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are always forewarned of their coming and have ample time to put the prisons into a temporary and deceptive state of comparative or der; the inspection is generally a formal and perfunctory one, taking note only of irregularities and abuses which, to use a Russian expression, "throw themselves into the eyes"; and, finally, the stereotyped phrases," violation of law," "extremely unsatisfactory condition," and so forth, in which the results of the inspection are set forth by the Minister of the Interior, convey to the mind of the reader no definite idea of the state of facts to which such euphemistic expressions refer.
A RUSSIAN PRISON AND ITS LIFE.
WITHOUT, however, going behind official sources of information, it is possible to obtain a much clearer view of Russian prison life than that afforded by ministerial circulars. Now and then a fearless and honest prison official, shocked by the disorder, wretchedness, and misery which he is forced to witness but is powerless to remedy, and convinced of the futility of formal report and remonstrance, prints in some Russian periodical as much of the results of his prison experience as the censor will allow him to print. In 1885 Mr. I. Reve, an official connected with a provincial prison in one of the northern provinces of European Russia, published in the "Juridical Messenger," the organ of the Moscow Bar Association, two long and carefully prepared papers entitled "A Russian Prison and its Life," in which there is drawn a much darker picture of prison disorder and demoralization than that outlined in the ministerial circulars above cited. The author does not hesitate to assert that the laws which are supposed to regulate Russian prisons bear hardly a semblance of relation to the real facts of prison life. "Nine-tenths of such laws," he says, "are not enforced at all, and the remaining tenth is enforced in a way very different from that which the statutes themselves contemplate." He recites at length the regulations for the government of prisons contained in the fourteenth volume of the Russian collection of laws, and shows that in the prison to which his observations relate hardly a pretense was made of observing any one of them. And this, he maintains, is not a state of affairs which exists in a single prison only, but a state of affairs which, with slight and inconsiderable variations, prevails everywhere. In 1880 the prison described by Mr. Reve was, he says, "a little tsardom, where the highest law was the will of the warden, and where the superior officials of the province either did not dare or did not care to show their faces." The procureur, who was required by law to visit the
prison every Friday, came thither once or twice a year. The prison surgeon paid no attention whatever to the sanitary condition of the buildings, nor to the food, clothing, or habits of the prisoners, but contented himself with visiting the hospital for a few moments once a week. The priest, whose duty it was to go to the prison "not less than twice a week," for the purpose of instructing ignorant prisoners and ministering to the spiritual welfare of the whole prison population, did not appear there at all. The prison workshop was in chaotic disorder, and the prisoners, instead of working in it, spent a large part of their time in smoking, gambling, quarreling, or fighting. Hardly a pretense was made of feeding them decently or regularly; but as most of them were allowed to wander about the town and seek work during the day-time they earned money enough to feed themselves, and shared the remainder of their wages with the warden who allowed them the privilege. The trade in intoxicating liquor was an organized system, and the warden himself set the example of drunkenness. Disciplinary punishment was inflicted at his caprice, and he executed his own sentences by beating the prisoners in the face with his fists. The prison committee, which should have supervised and controlled the whole domestic economy of the prison, was absolutely dead and inert. "It was not," Mr. Reve says, "a living institution, but a mere bureaucratic fiction."
It seems almost incredible that such a state of things as this should have been allowed to exist in any prison in European Russia, but the statements of fact are made by an official over his own signature, and the articles were printed in the most influential legal journal of the empire, presumably with the consent of the Moscow censorial committee. It must not be inferred, however, that no attempt was made by the higher authorities of the province to remedy the evils above set forth. Such attempts were made, but as they had their origin in official caprice rather than in a serious determination to enforce the existing laws, their results were far from satisfactory. Every official who stands at the head of a provincial government has his own peculiar character and his own peculiar views, and such character and views are reflected in the administration of prison affairs within the limits of his province. As the result of successive changes of provincial governors, the prison above described had, between 1880 and 1885, three dif ferent wardens and was subjected to five abrupt and radical changes of administrative policy. "What can be expected," Mr. Reve asks, "under such circumstances, except complete disorder and disorganization? A prison
so managed is like the proverbial child with seven nurses which always grows up crooked."* Mr. Reve does not state what efforts he made, if any, to improve the condition of the prison which he describes; but in 1882 another official, Associate Procureur N. Timofeief, published through the same medium a long and instructive account of his attempts to remedy the horrible state of things which he found to exist in another provincial prison which it was a part of his official duty to visit and inspect. The prison, he says, was an old, badly constructed, badly ventilated building with dark entries and corridors, and was so saturated with offensive odors, disease germs, and miasmatic exhalations from neglected privies that its atmosphere was to an unaccustomed person almost insufferable. During the time that Mr. Timofeief had official relations with this prison it rarely contained less than twice the number of occupants for which it was intended, and often held three times that number. Twothirds of the prisoners, unable to find room on the "nares," or sleeping-benches, slept under them on the bare, filthy floor without bedding, blankets, or pillows. As the result of this overcrowding and of the bad sanitary condition of the building, from ten to twenty per cent. of the prisoners were constantly in the hospital, and there were two epidemics of typhus fever in one summer. The bath-house attached to the prison was in such a ruined and tumble-down condition that the warden would not allow the prisoners to use it, and in such washing as they could give their bodies in the overcrowded cells, they were compelled to use clay in the place of soap. Clothing was furnished to the prison upon the basis of the number of prisoners which it was intended to hold; but as the real number was always twice and sometimes three times the estimated number, onehalf to two-thirds of the prisoners were dressed in filthy rags swarming with vermin, and had neither shoes nor a change of underclothing. At three different times in the course of one winter they were ordered to work out-of-doors barefooted, in a temperature of minus twenty degrees Réaumur. The mayor of the town was official purveyor for the prison, and as he was also a dealer in provisions, he found it convenient and profitable to feed the prisoners with spoiled products for which there was no market. The members of the prison committee rarely assembled oftener than once in six months, and ignored entirely the duties imposed upon them by law. The provincial prison bureau held one or two sessions a year, but committed the supervision of prison affairs
"A Russian Prison and its Life," by I. Reve. "Juridical Messenger," No. 5, May, 1885, pp. 120-142; and Nos. 6 and 7, June and July, 1885, pp. 389-490.
to an indifferent and incompetent clerk. The priest, whose legal duty it was to look after the moral training of the prisoners and to conduct religious services every Sunday for their benefit, made but one visit to the prison in the course of twelve months, and went there then only at the urgent solicitation of the ispravnik, "for the sake of form and decency." The prison turnkeys, who received salaries of from $3.50 to $4.50 a month, acted as purchasing agents for prisoners who had money, and supplied them with intoxicating liquor. One of the overseers a renegade Jew-hired a degraded courtesan by the month, brought her every night to the prison, and received the wages of her prostitution.
ATTEMPTS AT REFORM.
IF Mr. Timofeief had been a weak man, a selfish man, or a timid man, he would have dealt with this cesspool of misery and vice as many weak, selfish, and timid men had dealt with it before—that is, he would have visited it as rarely as possible, would have characterized it in his annual report as "very unsatisfactory," and would have quieted his conscience with the reflection that his responsibility for the existing state of affairs was much less than that of the warden, the prison surgeon, the priest, the prison committee, the mayor, the provincial prison bureau, the ispravnik, the procureur, the gov ernor, and the governor's council. Fortunately, however, Mr. Timofeief was not a man of that character. As soon as it became his official duty to visit the prison he did visit it, and, shocked by its terrible sanitary condition, he made a report thereupon to the prison administration. No attention, however, was paid to his representations. He made another report, with the same result. Finally, during one of the epidemics of typhus fever in the prison, he succeeded in enlisting the sympathies of the district surgeon, and with the aid of the latter prevailed upon the prison authorities to put ventilators in some of the cell windows, and induced the district assembly to authorize the district apothecary to furnish him with thirtysix pounds of copperas for use as a disinfectant. This was a very moderate measure of success, but it was probably more than had been done for that prison in the previous decade.
Mr. Timofeief then turned his attention to the ruined bath-house, and after an official correspondence which lasted more than a year, after three successive sets of plans and estimates for a new bath-house had been drawn up and sent back and forth to and from St. Petersburg, and after the provincial architect had made four journeys of three hundred versts each to inspect the old bath-house,spending in mileage more than half enough
to put up a new building, the persistent for himself personal enemies, and earns the associate procureur succeeded in getting an reputation of being a troublesome man."* appropriation for a small quantity of lumber, I have summarized Mr. Timofeief's paper, and permission to employ the idle prisoners in not for the purpose of calling attention to one the work of repair. The bath-house was then particular drop of suffering in an ocean of put in usable condition in two weeks. human misery, but for the purpose of illustrating some of the defects of a hopelessly bad system. The evils against which Mr. Timofeief bravely but vainly struggled are, as the provincial officials frankly said to him, common to all Russian prisons, and can not be remedied by local, temporary, and exceptional measures. It would, of course, be hasty and unfair to say that all provincial prisons in Russia are so bad as the one above described; but that there are scores, if not hundreds, which resemble this one to a greater or less extent can, I think, be shown beyond the possibility of doubt. The statistics furnished by the Government itself are fully adequate to prove that Mr. Timofeief's prison was not an exceptional nor an unusual phenomenon.
The next reform in order was that relating to clothing. Soon after Mr. Timofeief's appointment, a number of prisoners, pale and emaciated from sleeplessness and partial asphyxia, came to him "almost in desperation," showed him their foul and ragged clothing, which was alive with vermin, and which they had worn night and day without change for months, and said to him in the graphic metaphorical language of the Russian peasant that "all their strength had been eaten up by beasts." The quantity of parasites on their bodies was, Mr. Timofeief says, "something astounding." He sent complaint after complaint to his immediate superior, the procureur of the circuit court, setting forth the intolerable sufferings of the prisoners and asking that they be supplied with the clothing to which they were legally entitled. The procureur replied that the letters of complaint had been "appropriately referred for suitable action, in accordance with law," and that ended it. Mr. Timofeief then went personally to the higher authorities of the province and urged them to make at least an effort to remedy what seemed to him the shameful and insufferable condition of things in one of their own prisons. The high officials said to him, "My dear sir, the evils of which you complain are not exceptional; they are common to all of our prisons, and they can not be remedied by temporary and exceptional measures." Determined that his superiors should fully understand, even if they would not remedy, the sufferings of the "beast"- tormented prisoners, Mr. Timofeief caused one of the latter to be stripped naked, made a package of his ragged, filthy clothing, loaded as it was with "a mass of parasites and indescribably offensive to every sense, sewed it up in stout linen cloth, and sent it under seal, without a word of explanation, to the procureur of the circuit court. This heroic measure brought the desired clothing; but it brought also a reprimand from the procureur, who regarded such action on the part of a subordinate as impertinent and "out of place." In concluding his recital, Mr. Timofeief says that an associate procureur who attempts conscientiously to perform the duties laid upon him by the prison reform law of 1864 simply "makes
"Prison Methods," by N. Timofeief, Associate Procureur."Juridical Messenger," No. 6, pp. 284305. Moscow, June 1st, 1882.
+ Report, Central Prison Administration for 1884, pp. 216-218; St. Petersburg: Ministry of the Interior, 1886. VOL. XXXV.-56.
According to the report of the Central Prison Administration for 1884 there were in the empire 144 prisons in which the sick-rate for the year exceeded twenty per cent. of the whole number of prisoners therein confined; in 52 prisons it was more than thirty per cent.; in 25 prisons it exceeded forty per cent.; in 8 prisons it was more than fifty per cent.; and in the prison of Kutais it reached seventy-two per cent. That in computing these sick-rates the officials did not take into account trifling ailments is shown by the fact that in 55 places of confinement the average period of sickness per capita was more than forty days, and in some prisons the patients were sick on an average seventeen weeks. Scurvy- a preventable disease—was reported from 223 prisons, and in 19 of them. it constituted more than ten per cent. of the whole aggregate of sickness.§ There were in the course of the year 391 scorbutic cases in the prisons of St. Petersburg alone, not taking into account the two fortresses of Petropavlovsk and Schlüsselburg. In explanation of this extraordinary prevalence of scurvy in the penal institutions of the capital itself, the prison physicians maintained first that the scorbutic patients had the disease in an incipient form when they were admitted to the prisons, and second that scurvy is infectious! ¶ Typhus fever- another preventable disease, due chiefly to filth and overcrowding — was reported from 336 prisons, but in only 45 of them did the number of cases exceed 20. In
Odessa, however, there were 58 cases; in Kharkoff, 73; in Saratoff, 121; in St. Petersburg, 158; in Warsaw, 261; in Perm, 484; and in Moscow, 1206. The malady was epidemic in 17 prisons, and in one of them constituted ninety-four per cent. of the total aggregate of disease. The whole number of sick patients treated in prison hospitals during the year was 89,523, not including 700 insane, and the whole number of "hospital days" was 2,055,524. Every prison in the empire had therefore on an average 101 cases of serious sickness and 2325 hospital days" in the course of the year. In the face of official statistics like these it seems to me impossible to maintain or to believe that the condition of the prison described by Associate Procureur Timofeief was either exceptional or unusual.
SUFFERINGS OF POLITICAL PRISONERS.
THE feeling of apprehension, humiliation, and misery which educated and sensitive human beings must endure in such prisons as these while awaiting trial is still further intensified by imperfect separation from common criminals of the worst class. The solitary-confinement cells which political offenders occupy were originally intended for felons whose depraved character or boisterous behavior made it necessary to isolate them from the rest of the prison population. Such cells are still partly used for that purpose, and the result is that innocent young women arrested upon suspicion of political" untrustworthiness" are sometimes imprisoned side by side with the most degraded and foul-mouthed criminals of their sex, and are compelled to hear things which to a refined and pure-minded young girl are inexpressibly shocking and terrible. I met in Siberia many young women who told me that they had had this experience, and there were doubtless many more who were too shy and timid to suggest to a man and a stranger some phases of their prison life.
The solitary-confinement cells are also used for the purpose of isolating common felons sick with small-pox or other contagious diseases. In many, if not in most, Russian prison hospitals all the patients occupy what is practically one large room or a series of intercommunicating rooms, where there are no facilities for the separate treatment of infectious disorders. Small-pox patients are therefore put into solitary-confinement cells side by side with politicals and on the same corridor, and the same attendants serve both.
fering from nervous affections, or sick with brain-fever brought on by intense anxiety and solitude, are often put into the same ward with insane criminals who are undergoing what is known as "ispitanie" or "probation." The effect produced by the incessant babbling or raving of a lunatic upon the disordered nerves of a sick political prisoner, who perhaps feels conscious that his own mind is already breaking, and who is compelled to see and hear continually in another that which he most dreads for himself, can be imagined. The results of such experience were described to me as particularly disastrous and terrible in the cases of young and nervous women who had been reduced to a chronic hysterical condition by solitary confinement.
In addition to all of the sufferings and privations which political offenders must inevitably endure in such prisons as those described by Mr. Reve and Associate Procureur Timofeief, they are not infrequently subjected to cruel and illegal personal treatment at the hands of brutal or hot-tempered wardens.
In the year 1879 there were confined in the provincial prison of Kiev two political offenders named Izbitski and Beverly-the latter a young man of English descent on his father's side, but of Russian birth. In the summer of that year these two young men, seeing no prospect of an early trial, made an attempt to escape by digging a tunnel under the prison wall. For many weeks they labored hard with tin cups, pieces of board, and such rude implements as they could fashion for themselves out of the materials at their command, and by working at night, depositing the earth from the tunnel in vacant spaces under their cells, and carefully replacing the floors every morning, they succeeded in wholly concealing their operations from the eyes of the prison officials. At last the tunnel was completed. Its outer end was only a few feet below the surface of the ground, at a sufficient distance from the prison wall to render flight from it reasonably safe, and the young men were only waiting for a dark night to carry their plan of escape into execution. At this critical moment the prison officials, visiting the cell of one of the young men during the latter's temporary absence, discovered and explored the tunnel. In view of the fact that within a short time there had been several daring and successful escapes from the Kiev prison, the warden determined to make such an example of these young men as would deter others from following in their footsteps. Instead, therefore, of removing them to other cells and thus frustrating their plan of escape, the warden allowed them to suppose that no discovery had been made, and then prepared an ambush for them at the end of the tunnel.
When, on the first dark night, the fugitives came up through the ground outside the prison wall they were fired upon by a squad of soldiers, who had been stationed there by the warden with instructions to shoot the prisoners as soon as they should make their appearance. Beverly was killed outright, and Izbitski, who was dangerously wounded, was carried back into the prison. Beverly's blood-stained body was allowed to lie on the ground where it had fallen in plain sight of the prison windows until late the following day, as a sort of ghastly object-lesson for the instruction of the other prisoners. The exile who gave me these facts, and who was Beverly's dearest friend, left the Kiev prison for Siberia on the morning after the tragedy, and was compelled to march past the dead body of the man whom he loved, as he told me, "better than a brother." There can, I think, be no question that the deliberate and coolly planned assassination of Mr. Beverly under such circumstances was as truly a treacherous and shameful murder as it would have been had the warden shot him while asleep in his cell. Such occurrences as this are, of course, not common even in the worst of Russian prisons, but that even this is not an isolated case appears from a ministerial circular sent to provincial governors on the 9th of February, 1870, in which a precisely similar occurrence is narrated and in which the prison officials are mildly rebuked for "permitting and even organizing crime." The minister declares that "such methods are not consistent with the conditions of prison life, nor with the objects of prison discipline, nor with the dignity of prison officials, and that they interfere with the moral reformation of the prisoners!"
murderer,- to a common felon of low intelligence and coarse fiber, who has been duly tried and found guilty of crime,-how much more should that right be guaranteed to an educated, sensitive young man or woman who has never been tried nor confronted by a witness, and against whom there is no other charge than "an intent to change the existing form of government . . . . at a more or less remote time in the future."
METHODS OF INTERCOMMUNICATION.
THE hardships, humiliations, and petty miseries innumerable of life in a Russian provincial prison are alleviated to some extent by the possibility of secret communication between prisoners who occupy adjacent cells. Although such intercommunication is strictly forbidden by law, and renders the prisoners who attempt it liable to "disciplinary punishment," it prevails to a greater or less extent in all the prisons of the empire, with the single exception, perhaps, of the castle of Schlüsselburg. Every possible measure of prevention has been tried again and again by the prison authorities, but the ingenuity, patience, and persistence of the political prisoners have triumphed over all difficulties, and have virtually set official prohibition at defiance. Even in the gloomy and closely guarded casemates of the Petropavlovski fortress, it has been found impossible wholly to deprive the prisoners of this much-prized source of encouragement, support, and consolation.
The methods of intercommunication commonly resorted to by political prisoners in solitary confinement are based upon what is known as the "knock alphabet "—an ingenThe bearing of this whole series of facts ious combination of letters and figures so arupon the life of political offenders who have ranged that the letters have numerical values the misfortune to be arrested in the provinces and the figures alphabetical equivalents. This hardly needs to be pointed out. Mr. Timo- inarticulate language of knocks has recently feief, in the article from which I have quoted, become familiar to a large number of people says very justly that when the executive power in Russia, including probably four-fifths of the "deprives an individual of his liberty, paralyzes whole "untrustworthy" class; but in the early his volition, and subjects him to the restraints days of the revolutionary movement, before of a rigid system of prison discipline, it is "neblagonadezhnost" or "the-condition-from bound to guarantee to him all the rights which which-nothing-good-is-to-be-hoped" became are still his by virtue of law. The most impor- a crime, the ability to transmit intelligence tant of such rights the right to an endurable human existence, the right to live without danger of losing health and strength is not guaranteed in most of our prisons, particularly in those remote, abandoned, almost forgotten places of confinement where the face of a high official is never seen and where the prisoners do not live, but merely languish in filth, and corruption, and hunger, and cold."*
If the right to "an endurable human existence" ought to be guaranteed to a burglar or a * "Prison Methods," before cited, p. 305.
through a solid brick wall was a rare accomplishment, and was confined chiefly to wily recidivists of a vulgar type, who, to use their own expression, had "been through fire, water, and a copper tube," and had received the degree of "Artium Magister " from half the penal institutions in the empire.
THE “KNOCK ALPHABET."
THE talented Russian novelist X-, who has been twice exiled to Siberia and half a dozen times imprisoned, told me last summer