Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/378

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364
PRISON


by undertaking the erection of one which should serve as a model for the whole country. In 1840 the first stone of Pentonville prison was laid, and after three years of considerable outlay, its cells, 520 in number, were occupied on the solitary, or more exactly the separate system-the latter being somewhat less rigorous and irksome in its restraints. To the credit of many local jurisdictions, they speedily followed the lead of the central authority. Within half a dozen years no fewer than fifty-four new prisons were built on the Pentonville plan, which now began to serve generally as a “ model” for imitation, not in England alone, 'but all over the world. Sir Joshua Jebb, who presided over its erection, may fairly claim indeed to be the author and originator of modern prison architecture. The building of Pentonville Was epoch-making. The modern prison dates from it. The penal discipline of to-day, much modified and varied it is true, may be largely traced to it. The “ cell ” scheme of individual separation holds the ground, and countries which can afford the outlay have built or are building cellular prisons. France has made steady progress in this respect. Great additions have been made to La Santé prison in Paris, and a new prison on gigantic lines has been opened at Fresnes les Rungis, on the outskirt of the metropolis, to replace the obsolete Mazas, and to give cellular accommodation to the large numbers always on hand in Paris. Germany has embarked on penitentiary reforms with the provision of several new prisons; it is the same with the United States, Austria, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Sweden. In Italy a comprehensive scheme has been drawn up so that cellular imprisonment may become a general rule. In Belgium, where penal administration has received the closest attention for a number of years, the régime of cellular imprisonment has been long carried to its farthest limits, and solitary confinement ranging over ten years and in some cases much more has been strictly enforced. Of late years however a new school has arisen in Belgium which expresses strong doubts of the wisdom or efficacy of prolonged cellular confinement. In England, moreover, which, if not the first to adopt separation in principle, certainly gave the largest effect to it in- practice, continuous cellular confinement for short terms is ceasing to be the inevitable rule; and although it has been retained in cases of penal servitude for the first six months, it was in ISQQ practically abandoned for lesser sentences, and all prisoners after the first month work together in association under surveillance. In July IQIO the home secretary announced his intention to reduce it to one month in all cases, except those of recidivists (see RECIDIVISM). The bias of modern practice, in short, is towards milder methods, not only in treatment, but in those anticipatory processes which may render imprisonment unnecessary.

To understand the existing British prison system it is necessary to consider its gradual growth and the steps taken to establish it. Its foundations were laid by Sir George Grey, The Moaem home secretary, when transportation ended rather Bflllfb abruptly by the refusal of' the chief colonies to 5»"“°"'° continue to be the dumping ground for British convicts. Sir George Grey sought to deal with the difficulty as a. whole, and to provide for all classes of criminals, the most heinous deserving severe correction and the minor offenders in the earliest stages of misconduct. For the first there was some urgency, the latter was still the business of the local jurisdictions. The system now introduced consisted of three principal parts: (1) of a limited period of separate confinement in a home prison or penitentiary, accompanied by industrial employment and moral training; (2) of hard labour at some public works prison either at home or abroad; and (3) of exile to a colony with a conditional pardon or ticket-of-leave (q.v.). No pains were spared to give effect to this plan. Pentonville was available for the first phase; Millbank was also pressed into the service, and accommodation was hired in some of the best provincial prisons, as at Wakefield and Leicester. Few facilities existed for carrying out the second stage, but they were speedily improvised. Although the hulks at home had been condemned, convict establishments in which these floating prisons still formed the principal part were 'organized at Bermuda and Gibraltar. Neither of these was a conspicuous success; they were too remote for effective supervision; and although they lingered on for some years they were finally abolished. The chief efforts of the authorities were directed to the formation of public works prisons at home, and here the most satisfactory results were soon obtained. The construction of a harbour of refuge at Portland had been recommended in 1845; in 1847 an act was passed to facilitate the purchase of land there, and a sum of money was taken in the estimates for the erection of a prison which was begun next year. At another point, Dartmoor, a prison already stood available, although it had not been occupied since the last war, when ten thousand French and American prisoners had been incarcerated in it. A little reconstruction made Dartmoor into a modern gaol, and in the waste lands around there was ample labour for any number of convict hands. Dartmoor was opened in 1850; two years later a. convict prison was established at Portsmouth in connexion with the dockyard, and another of the same class at Chatham in 1856. l' he third stage in Sir George Grey's scheme contemplated the enforced emigration of released convicts, whom the discipline of separation and public works was supposed to have purged and purified, and who would have better hopes of entering on a new career of honest industry in a new country than when thrown back among vicious associations at home. The theory was good, the practice impossible. No colony would receive these ticket-of-leave men. Van Diemen's Land positively refused to do so, even though this denial cut off the supply of labour, now urgently needed. The appearance of a convict ship at the Cape of Good Hope nearly produced a revolt. Although Earl Grey addressed a circular letter to all colonial governments offering them the questionable boon of transportation, only one, the comparatively new colony of Western Australia, accepted. But this single receptacle could not absorb a tithe of the whole number of convicts awaiting exile. It became necessary therefore to find some other means for their disposal. Accordingly, in 1853 the first Penal Servitude Act was passed, substituting certain shorter sentences of penal servitude for transportation. It was only just to abbreviate the terms; under the old sentence the transporter knew that if well conducted he would spend the greater part of it in comparative freedom.' But although sentences were shortened it was not thought safe to surrender all control over the released convict; and he was only granted a ticket-of-leave for the unexpired portion of his original sentence. No effective supervision was maintained over these convicts at large. They speedily relapsed into crime; their numbers, as the years passed, became so great and their depredations so serious, especially in garrotte robberies, that a cry of indignation was raised against the system, which led to its arraignment before a. select committee of the House of Commons in 1863.

Meanwhile prison discipline in the elementary stage, as inflicted on lesser offenders, was continually discussed. The subject was referred to many committees for inquiry, and it was shown that there was a lamentable want of uniformity in the enforcement of legal penalties. The processes and treatment varied with the localities. 'Dietaries differed, here too ample, there meagre to starvation. The amount of exercise allowed varied greatly; there was no universal rule as to employment. In some prisons hard labour was insisted upon, and embraced tread-wheels or the newly-invented cranks; in some it did not exist at all. The cells inhabited by prisoners (and separate cellular confinement was now very general) were of different dimensions-variously lighted, warmed and ventilated. The time spent in these cells was not invariably the same, and as yet no authoritative decision had been made between the solitary and silent systems. The first named had been tried at Pentonville, but the period had been greatly reduced. The duration had been at first fixed at eighteen months, but it was proved that the prisoners' minds had become enfeebled bythis long isolation, and the period was limited to nine months. In many jurisdictions however the silent system, or that of associated