The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4
State of Crimes and Offences
State of Crimes and Offences.
Mr Brebner has observed that offenders committed for the first time, for only a short period, almost invariably return to Bridewell for new offences; but if committed for a long period, they return less frequently. This fact is established by the following table, framed on an average of ten years, ending 25th December 1825.
|75 per cent.|
|30 days' confinement, about||60|
|40 days' confinement, about||50|
|60 days' confinement, about||40|
|3 months' confinement, about||25|
|6 months' confinement, about||10|
|9 months' confinement, about||7½|
|12 months' confinement, about||4|
|18 months' confinement, about||1|
|24 months' confinement, about||none.|
During the ten years, 93 persons were committed for the first time for two years, of whom not one returned.
Mr Brebner remarked, that when prisoners come back to Bridewell two or three times, they go on returning at intervals for years. He has observed that a good many prisoners committed for short periods for first offences, are afterwards tried before the High Court of Justiciary and transported or hanged.
Judging from the ultimate effect, we here discover that the individuals who for some petty offence are committed to Bridewell for the first time, for only 14 days, are in reality more severely punished than those who, for some more grave infringement of the law, are sentenced at first to two years' imprisonment; nay, the ultimate result to the petty delinquent would have been far more beneficial, if for his trifling offence he had been sentenced to two years' confinement instead of 14 days. The sentence of 14 days' imprisonment merely destroyed his moral sensibilities (if he had any), initiated him into the mysteries of a prison, introduced him to accomplished thieves, and enabled him to profit by their instruction; and, when thus deteriorated, and also deprived of all remnants of character, it turned him loose again into the world, unprotected and unprovided for, leaving him to commit new crimes and to undergo new punishments (which we see by the table he rarely failed to do), until, by gradual corruption, he was ultimately prepared for transportation or the gallows. Of the delinquents sentenced to only 14 days' confinement for their first offence, 75 per cent., or three-fourths of the whole, returned for new crimes. On the other hand, the training, discipline, and ameliorating effect of a confinement for two years, for the first offence, seems to have been so efficacious, that not one individual who had been subjected to it, returned again to the same prison as a criminal.* This proves that, looking to the ultimate welfare of the individuals themselves, as well as to the interests of society, there is far greater humanity in a sentence for a first offence, that shall reform the culprit, although the offence itself may be small and the confinement long, than in one decreeing punishment for a few days only, proportional solely to the amount of the crime.
The chief forms in which the law punishes, are confinement in prisons (until very lately in idleness and amidst vicious associates), and, in more aggravated cases, transportation to a penal colony.
* Mr Brebner mentioned that he did not believe that all of these individuals were completely reclaimed; but that they had received such impressions of Glasgow prison-discipline, that, if disposed to return to crime, they sought out a new field of action.
History of a Coiner.—A woman, named Mulhern alias Lockwood, was committed in Lancaster last week, on a charge of coining and uttering counterfeit coin: and we now proceed to give some particulars of her truly eventful history, with which Mr Powell, the solicitor to the Mint, has obligingly furnished us.
"The first that is known of her is as the wife of a soldier serving under Sir John Moore in Spain, and whom she 'followed to the field'—trudging along with the army and its gallant leader through its long and remarkable retreat, till the battle of Corunna. After this, she was with the army under 'the Duke' in Portugal, and during the whole of the Peninsular war, whether merely as a camp-follower or with her husband is not known; but he is supposed to have been killed in some of the many engagements that took place, and she to have consoled herself with another, if not many more. In one engagement with the enemy, the serjeant-major of the regiment she followed was killed by a shot; on which (while, it is imagined, the engagement still continued) she contrived to get at the body, and rifle the dead man's 'kit' of its contents. Among these were his marriage and other certificates, which she carefully concealed and preserved for after use. On returning home she passed herself off as the widow of this serjeant-major, in order to obtain a pension; and afterwards, on a nurse's place in Chelsea Hospital becoming vacant, she applied for, and obtained it, also as the serjeant-major's widow; having all the necessary documents, she was enabled to answer every question, and her identity was never doubted. But, when she had been comfortably located here for some time, the real widow came home! Her application for a pension, its denial on the ground that the widow was already provided for, and the real widow's reiterated assertions that the was the widow, caused an investigation by the late Sir Charles Grant. The result was, that Biddy was turned adrift on the 'wide world,' and was lost sight of for several years. Her first reappearance was in the character of a coiner, as which she was tried and convicted in 1828, and sentenced to a year's imprisonment. In 1834 she was again tried; but this time under the name of Lockwood, and in company with her second husband, whose real name, however, was Stafford, and who was a very skilful mason by trade. He was convicted, and she was then acquitted as being his wife, and supposed to be acting under his direction. In 1836 she was convicted at Aylesbury for coining, and she then said she was fifty-five years of age. She was again tried for the same offence at Warwick in 1838, but acquitted, owing to the insufficiency of evidence; and in July of the same year she was again tried, and this time in connection with a woman named Eliza Perceval, the offence being the same. Lockwood (prisoner) got eighteen months' imprisonment, and her companion twelve months. From that time till the present apprehension of Mrs Mulhern alias Lock-wood, &c., Mr Powell had almost entirely lost sight of her; sometimes he thought he recognised her business talent in the different cases forwarded to him, but was not able to follow out the clue. In the answers she now gave to the questions contained in the 'Description Paper,' prisoner had in almost every case given false statements, not wishing, doubtless, to renew her acquaintance with the Mint solicitor; and when confronted with him, she stoutly denied all previous knowledge of Mr Powell, till he mentioned one or two 'passages' in her life, when she said. 'Ah! told you that tale!'
"In 1821, Lockwood (her husband) was convicted at the Surrey assizes of coining, &c., and sentenced to one year's imprisonment. In 1833 he was convicted at Warwick, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment. The following year he was tried and convicted at Stafford, and sent to gaol for one year. For the next three years little or nothing was heard of him; but in 1838 he was tried at Warwick, where he got three months' imprisonment; and in January 1839, he was tried at Gloucester, and sentenced to a year's imprisonment. Lastly, he was apprehended at Abingdon in the following, or the year after that, with a woman of the name of Harriet Thompson—whom he had taken to supply the place of his wife on her being sent to prison for eighteen months; and on the 25th of January he was transported for life, and she (Thompson) was imprisoned for two years. Ann Lockwood, if we recollect aright, was not actually aware of her husband's fate till she saw Mr Powell in Leicester gaol. At the expiration of her term a subscription was raised to enable the woman Thompson to follow her 'husband' to Sydney, and she arrived there safely. In October last the governor of Abingdon gaol had received a letter from her, stating that 'James' (Lockwood or Thompson) was regularly employed by the chief builders at Sydney, and at good wages; while she had also obtained profitable employment. He, it seems, is very clever as a workman in Gothic architecture, and at cutting out grotesque heads and other ornaments for Churches."
The Chronicle, which reports this case, adds, "The above sketch of the strange lives of two coiners furnishes a striking commentary on the utter inutility of mere punishment, as deterring from the future commission of crime; and should the present or any future solicitor to the Mint ever make known to the world the 'curiosities of his legal experience,' that world would be astonished to find with what utter recklessness these sons and daughters of crime have looked upon the violent and ignominious death of their most intimate companion."
If the existence and character of a cause is to be judged of from its effects, no person capable of reasoning can doubt, that although this husband and wife were both capable of distinguishing intellectually between right and wrong, 'there was in their minds some strong tendency to wrong (although perceived to be wrong), which all the religious, moral, and intellectual training that they had received,—all the influence of public opinion that had reached them,—and all the terrors of the law which they had either heard of or experienced,—had failed to eradicate or control. From these premises, unbiassed reason would conclude that they were not free moral agents, but moral patients, whose cases needed restraint and treatment for cure, much more than punishment in the form of vengeance or retribution. I repeat that the assumption of the law that they are free moral agents, is purely a fiction, directly contradicted by facts and in my opinion, those personages who, in enacting our laws, create this fiction and persist in acting upon it, in the face of positive demonstration of its mischievous effects, are responsible to God and man for all its painful consequences.
The following description of the penal colonies in Australia shews what the consequences of the second form of punishment—transportation—really are. Captain Maconochie, late superintendent of Norfolk Island, in his account of "The Management of Prisoners in the Penal Colonies," printed in 1840, but not published, but which I am authorised to cite, remarks—That the attention of the British Government, and of the public, has of late years page 78 been much directed to this subject, and many changes have been introduced into the arrangements for the management of convicts in the penal colonies; but these have related chiefly to details in the administration, leaving the principles very slightly, if at all, improved. Indeed, the inevitable operation of the prevailing principles on the minds of the convicts has not yet been sufficiently understood. Only a deeply-interested eye-witness (says Captain M.) can thoroughly appreciate their effects; and only a practised hand can successfully develop better principles on which a new system may be advantageously founded. Captain M., besides being conversant with Phrenology, has enjoyed the advantage of eight years' study and observation in the penal colonies, during the last four of which he had the principal charge of the prisoners in Norfolk Island. He possesses, therefore, high qualifications for pourtraying faithfully things as they are, and for suggesting how they may be improved.
1. "It measures its sentences by time, with little or no reference to conduct during that time." The young, the single, the careless, reckless, and profligate, care little about the loss of time; while the middle-aged, the married, the provident, and the ambitious, feel it strongly, and would make great exertions to Shorten the duration of their sentences, if means were afforded by good conduct to do so. At present the constant thought, even of the best men, is how their time may be whiled away with the least possible discomfort.
2. It errs in "punishing by compulsory labour, in the due performance of which the men have no individual interest." This gives a disgust to labour, and impairs all industrious tendencies in the convict; it cultivates every original and acquired capacity for deceit or evasion; and in extreme cases leads even to mutilating the person to avoid work. Slovenly and imperfect execution of work is another consequence; and even the good men dare not resist the esprit de corps of the mass, which is constantly, through its interests, directed to idleness. A man who should "furnish in his own person a measure by which to estimate the exertions of others, might reasonably fear injury, whether he actually sustained it or not."
Through these two circumstances, "a vast school of evasion and deceit, of craving after sensual indulgence, and snatching at it when it offers, however criminal and even disgusting sometimes its character, is formed in the penal colonies."
3. Another error is, "the allowance to all of fixed rations of food and clothing, whether labour and good conduct are rendered for them or not." Their employments are generally irksome to them, and often studiously (although most unwisely) made so by the principles of the system. Here, then, through labour that is irksome, and food supplied irrespective of performing it, is a premium offered to idleness; and as idleness can be reached only by deceit and imposition on their taskmasters, a fresh stimulus is given to the practice of falsehood. Their occasional success in deception encourages them, while their occasional detection and punishment irritate and stimulate them, like gamblers, "to try again."
4. "Another error of the system is of a precisely opposite character to this, yet it is not less injurious. Certain periods are fixed when prisoners may apply for specific indulgences; "but their applications may be granted or refused at will; and when granted, the results may, in most cases, be also cancelled at will." The officers employed are greatly attached to this part of the system, as investing them with what they regard to be a salutary influence, authority, and control, over the convicts. Captain M. views its effects very differently. "Placed (says he) as little gods in the communities in which they move, they become tyrannical and capricious almost of necessity." "By flattering their weaknesses (and no man is without some), it impairs insensibly the better parts of their character, and brings into prominence the worse. I say all this (continues Captain M.) the more frankly, because I include myself among those spoken of;—and during my four years' command at Norfolk Island, nothing was more continually before me than the progressive deterioration to which I was thus subjected." The evil effects on the men are equally apparent. "Every feeling of self-dependence is speedily lost in a universal relying on favour, hypocrisy, and fawning, playing on the weaknesses of others, and not studying, by patient diligence and integrity, to deserve and reap their due rewards."
5. Under the existing system, the men are almost universally indecently lodged. "They are now, for the most part, accumulated in rooms containing from fifty to one hundred and fifty each, usually without light, and without other convenience than night tubs for the relief of the wants of nature." The injurious effects are most deplorable. "Personal reserve and delicacy are speedily banished; the most disgusting scenes become familiar;"—I cannot proceed with the quotation: the picture is completed in these words—all are "reduced to a common low level; and the actual level is, on this point, low almost beyond conception; it is exhibited in their language, habits, feelings—every thing!" Better accommodation, says Captain M., would not now stop this monstrous evil. "It is interwoven with the whole state of degradation to which these men are subjected, and can be removed only with it." A partial remedy would be found no remedy at all.
6. The deep degradation of the convicts, consequent on all these circumstances, is the next evil of the present system. Captain Maconochie gives a view of their moral state, which is truly appalling. Their low condition prompts the officers to overlook all their interests, and in the administration of justice among them to treat them with "culpable negligence and severity;" to disregard their natural feelings, and to subject them "to much harsh and contumelious language." The individual being thus degraded in the eyes of others, speedily loses his own self-respect also, yields without restraint to present temptation, and falls into a state of "almost inconceivable wickedness." Despairing of earning the approbation of the free community with which he is associated, "he naturally falls back on his own class, and the more prizes its sympathy and approval instead. In this manner is generated a strong and even tyrannical public opinion among the convicts themselves," a school in which "courage, patience, daring, self-sacrifice, and fidelity," are often elicited, but "uniformly directed against the Government and the interests of free society." The approbation which they obtain "confirms the tendency to reckless daring," a quality which, "more or less, characterises all prisoners, and without which they would probably have been scared by the first threatenings of the law, and would have escaped its toils." The concluding remark on this point is of the highest practical importance; it is as follows—"As a feature in the criminal character, this daring is not, I think, sufficiently adverted to by those who advocate the attempt to deter from crime by severe punishments. Tempers under its influence feel themselves only challenged, both in their own eyes and those of their companions, by the recurrence of these." However strange it may appear to those unacquainted with the sub- page 79 ject, yet "crime thrives on severe examples" and "most certainly in direct competition with them."
7. The present system operates de facto as if it had been expressly contrived to accomplish the moral ruin of the men. The individual is condemned for seven, fourteen, twenty-one years, or a whole lifetime, to the influence of these circumstances, and no moral or religious conduct can extricate him from them. The "good conduct" for which a pardon may be obtained, consists in "shooting a bush-ranger, betraying a comrade, or otherwise, with or without risk, promoting what is considered an adequate government object!" They are "among the worst men who are so benefited; and there is no example that I am aware of, of the milder and more domestic virtues being similarly rewarded. Nor is this a fault in the administration of the system, but is essential to itself!" The results are next stated. "It is astonishing how rapid is the progress of deterioration. I have seen fine promising young men, and comparatively innocent, in a few months pass through every degree of wickedness; and, in fact, I have observed that it is the young, and otherwise the most interesting, who generally fall both fastest and farthest."—"It is notorious in the penal colonies that the new arrivals are much better generally than the older prisoners, though they speedily acquire all their evil ways; but such an ascendency is given to all that is evil in the management to which after their arrival they are subjected, such fetters are thrown by it over all good, such scope is afforded for the development of bad passions, so narrow is the sphere for every virtue, except submissiveness, not in itself a virtue at all, but rather a weakness, preparing for evil influence as much or more than for good direction," that "any set of men in the world would be ruined," and "even the most virtuous and intelligent in the kingdom would speedily be destroyed by it." "I willingly admit that an aspect of external decency is maintained by the discipline imposed, which veils much of the real effect from superficial observation; but the facts here stated are indisputable."
Nor does the evil end with the prisoners; for in society the ruin of one class necessarily involves the deep injury of every other. "Wild beasts as these men are made, weak and wicked as they become, they are the labourers in the penal colonies, and rise, many of them, to be small tenants and proprietors in them. They carry with them to their new sphere the vices of their old condition. They enter the market prepared to take any advantage that may offer; and while they thus lie, steal, rob, or defraud, as it may happen, it is too often thought fair by others to meet them with their own weapons, and 'diamond cut diamond' becomes thus a general rule. Meanwhile, the hardier and more enterprising of them (generally the worst, and in such cases no language can over-rate their wickedness) effect their escape, or otherwise leave the colonies, and spread over the Pacific." Everywhere "they rob, they murder, they steal, they commit every excess that comes in their way, they catch at every passing sensual enjoyment, they gratify every brutal appetite, they revenge their quarrel with their native country (their just quarrel I will venture confidently to call it), by trampling where they have the power on every feeling of humanity and every interest of civilisation!"
No words can add strength to the terrible features of this representation. Society owes a debt of gratitude to Captain Maconochie for having lifted up the veil and shewn us the monstrous evil in all its hideousness and horrors.
If the humane principles which I now advocate shall ever be adopted (and I feel confident that they will), the sentence of the criminal judge, on conviction of a crime, should simply declare that the individual had committed a certain offence, and that he was not fit to live at large in society: It should contain a Warrant for his transmission to a penitentiary, to be there confined, instructed, and employed, until liberated in due course of law. The treatment in prison and the process of liberation would then become the objects of greatest importance. There should be official inspectors of penitentiaries, invested with some of the powers of a court, sitting at regular intervals, and proceeding according to fixed rules. They should be authorized to receive applications for liberation at all their sessions, and to grant the prayer of them, on being satisfied that such a thorough change had been effected in the mental condition of the prisoner, that he might safely be permitted to resume his place in society. Until this conviction was produced, upon examination of his dispositions, of his attainments in knowledge, of his acquired skill in some useful employment, of his habits of industry, and, in short, of his general qualifications to provide for his own support, to restrain his animal propensities from committing abuses, and to act the part of a useful citizen, he should be retained as an inmate of the prison. Perhaps some individuals, whose dispositions appeared favourable to reformation, might be liberated at an earlier period, on sufficient security, under bond, given by responsible relatives or friends, for the discharge of the same duties towards them in private, which the officers of the penitentiary would discharge in public. For example, if a youth were to commit such an offence as would subject him, according to the present system of criminal legislation, to two or three months' confinement in Bridewell, he might be handed over to individuals of undoubtedly good character and substance, under a bond that they should be answerable for his proper education, employment, and reformation; and fulfilment of this obligation should be very rigidly enforced. The principle of revenge being disavowed and abandoned, there could be no harm in following any mode of treatment, whether private or public, that should be adequate to the accomplishment of the other two objects of criminal legislation—the protection of society and the reformation of the offender. To prevent abuses of this practice, the public authorities should carefully ascertain that the natural qualities of the offender admitted of adequate improvement by private treatment; and, secondly, that private discipline was actually administered. If any offender liberated on bond should ever reappear as a criminal, the penalty should be inexorably enforced, and the culprit should never again be liberated, except upon a verdict finding that his reformation had been completed by a proper term of training in a penitentiary.
This plan, or one closely resembling it, has been tried in Germany with the best effects. At the village of Horn, near Hamburgh, there is a house of refuge for juvenile offenders of both sexes, named Das Rauhe Haus. It consists of several plain inexpensive buildings, situated in a field of a few acres, without walls, fences, bolts, bars, or gates. It is supported by subscription, and the annual cost for each individual in 1837, when I visited it, was L.10, 4s. sterling. It then contained 54 inmates, of whom 13 were girls. A portion of them were offenders who had been condemned by the courts of law for crimes, and suffered the punishment allotted to them in the house of correction, and who afterwards, with the consent of their parents, had come voluntarily to the institution for the sake of reformation. Another portion of them consisted of young culprits apprehended for first offences, and whose parents, rather than have them tried and dealt with page 80 according to law, subscribed a contract by which the youths were delivered over for a number of years to this establishment for amendment. And a third portion consisted of children of evil dispositions, whose parents voluntarily applied to have them received into the institution, for the reformation of their vicious habits. Among this last class I saw the son of a German nobleman, who had been sent to it as a last resource, and who was treated in every respect like the other inmates, and with marked success. The inmates are retained if necessary, till they attain the age of 22. They are instructed in reading, writing, and religion, and are taught a trade. There is a master for every twelve, who never leaves them night or day. The plan of the treatment is that of parental affection mingled with strict and steady discipline, in which punishments are used for reformation, but never with injurious severity. The teachers are drawn chiefly from the lower classes of society; and the head manager, Candidat Wicher, an unbenificed clergyman, himself belonging to this class, and thus became thoroughly acquainted with the feelings, manners, and temptations of the pupils. When I visited the establishment, he possessed unlimited authority, and shed around him the highest and purest influences from his own beautifully moral and intellectual mind. He mentioned that only once had an attempt at crime been projected. A few of the worst boys laid a plan to burn the whole institution, and selected the time of his wife's expected confinement, when they supposed that his attention would be much engaged with her. One of them, however, revealed the design, and it was frustrated. There are very few attempts at escape; and when the reformed inmates leave the establishment, the directors use their influence to find for them situations and employments in which they may be useful, and exposed to as few temptations as possible. The plan had been in operation for four years, at the time of my visit, and I understand that it continues to flourish, with unabated prosperity.
Another instance of the successful application of rational and humane principles is afforded by "La Colonic Agricole et Penitentiare de Mettray," about four and a half miles from Tours, in France. It is described in the Journal de la Société de la Morale Chretienne, for September 1844, and is contrasted by Captain Maconochie with his own system, in an appendix to the documents formerly mentioned.
It was founded in 1839, for the reception of young delinquents, who, under a special provision to that effect, are acquitted of their offences (as our lunatics are) comme ayant agi sans discernement (as having acted without discernment but are sentenced to specific periods of correctional discipline before their final discharge. It was founded, and is still to a considerable extent maintained, by voluntary contributions—one benevolent individual, Count Leon d' Ourches, having endowed it during his lifetime with 150,000 francs, and the King and Royal Family, the Ministers of the Interior, of Justice, and of Instruction, with many public bodies and private individuals, having also liberally contributed.
|1||A social or family spirit (esprit de famille) is sedulously instilled into the pupils, as opposed to the selfish or merely gregarious spirit usually created in large assemblies of criminals.|
|2||For this purpose, the boys are divided into small sections or families, with common interests and tasks.|
|3||In all other respects they are placed in circumstances as much as possible resembling those of free life; and are led to submit to the strict order, obedience, and other discipline imposed on them, by appeals to their judgment, interests, and feelings, rather than by direct coercion. Corporeal punishment, in particular, is avoided in regard to them.|
|4||A carefully impressed religious education is given to them, with as much purely intellectual culture as may comport with their proposed future condition as labourers. Reading, writing, arithmetic, linear drawing, and music, are considered to constitute the requisite branches.|
Lastly, Their employments consist chiefly of those connected with agricultural and country life; a strong wish being entertained that they should settle to these on being discharged, rather than return to dense societies.
Before coming to this institution, the boys undergo a rigorous penitentiary discipline in the central prisons, to which they much dread returning. Without this, the fatigue and moral restraints imposed on them by the directors, would make them desire to return to their idle and comparatively comfortable life in the common prison. Expulsion, and, in consequence, a return to the severe penitentiary discipline, is the greatest punishment which is inflicted, and it is sufficient. There are a headmaster and two assistants, and a separate house for every forty boys. "The boys are further divided into four sections or sub-families, who elect every quarter an elder brother (frére ainé), who assists the masters, and exercises a delegated authority under them. We attach much importance," say the directors, "to his situation being thus made elective. Knowing the boys as we do, we can tell the dispositions of each section from its choice."
The labour imposed on the inmates is all useful. "In England they use crank and tread-wheels for exercise; but our criminals universally object to this, and express great indignation at being set, as they call it, 'to grind the air' (moudre l'air). We find it of much importance that our occupations, whether ordinary or for punishment, produce a sensible result." There is equal humanity and reason in this observation. Criminals can be reformed only by strengthening their moral and intellectual faculties; and, "grinding the air" on treadmills, whatever effect it may produce on the calves of their legs, seems little calculated to improve their brains. The treadmill, by not only dispensing with, but absolutely excluding, all thought and moral feeling, and exhausting both mind and body in sheer aimless fatigue, is calculated first to exasperate, and ultimately to blunt whatever little mental power the individuals may have carried with them into prison.
"Before inflicting any punishment," continues the Report, "we are very anxious both to be perfectly calm ourselves, and to have the culprit toned down to submission and acquiescence in the justice of our sentence." "On grave occasions we also frequently assemble a jury of his companions to hear and decide on his case, reserving to ourselves only the right of mitigating any punishment awarded by them. It is remarkable that these young people always err on the side of severity." Captain Maconochie highly approves of "Prisoner Juries" for the trial of prisoners, as calculated to interest the body of them in the administration of justice, to break down their otherwise natural opposition to it, and to assist in attaining truth. "They should, however," says he, "judge only of the fact, and not of the fitting sentence on it. All rude minds are inclined to severity." The greatest harshness, he adds, of naval and military officers who have risen from the ranks, compared with those who have always held an elevated position, "is proverbial." The principle involved in this fact extends through every branch of society. The excellent but stern moralists who, in the social page 81 circles of life, in parliament, and at public meetings, advocate severe punishments, are, in this respect, "rude minds." There is in them a lurking element of resentment and revenge, which, however restrained in their general conduct in society, prompts them, unconsciously to themselves, when they come to think of criminals, to distrust the efficacy of moral treatment, and to exaggerate the advantages of severe inflictions.
In the Mettray Institution, "we use the cell to prepare for our other influences, to enable our pupils to recover from the turbulence of excited feeling, and sometimes also to lay a foundation of instruction, when little aptitude for it is exhibited amidst a crowd. It is in a cell, too, that religious impressions are most easily and certainly conveyed, and that first habits of industry may be formed." Captain Maconochie entirely subscribes to this opinion, provided that the time thus spent be not too long, and that this treatment be not considered as capable of constituting a complete moral course.
"From the second year of our establishment, we think that we may say that vice had become unpopular, and the bad were under the influence of the good." "The cause of our success has been the application of two fruitful ideas—the substitution of a domestic or family spirit in our pupils, instead of one proceeding from more gregarious association, and the seeking from moral influences the restraints which other systems look for in walls, bolts, chains, and severe punishments
The result of this statement is stated thus:—"The institution has received in all 411 children, of whom 102 have been discharged. Of these latter, 4 have been re-convicted (June 1844); I has been apprehended and awaits a new trial; 6 are considered only of middling conduct; but 79 are irreproachable. Of the remaining 12 nothing is known."
If such a system were adopted in this country, a sound and serviceable philosophy of mind would be of importance, to guide the footsteps of judges, managers, inspectors, liberating officers, and criminals themselves. Without such a philosophy, the treatment would be empirical, the results unsatisfactory, and the public disappointment great.
If, keeping the principles which I have explained in view, you read attentively the various systems of prison discipline which have been tried, you will discover in all of them some lurking defect in one essential particular or another, and perceive that their success has been great or small in proportion as they have approached to, or receded from, these principles. A few years ago, there was a rage for treadmills in prisons; these were expected to accomplish great effects. The phrenologist laughed at the idea and predicted its failure, for the simplest reason: Crime proceeds from over-active propensities and under-active moral sentiments; and all that the treadmill could boast of accomplishing, was to fatigue the muscles of the body, leaving the propensities and moral sentiments, after the fatigue was removed by rest, in a condition exactly similar to that in which they had been before it was inflicted. The advocates of the treadmill proceeded on the theory, that the irksomeness of the labour would terrify the offenders so much, that if they had once undergone it, they would refrain from crime during their whole lives, to avoid encountering it again. This notion, however was without sufficient foundation. The labour, although painful at the time, did not, in the least, remove the causes of crime; and after the pain had ceased, these continued to operate, offences were repeated, and treadmills have now fallen considerably into disrepute.
Captain Maconochie, who has been long acquainted with Phrenology, proposes the following Improvements, in accordance with the views now advocated, in the treatment of transported convicts :—Two sentences should be pronounced against convicted criminals—first, banishment for 7, 10, 15, or other term of years, from the parent country; and, secondly, hard labour in a penal settlement until discharged under its regulations. The two sentences should have no necessary dependence on each other. The expatriation should be considered as imposed to protect the society that has been injured from the early return of one who has shewn himself weak amidst the temptations incident to it. The discipline in the penal settlement should be maintained until this weakness is converted into strength. Like a patient in an hospital, the convict should not be discharged at the expiry of a term, unless cured.
Captain Maconochie states confidently, from much experience, that the mixture of a free and convict population, while the latter is still in a state of bondage, is fatal to both. The administration of justice is impaired by its dependence on colonial interests and prejudices, and becomes inconsistent; while its importance is lost sight of amidst a variety of other questions, interests, and details. The expense, also, is greatly increased by the heavy police—judicial, military, and executive—which is indispensable to keep down the confusion, abuse, and crime, thus created. "Penal settlements, therefore, should be separated from free colonies altogether, and not even be subject to them, but be kept in direct correspondence with the Government at home." Captain M. attaches great importance to this point.
The sentence, besides prescribing a term of banishment, should impose a fine (graduated accord to the offence), which the convict should be required to redeem exclusively by labour and good conduct; a sum being placed to his credit daily as wages, according to his behaviour, or charged to his debit, if he neglected his labour, or otherwise offended. This fine should, in no case, be dischargeable by a mere payment in money, obtained by the convict from any source besides his own labour and good conduct in prison. Indeed, to do away with every idea of this kind, Captain M. proposes that "a factitious debt of 6000, 8000, or 10,000 marks should be created against every man, according to his offence," and be redeemable in the manner now mentioned, and that these marks should exercise all the functions of money in relation to him.
No ration, except bread and water, should be allowed to him of right; for everthing else he should be charged in marks, as the representative of money.
He should be allowed to expend the marks he has earned for necessaries, or even for present indulgences, at his discretion, but never to obtain his discharge till, from his labour and economy combined (both voluntary), he should have fully redeemed the sum charged against him in his sentence.
It seems almost unnecessary to contrast this system with the one now in operation. In the present one, everything tends to evil: in the one proposed, everything would tend to good. The introduction of a representative of wages, to be earned by the convict's labour and good conduct, would give him an interest in exertion, and present motives for self-control. These alone would change entirely the character of the convict's condition. "They would remove that taint of slavery which, at present, corrupts every portion of it. The absence of fixed rations, also, irrespective of exertion or conduct, would further improve the men. Under both stimulants, they would give twice the amount of labour that they do now, with half the superintendence; and this alone would make page 82 their maintenance much more economical." As a farther strengthener of the motives to good conduct, the utmost certainty should be given in prisons to the operation of the system of marks. A reward earned should unfailingly be given, and a fine incurred by neglect or misconduct, should unfailingly be exacted. There should be as little discretion in regard to either as possible, in order that the men may speedily learn to look on themselves as the architects of their own fortune, and not to trust to deception, evasion, and playing on the weaknesses of others, as means of escaping from labour or shortening the periods of their confinement. Voluntary labour and economy, thus practically enforced (as the only means by which the convicts could ever obtain their liberty), would tend to cultivate in them habits of activity and self-command, the most important preparations for a return to freedom. By this means, also, the sense of justice and honesty, and the habit of connecting enjoyment with virtuous action, and suffering with negligence and vice, would be fostered; while the certainty of the consequences of their own conduct would contribute towards steadying their minds, and eradicating that gambling spirit which is so characteristic of the convict class, and which at present everything tends to encourage.
During a period of not less than three months, commencing with the convict's first arrival in the penal colony, his treatment should consist of moral, religious, and intellectual instruction, in a penitentiary. During this period, he should be secluded from all general intercourse, beyond the society of a few individuals undergoing a similar course of discipline; but access to a public hall should be allowed to him, to hear public worship and receive general instruction. By regularity of conduct and proficiency in learning, he should earn a recompense in marks, and by negligence and disobedience forfeit these. This initiatory schooling would wean him from vicious recollections, cultivate and gain his will, and enlarge his understanding, and would thus lay the foundation for subsequent moral and intellectual improvement, by continued though less exclusive care. The issue from this secluded stage of treatment should be made, in every case, to depend on proficiency. "I speak on all these points," says Captain M., "experimentally; for, however imperfect were all my proceedings in Norfolk Island, and although thwarted in every possible way, they yet left no doubt of the tendency of the principles on which they were founded."
After this probation, the men should be required to form themselves into parties of six, who for a time—not less than eighteen months (and longer in case they should not redeem the stated number of marks)—should be held to constitute one family, with common interests and mutually responsible; labouring, if they labour, for common benefit; and idling, if they idle, to the common injury.
By this arrangement, all interests would be engaged in the common improvement, and the better men would have a direct interest in the conduct of the worse, and therefore a right to watch, influence, and, if necessary, control them. This would create an esprit de corps in the whole body, directed towards good,—a matter of first-rate importance in the management of convicts.
When the convict had acquitted himself in a satisfactory manner, and redeemed, by his industry and good conduct, the marks allotted to these different stages, which should extend over three years at the least, he might be rewarded by a ticket of leave in the penal settlement. In this sphere, the means should be afforded him to earn a little money, as a provision for his return to society. Small farms or gardens might, with this view, be let at moderate rents, payable in kind, to the men holding this indulgence, and the surplus produce, beyond their rents, should be purchased from them, at fair prices, into the public stores.
This mode of obtaining supplies, besides creating habits of industry and cultivating the feeling of private interest among the convicts, would tend to improve the agriculture and develop the resources of the settlement; the cost of the produce would be nearly as low as if raised directly by the Government, and much lower than if imported.
A fixed proportion of the prisoners (say 3, 4, or 5 per cent.), should be eligible to fill subordinate stations of trust in the general management, and receive (say) 6d per day as money salary, besides the marks attached to their situations.
The effects of this arrangement would be, to enlist a proportion of the best prisoners in the service of the establishment; to influence the conduct of the others by enabling them to look to the same advantage in their turn; and to allow of a diminution in the number of the free officers employed, and also of the military guards, who are much more expensive and less efficient instruments for controlling and directing the convict mind and labour.
The final liberation of the prisoners from restraint, as well as every intermediate step towards it, should in every case depend solely on having served the prescribed time, and earned the corresponding number of marks. No discretion on either head should be vested in any local authority. The whole arrangement should be, as it were, a matter of contract between each convict and the Government; and the local authorities should have no other control over it than to see its conditions, on both sides, punctually fulfilled.
On a final discharge, every facility should be afforded to the men to disperse, and enter as useful members into the free society of the colonies; but they should not be permitted to return home till the expiry of the period of banishment prescribed by their sentences.
Besides these means of improvement, Captain Maconochie proposes to employ largely secular and religious instruction, and to institute courts of justice easily and conveniently accessible to the prisoners, allowing them, at a particular part of their probation, even to act as jurors in trying delinquents, and to be eligible to serve as police or special constables. As they approach their freedom, well regulated amusements—such as music, readings, experimental and other lectures—should be open to them on suitable payment for admission. "In every way their minds should be stirred and their positions raised up to the usual privileges of freedom, before these are fully confided to them. Much may eventually depend on the transition not being at last too great."
It is only justice also to Captain M. to observe, that it is not sympathy with any mere physical suffering inflicted on the convicts by the present system that prompts him to desire reform. He states that more physical exertion is undergone, and greater privations are endured, by many an honest English labourer, than are even now imposed on the convicts by law. But the system is so contrived as to work out the perversion of all their natural feelings, and the misdirection of all their intellectual faculties; and by way of curing this moral degradation, severe punishments are resorted to. These inflictions, however, instead of removing, increase the evil. The system obviously fosters, although it does not create, the condition of mind which leads to the offences for which these punishments are inflicted; and in so far as it does so, the punishments can be viewed in no other light than as unnecessary and unprofitable, and therefore cruel. It is this whole scheme of moral page 83 and intellectual degradation, and its attendant unnecessary and profitless suffering, that rouse Captain M.'s indignation, which, however, he never unbecomingly expresses in any of his communications.
This leads me to another remark. The admitted advantages attending scientific knowledge, compared with mere vague and individual impressions concerning a subject, should suggest to Captain Maconochie, and every other individual who may be charged with the execution of the new plan, the duty of applying the lights of Phrenology, as far as they will go, in all the discretionary parts of the treatment. By no other means can they act securely, consistently, and successfully. The cerebral development of every offender should be examined and recorded; and, where places of trust and influence are to be disposed of, the men who, by previous labour and good conduct, have earned the right to be presented to them, and who, besides, have the best moral and intellectual development of brain, should, cæteris paribus, be preferred. This rule will be found, in the end, to be the most humane, just, and expedient for the whole community of offenders; because the highest minds are most needed, and best calculated to do good, in such a sphere. We can easily foresee that certain individuals with large animal and intellectual, and very deficient moral organs, may, while under the ordeal of servitude, restrain their propensities, perform their prescribed tasks, and earn the necessary marks for promotion; but yet that when they are placed in a situation in which internal self-acting morality must supply the place of previous external restraint, they may prove wanting and inefficient. Such men, owing to their unscrupulous dispositions and powerful intellectual capacities, will be plausible, deceptive, and dangerous officers, fountains of injustice to all under their authority, constantly doing evil, yet seeming to do good, and extremely difficult to detect and expose. No arbitrary addition should be made to any man's sufferings because he has an unfortunate development of brain; but in selecting, at discretion, instruments for the moral reformation of others, we should use the most complete means in our power to ascertain the actual qualities of the instruments, and prefer those which are best suited to accomplish the end in view. Phrenology will afford valuable aid in attaining this object.
Farther,—I consider that it would be highly advantageous to the criminals themselves to teach them Phrenology as part of their moral and intellectual instruction. Many individuals of average minds, who are untrained in mental philosophy, assume their own feelings and capacities to be the types and standards of those of all other men; and why should not the lowest class do the same? In point of fact, they actually do so; and many of them believe that the portion of society which is out of prison, is, at the bottom, as unprincipled, profligate, and criminal as themselves, only more fortunate and dexterous in avoiding temptation and detection. One means of correcting these erroneous impressions, and enabling such persons to understand their own dispositions, and the real relations in which they stand to virtuous men, and also of delivering their minds from the admiration of fraud, violence, obstinate pride, and many other abuses of the propensities, which at present they regard as virtues,—would be to teach them the functions, the uses, and the abuses of every faculty, and particularly the peculiarities in their own cerebral organization, which render their perceptions unsound on certain points, and their proclivities in certain directions dangerous.
Postscript to the preceding Lecture.—Since the preceding Lecture was delivered in Edinburgh, I have personally visited the State Prisons at Boston; at Blackwell's Island and Auburn, in the State of New York; the Eastern Penitentiary and the Moyamensing Prison of Philadelphia; and the State Prison at Weathersfield, Connecticut. I cheerfully testify to their great superiority over the vast majority of British prisons, but I am still humbly of opinion, that the discipline even in them proceeds on an imperfect knowledge of the nature of the individuals who are confined and punished in them.
In the prisons of Auburn and Sing-Sing, in the State of New York, and at Weathersfield, in the State of Connecticut, the system which has been adopted, is one combining solitary confinement at night, hard labour by day, the strict observance of silence, and attention to moral and religious improvement. At sunrise, the convicts proceed in regular order to the several work-shops, where they remain under vigilant superintendence until the hour of breakfast, when they repair to the common hall. When at their meals, the prisoners are seated at tables in single rows, with their backs towards the centre, so that there can be no interchange of signs. From one end of the work-rooms to the other, upwards of five hundred convicts may be seen, without a single individual being observed to turn his head towards a visiter. Not a whisper is heard throughout the apartments. At the close of the day, labour is suspended, and the prisoners return in military order to their solitary cells; there they have the opportunity of reading the Scriptures, and of reflecting in silence on their past lives. The chaplain occasionally visits the cells, instructing the ignorant, and administering the reproofs and consolations of religion.*
In the Eastern Penitentiary of Pennsylvania, the convict is locked up solitary in a cell during the whole period of his sentence. He is permitted to labour, and is instructed in moral and religious duties; but he is allowed to hold no converse with society, nor with the other inmates of the prison. The following remarks on these prisons are offered to your consideration :—
In order to weaken the animal propensities, it is necessary to withdraw from them every exciting influence. The discipline of the American state prisons, in which intoxicating liquors are completely excluded, in which the convicts are prevented from conversing with each other, in which each one sleeps in a separate cell, and in which regular habits and hard labour are enforced, appears to me to be well calculated to accomplish this end.
But this is only the first step in the process which must be completed, before the convict can be restored to society, with the prospect of living in it as a virtuous man. The second is, to invigorate and enlighten the moral and intellectual powers to such an extent, that he, when liberated, shall be able to restrain his own propensities, amidst the usual temptations presented by the social condition.
* Simpson on Education, p. 274. First edition.
A difference of opinion exists among intelligent persons, whether the system of solitary confinement and solitary labour, pursued in the Eastern Penitentiary of Pennsylvania, or the system followed in Auburn, of social labour in silence, enforced by inspectors, and solitary confinement after working-hours, is more conducive to the ends of criminal legislation. The principles now stated lead to the following conclusions.
Living in entire solitude weakens the whole nervous system. It withdraws external excitement from the animal propensities, but it operates in the same manner on the organs of the moral and intellectual faculties. Social life is to these powers what an open field is to the muscles; it is their theatre of action, and without action there can be no vigour. Solitude, even when combined with labour, and the use of books, and an occasional visit from a religious instructor, leaves the moral faculties still in a passive state, and without the means of vigorous active exertion. I stated to Mr Wood, the able superintendent of the Eastern Penitentiary, that, according to my view of the laws of physiology, his discipline reduced the tone of the whole nervous system to the level which is in harmony with solitude. The passions are weakened and subdued, but so are all the moral and intellectual powers. The susceptibility of the nervous system is increased, because all organs become susceptible of impressions, in proportion to their feebleness. A weak eye is pained by light which is agreeable to a sound one. Hence, it may be quite true, that religious admonitions will be more deeply felt by prisoners living in solitude, than by those enjoying society; just as such instruction, when addressed to a patient recovering from a severe and debilitating illness, makes a more vivid impression than when delivered to the same individual in health: but the appearances of reformation founded on such impressions are deceitful. When the sentence is expired, the convict will return to society, with all his mental powers, animal, moral, and intellectual, increased in susceptibility, but lowered in strength. The excitements that will then assail him, will have their influence doubled, by operating on an enfeebled frame. If he meet old associates and return to drinking and profanity, the animal propensities will be fearfully excited by the force of these temptations, while his enfeebled moral and intellectual powers will be capable of offering scarcely any resistance. If he be placed amidst virtuous men, his higher faculties will feel acutely, but be still feeble in executing their own resolves. Mr Wood admitted that convicts, after long confinement in solitude, shudder to encounter the turmoil of the world; become excited as the day of liberation approaches, and feel bewildered when set at liberty. In short, this system is not in harmony with a sound knowledge of the physiology of the brain, although it appeared to me to be well administered.
These views are supported by the "report of Doctor James B. Coleman, physician to the New Jersey State Prison (in which solitary confinement with labour is enforced), addressed to the Board of Inspectors, November 1839." The report states, that "among the prisoners there are many who exhibit a child-like simplicity, which shews them to be less acute than when they entered. In all who have been more than a year in prison, some of these effects have been observed. Continue the confinement for a longer time, and give them no other exercise of the mental faculties than this kind of imprisonment affords, and the most accomplished rogue will lose his capacity for depredating with success upon the community. The same influence that injures the other organs will soften the brain. Withhold its proper exercise, and as surely as the bandaged limb loses its power, will the prisoner's faculties be weakened by solitary confinement." He sums up the effect of the treatment in these words, "While it subdues the evil passions, almost paralyzing them for want of exercise, it leaves the individual, if still a rogue, one who may be easily detected;" in other words, in reducing the energy of the organs of the propensities, it lowers also that of the organs of the moral and intellectual faculties, or causes the convict to approach more or less towards general idiocy. Dr Coleman does not inform us whether the brain will not recover its vigour after liberation, and thus leave the offender as great a rogue after the close, as he was at the beginning, of his confinement.
The Auburn system of social labour is better, in my opinion, than that of Pennsylvania, in so far as it allows of a little more stimulus to the social faculties, and does not weaken the nervous system to so great an extent: but it has no superiority in regard to providing efficient means for invigorating and training the moral and intellectual faculties. The Pennsylvania system preserves the convict from contamination by evil communications with his fellow prisoners, and prevents the other convicts from knowing the fact of his being in prison. It does not, however, hinder his associates who are at large from becoming aware of his conviction and imprisonment. The reports of the trial in the public newspapers inform them of these; and I was told that they will keep a note of them and watch for him on the day of his release, if they should happen themselves to be then at large, and welcome him back to profligacy and crime.
The principles of criminal legislation now advocated necessarily imply the abolition of the punishment of death.