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in their natural position. If these juvenile offenders had been brought up, as they ought to have been, to an honest calling, they would have become what we are now endeavouring to render them. The competition in the labour market, which is objected to as a wrong, would have existed. If the objection be a valid one at all, it is valid to an extent which would soon land us in a reductio ad absurdum, viz. that the more idlers the better for the labourers that some should be forbidden to be tailors in order that others may have the profit of clothing them.
The truth is, that this objection arises from ideas derived from the redundant state of the labour-market, which was our bugbear for many years, but which has now ceased to exist; and it merges in the larger question whether our prison population should be employed in productive occupation should in fact be made, as far as may be, self-supporting—or should be kept unemployed, or uselessly employed and maintained at the cost of others. Now, first, we must observe that, to endeavour to make prisons selfsupporting by any system which should interfere with the strictness of discipline, or seclusion, or moral management essential to their success as establishments for the suppression of crime, would be a fatal blunder: it would be to sacrifice the primary to a very secondary object. That point settled, we may consider the economic difficulty unencumbered by any but purely scientific considerations. We have no doubt that, under skilful and judicious management, prisons might be made nearly or wholly self-supporting-might produce and manufacture ali, or an equivalent for all, that they consume.* Is it right, desirable, and consistent with sound political economy, that they should do this?
The idea in the mind of the objecting economist is twofold: he regards a prison in the light of a market, a body of purchasers of which it would be unjust to deprive the honest tradesman; and the prisoners, if employed, as a body of producers whose productions, since no actual wages are paid for them, it would be unfair to permit to come into competition with those of the independent labourer. Now with regard to the first phase of the objection, it is undoubtedly true that by rendering prisons productive, industrial, and self-supporting institutions, you cut off a certain amount of custom from the tailor, the shoemaker, the baker, the weaver, &c., who have been accustomed to supply them; you diminish pro tanto the demand for their articles; and, so far, the tradesmen in the
# Some American prisons are so.
immediate vicinity, and, to a certain inappreciable extent, the whole body of tradesmen in the country, are sufferers. But it is obvious that, while admitting the fact, it would be both unsound economy and bad morality to admit that it ought to have the smallest influence on our practical decision as to the course to be pursued; — and this will be clear from two or three considerations. In the first place, if a proper system had been pursued from the beginning, prisoners would never have become customers to external tradesmen ; they would always have been self-sustaining and self-supplying; and tradesmen therefore cannot plead in favour of the continuance of an advantage which they ought never to have enjoyed.
Again, a fallacy must lurk in such an objection to a plan which is a manifest and great gain to the community at large, on the ground that it may reduce the gains of one section of the community. Taking the broad, plain, common-sense, economic view of the question, it is obvious that, given a number of able-bodied men, it is economically desirable that they should be employed in adding to (or, what is the same thing, in saving,) the wealth of the community, rather than that they should be maintained in idleness or unproductiveness at the cost of the community. No shadow of a doubt upon the question would ever have arisen in the minds of any, except in a state of the labour market in which the supply exceeded the demand, - a state so habitual with us till lately, as to have coloured and confused much of our reasoning on points of political economy. Where the supply of labour was redundant, and where, in consequence, work must either be made specially for prisoners, or must be taken out of the hands of honest men ; — where, in fact, the question was, ' Shall 10,000 criminals or 10,000 industrious and independent artisans be condemned to idleness ?'— we perceive easily how the confusion of ideas arose; but it is not the less a confusion. However redundant the supply in the market of labour, economic sense and moral justice alike require that the toil of the criminal should go to mitigate the toil of the uncriminal, - that he should be productively employed so as to increase the wealth of the community, and thus, in some mode, and to some appreciable degree, to lessen the burdens and improve the condition of the independent labourer. Let criminals be put to the least agreeable species of employment, if you will, - that seems fair enough; but, at least, let them, as far as may be, relieve the community at large from the burden of their maintenance.
The second form of the economic objection is more plausible, and has been suggested by an undeniable abuse. Those who
are willing to admit that prisons should, if possible, be made selfsupporting, and should produce within themselves and by the labour of their inmates, all the articles needed by those inmates, demur to allowing them to produce articles for the general market, to become, as it were, manufacturing establishments. It may be right enough, it is argued, that they should supply themselves, but they must not be permitted to supply others. They ought to buy nothing and to sell nothing. Now we may concede at once that - prisoners not being labourers for hire whose wages measure the cost, and therefore the saleable price of the articles they make, but persons who must be maintained whether they labour or not, and whose produce may therefore, in one sense, be said to cost nothing, and the prison authorities being therefore able to sell this produce at any price they please, unrestricted by the cost of production, which must decide the selling price of the manufacturer for profit, -it would be in the highest degree inequitable to permit the prison produce to compete with or undersell the independent produce. Any such proceeding common justice and economic science join in condemning without a hearing. To allow it would in fact be to expose the general producer to the competition of a rival whom forced contributions levied on himself enabled to undersell him. It would bring the produce of an artisan whose wages were paid by the community into competition with the produce of an artisan whose wages were paid by the unaided private purse of his employer. It would be for the Government to enter into manufacturing competition with its subjects by means of taxes levied upon those very subjects. This, of course, it is self-evident, could not be tolerated for an hour.
On the other hand, to permit prisons to produce all they want for their own consumption, but nothing more,
to buy nothing and sell nothing, -is but an evasion of the difficulty; indeed it only apparently eludes it. We have already seen that economic justice permits, and regard for the pecuniary interests of the country requires, that prisons should support themselves. But the nature of the case — of which confinement, and often separate confinement, are necessary elements, - will cause some articles to be produced in prisons in superabundant and some in defective proportion. Less bread and meat (if any) than is wanted will be produced, and more shoes and cloth. Some articles, as tea, sugar, leather, yarn, &c., must be purchased; if prisons are to be self-supporting, how are they to be purchased except by money arising out of the sale of other articles ? Again, the salaries of the establishment have to be paid ; how can this be done except out of the proceeds of produce sold ? To say that you may make your own shoes and your own bread—that by doing 80 you are doing injustice neither to cobbler, farmer, or baker, but that you may not sell shoes in order to buy bread, — is pure pedantry, and is an obviously untenable position. Prisons may be made self-supporting, they cannot be made self-contained. We have seen that they ought to be self-supporting ; but they cannot be so if we insist upon their being self-contained. They must, therefore, it is clear, be permitted to sell whatever is needed to raise funds for the purchase of what they must buy. They must produce, and sell in the general market, whatever articles they are most capable of producing, and out of the proceeds purchase whatever articles they are incapable, or comparatively unfitted for producing.
We have, therefore, it would seem, come to two equally irrefragable but apparently irreconcilable conclusions. But is there any real contradiction between them? A few moments’ reflection will show that there is none. We have seen that prisons must be allowed to sell their produce in the open market. We have seen that they must not be allowed to take advantage of their anomalous position (as producers at the public cost) to undersell unaided competitors. What is the simple and obvious way of remaining faithful to both economic principles and carrying into effect both practical conclusions ? Clearly, to dispose of the prison produce by public auction or by open contract. It will then fetch its natural price, -that is, the price decided not by its value to the prison authorities but by its value to the world without; not by its cost of production in prison (which is nil, trivial, or unascertainable), but by its cost to independent producers. The competition of rival purchasers will run up the price paid to the real market value of the article:--if it should fail to do so- if the prison articles are sold at a lower price than they can be produced for and sold by the independent producer, that producer will himself become the purchaser,
The Americans have not even fancied our difficulty, or they have solved it promptly and peremptorily. In several States the labour of the prisoners is let by contract - a plan, the wisdom of which, we confess, we feel much inclined to question. The French, far less clear and practical in questions of commercial economy, felt the difficulty, and did not see their way out of it. At the Revolution of 1848, an enactment ordered that the colony at Mettray should not manufacture for the general market, and thus deprived it of an income of 10001. a year. The enactment is said to have been repealed; but, to calm the jealousies of surrounding manufacturers, the colony still consumes all it makes, and, as far as it can, makes all it consumes. (See Mettray, a Lecture, by Robert Hall, M. A., p. 13.)
since he will then find it more profitable to buy and sell than to produce and sell. That the aggregate price of the particular article in question will be reduced to some extent by the extra production is true enough; that if, instead of prisons producing exactly all the bread and all the shoes they want, they produce less of the former and more of the latter, if they buy some bread and sell some shoes — the producers of shoes will pro tanto be injured by the augmented competition, is certain; but in precisely the same proportion will the producers of bread be benefited by the reduced competition. As far as the community is concerned, the matter is as broad as it is long ; justice to the community, as we have seen, requires that prisons should be self-supporting; and to be self-supporting, as we have shown, they must be allowed to sell their surplus articles. The only result will be a certain temporary derangement, or rather, re-arrangement, of the departments of industry, an increased external production of the articles which the selfsupporting prisons buy, a diminished external production of the articles they sell,—at most a partial and temporary inconvenience to a few for the sake of a permanent and solid gain to society at large.
Such are some of the results anticipated from the mode of proceeding towards juvenile delinquenis which has been so long and earnestly urged, and which Government has tardily sanctioned and partially adopted. We have endeavoured to vindicate it from all objections, both of a moral and an economic character. We have shown that the encouragement and establishment of reformatories in lieu of prisons, and as places whence the rescued offender may be launched forth into a new career of industry and atonement, is imperatively demanded by the pecuniary and social interests of all classes ; that thus only can infantine delinquency be prevented from growing up and swelling out into full-blown adult crime. The steps already taken by the Legislature are important; and we ask only for the one modification in the Act of last Session, which we have pointed out. Many of our fellow labourers — we do not conceal it—are anxious for two additional enactments. They wish for power on the
part of parents (with magisterial concurrence) to send incorrigible children to these reformatories, paying for their maintenance therein, and thus to cut short their criminal career before instead of after a public conviction, which they see to be inevitable, but from the ignominy of which they shrink. This power exists in France, in America, and elsewhere. They wish further, that magistrates should have power to send to these reformatory schools such children as are neglected or