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to put up a new building, the persistent associate procureur succeeded in getting an appropriation for a small quantity of lumber, and permission to employ the idle prisoners in the work of repair. The bath-house was then put in usable condition in two weeks.

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

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*"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.

for himself personal enemies, and earns the reputation of being a troublesome man."*

I have summarized Mr. Timofeief's paper, not for the purpose of calling attention to one particular drop of suffering in an ocean of 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.

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

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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.


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.

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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.”


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 important 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.

a crime, the ability to transmit intelligence 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 talented Russian novelist X- —, who has been twice exiled to Siberia and half a dozen times imprisoned, told me last summer

His diagram when finished looked something like this:

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After giving Mr. X— time to construct the figure, the unknown prisoner began another series of knocks so grouped and spaced as to indicate the lines and columns in which the required letters were to be found. Five knocks followed by three knocks meant that the equivalent letter would be found at the intersection of the fifth line and third column; two knocks followed by one knock indicated letter "f," at the intersection of line two and column one; and five knocks followed by four knocks meant letter "x," at the intersection of line five, column four. The first question asked by the unknown was 53 23 35 11 43 15 55 35 51: "Who are you?" The prisoners then exchanged brief biographies, and Mr. X discovered that he had learned his a b c's and taken his first lesson in prison telegraphy from a common criminal, —a burglar, if I remember rightly,— who was awaiting exile to Siberia.

that when he was arrested for the first time umns.
he had never even heard of the “knock alpha-
bet"; and that when, during the second day
of his imprisonment, he noticed a faint tapping
on the other side of the wall, he regarded it
merely as an indication that the adjoining cell
was occupied, and gave it no particular atten-
tion. As the knocking continued, however,
and as the faint taps seemed to be definitely
segregated into groups by brief intervals of
silence, he became convinced that his unknown
neighbor was endeavoring to communicate
with him. Upon what principle or plan the
knocks were grouped he did not know, but
he conjectured that the number of taps be-
tween two" rests" might correspond with the
serial number of a letter in the alphabet,—one
knock standing for "a," two for "b," three for
"c," and so on up to twenty-six for "z." Upon
putting this conjecture to the test he was de-
lighted to find that the knocks resolved them-
selves into the letters "D-o-y-o-u-u-n-d-e-r-
s-t-a-n-d?" He replied with forty-nine knocks,
so grouped and spaced as to make "Y-e-s";
but long before he had finished this short word
he became mournfully conscious that, at the
rate of forty-nine knocks for every three letters,
he and his unknown correspondent would not
be able to exchange more than half a dozen
ideas a week. The invisible prisoner on the
other side of the wall did not seem, however,
to be at all discouraged, and began at once
another long series of knocks, which extended
to two hundred and ninety-six, and which, when
translated, made the words "Teach you bet-
ter way-listen!" Mr. X then heard one
loud tap near the corner of the cell, followed
by a sound of scratching, which proceeded
from that point towards the door at about
the height of a man's head, as if the unknown
were drawing a long horizontal line with some
hard substance on the other side of the wall.
After a brief interval of silence there came two
staccato taps and the noise made by the
scratching of a second line parallel with the
first one, but a little lower down. When seven
of these invisible lines had been drawn under
one another about a foot apart, with a group
of knocks at the beginning of each one to de-
note its number, the unseen artist went back
to one knock, and proceeded to draw six per-
pendicular lines crossing the first series at right
angles, so as to make a huge audible checker-
board. As soon as Mr. X heard this in-
visible diagram, the purpose for which it was
intended flashed upon his mind, and before
the unknown instructor had finished knocking
out the words," Put alphabet in squares," the
quick-witted pupil had scratched upon the
floor of his cell a reduced copy of the audible
tracing, and was numbering its lines and col-


THE object of the "checker-board cipher" is, first, to facilitate the transmission of letters and words, and, second, so to disguise them as to make them unrecognizable to persons who have not the key. The cipher in the form above shown is an extremely simple one; but it reduces from 351 to 157 the number of knocks necessary to represent the English alphabet, and it is susceptible of variation and complication to an almost unlimited extent. The letters of the alphabet, for example, may be arranged in the square in twenty-four different symmetrical ways, and every such alphabetical scheme can be combined with two variations in the order of the figures and four in their arrangement, making 192 different ciphers. This, however, is only the beginning of the varied and complex system of secret intercommunication which the political prisoners have

built up on the corner-stone of the lettered square. By combining an understood keyword with the alphabetical checker-board, they have made a number-cipher which has thus far defied the ingenuity of the "cipher bureau" of the "gendarmerie" and which seems to me to be absolutely inscrutable.

Suppose that the message to be put into cipheris" Nicholas arrested," and that the understood key-word is "prison." The letters of the key-word are first written under the letters of the message as many times as may be necessary to fill out the space. The numerical equivalents of the two series of letters are then found in the lettered and numbered square and are added together to make a new series: N i ch 0 1 a S a r r e S t e d ri S n p r i S n P r i





34 24 13 23 35 32 11 44 11 43 43 15 44 45 15 41 43 24 44 35 34 41 43 24 44 35 34 41 43 24 75 67 37 67 70 66 52 87 35 87 78 49 85 88 39 58 The last series constitutes the cipher, and its peculiar merit is that the same number never stands twice for the same letter. "A" in "Nicholas" is represented by "52"; "a" in "arrested" is represented by "35"; "e," the first time it occurs, is " 49"; and the next time, "39"; the number "67," in the cipher message, stands in one place for "i" and in another for "h"; while "87" stands once for "s" and once for "r." In deciphering the cryptograph the numerical equivalents of the letters of the key-word are, of course, to be subtracted from the cipher-numbers, and then the letters which correspond with the figures of the remainder are to be sought in the alphabetical square.

It is apparent at a glance that a cryptograph of this kind, which can be indefinitely varied, and in which the same number never stands twice for the same letter, cannot be deciphered by any of the ordinary methods.


ANOTHER merit of the "checker-board cipher" is the wide range of its applicability. It can be used not only as a knock alphabet, but as an oral language, as a signal-code based on vision, and as a method of secret intercommunication by means of almost imperceptible dots or indentations in paper, sand, dust, or the leaf of a tree. Any substance which can be dotted, indented, or pierced may serve as a medium for the conveyance of the cipher numbers. The use of the alphabetical square in the form of an oral language is not common, but it is frequently resorted to in prisons where the number of politicals is so large that they can safely defy control. In such cases they do

not restrict themselves to secret intercommunication by means of knocks, but shout the cipher-numbers to one another openly from their cell windows. It is not possible to punish a hundred or more people for this offense by putting them all into dark cells, the capacity of an already overcrowded prison will not admit of such a method of dealing with the evil,— and if the authorities resort to physical violence the prisoners meet it with an organized "hunger-strike." This desperate form of protest. creates an excited state of public feeling in the town where the prison is situated; it exasperates the friends of the sufferers to such a degree as to endanger the lives of the prison officials; it is an occurrence which the warden must report to the Minister of the Interior, and it is almost certain to be followed by an investigation of the prison management, which may bring to light the illegal practices from which the warden, overseers, and turnkeys derive pecuniary profit. These inevitable consequences of a hunger-strike are greatly dreaded by the prison authorities, and it often happens that a warden, in order to avoid what is known in the prison world as a "skandal," winks at relatively trivial infractions of prison discipline. In this way a modus vivendi is established, by virtue of which the warden permits oral communication between the political prisoners, and the latter tacitly agree not to create a disturbance prejudicial to the interests of the warden. Such a state of things existed in the Kiev prison in 1883, and at almost any hour of the day or night a pedestrian passing the prison wall might have heard the voices of the politicals calling out in a steady monotone from their cell windows, "Twelve, fifteen, fifty-four, twenty-four, thirtytwo, fifteen, fourteen." Nearly all of the political exiles whom I met in Siberia were skilled in the use of the checker-board cipher, and could transmit intelligence either by knocks or by calling the equivalent numbers at the rate of from ten to fifteen words a minute.

The use of this cipher as a signal code by prisoners who are so situated that they can see one another is more common, the numbers being made by visible motions of the hand instead of by audible knocks. At night the prisoner, if allowed to have a candle, makes the numbers by moving a book or a towel back and forth in front of the light so as to alternately hide it and reveal it. In this way conversations are sometimes carried on between politicals at their cell windows and friends in houses standing outside the prison wall and at a considerable distance.

One of the most ingenious and successful adaptations of the checker-board cipher to the peculiar conditions and necessities of prison

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