HL Deb 19 February 1863 vol 169 cc475-93

, in rising to call Attention to the present State of Discipline in Gaols and Houses of Correction, said, that the subject was one of considerable importance, although it might at first sight appear to be one of an uninteresting character. There were two classes into which the criminal population natu- rally fell—the convicts sentenced to penal servitude for various periods from three years and upwards to life, to which class the Royal Commission recently appointed had exclusive reference; and the prisoners sentenced to imprisonment in county and borough gaols for terms of from one day to two years. He did not intend to refer on this occasion to the first of these classes —it was entirely to the treatment of this latter class that his remarks would be directed. There were at present in England 87 county gaols, five "liberties," as they were called, of which he knew nothing, and 56 borough gaols, making a total of 148. Some still continued to be conducted on the associated system, in others the separate system was adopted, and others included both the associated and separate systems. Certain smaller gaols had of late years, particularly since the establishment of a constabulary force in counties was made compulsory, shown a tendency to merge into the larger county gaols, thus securing greater uniformity and greater efficiency of discipline. By the last Returns it appeared that there were no less than 130,000 prisoners committed to these gaols within the twelve months. This did not include summary convictions — there were very nearly 400,000 persons proceeded against summarily within the year, and between 260,000 and 280,000 acquitted. The average daily number of persons in those prisons was between 16,000 and 17,000. It would be seen that these 130,000 prisoners really constituted the great bulk of our criminal population —because, after all, in the different Government prisons at Pentonville, Milbank, Dartmouth, Chatham, and other places, there were not more than 6,000 convicts, according to the last Returns. He thought few judges would say that a large proportion of these 130,000 were not as criminal in act and intention as the convicts who were sentenced to long periods of penal servitude. It was a great evil in the system on which our judicial statistics were made up that they were always a year and a half or so in arrear, and the last Returns now before Parliament related only to the year 1860–1. These Returns showed a very startling increase in crime. During that year it appeared that the number of commitments to different gaols had increased by 13,000 persons, showing an increase of 13 per cent over the preceding year; the recommittals had increased by 3,400 persons, or 9 per cent; and there had been an increase of 33 per cent in the unfortunate class of criminal lunatics. In almost every head of criminal offence there appeared to have been an increase. He would state to their Lordships what had been the increase in the various kinds of crime. In those official statistics there were generally six heads, and he should read for their Lordships the commitments under those heads for the year 1860–1 — Increase of crime, 1800–1.—1. Offences against person; total increase=14 per cent; murder, increase of 30 per cent over 1859–60; attempts to murder, 26 per cent; shooting at, &c., with intent to maim, 2 per cent; rape, &c., 23 per cent; other offences, 21 per cent; assaults with bodily harm, 23 per cent; common assaults, 28 per cent; assaults on police officers in the execution of their duty, 24 per cent. 2. Offences against property with violence; total increase=38 per cent; burglary, increase of 40 per cent over 1859–60; house-breaking, 56 per cent; breaking into dwelling-houses and shops, and stealing, 23 per cent; robbery and attempts to rob by persons armed, 31 percent. 3. Offences against property, without violence; total increase=11 per cent; various larcenies=9 per cent; increase also under receiving, embezzlement, false pretences, &c. 4. Malicious offences against property; total in-crease=l8 per cent. 5. Forgery; total increase=16 per cent. 6. Miscellaneous; total increase=19 per cent. He thought there was enough in that state of things to create very serious alarm, and he did not think there was any reason to suppose that in the following year (1861–2) there was any diminution in the number of these offences. Their Lordships, from their own experience, could form a tolerably accurate idea how matters had stood in the portion of 1862–3 already expired. They were aware that during a very recent period there was such insecurity in the streets of London that it was dangerous to walk about after nightfall. The two principal points he wished to bring before their Lordships that evening were — First, that in a great many of the gaols, in a large proportion of the gaols and houses of correction in the kingdom, there was an insufficiency of penal discipline; and, secondly, that the different systems on which these prisons were administered were so various and diverse, and presented such discrepancies, as to very much impair the administration as a whole. As regarded the sanitary condition of those establishments, there was, he believed, little to complain of; but the question at issue was, how far the punishment inflicted in them was made effective and sufficient. It might be taken for granted, although so many various systems were in use, that "the separate system" was the one which was generally intended to be the basis of our prison disclipine; and the great question was, how to carry the sentences into practical execution; and the sentences inflicted by Criminal Courts were carried out under rules applying to labour and dietary and to cells and separation. The judges generally coupled their sentences of imprisonment with hard labour. An Act of Parliament set out the limits within which hard labour was to be enforced. Ten hours were intended to be the maximum; but he doubted whether such a maximum had ever been reached. He was sure that in the large majority of cases, the maximum was very much below the Parliamentary standard. In some prisons a maximum of six hours was laid down; but then came deductions which brought it down to some three or four hours. There were prisons in which the labour was of such a character as that prisoners were able to transfer it from one to another; and in other prisons, owing to the interference of well-intentioned theorists —who thought it practicable to make moral influences a substitute for hard labour—the visiting justices had come to the conclusion that the best mode of solving the difficulty was to give the prisoners no work at all. Again, as appeared from the report of the Inspector for the Southern Division, there was in some gaols a positive insufficiency of means of labour at all. As to dietary, in a large number of gaols meat was given to the prisoners every day in the week, either in the solid form or as soup. This was a serious question; but when they examined the subject a little further, they would find that in many cases there were certain luxuries, certain comforts, coupled with what might be called the more ordinary dietary, which made it a very grave question whether the dietary generally given to prisoners was not in excess of what it ought to be. In a large number of prisons tea, cocoa, milk, and, in some cases, beer were given; and it was stated that at Portland the convicts got an allowance of treacle and pudding, to make the other portion of their dietary still more palatable. Certainly, no one who looked at the scale of diet that had been issued by the Government could say that it erred on the side of severity; moreover, it was important to remember that the me- dical officer of a prison was empowered, at his discretion, to order an additional allowance of food to any prisoner. He was not prepared to say that such discretion was generally abused, but he did say there was the greatest possible discrepancy between the quantities of extra diet given in different gaols. Taking two prisons, in which the number of prisoners was about equal and in which the scale of dietary was about the same, he found that in one of them the extra dietary was given in the proportion of 1 to 8 while in the other it was only given in the proportion of 1 to 35 or 40. There seemed to be no rule on the subject. In considering the question of dietary, it was desirable to bear in mind the food at the disposal of persons in the same class of life under other circumstances. He did not know what was done in workhouses in the North of England, but he did know that in those in the south the cases were rare in which meat was granted to the inmates more than three or four times a week. In some of those workhouses it was not given so often. He was not now speaking of able-bodied paupers, whom it would not be desirable to indulge within the walls of workhouses; but he was referring to aged and infirm persons who had spent an honest life without spot or blemish. Again, to compare the diet of prisoners with that of the operatives of Lancashire, he doubted very much whether during the greater part of this winter the amount of money which reached the hands of those operatives enabled them to have meat six or seven times a week. Then, to take the case of the class from which those prisoners were principally drawn, 44 per cent of them came from the labouring class or persons connected with it. It was a rare thing for farm labourers to have moat more than once a week, yet here felons, some of whom had committed the most dreadful outrages, were being fed far in excess of them. It might be said that it was necessary to feed these men in order to enable them to do the work. But he did not believe that they ever got through the work which was set down for them, for there were very few prisons in which the work ever appeared in any tangible form. Again, it was argued, that if you cut down the dietary too low, the depressing influences of a prison would show themselves, and the vital energies of the prisoners would be so reduced that when released they would be unable to gain their livelihood. Now, he was not in favour of a starvation diet, but there was a practical point which might be reached between a starvation diet on the one hand and an excessively liberal diet on the other. He came now to the question of cells, and the influence which ought thus to be exercised over the minds of the prisoners. A prison cell, when surrounded by all the comforts of good clothing, warmth, and light, combined with high diet, really became at certain times of the year an object of desire as affording a comfortable domicile, especially to one of the nomad classes so often found in our assize courts. He had often heard prisoners express their gratitude to the Judges for sending them to gaol, and during the winter months of the year he had been positively thanked for doing the same thing. The Chaplain of the Northampton Borough Gaol expressed in his report his belief that the system of discipline as carried out there was not calculated to deter prisoners from crime, because "the daily attention to their wants and comforts is superior to what the generality of them obtain elsewhere." Looking at the bias which most chaplains had with respect to prison discipline, he did think that such testimony as this carried with it very great weight. As to the separation which was attempted, it was not a separation from all society, but only between prisoner and prisoner; and unless even this system were very strictly carried out, it was impossible to work it properly. He did not mean to say that in some cases the prisoners might riot be separated, but he doubted very much whether there was a single gaoler throughout the country who in his conscience could say that under the existing system no communication passed between prisoner and prisoner. He doubted whether the construction of the gaols or the system allowed of it. At exercise or at chapel some communication must go on; but, setting these opportunities aside, the employment of prisoners upon garden, or agricultural work, or as bricklayers, necessarily brought them into association, and then communications passed, which were often subversive of all discipline. Again, some prisoners were so hardened in crime that it was impossible to keep them in complete order without a system of prison punishments. On the other hand, gaol chaplains and inspectors set their faces against such punishments, and denounced them as a proof of mismanagement in any gaol where they prevailed. The consequence was, that there was a disinclination on the part of the visiting justices and the executive staff of prisons to notice or to punish offences committed there. This was not mere assertion on his part, because complete evidence was supplied in the last criminal returns. For several years past there had been a rapid decrease in prison punishments, and in one particular branch of punishments that decrease had been most extraordinary. Thus, in Reading Gaols the dark cells had been altogether shut up; and in 1859–60 it was computed that 1 in every 1,000 prisoners underwent corporal punishment, in the following year it was 1 in 1,500, and in the last year of which we had any returns the proportion was 1 in 2,240—a positive decrease of 75 per cent. At this result he was not surprised, because Prison Inspectors had recommended that corporal punishment should cease, and had triumphed over its disuse. Moreover, the whole course of Parliamentary legislation had been to throw every difficulty in the way of sentencing prisoners to corporal punishment. He was no advocate for an indiscriminate system of corporal punishment; nothing could be more revolting to the public sense, and nothing could tend more to brutalize prisoners. But there were certain cases in which he believed that corporal punishment was the only effectual remedy—for example, persons convicted over and over again of violent assaults, approaching to the verge of murder, would shrink from such punishment more than from any other; while in the case of juvenile offenders whipping would be the most merciful and at the same time the most efficacious punishment which could be inflicted. Another point of importance was one to which he had already alluded —the present extent of variation between the systems of different prisons. Thus, in some the labour system was based upon association, in others upon separation, and elsewhere, again, the mixed system was employed. The tread wheel was resorted to in some, in others, cranks, pumps, and oakum picking; in some there was no labour at all, while others seemed to be a sort of industrial school, and the prisoners were set to work as tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, tinmen, matmakers, weavers, arid so forth. In some 56 steps on the wheel were required per minute; in others, 30 steps. In some the crank made 14,000 revolutions, in others 6,000. There was no uniformity in speed or in the construction of machines. As to the dietaries, some were higher, some lower than the Government scale. In some there were three meals, in some only two a day. Some had only one scale for all prisoners, whether committed for a few days or for months. In some the prisoners had the same diet every day; in others they had a variety of food, as at Wakefield, where they received pudding, treacle, and Irish stew. In some the cells were warmed and lit; in others they were not. In some the prisoners were allowed to sleep for twelve or fourteen hours; in some only seven or eight. In some there was association in chapel; in others there was not. In respect of the charge of prisoners, the cost varied from £87 4s. 7d. in Oakham county goal to £16 4s. 2d. in that of Kingston-on-Hull, and was £59.0s. 7d. and £18 3s. in Poole and Barn staple gaols respectively—two borough gaols receiving the same number of prisoners, and generally resembling each other. In respect of the produce of prisoners' labour, in Coldbath Fields prison the actual produce was,£1,901, and the estimated value of earnings £4,300, while in Abingdon Gaol the produce was only £2 1s. 7d. Those variances must lead to mischief to prisoners on account of the uncertainty of their sentences, and be injurious to the administration of justice, inasmuch as the sentences pronounced carried greater weight in some counties than in others. In conclusion, he would say a few words as to that which should govern prisons and prisoners — the principle upon which punishment was awarded. He dismissed altogether all fanciful theories—the idea of punishment for punishment's sake, as well as the humanitarian idea which made the moral reformation of the prisoner the be-all and the end-all of prison life. He accepted the views which he found were held by most of Her Majesty's Judges and by the great majority of reasonable people in this country, who had heads to be broken, lives to lose, or property to be stolen. The lute Lord Denman, when examined before the Criminal Law Commission in 1850, said— I hold the only legitimate end of punishment to be to deter from crime; but I think I perceive in some of the theories of benevolent men such a mode of administering the criminal law us to encourage instead of deterring. A noble Lord, now in the House, but then Mr. Baron Parke, expressed himself in the following terms, in which Mr. Justice Patteson concurred— The principal object of punishment I take to be the protection of society, by deterring the offender from the repetition of the crime, and others from following his example, by the pain and inconvenience he sustains. Another learned Judge, the late Mr. Baron Alderson, also said— I believe that the humanity which inflicts a slight punishment for the first offence, and for which so many people obtain a great reputation for tender-heartedness, is real inhumanity. By the opinions of these learned and experienced Judges, he was justified in holding that the leading principle of punishment was to make it such as would be deterring to the prisoner and to others. He did not mean to say that he would exclude all idea of moral reformation; but that was a contingency beyond the power of human calculation, and ought never to be allowed to override the real object of punishment—it should be secondary and subordinate to it. In short sentences, even by the confession of the advocates of moral reformation, it was perfectly idle to put in operation all the elaborate machinery provided in gaols for the instruction and reformation of prisoners. He would not trespass further upon their Lordships' patience; but as the subject was one of great importance, yet one into which the Royal Commission was not instructed to inquire, he felt it his duty to press it upon the attention of the Government, who, he trusted, would give it their fullest consideration.


—My Lords, the noble Earl has made a very clear statement upon what is one of the most difficult and intricate of social problems, and which, at this moment, is attracting a great deal of public attention; and therefore, I think, few subjects could be more interesting to your Lordships than that which the noble Earl has brought before us. I will not follow the noble Earl into the details of his speech or the statistics of crime which he has quoted, as they form a subject with which the Commission will have to deal. With respect to gaols, the noble Earl has, I think, divided the subject into four heads. The first is that of hard labour, which is one of the most important elements of punishment. He said—what I think is true—that in several prisons hard labour does not serve the purpose for which it was intended. If I am not mistaken in respect of one of the principal gaols in the county with which the noble Earl is connected, the last report of the Inspector pointed out the inadequacy of the labour there. The noble Earl, I am sure, is not to blame for that, for in a speech he made at the beginning of the year he himself called attention to this matter. But there are great differences of opinion on the question of labour. With many men hard labour, when not carried beyond a certain point, and not exceeding their physical ability to perform, is a positive relief rather than an addition to the punishment. There is a difference of opinion as to the kind of labour that should be given—whether, if you make the work unproductive, hard labour is not more distasteful to prisoners than when they understand some results will flow from it. Then we cannot altogether leave out of view the desirability of reforming prisoners. As to diet, the noble Earl thinks it is too good. Without any personal knowledge upon these points, I think the probability is greatly in favour of the view that the whole system in county gaols is too lenient. And this is not surprising. For the last twenty years public attention has been directed to this subject, and pressure has been put upon Parliament and magistrates and visiting justices in quite an opposite direction to undue severity. It is almost impossible that, under this pressure, the practical result should not be, upon the whole, that too much attention has been paid to the comfort of prisoners, and not sufficient to the deterring effects of the imprisonment. At the same time, the question of diet is one of great difficulty. Some years since, when the dietary was lowered, the late Sir Benjamin Brodie, who was not a man to allow himself to be governed by mere sentimental feelings, gave an opinion that the effect upon the health of the prisoners would be serious; and therefore it became impossible to abstain from increasing the dietary scale. The noble Earl referred to the different treatment of criminals and paupers, and said that the former received two-fifths more food than the latter. There is no doubt, however, that the effect of prison life is of a depressing character even under the most lenient system of discipline, and that it does require more animal food to prevent men from falling into a bad state of health, which we are not justified in inflicting upon them in addition to the punishment awarded. The noble Earl spoke of the eagerness shown by some prisoners, tried before magistrates, to return to prison, and said they frequently thanked the Judges for sentencing them. Although there may be some instances of that kind, yet, I think, in the great majority of cases, it is a little bit of bravado when the prisoner finds it impossible to avoid punishment, and then, to use a vulgar phrase, indulges himself by "chaffing" the Judge. I believe, even in the prisons to which the noble Earl has alluded, where the greatest leniency prevails, few prisoners would esteem it a greater boon to be retained in prison than to be let out of it. The whole question is one of great importance. It is difficult to be guided otherwise than by medical opinion in order not to expose prisoners to the danger of wasting by low fever. Men who live in bad circumstances, whose minds like their bodies may be said to be unsound—when such men come into prison, the common principles of humanity must induce us not to expose them to any influences detrimental to their mental or physical faculties. What you have to do is to make punishment deterrent, so that the prisoner, when he leaves the gaol, may be led to tell those who have been associated with him how bitter a thing it is to commit crime. With regard to the question of warming and ventilation, that also is a matter of very great difficulty. If you had the prisoners all in the same physical condition, and all of the same age, it would be very easily regulated. But the prisoners are not in the same condition, and the question of warmth and ventilation is precisely in the same position as that of food, the object being to keep them all in a proper state of health. When the prisoners are young and strong, an uncomfortable degree of cold, though unpleasant, would not injure them; while the same degree of cold would have most prejudicial effects on older and weaker constitutions. Then, with regard to communication, the great object should no doubt be, both in and out of prison, to dissociate prisoners from those with whom they were formerly in the habit of consorting, from whom they have acquired their worst habits, and with whom they naturally wish again to associate. That is in itself a great punishment. I think, while entirely agreeing that the real principle of punishment is that it should be deterrent, it is impossible not to see that it is necessary, as far as you can, to reform prisoners. You cannot keep them in the same state; if you do not make them better, you may be perfectly sure that they will become worse when they get out. You cannot hang them all, you cannot sentence them all to imprisonment for life; the time must come when they must be thrown again on society; and if you possibly can, you ought to improve their state of mind and industrious habits. Your Lordships must be aware that the Government powers are very limited in the matter of the discipline of gaols. They chiefly apply to the construction of new gaols, the certifying of the rules of county magistrates, and employing Inspectors and giving publicity to their reports; but there is no power of action on the part of the Government. It is very difficult to see how you can secure perfect consistency in the conduct of all prisons locally managed excepting by strengthening somewhat the central power —and that is a matter that ought to be gravely considered before the question is raised. It might be desirable to have a Committee of this House on the subject of the discipline of gaols, entirely confining the inquiry to that part of the subject, and without trenching on the duties of the Commission. The House is not overburdened with work at present, and the inquiry might lead to some useful recommendations.


said, he could attest the accuracy of the statements which had been made by his noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon). The noble Earl the President of the Council appeared to think that his noble Friend was in error when he stated that in some cases the expense of prisoners exceeded very much that of paupers in regard to diet.


said, he had guarded himself carefully from making a positive statement on the subject.


said, that the noble Earl had seemed to doubt the accuracy of the statement. Now, living as he did in the same county with his noble Friend, he could bear witness to the fact. The pauper was a great deal worse off with regard to diet and treatment than the occupant of the county gaol. The outdoor pauper, from age and illness, received 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. a week, while the prisoner in gaol was kept for not less than from 10s. to 12s. The criminal was therefore either in a much better state than the pauper, or the money was very badly expended. The effect of such comparisons on the lower classes—and the were constantly making them—was very unfortunate. It was by no means unusual to hear the observation, It is better to be in Winchester Gaol than to have an outdoor allowance from such and such a parish." It had been frequently stated that both soldiers and sailors had less meat and other allowances than prisoners in some of the gaols in the country. In the case of one particular gaol in Ireland, it was clearly made out that a prisoner, who was a soldier, had more meat and more luxuries than the soldiers of the regiment to which he belonged. This fact was not only important in itself, but in a moral point of view, because the classes from which criminals generally came made those comparisons, and the effect on their minds must be extremely had when they saw men who had committed the greatest crimes (not having been executed) actually in a better situation than those who had passed a long life of labour and honesty, or those serving Her Majesty in the army and navy. Such comparisons at once shocked the common mind, and took away all the terrors that ought to attach to the commission of crime. There were two things of which the criminal class ought to be completely convinced — that punishment was certain to follow conviction, and that the sentence awarded by the Judge would be immutable; instead of which, their feeling was that they might avoid detection and escape punishment altogether, and if convicted and sentenced by the Judge, that sentence would not be carried out.


said, he had been much struck by the manner in which the noble Earl (the Earl of Carnarvon) had—quite unintentionally, he was sure —misled their Lordships by the statistics he had read. It was quite true, no doubt, that the criminal statistics for 1861 showed a considerable increase in crime over those of 1860; but in dealing with statistics they must not look to the figures of any one year. They must look to an average of years to draw a correct conclusion. Although there was a large increase in 1861 over 1860, yet in 1860 there was a decrease as compared with 1859 and as far back as 1857. In 1857 the commitments were 20,259, and in 1861 the commitments were 18,226. He would refer their Lordships to a Return of commitments for periods of five years. In the period from 1847 to 1851 there were 142,771 commitments; in the next five years, from 1852 to 1856, there were 129,335; and in the last five years, 89,123. So that, comparing these periods together, there had been a continued decrease in the number of commitments. He was not about to draw a conclusion in favour of all the details of our present prison system from that. On the contrary, he agreed for; the most part in what the noble Earl opposite had so well stated on that subject; but he wished to point out the: fallacy of inferring, because the statistics of crime for 1861 exceeded those of 1860—and he feared those for 1862 would show a further increase — that; our system of penal discipline was altogether a failure. There had been several disturbing causes at work, such as the question of the treatment of convicts, the general condition of the country, and the like. He agreed with very much of what the noble Earl had stated—he agreed that there were great I defects, such as the variety of punishment that exists in various parts of the country. It seemed to him that the great defect in our present system was its want of uniformity, so that it was a mere chance what kind of imprisonment a prisoner got. When criminals were sent to one part of the country, they were subjected to one kind of imprisonment; and if sent to another part of the country, to imprisonment of quite a different kind. He believed, however, that the main principles on which our prison system rested were sound. Those principles were the separation of the prisoners and the infliction of hard labour. The system of classification had been abandoned because it implied association, and the system of separation had been found far more efficient. By separation he meant their confinement, except during the hours of labour, in separate cells. That principle was carried out in our best-regulated prisons, where also care was taken, when the prisoners were at labour, that they should not communicate with each other. The noble Earl opposite said there was no prison in the country where the prisoners did not communicate; but, unless they were to be so rigorously shut up in their cells as never to be able to see each other at all, it was impossible to prevent their communicating with each other sometimes. The only thing that could be done was by setting them to work in separate boxes, with the officers of the prison watching over them, to make communication between them as difficult and infrequent as possible. He thought that sufficient provision was not made in many instances for the infliction of hard labour. He was now speaking of county prisons, where criminals were confined for brief periods, and where it was desired to make the imprisonment sharp but short. His own opinion was that the old-fashion instrument, the treadmill, was an exceedingly wholesome engine of punishment; and he might mention that the treadmill really implied hard labour. In the gaol with the management of which he was himself best acquainted, the prisoners were put upon the treadmill, and made to ascend 960 steps in half an hour. If any of their Lordships would only think of what it was to walk up that number of steps in that time, and to continue it, with intervals of ten minutes, for ten hours a day, they would see that it was no misnomer to call that hard labour. It had been said that it was very improper to employ prisoners on labour which was unproductive; but it should be borne in mind that the object of imprisoning these men was not that they should perform productive labour, but to deter from the commission of crime; and if we sacrificed the deterrent principle to the theory that the labour done by criminals should be productive, we altogether mistook the rule by which we should be guided. If it happened that the work could be properly made productive—for instance, in pumping water for the prison—it should be so used; but that incident did not seem to him to be essential. In well-regulated prisons, the best-behaved prisoners were taken from the treadmill and placed upon some industrial employment, and in the event of misconduct they were again sent to the treadmill, because some gradation of punishment was absolutely necessary in order to maintain discipline. Another point which merited great attention was the prison diet. There was no question on which it was more difficult to form a correct opinion. Any one who examined the scale of prison rations could hardly help asking the question why men condemned for criminal offences should receive food which was not only superior to that given to the poor in our workhouses, but far better than the agricultural peasant could earn by honest labour. The answer usually obtained from the medical officers or the directors of prisons was, that it was impossible these men could be kept in health unless they received as nutritious a diet as that now prescribed for them. In the face of that assertion, made on such authority, it was exceedingly difficult for the managers of gaols to lower the rations. Moreover, it was stated that where they had been lowered a great increase of ill-health ensued, and therefore, instead of their being able to enforce the reduced diet, they had to give to prisoners such constant indulgences as broke down proper discipline. At the same time, whilst he thought that the quantity of provisions should be sufficient, when he found that a prisoner had every morning a pint of cocoa with molasses or sugar to sweeten it, he could not help thinking that some kind of gruel, sufficiently nutritious, but not quite so palatable, might be substituted for it. The regulations of the Home Office were, he must say, exceedingly liberal on this head. They prescribed for each prisoner's dinner a pint of soup, so much meat without bone, so much potatoes, with pepper and salt as condiments, and a certain quantity of pease-pudding; the whole forming a kind of mess, which if any one of their Lordships only tasted, they would pronounce to be uncommonly good. Certainly a man sentenced to four months' hard labour could not well complain of his diet. What he might complain of was what a prisoner once complained of to him. Two complaints were made. One was, that he was too much watched; the other was, that he did not think he got his share of the best bits. In his opinion, the complaints showed how excellent was the prison diet, and how little onerous was the prison discipline. He thought the table of diet might be revised so as to make it of a less savoury and agreable kind, but at the same time they must take care that it was sufficiently nutritious to keep the prisoners in health. The general principles of the separate system were sound, but some further power should be given to the Home Office, by means of the Inspectors, to see that the prisons were so constructed and so managed that something like a uniform practice should be enforced If that were done, he believed they would, do all they possibly could for the repression of crime.


thought their Lordships were greatly indebted to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Carnarvon) for the very clear, luminous, and satisfactory explanation of the subject which he had given to-night. He thought, for himself, that prisoners were allowed more animal food than was necessary for them. Two years ago he visited one of two gaols in Prussia which were conducted on the model of Pentonville, and he found that each prisoner had l½lb. of bread per diem, and only 2 lb. of meat in the course of the year. Meat was given only on four days in the year; and, judging from the appearance of the prisoners, they were, as the physician stated, in perfectly good health.


said, that one reason why a better diet than would otherwise be allowable was necessary, arose from the circumstance that prisoners on entering prison were deprived of ardent spirits and therefore required an extra amount of food.


said, he believed that most of the facts could be ascertained by a careful inspection of the Reports which had been made to Parliament; and though he advised his noble Friend to accept the offer of a Committee, he did not think it need involve a protracted inquiry, as it would be quite sufficient to examine the Inspectors of Prisons and to refer to their reports. As to dietary, it seemed, from a paper he had in his hands, that in the City of London Union the inmates had 174 ounces of solid food in a week, whilst in the Middlesex House of Correction the allowance was 196 ounces; showing a great difference in favour of the prison, though whether rightly or wrongly he would not then consider. He thought that his noble Friend would do well to accept the offer of the Government to grant a Committee.


said, there was a good reason for giving extra diet in prison. The first effect of confinement within four walls was to reduce the amount of vital power; and unless it were immediately made up, the prisoner would fall into a low state, and become liable to serious disease. Surgeons were men of science and intelligence, and in such a case they would say, "Why should I pour my doctor's stuff down the man's throat, when I know that if I order him a basin of broth I shall do him more good?" The visiting justices in his county, at Northallerton, had a long discussion upon hard labour and diet. As soon as he got home, he saw some men digging a drain twenty feet deep. They were turning the soil to a stage, and from the stage to the surface. It was the hardest work they could possible conceive The lowest man was exceedingly strong and powerful; but if he were put to do the same work in prison, and had only the same diet, he would die. He hoped that a full inquiry would be made into the subject.


, in reply, said, he had guarded himself expressly against associating in the relation of cause and effect the increase of crime in the particular year he had referred to with prison discipline. He would accept the offer of the noble Earl for the appointment of a Committee. He hoped some Member of the Government would consent to serve on it, and that he should receive from them all possible assistance. He would move the appointment of the Select Committee to-morrow evening.


said, he desired to ask the Government whether they would consent to refuse in all cases of second convictions, involving a sentence of penal servitude, any remission of the time of such sentence. What he wished to see effected was an extension of the recent circular of the Secretary for the Home Department, so that not merely persons who had been sentenced for a second time to penal servitude, being at the time of such second conviction out on a ticket of leave, but all persons who should be subjected to such a punishment after a previous conviction of any kind, should be debarred from the expectation of a remission of their sentence. He was afraid he should be met by the reply that the matter had been referred to a Royal Commission, but he could not see that that was any reason why the Home Office should refuse to carry further the circular they had recently issued by taking this step. The initiative had been taken by the Home Office; and as, rightly or wrongly, the whole country believed that the state of crime depended very much on the manner in which it administered the law, it was important to ascertain whether the Home Office was inclined to give the country some sort of assurance that it would do everything in its power to put an end to the state of things which had recently excited so much alarm. At present Judges knew that the sentences which they passed would not be carried out, and prisoners were equally aware that they would not actually suffer the punishment to which they had been condemned. He believed that the adoption of such a course as he suggested, by giving greater exactness to our system of legal punishment, would tend considerably to the diminution of crime.


said, it would be out of the question for the Executive to make further important changes without waiting for the Report of the Commission. To act on the suggestion of the noble Earl would be virtually to abolish tickets of leave.


observed, that the question of the noble Earl (the Earl of Dudley) referred to second convictions.


said, he was aware of that; but it referred to second convictions, even in cases in which the first sentence had not been one of penal servitude a portion of which had been remitted by ticket of leave. Now, there were very few persons sentenced to penal servitude who had not been previously sentenced for some minor offence. The circular issued by the Home Office to Judges and Chairmen of Quarter Sessions was intended to meet the case of persons who were recommitted after imprisonment under a sentence of penal servitude.

House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.