§ Mr. Thomas Duncombe
rose to move for a select committee, to inquire into the rules, regula- 1272 tions, and discipline of the several gaols and houses of correction in England and Wales; to report what alterations appear to be necessary in the laws now in force for the government of the prisons, in order to insure a more uniform system of discipline throughout the whole; and further, to report upon the expediency of abolishing the infliction of corporal punishments upon criminal offenders. He should be glad if the Government entertained no doubt of the propriety of acceding to his notice. It would save the time of the House, and it would spare him the pain of making, and the House of hearing, statements which must create feelings of great sorrow and concern. But looking to the vast importance of the subject, he thought the Government were right in calling on him to state his reasons for asking the House to agree to his motion. In doing so he hoped, at all events, whatever might be the difference of political opinions, that as he brought forward this question with no hostile feeling to any one, so would no party feeling enter into the discussion, or influence a single vote in the decision. He was well aware, that any one who called the attention of the House to the prison discipline of the country, whether he censured the present system as too severe, or said that in some points it was not severe enough, must be exposed on the one band, to the imputation of having a culpable indulgence and sympathy with vice; or, on the other hand, that he was not susceptible enough to human suffering, and did not make allowances enough for human frailty. The question that he was about to bring under their notice was one that had excited much public attention in consequence of the reports which had been made during the last five years by those individuals who were appointed by the late Government under the authority of Parliament as inspectors of prisons. He wished not to say one word against those reports; he thought they were drawn up with an accuracy and an ability which did the greatest credit to those who framed them. But there was another reason why this subject excited so great an interest in the country. During the last two or three years, the House would recollect that some 300 or 400 persons had been confined in our prisons for what were termed political offences. They were a different race of men from those who generally filled our prisons and houses of correction. They were men of more intelligence and greater ability; they had seen, 1273 felt, and witnessed the deplorable scenes which occurred in many of our prisons; they had called not only his attention, but the attention of a great portion of the community to what they saw, and they anxiously urged a strict and rigid investigation into the Government and discipline of those prisons. He should be doing the Legislature great injustice, and former Governments great injustice, if he were not to say, that great improvement had been made in our prison discipline during the last twenty years. When they looked back to those days when benevolent individuals, such as that great philanthropist Mr. Howard, whose name would never be mentioned without gratitude and respect, discovered and made known the existence of frightful disease in our prisons, destroying life more than the scaffold, and when they considered how much smaller was the number of deaths in prisons at present, they had a right to consider that great improvements had been made. With respect to the committee for which he was about to ask, there were precedents without end, both in that House and the other House of Parliament, for instituting such inquiries. In 1822, a committee was appointed in consequence of general complaints made of the administration of the law, and the management of prisons. The result was, the enactment of what was commonly called the Gaol Act. The Gaol Act classified prisons and introduced other great improvements. Things remained in that state till 1832, when the House thought proper to appoint another committee to inquire into the working of prison discipline at that time; that committee reported, that it was necessary, that greater uniformity of discipline should be observed in the prisons of this country, and that it would lead not only to the interests of justice, but to the welfare of prisoners, if such a system were adopted. Nothing was done in consequence of that report. In 1835, a committee was appointed by the House of Lords, and that committee reported a resolution to the effect,That it was expedient that one uniform system of prison discipline be established in every gaol and house of correction in England and Wales. That for the sake of procuring such uniformity of discipline, it was expedient that all rules and regulations of gaols should be in future submitted to the Secretary of State for his approval, instead of (as at present) to the judges of assize.The committee also recommended the ap- 1274 pointment of inspectors, and inspectors were accordingly appointed. He admitted, that these inspectors had introduced many improvements, but still he must maintain that very great cruelties were exercised in prisons, and much yet remained to be done to improve them. He thought, the importance of this question was greatly increased by the great increase of crime which had taken place within the last ten years in this country. Of course her Majesty's Government were well aware of the amount of that increase, but he did not believe that the House or the public were aware of its extent. Therefore, with the permission of the House, he would state what the increase amounted to. By the report of the committee of 1832, it appeared that the commitments to prison during the seven years, previous to 1817, amounted to 56,308, averaging 8,044 annually, During the seven succeeding years, or from 1817 to 1824, the number of commitments was 92,848, averaging 13,264 annually. During the next seven years, or those from 1824 to 1831, the number had risen to 121,518, averaging 17,359 annually. He would now come to the report of the inspector of prisons, and take the last three years to which they extended—1838, 1839, and 1840. The House would recollect, that during the seven years previous to 1831, the number of persons committed was 121,518, being on an average 17,359 in each year. In 1838, in one year alone, the number imprisoned according to reports of the inspectors was 112,515. In 1839, the number was 112,812, being a difference of only 297 between the two years. But in 1840, the last year for which we had a return, the number amounted to 129,237, being an increase of more than 16,000 over the year 1838, and of between 600 and 700 per cent, above the average commitments in the ten years preceding 1831, while our population during the same period had only increased about 14 per cent. Surely this was a most alarming state of the criminal population of this country. That crime was increasing in this manner, was a most alarming fact; and if it could not be controverted, it was certainly deserving of the inquiry and investigation of Parliament. Along with the increase of the number of persons committed, there had been, of course, considerable increase in the expense of gaols, The expense during the year 1840, exceeded that of 1838, by more than 64,000l. The House might naturally 1275 ask, what could be the reason of this vast increase of crime. So far as he could judge it was owing partly to ignorance—to the want of education amongst the people—to the want of employment, which produced poverty and distress, and, in some instances, to intemperance on the part of those who had the means of gratifying their passions. The want of education amongst the people would be found from several returns made by the registrar of births and marriages. They would find, that out of 121,000 marriages which had taken place during the last year, there were 40,587 males, and 58,959 females who could not write their names. The report also stated, the remarkable fact, that the chief deficiency existed in Lancashire, Bedfordshire, and Monmouthshire. In Bedfordshire, the number of men who signed with their marks was 55 per cent, and of females 66 per cent. It might be said, that this did not apply to the criminal population. There were other returns, however, which did. Out of 129,000 persons who were committed in 1840, there were 35,552 who could neither read nor write; out of 65,000 persons summarily convicted, there were 26,238 persons who could neither read nor write, 13,644 who could read only, and 21,483 who could write very imperfectly. The criminal returns included several species of crime. A large proportion of commitments appear to be made under the Vagrant Act. There was one offence for which a number of individuals were sent to gaol, and he wished some means could be devised to prevent such persons from being so sent. He alluded to individuals confined for what was called insubordination in workhouses. These individuals, according to the returns made, had been treated in a manner most cruel and severe—he might say, in some prisons, most brutal, for what was really a venial offence. A pamphlet, written by Mr. Pigou, contained extracts front the inspectors reports, stating some of the worst of these cases, and accompanied by very just and able comments. In the Ipswich prison, according to the fourth report of the inspector, seven youths were found in solitary confinement for insubordination or misconduct in the workhouse. He would read an extract from the report on this subject. The hon. Gentleman then read the following extract from the "Fourth Report of the Inspector of Prisons for the Northern and Eastern Districts:"—In the dark cell for the refractory, I found 1276 a prisoner lying upon the floor, who had been there for several days upon bread and water. One of the turnkeys in charge of him states, 'This prisoner was committed on the 14th of December for two months, for breaking windows in the union workhouse. One of the turnkeys brought him to me on Tuesday, about a fortnight ago, and told me I was to keep him in the refractory cell all the time he had to stay here. I asked him a day or two afterwards, how long he was to be kept there, and be told me for the remainder of his time. I understood he had been making a noise in the night.' The keeper states, 'I took him before the magistrate for refractory conduct, and was ordered to put him into another cell. I had no written order for continuing him in the dark cell so long.' In another part of the prison, I found seven youths in solitary confinement, who had been committed for refractory conduct in a union poor-house. They made the following statements, which proved to be correct:—W. E., aged 19—Has been here seven weeks, and is sentenced to four months' imprisonment. Has only seen the keeper twice; the chaplain and surgeon have never been to him; can read and write; has no book; takes exercise for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour in the morning, when let down to wash; he has 1½lb. of bread, and a quart of gruel daily.W.G., aged 16—Has been here seven weeks, been neither visited by chaplain nor. surgeon, is sentenced to two months' imprisonment, can read, but has no books.I. M., aged 17—Can read, has a book which was given him by one of the other prisoners through the ventilation holes of the cell, when he was sleeping below, has been ill, and seen the doctor twice, has seen the governor twice, but not in his cell.0. G., aged 17.—Can read but has no book, has neither been visited by chaplain nor surgeon, sees the governor about once a week.W. G., aged 16.—Can read but has no books, has never seen the chaplain during the seven weeks he has been here, the surgeon has seen him twice when sick.E. S., aged 16.—Can read but has no book, has never been visited by the chaplain or surgeon, has seen the keeper twice.T. D., age 18.—Cannot read, has neither been visited by chaplain nor surgeon, has seen the governor occasionally.These prisoners were at first placed upon bread and water, but have since been allowed a quart of gruel in addition. Upon questioning the chaplain why these prisoners were not visited by him, and were unprovided with books, he stated, 'The order, as I understand from the keeper, relative to these boys, is, that I am not to visit them, nor are they to have books; in fact, they are to see nobody.' The 1277 keeper states, 'A magistrate directed me verbally not to permit these prisoners from the poor-house to be visited by the chaplain.
The magistrate, he knew not why, had taken upon him to direct the gaoler, not to allow any one to see these unfortunate prisoners. They were placed in a dark cell, and made to live on bread and water, without the authority of any act of Parliament that he could find, giving power to a magistrate to issue such directions. The only fault he found in the reports of the inspectors was, that where the conduct of a magistrate had been so illegal as in this case, his name was not given. If a magistrate had done right he ought not to be ashamed to have his name made public, and if he had done wrong he ought to be held up to public condemnation by having his name printed. Moreover, he trusted that her Majesty's Ministers would take care that such an individual was not any longer suffered to disgrace the administration of justice by being connected with it. There was a report made which was most interesting. It was a report made by the chaplain of the house of correction at Lewes. That individual very much to his credit, had taken the pains of investigating what was the parentage and descent of the prisoners who generally filled that gaol. What then does he say of the class of persons who came there? That out of 943 prisoners, felons, vagrants, and misdemeanants, fifty-seven were the children of criminals, twenty-eight were illegitimate, 232 orphans under nine years of age, 133 had been orphans, between nine and sixteen years of age, and twenty-seven had been deserted by their fathers and mothers. He adds—
Thus it appears that one-fourth of these unhappy individuals were orphans from childhood, and considerably more than one-third either orphans or deserted under the age of sixteen. Of the females very nearly half were such. How many of the rest were the victims of parental neglect, or trained to vice by those who ought to have guarded them from it, it is impossible to say. The foregoing statement surely calls for much compassion towards those who are also the just objects of judicial visitation. Not that their sentences should be rendered more light, which would neither be for their advantage nor safe to the community, but that every possible means of moral advantage should be combined with the strictness of penitentiary inflictions, and that the utmost assistance which discretion will permit should he afforded them on their discharge from prison where a disposition is shown to exchange the
ways of crime for those of honest industry. Out of the many reflections which this view excites, one above others, was deeply impressed upon my mind, namely, the great importance of workhouse schools, where so many of these friendless and parentless children of the poor are gathered together. If I be not much mistaken, nowhere can a blow be more effectually aimed at the root of crime. Let these schools be made more numerous, and let them be placed in the hands of enlightened teachers, who with judgment and kindness will open the understandings and engage the affections of their pupils on the side of virtue, then magistrates and prison officers will have less onerous and hopeless duties to discharge.
In another part of his report he strongly reprobated the practice of sending children from the workhouse to the gaol. He said that they ought not to be made the inmates of a gaol, as nothing could follow from sending them thither but contamination, and their future life must be embittered by the reflection. If they went to the manufacturing districts, they could not be surprised to find that crime prevailed in such districts. He was sorry to say that their intemperance was very common. If they took up Captain Williams's report, they would find the statement of what had occurred at Manchester. He said—
On Saturday, September 5, I accompanied Sir Charles Shaw, who was attended by two intelligent inspectors of the police force, on a walk through Manchester after twelve o'clock. The public houses mostly frequented by disorderly persons were found all open and in full trade at a quarter past twelve, and were only closed on the appearance of the police. They were crowded with men and women, several of the latter with infants in arms, and many of both sexes in a state of intoxication, who became noisy and irritated at what they appear to consider the improper interference of the police. We then proceeded to visit the low lodging-houses and brothels in the part of the town most frequented by the criminal population. They presented the usual scene of indiscriminate connection of the sexes and low dissipation, and I think a more than usual one of filth and wretchedness. Upon descending into a cellar, in which were some half dozen occupants in bed, I was struck by what appeared the unusual sight of the room being papered; but on one of the inspectors lifting up his lantern, I discovered that the appearance was caused by myriads of bugs having been crushed against it, which, in the dim light, presented the appearance of a figured paper.
What a state, he asked, was that, for any portion of the population of this coun-
try to be in. Here they saw individuals miserable, utterly neglected, starving—nothing done to solace them in the dreadful condition in which they were placed. But then it might be said that such a horrible state of things was confined to the manufacturing districts. Not at all. It prevailed in some of the rural districts as well. There was one case to which he must refer. He would take the case of Cambridge; and considering that it was the scat of all that was pious and orthodox—considering it was the seat of all that was learned, he said that it was disgraceful that there should be in that town a gaol in the state and description described by the inspector of prisons, Captain Williams. One reason assigned for the gaol not being completed, was, that a Chancery suit was pending; that might be a good reason for closing the doors of the gaol, but was none for continuing its abuses. What he was now talking of was the spinning house. There the gaol act was directly contravened. The gaol act provided, that there should be divine service on the Sabbath-day, and that provision had not been complied with. He would quote a passage from the report:—
The University has made no provision for any instruction. Some benevolent ladies have occasionally visited the prison; and a clergyman, a member of King's College, some time back, attended voluntarily on a Sunday, but discontinued it for private reasons; since which, no divine service has been performed. This prison appeared, upon first inspection, particularly that portion applied to vagrants, to be in a neglected and uncleanly state; but on a second visit, it was much improved in this particular. There is no sort of discipline maintained; several escapes have taken place. The prisoners are not searched, nor deprived of money, nor any other article. They occasionally climb over the walls of one airing-yard into another; they pass their time huddled round the fires, in obscene talk, or occasionally in singing and dancing. The keeper gives it as his opinion, `that any girl not very bad, would be far worse on going out than when she came in. He has observed shades of difference, as to feeling their situations, among some of the females upon first coming in, but this has worn off by association.' The confinement has no other effect but that of keeping them out of the streets in term time. The females now come in at a much younger age than formerly; they have generally been servant girls in lodging-houses in the town. The inutility of this establishment cannot be better exemplified than that the number of unfortunate females committed from November 4, 1834, to the day of inspection, 29th of October, 1835, was 66; the number of com-
mittals, 176; averaging nearly three commitments of each individual; and the gross amount of imprisonment which they underwent was 2,634 days, averaging 39 days for each.
The statement with respect to the gaol was taken from the fourth report, and, with the exception of divine service being performed on the Sunday, the whole was to be found also in the last report. And then what was the instruction given by the University of Cambridge to the population? The report only said that the instruction given by the University of Cambridge was only to be found in dog-carts filled with religious tracts. That was not his statement; it was the statement to be found in the Inspector's report. If they could impeach that report, if they could prove it to be incorrect, of course then his statement must be incorrect also; but all this only proved the necessity for an inquiry into those abuses. It proved the very necessity of the motion to which he desired them to accede. It proved that there was not a uniformity of system throughout their prisons. It proved that the recommendations of the House of Lords, and their suggestions connected with the appointment of the inspectors had in no way been attended to, and that the inspectors had not been able to enforce uniformity in the different prisons. It was impossible that it should be otherwise; for by the present system visiting magistrates had the power of drawing up certain rules for the regulation of a prison, these rules being submitted to the Secretary of State, and approved of by him, were then enforced in that prison. Another set of visiting magistrates with another prison did the same. Thus, then, there was one set of rules for one prison, a different set of rules for another prison, and the Secretary of State approved of both. He did not blame the Secretary of State, nor the magistrates; but he blamed the Legislature which allowed such a system to prevail, and did not lay down one general rule which should prevail in all their prisons. He believed that if this were done, it would be of the greatest advantage to the ends of justice, as well as to the prisoners themselves. At present, it was totally impossible for a judge, when he sentenced a prisoner, to know what degree of punishment he sentenced the man to; for there was a want of uniformity in every material point in these prisons—in labour, in diet, in its quality as well as its quantity. Let them look to these returns, with regard to the inequality of labour. If an individual were
sentenced to hard labour, the nature of the punishment must depend very much upon the number of hours that the individual would have to be on the wheel, on the height of the step, and on the rapidity of the rotation of the wheel. Let it be supposed that a judge in Devonshire sentenced a man to six months' imprisonment and hard labour, and another individual was sentenced to six months' imprisonment and hard labour in Northumberland, it would be found, that though nominally the sentence was the same in both places, there would in practice be a great inequality in the punishment. What would be the inequality in the same sentence? In Exeter the hard labour lasted for six hours and a half in the day, the height of the step was eight inches, the rotation of the number of steps in a minute twenty-four, making an ascent of 3,120 feet by that individual. If that individual had the same punishment to undergo in Newcastle-on-Tyne, the number of hours for labour were eight, the height of the step was ten inches, the steps mounted in a minute were fifty-two, and the ascent performed was 13,866 feet. In Worcester, the hours of labour were ten and a quarter, the height of the steps seven inches and three quarters, the number of steps in a minute forty-eight, and the ascent 12,716 feet during the day. Though the sentence was the same in each of these counties, yet it was plainly much more severe in some than in others. This, surely, was a subject that ought to be investigated, and all must, he was sure, think that one uniform system of labour ought to be established in all their prisons Then the next question was, how were these individuals fed? It often happened that when the labour was the hardest, the diet was the smallest and the lowest. As to the Bedford house of correction, it would be seen by the sixth report, that there was a great complaint as to the food. In the Bedford house of correction there was allowed per week 224 ozs. of bread, and eight ozs. of cheese, and three pints of beer. In Worcester the labour was hart, but the diet was more than sufficient for one person. It was 172 ozs. of bread, thirty-four ozs. of cheese, two pounds of potatoes, four pints of soup, and one gallon of gruel. It was plain from this, either that the diet at Bedford or Worcester was wrong—that either the one was too great, or the other too small. With regard to Aylesbury, there was a low diet, and there, too, another defect had prevailed, but it had
to a certain extent been rectified. It was one that ought not to have existed. It was with regard to the not allowing any extra nourishment to females with children at the breast.
There is a circumstance connected with the treatment of female prisoners which deserves attention. A woman committed with a child at the breast is permitted to have no more than the ordinary gaol allowance of food for those of her own class, out of which she has to support both herself and her infant. If the father of the child makes any allowance for its maintenance, the mother is permitted to expend it in provisions for her child; but as such an allowance is rarely made, both mothers and children are subjected to very severe privations. There is an entry in the visiting justices' journal, by which it appears that there were nine females with children at the breast at one time in this prison. In other prisons due provision is made for females of this class. In the Coldbath-fields House of Correction, a woman suckling a child is allowed half a pint of milk, and ten ounces of bread per day, in addition to the ordinary gaol allowance of her class. In the Westminster Bridewell, females so circumstanced are allowed half a pint of milk and two-thirds of the allowance of bread per day over and above the prescribed allowance of the class to which she belongs. In most cases the surgeon directs the allowance of food for this description of prisoners, and the matron should, in all such cases, be directed to call his attention to these prisoners on their admission.
This case had been reported to Lord Normanby, and so far rectified, that it was ordered that the surgeon should have a discretionary power to increase the diet; but, he maintained, the surgeon had that power before. Why, he asked, was there not a general rule for such cases? How did they know but that the females who were thus treated were the victims of another law that they had made? They first of all made a law—the new Poor-law, by which they deprived females of the title to obtain that support from the fathers of their children; and then, having done this, they sent the mother to gaol with her child, and they did not leave her enough of sustenance, as the inspector of the prisons said, for one person even without a child. The inspectors of prisons attested the great importance that ought to be attached to the question of diet. The prison discipline in America in this respect was very different from that which prevailed in England. There parties were divided as to the silent and solitary system; but as to the diet it would be found that it was full and sufficient. If
they introduced solitary confinement into their gaols, he begged of them also to introduce a better system of diet. There was also a great want of uniformity in our gaols with regard to the powers that gaolers possessed, and the manner in which these powers were used by them. He had got there a statement from an individual who had suffered in one of these prisons, in consequence of the arbitrary treatment of the mere turnkey. In this case the boy, fourteen years of age, was confined for three days in what is called the refractory cell, of Warwick gaol. There, as it appeared, the turnkey, without the authority of the gaoler, put, in the depth of winter, an unfortunate boy into a cellar under ground; there the boy was confined for three days and three nights, and, when removed from it, was so ill that he was unable for three months to be brought to trial; and having in consequence of this treatment lost two of his toes, would now be a cripple for life. In that case the boy had not been tried, and his offence was quarrelling with another boy. There had been an affidavit made in his case. The name of the boy was William Griffiths, the son of William Griffiths living at Birmingham. The affidavit concluded by stating, that not being able to appear and be tried, he was kept in prison for three months, as he could not be carried up to take his trial at the assizes. The hon. Member read the affidavit, and proceeded to say:—Let them take, for instance, what was the consequence of the regulations at Wakefield and Northallerton. At Wakefield there was confined one of those to whom he had before referred—persons suffering for political offences. Amongst them was an individual named John Riding. He was confined in the Wakefield house of correction, and a representation was made to him (Mr. Duncombe) when Lord Normanby was Secretary of State for the Home Department, as to the rules and regulations there. By these rules it appeared that, when an individual came into the yard, he was not allowed to turn his head to the right or the left—he was not allowed even to look to the right or the left—he was not allowed to speak; that he did not object to when men were at work. The unfortunate Riding had been afflicted before he went into the prison with the asthma. When, then, Riding was placed in the yard, not only was he not allowed to turn his head, but he was not permitted to expectorate. Now, in consequence of his having the asthma, it was necessary for him
to expectorate, but he was not allowed to do so for twelve weeks. The effect of this was, that Riding's throat and chest became swelled to an enormous extent, and his life was in danger. When the statement of this case was made to him, he confessed he did not believe it to be true. The case was laid before Lord Normanby at the Home-office, and an immediate inquiry was instituted, with a promise that he should be released if the statement proved to be true. The next post brought back the release of the man, and up to this day the man has never recovered his health. Now, that case had occurred in the Wakefield house of correction. With regard, then, to spiritual instruction in those places, he wished to state one circumstance to which he desired to call the attention of an hon. Friend near him (Mr. O'Connell.) In Salford it appeared that last year there were 131 Roman Catholic prisoners confined. The magistrates had made a regulation which ought to have had the effect of permitting prisoners of the Roman Catholic persuasion to have the spiritual assistance of their priests. This regulation was a very proper one, but it was not complied with. The chaplain of the prison, it seemed, had a very strong feeling, amounting almost to an antipathy, against Roman Catholics, which he evinced in the sermons he delivered in the prison, The chaplain, it appeared, preached controversial sermons to the prisoners, not only showing the superiority of Protestants over Roman Catholics, but going much further, and holding, that individuals of that persuasion were persons to be avoided. An instance of the feeling produced was, one of the prisoners suggesting that they should ask the chaplain to preach one of those controversial sermons over again; because, as it was said it would make their Roman Catholic fellow prisoners "as mad as blazes." [Laughter.] The House might laugh; but he asked, was this "spiritual instruction?" The rev. Mr. Macartney was the gentleman who made this statement to him, and he complained, that the Roman Catholics, particularly in that prison, were deprived of spiritual aid. There was no guarantee for the clergyman being admitted to the prisoner. If a Roman Catholic prisoner made a request to the gaoler or chaplain, he never could obtain a priest, except upon one or two occasions. On one of these cases being investigated, the chaplain and gaoler admitted, that they did not send for the Roman Catholic clergy-
man, as they believed the prisoner only wanted to consult him as to his defence. There ought, in his estimation, to be some regular rule, guaranteeing to an individual so situated free access to the prisoners of his own religion. There was another subject, that was a most painful one, to which he wished to call the attention of the House, and which made him particularly anxious that he might succeed with them in pressing for a committee. The subject to which he referred was the infliction of corporal punishment for criminal offences. He asked of the House to express no opinion on the expediency of corporal punishment. He only asked them to institute an inquiry into the subject. He believed most persons who considered this point, thought that the punishment ought not to be inflicted upon adults, while they suggested it might, with leniency, be applied to juvenile delinquents. He believed, however, that all practical men were in favour of abolishing it altogether. He did not know that the House was aware of the numbers that had suffered corporal punishment of late years. It appeared, that in 1838, there were 983 whipped; in 1839, 1,026; and in 1840, the date of the last return, 1,207. This included those who had been sentenced by visiting magistrates as well as by courts of justice. It was quite clear, from the returns, that the numbers of those thus punished were greatly on the increase; for, in 1828, there were 322; in 1829, 336; and in 1830, 284—making for the three years, 942. How, then, did the inspector, Mr. Williams, speak of this practice in his last report?—
The manner of inflicting corporal punishment in gaols appears very objectionable. I am of opinion the number of lashes, the time of punishment, and the instrument, should be defined, and the attendance of a surgeon rendered imperative by legal enactment. The consequences of such not being the case are, that the keepers of prisons have nearly absolute power in the execution of this sentence, and that the method varies in almost every prison, at least in the great majority of those which come under my observation: for instance, in one, the whipping of prisoners is carried to the utmost extent of severity, and to the number of eight or ten dozen lashes; in another, not more than ten or twelve lashes are given, and with a lightness which makes the sentence nominal. The time when the sentence is to be carried into effect is also generally left to the discretion of the keeper. In one house of correction, punishment takes place the day previous to a prisoner's discharge, a practice which I have strongly recommended to be dis-
continued, more particularly as the whipping ordinarily inflicted there is severe, and must therefore greatly add to the already too numerous obstacles in the way of discharged prisoners obtaining employment. In some prisons the scourge in use is similar to that in the army; in others, to the navy; in another, it is a simple school-rod. I have occasionally found these instruments improper from their weight and size, and have considered it my duty to recommend the use of others less severe. The fact of whipping being now almost confined to delinquent boys, many of whom are little above the age and appearance of children, appears to me to call for the exercise of greater circumspection in the infliction, and which, from personal observation, I am satisfied it requires.
This, then, was the manner in which these punishments were inflicted. He had now to state what was the custom at Swaffham, in Norfolk, where a dreadful instrument was used, by which punishment was inflicted, and no medical man in attendance, and where the warrant signed by the magistrate ran thus:—"To be whipped till his back be bloody." It was also stated, that no improvement was found from this system of punishment, as the same persons were very frequently recommitted. There was next, the case of what had occurred in Salford gaol, where an individual was taken out of his bed to undergo the punishment of whipping, the very night before he was liberated from prison. The case was thus mentioned:—
I instance the case of E. D., who on June 2nd was taken out of bed, after locking up, and the sentence of whipping carried into effect previous to his discharge the nest morning.
§ This system of deferring the execution of corporal punishment to the very day previous to which the criminal was to be released, was extremely bad. It was unjustifiable. In the case he had alluded to, as occurring at Salford, the prisoner described as E. D. had been pulled out of bed and flogged on the night previous to his liberation, How was it possible that, under such circumstances, a man could leave prison with any other feelings than those of anger and revenge? If they took the opinions of persons interested in the question, and who had made efforts to remedy the abuses complained of, they would find the feelings of horror with which such persons contemplated the subject. He would call attention to a communication from the chaplain of the Devizes 1287 house of correction. This gentleman makes his report to the Court of Quarter Sessions. The hon. Gentleman read extracts from the document referred to, expressing the opinion of the writer as to the injurious effect, morally and intellectually, produced by the system of flogging. There was another instance to which he would call the attention of the House, in which the punishment of flogging had been carried to a very great length. It occurred in Lancashire, and was inflicted in consequence of insubordination to prison rules. It appeared that the prisoner had objected to the food with which he and his fellow prisoners were supplied as not being of the quantity or quality which they were entitled to receive, and applied to the gaoler to go for the visiting magistrate, with the view of laying the subject before him. The gaoler refused to comply with his request s the prisoner then rejoined that he would not be locked up unless the quality of his food improved, and a scene of some confusion took place. The following day the magistrates arrived—the gaoler reported the case, and the prisoner, who was described as J. B., was sentenced to receive twelve dozen of lashes on his bare back. Then followed the account of the punishment. The prisoner was punished in the inspecting room, in the presence of the inmates of the various wards, who called loudly to the prisoner not to submit to the infliction. Some broke out into loud exclamations, and others burst into tears. The report from which he extracted these particulars concluded by expressing a hope that the example would produce a beneficial effect on the other prisoners. He did not know what effect had been produced on them by what they had witnessed, but he trusted that the effect which would be produced on the House by what it had heard would be to induce it seriously to consider if scenes like these ought to be enacted in prisons, which had for their object the suppression of crime and the reformation of the criminal. A return had been made to the House, on the motion of the hon. member for Devonport, of the number of persons upwards of twenty years of age committed to prison and flogged, by order of a single magistrate, from January, 1840, to January, 1841. He was happy to say that in that return he found only seven persons who had been committed to prison and so flogged. Four of these punishments had been ordered by the rev. John Boudier for neglect of agricultural ser- 1288 vice. Undoubtedly a magistrate should have the power of punishing persons neglecting service, by absenting themselves or otherwise, but it was another thing a magistrate ordering a man to be flogged for the offence in question, and it astonished him still more when he considered that that magistrate was a minister of the Gospel. He should like to have that magistrate brought before his proposed committee to justify his sentence—to explain on what principle he had pronounced it. Perhaps he could give reasons for his conduct that might convince him and convince the House of its propriety, but until such reasons should be adduced, he would say that that most brutalizing and degrading punishment ought to be abolished. One object of the committee for which he had moved would be, in the event of its appointment, to consider and inquire into (and Government ought to be glad of an opportunity of availing themselves of such services)—that new system of punishment called solitary imprisonment. That species of punishment was as strongly recommended by two of the prison inspectors, Messrs. Crawford and Russell, as it was condemned by Mr. Williams. When he first turned his attention to the subject, he looked over the reports, and heard the arguments in favour of solitary confinement, and was inclined to believe that it might be found a useful species of punishment; but when be came to consider the statements of practical men on the subject, he had come to the conclusion that it was not a punishment necessary in this country, or one which would ever meet with public approbation. Government was now engaged in erecting a model prison. It was to be built with a view to the carrying out of the system of solitary confinement. They were about to make still further experiments on that system, which had already been tried in the Penitentiary at Millbank, and they ought to bear in mind that, from the occurrences which last year took place there, the regulations of the establishment were obliged to be relaxed. During the last year eight persons were removed from Millbank to Bedlam in a state of insanity. If they looked to the report of what had happened in the Eastern Penitentiary at Philadelphia, on the plan of which the New Model Prison was to be constructed, they would find that in that establishment the instances of insanity produced by the solitary system in force there were numerous. In 1836 a report was published by a committee ap- 1289 pointed by the Legislature of Lower Canada, which visited the prisons of Auburn, Sing Sing, and Philadelphia; and this committee had come to the resolution of not recommending the system of solitary confinement. The hon. Gentleman then read extracts from this report, strongly condemnatory of the solitary system. He would quote, in favour of this view of the case, the opinions of Captain Basil Hall, who had also visited these prisons. The extracts read from Captain Hall also disapproved of the punishment of solitary confinement in strong terms and from various causes. He was the more wishful to quote these pieces of evidence as to the working of the silent system, because the New Model Prison would soon be opened; and, although he was aware that the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) would be obliged first to bring in a bill for the transfer of prisoners to the model gaol, still he thought that Government would do well to institute some inquiry into the merits of the system, by which they would be better able to judge of its expediency and probable success. He had trespassed longer on the attention of the House than he could have wished to have done, but he had such masses of evidence before him—he had such complaints made to him on the subject—that he hardly knew where to begin or end. He still feared that he had not said enough to induce the House favourably to consider his motion. He trusted that in this fear he might prove mistaken; but, at all events, he was sure of this, whether his committee should be appointed or not, he was sure that the House would find pleasure in engaging in measures so noble, generous, and humane in themselves, and which would prove so satisfactory to the country. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the resolution which he announced at the commencement of his speech.
§ Sir J. Graham
could assure the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that he gave him the greatest credit for the humane motives which had induced him to make the motion he had brought under the consideration of the House, and also for the very able and temperate manner in which he had discussed it. He most cordially joined in the sentiment uttered by the hon. Gentleman, when he described this as a subject quite devoid of all party feeling, to be considered entirely on its own merits, and with a view calmly and dispassionately to arrive at the results Which would be most conducive to the 1290 public good. Entertaining the question in this spirit and with this object alone, he must at once state to the House, that it was his conviction, that it would be inexpedient to appoint a committee to inquire into this subject. He was very glad to see in his place the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), the Member for London, who had devoted much attention to this question, and who, in his humble judgment, had rendered most important services to the State by the attention he had so bestowed upon the subject. At an earlier period, there was an act regulating prison discipline, to which it was unnecessary for him now to refer; but, in 1835, the attention of the Legislature was particularly directed to it; and the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Finsbury, had referred to the services of a noble Friend of his in another place, who instituted an inquiry on the subject, and on whose report the act of 1835 was founded. That act appointed prison inspectors; and he must say, that judging from his official experience, which certainly had not been long, but having had confidential intercourse with the five gentlemen selected for that important duty, it was impossible for a more judicious selection to be made. He had then to put it to the House what, under the operation of the act of 1835, was their course of proceeding? Constantly throughout the year, at least four times every year, every gaol and house of correction was visited by a responsible officer; reports were made by those officers from time to time of a confidential nature to the Secretary of State; and, in addition to these, there was every year a full report prepared by each inspector with reference to each gaol and house of correction in his district, giving most detailed information of everything discovered by him contrary to the Act of Parliament, or, if not contrary to the act, worthy of notice and regulation. These annual reports were made to the Secretary of State, and by the enactments of the Legislature they were in all their details laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament. As a necessary effect of this regulation, the utmost possible publicity was given to all these transactions—not only was light thrown in upon them, but public attention was fixed upon them. The consequence of such complete publicity was a check on all the proceedings within our gaols, which was almost unknown in any other country, 1291 and formed the most salutary preventive against all the abuses which existed before 1835. It might be said, that in consequence of the absence of a direct enactment of details, there was a want of uniformity in the proceedings of the gaols. Now, it should be remembered, that the noble Lord opposite, the Member for the City of London, when Secretary of State, with infinite care, assiduity, and labour, framed one general code of regulations, which, after consulting the prison inspectors, he thought on the whole most conducive to the good regulation of the gaols throughout the kingdom. Instead of harsh unbending enactments, he did think, the course adopted by the noble Lord most in conformity with the intentions of the Legislature, and at the same time most practicable and expedient. The noble Lord recommended these regulations, but he had not then power of enforcing the code universally and at once. The regulations he had recommended were very generally, but somewhat gradually, and therefore very safely, being adopted by the different counties; even where they had not been in whole adopted, still they were, in a great measure, carried into effect with the most salutary results. The magistrates at Quarter Sessions had the power of adopting those regulations at various periods; and, although the Secretary of State had not the power of enforcing, but only recommending his code, he had, at the same time, a veto upon the proceedings of the magistrates. The joint operation of those two powers was gradually introducing uniformity in the sys- tem. It might be satisfactory to the House that he should state the counties in England and Wales where the code of regulations entire, as recommended by the noble Lord, had been adopted. They were these—Berks, Bedford, Cornwall, Carnarvon, Cardigan, Chester, Devon, Dorset, Glocester, Hants, Hereford, Kent, Lancaster, Leicester, Lincoln, Middlesex, Northampton, Norfolk, Oxford, Pembroke, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex, Salop, Suffolk, Wilts, and Yorkshire. In all these counties, the whole regulations, uniform in every particular, as recommended by the Secretary of State, had been adopted without variation. Here, then, was a great approximation to uniformity of discipline; and, as he had already stated, even where the whole had not been adopted yet in a great measure, and in all most im- 1292 portant particulars, the regulations were now in full force. The hon. Gentleman, in bringing forward his motion, had dwelt considerably on the great apparent increase of crime during the last ten years, In this part of his speech, he had been at some loss exactly to follow the hon. Member. The statements he made were certainly very different from those he was about to make, founded upon an admirable statistical register kept in the Home-office. He would compare the committals for trial before 1835, when the improved system of discipline commenced, to which he had already referred, and which was followed up by subsequent acts of the noble Lord opposite, with the committals for trial at a later period. The number of persons committed for trial in 1830 was 18,657, or one in 744 of the population; in 1840, it was 27,187, or one in 580 of the population, showing an increase of 45 per cent. He believed, that the hon. Gentleman, by including the summary convictions at the latter period, had made the increase nearly 600 per cent; but he conceived, that the committals for trial, as they included all the graver offences, constituted the only true basis for testing the comparative increase of crime; and according to this test it appeared, that comparing the year 1830 with 1840, the increase was only 45 per cent. In 1835, the number of persons committed for trial was 20,731; so that, while the number in 1840 was 45 per cent more than in 1830, it was only 30 per cent more than the number in 1835. This result was most satisfactory, and attributable, in his opinion, to the regularly progressive improvement of prison discipline. Still, it appeared on the face of these documents, that there was an increase of crime. He admitted and regretted it. Still, certain facts, bearing upon this increases must not be overlooked. In the first place, an increase of population, to the amount of 14 per cent had taken place in the last ten years. In the next place, in consequence of the number and increased efficiency of the police establishment, a very large number of crimes, which heretofore were committed with impunity, no longer escaped' detection; and immediate committal for trial followed on the discovery of the offenders. The result, too; of the salutary and prudent mitigation of the criminal code was not only a willingness on the 1293 part of parties to prosecute, but what was of more importance in this free country, a promptness on the part of juries to do their duty; for they no longer hesitated to convict, when there appeared proof of guilt; now that the punishments awarded were adequate to the offence, and not sanguinary. Another point connected with this part of the subject, to which he would refer, was a most Material alteration in the law, made by the right hon. Baronet, (Sir R. Peel), which relieved prosecutors from a very great portion of their expenses, providing that half of the costs should be paid out of the public purse. Beating all these circumstances in mind, the liaise would see the reason of the apparent increase of crime, which was, indeed, more apparent than real, inasmuch as many offences previously passed unpunished; whereas they were now promptly detected, and met with certain punishment. The hon. Gentleman referred to one of the causes, beyond all doubt, of the increase of crime, which he (Sir J. Graham) was happy to say was in the progress of being arrested—the want of education among the great body of the people. No man deplored that ignorance more than he did. He thought that, with reference to the public safety; to public morals, and the station of this country in the world, the diffusion of education among all classes of the population was an important object, and well worthy of the care and attention of Government. By recent regulations that great object had been placed under the control of the responsible advisers of the Crown. For the last three or four years sums of money had been feted for this important purpose; the Executive Government was responsible for the disbursement of that money; and in any measure which it might be his duty to bring forward with respect to the condition of the population, he should consider it his paramount duty not to overlook this great subject of education. It was impossible for him to follow the hon. Gentleman through all the particular cases he had cited. He thought it much more advisable rather to point out the general course of legislation and the conduct of the Executive Government as bearing on the important subject to Which the hon. Gentleman had called the attention of the House, than attempt to give direct answers to each particular case he had referred to. He did not mean to deny, that in many 1294 cases those abuses which the hon. Gentleman had observed upon might exist, but he was quite certain that they were in a rapid progress of diminution, that effective checks were applied to them, and he was confident that if the Legislature would but steadily adhere to the course pursued within the last six or seven years, if prudent and progressive legislation continued, coupled with constant checks on the part of the Executive Government over the administration of the law, coupled with constant inspection, and, above all, with publicity, into all the various transaction of the various gaols, and coupled with debates like the present, this most desirable result would ultimately be arrived at—uniformity of system, and a really protective and well-regulated plan of prison discipline. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the Ipswich case; and here he would observe in passing, that almost all the cases adverted to by the hon. Gentleman were contained in the fourth report of the inspectors of prisons, and were two years old; and the greater portion of the evils complained of had been corrected by the activity of the inspectors, aided by the constant vigilance of the Government. For this he took no credit to himself, because he had been so short a time in office. He was speaking of his predecessors, by whom every attention had been given to the investigation of practices pursued in prisons; and he felt that he had nothing to do but to adhere to the line they had taken up. The noble Lord opposite framed the regulations for prisons, and what had been his conduct after coming into office? September was the period when the annual report of the inspectors was made known to Parliament, and the hon. Member for Lambeth, who took a great interest in this matter, called upon him in reference to it. He thought this was anything but a party question, and he felt obliged to the hon. Member for his visit. The hon. Member explained the view he took of the advantages to be derived from the reports of the prison inspectors, and threw out a valuable suggestion, on which he had since acted. The reports of the prison inspectors were very voluminous, entering into the most minute details, and he issued a circular calling on the inspectors to subdivide the sixth report, which was the most voluminous of all, into three portions:—the first to consist of the matters contained in the report, to which they thought the attention 1295 of the Secretary of State should be specially directed; the second, of any matters with respect to which the Secretary of State ought, in their opinion, to communicate with the visiting magistrates; and the third, of such matters as required further legislation. With great ability and promptitude the inspectors acted on his circular; and in the course of November he was enabled to deal in detail with each gaol on each head. In consequence of that report so subdivided, letters were sent to gaolers and visiting magistrates of those prisons with respect to which any ground of complaint was found to exist in the sixth report. In the course of a mouth or six weeks letters were received from the visiting magistrates, expressing their willingness to correct any irregularities that had occurred, and he believed there was hardly an instance of a refusal to adopt the suggestions which had been made them. With respect to parts of the prison discipline, they pointed out their inability to carry at once into effect all that might be desired, because a very important portion of the improved system depended on the adaptation of the gaols for the purpose. The hon. Gentleman opposite appeared to confound the separate and the solitary system of imprisonment. The solitary system was open to many abuses, and required the most constant care. He agreed that the solitary system, coupled with low diet, operated most dangerously according to the different nervous temperaments of men. The same square rule could not be applied to all cases, but the particular circumstances of each must be inquired into. This was the way the Legislature had considered the subject, providing that no case of solitary confinement should continue longer than one month at a time, or three months in the space of one year. The hon. Gentleman had referred to a case of solitary imprisonment at Ipswich, where the prisoner was neither visited by chaplain nor surgeon. He could only say that that was a direct violation of the law; for the law provided that once every day the prisoner should be visited by the governor, chaplain, or surgeon. He was about to point out the difference between the separate and the solitary systems, and for this purpose he need only to refer to the admirable circular of the noble Lord opposite, which he held in his hand. The noble Lord said that—Great care must be taken, when this (the 1296 separate) system is put into operation, not to confound separate with solitary confinement. It is generally understood," (continued the noble Lord,)" that solitary confinement implies confinement in a gloomy and a narrow cell, without occupation, and with a diet of bread and water only, Separate confinement, as recommended by the inspectors of the home district, means, on the other hand, confinement in large, airy, light, well-warmed and ventilated cells, with moral and religious instruction, regular employment, and the daily visits of the chaplain and officers of the prison, as well as of those engaged in the instruction of the prisoners…. By the regulations of the separate system, such persons would be strictly separated from all other criminals, would have the means of repenting of their offences, and, when discharged, would not be liable to be claimed and recognised by convicts, who had been inmates in the same prison.This was the system, not the solitary system, which was gradually being brought into operation throughout the country; and there was every willingness on the part of counties and borough towns in England and Wales to make every preparation for it; though they naturally observed, that they wished to see the experiment tried in the first instance, and promised, if it proved successful, to carry it into effect. Notwithstanding these scruples, he would state to the House the number of gaols newly built, or in progress of improvement, for this system. But here he must observe, while he thought of it, that he was only doing imperfect justice to the noble Lord opposite, when he said that the noble Lord appointed the inspectors of prisons. The noble Lord also employed, as a public servant, an officer of engineers of the highest merit and skill, who was engaged to give his assistance gratuitously to counties and towns for the improvement of gaols—he alluded to Major Jebb, of the Engineers. He was engaged to give to the local authorities all the results of his experience, and the consequence of this facility in obtaining plans for improved prisons had been a readiness on the part of borough towns and counties, even before a model prison was brought into operation, to improve their gaols. In Hertford shire an admirable new gaol was built. In Bath a new gaol was to open in a few months. In Hereford a new gaol was completed, and in Peterborough, Scarborough, Buckingham, and Wilton, new gaols were being built, or the old ones being enlarged. In Aylesbury, Battle, 1297 Chichester, Reading, Wisbeach, Penzance, Tewkesbury, Plymouth, and Tiverton, the building of new gaols had been recommended by the local authorities; and alterations had been suggested or were in progress at Bedford Gaol and Bedford House of Correction, at Canterbury Gaol and Canterbury Bridewell, at Falmouth Gaol, at Leicester House of Correction, and at Wakefield gaol. At Hitchin, Horsham, and at Newbury, the gaols were to be given up, and contracts had been entered into with several counties for the maintenance of all prisoners after conviction. In the county of Stafford the gaol was about to be increased, as likewise in Berkshire, in Usk, Brecon, Durham, and Hull. Some observations had been made on the varying nature of the punishment of hard labour. He admitted that from the different construction of treadmills this difference might exist; but this was a matter which would come under the consideration of the prison inspectors, and there was no doubt that all would at last be reduced to a state of uniformity. With respect to the diet, the Government had not abstained from interference; and indeed the hon. Gentleman had instanced the case of a mother nursing an infant at her breast while in prison, and receiving at the same time an insufficiency of food. But the hon. Gentleman, at the same time, admitted that this case had been brought under the consideration of the Secretary of State, and that officer actually interfered, much to his credit, in a matter of such minuteness. He took no credit to himself for the course he had pursued in this matter, but he must say, that in every case of solitary or separate imprisonment, where the inspectors reported that the diet was too low, he did not hesitate to communicate this opinion to the visiting magistrates, and he found every disposition on their part to attend to his suggestions as to the increase of diet. With respect to the important question of solitary imprisonment, it was his intention to tread in the footsteps of his predecessor. He should give it the fullest attention from time to time, and he would read to the House a circular which he had addressed to the visiting magistrates in November last on the subject of solitary confinement. The circular was as follows:—Inasmuch as it is desirable that uniformity of practice should prevail throughout all prisons in England and Wales, in the carrying 1298 into effect the sentence by court of solitary confinement, Secretary Sir James Graham has directed me to call your attention to the 49th section of the act 4th George 4th., c. 64, by which it is provided that every prison should contain a competent number of cells adapted to solitary confinement, and to state his opinion that all prisoners sentenced to solitary confinement by any court should be placed in a light and well ventilated cell, provided with a seat, and the means of communication with the officers of the prison, in case of illness, afforded to them; that artificial heat should be applied when requisite; that the prisoners should attend divine service on the Sabbath, and be visited daily by the governor or keeper, chaplain, and surgeon, who shall insert their having done so in their respective journals, or the reason for any omission, together with a report from the surgeon, to be shown to the visiting magistrate without delay, if he observe any injurious effect on the mind or health of the prisoner, in his opinion to be ascribed to the duration of solitary confinement; that they should be provided with books, and those not able to read be visited by the schoolmaster, or some other person capable of affording to them elementary instruction; that they should be permitted to take such exercise in the open air as may be deemed necessary by the surgeon for the preservation of their health; and that they should be supplied with work at the discretion of the visiting justices. And that the bedding should be withdrawn from the cell during the day and exposed to the air in dry weather.The hon. Gentleman opposite had referred to the American system of corporal punishments, and drawn some comparison in reference to this country. He would admit that the power of the gaoler, like all other absolute power was open to abuse; but, at the same time, when he considered the large number of criminals who were under the authority of one man, he thought that they must invest that man with great, and he would say, almost absolute power. As to the delegation of that power to the turnkeys, the noble Lord had not admitted that in his general regulations there was no power given by law to the turnkeys to punish a prisoner. On the contrary, by the rule 138 in the official code, their power was limited to placing in close confinement any prisoner who was riotous or disobeyed their authority, applying without delay to the governor for directions. If the turnkey were to exercise any authority at all, it could not be placed under more restriction than was limited by that regulation. Now he wished to show to the House and the country that the Executive Government were not inat- 1299 tentiVe to these matters, and were proceeding in a merciful way; they were Maintaining the due rigour of the law, but at the same time were merciful. It appeared that, in the Wakefield House of Correction, the silent system had been adapted. To that system he was very Leech disposed to agree with the noble Lord, that there were very grave objections. He believed it to be most irritating to those Who were subjected to it, and that it could only be introduced as an extra punishment on account of heinous offences; still it had been brought to his knowledge by one of the inspectors of prisons, that in the House of Correction at Wakefield that system had been applied hot only to the Convicted prisoners, but also to those who had been committed for trial. He had thought that every person was considered innocent until he was proved to be guilty, but it was not so in this instance. The punishment of silence was very severe, and quite inapplicable to prisoners who were only committed. He suggested that to the magistrates of Wakefield, and the system had been abandoned until the prisoners were convicted. Then, with regard to Salford, the hon. Gentleman detailed a number of cases in which prisoners lied not been allowed to have religious instruction according to their particular persuasion. Now those cases had not been stated to him before, nor had he seen them mentioned in any reports of the prison inspectors. He considered that denial of the admission of ministers of their own religion, to offer to the prisoners spiritual consolation at a proper time, consistent with the gaol regulations, to be contrary to the law, and in every respect, and not to be tolerated. If it had been clone, it was in direct violation of the act of Parliament, for thereby it was enacted, that if there were any prisoner of a religious persuasion different from that of the Established Church, a minister of such persuasion, at the special request of such prisoner, should be allowed to visit him or her at proper and reasonable times, under such restrictions as the visiting justices might think proper. To deny such spiritual consolation then, as far as the law would allow, was certainly harsh and wrong. The next point taken by the hon. Gentleman was the infliction of corporal punishment. To that point he wished to call the attention of the House; because, although a power was given by the exist- 1300 ing law to the visiting magistrates to order such punishment in cases specified in the act, yet he wished the House to observe how sparingly that punishment had been inflicted. In 1840 the total number of male adult criminal prisoners in England and Wales was 69,428. The hon. Gentleman talked of 1,200 instances of corporeal punishment, but he would ask him whether they were confined to male adults? There was a great distinction to be drawn with respect to juvenile offenders, as contrasted with male adults; far in many instances such punishment towards juvenile offenders was both mild and proper. He should certainly say, that a frequent infliction of that punishment was a very indifferent proof of the good management of a gaol, but there was such a power given by law to the visiting magistrates; and yet what would the House say when he told them that in 1840 the number of male adult criminal prisoners being nearly 70,000, the whole number of corporeal punishments was but 70? It was not necessary for the House to inquire into cases of that kind; they could have all the facts that must guide them in their decision; they would be quite as intelligible as if inquired into by a committee up stairs; and, indeed, must at last be decided in that House. But the hon. Gentleman would ask him, after all he had stated, why he resisted an inquiry? He would frankly tell the hon. Gentleman his reason. He thought that the House would come to the conclusion that he had drawn, that progressively, steadily, and surely, we were arriving at an improved state of prison discipline in this country. The Executive Government were responsible to that House, and of that responsibility he was at that moment giving a proof in his own person. They were called upon to answer, from time to time, as to the exercise of the large powers vested in them; confidence was reposed in them, and they were proceeding well and surety to an improved state of prison discipline. There was perfect publicity; nothing was concealed, and he believed that the appointment of a select committee to revise the law would only lead to the detail of particular cases; which would shake public confidence and disturb that system which the Government were anxious to maintain for the present undisturbed, and steadily to adhere to. A change of persons in the Home-office had produced no change whatever in the system 1301 relating to these Matters. All had gone on steadily in the same course, and he entreated the House not to disturb it. In each individual case, if any hon. Gentleman asked for an inquiry,-he was ready to give it. He was sure that that would be better than to appoint a committee, and he therefore trusted that the hon. Gentleman would not think that he was treating him with any disrespect if he resisted his motion.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, that the information which the noble Lord the late Secretary fat the Home Department, (Lord J. Russell) had just received from the right hon. Baronet opposite, must be gratifying to him—tamely, that there had been no change whatever in the department of the law relating to this matter, that everything was going on as before, and that all the recommendations which the noble Lord had given were faithfully adopted, and that it was desirable that no change should be made in the prevailing system. It had been said by grave writers, that the merits of a great man were seldom known or appreciated until he was dead. In this case it seemed that a "political suicide" was a good thing. The noble Lord was there alive to hear his merits discussed. He was officially dead; he was officially "the late Secretary." But the late Secretary was there to hear commendations bestowed upon him, from a quarter where he had no reason to expect them. He was sure the noble Lord could scarcely have expected such commendations froth such a biographer, as the right hon. Baronet. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite make speeches in a very different tone, when the late Government existed. That, night, however, the right hon. Baronet had been most free and liberal in the commendations he had bestowed upon the late Home Department of the Government. He had listened with great attention in order to ascertain what there was in the system of our prison discipline which the right hon. Baronet could condemn; but it appeared, that after most laborious study and a careful investigation, there was nothing to condemn —nothing to alter. But he trusted the right hon. Baronet would yet see, that he had not given a satisfactory answer to the speech of his hon. Colleague. He thought his hon. Friend had made out a complete case for a committee to report upon, but not to inquire into, Did the 1302 right hon. Baronet deny the truth of the allegations Which had been made by his hon. Colleague? No such thing. But what did he say? Why, that there was a sure, a progressive, and a satisfactory improvement going on—" therefore de hat disturb us" Trust, said he, to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and to the discretion of the visiting magistrates. He was quite willing to trust to the discretion of the Secretary Of State, because he believed ha would be a vigorous Secretary and would fulfil the duties of his office faithfully, and in a businesslike manner. But on the other hand, he must say, after what be had seen in respect to the conduct of the magistrates, in the superintendence of gaols, it would be cruel and inhuman to leave the prisoners under their management. If the House knew what ought to be done, by past experience, they should not give the right toy punish prisoners at the will and discretion of those who now wielded certain powers. That was the common-sense-view of this question. If they found that discipline could not be exercised, with reference to these prisoners, without punishment, why, then, they should leave them to be dealt with by those persons who should administer punishment according to law, and not leave them to the discretion of the magistracy. Look at the case which had occurred at Warwick goal, where a poor boy, who had been confined in a cell far three days and nights, had one of his feet frost bitten, and he was thus crippled for life. He had been committed for trial, but had not been convicted; and yet this punishment was inflicted upon him. Why not put down such practices? Was it nothing to endeavour to establish another system? Why not put down such practices, which were disgraceful, not only this country, but to the character of this kingdom in respect to its humanity. Look again to Salford and Ipswich; see one ease in which there were seven unfortunate boys who were sent to the gaol from the workhouse who had not received a fish from the governor of the gaol, from the chaplain or the Surgeon, for Weeks and weeks together, the chaplain stating, too, that be did not know he was to visit them, but that he had heard it stated by the governor, that he was not to communicate to these boys spiritual instruction. If hon. Gentlemen were to sit down quietly under such statements as these, and per- 1303 mit such practices to be pursued, it was not possible that that House should command the respect or esteem, whilst they appeared so indifferent to the sufferings of these unfortunate persons. Why, nine-tenths of their crimes were imputable to ignorance and poverty. If that House had done its duty, there would riot have been the same number of prisoners in our gaols, and this evil was the consequence of the neglect of the Legislature; and when these unfortunate persons became criminals, they ought to be the objects of the compassion of that House instead of reckless indifference. Much had been said, in regard to the improvements which had been made in the law. He felt this benefit existed in theory, not in practice. It was true there had been a diminution of the evil in respect to capital punishments; that was a great improvement on the old law, but with reference to the punishment of minor offences, we were mere savages. As far as his own experience went, he might state, that the first inquest he held in his capacity as coroner, was in the Coldbath-fields prison, He held an inquest on the body of a black man, a native of a tropical climate, who had been found in the streets in a state of destitution. He was taken up by a policeconstable,—he was ultimately sentenced to three months' imprisonment with hard labour. And why? Because he was destitute. This man was placed upon the treadmill on the 2nd of January, but in less than three months he was dead. Now, having heard the evidence, he had no hesitation, as a medical man, in saying, that the sentence which was passed upon this unhappy being, was virtually and practically a sentence of death; there could not exist in the mind of an experienced medical man a doubt on the subject. This unfortunate man, a native of a tropical climate, was placed on the treadmill. Where was that treadmill placed? Was it in a warm room? No such thing; it was exposed to the open air in the severest weather, and after the man was exhausted on the mill, he had to sit on a bench exposed to the wintry blast. His glands were affected, and his lungs were diseased. In short, he died under circumstances similar to those under which animals die in this country when imported from tropical climates. One would have supposed that the visiting magistrates would have said, "You shall not be ex- 1304 posed to this: we do not think your crime is adequate, or in proportion to your punishment." He would not ask how it was that the medical practitioner did not inquire into the case. Another case had occurred which had come under his notice in the same gaol. A man was convicted of stealing four and a-half pounds of bacon in an open shop and in the open day. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment with hard labour, and this was not all; for six weeks of that time were to be passed in solitary confinement. Now look to the inequality of the punishments inflicted! They must not come to the conclusion that the criminal law in its present state was satisfactory, because the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had made some valuable alterations in our code. At the Old Bailey sessions before Christmas, a man was transported for life for stealing a penny from a letter, whilst another man for stealing 2s. 6d. from a letter, was sentenced to seven years' transportation. A man had been convicted for manslaughter at Chelsea. The man pulled a woman, with whom he cohabited, out of bed; he kicked her violently; he placed his knees on her stomach, and swore that if she was pregnant by him, he would kick the child out of her. He was found guilty at the bar of manslaughter, and at the same sessions, whilst one man was transported for life for stealing a penny from a letter, this man was sentenced only to twelve months' imprisonment, with hard labour, in the House of Correction. Such a system as this could not be defended. It could not obtain the respect, or the confidence, or the attention of the public. He hoped the House would set about the work of reform in this matter. The right hon. Baronet had addressed the House in a tone which all persons must admire who felt the force and magnitude of the subject. He hoped the Government would not allow the matter to rest after that night's discussion. The right hon. Baronet had a majority which he could command, and he could prevent the inquiry being made; but he should be delighted if the right hon. Baronet would consent. to that part of the motion having reference to the committee to report to the House as to the changes which were necessary for the amendment of the law. He did not believe that a select committee would work well with reference to investigation; 1305 but it appeared to him that the facts in their possession were enough to enable them to legislate on the subject, and that if that House were disposed to make those alterations which the case demanded, they would require no other materials to work upon. They should relieve prisoners from the discretion and cruel conduct of those who were now their governors.
§ Sir C. Douglas
was not going to make a long speech upon the subject. Notwithstanding what had been said of the impropriety of appointing clergymen as magistrates, he fully concurred in such appointments, and he believed that if clergymen were not appointed in many districts, no other person would be found to perform the duties of a magistrate. He (Sir C. Douglas) knew that one clergyman who had been alluded to had filled that office for thirty-five years, and that no person had ever filled it better; and when the hon. Gentleman said, he wished he could call such persons to the bar of the House, he not only wished it also, but was sorry it should not be done, because it would afford an opportunity of proving to the House with what zeal, ability, and charity that gentleman had fulfilled his duties. He had received a letter from this gentleman, in which he stated that he had no recollection of the case that had been spoken of, but that it was a general principle with him to have recourse to severity only in extreme and aggravated cases, in which he never hesitated to put the law in force; and that in cases of summary conviction he was of opinion the proper course was always to inflict the full penalty, having found that the mitigation of the penalty greatly increased the repetition of the offence. He only rose to communicate this statement to the House, and would not therefore trespass longer on their attention.
§ Mr. Hawes
was anxious to offer a few observations to the House, because he felt himself under the necessity of opposing the motion of his hon. Friend. He quite agreed with all the right hon. Gentleman bad said, both as to the manner in which the motion had been brought forward, and as to the motives by which his hon. Friend (Mr. T. Duncombe) had been actuated. He thought, there was nothing so likely to promote good prison discipline as the occasional attention of the House to the subject. At the same time, when he found that his hon. Friend had founded his 1306 motion entirely on the reports of the prison inspectors, that his proposition in point of fact was founded upon facts exposed by the inspectors appointed by Government to inquire into the condition of prisons, be could not but think, that these inspectors afforded the House far better information for the improvement of their legislation on the subject than could be obtained by any other means, and consequently that a commission of inquiry was unnecessary, and could lead to no good result. His hon. Friend had gone over a great deal of ground, in which he should not follow him, for he believed that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite had satisfied a great portion of the House, and he was rejoiced to find, that the subject had received so much of his attention. Perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman would permit him to allude to a visit he had paid him at the end of last Session. In the course of last year, the report of the prison inspectors was laid on the Table of the House, and he thought, that it deserved the attention of the Secretary of State; but the right hon. Gentleman having then recently entered upon his office, he thought it right to wait upon the right hon. Gentleman, and to point out to him those parts of it which he deemed to be most deserving of his attention. The right hon. Gentleman gave him every possible attention, and the suggestions that he then made were acted upon, he (Mr. Hawes) hoped he might say with some advantage. He mentioned this, because it was not in anticipation of this motion that he had waited on the right hon. Gentleman. He was extremely glad to find, that the right hon. Gentleman meant to adhere to the general system laid down in prior acts of Parliament, many of which were introduced by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), to whom, he repeated, they were greatly indebted for his services, as well as to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham). He rejoiced also to hear what had been said with reference to separate and solitary confinement, and he wished to draw the attention of the House to the distinction between these punishments. In America, there existed the most well-founded objections against strict solitary confinement, and disease, loss of mental faculties, and loss of health, having there resulted from it, the system had been given up, and a wiser and more humane system substituted for it. He had read the last report of the inspectors, and he assured the House that, having 1307 often expressed an opinion on the subject, he did not find, that the health of the prisoners was at all injured by the separate system, nor anything that tended in any way to alter or change his opinion of it. He was, therefore, glad to find, that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to carry on the experiment on the system commenced in the model prison in this country. He would here remark, that the greatly-improved state of prison discipline was, doubtless, to be attributed to greater attention on the part of the magistrates; and He would say, further, that, in the greater number of our gaols, no great abuse could exist without remedy, if brought before the notice of the magistrates. If it did, what would be the consequence? The inspectors of prisons, who visited them for the express purpose of examining into abuses, would bring it before the notice of the Secretary of State. If the Secretary of State did not rectify it, some Member of Parliament would bring it before the House, and the eyes of every individual in the country would be directed to it. That was never the case before the appointment of inspectors. But his hon. Friends, the Members for Finsbury seemed to regret the want of uniformity of system. He remembered the previous debates on the subject, though he did not remember what part his hon. Friends had taken; but it being proposed to give the Secretary of State some stringent power to frame rules for the regulation of prisons, the House was strongly opposed to granting such power, although without they could not expect uniformity of system. It was hard, therefore, to turn round, and, for want of a power, they had refused, condemn a system which, after all, was the best that had ever existed in this or in any other country. His hon. Friends had complained also of want of uniformity of punishment. No doubt, there was a want of uniformity of punishment, but the remedy was obvious, though he did not say, that it was easy to be carried into practice. The right hon. Gentleman said truly, that any sudden alteration of prison discipline would involve the country in considerable expense, while they were now, more or less, making considerable and effectual progress in the improvement of the law. With regard to one point, he wished to touch as lightly as possible on an extremely deli- 1308 cate subject. He alluded to the cases of disease in the Penitentiary, mentioned in the 6th Report of the Inspectors of Prisons, which had occasioned considerable uneasiness to Government and the inspectors. He must say, that he wished that penitentiaries were under the direction of the Government, or at least of a committee of the Privy Council. He thought it most desirable, if the Secretary of State had not that perfect control which was necessary, that he should be invested with more, because if the Secretary of State had had sufficient power, and his attention had been called to the subject, some of those lamentable cases would not have occurred. The fact, that these institutions were more or less in the hands of private individuals was some explanation of the causes of the disease that had occurred. However, he felt that the right hon. Gentleman had almost exhausted the subject, yet he felt anxious to show there was good ground for supposing the object of the motion would be better accomplished by the annual reports of the inspectors, which would form the best possible basis for legislation, than by the resolutions of a committee. He did not know what system of discipline his hon. Friend meant to support. Did his hon. Friend wish to go back to the old system? He believed not, yet his hon. Friend objected to the silent system, and did not like the solitary system. The separate system was practised in the gaols at Bristol and Glasgow, and he had received a letter from the governor of the Bristol gaol, stating, that the separate system was enforced there with considerable rigour, persons being confined for periods of two or three years, yet that the prisoners were in perfect health, and that he knew of no disease resulting from their confinement, nor of any diminution in the strength of mind or body; but he further stated, that the system was attended with the greatest alteration in the manners of the prisoners, by cutting them off from communication with each other, and that it had at least this certain recommendation that if it did not make them better, it could not possibly make them worse. He would say no more, than that he believed the right hon. Gentleman's speech would give great satisfaction to the country, as it evinced that the right hon. Gentleman was determined to carry the system impartially into effect.
Viscount Mahon entirely concurred in
the concluding observation of the hon. Member respecting the speech of his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham). He thought with the hon. Gentleman, that sufficient grounds had been shown for refusing the motion. He thought also with the hon. Member that the reports of the prison inspectors evinced that we were making progressive and gradual improvements in prison discipline; but at the same time he wished to state his opinion that whatever improvement might be intended, whatever advantageous change might take place, it would be but an alleviation of a bad system if applied to terms of years. He did not deny that for shorter periods, the system as it had already received very great amelioration, might yet admit of more, and might become perfectly effectual and satisfactory. But having paid great attention to all the reports of the prison inspectors, he was led to the conclusion that to whatever quarter they turned, whatever system they preferred, they would still find it lamentably deficient for terms of years; and that as applied to long protracted imprisonment, they could adopt no system such as the country at large would approve. First, he would take into consideration the system in which communication was allowed. According to the gaol returns presented in 1841, the greatest evils resulted from the communications often unavoidable between the prisoners. Thus, for example the chaplain of Bedford county gaol reported that three prisoners were brought in together in March last year,
So ignorant that they could not tell me even the Saviour's name!
It was no less the chaplain's desire than his duty to supply these wretched beings with means of religious instruction, but the effects of corrupt association in the prison presented most formidable obstacles; only the month before,
The gaoler discovered that two prisoners were actually swearing, and otherwise grossly misbehaving on purpose to hinder and annoy another prisoner who was reading.
In Reading gaol the visiting justices' report most strongly the evils of association and contamination among the prisoners; books of religious instruction had been converted into cards by them to gamble with, and they added,
It is impossible for a man to spend ever
so short a time in such society without becoming an accomplished rogue.
There is also a long and very interesting report from the chaplain of the House of Correction at Preston.
If there is one point more than another, (says he), which I would press upon the attention of the Legislature, it is the condition of a child of fourteen, or even ten years old, turned into a yard or day-room which is tenanted by forty or fifty criminals. Once here the terrors of a prison soon vanish before the levity and merriment of his new companions; he finds that the great objects of admiration and envy are the plunderers who can relate the most attractive histories of daring and successful robbery. Excited by these tales, he soon becomes ambitious of imitating the heroes of them, and is readily instructed by some adept in the craft.
Such were the effects of the one system. There were also great evils resulting from the other, or the separate system, which he knew no way to avert. As a specimen of these evils he would select a case, which had been communicated to him by his noble relative, the Member for the county of Monmouth, (Lord G. Somerset) of whom it was not too much to say, that his administration of justice as chairman of the Quarter-sessions had gained for him from all quarters respect and approbation; the case to which he referred, had occurred in Monmouth gaol. John Taylor had been sentenced to a week's solitary confinement, but after the very first night he was found dead in his cell. A coroner's inquest sat, evidence was entered into, and the surgeon deposed that it was clear suicide had not been committed. Another witness, William Williams, who was cook to the prison, deposed, that the wretched man had overnight urgently requested an extra allowance of gruel which was refused him, and that he had expressed a dread of ghosts appearing to him in his solitary confinement. Such were the cases which had occurred of men paying the penalty of their lives under the infliction of solitary confinement. The fears of persons so confined might be ridiculed; but it was the results, not the reasonableness, of such fears that he asked the House to consider, and to ask themselves how such fears could be prevented or rendered less fatal in the case of uneducated men. Looking further to the report of the inspectors as to the bride-well of Bristol, it appeared that during the last year a woman sentenced to soli-
tary confinement had earnestly begged not to be shut up alone, but her entreaties could not be complied with, and she had then on two separate occasions attempted suicide, and such was the strong compassion entertained upon the case by the magistrates, that they had paid her expenses back to her residence. In the Stafford county gaol, the surgeon states that within the last eight or ten years, there had been about six cases in which death had been induced apparently from the length of solitary confinement. Then, as to Millbank Penitentiary, it was well known that several persons lost their reason, some their lives, in consequence of confinement in solitary cells. Upon what system, then, he asked, were they to rely for a reformation of the evils attendant upon the present practice of confinement for crime? If communication between the prisoners were permitted, contamination and increased depravity was the consequence; if, on the other hand, solitary confinement were resorted to, he must assert, and his right hon. Friends would not contradict him, that the loss of reason and of life often followed. If the lives of criminals were to be sacrificed, let them be condemned to that punishment; let it be done openly and in the face of day; let us retrace our humane advances towards the mitigation of the penal Code, but do not do that in the solitary cell which you shrink from doing on the public scaffold; but do not inflict the penalty of death under the milder name of imprisonment. What, then, was the House to do in this case? For shorter periods, as he could easily conceive, some of the evils he had alluded to might be obviated, but when it came to terms of years, he was persuaded that no endeavours would be successful to make imprisonment an effective substitute for transportation. The strongest part of the case, however, yet remained behind—namely, the condition of prisoners after their discharge—of men who, with blasted characters, were unable to obtain employment. The evidence upon this point was very strong. Let the House weigh well the expressions of the learned Recorder of Exeter, in his address to the grand jury at the sessions ending January, 1841. He adverted to his own painful feelings when required to pass sentence on young offenders for a first offence, and having previously borne an honest character.
I often see," [he says] "such persons exhibit proofs of deep and bitter repentance—of repentance in such a form as I am convinced is not assumed, but is felt deeply and sincerely; and in such cases I endeavour to point out to them the advantage of good character, but my heart sinks within me when I reflect what such unfortunate persons have to encounter when they seek to carry out their good resolutions by their own exertions, without a home or a place of shelter, forsaken by their friends and sneered at by their old acquaintance, until at length, under the influence of despair and the pressure of want, some greater crime is committed.
Were not such words from such an authority entitled to great attention? He could cite another important evidence on this point in a letter dated May 26, 1841, and published in the daily papers from the Rev. Mr. Nihil, the chaplain and governor of Millbank Penitentiary, who in the most pathetic terms lamented the impossibility of finding employment for prisoners when they were discharged. The rev. gentleman's words, in speaking of this difficulty, were—
Prisoners sometimes express reluctance to leave the Penitentiary, not knowing whither to go. Young girls have besought me to save them from returning to a brutal father, who had forced them into crime; others are claimed by abandoned mothers, whose sole object is to bring them up in vagrancy and vice; others, after being received with apparent kindness by relatives, have been turned adrift by those very relatives as soon as they had spent the prisoner's little pittance in intoxication.
Could anything be more gloomy than this picture? He believed that many a person who was discharged from prison after undergoing his sentence was sincerely desirous of shunning the path of crime, but was unable to find employment in consequence of his lost character and his previous career. He believed there were many cases in which such persons had felt an earnest desire to return to a course of honest industry, but in the midst of their endeavours while struggling to regain the right road, there arose dismal phantoms to discourage and dismay them—
—malesuada Fames et turpis Egestas
Terribiles visu formæ.
§ Thus they were scared from the paths of virtue they might otherwise pursue, and the good seed which during punishment the chaplain of the gaol might have implanted in their minds was thus prevented from taking permanent root. Nor 1313 could it be expected that persons should take into their service those whose character was blighted by former convictions, in preference to such as were perfectly free from suspicion. Now, considering the prodigious competition for employment, it was not to be supposed that those who came out of gaols should be able to procure honest work even when desirous of it. The only way to obviate these evils was resorting to the old English plan of transportation, but freed from its previous abuses; thus allowing the criminals discharged to enter an entirely new state of society, and to find a comparatively easy road to the recovery of their lost good name. This was an object for which our Australian colonies furnished valuable facilities. Of this he was satisfied, that no system of imprisonment could possibly be devised, calculated perfectly to answer as a substitute for transportation; and he hoped that this opinion would gain ground and become universal. He had seen some suggestions for the employment of criminals in another hemisphere which had been drawn up by his noble Friend, the Secretary for the colonies, whilst he was seated on the opposite side of the House, and which, although he did not feel at liberty to say what that plan was, or in what direction it tended, was to him perfectly satisfactory. Having been favoured with a view of these suggestions, he could not but express a hope that they would receive official consideration and be carried into practical effect. He must, in the meantime, assert, that transportation did afford an outlet for the criminal population of Great Britain, which it would be beneficial to all parties concerned to bring into operation, beneficial to the public at home, beneficial to the criminals, and beneficial to the colonies, which would thereby receive an accession of what was now so much wished and wanted, namely, labour. In the present state of the question, however, he was perfectly satisfied with what had fallen from his right hon. Friend on the subject, and if the motion were pressed to a division, he should vote with his right hon. Friend.
was rather surprised, after the speech which the noble Lord had delivered, to hear him say that he should vote with the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, in case the question came to a division. He (Mr. O'Connell) regretted that the motion had 1314 been made by the hon. Member for Finsbury, because if he had been aware of the extent to which the arguments had gone, he would have prepared himself to have entered fully upon the subject, whereas he had made an appointment for the following day, in order to obtain some information that he required. Before, however, he went into such parts of the subject before the House as he was prepared to deal with, he must protest against what had fallen from the hon. Member for Finsbury on the subject of the reform which had taken place of late years in the criminal law, changes which he was disposed to regard as one of the evidences of the humane spirit which animated the Legislature of the day; there were not so many persons now hanged at the debtors' door at New-gate, during the whole year, that there used to be formerly at the end of every sessions held at the Old Bailey, and the consequence was that the crimes of violence had since very considerably diminished. In Belgium, where the punishment of death was totally abolished, the effect had been the same; and in order to show the discrepancy which now existed between the punishments inflicted in this country, he need only turn to the newspaper of the day to furnish a sufficient sample; for he found in the same journal a case recorded, where a man had by a blow caused the death of a woman, for which he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment; and in the same column was another case, where a man had stolen a lady's reticule, for which he had been sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment. But what he had principally to call the attention of the House to on the present occasion was, the complaints of the Roman Catholic clergymen with respect to prison regulations. The right hon. Baronet had read the act of Parliament on this subject, and had expressed his readiness to work out the provisions of the law; but he seemed to think this was sufficiently done by a sort of evasion on the part of the magistrates, who professed to keep improper persons out of the gaols. Such, however, was riot the right construction of the law. The Roman Catholic clergy could not be called in to perform his religious practices within the walls of a criminal gaol but by the special request of the prisoners, who were so much in the power of the gaolers and magistrates that they dared not make this special request. What was wanted by 1315 him was to give power to the Roman Catholic clergy to enter the prisons where there were criminals of their own faith, who were quite as much in want of spiritual instruction as those who made the special request required by the law; indeed, there was no class of persons who required religious instruction so much as those who were indisposed to make a special demand for the offices of the Roman Catholic clergy. He would not dwell upon the point at that moment, for he intended to bring the subject before the House in the form of a distinct motion; he would content himself in the meantime with pointing to some facts which would show that he had not exaggerated the circumstances of which he had complained. In the county of Middlesex there had been formed a society of Roman Catholic ladies for the purpose of visiting the prisons, and this most praiseworthy society having been brought before the notice of the bench of magistrates, had, on three separate occasions, been refused permission to enter the gaols. Had a parallel case happened in Ireland, had a society of Protestant ladies been formed to visit the prisoners there—the majority of them being Roman Catholics—and had they been refused access to their co-religionists, no language would have been strong enough to have been used by some persons of that persuasion. But he would use no such terms. All he wished to do was to show how necessary it was that the Roman Catholic clergy should have free access to the prisons. There was no person who was empowered to officiate in this capacity who was not qualified by education for the office of a priest, and who was not certified to be so by the Roman Catholic bishop of the district. This precaution, therefore, operated as a guard against improper persons gaining admission to the prisoners on the plea of affording them religious instruction, and the case was daily growing more important in the opinion of the educated classes, inasmuch as the Roman Catholic faith was spreading amongst those classes in England, and by consequence was also obtaining in the lower ranks of life. In some prisons the Roman Catholic criminals complained that they were compelled to attend Protestant worship. In Salford gaol this was the case, and he must say that the chaplain had, in this instance, shown much more zeal than discretion in preaching sermons to the prisoners which turned wholly on contro- 1316 versial points. He felt it conscientiously to be his duty not to permit this matter to rest without attempting, in a tone and manner becoming the gravity of the subject, to direct the attention of the Legislature to the subject until these abuses were remedied.
Lord J. Russell
said, that in the course of the present discussion many observations had been made, having no immediate reference to the motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. With respect to that portion of the evils in our criminal system of jurisprudence which might be traced to the state of the law itself, he begged to say that he thought it was a topic with which they had then nothing to do, nor were they on that occasion called upon to examine the observations made upon those topics. There were other observations made upon other transactions, with which also he thought that House had then nothing to do. For his part, however, he was ready to discuss any of them whenever a proper occasion offered, but he must say that he thought it highly inexpedient to mix up such subjects with the question whether it was fitting or not that they should appoint a committee to inquire into and report upon the present system of prison discipline. The sole question before the House was, whether or not they ought to appoint a committee in compliance with the motion of his hon. Friend. He requested the House to recollect that it was not for a moment pretended by any one that we had, in this country, reached the highest point of perfection in our system of prison discipline—it was not pretended that there were no defects or abuses; on the contrary, it was most truly stated that we were going on from year to year making progress—effecting gradual improvements, and he was by no means prepared to say that that progress could be advantageously accelerated by adopting the motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. It was well known to all persons who paid any attention to the subject of prison discipline, that if any abuse took place the matter was immediately reported to the Secretary of State, and the report was usually laid upon the Table of that House. It was well known that to those matters every publicity was given. As to particular instances, it was only necessary that inquiry should be made of the secretary of State respecting them, and, that inquiry being made in the House, it was usual for the Secretary of State to say, 1317 whether he had any remedy to propose, or any explanation to give. It must be in the recollection of hon. Members, that Ministers of the Crown were, generally speaking, very ready to supply reasonable information upon subjects of this nature, to correct abuses, and to lay before the House such explanations as magistrates might furnish. If it were really true that such a state of the law existed as proved the present system to be defective, then he should say there would be no difficulty in making out a sufficient case to induce the House to consent to the introduction of a bill to amend such defects, but he confessed that at present he did not anticipate any advantage from a general inquiry. The House, of course, had not overlooked the fact that the Colleague of the hon. Mover had given up half the case when he said that no inquiry into facts was needed. He said he did not want an inquiry, but would be content with the report of a committee on the subject. Now he, for one, was perfectly satisfied—for the present, at least—with seeing that the attention of the House had been called to the subject, and the vigilance of the Secretary of State awakened. There had been a case referred to by an hon. and learned Member near him, respecting which it did not appear that the right bon. Gentleman opposite possessed sufficient information. It would certainly seem that he had not been informed as to the practice in prisons regarding Roman Catholics. As to that point, he certainly did think that the law was defective, and he thought that the defects of the law in that respect might have been remedied if the clause proposed by Mr. Langdale had been agreed to. He regretted that that clause had been lost; at the same time he thought Roman Catholic priests should not be permitted to go into prisons to visit the prisoners subject to no regulations. [Mr. O'Connell: To visit the Catholic prisoners.] He must repeat that he did not assent to that proposition, for they could hardly allow a general rule of that kind to prevail, without granting a similar permission to the ministers of all religious denominations. To him it did not appear expedient that any such unlimited permission should be granted—he thought that it would be improper and indiscreet to open the prisons of the United Kingdom to the various controversies to which fanaticism had given rise. But, entertaining those views, he was the furthest in the world from attempting to say that Roman Ca- 1318 tholic priests should be denied access to those prisoners who wished to be visited by them, In Middlesex, an arrangement of that kind was peculiarly required, for the number of Roman Catholics who came to London in search of employment was considerable.. A large proportion of the prisoners in the gaols of Middlesex were Roman Catholics; he, therefore, thought that the decision of the county magistrates was not justified by the state of the county, and he saw no reason why the requests of the Roman Catholic bodies should not have been complied with, or why there should not be a chaplain for the instruction of Roman Catholic prisoners. As to the motion of his hon. Friend, the Member for Finsbury, it appeared to him that no practical advantage would arise from the adoption of it, for all improvement had much better be made under the direction of the executive Government, and he felt assured that when a case came under the consideration of an hon. Member, and that he brought it forward in the House, the advisers of the Crown would examine into it, and apply the remedy which the circumstances of the case required. Holding these opinions, then, he felt that he could not do otherwise than vote against the motion of his hon. Friend.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
rose for the purpose of offering some explanation with regard to the House of Correction at Cambridge, to which allusion had been made. The alleged imperfections in the management of that establishment were, in some degree, if not wholly, to be imputed to the effects of the suit, which for some years had been pending, with respect to the Spinning-house, between the University and the trustees of the charity. So far from there being any indisposition on the part of the University or of the town to effect the desired improvements, he was enabled to state that the Vice-Chancellor had been in communication on the subject with the solicitor of the trustees, the object of the University being to effect a complete and substantial improvement in the system pursued at the House of Correction. The right hon. Gentleman then referred, as we understood, to the sixth report of the inspectors of prisons, to show that, pending the suit, no scheme could be devised for the purpose of effecting a complete reformation in the system pursued in the Spinning-house, at the same time that arrangements had 1319 been made to secure the regular performance of divine service on Sundays, as well as to promote the due classification of the prisoners. He further observed, that there was considerable intricacy in the case, but that the University had done all that they possibly could do for the purpose of accomplishing a reform in that prison. It had been also said that Barnewell was a populous parish, and had of late years quite outgrown the means of religious instruction; that it contained a great many lodging-houses where persons of bad character congregated, some of whom were in the habit of driving about dog-carts, professing to distribute religious tracts, and that those tracts supplied the only religious instruction with which the people were furnished. Now, so far from that being a correct representation of the facts, he was enabled to state that one of the fellows of Trinity college had himself acquired the site of a church in Barnewell, capable of containing upwards of 1,000 individuals, and that he had undertaken to perform all the duties of a parish minister.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, that as the Salford prison had been alluded to, he wished to offer a few words in explanation. The cases alluded to by the hon. Member for Finsbury had occurred some time ago. He was ready to admit that great abuses had existed in that prison, but the practice of flogging, he understood, had been discontinued, and the discipline improved. The governor, and several other officers had been removed. The Roman Catholic clergymen had complained to him (Mr. Brotherton) that they had not that access to prisoners of their persuasion which was necessary, and, it being a fact that the majority of the prisoners were Roman Catholics, it was desirable that the clergy should have the means of communicating with them without being specially sent for. The increase in the number of persons committed for trial might be attributed to various causes—as the want of employment, the vigilance of the police, and the interest the magistrates' clerks had in sending trifling cases to the quarter sessions. The expense of prosecutions was borne by the county, and this fact, he felt satisfied, led many magistrates to commit offenders whose cases ought to have been summarily disposed of.
§ Mr. S. Harford
was glad that the attention of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had been di- 1320 rected to the subject, for in the county which the noble Lord represented the state of the prisons demanded extensive and effectual improvement. He had been sheriff of that county two years ago, and he then thought it his duty to call the attention of the magistrates of the county to the state in which he found the prisons. In some cases he found four men sleeping in one bed, the prison crowded in every portion, and not appearing to be capable of extension in such a way as to afford the accommodation really required. Moreover, the drainage of the prison was of the worst description, and its condition was in all respects greatly to be censured. He hoped, therefore, that attention would be directed to it without delay.
§ Lord G. Somerset
stated, that the attention of the local authorities had been directed to the subject, and that it was proposed to incur an expenditure of from 16,000l. to 20,000l. for the improvement of the prison. Inquiries were at present going forward for the purpose of ascertaining in what manner that object could best be effected. For the information of his hon. Friend opposite, he begged to state that a new gaoler had been appointed, and that decided improvements might forthwith be expected.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
hoped, that if he consented to allow this motion to be negatived without putting the House to the trouble of a division, it would not, from that circumstance be inferred, that he in any respect approved of the existing system. The complaint he made against the present system was, that there was no uniformity in it; the whole matter was left to the discretion of the visiting magistrates, subject, of course, to the approbation of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He should like to see the whole system with regard to discipline, diet, and labour, placed on one and the same basis throughout the country, and he believed that a committee would be able to make suggestions upon which an act of Parliament might be framed for regulating all prisons, and making the system uniform. He feared that it would be useless to press his motion to a division; but he felt confident that this discussion would do a great deal of good. He was sorry that he had done any injustice to Cambridge; it was perfectly true that divine service was performed there on the Sabbath-day since the year 1836; 1321 but, notwithstanding that, the Gaol Act was still contravened, because it directed that prayers should be read every day, which was not done. With regard to the case of Barnewell, he believed it remained in much the same state as it was reported to be in by the inspectors, with the only exception that service was performed there on the Sabbath. It was true that a letter had been received stating that certain improvements had been made, but it was not known what they were. His hon. Friend had accused him of not doing justice to the criminal code, on the ground of the great mitigations which were made in punishments; but he was ready to admit, that there were great mitigations. Yet he must warn the House and her Majesty's Government, that by the present system of prison discipline, they were substituting the dungeon for the scaffold, and that great numbers of persons who went into prison in good health, and in possession of their mental faculties, come out crippled, emaciated skeletons, and seriously injured both in body and mind. A nice distinction must be made between the silent and the solitary system. The right hon. Gentleman accused him of confounding the two; the fact was, that the separate system was the solitary system, though hon. Gentlemen might call it the separate system, if they liked. There were two systems; there was the solitary confinement in the dark cell upon bread and water, and solitary confinement in a well-aired and lighted cell. He should not withdraw his motion, but leave the House to deal with it as they thought fit.
§ Motion negatived.