HC Deb 13 February 1871 vol 204 cc164-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether the Fenians lately confined in Portland Prison were treated in a different and more indulgent man- ner than the other prisoners; and, if so, whether the relaxation of the prison regulations in their favour was in consequence of orders to that effect; and, if so, by whom were such orders given; and, whether upon the departure from Cork of the released Fenian prisoners for America any, and what sum of money was given to any of them; and, if so, by whom, and to how many, and for what reason, was such money given?


, in reply, said, the Fenian prisoners lately confined at Portland were, as a measure of security, kept separate from the other prisoners by an order of the Directors given in May, 1866. The Governor was directed by that order to employ these prisoners as a separate party on a description of labour equal to their ability in point both of strength and of knowledge. As a matter of fact, he believed the labour to which they were put was of the lightest kind assigned to prisoners; but their frequent insubordination and consequent punishment made it very difficult for the Governor to obtain any work from them. The only other relaxation of the rules made in their favour of which he was aware was that, in consequence of their friends being rarely able to visit them, owing to the distance from them at which they lived, these prisoners were allowed to receive more letters than the other prisoners by way of compensation. With regard to the money given to them, the course pursued was—mutatis mutandis—the same as in the case of any other prisoners. The practice was, when prisoners were released, to pay the expense of their journey to their place of destination, and to forward a sum varying from £3 to £6, by instalments, to some trustworthy persons, or to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society, in case the prisoners were wise enough to consent to that application of the money, in order to provide them with the means of living until they could obtain work. In this instance the passage money of the prisoners was paid for them successively not as first-class passengers, as had been stated, but as second-class passengers, in the first ships that went out from this country; and they were also supplied with £5 for the same purpose as the money given to other released prisoners. Twenty of them received that sum, and of the four others who were released, three of them were discharged in consequence of their term of imprisonment being about to expire, and the fourth was released on a licence in consequence of his extreme state of ill-health. The money given to them was provided out of the Supplies granted by Parliament.