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collateral issues have been brought in, local jealousies excited, the zeal of rival associations roused, the honor of having first introduced a successful system of prison discipline is disputed, and the merits of the question really at issue have been covered up in the confusion of a guerilla warfare. The question actually mooted has been, not whether solitary or social labor by day is preferable, but whether the Pennsylvania plan is properly called one of solitary or separate imprisonment, — whether the Philadelphia prison is better than that at Auburn, or that in Charlestown, — whether the total silence of the prisoners is a necessary feature of the Auburn plan, - whether the lash ought ever to be used, whether the course pursued by the Boston Prison Discipline Society has been fanatical or liberal, wise or foolish, — and a dozen other questions which we have no patience to enumerate. In a discussion of this kind, there is certainly but little chance that truth will ever be elicited, or any addition made to the stock of established principles in the science of prison discipline.
It is a fortunate circumstance, then, that a cautious inquirer, like Mr. Gray, cool, methodical, and rigid in his habits of investigation, a chaste writer and an excellent logician, has undertaken to eliminate all these false issues, and to ascertain " what plan of prison discipline appears, from the evidence now before us, to be best adapted to our present wants and condition.” He shows no enthusiasm, and indulges in no flights of rhetoric ; that he is deeply interested in the subject appears only from a consideration of the time and labor that he must have given to the preparation of this volume. Above all, he has not engaged in the discussion with the eagerness and intemperate spirit of a partisan, occupied not so much in sifting the evidence as in casting reproach on the motives and conduct of those who differ from him in opinion. On the contrary, he is singularly mild and temperate in his expressions, uses no strong epithets, and utters not a word of blame, even when the facts exposed by him seem to require indignant comment. Prison discipline he considers as a science, and he has entered into a patient examination of the questions that it offers as if they were so many problems in physics or natural history. He is an inveterate collector of facts, and an inexorable logician. Sentiment and declamation, therefore, find no place in his pages, and he even laughs at arguments professedly founded on the principles of the human mind and the nature of things, and other such branches of learning' as are usually resorted to only for want of better reasons, and less frequently used to aid us in forming opinions than in defending opinions already adopted.” It is no small addition to this praise, to say that his book is written in excellent English, terse, succinct, and forcible, and with great purity and simplicity of diction.
A great merit of the work, though it is nowhere paraded or boasted of, consists in the extreme caution and watchfulness with which the facts have been brought together, and the evidence sifted. In this respect, we do not hesitate to call it the most trustworthy book on prison discipline which has ever appeared in this country ; and we know of no European treatise which can be considered as its superior. He must be a bold man who will impugn any of Mr. Gray's statements ; they are never taken at second hand, and the original sources being always indicated, the task of verifying them is not difficult. We have traced a considerable portion of them to the authorities cited, the printed reports of the prison officers and Parliamentary documents, and ceased the examination only when satisfied that it was needless. Testimony has seldom been more carefully scrutinized and weighed in a court of justice than in this volume. Yet the author speaks thus modestly on the point :
“ It would be presumptuous to assert that there are no mistakes in this pamphlet. But it is enough for my purpose, if there are none which affect materially its arguments or its conclusions."
This remark is important; for the correctness of certain statistical tables relating to prisons, and the validity of the conclusions founded upon them, have been denied on account of some trivial errors of the press or the pen, the misplacing
, of a single figure, or a slight mistake in the addition of a column of units, though it was apparent on the face of the matter that these errors did not at all affect the general inference. Figures are seldom printed in a statistical work with as much correctness as in the Nautical Almanac ; nor is it necessary that they should be ; for in the latter case, the substitution, in
; but a single instance, of a 9 for a 7 might occasion the wreck of a ship and the loss of many valuable lives ; while in the former, as statistical reasoning proceeds by a series of means or averages, and is therefore confessedly but an approximation to the truth, the mistake of a figure or two in the body of the tables is generally of no importance; in the body of the tables, we say, for of course the arithmetical processes, the striking of the average, must be strictly correct. We do not believe that this remark is needed to shield Mr. Gray's tables even from hypercriticism ; but it is very certain that there are no errors in them which will vitiate his reasoning in the slightest degree.
Considering this scientific examination of the subject, which Mr. Gray has executed with so much care and ability, to be of great value, for the purpose both of giving information to those who have not made a particular study of prison discipline, and of ending controversy among those who have, we shall endeavour to give as full a view as our limits will permit of the facts and arguments adduced by him, with the few additional illustrations of the principles involved that we have derived from the perusal of his volume and of many of his original authorities. For the greater part of what follows the reader will consider himself indebted to Mr. Gray, though he is not responsible, of course, for the correctness of any assertion unless it appears as a direct citation from his book.
The objects of prison discipline are twofold, - the protection of society, and the reformation of the criminal. Different opinions are entertained of the relative importance of these two ends ; the zealous philanthropy of most of those persons who have given great attention to the subject has led them, we think, to overrate the importance of the latter, or, at any rate, to spend more thought upon it than upon the general interests of the community. Society is not bound to reform the convict for his own sake ; no one who has committed a grave offence against his fellow-beings can call upon them, not merely to support him, but to find a cure for his hardness of heart and habits of self-indulgence which have betrayed him into sin. At any rate, the claims of the virtuous poor for a comfortable maintenance and all the means of secular and religious instruction are vastly preferable to his ; not till these are fully satisfied can the petition of the guilty be granted. But society does undertake, from a regard to its own interests, to draw evil-doers out of the abyss of wick
edness and infamy into which they have plunged by their own
Reformation is secondary, then; the prevention of crime is the first object of prison discipline. We are not speaking, however, of the duties of individuals ; of course, the obligation of Christian benevolence is incumbent upon all, and towards all, — the thief and the murderer no less than our honest fellow-man. We speak only of the duties of the state, an association organized for limited purposes, among which is the institution of a proper system of prison discipline, by which alone society can be protected against crime.
Now, before we ask what are the most effectual means to this end, there is a preliminary question to be answered which covers the whole of our present subject. Society has a right to protect itself, yet not by the exercise of undue severity, certainly not by a sacrifice of reason or life, unless all other means fail. The most unflinching advocate of the rights of the community will not favor the introduction of Draco's code, the immediate punishment of all offences by death. So, too, the reason or the life of the convict is not to be exposed to any hazard which can possibly be avoided ; what we are not authorized to take away we have no right to endanger. The offender is sentenced by due course of law to imprisonment, either for a limited term of years, or for life ; imprison him, then, but do not put him to death, do not drive him mad. If you shorten his life, or expose it to considerable hazard, it is the same thing as if he were sentenced to be hanged with a respite of execution, or with a chance of escape provided the rope broke.
broke. The law does not sanction this severity ; reason, humanity, common justice, cries out against it. Above all, you have no right to expose him to the awful peril of insanity, which is worse than death. The savage tortured his victim by hot pincers and fiery arrows, the Inquisition doomed him to the rack and the stake ; but neither the barbarian nor the bigot, with all their fiendish refinements in cruelty, ever invented a punishment so horrid as the privation of reason.
If any one thinks this language is too strong, let him visit a madhouse.
The vilest criminal, who is sentenced only to confinement, has as good a right to require that society should not expose his sanity or his life to hazard, as the most virtuous member of the community. His safety in these respects, indeed, is
to be watched over with even greater care than if he were a freeman unspotted by crime. The reason is obvious ; those who are at liberty are bound to take care of themselves ; if they fall into peril, it is their own fault or their misfortune ; society is not accountable for what it seeks not to control. But with the prisoner it is far different ; the iron grasp of the law is upon him, and he is as helpless for himself as an infant. Thick walls and iron grates surround him ; his food is selected and weighed out to him ; his allowance of light, air, and warmth is determined ; his hours for sleep, labor, and idleness are fixed; his dress, his exercise, his habits in every respect, are under the constant and irresistible control of his keepers. He is like clay in the hands of the potter. Society has all power over him, and therefore accepts all the responsibility ; the issues of life or death, if we may so speak with reverence, of sanity or insanity, are in its hands.
Hence, we may observe in passing, comes the attractiveness of this subject of prison discipline for many worthy theorists and speculative reformers. Prisoners are capital subjects for experiment, for they are not allowed to have any will of their own. Every thing is done for them upon a system ; they are fed, lodged, dressed, taught, employed, punished, and rewarded upon theory ; and all without regard to expense, as the state pays the bills. The interior of a prison is a grand theatre for the trial of all new plans in hygiene and education, in physical and moral reform ; the convict is surrendered, body and soul, to be experimented upon. Hence the zeal and pertinacity with which discussions of this matter are conducted, and the strange manner in which abstract speculation has been allowed to predominate over the evidence of facts, though prison discipline should be one of the most practical of all subjects. Those theoryloving nations, the French and the Germans, have been debating upon it these ten years, and do not seem to have arrived at a conclusion yet. Meanwhile, America and England have been steadily making experiments in it, and it is time that we should profit by their results.
We consider, therefore, that Mr. Gray is right in looking upon this subject almost exclusively under the light of experience, and in making the question respecting the comparative effects of the two systems upon the bodily and mental health of the prisoners paramount to all others. It deserves