and the plan abandoned until the year , when a committee of the house of common recommended that it should be resumed.

was fixed upon as the site of the new Penitentiary, which was almost immediately commenced, under the direction of Mr. Harvey; and so rapidly was the work conducted, that in a part of the building was opened for the reception of convicts. The building is of a sexagonal form, and occupies a space of eighteen acres. In the centre are the apartments of the governor, whence he can have a complete view of the distinct wards which surround him. The rooms for the prisoners are about feet by , and are supplied with a bedstead and comfortable clothing; the prisoners are kept to hard labour, but are entitled to a per centage of their earnings, which is set apart as a fund for them on their discharge.

The Penitentiary was at only intended for male, and an equal number of female convicts; but it is capable of holding : and it appears from a report of the select committee of the house of commons in , that when the committee visited the prison, there were prisoners, of whom were males, and females. Of these had been sentenced to transportation for life, for , and for seen years. The ratio in which the transportation is commuted for imprisonment in the Penitentiary is, that all those who have been capitally convicted are imprisoned for years; those who are sentenced to years transportation for ; and all years' cases for . This commutation is disproportionate, but the smallest term was fixed conformably to an

239

opinion expressed by Mr. Howard, that years should be the minimum of imprisonment on the Penitentiary system.

Although solitary confinement and hard labour may in some cases be an excellent mode of prison discipline, yet the experiment at the Penitentiary has not been a successful ; and it is perhaps doubtful, how far a system which is calculated to excite feelings of despair and weariness of thought can be conducive to the reformation of the offenders; though it may insure a dreadful punishment. The motto which Dante gives for the gates of the Infernal Regions, might with little qualification be inscribed on the entrance of the Penitentiary.

Lussat' ogni speranza, vio che 'ntrate.

An evil attending the Penitentiary at , though it does not apply to the system, is, that although the prisoners are employed in the manufacturing trades, yet, says the report,

it is in evidence that the best class of work is not taught, and that those who are brought up as tailors, can hardly hope to gain their daily bread, at their discharge., That it may happen that persons, who have passed from

five

to

ten

years in the Penitentiary, may be discharged from it, without any means of gaining their subsistence, and may thus be exposed to temptations by which poverty and want are assailed, and which perhaps originally induced them to commit the crimes which had subjected them to punishment.

At the western extremity of is

 
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 Title Page
 Dedication
CHAPTER I: Site, local divisions, and government of the City of Westminster; history of the Abbey; Coronation Ceremonies; and lists of the Abbots and Deans
CHAPTER II: Westminster Abbey, and Description of the Tombs and Monuments
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of St. Margaret's Parish
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of St. John's Parish, Westminster
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of the parish of St. Martin's in the Fields, Westminster
CHAPTER VI: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. James, Westminster
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Anne, Westminster
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Mary-le-strand
CHAPTER X: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. Clement Danes
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of the parish of st. George, Hanover Square
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of the Precinct of the Savoy
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of the Inns of Court
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of the Precincts of the Charter-house and Ely Place, and the Liberty of the Rolls
 CHAPTER XV: Historical Notices of the Borough of Southwark
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of the Parish of St. Olave, Southwark
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of the parish of St. John, Southwark
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of the parish of St. Thomas, Southwark
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topogrpahy of the parish of St. George's, Southwark
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of St. Saviour's Parish
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of the parist of Christ-church in the County of Surrey
 CHAPTER XXII: A List of the Principal Books, &c that have been published in Illustration of the Antiquities, History, Topography, and other subjects treated of in this Work
 Addenda et Corrigienda
 Postscript