HC Deb 29 April 1839 vol 47 cc627-39
Lord John Russell

moved the Order of the Day for going into Committee on the Prisons' Bill.

Colonel Wood

wished to ask the noble Lord opposite, as the proposed Bill would be likely to overturn the present system of prison discipline in this country, and as the intention of erecting a model prison in the metropolis, had been expressed, a thing which would be attended with some expense, whether he would not postpone it for a short time to give those Gentlemen who took an interest in the matter, time to consider it.

Lord J. Russell

said, he should be happy to correct any defects in the Bill which might be pointed out; but he thought that some further legislation, such as that included in the Bill, ought to take place. He wished that such justices as desired to establish a system which he as Secretary of State, and which they believed to be best, should not be prohibited by law from so doing. Now, the effect of the present law, as to classification and other points, was, totally to prevent the best plan from being adopted. It was to remove this evil that the he had introduced this measure.

Mr. Gibson

wished to know, whether it was the intention of the Government to provide some asylum for offenders after they had been discharged, and previous to emigration, for which he understood it was intended to afford every facility?

Lord John Russell

said, that a system of emigration had been recommended by the committee which sat on this question last year, and many benevolent individuals had recommended that asylums should be provided for offenders when they were discharged from prison. He knew that there were many evils resulting from prisoners being discharged at once from prison, as they had no means of procuring employment, and were, therefore, generally driven to the same course of life as before their being confined; but if the system suggested were adopted to the extent which had been recommended, it required some consideration to make it equally as severe a punishment to prisoners as they now suffered from having lost the confidence of the world, and so as not to prevent the natural feelings of mankind being raised against them for their misconduct. During the last year he had seen a very large prison, and the gaoler, speaking to him on the subject, had observed, that it was looked upon as an advantage to young boys to be imprisoned if they were sent to sea; and he had been assured that there had been applications made for the sons of most respectable parents to be sent to sea in the same manner. He thought, that whatever evils might result from persons being discharged at once from prison and not finding employment, the House should be very cautious of taking such a step as that which was proposed; because it was likely that thieves and pilferers would be better provided for than those young persons who had never committed any offence. He said this, too, because in a foreign country a person who had had the superintendence of an establishment for young offenders had told a friend of his that the exceeding comfort of this prison had caused in the metropolis of that country a great increase in the number of offenders. It was not until he saw that some considerable punishment could be connected with these advantages, that he would call on the House to support such a system.

Mr. Hume

agreed with the noble Lord that to secure to either young or old persons, upon their enlargement upon the completion of their periods of imprisonment under sentence, any certain means of employment, would, strictly speaking, have the effect of holding out an inducement to crime and to criminals upon their enlargement. It was true, that in nine out of ten cases those unhappy persons had recourse to their old practices upon their enlargement. To prevent this, and their association anew with their former companions, it might be worth while to devise, in committee, means for the subsistence for, perhaps, a few weeks, of such as were desirous of turning their backs altogether upon temptation, by emigrating to the colonies.

The House went into Committee on the first clause.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

suggested the propriety of exempting the prisons of 13ridewell in the City, and of the House of Occupation, in St. George's-fields, which were endowed by bequests under particular regulations and limitations by the donors.

Lord John Russell

would content himself with stating that this subject had been already sufficiently discussed in the debate upon the Uniformity of Prisons Discipline Act. He could see no reason on this occasion to depart from the principle which on that occasion swayed the decision of the House, which was in favour of a perfect conformity in the mode of treatment of prisoners in all prisons without exception.—Clause agreed to.

On clause 3 being read, which enacts amongst other things, that, in order to prevent contamination arising from the association of prisoners, any prisoner may be separately confined during the whole or any part of the term of his imprisonment; and such separate confinement shall not be deemed solitary confinement within the meaning of any act forbidding the continuance of solitary confinement for more than a limited time,

Mr. Darby

objected to so great a discretionary power being given to the magistrates as that of extending solitary confinement during the whole of the period of imprisonment of the prisoner. The hon. Member moved that the first part of the clause down to the word imprisonment be left out.

Sir G. H. Smyth

was also very strongly opposed to the clause. Two years' solitary confinement was more than the human constitution could bear.

Mr. Hawes

said, the great object of legislation on the subject of imprisonment was, to prevent the prisoner from being made worse during the period of his confinement. With that object in view, the old Gaol Act provided fur a system of classification, and Howard and others recommended that prisoners should be separately confined. In regard to the separate system, the report of the Inspectors of Prisons said, that no case of illness had conic under their notice attributable to that system, nor any instance of a prisoner having been made worse. The reports of the French and Prussian corn-missions had been to the same effect, and the Commissioners had unanimously recommended the adoption of separate confinement. No instance, he contended, could be furnished of illness or deterioration in the morals of the prisoners resulting from the separate system, although he was willing to admit that in America, under the silent system, both the minds and bodies of the prisoners had sunk. But the two systems were essentially different. The separate system had been tested by experience, and it had this great recommendation, that it was the only system under which the prisoner was made no worse during his confinement. To establish that system was the object of the clause under consideration, and which he trusted would receive the sanction of the House.

Mr. Pakington

was strongly indisposed to give any one such extensive powers as this clause would confer. He held in his hand a report relative to the Philadelphia Penitentiary, from which it appeared that the mortality in that prison was greater than in any other of the prisons in the United States, and in that prison the separate system was in operation. Madness also had prevailed amongst the prisoners to a frightful extent, and the morals of the persons confined did not, notwithstanding the severe punishment to which they were subjected, appear to have been improved in a greater degree than in the other gaols. He sincerely hoped he should never see such a system adopted in England, for, in his opinion, there was no distinction between the separate and silent systems. They were in reality the same, and he could not therefore give his consent to the clause under consideration, by which it was provided, that any prisoner may be separately confined during the whole or any part of the period of his imprisonment.

Mr. Hawes

said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down had taken his statement relative to the Philadelphia Penitentiary from the report of the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline, and not from the report of the official board.

Mr. Pakington

said, the report he had alluded to was founded on the Penitentiary returns.

Sir G. Smyth

said, that the present system was a very severe one. The prisoners were confined in their cells during the night, and were not permitted to have any intercourse. In the morning they were placed upon the treadmill, when silence was enforced, and in the afternoon again returned to their cells, no communication being permitted between them even at the hours when they got their meals. Surely such a system was already sufficiently severe.

Lord J. Russell

said, that in estimating the merits and demerits of any system the only way to arrive at the truth was by comparison. The old system under which the prisoners were permitted to associate had been generally condemned, and a system of classification had in consequence been adopted. That system was better than the old, but it was not a sufficient remedy for the evils arising from association. Since the system of classification had been adopted the present system had been introduced, and he agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that the existing system, which imposed silence upon the prisoners at all times, was a most severe one. That system indeed was, in his opinion, far more severe than that which it was now proposed to introduce. By the clause under consideration it was provided, that the prisoner should have the means of enabling him to communicate at any time with an officer of the prison, that his health should be carefully attended to, that he should have the means of taking air and exercise, that he should be furnished with the means of moral and religious instruction, and with such suitable books as may be selected by the chaplain; and that he should also be provided with labour or employment. Punishment of that nature was certainly calculated to deter from crime, but it was not likely to cause such a continual irritation as the system in operation. His object was, to introduce a more effectual, but not a more severe punishment for crime, and, in his opinion, the provisions of the clause were well calculated for the attainment of that end. With regard to the question of mortality, he did not think that any statement had been made which could controvert those made in the prisons report. He thought the system could not be charged with either inhumanity or cruelty, but that the silent system was much more severe. He, therefore, hoped there would be no opposition to the clause.

Mr. Estcourt

objected to giving an unlimited power to inflict solitary confinement on prisoners, and recommended the withdrawal of the clause, which appeared to have been hastily drawn up, and that the noble Lord would bring in some distinct measure on the subject.

The Solicitor-General

said, if a discretionary power were given to gaolers and other officers to enforce the system of separation as they pleased, it would be most objectionable; but in point of fact, the clause provided that solitary confinement was only to be inflicted after a communication by the magistrates with the Home Secretary.

Mr. Pakington

understood, then, that there was no difference to be made before or after trial.

Sir H. Verney

hoped the noble Lord would not make any difference. The object of the clause was to prevent the gaol being a place of corruption to prisoners. The separate system ought to be applied to the whole time the prisoners were confined in the gaol, or not at all.

Mr. W. Evans

hoped the clause would not be withdrawn.

Lord Granville

Somerset said there was much difficulty in understanding what was the real principle of the bill. By one clause one thing might be inferred, and by another clause another. He thought the clause under discussion should be amended before it was further discussed, and he could not subscribe to the doctrine of placing prisoners under solitary confinement before trial. This was most unjust.

Colonel Davies

inferred, that the noble Lord had confounded separate confinement and solitary confinement together. The first prevented contamination before trial; the other was absolute punishment for the offence for which the prisoner had been found guilty.

Mr. Barneby

objected to separate confinement before trial, and suggested, that before the system should be generally adopted, it should be fully tried in a model prison, provided with a proper number of cells.

Mr Briscoe

was not prepared to consent to the clause as it stood, because it gave an unlimited power of separate confinement for any time during sentence. He doubted whether the health did not suffer by separate confinement, if prolonged beyond two years, or perhaps beyond one year; and he therefore suggested a limitation of the power to the latter period. Fourteen cases of insanity had actually occurred in the very prison from which they were about to take this system; and he thought, therefore, that they should pause till they had better evidence, that the health did not suffer. A sentence of one year under the amended system would be equal to two or three years under the present rules; and if the noble Lord would limit the period of separate confinement to one year, he would unite all parties in the house.

Sir E. Knatchbull

doubted whether it would be prudent to adopt at once the separate system, and carry it out so extensively as was proposed by the bill.

Lord John Russell

said, that it was his intention to propose to the House a vote for the erection of a model prison; but that ought not to prevent the House allowing the proper authorities to consent in any particular instance to separate confinement. He doubted, however, whether for each prison power should be given to the magistrates to build separate cells; not from any fear of the final progression of the amended system of prison discipline, but from an alarm lest any authority having power to build separate cells, should erect close and inefficient cells, and that the evils arising from such cells would be attributed to the separate confinement. He would take the division on the first words, so as to affirm the principle of separate confinement; and he would amend the clause afterwards, so as to insert all proper guards.

Lord G. Somerset

said, that if be were called upon to affirm or negative the simple question of principle, he must vote against the present clause; but at the same time he urged the noble Lord as he intended to amend the wording of the clause, to postpone the division till the amended clause was before the House.

Mr. Fox Maule

said, that last year the House bad affirmed the very principle now in dispute, for it was included in the Scotch Prison Bill passed last Session, and if the House now decided against this clause, they would oppose this year what they affirmed last. It was of great importance as a step towards the improvement of prisoners, and the noble Lord was quite right to divide the House upon it. They could do nothing towards improving prisoners unless they had power to separate them as well before as after trial, and if he (Mr. Fox Maule) had a choice between the two, he would rather prefer the power to separate before trial.

The House divided on the question, that the clause stand as originally proposed:—Ayes 117; Noes 58:—Majority 59.

List of theAYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Ainsworth, P.
Baines, E. Kemble, H.
Barneby, J. Langdale, hon. C.
Barry, G. S. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Beamish, F. B. Lockhart, A. M.
Bentinck, Lord G. Marsland, H.
Bethell, R. Morpeth, Lord Visct.
Bewes, T. Morris, D.
Bodkin, J. J. Murray, A.
Brabazon, Lord Muskett, G. A.
Briscoe, J. I. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Broadley, H. O'Brien, C.
Brocklehurst, J. O'Brien, W. S.
Brodie, W. B. O'Connell, D.
Brotherton, J. O'Connell, J.
Burroughes, H. N. Parker, J.
Cayley, E. S. Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.
Chester, H. Pease, J.
Chetwynd, Major Pigot, R.
Clay, W. Pinney, W.
Collier, J. Protheroe, E.
Coote, Sir C. H. Rice, E. R.
Cripps, J. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Curry, W. Rundle, J.
Dalmeny, Lord Russell, Lord J.
Duke, Sir J. Salwey, Colonel
Dundas, C. W. D. Scarlett, hon. J. Y.
Eaton, R. J. Seale, Sir J. H.
Ellis, W. Seymour, Lord
Evans, W. Smith, R. V.
Ewart, W. Stanley, E.
Farnham, E. B. Stanley, W. O.
Fector, J. M. Steuart, R.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Stewart, J.
Gibson, T. M. Stock, Dr.
Gordon, R. Strickland, Sir G.
Grant, F. W. Strutt, E.
Greene, T. Style, Sir C.
Greenaway, C. Thompson, Mr. Ald.
Grey, rt. hn. Sir C. Thornely, T.
Grote, G. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Halford, H. Turner, W.
Hawkes, T. Verney, Sir H.
Hawkins, J. H. Vigors, N. A.
Hector, C. J. Vivian, Major C.
Hindley, C. Vivian, J. H.
Hobhouse, right hon. Wall, C. B.
Sir J. Warburton, H.
Hobhouse, T. B. White, A.
Hodges, T. L. Williams, W. A.
Hodgson, R. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Hope, hon. C. Wilshere, W.
Hope, G. W. Winnington, T. E.
Houstoun, G. Worsley, Lord,
Hume, J. Wrightson, W. B.
Hurt, F. Wynne, rt. hn. C. W.
Hutton, R. Yates, J. A.
Jackson, Mr. Sergeant
James, Sir W. C. TELLERS.
Johnstone, H. Maule, F.
Jones, J. Hawes, B.
List of the NOES.
Acland, T. D. Baring, H. B.
Bagge, W. Blackstone, W. S.
Bailey, J. Bolling, W. M.
Bailey, J. jun. Clive, hon. R. H.
Baker, E. Dalrymple, Sir A.
Darlington, Earl of Pakington, J. S.
Davies, Colonel Palmer G,
Douglas, Sir C. E. Parker, M.
Duncombe, hon. W. Parker, R. T.
Egerton, Sir P. Planta, right hon. J.
Estcourt, T. Plumptre, J. P.
Filmer, Sir E. Polhill, F.
Freshaeld, J. W. Pryme, G.
Gladstone, W. E. Rolleston, L.
Goddard, A. Round, C. G.
Grimsditch, T. Round, J.
Grimston, hon. E. H. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Heathcote, Sir W. Sheppard, T.
Irton, S. Sibthorp, Colonel
Lincoln, Earl of Smyth, Sir G. H.
Lowther, hon. Col. Somerset, Lord G.
Mackenzie, T. Teignmouth, Lord
Mahon, Lord Visct. Vere, Sir C. B.
Marton, G. Waddington, H. S.
Maunsell, T. P. Wakley, T.
Maxwell, hon. S. R. Wood, Colonel T.
Neeld, J. Young, Sir W.
Nicholl, J.
Noel, hon. W. M. TELLERS.
O'Neill, hon. J. B. R Knatchbull, Sir E.
Packe, C. W. Darby, G.

Clause agreed to.

On the 13th clause, relating to the power of the magistrates to grant superannuation allowances to the chaplains, officers, and servants of the gaols,

Mr. Hume

objected to the clause on the ground that the principle of allowing superannuations to public servants, was a bad one. He wished the public servants to be properly paid, and then that they should make that provision for their old age out of their incomes which other parties were obliged to do out of their earnings. This clause would give the magistrate the power of creating pension lists, and as he feared it might lead to jobbing, it not to a wasteful expenditure of the county funds, he must strongly object to it. A pension of 400l. had been granted to one chaplain by the Middlesex magistrates recently for fourteen years' service, and another of 200l. to another chaplain for two years' service. Against such a system, therefore, he must protest. The hon. Member then moved that the clause should be omitted from the bill.

Colonel Wood

defended the superannuations to which the hon. Member for Kilkenny referred, and thought that the magistrates ought to have the power of rewarding long and faithful services, which this clause intended to place in their hands.

Captain Wood

said, that as they were about to adopt a new system, it was most important that they should obtain the ser- vices of the most efficient officers they could find. This could not be done unless some provision of this kind were made for persons who entered into the public service.

Mr. F. Maule

expressed a hope that the hon. Member for Kilkenny would not press his motion.

Mr. O'Connell

supported the clause, and thought the economy of his hon. Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, on this occasion was, a mistaken economy.

The Committee divided on the clause, Ayes 144; Noes 21: Majority 123.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Fector, J. M.
Acland, T. D. Fitzroy, Lord C.
Adare, Viscount Gladstone, W. E.
Ainsworth, P. Goddard, A.
Ashley, Lord Gordon, R.
Bagge, W. Grant, F. W.
Bailey, J., jun. Greene, T.
Baker, E. Greenaway, C.
Baring, F. T. Grey, rt. hon. Sir C.
Barneby, J. Grimsditch, T.
Barrington, Visct. Grimston, Viscount
Barry, G. S. Grimston, hon. E. H.
Beamish, F. B. Halford, H.
Bentinck, Lord G. Harland, W. C.
Bethell, R. Hawkes, T.
Bewes, T. Hawkins, J. H.
Blackburne, I. Heathcote, Sir W.
Blackstone, W. S. Hobhouse, right hon.
Blair, J. Sir J.
Bodkin, J. J. Hobhouse, T. B.
Brabazon, Lord Hodgson, R.
Broadley, H. Hope, hon. C.
Broad wood, H. Hurt, F.
Brodie, W. B. Hutt, W.
Burroughes, H. N. Hutton, R.
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Ingestrie, Visct.
Cavendish, hon. C. Irton, S.
Cavendish, hn. G. H. Jackson, Mr. Sergeant
Cayley, E. S. James, Sir W. C.
Chester, H. Johnstone, H.
Chetwynd, Major Jones, J.
Christopher, R. A. Kemble, H.
Clay, W. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Collier, J. Knatchbull, right hon.
Cresswell, C. Sir E.
Curry, W. Langdale, hon. C.
Dalrymple, Sir A. Lefevre, C. S.
Darby, G. Lemon, Sir C.
Darlington, Earl of Lincoln, Earl of
Douglas, Sir C. E. Lowther, hon. Col.
Dowdeswell, W. Mackenzie, T.
Duke, Sir J. Maunsell, T. P.
Duncombe, hon. W. Maxwell, hon. S. R.
Dundas, Sir R. Mildmay, Paulet St. J.
Egerton, W. T. Miles, P. W. S.
Egerton, Sir P. Morpeth, Lord Visct.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Morris, D.
Estcourt, T. Neeld, J.
Evans, W., Neeld, John
Norreys, Sir D. J. Sinclair, Sir G.
O'Brien, C. Smith, R. V.
O'Brien, W. S. Smyth, Sir G. H.
O'Connell, D. Stanley, E. J.
O'Connell, J. Stanley, E.
O'Connell, M. J. Stanley, W. O.
O'Connell, M. Strutt, E.
O'Ferrall, R. M. Style, Sir C.
Packe, C. W. Talbot, C. R. M.
Pakington, J. S. Teignmouth, Lord
Palmer, R. Thompson, Mr. Ald.
Parnell, rt hon. Sir H. Vere, Sir C. B.
Plumptre, J. P. Verner, Colonel
Rice, E. R. Vivian, Major C.
Richards, R. Waddington, H. S.
Roche, E. B. Wilbraham, G.
Roche, Sir D. Wilshere, W.
Rolfe, Sir R. M. Winnington, T. E.
Rolleston, L. Winnington, H. J.
Round, C. G. Wood, Colonel T.
Round, J. Wood, G. W.
Rushbrooke, Colonel Wood, T.
Russell, Lord J. Young, J.
Seymour, Lord TELLERS.
Sheppard, T. Maule, F.
Sibthorp, Colonel Hawes, B.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. Salwey, Colonel
Baines, E. Scholefield, J.
Brotherton, J. Strickland, Sir G.
Dundas, C. W. D. Thorneley, T.
Ellis, W. Vigors, N. A.
Finch, F. Warburton, H.
Hodges, T. L. Williams, W.
Jervis, J. Williams, W. A.
Maher, J. Worsley, Lord
Marsland, H. TELLERS.
Pease, J. Hume, J.
Rundle, J. Hector, C. J.

Clause to stand part of the bill.

On the fourteenth clause,

Mr. Blackstone

objected to the appointment of Roman Catholic priests to the gaols, on the ground, that such a course would operate injuriously to the Established Church. The hon. Member moved the rejection of the clause.

Mr. O'Connell

said, he must move, that the Chairman should report progress, and ask leave to sit again, in order that this question might be discussed at an earlier hour of the night. He did not think the opposition of the hon. Gentleman opposite to the clause even decent.

Lord J. Russell

said, that as the matter had already been discussed, he did not think it could now occupy any great length of time, and therefore, he hoped the Committee would proceed with the bill.

Mr. M. J. O'Connell

said, that as the rule had been violated in Ireland, he saw no reason why the same principle should not be adopted in this country. Roman Catholic priests were appointed to the gaols in Ireland.

Lord Teignmouth

was opposed to the precedent which had been adopted in Ireland, and therefore should resist its being followed in this country.

The House resumed, Committee to sit again.