HC Deb 09 January 1913 vol 46 cc1380-1
99. Sir W. BYLES

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that a burglar, named Joseph Wilson, aged thirty-six, was sent to penal servitude at the Middlesex Sessions on Monday; that it was given in evidence that he had nineteen previous convictions against him, and that he was first sent to prison when twelve years of age; and whether some effort will be made by the Home Office authorities to prevent juvenile offenders being transformed into habitual criminals by our prison system?


The prevention of crime by means of the reformation of the criminal is an aim which is constantly in the mind of the prison authorities, and persistent efforts have been made and are now being made by them to achieve it. I would deprecate in the strongest possible way the suggestion that because such efforts are in some cases ineffectual, the prison authorities are indifferent to the object in view; and I cannot think that because imprisonment has failed to correct a boy or a man's dishonest tendencies, it is therefore to be regarded as having "transformed him into an habitual criminal." The public expression of such a view appears to me unduly discouraging to those actually engaged in prison administration. With regard to the treatment of youthful offenders, I would point out that under the existing law no offender of less than fourteen years of age can be sentenced TO imprisonment at all, and no one under sixteen can be so sentenced unless he is certified to be of a specially depraved or unruly character. Probation and detention in a reformatory or an industrial school or in one of the places of detention provided under the Children Act, are the substitutes for imprisonment in the case of offenders under sixteen; and as regards offenders between sixteen and twenty-one, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reformatory work done in Borstal institutions and by the Borstal Association and also by the Borstal Committee established at the different prisons.


Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I make no insinuation against the prison authorities. May I ask whether this is not one of the many pieces of evidence that must come before the Home Office that our present prison methods tend to make criminals?


No. I thought I had given sufficient reasons to show that there is no foundation for the suggestion