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than eighteen months, and were subsequently to be transported to Australia, with different privileges on their arrival there, depending on their good conduct while in prison.
“The chapel is divided into stalls, so that, while all the prisoners see the preacher, they cannot see each other. But as it contains seats for only half the number of prisoners, each convict attends prayers but once a day, and hears three sermons in a fortnight, that number being preached every Sunday. Two days in the week, beside Sunday, are devoted to instruction, which is given by the principal schoolmaster in the chapel, and by his three assistants in the separate cells. As only every alternate stall is occupied in school hours in order to prevent communication, no more than one sixth part of the prisoners are present at the same time, and each school lasts two hours.
“ The prisoners take turns in cleaning the corridors every morning, which occupies an hour, during which time several are in company with each other, but under the supervision of an officer to prevent all intercourse. They likewise pass an hour every day in their exercising yards in company, but under similar supervision and at fifteen feet distance from each other. But in order to prevent their recognition of each other in future, each prisoner, while exercising, washing the corridors, or passing to or from the chapel, is obliged to wear his cap-peak over his face ; that is, to draw down the leather visor of his cap, which is long enough to reach to his mouth, and has holes in it to peep through. This is deemed to constitute complete separation.
“ All their work, however, is done in solitude ; for which there seems to be no good reason, since their cap-peaks might be so contrived as not very greatly to impede their labor, and in that case they might, in the
open air, or in large workshops, at fifteen feet distance from each other, have labor and exercise at the same time, and a great deal more of both.” - pp. 163-165.
Great stress is placed on the necessity of depriving the prisoners of all means of recognizing each other on leaving the prison ; and accordingly, says Mr. Gray, in order to make assurance doubly sure, the government " caused them, on leaving Pentonville, to be placed, three or four hundred together, on board a convict-ship, and to make a voyage of four or five months to Van Diemen's Land, without cappeak, mask, visor, veil, or any other concealment of their features whatsoever.” The theorists had the matter all their own way here, in the construction of the building and in all the internal arrangements; and this is not the only instance VOL. LXVI. · No. 138.
in which they carried out their preconceived system with a ludicrous forgetfulness of consistency in the subsequent proceedings. Thus, the object of this elaborate plan of separate confinement was to fit the victs for transportation ; but the sudden transition from the deathlike loneliness of their cells to the air, light, and bustle of a crowded convict-ship proved too much for the sickly frames and enfeebled minds of the very first batch of prisoners on whom it was tried. The surgeon
of the ship says : “ The sudden change from great seclusion to the bustle and noise of a crowded ship produced a number of cases of convulsions, attended in some instances with nausea and vomiting, in others simulating hysteria, and in all being of a most anomalous character. The recumbent position, fresh air, mild stimu. lants, &c., were found beneficial in all these cases, and after three days the convulsions disappeared."
Such are the consequences of tampering with the great law of Nature, which declares that man is born for the society of his fellow-beings, and cannot live without it. And now, instead of the Pentonville system fitting the convicts for transportation, it is acknowledged that it unfits them, and that they must, after leaving the “model prison,” be associated together for a few weeks at Millbank, before they can be trusted on shipboard. The chaplain of the prison, after four years' experience in it, states his wish, in the report for last year, to see there “ some well-directed means for giving them daily exercise in the active duties of religion and society, before they pass from their almost solitary condition here into the world again."
The ordinary annual expenses of Pentonville prison are about $ 72,000, and the average number of convicts in it is 420. Each prisoner, therefore, costs the government 170 dollars a year, without reckoning the great cost of the building as any thing ; the convict's earnings, however, should be deducted from this sum, and these amount to 25 dollars per annum. The average annual wages of an agricultural laborer in England do not at the utmost exceed 120 dollars, and on this sum he is expected to support his whole family, without any means being provided by the public for their education, and without being able to leave the country because too poor to pay his passage to other shores. But if he will become a rogue, government will support him liberally
for a year and a half, give him religious and secular instruction for two days in the week, and finally transport him free of expense to Australia, where he is landed with a conditional pardon and the power of applying his future earnings to his
And what were the consequences of this curiously elaborate and expensive system on the mental condition of the convicts ? During the first year, 1843, there were three cases of mania, and five of hallucination or partial insanity, in an average prison population of 332, making eight cases of mental disease for this number, or more than 24 cases in a thousand. Some peculiar circumstances not told what they were — being then removed, the number of cases for the next two years was quite small. But the report for 1846 shows again six cases of such disease, namely, one of mania and five of delusion, the average number of prisoners being 423 ; this is at the rate of over 14 cases in a thousand. Such is the evidence that the model English prison, with its numerous and important mitigations of the severity of the Pennsylvania plan, affords of the safety of the separate system !
What is called separation in England is far less rigid and complete than in Pennsylvania. The prisoners are often and for long periods brought together in the corridors, chapel, school-room, and exercise-yards, and though there is usually some mummery of masks, veils, and partitioned stalls to prevent them from seeing each other, their ears are open, they can hear footsteps and conversation, and thus the oppressive sense of utter loneliness and the monotony of a solitary cell are materially alleviated. So, also, the British “silent system” is quite unlike what goes by that name in the United States. Here the prisoners are invariably separated from each other by night, being locked up from sunset to sunrise in their solitary cells, with no more power during that time of communicating with each other than if they were in the Philadelphia prison ; there they usually sleep together in great dormitories, and though wardens sit in them all night, yet, as might be expected, the wardens often sleep and the prisoners wake. Thus, the governor of the Coldbath Fields House of Correction testified strongly, before a committee of the House of Lords, last spring, in favor of the silent system as administered in his institution, where the convicts sleep, on an average, twenty in the same apartment. The daily average number of convicts at Coldbath Fields is 1,100. The governor said, “We have an associated silent system carried out very rigidly”; and again, “ I have looked into that question very narrowly, and I cannot find one single instance in which mental disease has arisen from our system.” The following extracts from the testimony of this gentleman, G. L. Chesterton, Esq., are also instructive.
“I do not believe that prisoners can undergo solitary confinement for a month at a time without injury.” *
“The separate confinement of Pentonville prison I am perfectly acquainted with, because I have been there to see it. Our separation is of a different kind, ours is the silent system ; the prisoners work in large bodies, but are not allowed to communicate with each other."
“ You consider that the Pentonville separation is more complete than yours?”
“ Yes ; the separation is more complete, but I doubt whether the good effects are greater than ours.'
We present the following extracts, also, from the testimony, given last April, of Mr. Edward Shepherd, the governor of the House of Correction at Wakefield, where there are usually 550 convicts.
“ How did you carry out the silent system ? had you separate cells for each prisoner, or were there more than one in a cell ? "
“ 300 of the prisoners were in separate cells; 200 were in one large room; and the remainder in perhaps three other rooms, a little smaller ; one room had 76, and the other had 90, I think.”
“ You had then an opportunity of judging of the improvement of the men under the silent system ; did you see any difference
Captain W. J. Williams, who had been a prison inspector for twelve years, testified as follows before the Lords last Ňarch.
" Solitary confinement now is very different from what it was; solitary confinement now is merely separate confinement; there is no real distinction now between solitary and separate. I drew out the rule myself, which the Secretary of State approved of, detailing in what way solitary confinement should be carried into effect... Now they are all treated in the same way as prisoners in separate confinement; it is a mere withdrawal of them from each other."
“ I think the law abridges solitary confinement very properly to not more than a month at a time. Whether so long a time as a month would be safe will very much depend upon the individual; and if the prisoner is visited daily by the sur on and the chaplain, I do not think there will be much danger."
e say radi
in the men who were in the separate cells under the separate system from the men who were in this large hall of which you have spoken?"
“No difference whatever.'
“ You believe that the separate system is better than the silent system, do
not? “I think so; but I am not able to judge of the separate system, for it has not been completely carried out. Though the prisoners are in separate cells, and confined separately, they meet together in one hall for divine service, though at a much greater distance certainly from one another than formerly.”
you think that the separate or silent system is injurious to the mental or moral health of the prisoners ? " “ That the silent system is not, I am clear.
The separate system has been so short a time in operation in our prison that I am not able to say. I am not so prepossessed in its favor as to say that it may not be injurious."
Is it not absurd, then, to quote European opinions as authoritative on this subject in America, when it is evident that the Transatlantic use of the terms 66 separate system” and “ silent system” is radically different from our own ? We cally, because instruction under the separate system in Europe is always social in respect of hearing, though not of seeing, while at Philadelphia, instruction - what there is of it -- is always solitary; the "moral instructor” on Sundays, for instance, stands in a gloomy corridor, and preaches to a congregation of stone walls and iron doors, without seeing one of his hearers. There, also, the separate system is applied only for short terms ; while in Pennsylvania, 13 per cent. of the prisoners are confined for periods exceeding three years, some of them being as high as ten years. In America, too, as we have already said, solitary confinement by night is always practised under the silent system, while it very seldom is so in England. But for the benefit of those who have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear any thing on this matter of prison discipline except it be of European origin, though prison reform commenced at least a dozen years earlier on this side of the ocean, and though nearly all the nations of Europe have sent commissioners hither to learn of us how to manage their convicts, for the benefit of these Anglomaniacs, we will give a few more quotations from the evidence taken by a committee of the House of Lords last spring.