§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [24th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."1162
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The hon. Member and his friends appeared to be somewhat astonished because I criticised the temper of his speech, and the language he used, in a somewhat strong fashion. Sir, I have had time since to examine that speech in cold blood, and I must say I think, after reflection and the conclusion to which I have been brought after that examination, the 1163 language I used was not strong enough. What was the tone adopted by the hon. Member? The tone he took up was this: that what society demanded against those whom he characterised as having defied society was that they should not be allowed to wear the martyr's crown without suffering the martyr's pains. At that particular moment he was speaking of members of the Salvation Army, and of people who refused to vaccinate their children; and the language used was that such individuals who had defied society should not be allowed to wear the martyr's crown without suffering the martyr's pains. I characterise that language as brutal and unfeeling; and when an hon. Member talks about the necessity of inflicting such vindictive punishment he, by implication, justifies those horrible doctrines which prevailed in this connection in the Middle Ages, when, as we all remember, it was the law that men were to be put into large pots and boiled in water gradually made hot if they attempted to poison themselves. I agree that the punishment should fit the crime, but I disapprove altogether of vindictive punishment. As we know, in the days of Queen Elizabeth, men actually were put into pots of cold water placed upon the fire and slowly boiled; and although I do not attribute to the hon. Member for the Hallam Division any desire to inflict punishment of this kind, I say that the logic of his system would bring us back to that state of things. If you are once to accede to the principle of vindictive punishment in proportion to the crime there has been committed you will approach irresistibly, step by step, that terrible system of crucifying men, screwing them on the rack, and other tortures of the Middle Ages. But what has been one of the greatest advances, in my judgment, in modern civilisation has been due to the great humanitarian reformers of the early part of this century, who have succeeded in robbing the punishment inflicted of its vindictiveness and its savagery. I say it has been due to these great reformers that, in spite of warnings of this character, they have brought about the adoption of the principle that you do not deter from the crime by the savagery of your punishment; and, accordingly, as the criminal law of this country has been mitigated in vindictiveness and savagery, so has crime gradually 1164 decreased. Sir, in recent days all the researches of science and the writings of those who have devoted their lives to the study of criminalogy have gone to show, to a large extent, that amongst those of the criminal class their moral guilt is not nearly so great as the average public opinion would judge it to be, because it is only on that final day when the secrets of all hearts will be revealed to an All-knowing Judgment that it can really be decided how great is the moral guilt of any criminal. Those who administer the laws of this country have not got the knowledge, and are not entitled to say how much moral guilt there is involved in any criminal act; and those of us who have taken any sympathetic interest in this question know perfectly well that there are to-day hundreds of men—and I daresay the Home Secretary himself will admit this—suffering penal servitude in the prisons of this country who are less morally guilty than many a man who carries his head high in the City of London, and who have really committed less crime; and if all the temptations to which the criminal has been subjected were weighed in the balance, the criminal would stand higher morally than many a man who is walking about this great city as a thoroughly respectable citizen. All these things have to be taken into consideration; and while I admit that society must have power to restrain criminals and prevent them from committing acts injurious to society, I hold the principle upon which all criminal law ought to be based is that it ought not to seek to inflict vindictive punishment, but seek, as far as is consistent with the safety of society, to improve the moral conditions of the persons that society is obliged to restrain. Well, Sir, when you apply that principle which the Member for the Hallam Division has laid down, when you look at it from this point of view, and apply it, I ask you, how does it stand and how is it to be judged? I say it must be condemned; and I must confess that this Bill appears to be condemned by one of the sentences contained in the Memorandum, where it is said that it is not intended to have any revolutionary changes in the present prison system of this country. I think there ought to be a revolutionary change in the prison system. The whole present system of the country is, to a 1165 large extent, based on a false and monstrous idea. What is it we claim? We claim that the prisoners of this country with, perhaps, a few exceptions, ought to be treated primarily as human beings, and I hold that this ought to be the principle, not only with the criminal prisoners of this country, but with the ordinary prisoners. The first guiding principle of a prison system is that it should not be so arranged as to be calculated to break down and brutalise the minds of prisoners. A prisoner should be given an opportunity of redeeming himself; but, instead of that, your present system is calculated to brutalise, degrade, and destroy the mind of the prisoner. In the case of a man of education, or habits of intellectual occupation, the system is calculated to drive him mad, and we know it has done so. But we all know that there are certain individuals whose nature is so vile and brutal, from their youth upwards, that it is difficult to deal with them on any principle of humanity, such as ought to be applied to the great mass of prisoners; and I admit there ought to be a lower classification in which could be placed all individuals sent to prison for crimes committed with brutal violence. At present, however, an unfortunate wretch sent to prison for some crime against property is placed under the same conditions as if he had committed a brutal outrage on some defenceless woman or child. On that alone the system ought to be condemned. The other day I received a letter from an ex-prisoner, who said he had read the Debate in the House on the Prisons Bill. He had been, he said, a porter in one of the great furnishing establishments in the City, and, judging from his letter, he was a man of superior intelligence. He admitted that he had pleaded guilty to the offence for which he was punished. He was a poor man with a large family, and had been trusted by his employer. But he had drawn a sum of money he was not entitled to, and, pleading guilty, was sentenced to four or five years penal servitude—I am not sure which. Probably, the sentence was not too severe; but if the man had killed his wife he would only have got six months' hard labour. Under great temptations he took this money, and was sent to a common convict prison. First of all he 1166 was sent to a probationary prison for nine months. He underwent solitary confinement, without having a single word from a human being during that time, and he nearly lost his reason. He was set the task of picking oakum, and was punished because he was unable to perform the task. At the end of his imprisonment, when he came to get his dismissal, he was sent back and obliged to serve an additional term, because he had several bad marks against him for failing to finish his tasks. He was treated on the same level as if he had committed some brutal crime, and although when he did leave prison, he obtained employment, perhaps, in that, he was the exception to the rule. I say it is an outrage on humanity to treat a man guilty of such a crime in this way—a man who is perfectly capable of being redeemed—to put him on the same level as a savage and a brute who would commit a brutal assault on a woman. There are certain criminals who, from circumstances or habit or surroundings, are so violent and brutal that it is almost impossible to raise them in the scale of humanity, and it may be necessary to keep special prisons for them where the discipline would be more severe. But, as regards most prisoners of this country, and particularly of those accused of crimes against property, they ought to be treated as human beings, and every effort made, consistent with reasonable discipline and their confinement and loss of liberty, to occupy their minds and subject them to advantages which may have the effect, not of sinking them lower in the scale of humanity, but of giving them a lift upwards and opening up a career for them. This is attempted in some countries. I have been in the great prison of Elmira, in the State of New York, where the treatment of convicts is as different from the treatment in the convict prisons of this country as one thing can be from another. I went over the prison books of Elmira with the Governor, and he showed me that the vast majority of the men who pass through the prison—men accused of grievous crimes which in this country would entail a life sentence—are placed out by him in distant parts of the States. He keeps up a correspondence with them, and helps them to get employment in 1167 districts where they may have a chance of life again, and he showed me that a large percentage—[Mr. JOHN BURNS: Ninety per cent.]—have re-instated themselves in life, and have become respectable and decent citizens. Is it not a disgrace to this country that we cannot do this, and it can be done in a country like America, where a population has to be dealt with that is lower, because a large section of it is drawn from the lower classes of almost every country in Europe. Before passing to the subject which specially caused me to rise, I wish to say a few words to the House on the subject of juvenile crime. I have been in many of the Irish prisons, and I have personal experience of the results of sending young children to prison. Fifteen years ago I spent about a year in the prison of Kilmainham. One day, when exercising in the yard, I heard a little child cry. Judging from the voice it was not more than ten years of age, and this poor child was crying incessantly, "Mother, mother, mother, where are you?" This went on for hours, and the child worked itself into a perfectly hysterical condition. Then I heard a door open, and a warder evidently entered, and he hammered and pounded that child, and smothered his cries, and beat him severely. I sent to the governor and complained. The governor said the affair should be investigated. The following day he told me it had been investigated, and there was no foundation for it. I said, "It is of no use you saying that, for I was listening and heard the whole thing. I did not actually see it, but I heard everything that went on." The governor replied, "I shall allow you to investigate it yourself." The following day he brought this poor wretched child to me, but he also brought the warder, and the child looked at the warder, and was afraid to tell me what had occurred. That was all the satisfaction I got, yet there can be no doubt as to what occurred. But, even if the child had not been treated in the way I have described, I affirm that, to put a child of 15 or 16 years of age, or even 18 years of age, into a common prison, is an outrage, which under no circumstances ought to be tolerated. If it is necessary to confine children or young lads or young girls in gaol, there ought to 1168 be a special institution for the purpose. Many an unfortunate wretch has been launched upon a career of crime by this horrible system of sending children into gaol. I trust if the Home Secretary has the power to make regulations in the future, one of the first he will make will be to prevent the imprisonment of children of certain ages in common gaols where adults are confined. One of the points I chiefly desire to speak upon is the treatment of political offenders and the contrast between the practice of other countries and the practice of this country. In this country, and in this country alone, an attempt is kept up to degrade, insult, and trample upon political offenders. I do not believe there is another civilised country in Europe, or in the world, where the Government attempts to treat its political opponents as the Government of this country habitually does. What does the Government of this country do? In the old days, before the Act of 1848, you sometimes hanged your political opponents, but you never treated them as pickpockets or thieves. Nowadays, the great modern, enlightened system of England is that the political opponents of the Government in Ireland are to be treated on the same level as pickpockets, and no distinction made between them and the men who trample upon their wives. When I was in Dundalk Gaol there was a prisoner there, who committed a brutal assault on a woman in the streets of Dublin, and he got half the sentence I got. I remember in the old days, when more than 20 Irish Members were lying in prison, the question of our treatment, especially the wearing of prison clothes, was brought before the House, and hon. Members laughed. We had our revenge when Dr. Jameson was convicted of a crime against the law tenfold greater than ours, and a howl was raised at the idea of Dr. Jameson and his companions being compelled to wear prison clothes. And what occurred? The same punishment which we had undergone more than once in Ireland, and which had been treated with sneers by our colleagues in this House, was imposed on Dr. Jameson and others. A Tory Member, and I think he was perfectly right in doing so, got up a petition, which was signed by Members of this House, praying that the law 1169 should not be enforced in all its severity against Dr. Jameson and the officers lying with him in gaol. But who were the first Members to sign that petition? The Irish Members who had been subjected to all those indignities. The hon. Member came to me with the petition, and I signed it at once, and he asked my hon. Friend the Member for South Mayo, who for 18 years was in your convict prisons, where he was treated as a criminal, to sign that petition. I want to know what crime my hon. Friend the Member for South Mayo and myself committed compared with that of Dr. Jameson. We had struggled according to our own conscience for our own country; but Dr. Jameson had invaded a foreign country, and broken the law of his own country at the same time, and he had done that under the guidance of a Stock Exchange Ring. And yet the House of Commons was convulsed with horror at the idea of Dr. Jameson being subjected to wearing that clothing marked with the broad arrow which I have worn, and which the hon. Member for South Mayo has worn. They asked us to sign the petition in which they objected to Dr. Jameson and his colleagues wearing the prison clothes. I signed it at once, and I asked my hon. Friends to sign it, because I am opposed—I do not care whether he is an enemy or a friend—to treating any of my political opponents as if he was a common criminal. I recognise the right of any just Government, and of every Government, so far as it has the power to do it, to protect itself, but no Government has a right—and it is a disgrace and a reproach to this Government to do it—to say to its political opponents, "Because you break our laws from political motives we shall degrade you, trample upon you and insult you, and treat you as common criminals." In this Bill, so far as I have looked into it, and in the rules which the Home Secretary has drafted, I see no sign of repentance in this great and important matter; and we shall certainly, on every occasion when this question is raised, and on every opportunity that offers, demand of Her Majesty's Government that they will repeal the odious provision of the Treason Felony Act of 1848, and abandon the scandalous system under which political prisoners in 1170 this country are treated as if they were nothing better than the lowest criminals.
§ *MR. M. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
The Amendment before the House is, that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. Well, I am prepared to vote with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Durham if he goes to a division, but I am free to acknowledge, and I willingly do so, that there is a spirit of progress, a small and timid one, in the Bill which I readily recognise. Under Clause 2 the Home Secretary is empowered to make rules for prisons, and I take it that under that clause we shall be permitted in this House, as occasion requires, to review, every year if necessary, these rules and the manner in which they operate. Now, Sir, having said so much in favour of that clause, I have to say that in other respects this Measure is very disappointing; in fact, it only touches the fringe of a great social question. I admit that the rules are far more important from the point of view of the management of prisons, and the reform of criminal character, than the Bill itself. And I feel sure that if we could translate into these rules the disposition and the feeling and the wishes of the Home Secretary, we could rest satisfied that the prisons of this country would be managed in a humane spirit. But, Sir, the Home Secretary is not a permanent occupant of the Home Office, and although the Home Office is at the present time, I am sure, animated by good intentions, we know that there is a larger and more important area situated elsewhere which is said to be paved with good intentions, and none of us want to go there. Sir, in one respect the Measure we are discussing takes a step backward. I find that Section 40 of the Act of 1877 is virtually repealed by the express repeal in the schedule of this Bill of Section 67 of the Act of 1865. Now, Section 40 of the Act of 1877 says that the Prison Commissioners shall see that any prisoners under sentence, on conviction for sedition or seditious libel, shall be treated as misdemeanants of the first division within the meaning of Section 67 of the Prisons Act of 1865, notwithstanding any statutory provision or rule to the contrary. This latter section being now expressly expunged from the law, Section 40 of the 1171 Act of 1877 stands repealed. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who has demanded the repeal of this section, when has public opinion in Great Britain or Ireland clamoured for this retrograde change; or is it the act or the wish of the Home Secretary himself?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir M. W. RIDLEY,) Lancashire, N., Blackpool
That was not intended at all. I was going to say later, and I may now be allowed to say, that it was my intention to reconsider that proposal, and that it was not in the least intended to repeal that section.
§ *MR. DAVITT
I am very glad to have elicited that explanation from the right hon. Gentleman. It is really what I should have expected; but it seems to me that someone behind the Home Secretary had some sinister motive in trying to bring the law of libel in the matter of Press offences in this country down to the level of what it is in India at the present time. My hon. Friend beside me has devoted a portion of his speech to-night, as he addressed his observations to the House on Thursday last, to the punishment of political offenders in this country, and I find in the Bill no provision whatever for altering this system of penal punishment of political offences in the future. Well, I regret that very much, because I venture, Sir, to express the opinion that there are hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, as well as on this, who would wish that in this respect this country should not be behind either France, or Germany, or America, or even Russia, in its manner of treating political offenders. But, Sir, the fact is that, as compared with the treatment meted out for political crimes in Russia, the treatment of political prisoners in this country is far behind the enlightened spirit of that autocratic Empire. I could, if I wished, delay the House by proving this contention by abundant testimony, but I will only refer to the opinions expressed in this connection by Mr. de Windt, who travelled extensively in Siberia, and who visited several of the prisons where Nihilists and other political offenders against the law of Russia were incarcerated. And the 1172 picture which this traveller gives to us of the humanity of the Russian Government towards those opponents of its power is one, I think, which ought to induce hon. Members opposite to support me when this Bill is in Committee, and when I intend to move a clause that will give power to the judges, when sentencing a man proved to be guilty of offences under the Treason Felony Act, to mete out to the convicted prisoner more enlightened treatment. Sir, what good is effected for the Government or for society in this country by treating political prisoners as if they ware guilty of the worst of crimes? The object of prison punishment ought to be to reform prisoners, and to make them more amenable to law and order. But surely no one will contend in this House, either on that side or on this, that a political offender is likely to be made more loyal to your rule, or more contented under your authority, by reducing him to the level of the lowest of your criminals who are confined in your convict prisons? Sir, I do not care to speak at any length on this phase of the subject which we are discussing. I do not care to impart too much personal feeling into this Debate, but I trust that when I come to move my Amendment, to which I have referred already, when the Bill reaches the Committee stage, that hon. Members, who appealed to us successfully to help them to obtain for Dr. Jameson and his friends a considerate and kindly treatment, will help us to obtain in the future for Irish political prisoners similar treatment. Now, Sir, I pass from that phase of this question to the general one. We have on the Table of the House voluminous rules, and these are, from my point of view, far more important in the matter of the future treatment of criminals than the Bill which we are now considering. I find there are no regulations in these documents to define the duties of three important classes of prison functionaries. We have rules for the guidance of governors of prisons, of chaplains, of warders, and of doctors; but not a word is said in the rules with reference to the regulations which should control the duties of the Board of Visitors of Convict Prisons, of the inspectors of prisons, or of the Prison Commissioners. Now, that omission is, in my opinion, 1173 a curious one, which needs some explanation. The whole of the present prison system depends for its efficiency on the capacities of its heads; and yet we know that nothing is said either in the Bill or in the rules as to what those duties are and how the abilities and capabilities of the Commissioners are to be exercised in this most responsible public service. That, I think, is a most serious omission, and I trust we may get some light upon this matter when the right hon. Gentleman comes to reply. Another question I want to ask is—what are the Board of Visitors to Convict Prisons to do? Are they to try all the prisoners in those prisons for breaches of discipline? How many such visitors are to constitute a Board? What are to be their qualifications? Are they to be paid? or, like the Visitors of Local Prisons, are their functions to be purely honorary? Some information on these points is called for, and will, I trust, be forthcoming before we get into Committee. Now, with reference to the Visiting Committees of Local Prisons. They will be composed, I presume, in the future, as they have, been in the past, of wealthy country squires, local magistrates, or people in a well-to-do condition of life. Well, I maintain, Sir, that if the Visiting Committees are to be made up of persons of that character alone, inspection by such people will be more of a farce than anything else. I am not saying anything against the individual gentlemen who may be called upon to perform those duties, but they are not likely to devote two or three days in the week, or a week in a month, or a month in a year to the performance of those duties. May I suggest, therefore, that it would help to make these Committees a reality and not a sham if they were not composed entirely of that class of people, but if members of local bodies and county councils as well as local justices formed a part of them. I am glad to find that my suggestion is approved of on the other side of the House. Well, another point, Mr. Speaker, is—who is to appoint the prison inspectors, the Prison Commissioners or the Home Secretary directly? They and the Board of Visitors to Convict Prisons should be appointed, in my opinion, directly by the Home Office, and should report 1174 direct to the Home Secretary, and not to the Prison Commissioners. It is a farce to have inspectors who are appointed by the Prison Commissioners reporting upon prisons for the administration of which the Commissioners are themselves responsible. In fact, in this way the Prison Commissioners are virtually their own prison inspectors, because these inspectors, who are appointed by them, would be practically liable to be dismissed by them. Another evil stereotyped by the Bill and the rules is that of leaving prisoners who have committed disciplinary offences to be tried by the directors and governors. I assume that under the Bill and the rules the Visiting Committee to the local prisons and the Visiting Board of convict establishments will be entitled to adjudicate upon some kind of prison offences; but my contention is that it is wrong in every way to unite the judicial and the executive functions in any class of offences. No law can be justly or fairly administered where these duties are so united; it is contrary to every precept of enlightened justice, and I was glad to find in a recent tour through the Australasian Colonies that this system has been entirely done away with in those countries. No prison official in any of the seven Australasian Colonies can sit in judgment upon a prisoner under his charge. This duty devolves upon a magistrate or Justice of the Peace from outside, and the result is, that the Governors under this system acquire a greater moral influence over prisoners, simply because they are not called upon to inflict punishment upon them. I trust that before we part with this Bill in Committee it may be possible to convince the Home Secretary that a change of this kind would be very welcome in the administration of the prisons of this country. Now, another point which I would press upon the right hon. Gentleman is that prisoners should know beforehand what amount of punishment is entailed by acts of insubordination. A code of punishment ought to be printed and hung up in every cell in a prison, as well as a code of rewards for compliance with discipline, for good conduct, and for the performance of industrial tasks. This, in itself, would be an inducement to industry, and would conduce to the better 1175 behaviour and good conduct of most of the prisoners. Now, having criticised so far omissions in the Bill and rules, I am glad to find, in one respect, that I can commend the rules for what they propose to do in future with reference to untried prisoners. There is a rational advance in the new rules upon the existing system, of treating prisoners on detention or awaiting trial as if they were tried and sentenced. This bad system is opposed to all ideas of justice. An accused person in this country is, theoretically, supposed to be innocent until he is proved to be guilty, and yet he has been treated up till now, while his innocence is presumable, just as if he had been convicted of the charge. The arrangements under the new rules are a great advance upon this practice, but they do not cure the entire evil. Under these new rules untried prisoners can appeal to the Visiting Committee, and they have certain privileges under the Bill extended to them. So far, so good. But there ought to be a supplemental provision to the effect, that, pending the hearing by the Visiting Committee of an application of any untried prisoner for better treatment, the Governor should not locate such prisoner in an ordinary cell, nor deny him such privileges as the rules allow the Visiting Committee to grant, when applied for. This provision would only carry out the intention of the new law, and at the same time it would result in saving, possibly, innocent prisoners from unmerited hardships. Now, Sir, a few more changes affecting the treatment of untried persons are steps forward in the right direction. I find that such persons will be privileged to have newspapers supplied to them while awaiting trial. I am very glad of that. I know a very intimate friend of mine who was tried some 20 years ago, and he applied again and again to be allowed the very small privilege of seeing a newspaper, but every application was refused. I am glad, indeed, to find that no such rule is to obtain in the future. Then, again, I find that in the provisions for visitors to untried prisoners, there is no regulation in the new rules enabling an untried prisoner to have an interview with his friends and visitors out of the hearing of the prison warder. I contend that that is not just. It is essential for the preparation 1176 of a prisoner's defence that he should be able to communicate freely with his witnesses and his friends, without any official hearing what transpires, and I trust that a change in the direction of my suggestion will be carried out when we come to discuss the Measure in detail in Committee. Sir, I come to deal with the question which, to me, is the most important one in connection with this Bill, and that is the present system of imprisonment known as penal servitude. I am sorry that neither in the Measure nor in the rules upon the Table do I find any material change in this system from what it was some 20 or 25 years ago. Lord Kimberley's Commission, which took evidence in 1877–78, declared that—The penal servitude system not only fails to reform offenders, but in the case of the less hardened criminals, and especially first offenders, it produces a deteriorating effect.Now, Sir, the Departmental Committee which was appointed by the late Home Secretary, and which took evidence in 1894, practically repeats the same charge in almost identical terms. This system, Sir, is very little changed in its character or severity by the Bill before the House, or by the rules laid on the Table, or by the regulations specified in the memoranda of the Prison Commissioners. I believe that this contention was denied the other night. Very well; let us see what the facts are. A prominent feature of the system of 20 years ago was nine months' solitary and silence after conviction, by way of probation. This feature is not changed by the Bill or by the rules now before the House. Twenty years ago talking was not allowed by a prisoner from the beginning of his sentence to the end, under pain of report and punishment, if that natural privilege was exercised by a criminal, and the same unnatural rule still obtains, and there is nothing in the Bill or in the rules which leads us to hope that the Prison Commissioners mean to make any change in that barbarous and unnatural rule. Speech is penalised to-day between prisoner and prisoner as it was 20 years ago. To talk to another prisoner, or to sing, or to whistle, or make any musical noise of the kind, is still made the subject of a penalty of bread and water. In the name of 1177 common sense, how do you expect to reclaim an erring mortal by denying these common privileges of our common humanity? The visiting and writing privileges under this Measure are unchanged. The earnable remission is unaltered. Good conduct and steady industry are entitled to no more reward to-day in a convict establishment than they were in the year 1877. Then, I believe, the food has been increased. [Mr. DILLON: By one ounce]. I believe the increase has been a trifle more. The meat has been increased to the extent of 3 oz. a week, and bread to the same extent, but the dietary scale remains practically the same now as it was then. Star class men, about whom the right hon. Gentleman spoke so hopefully the other night, get no more food than the ordinary class prisoners. They are segregated from all old malefactors—that, of course, is only a right thing to do—but that is all. They can earn no more remissions nor privileges than a convict of the ordinary class. Like any other prisoner, they can be subjected to Rule 42, which humanely declares that—A male prisoner may be required to sleep without a mattress until such time as may be determined by the rules of the prison.What improvement do you think you can make in criminal character, first by starving a prisoner, and then by denying him the human right of slumber? That is more than I can understand. Then to continue the comparison between 20 years ago and to-day, the gratuity on discharge is the same under these regulations as under the old. The amount of schooling for illiterates during the sentence is the same—about half-an-hour per week. Books are not changed more frequently than they were 15 or a score of years ago, and flogging is still inflicted, and prisoners are fired at, and killed occasionally when they attempt to escape, as was the case 20 years ago. Notwithstanding, the increase of reconvicted criminals in the most serious classes of crime goes on, and the language of Lord Kimberley's Commission, in describing the failure of the system of penal servitude 1178 20 years back, may be employed against the same system word for word to-day. Now Rule 44 widens the Star class, so as to embrace those who have not been before convicted, or who are not habitually criminal or corrupt in their habits. That is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. The so-called intermediate class referred to in the Rule is a misnomer. These prisoners were known in the old days as the blue-dress men. The class, therefore, is no new creation. They were entitled then as now to an extra gratuity on discharge, and a few nominal privileges during the 12 months prior to liberation. Their position and prospects are in no way improved under the new rules. The classification under Rule 44 was halting and imperfect. It is not only right and necessary to put first offenders in a class by themselves, but there ought to be a further segregation of second-sentenced prisoners from the "old laggs," as they are called—the hopeless criminals. A criminal should not be abandoned as hopeless on the ground of a second conviction. Many things may conspire to get him into the toils of the law again. He may fail to report himself to the police, or to find work, or he may possibly be the victim of suspicion or despair after having undergone a sentence of imprisonment or penal servitude. A second sentence ought not to be looked upon as final evidence of habitual crime, and such men should be given another chance. They ought to be separated from habitual criminals, who ought to be classed together. They ought to have a prison to themselves where this seemingly incurable tendency to crime, this moral insanity, ought to be treated, as some think it should be, as a disease requiring special attention and treatment. Now, if I am not wearying the House, I should like to point out how it is that this system of penal servitude has been a failure. I think it has failed to bring about reform in criminal character, because of two fundamental faults which were and are still inherent in the system, namely, the spirit of mechanical intimidation and legal vindictiveness, in which it had its birth, and has until now been administered, and, secondly, the unsuitable training for the work of criminal reform of the military men who are now in charge of the prisons 1179 of the country. The dominating spirit of your whole prison system, especially when applied to convict prisons, is that which pervades the pages of Sir James Stephen's History of Criminal Law. It is the vindictive theory of punishment, not in the acts or desires of prison officials, but in the intention and meaning of the law itself, which commands that an outrage by crime upon the moral feelings of the community shall be avenged by a lex talionis in penal satisfaction for the crime against Society. This is the way in which the law of penal servitude punishes and tries to deter criminals from crime. I have shown that the failure of this system is due to the spirit which has been imported into it by the criminal law. The strong tendency in late years in most countries has been in the direction of reform by making penal establishments more of moral asylums for the cure and prevention of the moral insanity of crime, than of the use of prisons as mere punitive and deterrent institutions. This is the line of true progress, and there is an indication, I believe, in the Bill before us, as I have already admitted, that this new and better spirit is making a little progress even in this country, and I am glad of it. What is wanted is to make imprisonment more effective in its purpose, by rendering it more reformative. All the sarcastic comments upon the alleged proposals to convert prisons into hotels, and about English prisons becoming American Elmiras, is simply subordinating a question of high social interest to the ends of mere bantering and irresponsible criticism. A prison can be no more turned into a place of comfort and happiness than a tomb could be converted into a study for some editorial critics by covering up a coffin or two and introducing a few chairs. Even the unfairly abused Elmira is the negation of liberty, the abode of disgrace, the antithesis of home, the synonym of all that gives a man or boy the penalties of restraint and indurance for freedom and enjoyment of life, which crime or misconduct has forfeited to the law. It is not a question of whether a prison should be denuded of its character, but whether it is not possible to make the law of retaliation less vindictive than it 1180 is, and more successful than it has been in correcting criminal habits, under a system of punishment which has done no good whatever. I plead not for indulgence or creature comforts or luxuries for convicts, but I do plead most earnestly for a more merciful and more humane discipline which would warm with a kindlier human touch of sympathy and care the dormant or broken souls of those to whom Society has not shown itself too much or too often in the part of a moral good Samaritan. Now, the second reason why your vindictive system of penal servitude has failed to reform criminal character is founded upon the excessive employment of military men as governors of your prisons. I say nothing which could be for one moment considered personally offensive to Service Members in this House; they are, as we all know, among the most popular Members. Their failure as prison officials is not due to personal qualities, but owing to the habits and dispositions engendered by the course of military and naval training which they undergo, and which unfits them to play the part of successful moral physicians towards men suffering from moral insanity—as crime may be called. A famous French wit satirised a King by saying the nation wanted a financier, and the monarch gave it a dancing master. What we want is not dashing soldiers or gallant sailors or military scientists, but men who can work out some cure by a special study of criminal character, and what is best calculated to reform it while penalising the offender. Let me illustrate my argument by a few figures from the Report of the Discipline and Management of Military Prisons in 1896. I assume—though the Home Secretary said nothing upon this point on Thursday—that military prisoners will be affected to some extent by this Bill and the Rules laid upon the Table of the House. In this Report I find the following startling figures: in one year, out of the standing Army, averaging in home strength, according to the Report, 101,865 men, there were no less than 102,597 minor punishments inflicted by commanding officers—potential prison governors—and of this astounding number no less than 6,655 soldiers were sent to Military Prisons, or one imprisonment 1181 in the year for about 16 Tommy Atkins's in the Army at home. I put it to this House, Mr. Speaker, that these are really startling figures. Of these sentences 2,249 were given by commanding officers, and the remainder by courts martial; and will this House believe it, these figures are the lowest in respect of similar sentences for any year since 1868. Now, what happened to this enormous proportion of soldiers sent to your military prisons, or handed over by military judges to military governors? These 6,000 soldiers received during their sentences 3,872 punishments, or about 70 per cent of the total; and among these punishments I find it recorded that 2,052 got bread and water, 80 got punishment cells, 20 restraint by irons, and—crowning shame of all—15 of them were flogged. We on this Bench can recall with pride the fact that the disgrace which attached to the control of your Army at one time of flogging your soldiers into disciplinary obedience was abolished by the action of the late Mr. Parnell. My contention, Sir, is this: if military judges can pass 102,000 sentences in a year upon 100,000 soldiers of the home establishment, what can be expected from military directors, military governors, military warders, and military discipline, when it it is a matter of punishing criminals, instead of men enlisting to serve their country. I think I can leave this argument and these figures to point their own moral. Well, Sir, I come to another very important subject, and one which cannot be overlooked. When we come to take into consideration the merits of this Bill, and the character of the Rules now laid upon the Table of this House, neither the Bill nor the Rules make any change for the better in the dietary scale of the prisoners. The Departmental Committee, in its timid recommendations, advised that the "No. I stirabout diet" should be reconsidered with the object of making the meal correspond more to the needs of human requirement. The Commissioners declare in their memorandum that they have considered this point, and have decided that no chancre is called for. Now, what is this No. 1 diet? I appeal to any Scotch Member opposite, or on this side of the House, whether it is possible for the best 1182 housewife in these three countries to make "stirabout" when she has only two ounces of meal with which to do it. For female prisoners—and I call the attention of the House to this matter—undergoing seven days or under, and for those who are sentenced to one month, the diet for the first week consists of six ounces of oatmeal and 16 ounces of bread each day; that is two ounces of meal in the form of skilly and five and a fraction ounces of bread for each of three meals, by this scale of scientific starvation. What good do you expect to perform by it? Do you propose to make them better women by undermining their health by means of insufficient food? Is the hunger which keeps them from sleep calculated to appeal to and nourish better moral feeling when your penalties of hunger and insomnia are naturally inciting all the instincts of humanity to revolt and revenge against the calculated barbarism of sleeplessness and starvation? This rule the Prison Commissioners will not change, even at the request of the Departmental Committee. The same rule applies, of course, in a more rigorous sense to male prisoners undergoing their sentences. There are one or two ounces more bread and meal per day, but the difference in the food requirements of male prisoners leaves the quantity virtually the same, and the same consequences follow—hunger, insomnia, and the other results of food of the poorest kind acting on the system. This is your boasted humanity, the change you are wishful to bring about, the progress to be marked by your new Bill and your new Rules. Next, there is no change in the punishment diet of prisoners. It remains the same under the new as under the old regulations—16 ounces of bread and a pint of water per day, for three days, if such a sentence is passed, and for every other alternate three days in a punishment of 21 days, bread and water. You would not punish a dog in that manner—you would shrink from inflicting any such inhuman penalty upon any animal in your possession. What good a punishment of this kind can effect upon any human being it is difficult to perceive. It teaches neither reform, charity, forgiveness, nor other moral quality to the prisoner. It only teaches the vindictiveness of law and the apparently incurable 1183 longing for cruelty in your prison system. There is no bodily punishment more cruel than hunger—that remorseless, gnawing, human feeling which tortures the mind in thinking of the sufferings of the body, and tending to make life an unbearable infliction under a denial of the elementary cravings of Nature. Here, again, you war against Nature and not against crime by the heartless stupidity of your system. I know a friend who underwent nearly eight years' penal servitude as a consequence of offending against the law, and I can speak for him that during that eight years he never ceased for one single day to feel the pangs of hunger. I do not think that you made him more loyal or a better subject by this means. Now, Sir, what are the inevitable effects of this barbarous system of punishment by starvation? I have seen men in Dartmoor coming out of punishment cells go down to the bone shed, where I was employed regularly every summer for three or four years, and literally eating the putrid marrow from the bones, simply because they were suffering from the horrible pangs of unsatisfied hunger. I have seen men pick up from the cesspool remnants of candles, purposely made offensive to the smell so as not to be eaten by prisoners, and wipe them on their clothes and eat them. These are disgusting and horrible details, but I am telling the House what I have seen. I am as certain as I am standing here that if any Member opposite had witnessed anything of this kind he would not sleep in peace for one night until he removed this reproach from the law of the country. Let me go from the punishment diet to the diet you give your star class of prisoners—your well-conducted men, those who do not commit any breach of the prison rules. Dealing with the fullest diet you give under the new dispensation, I find there is no material change, as far as I can learn from the rules, in the scale which obtained in convict prisons 20 years ago. The full diet for steady hard labour under the new rules is to be, for all the week, 14 ounces of meal, 168 ounces of bread, 15 ounces of meat, three pints of soup, one suet pudding, and seven pounds of potatoes. This is the scale for all sizes and conditions of prisoners at hard 1184 labour—large and small, vigorous and weak, young and old. It is enough in many cases, I admit, but most certainly not enough in most cases where hard work is a daily task and a strong prisoner is in question. In no feature did I find the Australian prison more of a contrast to English prisons than in the dietary scale. The quantity of food per week averages for each prisoner at Pentridge, in Melbourne, which is the leading prison in Victoria (and the amount is practically the same in all colonies), 56 ounces of oatmeal or maize, as against 14 ounces in England; 140 ounces of bread, as against 168; 56 ounces of meat, as against 15 ounces; and three pints of soup and a similar quantity of potatoes. I did not learn that a more just dietary scale made prison life more attractive to criminals. The percentage of reconvictions is less than here in England. But better work is done, and more work, because it is all, or nearly all, productive work, as there is not a single crank or treadmill now in Australasia. This brings me to another most important matter in the treatment of criminal character—namely, the kind of work to which prisoners should be put while undergoing their sentences. Here, again, England is behind the Colonies, and every other country, in what may be called progressive penalogy. The Bill is silent on this most vital matter, but the Prison Commissioners, in their Memorandum promise to substitute, wherever possible, rational labour for irrational crank and treadwheel imbecility. In this respect I am glad to find that the spirit of reform is asserting itself, and that public opinion in England, Scotland, and Ireland is altogether in favour of sweeping these cranks and treadmills out of your prisons. In fact, these things were condemned more than a generation ago by Charles Reade, who described them as "inventions of prison stupidity for the purpose of degrading labour below the level of crime." And this is what these crazy methods have done: they have tended to make labour detestable through having work associated with treadmills and cranks. But some advance, I am glad to acknowledge, has been made in the right direction. 1185 If industrial training, Mr. Speaker, in useful work, habits of daily labour, and the necessity of work of some kind for a living will not, along with accessory encouragement, reclaim prisoners not hopelessly criminal, nothing else, in my judgment, will. Anyhow, turning cranks or climbing treadmills will not, as has been proved, and the obvious change is along the path which other countries have successfully gone towards the remedy of industrialism. Well, now, Sir, I feel that I have trespassed too much upon the kindness of the House. I end by appealing most strongly to the House to assist us in trying to bring about a change in your prison system similar to that now taking place in most Continental countries. That change is in the direction of industrialism, of putting criminals to some useful employment, and of teaching them how to earn a livelihood when their sentence is over and they have got to go out into the world and try and make a new start in life. In France, in Italy, and in Germany there is a tendency towards employing prisoners more and more in agricultural work, and I was glad to find that a similar movement is in progress in Australia. I would strongly recommend prison work of that kind. It is work which will not excite too much, if any, opposition from trades' unions, because the increase of food produce in this country will only mean competition against foreign producers, and the result can only tend to make food cheap for the masses. I would plead strongly in favour of adding land, wherever possible, to your convict prisons, and of removing, if possible, your local prisons from cities or towns, and as far out in the country as possible. Work of that kind would be more healthy for mind and body than turning cranks or mounting treadmills. I would, in conclusion, call the attention of the House to the spirit that animates the administrators of prisons in France. Reference was made by an hon. Gentleman opposite the other night to the French prisons, and he declared that they were behind English prisons in humanity and in considerateness. Well, I think he was in error, and the following extract which I am about to quote from an article written by an Englishman in the Contemporary Review of a year 1186 or two back—I have not the exact date—will show that the hon. Member was entirely mistaken. It was written by a gentleman who visited the prison of Melim, in France—one of the largest establishments in the country—and these are his impressions—Considerable credit is due to the French system of adapting the labour and occupation of prisoners to useful ends, both physically and morally. All the trades taught are more or less useful to the prisoner after liberation, whilst in the long-term prison at Melun first offenders are put at once to learn the honourable art of printing. The workshops of the new prisons, which are gradually superseding the older structures, are centres of healthy, active life, with a scale of payment according to the work done. Labour is also proportioned to the prisoner's mental capacity, health, habits, and disposition. The question of recreation, too, is taken especially into account, thus not only reducing the monotony of prison existence, but forming an incentive to prisoners to industry and observance of discipline. Another point worthy of attention is the principle of enabling prisoners to preserve their self-esteem, evidenced by the various little rewards and distinctions conferred for good conduct and good service, as well as by the form of labour to which each is subjected. It may therefore be taken for granted that in the French model prison every effort is made in the direction of humanising the prisoner. Hence the intellectual, side of life naturally plays a considerable part in the daily discipline. Each prisoner is obliged to attend school"—not for 20 or 30 minutes a week, Mr. Speaker, as in English prisons—every day either as a pupil or a teacher. The subjects taught are varied and scholarly, including mathematics and foreign languages. In some prisons there is a brass band and a music-room. The mind is further enriched and solaced by occasional community readings, singing, and concerts. Brightness and cheerfulness accompany the daily promenade, the exercise yard being profusely planted with trees and flowers. As for spiritual requirements, priest, pastor, and rabbi have every facility for intercourse with the prisoners, of which they largely avail themselves. That other important subject, the stomach, is also not disregarded, for it is clear that efforts such as have been described above would be futile if spent on convicts whose only thought is a good 'square meal.' Here we have the French system of the canteen, which supplements out of the prisoners' earnings the ordinary dietary regulations, which of themselves are favourable. Finally, the question of outside communication is solved satisfactorily for the prisoner, who not only can see his relatives several times during the week, even when under punishment, but may write home practically as often as he likes.1187 Well, all I would ask, finally, Mr. Speaker, is that sooner or later—sooner, I hope—this House will be able by means of this Bill to induce some Home Secretary to introduce into the penal system of the three countries some of the enlightenment, some of the humanity, and some of the merciful discipline of the French prisons, which have produced such good effects upon criminals there.
§ *MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
Mr. Speaker, the speech to which we have just listened has been a most valuable contribution to this Debate, and though in some respects, perhaps, the hon. Member for South Mayo has not given the credit which, I think, is due to the Government intentions with regard to this Bill, the speech was, on the whole, characterised by great fairness, absence of exaggeration, and valuable facts and suggestions which I hope will not be overlooked by the Home Secretary. More especially, Sir, do I think that some of his suggestions with regard to long sentences, with regard to diet, with regard to the treatment of first offenders are well deserving of consideration. I feel reluctant to follow the hon. Member into some of his interesting remarks, because I know there are a good many other Gentlemen anxious to speak; but I wish to refer to one or two other points. I am glad that the hon. Member who has just sat down laid stress on the importance of the rules which this Bill empowers the Home Secretary to make. In that respect he differs from the mover of the Amendment. The only objection that has been taken to the principle of the Bill is as to the power to frame these rules. The arguments have tended in the direction of showing that the present Bill was meant to deprive Parliament of some power which it now possesses, whereas the absolute reverse is the case. This Bill, so far from tending to create a more rigid system of administration, will give Parliament the power, which it does not now possess, of considering and co-operating with the Home Office in the consideration of prison treatment. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green similarly declaimed against the secrecy and the bureaucracy of the Prison 1188 Commissioners and their system, and other Members declaimed also against the absence of the element of local control. Well, Sir, on all these points I maintain that their arguments were not directed against the Bill, but against the system as it exists now. My reason for supporting this Bill—which I do very heartily—is because I consider it a step in advance. It is not an heroic Measure, which is, perhaps, scarcely desirable, but an honest and well-intentioned Measure in the direction of remedying the three great defects of our present system—namely, want of elasticity, publicity, and local control. The arguments of the mover of the Amendment were directed against the present system, which this Measure, by getting rid of the Schedule of the Act of 1865, will amend. The Home Office, at the present moment, is bound hand and foot by the regulations of that Schedule, and one important consideration which ought not to be lost sight of is that the minor reforms, which could easily be carried out under the provisions of this Bill, are left now year after year untouched, simply because we can do nothing except by an Act of Parliament; and to multiply enactments in this manner is to render confusion worse confounded. And therefore, Sir, I say it is really childish to describe this Bill as diminishing Parliamentary control over our prison system. On the contrary, it invites the aid and co-operation of Parliament in the administration of our prison system. And similarly in regard to publicity. Some Members in the House may not be aware that up to the present time the rules with regard to convict prisons have never been published at all. Again, the rules which regulate the management of local prisons are a scattered and incoherent mass of regulations, of which nobody really knows the precise extent or effect. Well, this Bill, I say, will be of great assistance, and it only points in the direction of formulating what we have not got at the present moment—namely, a code of prison rules to which reference can be made, and which will also have the effect of being elastic in its nature. Reference was made by one hon. Member to the non-publication of the Standing Orders. There is much labour involved in the publication of those Standing Orders, and that is, I understand, the 1189 reason of the objection of the right hon. Gentleman, and not any personal disinclination to make public the method and the intentions with which they administer either this Bill or the Bill now proposed to be enacted; and, Sir, I would venture here to say that I deprecate and regret the amount of suspicion which appears to be engendered in the minds of a good many hon. Members with regard to all our officials in this matter of prison management. I venture to say that the greatest distrust of those officials lies in the minds of those who know least about their work. Now, Sir, at the present moment I say that we have really no code for determining the conduct of our prison system, but under this Bill, followed as it will be by a consolidation Act, which will be very easily provided and passed, you will then have your whole prison system contained in one Act, together with those prison rules which are to be formulated by the Home Secretary. My right hon. Friend below me, the late Home Secretary, did, I think, very valuable service, amongst other things, to the cause of prison reform by sending a representative from his Department to attend the Paris Congress in 1895, with the result that we now are in constant and close touch with the permanent International Commission sitting at Geneva to discuss all questions affecting the system, not only of this country, but of all European countries. With regard to the local control element in this Bill, whereas convict prisons hitherto have been close corporations without that local control, which is so desirable, we are at least to have under this Bill a very large admixture of that element. Whilst the Measure invites Parliament to frame rules, it also invites the public element to assist in supervising the administration of those rules. I feel certain that the Home Secretary and the Prison Commissioners will not object to any extension of the clause under which the present system of prison visitors may become consolidated; on the contrary, I believe they will welcome any reasonable and suitable extension of this principle of local control in the management of prisons. Well, Sir, the most important provision, to my mind, of this Bill is dealt with by Clause 5, which, 1190 for the first time in the history of our prison system, does make an attempt to bring about a classification of prisoners. I am rather surprised that the critics of this Bill have failed to note what seems to me to be a weak point in the Bill—namely, the fact that the carrying out of this very desirable reform of the classification of prisoners and differential treatment must depend, under the Bill, entirely upon the action of the magistrate. Now, Sir, I do not want to condemn, or to use any unduly strong language with regard to the action of magistrates, but this I do say, that, as everyone is well aware, it is most difficult to get the local magistracy to avail themselves of provisions of Acts of Parliament which have already been passed for their guidance in the treatment of juvenile offenders, and unless the magistrates put Clause 5 of this Bill into operation it will remain a dead letter. We cannot, Mr. Speaker, have a good prison service unless you have an intelligent administration of the law in our Courts of first instance in this country, and I think it may be very necessary for the Home Secretary to take more active means than the Home Office have yet done to bring the provisions of the Bill in this respect under the notice of the local magistracy. Although, of course, a great deal will depend upon their judgment, I heartily hope and trust that they will carry out the duty entrusted to them of making those valuable provisions really of active service to the country. Sir, it has been well said—better said than I can say it—by those who have preceded that there is much to be desired with regard to the knowledge of the meaning and the effect of sentences in this country. When I was out in Rhodesia a friend of mine who was a stipendiary magistrate told me that in his opinion nobody ought to be permitted to give sentences who had not served at least one month either as the Governor of a prison or in some other capacity where he is able, from practical experience, to understand the effect of the sentences he is inflicting. Still, Sir, there is this difficulty in the way of the successful operation of the differential treatment of prisoners, a difficulty which I hope will diminish as time goes on. This Bill itself is an honest attempt to apply for the first time the 1191 principle of classification and differential treatment. Now, Sir, the question of the treatment of juvenile offenders has been well dealt with by my hon. Friend who last addressed the House, and I desire to express my acknowledgment to the Home Secretary for the manner in which, before the introduction of this Bill, he interested himself in the question of the treatment of juvenile offenders; and, if I may venture to say so, I believe he has adopted some suggestions which I was able to offer him for the better treatment of young prisoners on remand or awaiting trial. And now, Sir, with regard to a point which was raised by the seconder of this Amendment as to the inclusion of debtors in this Bill. I think that is a technical point which can be discussed in Committee, but I would like to point out this to the House, that if it be true, as has been stated, that many debtors are committed to prison who ought not to be so committed, the fault must lie with the county court judges, who do not carry out the Act of Parliament, because the Act distinctly says that the county court judge shall satisfy himself that the debtor committed to prison is a man who can pay and will not pay. Now, Mr. Speaker, on the general question, I merely want to say one or two words. I do think that a good deal of exaggerated language has been used during this Debate with regard to our present system. I think that was conspicuously absent from the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, whose suggestions were all the more valuable. I do not say that in some instances he either did justice to the present system or did not exaggerate its evils, but, on the whole, his speech contained most valuable suggestions. Sir, we must remember that prison treatment has to be deterrent as well as reforming, and in our desire to have regard to the latter, we must not wholly overlook the former. For my part I earnestly and heartily desire to see the most humane treatment of our prisoners consistent not only with the maintenance of discipline, but also with a deterrent effect upon them. Reference has been made many times during this Debate to the American system. I would venture to ask the Home Secretary whether he will consider the advisability of publishing 1192 as a Parliamentary Paper the reports—I believe very valuable reports, which have been made with his sanction and full approval—made by the Chairman of the present Commissioners as a result of his recent visit to America. That report, I think, would be extremely interesting to hon. Members, and at this moment, before the Bill goes into Committee, I believe it would be studied by those interested in the question with pleasure and satisfaction. Sir, I was much struck with many of the remarks made by the hon. Member for South Mayo on the treatment of prisoners under sentence. In respect of his remark upon dietary, I do think it would be very desirable that the Home Secretary should satisfy himself that the present dietary is sufficient. My own belief is that what is called the No. 1 dietary is insufficient. Although that is only given for seven days, I agree with the hon. Member for South Mayo that nothing can be done with a prisoner by starving him and reducing his physical as well as his mental powers. I venture to hope that one result of this Debate will be to induce the authorities to diminish to some extent, at any rate, the rigours of the treatment which is accorded to long-sentence prisoners. With regard, for instance, to the plank bed, is there any reason whatever why the plank bed should be retained? I cannot myself think that, either in respect of dietary or in respect of the plank bed, any object is served in the way of the physical or the moral improvement of the prisoners. I regretted very much to hear the general, vague, and I think enormously exaggerated remarks made by the hon. Member for East Donegal in his speech the other night. It was not a speech which would convince the House, because the statements of the hon. Member were vague and ill-considered. The hon. Member was a member of the Departmental Committee, and he signed the Report of that Committee without dissenting from the statement in that Report that our prison system was neither inhumane nor deficient in those characteristics and elements upon which the hon. Member for Roscommon, the other night, insisted so much. Sir, I will only say that I support this Bill heartily, not 1193 because it is a great Measure dealing with all the necessities of the case, because this is a matter in regard to which it is quite impossible to go in advance of public opinion; but I do support it because I believe it is a step in the direction of providing more elastic and more humane methods, and a more progressive system of prison administration.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford)
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House said that in his opinion the evils of the present prison system had been exaggerated by many speakers, and he went on to add that he did not charge the hon. Member for South Mayo with exaggeration. I think, if the hon. Member for South Mayo drew a true picture of our prison system as it actually exists, a more terrible indictment of that system can never have been drawn. I think all parties in this House will acknowledge the self-restraint and the moderation of the speech of the hon. Member for South Mayo. He said at the beginning of that speech that he would endeavour to treat the subject without any personal feeling; and, although that was a difficult task, I think he kept his word, with the result that his speech probably carried very much more weight with all sections of the House than if he had given way to his natural personal feelings in this matter. I am anxious, before this Debate comes to a close, to make a short contribution to the discussion, because the subject under discussion is one which has for a very long time been one of the keenest interest to me. Circumstances have afforded me an opportunity of investigating for myself the treatment of prisoners in this country, and of comparing that treatment and the entire prison system of this country with that which exists in various States in America. On the treatment in Great Britain of political prisoners I will not, after all that has been said on the subject by other speakers, dwell. All I will say is this: In my opinion, the principle on which England has always proceeded in her dealings with political prisoners, 1194 certainly in recent generations, has been deeply disgraceful to this country. But, as I say, I do not propose to travel over the same ground in this matter that has been already travelled by other speakers. I desire in the few remarks which I will make to the House to deal broadly with the entire system, and I desire to say at the outset that I regard the prison system which exists in this country as the most brutal and the most brutalising in existence. It has been well said that the end of punishment in every civilised nation in the world should be prevention and reformation. In England the end seems to be rather vindictive retribution. English prisoners are not treated as human beings. No effort whatever is made at reform in convict establishments. All that is good in a man's nature is crushed and destroyed in a place like Portland, and all that is brutal and bad is brought out. The same kind of punishment precisely, the same kind of work precisely, the same discipline precisely, is imposed upon all prisoners alike, not only without any regard whatever to the intrinsic guilt of their offences, but without any regard to their previous training, or habits, or education. First offenders, although put in a class by themselves, are treated with precisely the same discipline as the other prisoners in gaol. Men whose lives have been spent in mental exercises are put upon the same work as others who are entirely uneducated. All alike, whatever their conduct in prison, whatever their offences, are subjected to the same cast-iron treatment of isolation and of absolute silence; in fact, all are treated not as human beings, but as mindless and soulless atoms. Sir, I will vote in favour of this Bill because it goes some way in the direction in which I desire prison reform should go, but I confess that the Bill is a most halting and disappointing one. It seems to be the creation of men who are conscious of the defects of the present system, who see the direction in which they ought to go, but who have not the 1195 courage of their convictions, and who are afraid to enter boldly on the path of reform. Sir, I have seen your prison system, not, indeed, in the same way as the hon. Member for South Mayo has seen and suffered from it, but I have seen it at work at Portland and in other of your convict establishments. One test of the treatment is this. The proportion of the educated or semi-educated men who are punished in Portland and other convict establishments, who go mad under the treatment, is absolutely appalling, and, for my part, I do not wonder at it. There are, roughly speaking, in Portland two classes of prisoners—those engaged in outdoor work (on quarries, as it happens to be there), and those engaged on indoor work in the prison. Let me for one brief moment recite to the House the diary of a man of each class. A man who is at work inside the prison rises at five in the morning and remains in his cell until six. During that hour his breakfast is brought into his cell. Then he remains there till seven, when he goes to chapel. After chapel the prisoners are all paraded, and, in the presence of one another, in a very brutal manner, their clothes are either taken off or opened, and their whole body is completely searched. After that they go to the workshops at about 7.30, and remain there till about 11.10. Then again they are paraded, and the same brutal system of searching is again pursued. Then they come back to their cells at 11.20; they have their dinner there, and remain in their cells till 12.45. Again they are brought out, and in the presence of one another they are again searched in this brutal way by the warder. Then they go to their workshops again till five o'clock, after which they are again searched in the same way, and then brought to their cells and given their supper, and then they are locked up for the night. Now one point before I go further. Here is the whole day, from five o'clock in the morning till five o'clock in 1196 the evening, and not one single quarter of an hour passed in open-air exercise under the sky of Heaven. There they are the whole 24 hours indoors. The only time they get a breath of fresh air at all is that, when they are going to their workshops, they have to march across a yard to get from their cells to the workshop. Then with regard to those prisoners who are engaged in open-air work in the quarries, the work they do is of even a more degrading and brutalising kind still. I remember on one occasion when I was going to Portland on a bleak winter day in a snowstorm. Driving up this road in my comfortable closed carriage, I came across a gang of prisoners; they had evidently been caught in the snowstorm, and they were going back to the prison from the quarry; 10 or 12 of them were yoked together exactly like beasts of burden, with collars round their necks, and some of them yoked to the cart which carried the stones which they had been breaking, with, of course, armed warders surrounding them. Now, can you conceive anything more brutal and brutalising than that?
§ *SIR J. T. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
The hon. Member for Sheffield says that that is not done in this country.
§ COLONEL SIR HOWARD VINCENT
The hon. Baronet must not misrepresent me. That is not what I said. I asked, what had those prisoners done?
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I do not know what they had done, but the view I take is, that no matter what a man may have done—["Oh, oh!"]—I may be quite wrong in my view, but I am entitled surely to state it—no matter what a man may have done, it is the duty of the State, in the punishment 1197 accorded to him, to endeavour to cultivate the germ of good which there is in every man, rather than to bring out all that is brutal in his nature. And, Sir, not only are all days alike spent in the way I have described, but during the whole of those days absolute silence is enforced. I see that one of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee is that this system of absolute silence should be to some extent relaxed. But the answer the Commissioners have given is certainly not encouraging. The system of absolute silence is enforced in the most rigorous way in all these convict establishments. When visits are allowed to these men, which is once in three months, the visits are held under such degrading and humiliating circumstances that to any man who has any remnant at all of decency and good feeling left, it must be an additional punishment instead of a privilege. Take the case of an unfortunate man who was not seen any of his relatives, and is visited for the first time by, say, his wife or daughter. He is locked up like an animal in a cage at one side of the room. On the other side his visitor is put in a cage; there is a warder present, and the prisoner and his visitor converse, but they are not allowed to shake hands even. I ask, what is the object of the spirit which imposes that kind of treatment? Surely you would not make the punishment less deterrent if a man were allowed like an ordinary human being to sit down and talk to his visitors—in the presence of a warder, if you like. Then, Sir, there is the question of letters. Letters are only received once in every few months by these men, and for the slightest breach of prison discipline the privilege of receiving these letters is taken away. No reward for good conduct of any sort or kind is given to these prisoners, except, indeed, the remission of sentence of a limited character, which they get if they do not break the prison rules. Now, the American system, with which I have made 1198 myself familiar, is exactly the opposite. I am speaking not of the Elmira Reformatory, although I think it would [...] quite possible to defend that institution and the methods pursued there, but I am speaking of the ordinary convict establishments in America. They vary in almost every State in some details, but the spirit in which they are regulated is the same all through America, and that spirit is the exact opposite of the spirit which rules the prison system of this country. The idea underlying the prison system of America is to endeavour to bring out and develop whatever is good in a man's nature by humane treatment. Every one of these convict establishments is, in a sense, a reformatory where, by good conduct, prisoners may from day to day, and week to week earn various privileges quite apart from the remission of sentence. I rather gather from the interruption of the hon. Baronet opposite just now that his idea of the object of punishment is to make men suffer—not to deter others from crime. That is certainly not the spirit of the prison system in America. The spirit of the American prison system is to deter and to reform, and when men say, as I have heard it said in this country, that the American system is too lenient, the answer is to be found in the fact that ordinary crime in America, where this system is in existence, is not more rife than it is in this country, where you have the more rigid system. Discipline in prisons in America is just as well preserved as discipline in prisons here, notwithstanding the fact that the American prison authorities have to deal with a class of prisoners, the majority of whom are probably more difficult to deal with than our English prisoners—I mean the lower sections of the coloured population. Now let me contrast very briefly one or two items in the two systems. Take the number of visits that a prisoner may receive in America. The number of visits he may receive depends entirely on his conduct. 1199 If he is a well-conducted prisoner he may earn as a reward the privilege of receiving a visit as often as once a week. During the visit he is allowed to sit down in an ordinary room by the side of his visitor in the presence of a warder; anything in the nature of a cage, as in the English case, is entirely unknown. So with regard to letters. In America prisoners may receive, according to their conduct being good or bad, so many letters, and they may also earn the privilege of writing letters. On the question of food nothing struck me more forcibly than this: that, instead of the men having sent into their cells a certain quantity of food to eat in solitude, the prisoners in America all dine together in a large hall, and there is practically no limit to the quantity of food they may eat. In this country, no doubt, according to the system devised by scientists, you do provide sufficient food to keep the men alive, but it has been proved in the course of this discussion that sometimes you do not provide sufficient to satisfy the pangs of hunger of healthy and strong men. In the same way, Sir, with regard to books. In an American prison the prisoner by good conduct may earn the privilege of receiving from the library as many books as he likes, so long as he only reads them in his leisure hours. Here the number of books a prisoner may read is so limited that the prisoners have very grave reason for complaint. Then, as to newspapers, in almost every one of these American prisons the prisoners can obtain newspapers as a reward for good conduct. Let me ask for a moment, why should they not? Why, during the hours that the prisoners have free between their tasks, should they not be allowed to read newspapers and know what is going on in the world outside, and feel that they are still living beings in the world, instead of being taught, as they are under your system, to think almost that they have ceased to be human beings at all? Then, Sir, the cells in the American prisons are treated in the same way. 1200 By good conduct a prisoner can earn for himself the right to partly furnish his cell. I myself visited a number of cells in many prisons in the various States of America, where I found rugs on the floor and a chair and table; in some cases even I found flowers that had been sent in by the relatives of the prisoner, which he was allowed to keep within his cell; and on the walls of these cells they are allowed to keep photographs of their friends and relatives. Anyone who is at all acquainted with our prison system in England knows how brutally bare most English cells are. I had myself an extraordinary instance of the severity of the prison system in England in this respect not long ago. I was visiting a prisoner in Portland, and it was my sad task to have to break to him the news of the death of a very dear relative or friend. The poor man to whom I broke this news, when he heard it broke down and sobbed like a child. I had brought with me a little photograph, about two inches square, of the dead boy, and a lock of his hair. The prisoner begged of me to get him permission to keep these little relics in his cell. I went to the governor of the gaol—one of these military gentlemen spoken of by the hon. Member for South Mayo—and I made the request that this prisoner should be allowed to keep these articles in his cell. He answered me, with a look of amazement, "My dear sir, how could discipline be maintained if this kind of privilege were allowed?" I, however, took pains that the matter should be brought under the attention of the Home Office, and, owing to the kindly intervention of the Home Secretary himself, permission was eventually, after some delay, given to the prisoner to retain these articles in his cell. I mention that matter to show the spirit in which these prison rules are worked by the officials. Here was a governor who refused to allow this simple privilege to this man, and, perhaps, from his point of view, rightly refused, because it was quite at variance with the whole system that 1201 he was engaged in administering. Sir, in American prisons they also allow within certain limits converse between the prisoners. In their workshops, so long as they do their work and do not cause any disturbance, and so long as there is no breach of discipline, the men are allowed to converse with one another. They are on good terms with the prison officials, and it seems to me from what I have seen of the convict establishments of this country that that cannot be said of the English system. Anything in the nature of a kindly word passing between a prisoner and a warder is a thing unknown. Indeed, cases are on record where the fact that a warder has spoken kindly to a prisoner has led to a report being made and the warder being punished for breach of the rules. Sir, the whole spirit of the American system is more humane than the system here. The Americans desire to reach what is good in a man and develop it. In England the idea seems to be to treat every prisoner as incorrigibly and irredeemably bad. I came across the other day some lines which seemed to be very à propos—The vilest deeds, like poisoned weeds,Bloom well in prison air;'Tis only what is good in manThat wastes and withers there.Pale anguish keeps the heavy gate,And the warder is despair.Such a system as that is, I maintain, not the best system for the prevention of crime. It, is quite inconsistent with the idea of reformation; it only excels in vindictive brutality. I believe for my part that it is bad in policy. I believe that it is disgraceful in its nature, and I deeply regret that this Bill leaves it almost entirely untouched in its carefully organised brutality.
§ *SIR JOHN BRUNNER
I should not have risen after the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Mayo if it had not been that through inadvertence I had given some offence to the hon. and gallant Member for Central Sheffield. I want to assure him that it 1202 was entirely unintentional on my part that I should have attributed words to him which he did not use. I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland is not in the House, because I should have liked him to hear what I have to say with regard to the speech that he made this evening. We are all agreed, no matter what shade of politics we hold, that our prison system ought to be deterrent; but we, on this side, and I believe there are many on that side, too, have come to the conclusion that undue severity is simply not deterrent, and we are in hopes that, if not by this Bill, at any rate through the rules the right hon. Gentleman and his successors may lay down for the management of our prisons, a kindlier and a more humane and a more sensible and wiser system will prevail, which will be very much more deterrent than any system that we have adopted up to now. Some 10 or 11 years ago I happened to be passing through San Francisco, and I read an article written by the head of the State prison of California. He informed his readers that, having been allowed a free hand by the State authorities, he had reasoned out for himself the best method he could adopt for the management of his prisoners. He argued in this way:The men and women who come under my care are people of low intellect, people who dislike work, and who have been all their lives habitually lazy; how can I make them habitually industrious and fit them to go out into the world to earn their livelihood and become useful citizens?He hit upon this plan, that the better work a man did the better food he should have. He said people of so low a type can best be approached through their natural appetite, and so successful was this system of his that he declares in that article that he invited employers of labour over and over again to come and look at these men at work in the prison, and that they had borne testimony over and over again that they had never seen men work as these convict prisoners did. The article which I read in 1203 San Francisco in May, 1887, has remained in my mind ever since. The argument seemed so simple, so clear, and so convincing, and I am in hopes that the right hon. Gentleman, when we get into Committee, will allow the Committee to amend that particular clause by offering prisoners not only the remote and dim hope of a diminution of sentence, but—[Mr. JOHN REDMOND: Better dietary.] I say not only a better dietary, but some further kind of amelioration of the system such as that described by the hon. Member for Waterford. I hope that when we come to that clause in Committee, the right hon. Gentleman will allow the Committee to amend it so as to offer other inducements to good conduct in the prison. I believe, as we all believe, that this Bill is an honest attempt to improve the management of our prisons, and I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will have been convinced by what he has heard, and especially by what he has not heard, that if he allows those who wish to amend this Bill in a humane direction to have their way, the Bill will receive the almost unanimous support of the House.
§ COLONEL SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I had not intended to address the House upon the Second Reading of this Bill, because it is evident that the Bill is a step in the direction of ameliorating the system of prison administration in this country, and, with hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, I fully share the feeling that has been expressed upon the Bill this evening, that the Home Secretary is deserving of our best thanks for having made this effort to improve our prison administration. The hon. Baronet who has just spoken has relieved me happily from a portion of what I intended to say by the handsome excuse he has been so good as to make. I, therefore, need not refer to that portion of the subject again. But I may, perhaps, in self-justification for the observation I made, state that having had the good 1204 fortune to pass through this House the First Offenders Act, by which so large a number of persons, especially juveniles, have been saved from prison, I should be among the first to welcome any reform of our prison administration. But, Sir, having been associated for a long time with the administration of the criminal law, I can never dismiss from my mind the absolute necessity that punishment shall be deterrent as well as preventive. When the hon. Member for Waterford, I have no doubt in perfect good faith, gave us the dietary of the convicts at Portland, I could not help remembering that convicts are, as a rule, men who have been guilty of serious offences indeed; many of those offences have been accompanied by serious personal violence, and many of the convicts have been repeatedly convicted. Therefore it is only natural, and only necessary, that convicts should be punished with more severity than persons who have been guilty of less serious offences, and especially those who have been guilty of first offences. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my hearty recognition of the great services which have been rendered by the Chairman of the Commissioners of Prisons and Convict Establishments since he was appointed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the late Home Secretary. There has been an undoubted improvement since his appointment, and the repeated visits which Mr. Ruggles Brise has paid to the United States of America have been undoubtedly of great advantage. There are two points in this Bill which I am quite sure deserve the most careful consideration of hon. Members. First of all with regard to the fifth clause, as to the division of misdemeanants. I do not think there is anything so important in prison administration as the division of prisoners. When the hon. Member for Waterford speaks of the association of prisoners, I am certain that he is not so cognisant, as I have had the opportunity of being, with the imminent harm 1205 there has been in many cases by the association between prisoners. The worst offenders invariably obtain an ascendency over those most easily influenced, and it is almost invariably an ascendency for evil. There is another portion of this Bill which I am quite convinced deserves hearty approval, and that is the provision it makes for rewards for industry and good conduct. I am glad my right hon. Friend has been able to put this matter on such a sound and clear basis. I am certain that the enactment of this Bill will be exceedingly beneficial to the criminal administration of this country, and will tend to the reduction of crime in at least the same ratio as that in which crime has been reduced in recent years.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
My remarks and observations will be addressed to one point. I want to draw the attention of the Home Office and of the House to the system of flogging at present in operation in our convict prisons and in our local prisons. I know that the Home Office has, to some extent, amended and modified the rules which relate to the offences for which convicts may be flogged, but, although they have removed from that category many petty breaches of discipline, yet power is retained to inflict this punishment for comparatively trivial offences. Nominally, there are three offences for which prisoners may be flogged: (1) for mutinous language, (2) for personal violence, (3) for gross insubordination. It seems to me that almost anything a man might do or say could be included under one or other of those headings. Last year I drew the attention of the House to a case where a prisoner escaped from gaol in Carlisle. He made a very clever escape to Sunderland; he was brought back to Carlisle, and there sentenced to 18 lashes. I asked a question in this House of the Home Secretary, and I was told that it was not only because this man had 1206 escaped that he was sentenced to be flogged, but it was because he had been guilty of repeated offences against prison discipline. It seems to me that that sentence was an unjust sentence, whichever way you look at it. If he was sentenced to 18 strokes with the cat merely because he had escaped, it is a monstrous sentence, because that man showed, at any rate, that he had some grit in him. ["Oh, oh!"] I certainly think that a man who, when opportunity offers, makes an attempt to escape is probably a better individual than a man who never makes the attempt. [Captain BROOKFIELD): Is the State to reward him for it?] I really think my point is a sound one. The man is only following his natural instinct, and I hold that a man ought, not to be flogged merely for attempting to escape from prison. On the other hand, if the flogging was awarded for a number of petty offences, it is monstrous that those small matters should be recorded and kept against the man until the accumulation should be supposed to justify such a punishment. I only give that as an illustration. Let the House, for a moment, realise the character of the treatment to which a prisoner is often exposed and the exasperation to which he is subjected. You may have a man with his health and nerves shattered by, say, the want of his customary food, and a coarse word from a warder may so excite him that he utters an oath, or perhaps almost raises his hand, and for that he is liable to be flogged. The tribunal which sentences him to this punishment is an informal court inside the prison walls. The warder naturally makes the most of the offence; the examination is one-sided; the prisoner, who is already under one sentence, is practically playing with loaded dice in dealing with this new charge; he is absolutely undefended. What usually happens, I am told, is that after the hearing of the charge the prisoner is sent back to the prison; his sentence is not 1207 even pronounced in his presence, and the next morning, without any warning, he is brought out, and either strapped to what is called a pony, or fastened to the triangle, and given 20 or 25 lashes. I have some information about the character of the offences for which flogging is given. In one gaol, for idleness, threatening language, and threatening to break windows, 25 lashes were given. In another case, for continued idleness and refusing to labour, 25 lashes.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
That is not possible now. Flogging is not awarded for refusing to labour. I have issued instructions to that effect.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE
I am very glad to learn that, and, of course, I shall pass on. My next point is that the directors who control the administration of flogging in our gaols are, by their previous experience, not suitable judges. I have information about one individual whose visits are really marked by blood. He was governor of a gaol, and has been made a prison director. The House will very readily understand that when an individual has been accustomed for a long time to be associated with criminals, no matter how good his intentions may be, he is likely to be less humane in his treatment of them. I might illustrate this by the experience of people who witness bull-fights. The first time a person sees a bull-fight it is with loathing and horror, but after a little experience he becomes callous; and it is much the same in the case of those having to deal with criminals. I know it is said that these sentences are passed as a deterrent, and that in times past for such offences as garrotting flogging has had a good 1208 effect; and there are Members of this House, who are Chairmen of Quarter Sessions, who are strongly in favour of awarding the punishment of flogging for certain crimes, such as mutilation, rape, and so forth. But I would point out that in all those cases the sentence of flogging is given in open court, after a fair trial; whereas the men I am talking about are sentenced inside the gaol, without going through anything like a trial. I think the power ought to be taken away from prison directors of administering flogging on prisoners who are undefended, and who cannot receive a fair trial for any offence which they have committed in gaol. Englishmen are not accustomed to believe that the worst Irishmen are any less criminal than the worst Englishmen. In the last four years it has not been found necessary to flog a single Irishman in any Irish convict establishment or local prison, although there have been 154,000 men in local prisons and 3,600 Irishmen in convict establishments. In Scotland in the last six years it has not been found necessary to flog a single one of the 226,000 men in local prisons, and only two of the 2,576 men in convict establishments. It is only in England that this barbarous system still obtains, and I would appeal to the Home Secretary to so alter the rules as to obviate the continuance of this degrading and brutalising system of flogging in gaol, under sentences passed by visiting directors, who are not subject to any public supervision. In France and Germany long ago the system of flogging in gaols was abolished, and I do not think we ought to be behind the nations of Europe and behind our own Colonies in relation to this matter.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow, at Two of the clock.