Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £394,110, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Prison Commissioners and of the Prisons in England and Wales."—[Note— £550,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Dr. SALTER
I started earlier this afternoon, inadvertently, to refer to this Vote, and I now want to resume my remarks upon it which were then cut short. No party issues are raised by this Vote, and I merely want to put 887 forward a few constructive suggestions with regard to the further humanisation of prison and penal establishments. The first matter that I want to raise is in connection with the provision of observation centres for young offenders, and I would ask the Home Secretary to be good enough to give his particular attention to this matter. In 1927, a special Departmental Committee presented a unanimous report on the treatment of young offenders, and made a good many recommendations. Five years have passed, and practically no advance has been registered until the present Session. There is now before the House a Bill to give effect to some of the recommendations of the Committee, particularly as regards the reconstitution of the procedure of children's courts in line with modern practice. So far as regards the Departmental Committee's proposals which could be put into force by administrative action on the part of the Home Office, nothing, so far as I can ascertain, has been done. I desire to refer, in the first place, to the question of observation centres for children and young persons under remand. After the Committee's Report had been submitted to the Home Secretary, a conference was convened in the early part of 1927, representing some 60 national societies who were concerned with child welfare and the prevention of crime, and that conference asked the Home Office to give effect to this particular recommendation.
§ Dr. SALTER
I am going to suggest that it would not, but that it would be within the competence of the Home Secretary to make the necessary arrangements which I am going to outline. A similar conference was held in March of last year, when the same request was repeated in more urgent terms, and the late Home Secretary was pressed to receive a deputation on the subject. But nothing whatever has happened as a result, except that in Clause 37 of the new Children Bill the same duty is to be laid on the councils of counties and county boroughs as had previously been imposed on the London County Council, namely, the duty of providing remand homes in their respective areas. But a 888 remand home as such, where a child is only kept for a few days or a week, does not meet the situation. It is necessary that such an institution should be used as an observation centre for as long as may be medically or otherwise necessary, and that the Home Office should make proper administrative provisions in that regard. I will explain where we consider the present system and administration to be at fault. A child or young person charged before a juvenile or other court, if not released on bail, has to be sent to some place of detention, and the police authorities at the present time are responsible for providing these places of detention for children under 16, except in the county of London, where the London County Council has the duty of providing premises, but the regulations governing the conduct of the premises are laid down by the Home Secretary, and I believe that half the cost is provided out of this Home Office Vote. The Departmental Committee, with regard to these premises, said:Many of the places of detention are far from satisfactory. Only in a few instances do the accommodation and facilities fulfil reasonable requirements.As far as I can learn from persons and societies who are particularly interested in this subject, the Home Office, in the intervening years since 1927, has done nothing to secure the provision of any better accommodation or to make the improvements which were indicated by the committee. The committee said, referring to the remand homes in London, which, under the Children Bill, are to be the model for the rest of the country:The places provided are admittedly inadequate, and it is understood that the council have had under consideration for some time the possibility of providing new and better accommodation.That was over five years ago, and to-day the condition of things is actually worse. Not only has no additional accommodation been provided, but the circumstances in which the remand homes are carried on are positively worse. In 1925, throughout the country, 2,320 children and young persons who had been arrested and were on remand or had been committed for trial or were awaiting transfer to an institution, were sent to one of these places of detention for the time being. That number, I understand, has been in- 889 creasing every year since, but no additional accommodation has been provided, In London, the daily child population of the Penton Road Remand Home was 41 in the year 1925, and I believe it is 90 at the present time. Last year it was over 50. That home deals only with juveniles under 16, and no provision of special accommodation has been made for young persons between the ages of 16 and 21 who have been arrested and have not been released on bail.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have been studying this Vote very carefully since the hon. Member commenced his speech, and, so far as I can ascertain, it deals only with people after, and not before, conviction.
§ Dr. SALTER
With great respect, these homes are also used for the time being for persons after as well as before conviction. They are used for the double purpose, and, therefore, I would submit that I am in order in continuing my remarks on these lines. These young people between the ages of 16 and 21 are detained either in police cells or in prison cells. If they have been remanded in custody or committed for trial, they are confined in police cells, and, on the average, I find that over 2,220 young men and 350 young women between the ages of 16 and 21 are received each year in prison on remand. The departmental committee pointed out that frequently remand in custody is necessary and desirable from the point of view of having the person concerned properly examined and observed, and they not only did not object to such a procedure, but approved of it warmly. They said, however:We have been much impressed by the views expressed to us as to the need of greater facilities for the examination and observation of young offenders.They referred to the necessity of obtaining particulars in regard to the children's antecedents, home life, and so on, and they went on to say:More important still is the need for estimating the personal factors, including especially mental and physical health. There is always the possibility of mental deficiency, the discovery of which would lead to special treatment. The increase in recent years of that distressing complaint, encephalytis lethargica, has emphasised the need for careful examination…. All the resources of approved medical science in relation to the function of the mind should be available 890 under any system such as we envisage … So far as existing places of detention of persons under 16 are concerned, little is done in the way of special examination …. In most cases the Juvenile Courts have no regular means of securing any medical examination …. Even in London the arrangements are in no sense systematised …. We are satisfied that a much better system of examination and observation is required for young offenders between 17 and 21.7.30 p.m.
I want to point out to the Home Secretary that the necessity is now urgent, particularly having regard to the increasing number of juvenile delinquents, to which he himself has alluded, and to the very numerous cases, which, unfortunately, are increasing in proportion to the whole, where mental and moral and physical damage has been caused by encephalytis lethargica. I happen myself to know of two adolescents who were suffering from this disease and were sent to prison, whereas, had they been remanded to an observation centre, their real condition would undoubtedly have been discovered. One of them actually died in prison from the after-effects of the disease, and obviously it was cruelly wrong that he should ever have been sent to prison. The other had paralysis of the muscles of the eyeball and various other physical signs which would have led to instant detection and altogether different treatment had the measures recommended toy the Departmental Committee been carried out. I can also give the Home Secretary particulars of a case of a young man who was suffering from what is known as juvenile G.P.I.—general paralysis of the insane. He was in prison for some months before it was discovered what was the nature of the complaint from which he was suffering, when he was removed to a particular asylum where he could receive the necessary treatment. Again, surely it is very wrong that a person in these conditions should be subjected to a prison regime for some months when, had observation centres been established, or conducted on right lines, any such miscarriage of justice would have been obviated. We are behind a great many other countries in this respect. Belgium has admirable observation schools for this purpose, and a carefully graded system enables the specialists who control the institutions to decide what particular after-treatment is required. All kinds of ingenious physical 891 and psychological tests are employed and, as a result, the whole attitude of the authorities towards juvenile offenders has been considerably modified. All the authorities interested in the subject are unanimous as to the need for converting a number of these remand homes into proper institutions for prolonged observation. The Departmental Committee to which I have alluded recommended specifically that such institutions should be provided and maintained by the State.
At the London County Council last week there was a prolonged debate on this subject, and I understand that general dissatisfaction was expressed by speakers representing all parties at the condition of things. It was agreed on all sides that development in the direction I have indicated should be carried out. It was held, however, that it was not a matter for the County Council, but for the Home Secretary to decide the precise form under which the administration should be conducted. As a result, the Council endeavoured to shift any responsibility from itself on to the shoulders of the Home Office. As far as I apprehend the position, it is the Home Secretary's duty to take cognizance of this question and to do whatever may be necessary. I hope he will give his personal attention to the matter. I would also ask him if he could se his way to issue a circular to juvenile courts—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must point out that we are not on the Home Secretary's salary. We are dealing only with the prisons under his supervision.
§ Dr. SALTER
Again I would suggest that the cost of maintaining these remand homes is borne on the Prisons Votes and, therefore, I submit that I am in order in discussing the matter.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I shall be glad if the Minister will give me some guidance in this matter. As far as I can ascertain, the cost of maintaining remand homes as provided by 8 Edward 7, cap. 67, Section 110, is borne on the Police Vote and not on this Vote.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
The obligation to provide remand homes falls on the police 892 authorities outside London, and both inside and outside London the whole cost falls on the Police Vote, from Subhead E, on page 25.
§ Dr. SALTER
My next point has reference to the payment of wages to men in prison. An experiment that was conducted at Wakefield, and later at Nottingham, was brilliantly successful from every point of view, and has been very strongly commented upon by the Governors of those two prisons and by the Prison Commissioners themselves in their last report. Has the right hon. Gentleman taken any steps, or does he intend to take steps, to extend it, and is there any money available under this Vote, whether by savings in other directions or in some other manner, for the formation of a wages fund for prisoners, apart altogether from a voluntary fund which was collected from outside sympathisers, and paid over to the authorities for this purpose? I understand that in 1929 the Prison Commissioners took advantage of an offer made by some public-spirited persons interested in prison administration, and accepted £250 raised entirely from voluntary sources for use in an experimental scheme for payment of prisoners. The experiment was tried first in the mat-making shop at Wakefield with 30 prisoners. Any prisoner who misbehaved himself or did not work satisfactory was liable to be sent back.
The system adopted was to fix a basic output and to pay for output in excess of that figure. The normal output in the shop had up to that time been 500 units a week. The basis for payment purposes was fixed at 600 a week, and work completed above that was remunerated at the rate of 1d. per unit. I am given to understand that within a few weeks of the introduction of this scheme there was an output of 836 units and although there were frequent fluctuations, the output practically never fell below 700 and frequently exceeded 800 or even 850. Payment was on a group, or party, basis, the sum earned being divided equally between the workers in the group. The individual earnings were small, averaging only 8d. or 10d. a week per head. The prisoners were allowed to spend these earnings either on cigarettes or on cake and jam for tea on Sundays.
It is an interesting experiment. The reports on the subject by the Prison Com- 893 missioners and private reports sent to the subscribers to the voluntary fund are very striking. It is stated, for example, that one effect of the increased industry was a marked improvement in the behaviour of the prisoners. There was less insubordination, they were less troublesome, irritable and sullen and much more cheerful, and the Medical Officer reported that their health improved. The group of prisoners earning a common fund refused to tolerate slacking on the part of individuals, and the Governor states that, as a consequence, a team spirit developed and a social conscience was created. I have seen several reports furnished to subscribers and they are the most remarkable documents I have ever come across. One states that the scheme provides training in self-control and self-discipline, and this strikes me as being one of the most valuable assets of the experiment, for these young fellows are almost invariably careless and self-indulgent. The Governor of Wakefield says that he could not speak too highly of the result of the experiment, and he desired to see it extended. At Nottingham the results were even more astonishing. The production rose from an average for the preceding six months of 16 square feet per man to 28. At Wakefield it took seven weeks for this percentage increase to occur, but at Nottingham it was done in four weeks.
In the laundry it was found that six men were able to do the washing for 165 prisoners in four days, or for 185 in five days, whereas the official allowance is only four men for 100 prisoners in six days. On the land, eight men did the necessary work in less time than 20 unpaid prisoners took previously. They dug 50 per cent. more ground per day than was considered a fair average by the outside expert who was called in. There were equally astonishing increases in output in building work on the construction side. The Governor of Nottingham testified to the value of the scheme in securing co-operation and good feeling between the prisoners and the staff, and to the excellent effect that it had on prison behaviour generally. I wish to ask whether, with such admirable results accruing on this small experimental scale, there is any intention of extending the system generally to other prisons and developing the idea on larger and broader lines. It would seem, of course, 894 that a prisoner is much more likely to recover his self-respect if he feels that he is turning out useful work and receiving recognition for his industry. If he can be induced to put his best into the job and is allowed to develop some skill, and can see the results of his skill, he will be undergoing not merely prison discipline, but actual training and reformation. If the system could be extended to prisons where juveniles between 16 and 21 are confined, the arrangement would be particularly beneficial to that class. The experiment, of course, marks a breakaway from the past, in which prison labour has been entirely forced labour and, consequently, to many men in a sense degrading. The new method consists in restoring self-respect and dignity, and I beg the Home Office very earnestly to consider whether they cannot see their way to extend the idea.
I want the Committee to consider the position of the young unemployed man who commits a crime against property or person, perhaps involving violence, and receives a sentence of several years imprisonment. The Home Secretary in his speech the other day, and again this afternoon, referred to the fact that those cases are increasing at a somewhat alarming rate. How should that young prisoner, committed perhaps for a number of years, be treated after the sentence has been imposed? I beg the Under-Secretary and Members of the Committee to exercise their imagination as to the position of such a young man. and the way in which he has been brought into the condition in which he finds himself in gaol. He has probably been out of work for months, possibly for years. There are hundreds of thousands of young men who have practically done no work since they left school, or, at any rate, only a short period of work. There must be hundreds of thousands of young men between the ages of 16 and 25 in that position. This type of man receives no unemployment benefit, and no transitional payment is awarded to him. He can get no Poor Law relief. He is told, if he applies to the public assistance committee, that he must either fend for himself or live upon his family. He is given no monetary assistance from the State. The outlook for such a man in the big towns and in districts such as my district is utterly and abjectly hopeless. There is no future which he can foresee.
895 The most pathetic figure in our modern social life is this young, single unemployed man. He receives little or no sympathy and consideration from anyone. His position is more pathetic than that of any other class in the whole population. I have lived in an industrial district consisting almost exclusively of workpeople for 35 years, and I have seen the assistance granted to all types of people. But this young fellow is left absolutely stranded with no helping hand held out to him from any quarter, and certainly not from the State. If he likes to do what, in the circumstances, I call the wrong thing, that is, to many, and be responsible for bringing other lives into the world, he can put himself right immediately and secure out-relief, but if he remains single his position is practically hopeless. He has either to take to the road or to live entirely upon his family. However good his parents may be and whatever the circumstances of his home, after a few months everybody begins to get tired of keeping a great, hulking young fellow. He is a nuisance and in the way at home, and he begins to feel that he is a sponger and a loafer, and, subconsciously to begin with, and then actively, the rest of the family look upon him in that light. There is no opening for him of any kind. He is reduced to a state of profound depression on the one hand, or desperation on the other. In a condition of desperation he very often commits some crime, perhaps a robbery of some sort which very often is associated with an act of violence, and perhaps of very grave violence.
I ask the Under-Secretary and Members of the Committee, what would they do in such circumstances I Speaking for myself, nothing but the Grace of God would keep me in such circumstances from doing some reckless and desperate act, feeling that I was utterly unwanted, that there was no prospect ahead, no assistance from any quarter, and that I was sponging upon my family. It is almost more than you can expect of human nature if a man in those conditions is not reduced to a state of desperation. Here you have a man of that sort, and to-day he is having longer and longer sentences imposed upon him; in fact, the maximum sentences the law permits. He is sent to gaol for two, three, four or five 896 years, and I ask, how is the Home Secretary going to treat him, because the Home Secretary has tremendous powers as far as the internal administration of our penal institutions is concerned. I beg the Home Office to consider the desirability of varying or even revolutionising completely the prison regime for offenders of that type. I gather that there is some intention of segregating them in particular prisons, and I suggest that instead of the soulless, deadening routine of ordinary prison life, some kind of work colonies or centres should be organised where those young fellows may really have a chance of genuine reformation, and where, as a result of their incarceration, they will not be embittered against society for the rest of their lives. They come out of prison—I have met a number of them, and have talked with them after their discharge—feeling that they have a grievance against the world, and that they have not been treated aright and have never had a chance. They come out, after having performed more or less futile prison tasks, infinitely worse from the point of view of character than when they went into prison. There has been no attempt at real reformation.
I see no chance of those young men being restored to useful citizenship unless an entirely different method is undertaken in handling them after they have been to prison. On behalf of all the societies which are interested in penal reform and which, as the Under-Secretary knows, have done so much with regard to putting forward new ideas with reference to prison administration, I ask that some special thought should be given to the handling and treatment of those young men, particularly after they have been to gaol. In all probability the extension to those young men of the wages system, to which I alluded as being practised so successfully at Wakefield and Nottingham, might be helpful. In any case, the development of work centres or farm colonies associated with the prison, although I know that it would probably cost additional money, would be a wise expenditure of money and an economy in the long run, because many of those young men will be a charge on the community for years to come unless some special steps are taken to get them out of their present deplorable conditions. Judicial authorities up and down the 897 country are complaining of the increase in vagrancy. A certain number of those young men who are of the more adventurous type and have a certain amount of initiative, instead of committing crime, leave their homes and take to the road, but they find the conditions even more hopeless than in their own home districts. Practically there is nothing before them and starvation, theft or the casual ward. People who have special knowledge of the subject and who have written about casual wards state that those men prefer prison to the casual ward.
§ Dr. SALTER
I was aware that I was hovering near the border-line when I was referring to casual wards, but I think that you, Captain Bourne, will agree that it was more as an illustration than anything else. I ask that those young men should be regarded with understanding and sympathy, and that they should not be dismissed from mind as soon as they have been put into gaol as a lot of hopeless, undeserving ruffians who should be subjected to ordinary prison routine. I trust that it will be possible to modify the regime in their regard from the point of view of reformation rather than of the infliction of mere punishment. If genuine, helpful, reformative treatment is afforded to those people, there will be another considerable social advantage to be derived. In many industrial districts to-day young men whose circumstances are such as I have described are well known to everybody, and after conviction they are regarded by people in the district as very unfortunate.
If the present tendency of inflicting more severe sentences is continued, all that will happen will be that there will be an increase of feeling in their behalf in the localities from which they come. There will be a tendency to excuse them. There is a growing tendency to excuse their crime at the present time, and I regard it as very disastrous and unfortunate. The tendency, however, is growing and showing itself by the willingness to shield the men and enable them to escape justice. I regard this tendency— and I am sure that the Home Secretary 898 does—as highly undesirable. If the idea is spread abroad, after those men have committed a crime of which the State must take cognisance, that the State is endeavouring to treat them with sympathy in the interests of their ultimate reformation, you will tend, on the whole, to arrest the tendency to which I have referred and to make for a healthier public opinion in regard to this kind of crime. The next subject upon which I desire to touch relates to the appointment of prison chaplains. I do not want to cast any reflection on the work or personnel of the present chaplains, much of which is not merely admirable but devoted. But there are chaplains and chaplains, and I want to make a strong appeal to the Home Office to make a new departure. I will try to say what I have to say with all possible restraint and not to use language that will hurt or offend anyone. The duties of prison chaplains are of a very special character and a very special type of mind is required, if a chaplain is to be successful in his work from the highest point of view. The chaplain is looked upon by different persons in very different ways. Some of them—I am afraid only a few—are regarded by the prisoners as their friend, their father confessor and adviser, but much more often the chaplain is regarded merely as a part of the official machinery of the prison, as a sort of superior warder or as an under-govenor. A man in the position of a prison chaplain has the most extraordinary opportunity of influencing his fellowmen and that opportunity carries with it a great responsibility.
If a chaplain gets into ruts, if he accommodates himself to the ordinary routine, if he regards his appointment as merely the means of a livelihood, he may make a very necessary and useful prison functionary, but he will be nothing more and he will do nothing more. He will serve the prison system, but he will not serve the highest interests of the prisoners. There was a very wise and understanding address given last March by the Rev. F. R. Murray, who was formerly chaplain of Holloway Prison. Quoting the late Miss Edith Sichel, who was for many years writer and literary critic of the "Times," and who had been a prison visitor for a great many years, he said: 899In prison work we are dealing with two main factors, body and soul. Members, of course, of every sort of belief, and lack of belief, are united in this, that in the past they have erred in separating the two. Our dealings with the individual soul are all-important. They are the central part of our work in connection with prisoners.Having regard to the importance of that statement and the need for appointing men who can exercise a real influence on the prisoners, I want to ask the Home Secretary if he will consider a new method of appointing prison chaplains. I understand that about 80 per cent. of the prisoners in this country are described as members of the Church of England. Will the Home Secretary ask the Bishops to appoint a special board to whom clergymen who feel that they have a special call, a definite vocation, for prison work may make application for appointments? If so, it should be stated publicly that only men who feel a very definite call for such work should apply to the Bishops' committee or commission, which would interview them. I do not believe that there would be many applications; I think that they would be very few. The commission would interview the applicants and would recommend to the Home Secretary two or three from whom he might make a selection. He would be much more likely to secure as prison chaplains consecrated men, men who have consecrated their whole life to this particular work as their definite vocation, if he would adopt a method of appointment of that sort. If he did so, I am certain that the prison chaplains as a whole would be regarded in a very different light from the way in which they are regarded by most prisoners and most ex-prisoners to-day.
I have had personal contact with a good many prison chaplains, and I have talked with hundreds, perhaps with thousands, of ex-prisoners of all types and have ascertained their views as to the value of the prison chaplain, the influence of the prison chaplain on them and their fellow-prisoners and the relationship that exists between the average prisoner and the average chaplain and, without saying anything in the least derogatory to the chaplain service as it exists at the present time, I am certain that it is advisable that the Home Secretary should carry out such a new departure as I have suggested, and that a distinctly different 900 type of men should be appointed in certain oases as prison chaplains. If he could make an experiment in that direction it would be very valuable.
I should also like the right hon. Gentleman to make an experiment by appointing different types of governors. We have been discussing on the preceeding Vote the appointment of military officers in charge of the police. I gather that the usual type of appointment as a. prison governor is that of a military or ex-military officer. That may be all right from the point of view of maintaining prison discipline, but I would suggest that if we got a new type of governor and perhaps a new type of warder to staff the prison, we might secure results which would surpass even our most hopeful expectations, in giving a changed attitude towards life on the part of many prisoners. The Home Office did make an experiment in regard to the governor of Aylesbury convict prison, and I am sure the Home Secretary will agree with me that the experiment proved a very great success. Depraved women are much more difficult persons to handle than depraved men. That has been the experience of everybody. I am not suggesting that a clergyman or any minister of religion should be appointed under such experimental conditions as a prison governor.
I am not certain that if we had an experienced Salvation Army officer we might not completely revolutionise prison life. I have seen Salvation Army officers handling men of the most degraded type, men from whom all self-respect had long since disappeared, and I have seen those men, who had been reduced to the utmost depths of social degradation, like lambs under the control of the Salvation Army officer, with better discipline, infinitely better discipline, than you will get in any prison at the present time. I have seen, the Home Secretary may see, and is is open for the world to see reformed characters in the farm colonies, the slum colonies and the slum centres. I am not suggesting that necessarily a Salvation Army officer should be selected, but I am suggesting that the Home Secretary might try an experiment in the way of a new sort of governor, a new type of chaplain and a new sort of staff in regard to one selected prison or one selected set of prisoners, in the hope that we might get some improvement of a social 901 character in prison life. I hope that he will not dismiss the suggestion without some thought.
There is another point which affects prisoners. On 14th March, in reply to a question as to the length of time prisoners were locked in their cells, and how many hours the ordinary prisoner not undergoing prison punishment spent in what is practically solitary confinement, the Home Secretary said:The hour varies in different prisons between about 4.30 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. In many prisons where associated labour formerly continued till about 5.30 p.m., the time spent out of the cells has recently been reduced by about an hour or three-quarters of an hour. The change was one of the regrettable but unavoidable consequences of the financial crisis. The only way to effect any material saving in prison expenditure is to reduce staff by leaving unfilled vacancies caused in the normal course by retirements. The wages of the staff account for considerably more than half of the total Prison Vote. The change has not affected all prisons, and has not affected the arrangements by which many prisoners are brought out of their cells on certain evenings in the week to attend educational classes."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1932: col. 31. Vol. 263.]On behalf of the penal reform societies and persons who are interested specially in prison administration, I have to say that they regret very deeply the decision of the Home Secretary to permit this new departure. It is universally felt that it is a retrograde step to increase the solitary confinement of the prisoners because, in the long run, it is detrimental to their health, their moral and their hopes of reform. I hope that the Home Secretary, by other adjustments of the money at his disposal for prison purposes, will so arrange that it will not be necessary to increase the time that the prisoner is locked in his cell.
I should also like to refer to the question of prison dietary. I suppose that the most important medical discovery of this generation has been that of vitamins. It is a discovery of equal importance to the discovery of antiseptics by Lister. We know now how our mental faculties, our physical health and our moral outlook can be modified not merely by internal gland secretions but by these vitamin substances that are taken in our food. If the Home Secretary knows anything about prison dietary I think he will agree with me that the supply of green- 902 stuff, green vegetables, particularly uncooked green vegetables, in prison is extraordinarily small and deficient. I speak from some experience of this matter, because I happen to have been in prison on more, than one occasion and I know that during the time of my residence, and I am so informed by other people who have been in a similar position, we had no green vegetables, and certainly never, at any time had uncooked green vegetables, like watercress, lettuce or salad. It may be said that these are luxuries to which no prisoner is entitled. I submit that in view of modern knowledge as to the detrimental results of the deprivation of these vita-mines, they should be supplied to every prisoner. I ask the Home Secretary to consult his medical advisers on this matter, in the hope that prison dietary will be augmented or modified in this direction.
I conclude by asking the right hon. Gentleman another question. He and his predecessors have been closing many prisons during recent years. Since 1914, 29 out of a total of 56 prisons, more than half, have been shut down or abolished. We rejoice in that. He and his pre-pecessors have also been making considerable alterations in prison routine administration. Only recently the right hon. Gentleman stated that he was of the opinion that the system of prison industries needed review, and a few weeks ago he told us that there was to be a redistribution of prison population, with the possible closing down of Dartmoor. These and other changes are contemplated. Our prisons are undoubtedly being humanised to some degree, a matter in which we all rejoice. It is very much to the good, but the question I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is, has not the time arrived when a comprehensive review of the whole penal system should be undertaken? Mr. Justice du Parcq in his report on the Dartmoor disturbances advocated the setting up of a Royal Commission on prison administration generally, and I would remind the Home Secretary that it is 40 years since a Royal Commission was appointed to consider prisons and the prison system generally. Could not the right hon. Gentleman appoint such a commission in the near future? In any case I hope we shall get a statement from him on the subject.
I desire to say a word on prison administration. Some years ago I had the interesting experience of visiting the well-known Sing Sing prison in New York State, and since then I have visited other prisons in various parts of the world. It is my firm conviction, as it would be that of any unprejudiced person, that the English prison administrative system will stand comparison with that in any other part of the world. We alone seem to have been able to combine the necessary sense of discipline without losing that touch of human sympathy and understanding which is essential if you are to get satisfactory administration. This is due largely to the governors and officials of our prisons. There is no section of the civil service of this country which deserves better of the public. I refuse to regard the recent events at Dartmoor as indicative or illustrative in any way of our prison system as a whole. Governors of prisons,, like colonels of Indian regiments, have supreme and absolute control of their State; they are lords and masters in their own house. It is right that they should be. You must have stern, hard, and it may be in some cases brutal regulations, but, on the other hand, every prisoner has an individual character, and it is necessary to have a governor with human sympathy and understanding. Therefore, it is highly important that you should choose your governors with care and discretion. For the most part it is safe to say that the right kind of individual is chosen as governor of a prison.
No aspect of our prison administration compares better with that of other countries than the careful way in which we separate and segregate various classes of offenders. This is important not only in the interests of the prisoners themselves but in the interests of the State, because a prisoner who is badly handled will return again and again as a charge on the State, whereas if the right action is taken in the beginning he may develop into a useful citizen. Whether he is a recidivist or a first offender, whether he is an old lag or a juvenile, each case, as far as possible, should be considered individually. I was taken by the hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan), who spends so much of his spare time in 904 studying juvenile offenders, to the institution at Borstal, and no one who goes there can come away without sincere admiration for the manner in which the institution is conducted. That applies equally to other institutions of a similar nature.
There are one or two other matters I should like to mention. First, the case of the remand prisoners at Brixton. Why is it that visitors are not allowed to see these remand prisoners? I have asked questions on this point, but have never received a satisfactory answer. Surely the individuals who are experiencing the loneliness of prison life are just those to whom visitors should be allowed access. That is. not an unreasonable request. I am not quite sure whether this is a. matter within the discretion of the Governor of Brixton Prison or whether it is governed by some Home Office Order. Secondly, in regard to religious liberty in prisons. I have raised this matter on former occasions, and I am glad to say that in the last three or four years certain concessions have been made. If a prisoner happens to be a Roman Catholic and desires to borrow from the library prison a book which is sanctioned by the Church of England, he is not allowed to read it. He may only borrow those religious books which are sanctioned by the particular clergyman or priest of his own denomination. I believe that a certain latitude has been allowed in this respect during the last three years. If an individual like General Booth offered to give an address at the prison he would be allowed to speak only to those members of the prison who subscribed to the faith of the Salvation Army. America has gone ahead of us somewhat in this respect. I think that a greater degree of latitude for lectures should be allowed. Sectarian jealousy plays too strong a part in the prison administration of this country.
I would like to say a word in order to ask the right hon. Gentleman's sympathy for the most difficult of all cases in prison administration, the discharged prisoners. Never was anything truer said than that the hardest part of their sentences begins when they leave prison. It is not by any means only employers who do not extend a sympathetic helping hand to ex-prisoners; it is the employés 905 themselves, who do not desire to be associated with an ex-convict. I was wondering, after some of the remarks made by the hon. Member who has just spoken as to the wages earned in prison, whether those wages might not be allocated to a fund that would help ex-prisoners. I know what excellent work is done by the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society in London and in the country, but always it is the same problem, lack of money. I believe that it might be possible to place these ex-convicts in profitable and useful employment, if only a little more cash were available at the moment when they leave prison.
There is one other small point. A prisoner who has served his sentence and has a remission of, say, three to six months on his sentence, has, during that period, to report regularly to the police of his district. In certain cases it has been found that the mere fact of having to report during that period of remission has cost him the job that he had been able to get. In one instance, which I brought to the notice of the Home Office some time ago, a concession was made, and the man was allowed to report by post to some authority at some distance from the place where he was engaged. That exception might be made the rule— that individuals who have found an occupation, and who have to report every fortnight or every month, should be allowed to report in writing, and only to report in person finally at the end of their sentences. If the Home Secretary could see his way to do something by administrative action—and these questions only entail administrative action— those who hold the views that I am putting forward would be extremely grateful to him. May I, in conclusion, pay a need of admiration and gratitude to the vast body of voluntary workers, prison visitors, the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society and others, because it is largely due to their efforts and labours that the prison administration of this country is not only the admiration, but the envy, of the rest of the world.
§ Mr. LOVAT-FRASER
I stated earlier in the evening, Sir, when you considered it your duty to call upon me to stop, that we were being asked to vote £944,000 to the service of the prisons, almost £1,000,000, and that we were, therefore, 906 entitled to criticise the administration of the prisons to which such a large sum of money was to be devoted. I stand here as one utterly dissatisfied with the prison system in our country, and with the results of the prisons. I feel that until the prisons are put on a basis on which they certainly are not now, we shall get no value from the system.
We have, of late years, adopted the policy of combining, in the prisons, punishment with reformation. We put men in prison, and then we try to reform them. We pull them down with one hand, and we try to keep them up with the other. It is perfectly clear, from what experiences we have had, that punishment and reclamation cannot go together. In this House I have protested against the habit of magistrates putting boys on probation and ordering them to be flogged at the same time, combining reformative with punitive methods. That has been found to be a mistake, and I think it hag been abandoned. But in the case of the prison system we do precisely the same thing. We say that a man must go to prison, but that we must not make it too unpleasant for him. If he must go to prison, be deprived of his liberty, we must put him under a kindhearted government. That system has not worked. I am sorry that I cannot agree with those who have spoken of our prison system as the admiration of the world. It is not the admiration of those who have investigated and understood the prison problem.
Lord Brentford, who used to be Sir William Joyson-Hicks, said in December, 1924, in the "Times" newspaper:If those who went to prison came out no better than they went in, then the whole prison system has failed.My assertion is that the vast majority of those who go into prison do not come out the better for their stay. I read the other night, in the report of the Prison Commissioners for 1928, a statement, quoted from the Governor of Dartmoor, that prisons were "the greatest manufactory of criminals,'' and, considering the kind of work they do and the men who are turned out, I think that statement would be borne out. Some time ago great hopes 'were formed of what Camp Hill was going to do. Habitual offenders were sent to Camp Hill. Camp Hill has ceased to be a place for habitual 907 offenders, because it certainly did not cure the habitual offenders. Then Wormwood Scrubs was to be the place where men were sent to serve their first sentences, but Wormwood Scrubs does not prevent men from returning to prison. Maidstone was the place where a gallant attempt was made, in difficult conditions, to provide some sort of education for the inhabitants of the prisons. It was not a success. Lord Brentford said:If you send a man to prison, give him a long sentence, so that we may have a chance of training and reforming him.The men at Dartmoor and Parkhurst, have very often, I believe, sentences of at least three years' penal servitude, and some sentences of as much as 15 years' penal servitude, but the men are not benefited. They are not improved, and they are do not come out the better for their having been sent to Dartmoor and Parkhurst. There is no chance of training there, and there is no regular education or educational adviser. The report of the Prison Commission says:In a prison it is administratively impossible to provide the requisite diversity of training and employment. In a prison there can be practically no progressive or consecutive courses. At a prison there is usually little open space and such opportunities (for open-air work, exercise and physical training) are small. In a prison, opportunities of contamination by older offenders cannot be altogether eliminated." That is the report of the Prison Commissioners for 1927. It gives one an idea of how little real educational work has been done in the prisons.In 1927, a very admirable book entitled "Criminology and Penology" was brought out by Mr. John Lewis Gillen. In that book the author says that one of the foremost reasons for having a prison system is that it is easy to operate.We continue the prisons because we do not want to take the trouble of finding a better way. … It accords with the inherent laziness of humanity … but we are not proud of it.Then he goes on to foreshadow the lines on which prisons might be improved:Perhaps when we bring to this problem the industry, the patient search for causative factors, the ingenuity of adapting means to ends that characterises the history of medicine, we shall find a way to end this disgraceful institution, which, more than any other, illustrates man's inhumanity to man, but also his indifference and ignorance.908 The aim of those in the House of Commons who desire reform of prisons, as it is the aim of all prison reformers, is to convert our prisons into "moral hospitals," to use the term employed by Lord Lytton, a great authority on this subject, whose writings and speeches in regard to it I always read with great pleasure. We want to adopt, with regard to all prisoners, the tactics which penal reformers are advocating with regard to children. We now see that children who get into trouble ought to be carefully examined; that their characters ought to be tested by psychologists, that their past life ought to be investigated and all the circumstances of their environment ascertained and that then, and only then, should the magistrates deal with them. Precisely the same thing is necessary with adult prisoners. At present we treat people who are abnormal as if they were normal. We punish abnormal people for their abnormality. We forget that many of the inmates of prisons are mental cases, that they are suffering from a mental disability which requires sympathetic treatment and consideration.
Is it right, for instance, to send to prison a neurasthenic whose case calls for careful treatment and a cheerful and inspiring environment We fling into prison cells and place under lock and key men who ought to be allowed to lead open-air lives, with plenty of exercise and the diverse interests of outdoor work. We lock men up in huge and hideous prisons which are, in themselves, creators of the criminal spirit. Many hon. Members no doubt know some of the great prisons of this country like Holloway Gaol or the ghastly prison at Liverpool or the hideous and repulsive prison at Glasgow which is in the centre of the city, contaminating the whole city, situated side by side with the cathedral— the house of God, beside the house of the devil. Our prisons, in themselves, are incitements to crime. I ask any hon. Member here to imagine what his own feelings would be and how he would be influenced, if he found himself inside Holloway Prison or Liverpool Prison with all the repulsive smells of adjoining factories and the horrible environment of that place.
The Governors of our prisons ought to be medical and psychological experts able to differentiate between different types of prisoners. The delinquent ought 909 to be placed under a medical expert and only when all the circumstances of his case had been ascertained, should a decision be come to as to the fate to be allotted to him. The hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) asked for an inquiry into and a report upon the whole of the penal system. I would say that there ought to be an inquiry into a report upon our prison system. It is profoundly unsatisfactory. It is not stopping crime, but, on the other hand, it is, in my belief, increasing crime. No average man who goes into prison comes out a better man. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary in the future to work, as far as he can, on the lines which I have with great respect suggested to him. Our prisons as they exist do not cure crime and it is only on lines such as those I have indicated that they can be made beneficial, in the way of improving character of those who are sent to them, and in the long run reducing the amount of crime.
§ Mr. WILLIAM HUTCHISON
I consider that a little more attention ought to be given to the conditions of the prison officers. These officers receive very small remuneration and, of necessity, they must be people of a certain calibre, as is indicated in the report on the recent disturbances at Dartmoor, which contains the following passageSo much depends upon discipline being maintained that it is plainly essential that the officers should be men of the 'highest character and reliability.If you are to have men of the highest character and reliability, men who can be trusted, men of whom there need be no suspicion at all as regards communication between the prisoners and the outer world, surely it is necessary to ensure that those men get a wage comparable with other forms of livelihood. This evening the police have been praised, and rightly praised, as an admirable body of men. They have a federation which supports their interests, but the prison officers have no body 'at all to support their interests. When a constable enters the police service, as soon as he receives payment, he receives 55s. a week, which goes on to 60s. a week, but an officer in the prison service only receives 29s. a week, graded up to 43s. after five years. A first-class officer receives 41s., graded up to 45s. In Broadmoor the rates are 910 higher. There, principal attendants get 50s. 6d., going up to 58s. 6d., and ordinary officers 31s. 6d., going up to 37s. 6d. It is obvious that these are not salaries which were fixed after the cuts. I looked up the records to see what were the salaries this time last year, and I find that the salaries of prison officers were exactly the same as they are to-day. I consider that when the time comes for any alleviation of the present state of affairs the prison officers ought to be regarded very sympathetically, because for years they have been working under very difficult conditions.
The hon. Member for West Bermondsey during a rather long speech mentioned that there was not enough greenstuff in the diet of prisoners. Recently I had the good fortune, or the bad fortune, whichever it may be, to visit Maidstone Gaol and there I noticed the food going in for the prisoners' lunch. I asked the medical attendant some questions about the diet, and he informed me that it was a scientific diet. He added that it had been discovered that prisoners for a short time after entering prison lost weight. Then they came to a point at which their weight began to go up, and they became much more healthy in the majority of cases than they had ever been before they came into prison. I had also the opportunity of studying two photographs which were an indication that in certain cases, at any rate, our prison system does some good. One was the photograph of a man when he entered prison and the other was a photograph of the same man on leaving the prison. The first photograph showed a debauched face, loose at the mouth, the skin round the eyes flabby, and the whole face that of a man of very bad type. The second photograph taken of the man when he was leaving prison after several years, showed a firm mouth instead of the loose mouth; instead of a flabbiness of the skin round the eyes it showed a firm look about the eyes, and there was a determination in the face. I understand that that man has been able to "make good" and is living a very happy and contented life which he probably would never have done, had it not been for the very necessary discipline which he underwent during his imprisonment.
We have heard that there is no education for the prisoners. Again in Maid-stone Gaol I made it one of my objects 911 to find out what form of education there was for the prisoners, and I discovered that many prisoners, while they were in gaol, were able to pass examinations, not only simple examinations, but examinations in languages. There was one man in Maidstone Gaol who had passed in three languages, and passed the necessary grades that one gets in ordinary educational system. Therefore, in my opinion, the present system, although it may not be ideal, is certainly a system which is being run on the right lines, but I think it is essential that if you are to continue to run this system on right lines and to provide people to run it, you must pay those people properly. I again urge the Home Secretary, when the time comes, to consider this question of improving the pay of prison officers.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The discussion which has been initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) is one which I have hoped for a very long time would take place. Whenever we discuss either police or prisons, whether under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, of his predecessor, or of Lord Brentford, I always have the feeling that there is a certain air of boredom and just a little resentment at criticism, not so much on the part of the Home Secretary of the day as on the part of the Committee. It is a sort of attitude of mind that the police are there to deal with evildoers, that the prison is there to treat them, and that, after all, they would not be there but for their own fault and their own misdeeds. That, of course, is perfectly true, but the short speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) to-day, and especially that part of it which dealt with crime and the reasons for crime, showed, in my judgment, a real reason why the persons who get into prison should be dealt with in a different fashion from that in which they are being dealt with to-day. Our prisons at present, rather more than at any other time in my lifetime, have within them a number of men who under normal conditions would not be there. I mean the great financiers and others, and I do not think that any honest thinking person, knowing all the circumstances, would think that the sort of treatment they are having to undergo, 912 the degradation, the demoralisation, and the indignities that are put upon them, is a punishment which really fits the crime. If that is true of those people because of the circumstances that have landed them there, how much more is it true of the larger number of people who, through one cause and another, over which they have no control, find themselves in these places?
I know that one hon. Member spoke about young criminals for whom there is no excuse, who are criminally minded, but, honestly, I have never been able to accept that sort of attitude of mind. I believe that environment and the conditions under which people are brought up are what bring them into crime, and I think it is the conditions that have put the great financiers into prison today. Although I am a very strong sort of class person—that is to say, I pin my faith to the working classes very largely, if not entirely—yet when I think of those men, those financiers and other3, and of what they are enduring, and then remember the circumstances that have landed them where they are, I often think that in the City of London there must be many a man who is saying, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Consequently, when I think of the rest of the people in prison, I cannot think that civilised people should treat any human beings in that way.
My experience in prison was very easy. I do not stand here as a martyr or as a person who has had something inflicted on him in a very terrible manner. I have always denied that sort of attitude towards me or towards the men who were like me, but the first time that I went to Holloway Prison, when men were there, was to see a young lad who had committed an offence in connection with some business or other, and who was going afterwards to serve a term of penal servitude. When I saw that young man at Holloway I saw him in the cage. He was dressed in that hideous prison garb, and I am certain, from the way he looked at me, that the one thing that had struck him almost dumb was the hideousness of his surroundings and being treated, as it were, like a wild animal. He was quite a refined young man. He had fallen, had done something that he certainly ought not to have done, but when he got to prison, there he was branded in that 913 hideous uniform, and when a friend came to see him he was just caged.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has ever been in one of those cages. I went into one, was placed in one, with my wife on one side and me on the other. She went away feeling that it was the greatest outrage she had ever seen. I might have been a criminal, but it happens that I was not. She had the same feeling about me that I had about my young friend, and I cannot think there is any reason why that should last, why the system should continue to put a man in that sort of cage when his friends go to see him, as though they could pick him up and carry him out or as if some terrible thing might happen. It was the degradation that hurt my wife, and it was the degradation that hurt me and that hurt the young man in the cage, and that was right at the beginning of prison life. I do not know whether anyone but a prisoner who enters the gates of the prison for the first time as a prisoner can understand it.
I went into Pentonville first. It is a horrible place, horrible to go into and horrible to live in. I would not put my very worst enemy in Pentonville in any circumstances. It may have been in some way improved in its sanitary and other arrangements since, but if I had not been who I was, I am certain that I should have become severely ill in that prison, not because of what anybody did to me, but because of the surroundings. I understand that my hon. Friend has dealt with the question of the church services. I am a member of the Church of England, although perhaps a very unworthy member. The services in prison are Church of England, but they are simply blasphemy as I witnessed them, because of the manner in which the services go and the fact that at each corner there is a warder who will not allow you to turn your head or to look anywhere but straight ahead. Then I went to Brixton with. 30 others. They were borough councillors, and we may have been fools, but we were not criminals. The first Sunday we were ordered and talked to as if we were bits of wood. A warder came to me when I had spoken to one of my friends expressing my detestation of the whole thing, and said: "Don't you know where you are?" I said: "Yes, I am in hell if you want to know what I think," and I meant it. 914 That was the impression on one who was accustomed to live, and had seen prison, under three sets of conditions. I made up my mind that I would do all I could whenever I had the chance to ventilate my views about the services in the prisons. I am not saying this for the first time. I wrote about it at the time and published it, and I have made many speeches since on the same subject.
With regard to occupations in prison there may have been improvements, but what incentive is there for a man to do anything and for a man to do his best? I have visited prisons not only here, but in America, Canada, Australia and Russia. We went through four prisons in Russia in 1926. They are dirtier than our prisons, which are scrupulously clean except in the case of the lavatories that I have mentioned, but you are bound to keep them clean. They are like workhouses, where you must not have a speck of dirt anywhere. In Russia that is not so. There is a great deal of dirt in Russian prisons. There is, however, a sort of co-operative store where prisoners may buy additions to their food with the money that they earn. We saw two prisons in which every sort of industry was carried on, and the men were paid or credited with the same wages as if they had been working outside. From their wages was deducted the cost of their maintenance, and, of the remainder, part was put to their credit to await their release, and part was given to them to use in supplementing their food. I may be told that there are more criminals in Russia than there are here, but I am certain that the psychological effect of the one treatment as against the other is altogether against our system and in favour of the Russian system. In our prisons, right from the first moment to the last, you are made to feel that you are an inferior person. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, will understand what I mean. There is such a thing as personality even in the humblest and least educated, and anything that is done to hurt that hurts the most sacred thing about a human being. This business of the uniform, this business of expecting them to work for very nearly nothing, this business of being ruled and controlled every second of their life in prison crushes that most sacred of all 915 things, personality. Nothing that I have seen in a prison can in any way make up for that except a complete revolution in the attitude of mind of people towards the prisoner and the person who has committed a crime.
In spite of what an hon. Member who spoke earlier said, we have on our hands now a large number of new and young criminals. What is the State going to do with them? You will not improve very many of them by a dose of Borstal or any other prison system. Again the question arises, why are they there, and, having them there, what can we do to preserve or develop or to draw out of them whatever is good? No prison situated in the heart of a great city is the right place to keep such persons. I believe that a great deal could be done with lots of these young people if, instead of putting them under a probation officer only, they could be put in charge of friends in their own districts. I was called upon one night by a distressed father of a young boy who had done what a lot of boys have done lately, stolen a motor car, gone off for a drive, and then left it. The boy was up at the Sessions, because he had done it twice, and his father wanted someone to go to speak for him. I went. The Chairman of the London Sessions then was Sir Robert Wallace, a man who showed the greatest judgment in dealing with this class of case. I did not quite know what to say to him. I knew the boy, and I knew his parents; they were good Roman Catholics and attended their church, as did the boy. All of a sudden I thought, "Perhaps if I say I will see this boy each week he will not have to go through quite the same sort of paraphernalia as a boy on probation." I undertook to see him each week, and the boy did not go to prison, although he had been on the point of being sent to prison. Every Saturday he came to me, and I am sure that he is now doing very well indeed.
I ask the Home Secretary whether he cannot get that plan extended, especially in these days. I got the idea when, as a member of the Poor Law Commission, I visited Germany. At that time the whole of the Poor Law administration was carried on in that sort of way. I would like to see the plan I have sug- 916 gested adopted, thus avoiding the intervention of a probation officer, because when a boy or a girl has to be visited at home by a probation officer everybody in the street knows it. If we really want to save these young people those living in the neighbourhood ought to be allowed to forget as soon as possible that they have ever been arrested. Another thing is that these young people ought not to be in prisons in cities, because there is precious little useful occupation to which they can be put in a town prison. We ought to get them out into the country.
When I was at the Office of Works I was taken over Osborne, and at the same time I was shown over a huge suite of buildings alongside Osborne which were formerly a naval college for cadets. There it stands, a relic of past administration —not of Socialist administration, but administration by our present-day rulers. That building, which must have cost tens and tens of thousands of pounds, is going to rack and ruin. One of these days, I suppose, it will be pulled down. For the life of me I cannot see why it should not be used, and why the young people sent there should not be treated quite differently from ordinary prisoners, being allowed to wear ordinary clothes, and set to work at every sort of occupation, such as gardening and farming. There was a talk of this being done while I was at the Office of Works, but I believe the proposal has been "axed" in the economy campaign. It is very bad economy not to use that place and it is bad economy to herd these youngsters in ordinary prisons. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will see if something cannot be done along those lines, even at the risk of being told that it is impossible on account of the present financial stringency, because it would be a real economy to prevent the demoralisation of these young people.
I want to join issue with the hon. Member who spoke about diet. I was fortunate when I went to Pentonville, because I was on "hunger strike," and, therefore, did not trouble about the food; but I saw the food, and, unless there has been a tremendous change, the way in which it is cooked is pretty rotten. When I was in Brixton many years afterwards my colleagues and I were quite 917 ready to try out the food. I am telling the right hon. Gentleman this, because he can get the records at Brixton—unless the records are destroyed. You could have stood a spoon in the first lot of tea that was served to me in Brixton. I asked to see the medical officer. He said, "Nothing wrong with that." I said, "Perhaps you will drink a little." "Oh," he said, "it is not for me to drink." "No," I said, "it would poison you, and so it would me." I want the right hon. Gentleman to note these things. I know that he has a very efficient mind, and that probably he will not think this as important as I do, but I saw a lot of food served up at Brixton, and some of it was served up quite badly. From the window of my cell I could see, all along the road, piles of bread which had been chucked away. It was not eaten, simply because it was too hard when the prisoners got it. We sent our bread back, but because there were 30 of us we were able to get different rations altogether. In the end the 30 of us got very good rations, to the great disgust of all the other prisoners in the place. The point I wish to make is that often it is a case of good food spoiled. I would like to know whether there has been any investigation into that.
Then there is the question of complaints. I know that prisoners can complain when the justices come round. I have seen the justices come round. They stopped and talked to me, because I knew them—or they knew me; but the others had precious little chance of making complaints to them. The final word I have to say is on the general question of the attitude of the officials towards the prisoners. It is true that the officials are very badly paid, but that is not the point, that is not the trouble. I think any man or woman who gives service in a mental asylum or in a prison is deserving of our very great respect. I am not saying a single word against the officials as individuals, but they are asked to administer a system which is founded on a wrong principle altogether. The principle is to punish the prisoners by degrading them, by making them feel ashamed of what they have done, by treating them with every kind of degradation. I saw young people in prison—I wrote about this matter at the time—who had no business to be mixed up with old and middle-aged 918 men. I saw every day the sort of penal attitude adopted towards them. Something has been said about education. May I say that, in my opinion, the books in a prison library are in the main books that you can read, but they are not really a first class choice for men who are down and out, and some of whom may have intellectual attainments? I would like to ask the Home Secretary whether he will not consider the suggestion that prisoners' friends should be allowed to send them books?
That leads me to the question of the political prisoners. The right hon. Gentleman denies that there is any such thing as a political prisoner under present conditions. The last political prisoners I remember were "Dr. Jim" and his friends. Does the Home Secretary think if Lord Carson and his friends had carried out their threat of rebellion to the extreme and had been captured, that public opinion, even the opinion of people like myself, would have tolerated Lord Carson, Lord Londonderry and others being treated as ordinary criminals? The right hon. Gentleman knows that we should have found some quarters for them, and we should have treated them as human beings. Why should the Communists not be treated like human beings? I have no reason to be grateful to the Communist party. Many of them are my friends; they are also my most violent political enemies, but that is not the point. Justice is justice whether you are dealing with your enemies or your friends. These men have only made speeches or written exciting articles, and I have always claimed for such men political freedom, and they ought not to be put in prison garb. The Government have a right, if they think that these men have broken the law by their speeches to imprison them and they have the power, but the Government have also the duty to see that they are treated as Members of this House would like to be treated under similar conditions.
I have mentioned the case of Dr. Jim, and there are probably other similar cases if I could only remember them. I make an appeal to the Home Secretary in favour of the men whom I mentioned at the beginning, and I appeal also for the financiers who have been sent to prison. Much as I think those men have done 919 grievous and terrible injury both to themselves and the nation, I put in a plea on their behalf that at least their friends should be allowed to send them books to relieve their deadly monotony. I dare say that the Home Secretary, at some time or other, has been ill, and be knows the monotony of being kept in a room. Only those who have experienced it know what it means to see the door of their room shut early in the evening and not opened until the next morning, and they feel that they are shut right off from the world. For men who have committed no real crime this is a terrible punishment indeed, and I ask the Home Secretary whether he will give a little more consideration to this matter. It is not a question of altering the law, but the regulations, and it is something which I am sure would bring about a good deal of peace, and would restore and preserve the personality of the prisoners. I know that many Members of this House will say that men or women are in prison because they deserve to be there. I always say to myself that punishment is something which I have never felt, and that, as an individual, I have no right to inflict it on someone else. The Bible says:Vengeance is mine; I will repay.I believe that. I do not think any of us escape our evil deeds any more than we escape our good ones. I do not think men ever wish to engage in punishment or vengeance, but, society being as it is, and all of us being as we are, and these prisoners and the prison administration being under our control, all I am pleading for is that the Home Office should see to it that these places are made so that men will have time to think of their own lives, where they will be treated as human beings, and where personality, which I have described as a most sacred thing in life, is not destroyed. We hurt one another in a personal fashion in this House by contempt. We hurt one another by words, but the very worst thing to a person in prison is not what is said to him, but the whole surroundings of the hideous place, the way he is dressed, the way his hair is cut, and the way he is treated as something different from everybody else. I want the prisoner treated as a human being; by that I do not mean that he should be pampered with his food and clothes, but 920 I want him to be treated as I would like to be treated if I were unfortunate enough to be in his position.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
We have had an extremely interesting Debate. Some of the speeches have been impressive and even moving, and not the least so the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). Of course any prison administration must have very unsatisfactory and forbidding features. The best thing that has happened to our British prisons is that half of them have been closed since the War, and that is by far the best thing that has happened. I think it is our duty to try to move along the lines which have been suggested by several hon. Members who have spoken this evening. The incidents of a few months ago at Dartmoor have brought our prison administration very much into the public eye, and two criticisms of opposite character have been made. There are some who say that our prison system is so hard and repressive, and that the men are subjected to such bad conditions with regard to diet and other matters, that inevitably they will be driven to revolt. There are others who say, on the contrary, that discipline is now so weak and that the prisoners are so much pampered under the influence of a false sentimentalism that now prevails, that it is to be expected that they would get out of hand, and that proper control cannot be maintained.
I do not myself believe either of those criticisms is valid. If there were anything markedly wrong with the prison system I am sure we should have been made aware of it long ago, not only through the Prison Commissioners themselves, who are men of great capacity, experience and good judgment, and through their inspectors, but also through the visiting justices who are continually visiting prisons and who have the statutory duty of examining into the conditions, and through the many voluntary visitors who most kindly render a great national service by visiting the prisons and taking an individual interest in the prisoners. No, I think our prison system is not open to either of those grave criticisms. But at the same time I am far from suggesting that it is perfect. The administrators of to-day do recognise what has been so strongly urged by 921 the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) and others this evening, that it is the duty of the prison system to send an offender back to society certainly not worse than when he entered prison and if possible a better man, and above all to avoid sending him back a hardened and determined enemy of society.
The modern system aims at minimising the conditions which are repressive, and tries to adopt a constructive policy to build up capacities and character. The danger is of course that if this is carried too far the prisons may be regarded as almost a pleasant resort and not as a deterrent by those who are of criminal character. Its reformative purposes have to be fulfilled, while at the same time the prison still remains a place which people will use their utmost efforts to avoid by not committing the offences that would bring them there. The principal measures adopted by the Prison Commissioners in the last few years are,, first of all, to provide more serious methods of manual and technical work and training in craftsmanship for occupations in ordinary trades, and to secure that the working day should be nearly a full day, so that the man who goes into a prison shall have almost as many hours of useful and steady occupation in gaol as he would have if he had remained in ordinary life. Further, the time devoted to exercise, instead of being spent in the old maddening walking round and round and round in a confined space interminably for the allotted time, has been replaced by physical exercises under trained instructors, which are both more advantageous physically and less monotonous mentally. The moral and intellectual influences have also been stimulated in many ways.
The hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter), spoke about prison chaplains and urged that men with a special aptitude for that vocation should be induced to devote their whole lives to it. I think he is in error there. On the contrary, the best prison chaplains are probably those who spend a comparatively short time at the prison away from contact with the outside world. The system used to prevail that the prison chaplain was a full-time official in the established service of the Crown and remained in the prison 922 from the time he entered it early in life until he reached the pensionable age and retired on pension like civil servants, but some few years ago that system was altered because it was thought that a different plan would really be preferable. In the last few years chaplains have been selected by a small selection board consisting of one of the Prison Commissioners, a senior chaplain from the prison service and a clergyman of standing from outside the service. This Board does interview applicants, very much as the hon. Member for West Bermondsey suggested should be done, and from the large number of applicants it chooses those who seem to have an aptitude for this particular walk of life.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Are those chaplains appointed to live in the prison or are they visiting chaplains such as the rector of the Parish or one of his curates?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
There are both classes. In some cases they are permanently there, as in the larger prisons, and in other cases they visit the prison from outside. That is the present arrangement, and the chaplains who have entered for a period of five years will probably have been men who exercise an even greater influence, admirable as the old type of chaplain was, in moulding the individual characters of the prisoners under their care. In addition to that there are now personal visits to the prisoners by numbers of voluntary workers who come in from outside, and are men and women of suitable character and of sound robust common sense. Furthermore, there are evening classes now in the prisons, and they occupy a very large part in the life of the prisoner. Instruction is given in a great variety of useful subjects, very much like the evening classes in outside life. There are lectures frequently given on suitable subjects and occasionally concerts, and in various ways humanising influences are at work in the prisons. All these things help to relieve what used to be the the monotony of prison life and, in regard to those of its members who have done it injury, Society seeks now, not merely to raise its hand to strike, but also to help, and I think the result is that in an increasing degree prisons do exercise reformative influences.
During the last six months various changes have been set on foot, especially 923 with regard to convicts. The convicts are, as hon. Members know, those who are sentenced to a term of penal servitude for three years or longer for grave offences. Formerly they were all sent to Dartmoor, Parkhurst and Maidstone. In Maidstone were those belonging to what is known as the star class, who had not been previously convicted or were not habitually criminal or corrupt in character. At Dartmoor were the recidivists who had committed several offences and were guilty of grave and persistent crimes. Parkhurst was for the intermediate class between the two—not good enough to be classed among the star class and not bad enough for Dartmoor. The system has now been changed, and particularly with a view to exercising a powerful influence on the young men who are the most hopeful among the convicted classes.
The prison at Chelmsford has been reopened for convicts under the age of 30, who are now sent there instead of to Dartmoor or Parkhurst, and a new and special system of training has been adopted. We hope that this special centre adapted for the younger convicts will produce good results, and that it may have an effective influence in redeeming at all events a fair proportion of them from the life in which they were engaged. We were anxious, and still are anxious, to diminish Dartmoor to an establishment of very small proportions. It is, as I have told the House on previous occasions, a costly establishment to maintain, and the place is uncongenial to the staff and their families. The prison officers and their families regret it when they are required to serve at Dartmoor, as the place is so isolated, there is so little to be done, and there are so few openings for their children when they grow to an age at which they require and seek employment.
Penal servitude and imprisonment under modern conditions are very little different from one another. In a previous generation there was a great distinction, but now they are almost the same, except, of course, for the length of the sentence. I approved a change some time ago under which convicts of three years' sentence might be sent to local prisons instead of being confined in these great 924 convict prisons. That change was put into effect at the beginning of this year, and we hope it will enable a large reduction to be made in the establishments at Dartmoor and Parkhurst. I would mention that this decision was arrived at before the disturbances in Dartmoor took place, and the events there have been in no sense the cause of the decision to reduce Dartmoor to small proportions, to use the local prisons for members of the convict class, and to carry out the special scheme of training for the younger convicts below the age of 30. For the rest, I am awaiting the report of a committee appointed by my predecessor on persistent offenders—a very able committee, which has conducted an inquiry of a very thorough character over a considerable time. The inquiry is now completed, and the report is about to be presented. It has not yet reached me, but, as soon as it is presented and has been considered, we shall examine what further steps can properly be taken to deal with the grave problem of the persistent offender.
After these general observations, let me come to some of the specific points raised by hon. Members in the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), speaking of the Communists, said that, having been sentenced for making speeches, they ought to be treated as political offenders. I am not, however, aware that any have been sentenced for making speeches. Some have been sentenced for taking part in actual breaches of the peace, and causing physical disturbances; some have been sentenced for writing articles inciting the armed forces of the Crown to mutiny; but no one has been sentenced either for making speeches or for writing articles advocating Communism.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I should like this matter to be made quite clear. The right hon. Gentleman was a member of the administration which suffered Lord Carson and others, not only to write, but to raise an armed body of volunteers in Ulster. I will not argue whether they ought to have been dealt with or not, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will stand at that Box and say that, if Mr. Asquith's Government had prosecuted those men, not for what they wrote, but for what they did, he 925 would have agreed, and whether he thinks the country would have agreed, to their being treated, if they had been sentenced to imprisonment, as ordinary criminals?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman's question is both hypothetical and retrospective, and I do not know that it is a parallel to the particular case of those who have been endeavouring to incite to mutiny—
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
—with regard to conditions of service or for other reasons, in the Navy. I do not know that it would be very profitable to introduce that particular analogy, but the law does provide that a person who is sentenced for sedition may be treated as a first-class misdemeanant, and if those persons had been sentenced for sedition they would have come within that provision of the law. But persons who are engaged in inciting to mutiny, of which these persons had been convicted, do not come within that provision of the law, and, therefore, cannot be dealt with in that way. But those who preach the doctrines of Communism as a political creed not merely are not treated as second or third-class misdemeanants, but are not treated as misdemeanants at all, and are not even prosecuted. They can hold their meetings and speak in Hyde Park, as they were speaking yesterday, they can publish their newspapers, as they publish the "Daily Worker" every day, without even proceedings being taken against them.
With regard to the other points which the right hon. Gentleman raised, the difficulty about providing books from outside is that always in prisons there is a danger of conspiracies to escape, and books can easily be made a vehicle for the transmission of messages of one kind or another. The libraries in the prisons are, however, very numerous. I was surprised, when I went to Dartmoor recently, at the large library which they had, and at the large number of books which many of the prisoners had in their cells. Some of them had six or eight books of different kinds, which they were reading from time to time. I am informed that the cages used, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, have now been abolished, and that the old- 926 fashioned prison uniform with the broad arrow has also been abolished. [Interruption.] It is not lovely, I agree, and is still less beautiful after it has been washed several times, but we have to consider the interests of economy—[Interruption.] The House is always in favour of general economies, but never of a particular one. Really, however, in these days, when so many people have to go most inadequately paid, I do not think we can afford to spend more upon prisoners' uniforms.
With regard to the training of the prisoners, and present conditions in general, one or two facts should be borne in mind which I think are not generally realised. One is that, of all the people who enter the prisons in any year, less than half have been sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine, that is to say, have committed more or less serious crimes. In 1930, 53,000 men were sent to prison. Of these, 6,300 were sent there merely on remand, and were not afterwards sentenced to imprisonment, but were either acquitted or, more often, put on probation. Then there were 13,000 who went to prison under civil process, because of failure to comply with wife maintenance or affiliation orders, or county court orders, or orders for the payment of rates. That is a very large number. Then there were 9,700 who had been sentenced to a fine or imprisonment in default, and, being in default, had to go to prison. That is a total of 29,000 out of the 53,000, and only 24,000, or considerably less than half, were sentenced to prison really as criminals who deserved imprisonment. Another point to be borne in mind is that more than half go to prison for a period of not more than one month. Fifty-seven per cent. are there for a period of not more than one month, and 91 per cent. for a period of less than six months. Therefore, when it is a question of training, and reformative influences, and the other measures that are desirable in the case of prisoners, it has to be borne in mind that it is very difficult to do anything effective in the case of the 57 per cent. who are there only for a month or less, or even the 91 per cent. who are there for less than six months.
The Prison Commissioners are making a very great effort to create special establishments for particular classes and 927 classes of a more hopeful type, and at Wakefield, as well as at Chelmsford, we have a new scheme of training. At Wake-field there is a considerable number of prisoners who are being employed under the new system of work with payment by results which the hon. Member for West Bemnondsey emphasised so strongly. The only difficulty with regard to payment by results is that it is hard to find any form of work which is of the ordinary industrial type, the produce of which can be consumed within the prison or in Government establishments, for there is a strong objection to prison-made articles being sold on the ordinary market in competition with normal labour. That being so, the Prison Commissioners are confined to a comparatively small range of articles. Another difficulty is this: If a gratuity is given to every person irrespective of the work that he does unless he is demonstrably idle, there is no very great inducement to work hard, and it is always invidious to say to a man, "You are idle and you shall have no pay." It is a thing that gets the warders into bad odour with the prisoners, and creates difficulties. It is difficult to apply a stimulus of that kind. On the other hand, if they are paid by results, each man's work has to be measured up and, if there is a great variety, the amount of clerical and supervisory work is enormous in proportion to the results gained. However, experiments are being made at Wakefield to overcome these difficulties with a very real desire that they should be overcome, for undoubtedly it is desirable that prisoners should be employed on useful work and that they should be paid, not the full trade union wage, but some wage in proportion to the excellence of their work, and the more that can be achieved the greater the improvement in our prison system.
§ Dr. SALTER
Is the wages fund from which these prisoners are at present being paid derived from Exchequer grants and the Prisons Vote, or is it entirely from voluntary sources?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I believe it is from the Exchequer, but it does not amount to very much, and of course the work done is of value to the State.
928 The hon. Member for West Bermondsey spoke of the necessity for observation homes, particularly for children and in London, and for special attention being given to the individual characteristics of the children and other delinquents so that medical or other measures may be adopted suitable to individual cases. That is, undoubtedly, of very great importance, and the hon. Member is entirely right in the view that he has expressed. Not long ago in Vienna I saw a most admirable observation home where children are kept under observation for some time and are then drafted to various institutions suited to their cases. It was a palatial building and had, in fact, been previously the palace of one of the Austrian Arch-Dukes. It is now being put to an even more useful purpose. With regard to London, I agree that the present remand home is not satisfactory—no one claims that it is—but this is a matter requiring legislation and it would, therefore, be out of order on this occasion. But it has been discussed in Committee on the Children Bill upstairs. It is not merely a matter for the Home Office. It concerns the County Council and, if the hon. Member would persuade the County Council to take a forward view on the matter, no one would be more pleased than the Home Office and no one would be more ready to assist their efforts.
Another point raised by the hon. Member was with reference to the appointment of prison governors. They are appointed in this way. There, again, there is a selection board, consisting of representatives of the Civil Service and the Prison Commissioners, and one member is a woman. After interviewing candidates from outside and from within the prison service, the board makes a recommendation to the Home Secretary. I am informed that considerably less than half have been regular officers in one or other of the defence Services, and, of the remainder, a large number have risen from the ranks of the service, some have been promoted from the rank of housemaster in Borstal institutions, and others have come from diverse civil occupations.
The question was also raised as to the number of hours the prisoners now have outside their cells. It is true that that period has been shortened, actually from three-quarters of an hour to an hour, and 929 the period now is about the same as it was in 1919. I agree that that is a retrograde measure and it is unfortunate that we should have been compelled to adopt it, again under the influence of the stress for economy. We are told we must screw down the Civil Service Estimates, reduce the national expenditure in all the Departments and cut down the demand we make on the taxpayer. The only direction in which it is possible to cut down expenditure in the prison service is to reduce the numbers of the staff of prison officers, and that has been done, not by dismissals but by not filling up vacancies. That can only be done by requiring that the prisoners shall not be out of their cells for quite such a long time in the day, needing very considerable supervision, but they are still for eight hours in the day out of their cells. There is nothing in the nature of solitary confinement all through the day. Eight hours is a good long spell and in special establishments, like the Borstal Institutions, Wormwood Scrubs, Maidstone, and Wakefield, the Prison Commissioners have abstained from enforcing this longer period in the cells and the hours have been left unaltered.
With regard to the dietary, that has been framed after very careful medical investigation and, as a rule, the prisoners put on weight considerably after they enter the gaols nowadays, but I will draw the attention of our expert advisers to the point raised by the hon. Member, himself a medical man, with regard to the inclusion of fresh vegetables. I will give an undertaking that the other points that have been raised, including those raised by the hon. Members for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) and Romford (Mr. Hutchison) shall be considered. The figure that has been quoted of the wage of prison officers was only, I believe, the basic wage, to which has to be added the War bonus, which brings the starting salary of 29s. up to 43s. 6d. and, in addition, the officer has a house or allowance, a uniform and medical attention. All those things have to be taken into account and not merely the crude basic figure of pay. I agree thoroughly that the duty of a prison officer is an unpleasant although a very necessary one, and this Committee should express its gratitude to all in the prison service who undertake this indispensable task on behalf of society which is fulfilled on the 930 whole, I believe, with sympathy for the prisoners and that necessary admixture of firmness and kindness.
I am grateful to the Committee for the very many suggestions which have been made this evening, and to all of them, I can assure the Committee once more, I shall give close attention. For my own part, I shall indeed feel it a great honour and a privilege if during my tenure of the office of Home Secretary, which may be long or may be short, some substantial reforms can be effected in our prison system.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I am sure that if it has given the right hon. Gentleman pleasure to listen to the suggestions which have been made to him this evening, it has given us equal pleasure to listen to the very sympathetic answer which he has given to the many inquiries which have been made and the suggestions which have been advanced. I hesitate to detain him any longer because he has sat so patiently 'and happily all the evening, but I should like to say a few things concerning the remarks which he has advanced. With regard to the Committee on Persistent Offenders, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and which was appointed by his predecessor, Mr. Clynes, I gather from him that he expects the report will be in his hands almost immediately, if it is not already in his hands. Will the report, after the right hon. Gentleman has had time to peruse it, be published and made available to the general public, or will it be retained as a private document?
I cannot help feeling, however, that, in spite of the generally sympathetic answer we have had from the right hon. Gentleman, it was worth while our raising these points this evening, because we on this side of the Committee were anxious to raise the general question of the prison system as such. I do not feel even now that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, sympathetic as it was, quite gives us the measure of reassurance we should like to feel. I subscribe in full to what the right hon. Gentleman said when he intimated to the Committee that in his view a prison should give us the feeling that it helps to build up capacity and character. There are some directions still in which our prison system is open to some criticism. I do not, for the purpose of this discussion, raise the question of 931 the younger children, because, as hon. Gentlemen know, we have been busily occupied upstairs with the Children Bill, which has a very special reference to the future treatment of the children of the country who may become delinquent children. I believe that the Bill, when it becomes law, will be no small contribution to the proper treatment of those children. I will not discuss that matter any further.
I am concerned with the older people. I can speak with some intimate knowledge of this problem. I sometimes fear lest we should sometimes appear to be a party of ex-convicts on this side of the Committee as so many of us speak with specialised knowledge of the problem. I wonder if hon. Gentlemen who sometimes bemoan the fact that we are in danger of making our gaols a little too comfortable have ever visualised or imagined the effect upon an individual prisoner passing through the huge doors in a huge wall and the doors closing firmly and irrevocably behind him. I wonder if they could have the knowledge to enable them to realise that, having gone inside those doors, the individual prisoner is speedily reminded of the fact that he has been a sinner against society and that for a period of time he has to lose his personal identity inside the prison walls. It is that loss of identity, that crushing, as my right hon. Friend said, of the human personality which seems so much in need of correction in association with our modern prison system. Whether the period be short or whether it be long, the individual concerned must return to society, and we ought to be able so to devise our system, improved as it is to-day, I candidly confess, as to enable the individual to face society once again stronger in character and in capacity.
I do not know how many Members of the Committee have seen a prison from the inside, but one of the great tragedies of our prison system, taken as a whole, is that the person in charge of the individual, the warder, an excellent fellow in his way, but a human being like ourselves, with the same limitations as ourselves, however kindly he may be, is not a person who is trained for the particular job of studying the individual in his charge. The system itself tends to 932 make him somewhat machine-like in his attention to his work. It tends to make him regard his charges as so many marbles in a row. There is no training for him in advance of beginning upon his task to enable him to study, from the psychological point of view, the difficulties from which the individual convict suffers. I have a strong feeling—it has been with me for years, since I saw the system at very close quarters—that our present system will fall short of its proper purpose until we have recruited our warder staff—I make no attack upon them as a class, for they are doing their best under their limitations—from a better equipped class of individuals who will have some knowledge of the psychology of the human mind. I feel sure that if the individual warder could study the individual personality in his charge the result would be far better in the interests of society, and the individual concerned, upon emerging from prison, would be in a far stronger position to perform his future duties as a citizen, and I think that the system would very speedily justify itself far more than is now the case.
Apart from the question of the warders, I should like to make an appeal in regard to the nature of the work done by prisoners. I wonder if hon. Members realise what a dreadfully distressing task many prisoners have to do. I will give my own experience, for what it is worth. For six weeks on end I had nothing else to deal with except long strips of canvas, trying to cut out a piece of a strip of cloth in a particular shape. Can hon. Members imagine anything more utterly depressing than doing that for hours on end, day after day and week after week? The extraordinary thing is that when people emerge from prison they have any mental strength left. In my own case so vicious was the effect that I had a very serious breakdown, which lasted many weeks. I have recovered, and now I am able to speak on behalf of others. I do not want others to suffer as I did. I realise that you cannot entirely eliminate the punitive element, but I do feel that we could give these people work far more interesting, far less depressing and far lees demoralising than is the work which is so often done inside our prisons.
The right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) spoke about the 933 terribly depressing effect of dressing everybody alike in gaol. It is the most frightful outfit that it is possible to see. The Home Secretary said that these are days of economy, and I said to myself: "What crimes are still committed in the name of economy!" Supposing that we are passing through days of economoy, is there anything to prevent a prison being so equipped that the men themselves could make some of the cloth? In some prisons that I have seen cloth was made. That was an infinitetly more interesting job than the job with which I was associated during my time in prison. We are assured that there has been a change in regard to hours, and I am glad to hear it, but do not let us toe under any misapprehension. When the convict is taken out of his cell it is not into the open air. He goes into a sort of central hall, where he is brought into association. He has to sit a yard apart from his neighbour and is not allowed to say anything. What association is there in that? Why do we need to insist upon the repressive method of insisting upon silence?
I believe that the rule of silence has been relaxed to some extent in late years, but it is still in existence. The most natural thing is to interchange opinions and ideas. When a man is in prison for a month or two or three months and is obliged to observe silence and then suddenly he is flung out into the world and the rule of repression is suddenly removed, the tendency is such that in the presence of this sudden freedom he loses his sense of proportion, bursts the bonds of discretion and loses control of himself. I am glad to hear that the system has developed whereby evening classes and other forms of entertainment are provided in prison. This new development is regarded by many people as being somewhat namby-pamby towards the prisoners. But even if a prisoner is in a class for an hour or at a lecture for an hour, it is only one hour out of the 24. Surely, that is not too much to allow a man to enable him to get some contact with the best that other minds can offer to him.
Therefore, while I rejoice in the substantial changes that have taken place in recent years there is still considerable need for reform in the system that remains. It is even yet too exclusively punitive and too little reformative. It is 934 the reformative side that must be emphasised. We ought not to say to a prisoner: "You must abandon hope inside this building." We ought rather to say: "It is true that you have sinned, but there is a chance still for you to take your place among your fellow men." I believe that by the recasting of our prison system along that line it will enable the prison system to be relieved of its most unhappy associations and prison will discharge a far better function than it has hitherto discharged.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Will the Undersecretary of State mention the question of books to his right hon. Friend? It might be said that if books were sent in some mischief might be done, but would it not be possible for friends to send the money to the Prison Commissioners and allow the Prison Commissioners to buy the books? I very earnestly suggest that this is a real matter of importance in the lives of those in our prisons.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I will certainly bring that matter to the notice of my right hon. Friend, who will be delighted to learn that the right hon. Gentleman has some friends who will be disposed to send money. There is one specific point to which the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) may require an answer, and that is in regard to the report of the Committee on Juvenile Offenders. That report will be presented to the Home Secretary for his consideration and it will be for him to decide whether or not it shall be published. It has not yet been received, but it is almost invariably the custom that reports of this kind are made available.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to. —[Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Adjourned accordingly at Seventeen Minutes after Ten o'clock.