HC Deb 23 June 1854 vol 134 cc636-7

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he must express a Lope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland would furnish the House with sonic explanation as to the objects of this measure, before they were called on to assent to the second reading.


said, the necessity for the Bill arose from there being no law to empower directors of prisons or governors of convicts to regulate prisoners or to inflict punishment upon convicts for misbehaviour outside of the prison. The Bill proposed to remedy that defect. The necessity for the measure had arisen from the circumstance of the system of transportation having been put an end to in certain cases by the Bill of last Session. He found at the close of last year collected in the gaols of Ireland something, like 4,000 convicts, who by last year's Bill would at the end of four years be restored to society. This measure proposed to establish a system of organisation and instruction for those persons during those four years. In Spike Island there was only accommodation for about 1,000 prisoners, who had been generally sent there because it was the most convenient place previous to their transportation, and because they could be employed in the fortifications about the place. There were, however, last year, 2,200 prisoners confined there, and there was no proper system of discipline kept up. The health of the convicts consequently suffered, and there was not labour sufficient there to occupy so many. In another convict prison at Mountjoy, there was only accommodation for 500. The Irish Government had determined to reduce the number of convicts at Spike Island to 1,400. The prison at Philipstown could only accommodate 300. By certain arrangements it was proposed to increase the accommodation to 400. In order to meet the evils referred to, the Bill proposed to build a prison for female convicts to accommodate 400, and the remaining accommodation required would be provided in the shape of a juvenile prison, or good movable iron houses placed in the neighbourhood of public works where the prisoners could be employed. A Commission had been appoint- ed to see how the accommodation required could best be afforded, and how the discipline of those prisons could be improved. The Commission were only waiting for the Bill to pass to carry their plans into operation. The present measure was almost taken verbatim from the English Prisons Act.


said, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman would see the necessity of improving the state of the prisons in Ireland by a better mode than that of appointing an expensive staff of officers to take charge of the prisoners. There were already in Ireland a staff of officers to take charge of these prisoners, and another staff for lunatics. Now, the present Bill proposed a third staff, which he thought quite unnecessary. He did not object to a system of corporal punishment under proper regulations; for when they had such a system established for soldiers, he did not see any reason why convicts should be without it. He should like to know whether the Government intended to keep Spike Island as a permanent convict depot, or whether it was only intended to keep prisoners there until the public works about the place were completed.


wished to know how the new arrangement would operate with regard to the inspectors of prisons in Ireland. He thought the convict establishments in Ireland ought to be placed on a better footing. With regard to the ticket-of-lease system, he thought it was a wholesome and a sound system, but there was an abuse of it which he hoped would be taken into account if it were extended to Ireland. He meant the sending these men after their terms of imprisonment had expired back to the place where their offences had been committed, where they would naturally be again thrown into communication with their old associates.

Bill read 2°.