HC Deb 10 February 1848 vol 96 cc368-84

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to repeal so much of the Act of 2nd and 3rd Victoria, c. 56, as gave power to magistrates, under the sanction and approval of the Home Secretary, to inflict separate imprisonment in gaols upon persons committed for trial—a power and a practice inconsistent with every principle of general justice, and with the whole spirit of the criminal jurisprudence of England. It would be urged, no doubt, that this power was highly important as affording the means of preventing contamination, and that it was very convenient with a view to uniformity of gaol discipline. Both these propositions he wished to meet openly and in front. And on these two principles he would rest the whole of his argument; neither of which, he ventured to believe, could be impugned. First, we had no right, upon the pretext or for the sake of any supposed benefit whatsoever, to impose, without their consent, the highly penal condition of separate confinement upon those whom the law held free from all crime or blame until duly and lawfully convicted of the same; and, secondly, any uniformity of discipline in the treatment of criminals and of those whom the law held to be innocent, was of itself at variance with all principles of good discipline, and had a direct tendency to break down that barrier which should be ever and above all respected—the barrier that separated in public opinion, and ought to separate in treatment, the guilty from those whom we were only justified in holding in detention, and whom, until found guilty in due course of law, the spirit of our common law and the rules of natural justice accounted innocent. By the Act in question power was given to magistrates at quarter-sessions to draw up a code of regulations for the government of their gaols, to be submitted to the Home Secretary; which regulations, after having received his approval, acquired the force of law, and were carried into effect accordingly. In all prisons constructed within the last few years with a view to give effect to the separate system (not including Pentonville, of course, because it was appropriated only to the reception of convicts), the separate system was applied equally to the convicted and the untried. Now, in his (Lord Nugent's) opinion, this experiment of reformatory discipline (for an experiment only it still was, and requiring the most constant and cautious attention in its application in order to prevent abuse, and, even without abuse, irremediable mischief), gave promise of the establishment of a good and whole some system, as applicable to convicted persons; but let the House mark what power the regulations of these gaols gave to the magistrates. These regulations peremptorily separated both the convict and the untried prisoner from all society with a fellow-prisoner. All prisoners were peremptorily excluded from holding communication with any friend or relation outside the gaol except under a severe supervision which he would presently decribe, or by letter, which letter must come open, or might be opened by the gaoler. Was this tolerable, as applied to unconvicted prisoners? Letters from husband, wife, parent, child, brother, friend—letters of the most private character—a letter of affectionate sympathy—written in communion of sorrow and suffering—every stream of social and kindred intercourse stopped back, unless with the permission and the privity of the gaoler, thus made the official confidant even between husband and wife It would by said that this was necessary in order to prevent improper communications with accomplices out of doors; but he would take leave to say that an unconvicted man had no accomplices. You had no right to assume, or act as if you assumed, that he had an accomplice. The whole principle of their common law, as a thousand times over declared by their judges from the bench, and by all their commentators on their common law were against them; and no considerations of convenience or police could justify so grievous a wound on the happiness and the rights of an unconvicted man. This provision, too, was absolutely futile. The untried were allowed to hold confidential communication with their legal advisers, in order to prepare for their defence; and thus an obvious channel was open, through which any communication might take place with persons outside the gaol. So that this appeared to be a tyranny without a purpose, and absolutely inoperative for any useful object, as opposed to those who might wish to baffle it. But suppose that friends or relations outside the gaol should wish to suggest to a prisoner means for conducting his own defence, where no attorney should be employed; and suppose that defence should be founded upon some alleged misconduct or irregularity on the part of the committing magistrate; this letter would be opened by the gaoler, and carried by him to the visiting magistrates, among whom might be the committing justice himself, who would doubtless consider that to be very objectionable and contaminating matter to by allowed to reach the accused. It would be said that this was supposing an extreme and most improbable exercise of the power in question: he trusted and believed it was. But the law of England professed to protect the subject against any supposable injustice. This secret inquest into the means adopted by a prisoner or his friends for his defence was in conflict with the whole spirit of our jurisprudence; and it was the glorious boast of our law—let them not make it a vainglorious one—that it left no wrong without a remedy. Prisoners were permitted to receive visits once or twice a week, but not oftener, unless under special permission from the visiting magistrates; and even then these visits from husband, wife, or dearest friend, must be held in the presence of that eternal confidant, the gaoler, or One of his wardens, and with gratings keeping the prisoner and the visitor some eight or ten feet apart, as in a lazarhouse. Now, besides all the rest that was intolerable in this, it was a penal condition manifestly most unequal in its operation as between the poor man and the rich. He would come to this presently. Meanwhile he would content himself with saying, that, as applied to any prisoner before trial, this was a punishment inflicted upon the untried, which the spirit of our laws did not sanction, nor would public opinion sanction it, if the secrets of the prison-house were known out of doors, as it was the object of his Motion to make them known to the House. But he (Lord Nugent) would now refer to some of the highest and most respected authorities upon the subject of separate confinement; and every one of them would be found to describe and recommend it as being reformatory punishment, but punishment of a very high degree. Take up the first report on Pentonville prison. Sir J. Graham, in his letter, treated this system as "throughout probationary, to prepare criminals for transportation,' and as a measure "for regulating punishment." This discipline, in fact, differed from what was applied to convicts only in this remarkable respect, that convicts were sentenced to hard labour, which could not practically be supplied to the unconvicted; and hard labour was described by all these authorities, not as an additional punishment, but as a relief from the horrors of separate confinement. Colonel Jebb, Surveyor General of Prisons, in his report last year, spoke of the effects of separate imprisonment, but treated it only with reference to punishment; and he said, "Persons under the separate system are induced to work from the very irksomeness of idleness." There were much stronger statements in the evidence of Mr. W. Merry, who was one of the principal authorities concerned in giving effect to the system in the construction of Reading gaol, and who said, in his examination before the Lords' Committee on the execution of criminal law, "I believe there is not a man who would not escape from a separate cell, and go upon the treadmill if he had the opportunity." The chaplain of Aylesbury gaol—a most worthy, and excellent, and attentive officer—had given him (Lord Nugent) the same opinion, that the punishment was thus made much heavier upon the untried than it was upon the convicted, because employment could not be found for the former. The Rev. John Field, nearly twenty years chaplain of Reading gaol—a person of very high authority upon this subject, but who, he must in fairness admit, had, in a correspondence which that gentleman had done him the honour and kindness to hold with him, declared that he differed entirely from him upon the question of the application of this system to untried prisoners—said, in his most valuable book— As a general rule, I assert with confidence, that when secluded, prisoners prefer the hardest and, under other circumstances, the most irksome labour, to idleness which is constrained. Now, to unconvicted prisoners, idleness was constrained; and thus their punishment was rendered more severe and their condition more penal than that of the convicted. Mr. Matthew Davenport Hill, the recorder of Birmingham, gave the same opinion; it would be found in the report to which reference had been already made. He thought the system might heighten the effect of punishment, but that the great use of separate confinement was as one stage of reformatory discipline. But the report abounded with evidence to the same effect. In the second report it was stated that the prisoner, especially during the first few months, was strongly impressed with a due sense of his penal condition; that separate confinement compelled him to reflect, day after day, on the privations he was suffering as the punishment of crime; and this "punishment" was to be inflicted on men who had never been convicted. It went on, speaking of this separate system—" It is sufficiently severe as a legal punishment in itself." In another part of the report it would be found that that enlightened and upright Judge, Mr. Baron Alderson, said— It appears to me that no effectual reform in prison discipline can take place so long as our county gaols remain on their present footing. What is wanted is to hare houses of detention for untried prisoners, and distinct penitentiaries for criminals. Oh, how warmly and deeply did he concur in opinion with that excellent Judge There never could be a proper system of gaol discipline without that; and the two establishments ought not to by under the same roof, nor under the same government. This system of separate detention, he had said, was a punishment much more severe to the poor man than to the rich. Thus—the rich man could have the sympathy and companionship of his friends under the grievous calamity of loss of liberty and suspension of character. But the friends of the poor man could not spare either their time or the expenses of travelling, or of sustenance at a county town. Their time was devoted to labour. The rich man could relieve his mind in solitude by reading and writing, and communing in his own mind with what he had read before. But the health of the poor man—his mind's health—required more than that; he needed communication with his friends, and from that he was entirely debarred, excepting that sort of communion which he had already described. Why did he refer to these authorities? Why, in order to show that the separate system, in the opinion of all who were the most conversant with it, was desirable only and to by recommended as a very severe and formidable reformatory punishment. He might be asked, perhaps, why, if it were reformatory, it should not be applied to those prisoners who had not been convicted as well as to those who had? The answer was plainly this—you had no right to apply a reformatory system to an untried prisoner—you had no right to pronounce him in need of reformation: in so doing you would be acting in a spirit contrary to the whole presumption of the common law, as declared by your judges and your commentators, who laid it down as a fundamental principle of that law that a man should be held to be innocent until he had been convicted of a crime. It was trifling, worse than trifling, to say, the moral probability is, that of persons committed for trial, the majority are guilty. You are not justified by one principle of criminal jurisprudence in act- ing on this presumption. Of the whole mass of the committed, each individual had a right to say to you, "You have no more business with my reformation till I have been found guilty, than you have with the reformation of his worship who committed me. His worship suspected me of crime upon what he judged sufficient evidence, and committed me accordingly for trial; he thereby did his duty; but my answer is ' not guilty:' that is the issue to be tried, and until that is tried, and the verdict pronounced, you have no right to put me under a penal and reformatory system." It was, doubtless, a great grievance, an irremediable one, that, to secure the appearance of the accused to take his trial, you must perforce imprison him, subject him to loss of liberty, suspension of character, deprivation of means of applying his industry to the maintenance and interests of his family. All this is most true, and I know is irremediable. But I do say, inasmuch as this is true and irremediable, and grievous, the more sacred was the principle, that as much freedom should be extended to the untried as was consistent with moral discipline and good order in the gaols. Now there were, no doubt, obvious cases of exception. First, there was the case of very young persons being committed for trial; for obvious reasons they should not be allowed to associate with persons under suspicion of having committed an offence. But the condition of a child was very different from that of an adult. The child had no civil rights whatever, excepting to humane treatment, and to a due attention to his moral and physical requirements. The State was in loco parentis with respect to him, and had imposed upon it the duties of his guardian the same as were imposed upon his parents or other natural guardians. There were other exceptional cases. Persons, for instance, who were committed under a charge of a certain class of offences, which he need not particularise, would be extremely improper persons to be allowed, even under suspicion, to associate with each other. Perhaps, also, persons committed for a second offence ought to form an exception. But these exceptions were easily dealt with. They were cases in which a special report might be made by the committing magistrate to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who should have the power in such cases to authorise the application of the separate sys- tem. There was one observation he would presume to anticipate might be made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department. It was very probable the right hon. Gentleman would say, that the principal part of, if not all, the grievance which he had stated, might be obviated by shortening the time of imprisonment before trial by provisions for multiplying gaol deliveries, and thus shortening the time between commitment and trial. No man could feel more than he did how much was owing to his right hon. Friend for his most praiseworthy exertions in that direction. But he must say, that as in the statement he had made he had not exaggerated or misstated anything—(and he would challenge his right hon. Friend to point out any misstatement)—to talk to him of shortening the duration of a punishment which was in itself a wrong, was an aggravation of that wrong—a wrong in itself. Talk to him of shortening the duration of such an iniquity If it was as he had described it, it ought not to be tolerated for one month, or one week, one day, or one hour. Thanking the House for its kind indulgence while making a statement on a matter which was not in itself at all inviting, he would not abuse its attention by offering one word of comment. It required no comment, it required no declamation, even if he had the faculty of declamation—which he had not. But he would appeal to those Gentlemen whose inclinations were conservative of the ancient landmarks of our institutions, not to allow a principle of our common law coeval almost with the dawn of the constitution itself, and ratified by the dicta of all their judges and writers on their common law from age to age, to be superseded by a newfangled system like this—if that can be called system which is in confusion of all good discipline and distinction between the conditions of proved guilt and presumed innocence. He appealed to those friends of liberal institutions, whose spirits were ready to rise in revolt against the very semblance of oppression, not to tolerate what he had endeavoured to show was a punishment where no law had pronounced censure, pressing in very unequal measure upon rich and poor, and liable to directly interfere with the unquestionable right of every accused man to be left free to consult with advisers on the mode of conducting his own defence, free from all inquisition. He appealed to the House against what, on these grounds, he felt to be a mischievous, an unjust, and a monstrous power; and thus would conclude by submitting the Motion, the terms of which he had already stated to the House.


said, that giving his noble Friend, as he readily did, every credit for the motive which induced him to make the present Motion, he felt it his duty to offer his most decided opposition to it, because he thought the introduction of any such Bill would have a most mischievous effect, by inducing the country to believe that the Government were no longer convinced of the policy, the expediency, and the importance of maintaining that portion of the Act of the 2nd and 3rd Victoria, cap. 56, which his noble Friend proposed to repeal; that portion of the Act being, in his (Sir G. Grey's) opinion, one of the most valuable parts of our present system of prison discipline. He would state to the House what the provisions of that Act were. The Act was passed on the 17th of August, 1839, and was entitled "An Act for the better ordering of Prisons." By the 2nd Clause it was enacted— That the persons authorised by law to make rules and regulations, to be submitted to one of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, for the government of any prison in England or Wales, shall be empowered, if they shall think fit, to make rules for a different classification of prisoners of each sex in such prison, or for the individual separation of all or any of the prisoners confined therein, with due regard to their proper supervision, religious and moral instruction, and employment, and from time to time to alter or add to such rules; and the Secretary of State, if he shall think that the rules so made and submitted to him for a different classification of prisoners of each sex, or for the individual separation of prisoners, are fit to be enforced in that prison, shall subscribe a certificate or declaration that they are proper to be enforced; and the rules so made and certified, but not until they shall have been so certified, shall be enforced. Then, by the 3rd Clause, it was enacted— That, in order to prevent the contamination arising from the association of prisoners in any prison in which rules for the individual separation of prisoners shall be in force, any prisoner may be separately confined during the whole or any part of the period of his or her imprisonment, under the restrictions hereinafter provided. By the 23rd Clause it was expressly stated, that the term "prisoners" should include persons committed to prison for want of bail or sureties, as well as persons charged with or convicted of any offence, or otherwise detained by legal authority. His noble Friend proposed to repeal this power so far as it related to untried prisoners. Now, the fallacy which his noble Friend laboured under was this—he conceived that this system, as applied to untried prisoners, was applied as a penal system. But it was not applied to them as a penal system, but as a most beneficial and highly protective system. His noble Friend said that the power vested in the visiting magistrates, to subject untried prisoners to this system, was a most unjust and monstrous power; and he had defended that proposition upon the maxim that a person committed to prison was in the eye of the law held to be innocent until he was convicted. Now, he (Sir G. Grey) was quite ready to admit the truth of that maxim; and there was an essential difference always made between the treatment of prisoners who had been convicted, and those who had not, and who were awaiting their trial. But surely his noble Friend did not mean to say, because persons who were detained on a charge of having committed an offence were, previously to their trial, held in the eye of the law to be innocent, that, therefore, they were to be treated in all respects as innocent persons? When a man was charged with having committed murder, for instance, was he not arrested, was he not torn from his family, and subjected to a deprivation of his liberty, and required to conform to the rules of the prison to which he was committed? To a certain extent persons charged with the commission of crime were necessarily subject to a penal system. This was the case when prisoners tried and untried were indiscriminately mixed together, without any classification whatever; a system fraught with so many evils that the Legislature had endeavoured to provide a remedy for it by means of classification, and more recently by separate imprisonment. His noble Friend had said, that they had no right to apply a reformatory system to untried prisoners. He must say, that that was the most extraordinary doctrine he had ever heard upon this subject. Persons charged with the commission of crimes were necessarily detained in prison; and his noble Friend maintained that, while so detained, no regard whatever should be paid to their moral state or condition, and that they stood in no need of moral discipline. His noble Friend must have overlooked altogether from what class of persons convicted prisoners came. Did not the convicted pri- soner of to-day belong to the class of untried prisoners of yesterday? If the convicted prisoner required discipline, did not the unconvicted prisoner also? Could the unconvicted of yesterday, but the convicted of to-day, have been so absolutely free from all habits of vice and corruption as not to require to be placed under any reformatory process? The whole object of subjecting untried prisoners to separate imprisonment was for their own good, and to protect them from that contamination which must arise from a want of such separation. The system now objected to was based upon reason and authority. He wished to refer to some documents, a portion of which had been already laid before the House, and which he thought would be satisfactory to hon. Members, and induce them not to consent to the views taken by his noble Friend. The ordinary result of committing a man to prison was that he came out a worse man than when he entered it. This was true not only of men who had been suffering under a sentence for crimes of which they had been convicted, but also of men who belonged to that class of innocent men—not presumedly innocent, but really innocent—as some were who are committed for trial. He need not refer to evidence to prove that prisoners who had been committed and subsequently acquitted came out of prison adepts in crime, although when they went in they were free from all taint. This system, which his noble Friend wished to abolish, was not an experiment lightly to be abandoned. It had been adopted after the most mature consideration, and had been found to operate most beneficially. He would read an extract from the report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Secondary Punishments, which was presented to the House in 1832:— Efforts have of late years been made to remedy these evils by the classification of prisoners, but the result has been far from satisfactory. By the Gaol Act, 4 George IV., cap. 64, no provision is made for dividing prisoners before or after trial into more than two classes. The larger prisons, especially those in and near the metropolis, usually contain several hundred prisoners, whose periods of confinement before trial vary from a few days to several months. It is hardly necessary to remark, that any classification, with the inadequate means provided by the Gaol Act, must be inefficacious—that, in the case of untried, it must associate the most hardened offenders with those who may be guiltless of crime, and that even an innocent man sent for trial can hardly escape contamination. Your Committee are of opinion that none but a moral classification can be effectual, but they fear that the difficulties which stand in the way of such a classification, whether as regarding prisoners before or after trial, are nearly insurmountable. If such be the difficulty of establishing an effective system of classification, your Committee see no alternative but that of the se paration of prisoners, both before and after trial.……They are aware that a proposal to inflict on prisoners before trial any restraint beyond what may be necessary for their safe custody, is likely to shock the opinions of many who may be disposed to consider it in the light of punishment inflicted without proof of delinquency; but your Committee are of opinion that such a separation of prisoners should be regarded rather as a been than a punishment. Not only will the evils already detailed be avoided, but even with reference to the comfort of the prisoners it may, in most cases, be considered an improvement, since to those not hardened in crime the association with the reckless malefactor, and the horrors of such companionship, must prove an infliction tenfold more severe than the partial seclusion to which it is proposed to subject them. All the witnesses examined on the subject agree in this opinion. There was a report of a Select Committee of the House of Lords, of which the Duke of Richmond was chairman, in 1835 or 1836, which expressed similar opinions to those he had just read. He would now call the attention of his noble Friend to an extract of a report made by a gentleman who was very well known to many Gentlemen in that House; he meant the Rev. Mr. Clay, the excellent chaplain to the Preston House of Correction. It was dated October, 1844. After describing the reception of prisoners, he said— A prisoner thus received is generally either committed for trial at the sessions, or under a summary conviction. In the former case he has the option of passing his time with other prisoners similarly circumstanced (that is, in the workroom during hours of labour, and in the yard during meal-time); or of being placed in one of the new cells, and entirely separated from all association. Wherever any sentiment of self-respect remains—wherever sorrow or a sense of disgrace is weighing on the mind, the offer of separation is gladly embraced. On the other hand, the old offender, the thoughtless, the callous, prefer the work-room and the unrestrained conversation, during meal-hours, of the yard. In the report from the same gentleman, in the following year, he said— It was not until 1840 that separate confinement after trial was resorted to, and then under many disadvantages. The many evils of permitting the untried to associate still remained unremedied, and it became evident that, especially with regard to boys, no after discipline could stay the growth of the corruption which they had contracted even in a few days' exposure to that association. The necessity, then, for removing such evils could no longer be resisted. Accordingly, in June, 1844, all boys committed for trial were at once placed beyond the reach of contamination; and in the summer of the present year (1845) adults were, for the first time, similarly treated." He added— Should it be objected, that to separate the untried is to punish them, and that punishment must not be inflicted until guilt is proved; I would reply, that a prisoner committed for trial must by either guilty or innocent—an adept in crime or a novice. If the former, separation is no injustice to him, for he has no right to be placed among those whom he would contaminate; if, on the other hand, the newly committed prisoner should be innocent, or unused to crime, ha has a right to be protected from influences which would inflict upon him a horrible and irreparable injury. But not only in our own country, and from gentlemen who had given their attention to the subject of prison discipline of late years, had this system the sanction of authority, but foreign authorities of the greatest weight were in favour of the system, perhaps more decisively than even in England. M. de Tocqueville, in the Rapport du Projet de Loi sur les Prisons to the Chamber of Deputies, in 1843, said— The writers who have hitherto treated of the subject of prison reform have differed as to the question of the discipline to which convicted prisoners should be subjected; but they have all concurred in the expediency of separating untried prisoners from each other, and of resolutely preventing any communication between them. They have thought that the inconveniences were very few and the advantages great in preventing all communication whatever between such prisoners. He added, in a subsequent passage— To detain an accused person in prison until his innocence is proved is a measure of rigour; but, to compel him, while awaiting his trial, to live in the midst of a society of criminals, is equally impolitic and cruel. M. de Tocqueville proceeded afterwards to show the absolute failure of any classification of untried prisoners to prevent contamination and corruption. Again, the same sentiments had been expressed in Belgium. In 1845 there was presented to the Chamber of Representatives in Belgium an elaborate report upon a prison law for that country, in which the same views and opinions were expressed; and various authorities of weight and experience were quoted in support of the separation of untried prisoners, not as a measure of punishment, but as a benefit to them; the object being to prevent the demoralisation which had been invariably found to result from association in prison. His noble Friend might also be aware that this question was discussed at the Penitentiary Congress held at Frankfort in 1846. On that occasion M. Julius, Inspector-General of Prisons in Prussia, said, in the course of a speech which he then delivered— It is only in our own days that the separation of prisoners from each other has been considered as the basis of every penitentiary system. This separation is of special importance with regard to those who have not yet been convicted. Both in their case and in that of the convicted, the object is that the good shall not be corrupted by the bad, ' and that the bad shall not be made worse. M. le Comte Skarbek, Inspector of Prisons in Poland, expressed similar opinions; as did M. David, of Copenhagen, and M. Ardit, Under Secretary to the Minister of the Interior in France; all of them stating that the separation of untried prisoners was essential to reform in any system of prisons. Mr. Adshead, in a valuable pamphlet on a gaol system in this country, referred to the resolutions agreed to at that Penitentiary Congress, at which he was himself present. The first of these resolutions, and which was unanimously adopted, was— Separate or individual imprisonment ought to be applied to prisoners before trial, so as entirely to prevent all communications between them or with other prisoners, except in those; Cases in which the magistrates, in accordance with the request of the prisoners themselves, think fit to allow them some communication within limits prescribed by law. His noble Friend had adverted to two or three authorities, including Mr. Merry and Mr. Field, the former of whom had written a pamphlet advocating in the strongest manner the separation of untried prisoners, and both of whom were supporters of the; system opposed by his noble Friend. His noble Friend also referred to the opinion of Mr. Baron Alderson as to houses of detention for untried prisoners. He agreed with his noble Friend in thinking it advisable that there should be houses of detention separate from houses of correction; but, unless untried prisoners were kept apart in the houses of detention, the consequences would be as mischievous as the intercourse of prisoners after conviction. In accordance with the suggestion of Mr. Baron Alderson, there had been a house of detention erected for the county of Middlesex, in which provision was made for the separate imprisonment of each prisoner. His noble Friend had complained that these prisoners were unable freely to communicate by letter with their friends out of doors; but the regulations to which he had referred had nothing to do with the separate system of imprisonment, but formed part of the general regulations of the prison. The untried prisoners were allowed I the freest intercourse which the regulations of the prison would permit with their friends and relations and their legal advisers; and there were many other deviations in their case from the strict system applicable in the case of tried prisoners. He would refer his noble Friend to the report of the Inspectors of Prisons, dated 8th August, 1845, in which they described this system as applied to untried prisoners. They stated that— The system of separation between prisoner and prisoner is admirably adapted to the condition and circumstances of the untried, and fully secures the just rights and privileges of that class of prisoners. Their feelings and necessities are consulted; they are provided with a commodious, well-lighted, and well-ventilated cell, fitted with everything necessary to supply their real wants; they are supplied with a sufficiency of good food; they are protected from the sight and hearing of all their fellow-prisoners; they can at any time have the attendance of an officer of the prison or of the governor, chaplain, or surgeon. They can see their friends and legal advisers; they can, without impediment or interruption, calmly deliberate upon their defence, and take all proper means to meet the trial that awaits them. They may send or receive letters; they may read unobjectionable books; they may, if they desire it, by furnished with suitable employment; they have the privilege of attending public worship; can take daily exercise in the open air; may receive food other and beyond the prison diet; they are exempted from perplexing regulations; they are tempted to no violation of prison discipline; they are spared the infliction of prison penalties; there is no one to hurt their person, provoke their temper, or corrupt their morals. They can occupy themselves in useful work, in profitable reading, and in tranquil meditation, uninterrupted, save by the visits of those who come to minister to their physical, moral, or religious wants, or to aid them with comfort or professional advice. Would the relatives or friends of any prisoner, who have a proper regard for his best interests, hesitate to prefer such a mode of confinement to any other that has been practised or devised? Between the advantages of separation, and the degradation and depravity of association, on the one hand, or the restraint, exposure, and severity of the silent system, on the other, we feel convinced that no comparison can be sustained. He begged pardon of the House for detaining them so long with the extracts; which he had read; but he had referred to them mainly for the satisfaction of his noble Friend, in order that he might know that this subject had been very fully considered by men of enlightened views. While he gave his noble Friend credit for his motives in bringing forward this Motion, he hoped that the House would not adopt it, because it would be a retrograde step—one which would be most objection able in principle, and most injurious in its results.


had seconded the Motion of the noble Lord, because it appeared to him that the interests of humanity detained that some attention should be drawn to this subject. He certainly had thought that the noble Lord had made out a primeâ facie necessity for the alteration which he proposed; but he was now bound to say, after the explanations of the right hon. Baronet, that his previous convictions had been much shaken. He would suggest to his noble Friend, therefore, the propriety of withdrawing his measure.


was sorry that the subject of prison discipline had been left in so unsatisfactory a state at the close of last Session. At the beginning of that Session Earl Grey had made a statement which he (Viscount Mahon) much regretted, to the effect that it was in the contemplation of Government to abolish, if possible, the system of transportation. That declaration the Ministers had not been able to carry out. The Government then introduced two Bills, one respecting the treatment of Irish convicts, as well as of those of this country, and another Bill with respect to prison discipline. The period of the Session at which they were introduced was so late, that he suggested the expediency of proceeding with one Bill only, and that the other should be proceeded with in the following Session. His right hon. Friend acceded to that proposition. He now wished to inquire when the House might expect that Bill? He wished, at the same time, to throw out a suggestion to his right hon. Friend, that his Bill would require much deliberate consideration, and it would greatly conduce to good legislation on the subject if the right hon. Baronet took care to introduce his Bill as early as possible.


His noble Friend had rather mistaken the construction of the second Bill, which was dropped last year—the Bill which referred to prison discipline. Its object was to carry into effect a recommendation of the Commission which sat to inquire into the allegations which had been previously made in that House, with regard to the treatment of prisoners at Mil lbank. He admitted that, after a full consideration of the subject, he was not prepared to reintroduce that Bill in the form in which he had presented it to the House last Session. He had already a Bill prepared, which, he apprehended, would carry into effect the object which was aimed at by the Mil lbank Commission as stated in their report. That Bill he intended shortly to lay upon the table of the House. But with regard to the other portion of his noble Friend's question, he was sorry to say that he could not give so explicit an answer. The whole subject of transportation of prisoners was a subject that was surrounded by very great difficulties and embarrassments, and must consequently occupy a great deal of the attention of the House. He might, however, state that he had been anxiously devoting his attention to that subject, and a Bill in reference to it would certainly be introduced in the course of the present Session.


was sorry that his right hon. Friend had so entirely misunderstood him, as he appeared to have done, on the question of solitary confinement. The fault was probably attributable to the inefficient manner in which he had explained the objects of this Bill. The right hon. Baronet seemed to take for granted that it was his (Lord Nugent's) intention to have a restoration of that exceedingly bad and demoralising system of unrestrained intercourse between tried and untried prisoners which had previously existed. Now, he (Lord Nugent) meant no such thing. His object was to give to an untried prisoner the option of associating, for a certain number of hours in the day, with the rest of the untried prisoners. As to communication of that kind, there was undoubtedly a mixture of good and evil; but he wished to preserve the health of the mind as well as of the body of a person who had not been subjected to trial on the charge upon which he had been committed. Notwithstanding the extracts made by his right hon. Friend from the reports of prison inspectors, solitary confinement was clearly a most severe penalty, notwithstanding its highly reformatory tendencies. However, after the suggestion of his hon. Friend (Dr. Bowring), and the earnest request of the right hon. Baronet, he would not place himself in the disagreeable position of obtruding a measure upon the House against its will. He would leave himself entirely in the hands of the House.

Motion negatived.