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was to increase the strength; but the men again fell off in weight, and continued to do so, until the loss amounted to 12 lbs. per man on 86 per cent. of the whole number. The fourth dietary, giving an increased allowance of potatoes, was then adopted, and it reduced the per-centage from 86 to 22. And the fifth dietary,-the one now in use,-by the addition of a small quantity of bread, brought the average loss of weight per man to 11⁄2 lb. on 16 per cent. Further experiments led to the confirmation of this scale as the smallest average quantity of food on which the prisoners could be maintained in health; although they pointed out some curious modifications which might be introduced with reference to the age and stature of individuals. It is important, also, to remark, that, on an average of 423 prisoners, 37 required extra diett, even under the fullest allowance of food to which we have alluded.
Now, if it be admitted that a prisoner is sentenced to imprisonment, and not to the loss of health, and that these are the results of actual experiments made under the direction of such eminent men as Brodie and Ferguson,—we do not see what room is left for argument, or for asserting that the prisoner is too well fed. The amount of his physical comforts has been carefully adjusted to his capacity of endurance: if diminished, he is found to droop, and the powers of life to fade away. So far from the food and accommodation of a prisoner being justly an object of envy to the free peasant, the punishment of imprisonment is shown in this respect to be carried to its maximum; and only to stop short of destroying health. The disparity, which prevails between the dietaries of different prisons, and which may be estimated by the difference in their cost, proves nothing except local mismanagement. In one county gaol,' (say Mr. Field) it amounts to within a fraction of 87.: in another, it does not exceed 41.'
The principal ailments which require watching in Pentonville, as well as in all other prisons, are tubercular scrofula and consumption, and mental derangement. It is difficult to draw any comparison which can be relied on between the condition of Pentonville prisoners with regard to mental and bodily health, and that of other prisoners, or of criminals at liberty. So far as the statistical returns go, the results are much in favour of Pentonville; but it should be remembered that the persons confined there, though criminals, were selected criminals, and a large proportion of them came from the country. It is
*Fifth Report of Pentonville Commissioners, p. 13.
remarkable, also, what apparently trivial precautions reduced the ratio of disease. The fine dust remaining in the cells at night was supposed to have increased the cases of consumption. After proper precautions had been taken to remove it, the ratio, per 1000 of deaths from consumption, fell from 11:47 to 4:36. The deaths in Pentonville in 1847 were only 14 in 1000. In the Metropolitan District in the same year the deaths of males between the ages of twenty and forty years were 13.35 in 1000.
That the tendency of prolonged separate confinement is to affect the mind cannot be denied; and it is a very important feature in the punishment. Its softening power is irresistible. As wax before the sun, so does the firmest mind yield at last to this terrible solvent. But we cannot admit that this is an evil. To expect that a mind long abandoned to every bad propensity, fixed into habits, and hardened by the ordinary punishments, should be effectually acted upon except by a sharp and searching instrument, seems to us the vainest of all vain hopes. An inveterate disease requires powerful medicines, and resists the gentler. It is something to have at our command a curative process, which tames the wildest and subdues the most stubborn. No doubt the application to the human mind of an agent of such force implies an awful responsibility, and demands the extremest care. It is too valuable to be thrown aside,-and it is too penetrating to be trusted in the hands of men of cruel, or careless, or prejudiced, or unobservant minds. It must be used with discretion and watched with jealousy. Longer trial may be expected to point out more clearly the time at which this species of imprisonment should cease. Present experience seems to show that the majority of prisoners may undergo separate imprisonment for eighteen months without mental injury, although there is a loss of physical power; but that no moral improvement takes place after fifteen months. In so serious a question, the authorities lean to the side of caution; and the general opinion is, that twelve months should not be exceeded except under very particular circumstances, and even then that great watchfulness would be necessary. The period will very much depend upon the contrivances that can be devised for meeting exceptional cases, and for diminishing the feeling of solitariness without infringing on the principle of separation. But whatever changes may be made in the details, the experiment itself has now been in operation at Pentonville during a period of six years. And, it has demonstrated the practicability, under the separate system, of subjecting prisoners for the space of twelve months to the severest imprisonment which the mind and body can bear, without permanent injury; of enforcing discipline without much
punishment; of effectually administering industrial, intellectual, and religious instruction; of stopping the progress of demoralisation, and of rendering reformation possible. These are most important advantages, and have not been accomplished by any other system of imprisonment whatsoever.
The question of expense is then the only point, on which a claim of superiority can be raised for the system of classification. It is the point to which, we confess, we attach the least importance. We are far from wishing to be the advocates of any useless expense, or to maintain that extravagance is likely to produce efficiency; but we contend, that after having cut off all unnecessary expenditure, the relative value of the system must depend upon its efficiency, and not upon its cheapness. If the system is at all effectual in preventing crime; or if, by it, we can so operate on the minds of our convicts as to dispose them to support themselves in a distant land, it may justly be pronounced cheap. Nothing is so expensive as crime-nothing so extravagant as a goal where prisoners are associated together, be the arrangements ever so economical. Every such prison is a normal school of depravity, where thieves are educated at the public expense to pillage the community.
The gross cost of a prisoner in separate confinement, exclusive of the value of his earnings, has varied from 20l. to 351. per annum, the interest of the cost of the construction of the prison being about 67. per cell: in ordinary prisons, the annual cost of a prisoner is from 187. to 201. Comparing the net cost in two well-managed prisons of either kind, it does not appear that there is an annual difference of 51. per man; the only points of difference being the interest on the cost of the prison, and some additional expense for a larger number of chaplains, schoolmasters, and trades' instructors. Now is it worth while to spend 51. a year for even the chance of reclaiming an offender? or, in order to save 51. a year, shall we insure the conversion of every novice in crime into a systematic depredator? It is quite certain that, so long as a man is a thief, he is supported at the public expense, whether he is in or out of prison, whether in England or Van Diemen's land. If we could ascertain what this amounts to, we should have some idea concerning the money value of a good system, and the real economy of any method which should, at some period of his life, transfer the cost of the criminal from the public to himself. This inquiry can only be answered approximately. The value of the property taken by 500 Pentonville prisoners, as estimated at their trials, was above 10,0004.*, or an average of 207. per man:
Sixth Report of the Pentonville Commissioners, p. 28.
and this sum only represents the destruction to property by one felony,-the last, but not therefore the worst, of a series of crimes. The number of convictions for felonies in the metropolitan district in 1848 was 3137, and the value of the property lost was 44,6667."; in addition to all those robberies, which do not come under the notice of the police. How many these may be, it is quite impossible to say; but in forgery, a peculiarly dangerous career of crime, and which is systematically prosecuted by the bank, the proportion of convictions to offences was only 1 in 103.† The municipal council in Liverpool, in 1836, estimated the annual loss by crime in that town at 700,000l. The number of known thieves in the metropolis alone is 6000.§ In England and Wales, the number of persons living wholly, exclusive of those living partially, by depredation, is estimated at 40,000. The prison population varies from 12,000 to 20,000.¶ The average career of impunity to common thieves is about six years. ** During which time, their daily expenditure appears incredible. A thief gives the following description of what takes place at a lodging house for trampers: They all lived well, 'never ate any broken meat, had meat breakfasts, good dinners, hot suppers, and frequently ended by going to bed very drunk; 'not one spent less than three shillings a day, many a great 'deal more.' tt As they obtain from the receivers of stolen goods only from one-eighth to one-third of the value of the property stolen, we cannot place the loss to the community at less than from ten to twelve shillings a day. In other words, a thief costs the community about 150l. a year while at liberty. In prison this may be reduced to from 20l. to 30%. But, if reformation be not effected, one or other of these charges must continue during the remainder of his life. After allowing for inaccuracies in these calculations, sufficient remains to prove, that, whatever be the cost of the convict during the time that he is under the control of the government, the system which eventually succeeds in making him support himself, is beyond all question the most economical. Reformation is cheap at any price.
The last argument we shall notice, is the one which assumes that the reformation of criminals is not to be expected; and that therefore all expenditure for that purpose is only so much money thrown away. Without dwelling on any reasons for persevering in this attempt drawn from considerations of duty, we would treat the question rather as a matter of fact to be ascertained.
• Criminal Returns, Metropolitan Police, p. 38. + Report of the Constabulary Force
Ib., p. 402.
¶ Ib., p. 128.
Commissioners, 1839, p. 8.
Ib., p. 12. ** Ib., p. 12.
tt Ib., p. 44.
So long as gaols in England afford only the means of classifying prisoners, and that indifferently, we admit at once that reformation is, generally speaking, hopeless. For the success of some well known individuals has been due to the singular combination in them of two or three most rare and heavenly qualities; whereas in legislative schemes we must adapt our arrangements to the ordinary machinery at our command. The statistics of our gaols show that not above five per cent. of the prisoners have been led to crime by the pressure of poverty alone. Its origin is to be found in the habit of spending rather than in the difficulty of acquiring. The presence of temptation is more powerful to attract to crime, than the recollection or anticipation of suffering to deter. Notwithstanding which, our practice has been to sentence offenders to be confined for short periods in gaols;—from whence they issue, more corrupted than on their entrance, without a shilling to buy food, without a chance of employment, with their characters gone, with no one to turn to but their former companions in guilt, with no other alternative than that of death by starvation or a life of robbery. And then, because they choose life, we call their penitence hypocrisy and their reformation an impossibility!
The evidence of Mr. T. Wright before the Committee of the House of Lords on Criminal Law, is very striking. He had been in the habit for nine years of visiting prisoners in Salford House of Correction at Manchester, and obtaining employment for them on discharge; and he states, from his own experience, that in his humble opinion, fourteen out of twenty would never • return to prisons if some one took them by the hand, and spoke kindly to them, and found them situations and supply of food for some time. In the last two years, provided a man comes out of prison to-morrow morning, if I should happen to be at home, I take care that that man wants nothing. I perhaps may give him 5s., and sometimes I give him even more than that, to keep him out of running into temptation again.'
Their conduct, in such a prison as all prisons ought to be, may be seen in the following return of the Pentonville prisoners for two years.
Deaths, pardons, medical and special cases
Sent to the Hulks and Millbank, as incorrigible
Sixth Report of Pentonville Commissioners, 1848, p. 4.