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convicts there, during the seventeen years preceding the close of 1846, there were 186 deaths, for one third of which the separate system is accountable; in other words, this system, in a single prison, within seventeen years, has destroyed sixty-two lives. Again, the facts prove that the rate of insanity there, both for the whites and the blacks, is at least twenty times as great as it should be ; and the table we have already given, on page 161, shows that 109 persons have become insane in the prison in nine years. I'he conclusion of the whole matter is, then, that the separate system in a single prison, since 1830, has caused sixty-two deaths, and has driven over one hundred persons to insanity. How many, within the same period, have had their constitutions ruined by it, or have been reduced to virtual imbecility and childishness?
These results are so appalling, that we shall be heartily glad if any person should succeed in discrediting the evidence, or pointing out errors in the calculations, on which they are founded. But this cannot be done ; the facts are proved, so far as human testimony can prove any thing. After this exposure of its awful consequences, we cannot believe that the separate system will be allowed to continue in practice even in Pennsylvania. Better that the walls of all the prisons in that State should be demolished, and the doors of every criminal court be closed, than that this outrage upon humanity and justice should any longer be tolerated; beiter that society should suffer from a general Saturnalia of crime, than attempt to repress it by such inhuman means. If the authors and early advocates of the plan in Philadelphia — whose motives we are far from questioning, whose benevolence of heart and disinterested zeal we acknowledge and delight to honor — are so far blinded by the pride of opinion, by fondness for their own invention, their darling scheme of prison discipline, as to continue to support it, we invoke the attention of the legislature of Pennsylvania to the subject. As the economical aspect of a question, we are sorry to say, is thought to receive more attention in our legislative assemblies than any other, we ask the lawgivers of Pennsylvania if the State is willing to continue to pay twenty thousand dollars a year for the sole purpose of keeping up this complex prison machinery, repudiated almost everywhere else in the United States, with its annual product of insanity, im
becility, and death. Will they any longer uphold the principle of putting to death one in every 35, and of driving to madness one in every 19, of those whom the law and the courts have sentenced only to imprisonment for a limited period ? *
The Boston Prison Discipline Society has been much blamed by a few persons, because it has long and strenuously opposed the adoption of the separate system in this country. The facts now divulged afford an ample justification of its course, and fully vindicate the judgment, discretion, and humanity of its excellent secretary, Mr. Louis Dwight, to whom, more than to any other individual, the great reforms which have been made in American prisons during the last quarter of a century are to be attributed. Great as his services have been in causing the almost universal adoption of the plan of social labor by day and separate confinement by night, and in watching over its administration, still more credit is due to him for his sagacity in detecting at so early a period the fatal tendencies of the Pennsylvania system, and for his successful exertions in confining its mischievous effects almost entirely to the State in which it had its origin. Add together the prison population in fifteen or twenty of the most populous States in this Union, and apply to the aggregate the ratios of mortality and insanity which we have seen to be produced in the prison at Philadelphia, and we may then have some idea of the probable amount of the evil which would have resulted from the general adoption of the separate system in this country, and which he more than any other person has efficiently labored to prevent. All honor to him and to the Society which he represents for their early and continued opposition to the system! To ask, as some have done, that the Society should take a neutral position with reference to the rival plans of prison reform, and should fully set forth whatever might be alleged in favor of either, is to demand that it should make a compromise with insanity and death. We might as well ask a temperance society to advocate the cause of drunkenness.
* The whole number of prisoners under the separate system at Philadelphia, down to the close of 1846, was 2,176; and the 62 deaths, attributable solely to the system, being distributed among these, make about one to every 35. Since the beginning of 1837, there have been 1,865 convicts in the prison, and 109 neu cases of insanity have arisen since that period. Now we will allow 8 of these cases to have been produced by causes which would have operated out of the prison; and as there were less than 1,200 white convicts, and less than 700 blacks, let us distribute these 8 cases by giving 3 to the whites and 5 to the blacks. This is admitting that one in 400 of the whites, and one in 140 of the blacks, might become insane in the community at large, or in a prison conducted on the principle of associated labor by day and separate confinement by night; this admission is so extravagantly large, that he who calls for a greater one must adduce strong evidence in support of his demand. We have remaining, then, 101 new cases attributable solely to the separate system, which, for 1,865 prisoners, is about one to every 181.
This tribute was due to an association and to its most active officer, who have been most unreasonably assailed * for their philanthropic and successful labors in an excellent cause. We pass to a consideration of what is now almost the sole argument that is adduced in defence of the Pennsylvania plan,
- the weight of opinion in Europe in its favor. It is difficult to treat this plea seriously. To attempt to rebut the evidence of facts by mere theoretical considerations, when the question is obviously wholly practical in its character, is a sufficiently futile undertaking ; but to claim additional value for these considerations, on the mere ground that they are entertained by certain distinguished persons on the other side of the Atlantic, is simply preposterous. We say that the prison in Philadelphia has caused a frightful amount of insanity ; and we are told, that M. de Tocqueville, who visited the prison two or three times several years before any of the cases of insanity spoken of in this article occurred, is in favor of the system. We produce the figures which prove that the rate of mortality in the prison is twice as great as in the community at large; and we are informed, that a majority of the persons who met in congress at Frankfort believe that the system is not injurious to the health of the prisoners. We say that Rhode Island rejected it after a full and fair trial, and that experience has compelled New Jersey to give up the distinctive feature of the system ; and we are met by the reply, that France and Prussia are adopting it on the strength of learned and argumentative reports from commissioners of high reputation. We are invited to reject altogether seventeen years' recorded experience of both systems in America, and to wait five or ten years longer, till France and Germany
* “Puis M. Dwight, l'agent des Wilful and unwarrantable perversions of truth de la Société de Boston.” – Revue Pénitentiare par M. Moreau-Christophe, Paris, 1844, page 426. " Mensonges de la Société de Boston.
Malgré cela, il y a encore des gens qui doutent de l'efficacité du système. Cela tient principalement aux faux rapports de la Société des prisons de Boston, Société éminemment respectable, mais qui n'en est pas moins une agence de mensonges, qui puise aux sources les plus suspectes, et qui se laisse influencer par l'agent officiel qu'elle s'est donné, et dont les motifs sont connus.” — Id. Livraison 4, page 130.
shall be able to furnish us with the results of their experience. Such a mode of defending any system does not require further notice. If facts and arguments of any intrinsic weight can be adduced from good European authorities, these are, of course, entitled to respectful consideration ; but to make a parade of the mere names of these authorities shows
very bad logic and bad taste. “ The wonder is, and it is no slight one, that the results of brief experiments made long ago by ourselves, transmitted hence to Europe, and there received on our authority, should, after many years, be brought back here, and held up by some among ourselves as conclusive and binding on us, in opposition to our own more deliberate judgment upon more mature experience; as if the first hasty deductions from our own short and imperfect observation were clothed with some mysterious and inviolable sanction by passing through foreign lips, and the echo of our own voices were the response of an oracle. It is no such echo that we are told to worship.” — p. 11.
The truth is, no country in Europe, except England, has had any experience on this subject that is worth mentioning by the side of our own. There is not a prison on the Continent which is exactly modelled upon the Pennsylvania plan; there is not one exhibiting any approach to it that is more than four or five years old. The discussions of this subject there have confessedly been conducted almost altogether by the light of theory and of American experience ; the argument assumes, that we are incapable of interpreting our own experience for ourselves, and that we must send reports of it across the ocean in order to ascertain what it teaches from European expounders of it. This is certainly a very modest course, but we doubt whether it would be a very wise one. Usually, the lessons of experience are more correctly spelt out nearer home.
As for English experience, making allowance for its great inferiority in duration and extent, we contend that it is nearly as decisive against the separate system as the American. The first trial of the plan was made at the Millbank prison in 1837, when the principle of non-intercourse was carried
out to a great extent, though not so strictly as at Philadelphia. Yet in May, 1839, the deaths and cases of insanity had become so frequent and alarming, that a distinguished physician, Dr. Baly, was appointed to visit the prison twice a week for a year, in order to watch over the condition and health of the convicts in conjunction with the resident surgeon. The official report of the Millbank penitentiary for 1841 contains this statement : “In consequence of a distressing increase in the number of insane prisoners,* the committee, under the sanction of Dr. Baly's report, came to the resolution, that it would be unsafe to continue a strict system of separation for the long periods to which the ordinary sentences of prisoners in the penitentiary extend.” The system was therefore relaxed with regard to nearly all the prisoners, who were separated from each other only for the first three months after their admission, and were then allowed to have moderate intercourse, two or more having permission to converse together during their hours of exercise. Also, whenever the mind or body of any prisoner seemed to be injuriously affected, the rules in his particular case were to be suspended. “It was solely with the view to the prevention of insanity that the change of discipline was introduced here in July, 1841.” The Millbank Report for 1842 contains the following remark, with which we leave the consideration of the experiment in this prison : -“During the eighteen months preceding the introduction of the system of modified intercourse, fifteen prisoners became insane ; whereas during the eighteen months succeeding, five cases only of insanity have occurred.”
In 1843, the model prison at Pentonville was opened, with the most elaborate preparations for reducing the separate system to practice with safety. Its inmates were to be carefully selected from the whole body of convicts, between eighteen and thirty-five years of age, to be in perfect health, and otherwise well suited for undergoing a peculiar discipline. They were not to be confined there, on an average, more
*“In 1840, five prisoners were removed to Bethlem Hospital, and not less than nine prisoners became insane from the 1st January to the 30th September, 1841, and were transferred as lunatics to Bethlem. We also found ten males and one female of unsound mind, as convalescent from insanity, and who were allowed garden exercise and extra diet.”. Millbank Report for 1841.