§ (8.) 407,667l., Government Prisons and Convict Establishments at Home.
§ MR. LUCAS
said, he had been in communcation with the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) on a subject connected with this Vote, and he had to thank the noble Lord for his great attention, courtesy, and frankness. Referring to the form of the Vote, hon. Members would find that there were sixteen Government prisons, of which eight in Great Britain were entered on one page, and eight in Ireland on the other. It was an extraordinary fact that two systems of prison discipline, as respected one very material point, were enforced in those prisons—that the system in the prisons which were included in one-half of the Vote, was different from the system in the prisons which were included in the other half of the Vote. He referred to the provision made for the religious instruction and moral reformation of prisoners, and particularly of Catholic prisoners. In Ireland there was one practice and arrangement, and in England another which was totally different. The House would see that this was a question which was of the greatest importance, in consequence of the change about to be made in the manner of treating criminals. The system of transportation had been abolished, or nearly so. The treatment of prisoners was to be almost entirely at home, and therefore their discipline and management had relation to the system of transportation, as that system was carried out in the Colonies. What had been the system pursued in the Colonies with respect to religious instruction? It had been that of perfect religious equality. No difference whatever had been made in the religious treatment of convicts in consequence of differences of religion. That system originated with the Earl of Derby when Secretary for the Colonies; and, with the permission of the House, he would refer to what that noble Lord said in 1847. [The hon. Gentleman read an extract in which Lord Derby expressed the opinion that it 1564 was a scandal and a shame that we had not appointed ministers of religion to attend to the spiritual wants of criminals, and that it was a matter of satisfaction to him that he had sent out Protestant ministers and Roman Catholic clergy, whose efforts had been attended with beneficial results.] It was while Lord Derby was Colonial Secretary that a commencement was made of sending out both Protestant and Catholic chaplains to Sydney, and Van Diemen's Land. The same arrangement bad continued up to the present time, and been attended with the best possible results. Seeing that the system of transportation was to be stopped, and that the prisoners were going to spend their time at home instead of in a penal settlement abroad, the question he (Mr. Lucas) had to put was, whether a system which had worked so well at the antipodes was to be introduced into the prisons of Great Britain? He said Great Britain, because the system pursued in the Colonies had long been in operation in Ireland. In the Irish Government prisons the arrangement was simply this—that the prisoners were all, on being admitted into the gaols, entered according to the religion they professed, whether Protestant, Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Catholic, as professing that religion whatever it might be. There was a chaplain for each religious denomination who received a salary. In die county gaols, as well as the Government prisons, the same system prevailed. In the Irish prisons the prisoners had all the religious services they required, the weekly services on Sundays and holidays, and every comfort and accommodation which persons in their situation needed. In Ireland so completely was the system of religious equality carried out, that the Catholic chaplain gave his services to the Catholic prisoners, and the Protestant chaplain his to the Protestant prisoners. There was no temptation put in the way to induce Catholic prisoners to practise hypocrisy from the moment of entering the prison. In the English prisons, however, nothing was known in law but a Protestant chaplain. If a prisoner chose to ask for the services of a Catholic chaplain, he could do so, and might receive those services; but the person whom he must try to please, if he wished a character for good conduct, was the Protestant chaplain; and the system worked so that it was, in point of fact an inducement to the Roman Catholic prisoners to act hypocritically in order to obtain the favour of the Protestant chaplain, though at the same time he 1565 did not mean to say the system was intentionally worked so. He had that fact from the very best authority, namely, the evidence of the Rev. Mr. Kingsmill, who for many years had been chaplain of Pentonville prison, and who was examined before a Parliamentary Committee on the 22d of March, 1847. [The hon. Gentleman read an extract from the evidence, stating that there was no difficulty in a Catholic prisoner seeing his friends; that there were seldom in Pentonville prison more than 200 out of 500 who professed, at entrance, to be Catholics; but that many Catholics entered their names as Protestants, lost some feeling should militate against them if it were known that they were Catholics.] It must be obvious that those numbers could not be true as respected the Catholics who entered Pentonville. The Right Rev. Dr. Wilson, Bishop of Hobart Town, whose name was well known as connected with the Colony of Van Diemen's Land, and for the great services he had performed with reference to convicts in that settlement, stated the result of his experience to be, that he had always found, with respect to the numbers who attended Catholic services, that every ship from England carried from 15 to 20 per cent of Catholics, and every ship from Ireland not more than 10 per cent of Protestants. Dr. Wilson had been visiting several prisons in this country, and he found that at Portland only-forty were visited by a Catholic clergyman, who was permitted to visit once a fortnight, receiving 10s. for doing so, and was required to give his receipt. At Parkhurst the visit must be paid from one to three o'clock, so that Catholic prisoners had not the usual service on Sunday. The number attended was stated as being only twenty, and as sometimes having been only one or two; and the gentleman who attended never received one farthing for his attendance. The House would see that there was an immense difference between the apparent percentage of Roman Catholics in the gaols here, and the real percentage in Van Diemen's Land, where equality prevailed, and where there were no motives for hypocrisy. Great sums were devoted to the reformation of criminals; but the worst basis for their reformation was hypocrisy practised even from the moment of entering the prison. There could be no desire in any part of that House—there could be motive—for continuing a system which was at variance with their practice in Ireland and the Colonies, and which was 1566 maintained here only because attention had not been sufficiently directed to the subject. There was, he believed, no difficulty in preventing the correction of the abuse complained of. Though the vote referred only to Government prisons, yet he might be permitted to remark that the same abuse and grievance extended to all county gaols, the difference between the Government prisons and the county gaols being, that the former were under the direction and control of the Home Office, while the latter, although he believed under its supervision, were more difficult to be dealt with. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department would perhaps inform him whether there was a statutory obstacle to the control of county gaols by the Home Office. Of course, there were some prisons where the number of Catholic prisoners was small; but the same case occurred in Ireland, where it was met without the smallest difficulty. From returns of the Protestant and Catholic prisoners in the Government prisons of Ireland, it appeared that in Mountjoy prison the average number of Catholics was 480; of Protestants, twenty; and of Presbyterians, seven or eight; yet there were three chaplains. In Smithfield prison the average number of Catholics was 280; of Protestants forty-five; and of Presbyterians, eight or nine; and so with respect to the others, such were the proportions that notoriously prevailed. The difference between England and Ireland was, that whereas the larger proportion of prisoners in Ireland was Catholic, the larger proportion in England was Protestant. The difficulty differed not in kind, but only in respect that it was a Catholic difficulty in the one country, and a Protestant difficulty in the other. As the practical difficulty had been overcome in Ireland, in Van Diemen's Land, and in New South Wales, so ought it to be in England. He had received particulars from various prisons, showing the great neglect and difficulties which the Catholic priests had to undergo who were obliged to attend to the spiritual and moral instruction of Catholic prisoners. They were required by their position to act really as Government officers. They were doing a service which the Government paid a Protestant chaplain largely for performing when it was rendered to Protestant prisoners. But in almost every prison the Catholic chaplain was not thought worthy of any remuneration; in others they received remuneration almost involving de- 1567 gradation. That state of things was very objectionable. He had read an extract from evidence given in 1847 by the Rev. Mr. Kingsmill, of whom he did not wish to speak except in terms of respect. But it was obvious that Mr. Kingsmill had got a very wrong notion of the duties which attached to his functions. He had published a book, in which he took notice of having made that invaluable discovery that the Catholic Church was Antichrist, and the Pope the Man of Sin. He had published that book in the character of chaplain (there was not the least objection to his publishing it in his personal character), and he expressed his rejoicing on account of persons being brought over to the service of the English Church who had lived so long in Ireland that they knew better than others how to deal with the Man of Sin and Antichrist. It was not meant to say that he put it in an offensive way; but he certainly had a wrong notion of his functions, and he acted on that wrong view as a man who was anxious to fulfil his duty. He evidently believed that his duty in the prison was to make proselytes, to convert the benighted Papists into the profession of the Protestant faith, and that nothing could be done for the moral improvement of Catholic prisoners till he had done the work of a controversialist. It was only recently that this fact happened at Pentonville prison. Last Easter twelvemonth the Catholic priest who was accustomed to attend that prison, made inquiry as to the number of Catholic prisoners, with the view of attending them for their Easter duties. He got a list of eighty. Some weeks before last Easter he was informed that such a list would not be furnished to him in future. He was to have a list only, it should seem, of those who were bold enough, in the face of temporal interest, to make a demand for the services of the priest. Last Easter he got a list, but it contained only fifteen names. He had moved for returns of the number of Roman Catholics and Protestants respectively in all the prisons of the United Kingdom; but he would like to know whether the returns were to be made up on the principle of putting down all Roman Catholics, or on the other principle of inserting only those who had the courage to demand the services of a Roman Catholic clergyman? The subject which he had brought before the House was one of extreme interest, and if the Government were to take the management of all prisoners at 1568 home, it became of great and increasing importance. He should not presume to anticipate what answer the noble Lord would give to his appeal; but it was an appeal to which only one answer could be give among rational and fair-minded men—and that was an assent to the demand which he now made. He apologised for the time he had taken in making his statement, and he left it to the noble Lord to state what course he intended to pursue.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he was sure the hon. Member who had just sat down did not need to make an apology to the House for having brought under their consideration a matter of such great interest and of such deep importance. For his own part, he had to thank the hon. Gentleman for the courtesy with which in private he had communicated the views he meant afterwards to state to the House. Perhaps, as regarded the difference to which the hon. Gentleman had adverted, between the proportion of Catholics and protestants, as appearing in the returns of prisons here, and the proportion which appeared in the Colonies, he was not sure whether he understood the statement exactly as the hon. Gentleman had put it; but if he understood it rightly, that difference might be accounted for by the fact that the convicts in the Colonies included all those who came from Ireland as well as those who came from England.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, however that might be, he had taken precautions to prevent mistake on that point in future. He had issued directions that, on entry to prison, a prisoner should be called on to state to what religious persuasion he belonged. Therefore, the declaration of the prisoner on his arrival at the gaol would be taken as evidence whether he was a Protestant or a Catholic; or, if a Protestant, whether he was of the Church of England or a Presbyterian. Beyond that, he was ready to admit to the hon. Gentleman that the prisoner who made that declaration ought to know that nothing in regard to his comfort in gaol would depend on whether he declared himself of one religion or another; that he ought to be equally sure of receiving religious in- 1569 struction from a clergyman of his own creed, and equally sure that the testimony with regard to his conduct in prison, so far as his conduct depended on his religious instruction, should be given by an instructor of his own religion, and not be dependent upon the opinion of one who was hostile to his creed. He thought that this was a matter which really required only to be stated, in order that everybody might arrive at the same conclusion; for what was their object in the treatment of prisoners? Their object was, of course, reformation, as far as that reformation could be effected; and how could that reformation be adequately effected if religious consolation were given to a man by a clergyman of an opposite creed? In the first place, if a prisoner who was a Roman Catholic came into the prison and declared Himself a Protestant, thinking that that declaration might turn to his advantage, he began with an act of hypocrisy; and if a Protestant clergyman should proceed in his own way to administer instruction to him, the heart of that man would be hardened against such instruction, which would conflict with his originally imbibed opinions. They would therefore be scattering seed on a sterile soil, which would necessarily lead to no good result. On the other hand, if the prisoner, having declared himself a Catholic, had no instruction afforded him but that of Protestantism, the time which ought to be spent in religious instruction might be wasted in theological controversy—the clergyman, in endeavouring to convert the man to a different religion, would spend the time, which in all probability would be more profitably employed in attempting to give him that religions instruction which he was ready to take, and which was in accordance with the opinions in which he placed confidence and trust. It was therefore quite evident that they would be defeating their own object if they did not give to prisoners of all religious denominations instruction in that shape and from that quarter which would render it most useful to the purposes of moral and religious improvement. The hon. Gentleman had asked for certain returns, which he (Visct. Palmerston) should grant with great pleasure, and which would afford in detail all the data for the foundation of an improved system. As far as Government prisons were concerned, he was quite prepared to state that he should feel it to be his duty to take steps for carrying into effect the views which the hon. 1570 Gentleman had just now so properly expressed to the House—that was to say, that in every Government prison there should be religious instruction given to every Catholic and Dissenter, as well as to every member of the Church of England, and that the person who gave it should receive that treatment which was consistent with a due respect to his character, and such reward as might be adequate to the duties which he had to perform. He thought that this was a necessary ingredient in the improved system of convict treatment; and he quite agreed in thinking that this was the more essential in proportion as we kept our convicts at home, instead of sending them to our Colonies. In regard to county prisons, he was rather inclined to think that some legislative alteration might be necessary. He was not then quite prepared to say to what extent the State had power with regard to them; but, as far as he was informed, their power to sanction regulations applied only to the discipline of gaols, and did not apply to appointment and remuneration for duties such as those now in question; and, if that should be so, it would be his duty early next Session to prepare and submit to Parliament a measure for the purpose of placing religious instruction in county gaols on the same footing as religious instruction in prisons more immmediately under the control of the Government. He hoped that this statement would be satisfactory, not only to the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Lucas), but also in like manner to the House at large. He was quite sure that in matters of this sort there was no difference between Protestants and Catholics as to what was the proper course to pursue, because it was quite obvious that, as in a country like Ireland, where the great proportion of the people were Catholics, provision ought to be made for the instruction of such prisoners as were Protestant; so in England, where the great proportion of the people were Protestants, provision ought also to be made in like manner for the instruction of such prisoners as happened to be Catholics. We ought not to make our gaols arenas of theological discussion, or schools of proselytism. They ought rather to be made places of reformation, and moral and religious improvement; and therefore, that the administration of religious instruction should be given in the manner to which persons had always been accustomed.
§ MR. J. BALL
said, he hoped the noble 1571 Lord would bear in mind the principles which he had so satisfactorily announced relative to the reformation of juvenile offenders, not only in the prisons, but also in the workhouses throughout the United Kingdom.
§ Resolution agreed to; as was also Res. 9.