I have already alluded to the varying treatment designedly practised in the detentive imprisonment of those who were under trial. When there was no special object to be attained by cruelty, this probably was as mild as could reasonably be expected. From occasional indications in the trials, it would seem that considerable intercourse was allowed with the outside world, as well as between the prisoners themselves, though watchful care was enjoined to prevent communication of any kind which might tend to harden the prisoner against a full confession of his sins.
The prisons themselves were not designed to lighten the penance of confinement. At best the jails of the Middle Ages were frightful abodes of misery. The seigneurs - justiciers and cities obliged to maintain them looked upon the support of prisoners as a heavy charge of which they would gladly relieve themselves. If a debtor was thrust into a dungeon, although the law limited his confinement to forty days and ordered him to be comfortably fed, these prescriptions were customarily eluded, for the worse he was treated the greater effort he would make to release himself. As for criminals, bread and water were their sole diet, and if they perished through neglect and starvation it was a saving of expense. The prisoner who had money and friends could naturally obtain better treatment by liberal payment ; but this alleviation was not often to be looked for in the case of heretics whose property had been confiscated, and with whom sympathy was dangerous,
- Lib. Sententt. Inq. Tolos. pp. 102, 153, 231, 252-4, 301. — Muratori Antiq. Dissert, lx. (T. XIL p. 519).— Bern. Guidon. Practica P. v. (Doat, XXX.).— Arch, de rinq. de Carcassonne (Doat, XXVII. 7).
- Beaumanoir, Coutumes du Beauvoisis, cap. 51, No. 7. — G. B. de Lagrèze, La Navarre Française, 11. 339.
vade in pacem," was such that those subjected to it speedily died in all the agonies of despair. In 1350 the Archbishop of Toulouse appealed to King John to interfere for its mitigation, and he issued an Ordonnance that the superior of the convent should twice a month visit and console the prisoner, who, moreover, should have the right twice a month to ask for the company of one of the monks. Even this slender innovation provoked the bitterest resistance of the Dominicans and Franciscans, who appealed to Pope Clement VI., but in vain. — Chron. Bardin, ann. 1350 (Vaissette, IV. Pr. 29).
The hideous abuse of keeping a prisoner in chains was forbidden by the contemporary English law (Bracton, Lib. iii. Tract, i. cap. 6).