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object of prison discipline,” * and that this was not possible without solitude; but that the mere separation of prisoners was quite as likely to generate vicious as virtuous thought; that its effect was chiefly negative, to give time for reflection, and deliver the prisoner from contaminating intercourse; that there was a limit to its efficacy, a limit to the age, to the kind of mind, and the length of time of its application ; and that, when too protracted, the subject of discipline lost the power even of applying the Gospel to self-renovation. So, by a series of experiments, he mitigated the system as much as possible, especially to children, whose term of isolation from society he would not extend beyond a few months; and, in case of criminality through parental heartlessness, would dismiss to some kind of reformatory school, where they would be saved from sinking into the habitual crime which the association of the Silent System might occasion. Gentlemen convicts seemed to him to lie at the other end of the scale; to require the most rigorous treatment, abundance of severe toil, a mind kept hungry by being balked of accustomed food, a penance so bitter that it should enkindle a fiery hatred of their most inexcusable crime. Between these extremes there was to be every variety in the degree of punishment, from six to nine months being the average term; the sanguine temperament being sufficiently affected sometimes by three months, but the lymphatic requiring often a year of separation from his fellows.
Mr. Clay's modifications of the Separate System were social worship every day in full sight of each other, daily exercise in one another's company, though without communication, permission to receive occasional visits from their friends, and daily instruction within hearing at least of those who sat near; besides the exchange of solitary for social labor wherever the prisoner's youth, weakness, or tendency to insanity required indulgence. With these qualifications, Mr. Clay was able to demonstrate, by reports from police-officers, that more permanent reformations were caused by his system than by any others, that better health was maintained than amongst
* Memoir, p. 263.
the same class at liberty, and that weak intellects were even strengthened by the abundant food, regular employment, and religious instruction of the model prison. He thus refuted our common objection to the Separate System, - its danger to the health and its tendency to insanity. In the March number of this Review for the year 1848, it was shown that for seventeen years the mortality among the white prisoners in the Philadelphia Penitentiary was more than twice that of the white prisoners in the Connecticut State-prison. But at Pentonville, now the model prison of England, the deaths under the Separate System, by the last Blue-Book, are less than in either of the five Silent institutions reported in that able article, - being two among one thousand and eight convicts. In Millbank, however, whose wretched location has been already mentioned, the scale of mortality rose, in 1852 and 1854, to over thirty per cent, and sunk again to five and a third in 1859: showing not so much the cruelty of the system pursued without change through these different years, as the barbarism of such an unhealthy situation.
It was not, however, by the comparison of a singleprison, in peculiar surroundings, with another in opposite circumstances, that the English Prison Inspectors have been moved to alter their penitentiary buildings at great cost, and substitute the Separate for the Silent System everywhere but at Cold Bath Fields, where the change is only delayed. Their adoption of what we term the Philadelphia plan instead of the Auburn, or rather of the modificatio intronduced at Preston jail, has been determined by the thorough, regular official scrutiny of all the criminal institutions of Great Britain, as laid annually before Parliament, with a fulness of statistics and a freedom from pious platitudes alike refreshing and satisfactory. We have examined these annual returns in the Blue-Books only to find they are as various as would be an unvarnished statement of the health, morals, and advantages of all the Academies of the United States, given by one board of experienced examiners: we were unable to find any remarkable evidences of weakness or insanity as characteristic of the system, now all but universal in England and the more enlightVOL. LXXIV. - 5TH S. VOL. XII. NO. II.
ened parts of Europe.* Certainly, were such proofs of excessive severity as the American advocates of the Silent System maintain heaped up at the doors of the Separate System, that party in Parliament who devote themselves to philanthropy, who have several journals at their control, and eminent literary men in their association, would never have permitted such an expensive change to be made for the worse. Still less would the English system have been copied on the Continent, the Silent System have been silently passed by, and the means of solitary labor introduced into scores of prisons all over Europe.t The cost alone would have prevented Newgate from being remodelled upon a system which demands so much more space within and without, had there been a doubt about the advantage of such an entire change. It was the argument of statistics ; it was the demonstration of experience. In Cold Bath Fields prison one hundred and sixty per cent of offences were annually committed ; in Pentonville, only eleven and a half per cent. No wonder that Pentonville reformed more than could be recovered under this perpetual infliction of irritating punishments. And as no outlay upon the rogue in confinement can compare with his cost when he is preying upon the community, the system which reformed the most was the cheapest in the end. The final decision, which is heartily approved by some of the most eminent names in modern literature, can only be traced to Parliamentary debates, guided by full reports from all the English penitentiaries, through entirely independent and thoroughly competent Inspectors.
That their system, in comparison with ours, is liable to that charge of cruelty which is commonly urged in this country against it, is easily disproved. Most American houses of correction, those prisons for the lesser crimes and for female offenders, furnish no chaplain, no schoolmaster, no Scripturereader, no library beyond a few religious tracts; or, if a chaplain is employed, it may be, perhaps, with a hundred dollars a year of salary, and under such restrictions as make his office nearly nugatory; and this is the whole educational provision for a hundred and fifty adults at least! Now in England, five criminals at Alloa prison, and seven at Rothesay, are provided with a prison chaplain ; Dunfermline furnishes a teacher as well as minister for its eleven prisoners ; Dundee pays six hundred a year to the pastor of one hundred and eight of these black sheep; Essex furnishes two hundred prisoners in the same way; while Pentonville enjoys a library of nearly two thousand volumes, whose circulation is greatly promoted by a corps of three schoolmasters, several Scripture-readers, and an exceedingly able clergyman. Then the English cells are generally furnished with water-taps and gas-light; every prisoner is permitted to make his complaints directly to the Inspector; food is abundant; the only punishment is bread and water, with three days' close confinement; the sacrament is administered by order of the government quarterly, an average of one in twenty-five partaking regularly.*
* M. de Tocqueville's letter to Charles Sumner may be remembered as stating, that, "at the present day in Europe, discussion and experience have led almost all persons of intelligence to adopt the Separate, and to reject the Auburn System." Sumner's Orations, Vol. II. p. 241.
† That very Maison de Force at Ghent, which our Auburn prison was modelled after, has changed to the Separate System ; and Messrs. Swinger in Holland, Julius in Prussia, Berenger in France, and Crawford in England, are cited among the distinguished converts to the latter mode of penitentiary discipline.
The English system is in fact too merciful. One reason why recommitments are so common is, that the majority of sentences are for too short a period to amount to anything. The Blue-Books show that in Leicestershire four criminals were committed in one year for but a day each.f In Bedfordshire, of 523 male and female prisoners, 19 were sentenced only for one week ; in Cheshire, of 469, 198 were for a fortnight or less ; in Herefordshire, of 201 commitments, 90 were for the same brief term. No wonder that, of 10,397 prisoners in the year 1859, 7,472 had been imprisoned before, 458 twenty times or more, and 78 fifly times previously.
* The treadmill is the common labor in the English county prisons; and the Blue-Book of 1860 gives one instance of three thousand dollars having been earned by a prison in fifteeen months, simply by grinding its own grain, instead of attempting to accomplish nothing by so much toil. The Birmingham “Prize Essays” (London, 1853, p. 187) give some appalling statements of the repetition of juvenile confinement in different parts of England.
† In Hawick three boys were committed to prison for having broken a pane of glass, that they might get means to look at an eclipse.
In this respect our courts are wiser than the English. Thirty days is their common sentence for the lighter offences; and it barely gives a man time to recover from a long debauch, reflect upon his past folly, and enter upon better habits of life. Even this, which would seem severe in England for an offence like drunkenness, is only a third or a sixth of what is necessary to establish a reformed character; and requires for its full efficacy to be followed upon discharge by regular employment in every case, a removal from former associates, and a fair measure of the confidence of the community. Oscar, the benevolent king of Sweden, writes that, “after the law has executed the punishment, and the state has taken care of the inward improvement, it is the business of the citizen to offer a helping hand to the individual restored to freedom. Both charity and prudence urge this ; for it is the noblest and safest means of preventing new crimes.”
In conclusion, what, it may be asked, has the Preston Chaplain made known beyond his modification of the Separate System? First, that the removal of the partition between men and women in prison-chapels is profitable to the worshippers ; second, that a parti-colored dress is a needless offence to a prisoner's self-respect, and tends to degrade one who needs to be lifted up; third, that the shortest offences should be inflicted on boys punished for a first offence, and the longest on educated criminals, who average about a hundredth part of the English convicts; fourth, that a deep impression might be made by burying remarkable offenders, when deceased, in the prison-yard, beneath a commemorative stone ; fifth, that photography might be far more employed to prevent a repetition of crime. He seems to have been the first to prove the general ignorance of the criminal class; it cannot be so great in America.* Thirty-seven per cent of Preston convicts were unable to repeat the Lord's Prayer; sixty-one per cent were
* See Miss Carpenter's Reformatory Schools, p. 23.