labour can be carried on. The success of such a measure as this would entirely depend on the rules under which it should be conducted, and on the peculiar qualifications of the Managers. Habitual criminals are to be segregated for long periods' and sent to an institution where there would be 'ample scope for land reclamation.' This is an excellent proposal, if only the courts of justice could be depended on steadily to carry it out. The evidence all tends to show that the supply of criminal recruits is gradually diminishing, and if the incorrigible could be shut up for long periods, crime would be even more diminished than it has been already.

Weak-minded prisoners are to be treated in a special institution to be created, and it is presumed detained there indefinitely on the footing of lunatics. This, too, would be a very great improvement. The Committee propose also intermediate prisons 'to receive prisoners on discharge and until they could find work. On this I have already made some remarks.

They propose that the age up to which juveniles should be kept apart in prisons should be seventeen, instead of as now, sixteen, and they should be treated specially. It would be better to leave such matters to the discretion of the governor or chaplain, for some lads of seventeen would exercise a most corrupting influence on their comrades.

Reformatories are to be allowed to receive inmates up to eighteen instead of seventeen, and to detain them until twenty-one. In this there would be no harm, on the understanding that it is permitted only where the arrangements of the reformatory are suitable.

Considering the actual distribution of the prisons above described, and that the appropriation of any of the existing prisons to any particular class of prisoners, collected from all parts of the country, must involve the committal of the prisoners now sent to such prisons to some other places of confinement, it is evident that the prehensive rearrangement of the general prison population cannot be carried out with existing prisons, but necessitates the provision of new ones, which also would be necessary in order to allow of the special treatment proposed. This would, no doubt, involve great cost, but it would pay to incur it if thereby crime could be stamped out. The removal and transfer of the particular classes of prisoners from the courts in all parts of the country to the special prison, and back on completion of sentence, would give rise to an immense amount of travelling under escort, and considering the very large proportion of sentences which are very short, it would be necessary to limit the transfer only to those under long sentences, so that practically the classification would come to be applied only to a small minority of cases, unless longer sentences could be imposed.

If these proposals for classification are considered in connection


with the proposal for the association of prisoners at work, it is obvious that the mere location of the various classes in separate parts of the prison, and exercising them apart, will not suffice to attain the object. Separate workshops must also be provided for each class, and the proportion of warders on duty must be larger than if the prisoners are all together. This means, of course, considerable expense.

The proposal of the Committee that association for industrial work should be extended gradually throughout the prisons' can only be described as retrogressive and revolutionary. The present system of cellular separation is the result of long years of discussion, commencing in the time of Howard. It was adopted by Government at the beginning of the century, when Millbank Prison was built, and some of the most enlightened local authorities also adopted it in their prisons. A hot controversy was raised on it in the first half of the century, principally owing to the severity with which solitary imprisonment was at first applied in America, where it was adopted as an alternative to capital punishment. In 1838 Messrs. Crawford and Whitworth Russell, two of the recently appointed Inspectors of Prisons, reported strongly in favour of judicious cellular imprisonment. The result was the construction of Pentonville · Model Prison, containing large cells in which prisoners were employed in separation, to serve as a guide for prisons all over the country. By the Prisons Act 1865, the local authorities were compelled to provide such cellular prisons for all their prisoners, and by means of very large expenditure we are now furnished in all places with cellular prisons constructed to carry out the policy of keeping prisoners separate, day and night, with certain intervals. The Committee point out that the present system, of which cellular separation is the cardinal feature, was adopted 'to put an end to many and glaring evils.' They say that the various inquiries which have taken place have all resulted in the general affirmation of the principles which were prescribed by the Prisons Act. They agree that the separate system as a general principle is the right policy,' and almost in the same breath they say that the advantages of association for labour outweigh its disadvantages,' aud they recommend, therefore, that permission should be given to talk, that education should not be individual and in cells, and the gradual introduction of association for labour throughout the prisons. The reasons given for this proposal are, that the prisoners would find it a welcome relief,' which is likely enough-they might have added, especially the worst prisoners—and that “it materially lessens the difficulty of providing and organising industrial labour.'

But surely the patent and glaring evils' should outweigh both these considerations. The Committee seek to justify their recommendation by saying they could not get actual evidence of these evils,

[ocr errors]

which is natural enough, as they asked only those who have had no experience of them, because they have been put an end to by the system of separation. Former reports would have supplied the necessary evidence, and it is to be sincerely hoped that those who have the decision on these matters may long pause before taking such a fatal step backwards as to reintroduce the associated system, contrary to the well-considered judgment of the best-informed authorities in our own and all other countries.

The Committee point out that the so-called debtors form a very unsatisfactory class, and that there is no reason why they should be more favourably treated than other prisoners.

In this they only follow what the Commissioners of Prisons have already called attention to. They are, in fact, persons who can pay their debts but will not, and so are fraudulent; yet they are allowed to spend their creditors' money in buying better food and drink, and to do nothing towards the cost of their maintenance. The Committee recommend that instead of being, at their option, allowed to be idle, they should be made to work 'to a reasonable if not penal extent.' It is very difficult to understand the meaning of this distinction.

As part of the indictment' which the Committee have tried, it was alleged that the central system of administration and the prison system as now conducted promoted a large amount of insanity among prisoners, and that from the same cause and from the incompetence and harshness of the officers the prisoners were driven to commit offences and to incur punishments. The first of these charges is amply disposed of in a memorandum by Dr. Bridges, a member of the Committee, who, deriving his information from statistics and reports which were equally open to those who made these reckless charges, shows that their charge had been made out by multiplying the annual rate of insanity arising in prisons seven times, for instead of being, as alleged, 226 per 10,000, it could not be put at more than 30 per 10,000, even if insanity is considered to begin in prison, if first apparent more than a month after reception, a very questionable assumption. The Committee point out that it is inevitable that the ratio of insanity among persons of the class which furnishes inmates to our prisons should be higher than in the general population, because the prisoner is physically and mentally markedly below the average of the general population. For similar reasons the proportion of insanity among the pauper population is higher than even among prisoners.

As to the alleged effect of centralisation in increasing offences and punishments, the facts are exactly contrary. Corporal punishment is far less frequently inflicted than under the old régime, and dietary punishments have also been diminished by the operation of

the progressive stage system above described. The Committee find that during recent years there has been a distinct move forward in the direction of mitigating the severity of prison punishments. They say as a body the warders discharge their most difficult and responsible duties with forbearance and kindness, and that the smallness of the number of complaints against warders by prisoners is very satisfactory. It is to be hoped that this finding may not be forgotten.

The Committee lend no countenance to the attacks which proceed from a certain party against the employment of retired military and naval men. They observe that since 1877 the proportion of naval and military men appointed has increased, but they do not appear to have noticed that this is a natural consequence of the much larger proportion of military candidates for those appointments which the system of short service has produced. Considering that every year thousands of men are discharged from the army and forced to seek employment, that many of them are men who have occupied positions of trust and authority, that they are encouraged, and very properly, to believe that they have some sort of claim on the public for suitable employment, it is not to be wondered at that they should apply for service in the prisons, and that out of such a large number a small percentage should be accepted.

The Committee recommend that annual conferences should be held of representatives from the highest ranks of prison officials, managers of reformatories, visiting committees, prisoners' aid societies. In making this proposal they were probably not aware that the Social Science Congress, which established a section to discuss the repression of crime, found after a short time that the subject became exhausted. The Prisons Conference established by some members of visiting committees after 1878 also soon came to an end for similar reasons. Those whose opinions and experiences would be most valuable certainly would not be the most likely to attend such a congress as is proposed frequently, or perhaps at all, and under such circumstances any weight attached to their proceedings would be rather detrimental than otherwise.

Space will not allow discussion of some other suggestions in this report-such as the gymnastics which prisoners are to be trained to—the selected preachers whom the prisoners are to have the advantage of—that remission should be given on sentences of imprisonment mostly very short and in which it never has been the practice, for no other reason than that it is given in sentences of penal servitude comparatively very long, and in which it has always been the practice, as the sentencing courts well know. All these matters would give scope for much discussion as to their practicability, their cost, and the advantage to be expected from them.

My general view of this report is that it is very uneven in quality -in some parts solid and substantial, with valuable observations and suggestions; in others impracticable, and as if framed in deference to some windy theories. Several of the recommendations cannot be carried into effect without legislation, and very many others would involve such large expenditure that I doubt if the Committee would have made them if they had had before them responsible evidence on this point. I strongly hope that each recommendation may be considered most carefully by the light of practical knowledge and experience, and that it will only be adopted if it is clear that it constitutes advance and not retrogression in the treatment of criminals.

E. F. Du CANE,

« ElőzőTovább »