HC Deb 14 February 1873 vol 214 cc438-9

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether the Government intend to take any measures calculated to diminish the number of accidents, self-mutilations, and other injuries officially reported from Chatham Convict Prison in the last annual volume of the Directors of Convict Prisons in England and Wales (issued in the autumn of 1872), whereby it appears that out of an average of 1,692 convicts at Chatham there were, during the year, 1,725 admissions to the hospital (being more than one admission to every prisoner on the average), and 20 deaths; also an increase of abscesses from 153 to 270, and of ulcers from 98 to 247; and a further increase of contusions from accidents from 316 to 487, including 17 cases of prisoners purposely fracturing their arms orlegs (by thrusting them under waggons and engines), and 24 cases of purposely self-inflicted wounds; the prison surgeon adding to the Report in reference to these self-mutilations that they were "of so severe a character that amputation was immediately necessary in most cases, as the limbs were so mangled as to preclude any hope of recovery?"


in reply, said, his attention was called some time ago to the Report of the surgeon at Chatham Prison. Although malingering had always been practised among convicts — to whom, as the idlest of mankind, work was the greatest punishment they could undergo —it did not exist to the same extent at Portsmouth and Portland as at Chatham. During 1871 it did not increase in the former prisons, in one, indeed, there was, he thought, a decrease. The increase at Chatham was certainly startling, and the only explanation as yet afforded him was that the work, being the excavation of ground for the formation of docks, was very severe. It was therefore very distasteful to the convicts, and they had recourse to more than the ordinary extent to various disabling practices. Some of them created, as they easily could, sores and ulcers, others broke their limbs, the great number of waggons used in the removal of earth giving special facilities for this, and others, doing what men often did in other countries to avoid the conscription, mutilated themselves. It was remarkable, however, that they always selected unloaded waggons, so as to disable themselves with the least serious consequences. The sudden increase in malingering called for special inquiry, which had for some time been on foot, with the view of explaining the difference between Chatham and the other prisons.