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six months' probation, during which period monthly reports of their conduct are required; and whilst the condition of the officers is rendered more comfortable, the hope of advancement is kept alive, and good conduct secured, by a system of promotion and reward.
In addition to the classification of prisoners, they, the prisoners, are induced to exert their own reason and self reliance by a system of gratuities and monthly badges, as the reward of industry and general good conduct. A strict system of discipline is enforced; a careful record of conduct is kept; and each man knows that upon himself alone depends his position on the classification roll.*
When these improvements in the system of prison management shall be somewhat more fully developed, the Directors hope that convict labor will more than repay the cost of convict maintenance. They, in their Report, add:
We do not consider the profit which may accrue from the labour of the convicts to be the first or most important object, still it, doubtless, is very desirable that so large an amount of labour should not be misapplied or lost to the country. We are of opinion that employment may be obtained which will not only prove beneficial to the country, but which may be made instrumental both to their moral improvement and industrial training.
There cannot, we think, be much difficulty in finding suitable works for the employment of convicts; but we do not feel that it falls within our province either to select or to recommend the
This admirable system is not so easy of realization as one might suppose. We were rather startled, some short time since, by a statement made to us by a gentleman connected with a large Irish Government Prison. He had, in the discharge of his duty, told the assembled prisoners, that by good conduct and industry they could shorten their period of imprisonment, and that upon themselves only depended their long or short confinement. That the Chaplain, Schoolmaster, and Governor would report upon their conduct, and that upon the good or bad marks appended to their names would their future condition depend, Later in the day the gentleman had occasion to enter the cell of one of the prisoners, addressed by him in the morning, who thus, after some introductory remark, said to him," begor, sir, that's a purty story you tould us about short'nin the time if we plased the Masther and the Chaplain, and the Governor; but faix it's too good to be thrue, and there isn't one of the pres'ners b'lieves it." Upon further questioning, our informant found that this incredulity was general, and arose from the fact of the prisoners having frequently, in other gaols, seen bad, but cunning and carelessly watched convicts, discharged with good marks, whilst better disposed and better conducted, but less cunning prisoners were, through the incapacity and mismanagement of the prison officials, retained. What a commentary upon the past system of prison discipline in Ireland !
selection of any one in particular. We consider that our duty restricts us to pointing out the description of works on which convict labour can be profitably employed. Their maintenance falling on the country generally, great care should, of course, be taken that the works on which convicts are employed should be of national importance and not confined to any mere local benefit or advantage.
The construction of breakwaters and harbours of refuge has of late years occupied a good deal of public attention, such works are now in progress in various parts of England, viz: at Holyhead, Dover, Portland, also at Jersey. At Portland convicts have been employed for some years past with most satisfactory results, both with regard to the work performed by them, and also as to their moral improvement and industrial training. The want of similar works in this country is much felt, as is shown by the number of wrecks which annually occur, especially along the whole eastern coast. Such constructions on this coast would, undoubtedly, prove of even more than national importance, and would also confer considerable local benefit, while at the same time they present peculiar advantages for the employment of convicts who would be perfectly capable of satisfactorily executing them unaided by other labour; or, if considered desirable, free labour also may, without detriment to the discipline of the prison, be partially used.
The reclamation of certain waste lands and estuaries and also the construction of fortifications, present suitable employment for convicts in this country.
We propose to erect temporary, or rather moveable prison buildings on the site or in the immediate vicinity of any public work, which it may be determined to execute by means of convict labour, and on the completion thereof, to remove the buildings to any other locality.
They will be composed of several parts capable of being erected either conjointly or separately; each of such parts will afford accommodation for about 250 convicts, and be so constructed that any one or more of them may be removed without in any way disarranging the remainder of the prison. It will thus be easy at any time to provide for an increase or diminution in the number of convicts which it may be necessary to employ on the works. They will be made externally of iron lined in such manner as will provide for proper ventilation and the maintenance of a uniform temperature within. Such buildings may be made and erected within two months from the date of an order being given; and may be taken down and re-erected by the convicts themselves under proper superintendence.
A detached portion of such a moveable prison is in the course of erection within the walls of Philipstown Depot, where an increased amount of accommodation is required, and where there will be works to be executed on which a small number of able-bodied convicts may be employed temporarily with advantage to the service. We have thought it desirable to erect a small portion of one of these moveable prisons in the first instance, in order that we should be able to avail ourselves of any improvement which may be suggested in minor details and arrangements previous to carrying out this plan on a larger scale.
To the important point of industrial training the Directors have, with the most praiseworthy and enlightened policy, devoted their earliest attention; and if this Report contained no passage evincing greater knowledge of their duties than the following, it, alone, would prove how eminently qualified to discharge those duties these gentlemen are, and how necessary it is that the officers of government should be acquainted not alone with the results of systems, but likewise with the theories whence these results have been wrought out into facts by earnest, noble hearts:
"It appears to us beyond all question, that by such measures as have been in operation for some years in England, and which are now being introduced into the Convict service in this country, the following results are clearly to be attained, viz.-The application of the labour of able-bodied convicts to the production of works of permanent utility and profit to the country-a considerable return, for the outlay and expense incurred in the maintainance of convicts, derived from the value of the work actually performed by them; the establishment of habits of steady industry, and, in most cases, a determination to lead an honest life, and a desire to obtain a respectable position in society.
We believe these results to have been fully produced of late years in England, and we do not see that any greater difficulties are presented to their attainment in this country; on the contrary, the character of the Irish convict is in very many cases less seriously depraved, their crimes having been produced, in some measure, by extreme distress and the want of industrial employment; there is, therefore, greater ground to hope for a speedy and complete reformation.
These objects being, as we hope, obtained by the reformatory system adopted towards the convict during his detention, it remains to offer him facilities for securing a respectable social position, by affording him the opportunity to exercise the habits of industry which he has acquired, and confirm the reformation effected in his charac
That it is necessary to afford such facilities to the convicts on their release arises from the fact now being proved by daily experience, that persons are generally most unwilling to employ them. The convict having been for a lengthened period withdrawn from all intercourse with the world finds himself, on his release, unless he returns to his former bad companions (too often the only persons willing to receive him), in an isolated position, without friends, thrown on his own resources, and deprived of all means of exercising that industry by which alone he can obtain an honest livelihood. It cannot therefore be a matter of much surprise if an individual, under such circumstances, should be drawn back to his old haunts, and thus falling again among his former associates by degrees resume his original habits and career of crime.
We deem it to be the duty of all who desire the reformation of the
criminal classes, to obviate this result one much to be regretted, and which, we are compelled to admit, tends in a great measure to defeat the efforts made and the ends proposed by the present convict system.
It cannot be denied that difficulties may offer to the adoption of such addition to the system already pursued; at the same time the advantages, both in the diminution of crime and the saving of expense to the country ultimately, which would accrue therefrom, must be kept in view. That the reformed convict, if opportunities offer of his obtaining an honest livelihood, will not often again be found an inmate of a prison, is a fact now receiving daily demonstration at Mr. Nash's Reformatory Institution in Great Smith-street, Westminster, where, notwithstanding the severe system of probation enforced, persons desirous to escape from the criminal classes are found to present themselves for admission in much larger numbers than can be received.*
We think it deserving of serious consideration, whether means cannot be devised for providing the convict with labour on his dis. charge; several methods of accomplishing this end present themselves it appears to us possible that they might be employed, in conjunction with free labourers, in the construction of harbours of refuge, and in the extension of public works generally. It might be stipulated in certain Government contracts, that a small portion of the workmen to be employed by the persons accepting such contract should, if required, be taken from among the class of released prisoners, to be employed on task work, thus protecting the contractor from any possible loss, and affording an opportunity of proving whether the individuals so employed are good and industrious workmen, and thus a road would by degrees be opened for their amalgamation with the community, which great difficulty appears to be the only remaining barrier to the complete success of the reformatory system at present pursued; or should it be found impossible to induce contractors to employ discharged convicts among other labourers, they could be employed on works connected with the undertakings in hand, such as quarrying and dressing stone, constructing and repairing machinery and implements; in fact, generally, as carpenters, blacksmiths, &c., &c., under the superintendence of an overseer appointed by the Government; the work so performed to be taken by the contractor at a valuation to be agreed upon. The number of discharged convicts to be employed at any particular locality would of course be regulated according to the nature, and proportioned to the extent of the works to be performed.
Many other methods by which the Goverment might complete what it has already so well commenced suggest themselves, but which it would exceed the ordinary limits of a report of this nature to detail.
In conclusion, we state it as our conviction (proved to be justly founded by the success which has attended the labours of Mr. Nash, Mr. Wright, of Salford, and others) that a large proportion of the
For an account of this Institution, See IRISH QUARTERLY REVIEW, Vol. IV., No. 14., p. 377.-ED.
convicts, when thus tested, will prove themselves steady and industrious workmen, men of good and honest character, and respectable members of the community. We are satisfied it only requires their reformed condition to be generally known and understood to overcome the prejudice at present existing against employing them among other labourers, and thus enabling them honestly to earn their livelihood, and obtain a respectable social position.
More need not, we think, be advanced to show the necessity of obtaining work for the reformed convict on his release, in order to perfect a system which, as far as it exists, has been attended with an amount of success sufficient to authorize the belief, that when com. pleted, it will fully accomplish this most serious and difficult problem, viz., the complete and permanent reformation of the criminal class. The day cannot be far distant when colonists will appreciate the labour and services of men, who after a long course of discipline, have been tested in reformatory principles equally, at all events, with the mass they now assist in emigrating.
We cannot wonder that colonists should have felt disinclined to receive the criminal classes after the experience they have had of men discharged amongst them, as was the case some years since, before prison discipline and reformatory treatment had exercised a wholesome influence on them; but these very different circumstances should be no guide by which to judge others who have been subjected to such treatment, whose offence has been expiated, and who evince by the voluntary act of emigration a desire to separate themselves from old associations and future temptations.
We believe this distinction will soon be made by the colonists generally; but at the same time it would be well that philanthropists and others should assist, both in this country and the colonies, in promoting so desirable a result."
In the first extract, given from this Report, the Commissioners refer to the proposed foundation of a Reformatory for Juvenile Convicts. We understand that this building is to be erected on the Commons of Lusk, and we anticipate from its establishment, if 100 acres of land be attached, the most satisfactory results. Every species of employment can be there taught, and being in the immediate neighbourhood of the sea, the exercises with masts and sails, as recommended by Mr. Recorder Hill for adoption in training those boys intended for a sailor's life, can be carried out on the proper element.* The Directors write :
"The erection of a Juvenile Penal Reformatory Prison for convicts will, we trust, enable us, by a judicious use of the deterrent and reformatory agents we shall have at our disposal, to obtain results which will be satisfactory to the community at large. We are fully
See Mr. Recorder Hall's observations on this exercise of the mast, post, Appendix to the Record.