Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/380

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366
PRISON


his own food, see and communicate with his friends and legal adviser so as to prepare fully for his defence. His fate after conviction depends on his sentence. If this be “imprisonment, " so called to distinguish it from “penal servitude, ” although both mean deprivation of liberty and are closely akin, it is undergone in one of the “local” prisons-the prisons till 1878 under local jurisdiction, but now entirely controlled by the state through the home secretary and the commissioners of prisons. The régime undergone is cellular; able-bodied prisoners are kept in strict separation for at least a month, and during that time subjected to severe labour; although the term of first-class hard labour and of purely penal character no longer exists. The tread-wheel has also been abolished. A system of progressive stages based on the mark system has been adopted in the local prisons, and the prisoner's progress through each depends on his own industry and good conduct. During the first month he sleeps on a plank bed, a wooden frame raised from the floor, with bedding but without mattress. When he has earned the proper number of marks, which at the earliest cannot be until one month has elapsed, he passes into the second stage and is allowed better diet and a mattress twice a week. The third stage, at the end of the third month, gives him further privileges as regards diet and bed. The fourth stage concedes to the prisoner a mattress every night, and the privilege, if well conducted, to communicate by letter or through visits with his friends outside. These stages are applicable to females except as regards the plank bed; youths under sixteen and old men above sixty are also allowed mattresses. A small gratuity may be earned during the second and threeffollowing stages, amounting in the aggregate to ten shillings. The labour, too, may be industrial, and include instruction in tailoring, shoe making, basket-making, bookbinding, printing, and many more handicrafts. Throughout the sentence the prisoner has the advantage of religious and moral instruction; he attends divine service regularly, and whatever his creed is visited by a chaplain professing it, and receives educational assistance according to his needs. His physical welfare is watched over by competent medical men; close attention is paid to the sanitary condition of prisons; strict rules govern the size of cells, with their lighting, warming and ventilation. Dietaries are everywhere the same; they are calculated with great nicety according to the time of durance, and afford variety and ample nutrition without running into excess. In a word, as regards discipline, labour, treatment, exactly the same system obtains in the “local” prisons throughout the United Kingdom.

Where the sentence passes beyond two years it ceases to be styled imprisonment and becomes penal servitude, which may be inflicted for any period from three years to life. The prisoner becomes a convict and undergoes his penalty in one or more of the convict prisons. These are entirely under state management. A sentence of penal servitude as now administered consists of three distinct periods or stages: (1) that of probation endured in separate confinement at a so-called “ close ” prison; (2) a period of labour in association at a public works prison; and (3) conditional release for the unexpired portion of the sentence upon licence or ticket-of-leave. 1. In the first stage, which was limited to six months, but which it is proposed to reduce to one month, the convict passes his whole time in his cell apart from other prisoners, engaged at some industrial employment. He exercises and goes to chapel daily in the society of others, but holds no communication with them; his only intercourse with his fellow-creatures is when he is visited by the governor, chaplain, schoolmaster or trade instructor. This period of almost unbroken solitude is of a painful character, and its duration has therefore been wisely limited.

2. The second is a longer stage and endures for the whole or a greater part of the remainder of the sentence, its duration being governed by the power a convict holds in his own hands to earn a remission. It is now passed at a public works prison; either at Aylesbury (females), Borstal, Dartmoor, Parkhurst or Portland. While cellular separation, except at work, at prayers or exercise, is strictly maintained, labour is in association under the close and constant supervision of officials. Intercommunication no doubt takes place; men working together

in quarry, brick field or barrow-run, and out of earshot of their guardians, may and do converse at times. But the work is too arduous to allow of long and desultory conversation; the chance. of contamination is now minimized by the careful separation of the less hardened from the old offenders. There is no reason to suppose that any great evils arise from this association, and without it the execution of the many important national public works which now attest its value would have been impossible. Among these may be mentioned the following: the quarrying of stone for the great Portland breakwater, nearly 2 m. in length and between 50 and 6o ft. deep in the sea, with the defensive works on the Verne, batteries, casef ments and barracks intended to render the island of Portland impregnable, and the enlargement and extension of the dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth. At Borstal a line of forts intended to protect Chatham on the south and west have been erected by convicts; they have also built magazines at Chattenden on the left bank of the Medway. Besides this, convict labour has been usefully employed in the erection of prison buildings at new points or in extension of those at the old. In all cases the bricks have been made, the stone quarried and dressed, the timber sawn, the iron cast, forged and wrought by the prisoners. The great merit of this system is the skill acquired in handicrafts by so many otherwise idle and useless hands. Convict mechanics are rarely found ready made. It is a fact that a large percentage of the total number employed at trades learnt them in prison. These results are no doubt greatly aided by the judicious stimulus given to the highest effort of the mark system. The chief objection to enforced labour has been the difficulty in ensuring this; but the convict nowadays eagerly tries his best, because only thus can he win privileges while in prison and an earlier release from it.- Every day's work is gauged and marks recorded according to its value; upon the total earned depends his passage through the stages or classes which regulate his diet and general treatment, and more especially his interviews and communications with his relations and friends. Yet more; steady willing labour continuously performed will earn a remission of a fourth of the sentence. It must be borne in mind that the marks thus earned may be forfeited at any time by misconduct, but affect remission to this extent only. The full remission in a five years' sentence is one year and ninety-one days; in seven years, one year two hundred and seventy-three days; in fourteen, three years one hundred and ninety-seven days; in twenty, four years one hundred and ninety days. “ Lifers ” cannot claim any remission, but their cases are brought forward at the end of twenty years and then considered on their merits.

3. Having earned his remission the convict enters upon the third stage of his punishment. He is released, but only conditionally, on licence or ticket-of-leave. This permission to be at large may easily be forfeited by fresh breaches of the law. Stringent conditions are endorsed upon the licence and well known to every licence holder (see TICKET-OF-LEAVE). Further modifications have been introduced from time to time in the British penal system, tending mostly to milder discipline, more intelligent classification of prisoners and a certain amelioration of their lot. In its general outlines the system as set forth above has been maintained, but the departmental committee appointed in 1895 made some important recommendations which were presently adopted in part. The committee was dissatisfied with the moral results achieved and thought that more attention should be paid to reformatory processes. They believed that “few inmates left prison better than when they came in.” Recommittals were frequent and recidivism on the increase. Imprisonment was not sufficiently deterrent to the habitual criminal class, and small attention was paid to the reclamation of less hardened offenders. The views of this committee were embodied in a Penal/ Servitude bill which was long debated, but became law in 1898. It