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nual number of admissions to the prison hospital, if there be one, and the number of days spent there by each patient ; or else, how much society is given to the sick convict in his cell.
The history of the trial of the separate system in Rhode Island will not detain us long. It was introduced there in November, 1838, and abandoned in 1843, at the recommendation of the warden and physician, “after a careful observation, extending through a period of more than four years, of the injurious and alarming effects of solitary imprisonment upon the mental and physical condition of those who were the subjects of it.” During the year preceding its discontinuance, there was an average loss from sickness of twentyfive per cent. upon the labor of the convicts; while during the first year of social labor by day, the loss from the same cause was about six per cent. The necessity and amount of punishments for disobedience and violations of rules were diminished in about the same proportion. Of the forty prisoners committed while the separate system was in use, ten, or one fourth of the whole number, two of whom were blacks, manifested decided symptoms of derangement ; of the nineteen committed since this system was abandoned, only three have shown symptoms of insanity, and one of these had become deranged under the separate system, was discharged insane, recovered his mind while at liberty, committed a new offence, was again imprisoned, and soon relapsed into his former state. The advantage claimed for the Pennsylvania plan, that it makes the prisoner more calm and submissive in his demeanour, was not found to be real in this experiment. “On the contrary," says the warden, Dr. Cleveland, “ solitude has been found to produce restless irritability, and a peevishness of disposition, impatient of the unnatural restraint imposed on the reluctant body and mind, difficult to be dealt with ; while in the performance of social labor in silence, the men have been better subject to control, and have required less frequent exertions of authority than before."
The failure of the system in this case cannot be attributed to any defects of administration. The cells were unusually large, light, and airy, being eight feet broad, fifteen feet deep, and eight feet high ; each had a pine floor, was lighted by two panes of glass, each fourteen inches by five, was fur
nished with abundance of pure water, and warmed in cold weather by hot water circulating through iron pipes. Suitable medical advice and attendance were furnished, and proper persons were licensed as moral and religious teachers, who visited the prisoners, principally on Sundays. 66 The whole system was carried into effect under the constant supervision and frequent visitation of a board of inspectors, having strong confidence in its superiority, and responsible to the legislative body for the discharge of their duties.” The warden, before commencing his trial of the plan, visited several prisons conducted on the separate system in other States, in order to learn the best modes of procedure, and to make the experiment in exact conformity with the most approved models. No one who reads his report for 1844 will question his ability, or his disposition to give the system a fair trial.
According to Dr. Cleveland's observations, the insanity manifested by the prisoners in separate confinement was very similar in its symptoms to delirium tremens, that frequent species of derangement which arises from “the sudden deprivation of an accustomed excessive stimulus of the brain by ardent spirit.' We borrow some of his remarks on this point, which are very acute and philosophical.
“ In both classes of cases, I have come to the conclusion, that the derangement was produced by the abstraction of an accustomed stimulus to the brain, either natural, and requisite to a healthy action, or unnatural, and adapted to the supply of a morbid and injurious appetite, and thus necessary, by a bad habit, to the ordinary mental and physical action of the system. Persons who have never been deprived even of a small portion of what may be called their natural stimulus, for
considerable length of time, are little aware of its salutary and indispensable influence. Every moment of our lives brings us under its action, through the external senses, in ten thousand various forms. The succession of day and night, the changing seasons through which we are constantly passing, are all in continual action upon the springs of life. The momentary and ever-changing objects which present themselves to the eye, the continual and rapid variety of sounds which fall upon the ear, and, in short, the perpetual succession of phenomena which address themselves to the senses, are all, in a state of personal liberty, and except in the periodical intermissions of sleep, constantly operating upon the brain, and supplying it with that normal stimulus so necessary to the production of moral, physical, and intellectual health. In
fact, all the external senses are but so many avenues through which new impulses to the system are continually flowing; all which, including also social intercourse, combine in their operations, and give a perpetual impulse to the human system. Now, suddenly abstract from a man these influences to which he has been so long accustomed; shut him up, with but scanty resources of his own to keep the powers of his mind in action, in a solitary cell, where he must pass the same unvarying round, from week to week, with hope depressed, with no subjects for reflection but those which give him pain to review, in the scenes of his former life ; after a few days, with no new impressions made upon his senses, where even the sound of his own hammer is lost upon
his and one unvarying sameness relaxes the attention and concentration of his mind, and it will not be thought strange, that, through the consequent debility and irritability of its organ, the mind should wander and become impaired; in short, that the prisoner should have the horrors,' and that, too, from the same cause that produces the disease in the man whose system has become accustomed to other and greater stimulus than his, and has had that unnatural but habitual stimulus suddenly withdrawn. Is not the brain, as a physical organ, subject to the same laws that govern all other parts of the system ? and may it not become paralyzed or deranged for want of action, as well as from exhaustion of excitability by over-action?"
The comparative productiveness of convict labor under the two systems is an important point to be considered, as it shows what sort of education in industry the prisoner receives, and therefore how likely he is to be able to support himself by honest toil after his release. The table given in Mr. Gray's pamphlet shows the “gross earnings in the State Prison at Charlestown, by the labor of the convicts, during fifteen years past, to have amounted to $ 515,422.46, which gives an average of $ 34,361.50 per annum ; and this, divided by 283, the average number of convicts during those years, makes it appear that the annual earnings of each have amounted to $ 121.42. It should be stated, that the team hands, together with the cooks and others employed in domestic affairs, constitute about one seventh part of the whole number of convicts, and that as no money is actually received for their services, the value of them is not included in the above amount ; so that one sixth part should be added to the last-named sum to show the actual earnings of each individual profitably employed.”
The gross earnings of the convicts in the Philadelphia prison are stated in the official reports for four years only, and Mr. Gray fairly supposes that the sum is mentioned in each of these years only because it was unusually large. The average of these four years gives $ 14,634.53 per annum, “which, divided by 318, the average number of convicts during those years, gives $ 46.02 as the earnings of each individual.” In other words, the prisoner at Charlestown earns over ten dollars a month, which is very nearly the usual price of ordinary labor out of the prison, while the prisoner at Philadelphia earns less than four. We might expect nearly as great a difference as this ; for when each person works alone in his cell, the division of labor cannot be carried out to any great extent, and the number of handicrafts that can be exercised to any advantage is very small. . The convict, on his release, then, is quite unfitted for taking a share in the ordinary tasks of the community, which are nearly all carried on by association and great division of labor. From the difficulty of finding employments that can be practised at all in the solitary cell
, 697 convicts at Philadelphia, or one third of the whole number that had been imprisoned there under the separate system down to the close of 1845, were kept at work only in winding bobbin and picking oakum, the coarsest sort of labor, requiring no exercise of mind, and obviously incapable of supporting them after their release. Having no trade that can afford them a maintenance after they leave the prison, it is very likely that want will drive them back into crime.
The comparative expensiveness of the two systems is a point of some importance, though the rather boastful philanthropy of some enthusiasts in the matter of prison discipline is inclined to keep it out of sight altogether. But having given our views respecting the claims of the honest pauper and the criminal on the community for support, we shall make no apology for bringing this point also into notice. But here we are met by a difficulty, arising from that disposition, to which we have already alluded, on the part of the managers of the Philadelphia prison, to suppress evidence which places their system in an unfavorable light. If they complain of the severity of this remark, let them furnish such statements in their next annual report as shall remove all occasion for making it. Hitherto, though repeatedly urged, they
have not vouchsafed to give in their successive reports any information as to the annual expenses of the prison. But a correspondent of the Boston Courier, from an examination of the Pennsylvania Auditor-General's reports since 1828, has compiled a table which throws some light on the subject; Mr. Gray has inserted this table in the appendix to his pamphlet, though he does not vouch for its accuracy. It appears from this table that there has been paid from the State treasury, or charged to the counties, during the last nineteen years, for the support of the two prisons at Philadelphia and at Pittsburg, the sum of $ 545,098.77 ; after deducting a portion of this amount, which may possibly have been devoted to the improvement or enlargement of the prison-buildings, there remains at least $ 380,000 for the ordinary annual charges of the prisons for nineteen years, or twenty thousand dollars a year. During the same nineteen years, the earnings of the convicts at Charlestown have defrayed all the ordinary expenses of the prison, and left a balance of gain to the State of more than nine thousand dollars. Nor is this an unusual gain for those prisons in the United States which are conducted on the principles of social labor by day and solitary confinement by night ; the profits of the prison in Ohio, over all expenses, have usually exceeded ten thousand dollars a year.
We have finished our examination of the separate system of prison discipline, as it has been administered in this country, and have no doubt that our readers will adopt the conclusion to which the evidence has brought us, that it is inhuman and unjust, enormously expensive, and pernicious to society, inasmuch as it creates each year a fearful amount of insanity, the effects of which, owing to the tendency of this disease to hereditary transmission, cannot fail to be felt and deplored for many generations. We are almost afraid to estimate the amount of the evil it has already caused. The facts presented certainly go far to show, that the rate of mortality in the prison at Philadelphia is twice as great as in the community at large, or in the prison at Charlestown. But adopt the lowest possible hypothesis ; suppose that only one third, instead of one half, of the deaths in the former prison are attributable to the system which is there practised, and what follows? The table on the 19th page of the Eighteenth Annual Report of that prison shows, that among the