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confinement was recognized and enforced by a positive legislative enactmen nearly eighty years ago. We also find that it was successfully carried out in the prison of Petworth; and we find it also in operation in the gaol of Horsham, in the same county. This shows that this system was no novel or untried invention, unsuited to the character or unfit for the treatment of the criminals of these kingdoms. It also incontestably establishes the fact that the system is British ;British in its origin, British in its application, and British in its legislative sanction.
wish for solitude, provided he may be indulged in laziness; if human nature will admit of such a situation, The spirit of Britons disdains the thought of inactivity: they must be doing good, or evil; their busy mind must have employment, or it will be miserable." With such homely vigour of expression did this acute writer point out the imperfections of the Act. And it is remarkable that there is scarcely an improvement in the latest and most elaborate plan of Separate confinement which has not been distinctly laid down, and recommended for adoption, with wisdom that may be justly called oracular, in the writings of that eccentric but farsighted philanthropist. In 1785,
a House of Correction was ordered to be built at Petworth, pursuant to the provisions of the 22nd Geo. III., cap. 54. The ground was presented by the Earl of Egremont,-whose well known princely mansion, with its glorious gallery of painting and sculpture, adorns the immediate vicinity of that town,--and the plans were furnished by James Wyatt. This prison affords the earliest example of the complete adoption of the Separate System in the kingdom, and we might add in the world. "The rooms of the prison," says Howard, "are on two stories, over arcades; sixteen on each floor, thirteen feet three inches by ten feet, and nine feet high. The chapel is in the centre, and has thirty-two pews, each three feet by two feet two inches. The sides are so lofty that the prisoners cannot see one another, though they are all within the view of the chaplain. Some prisoners were kept here for two years without injury to their health." The system was kept up until 1816, when they began to employ prisoners in the factory. This was owing to the great increase of prisoners at the termination of the war, and occasioned a great deterioration of the discipline; in fact, it amounted to a total subversion of the system of separate confinement, and to a sacrifice of all the advantages held out by it. It is now sixteen or seventeen years since we visited Petworth, in company with Whitworth Russell; and well do we remember the surprise and satisfaction with which he viewed a realization in his own country of that very plan of improved prison discipline which he had formed on reflection and study,
While, however, we attach great importance to the just cited Act, we cannot deny that it is in some respects imperfect; for though it provides "that offenders shall, during their hours of labour, in case the nature of their employments will permit, be kept separate and apart from each other," yet labour in common, but under the constant superintendence of an officer, was permitted. Accordingly this part of the Act did not escape the caustic censure of the celebrated Jonas Hanway. "At length," observes that extraordinary man, "the legislature resolve on a plan of wonderful construction ;—it is to be solitude and no solitude; the prisoners are to be separate, and they are to work together; that is, they are to be secured in separate apartments at night, but in the day they may associate; and 600 men and 300 women are to be so managed as to produce reformation by means of a capital prison, called a penitentiary! This method might be calculated to to prevent their breaking prison; but not for repentance." And as to the apprehension that the prisoners would not work, if left to themselves in solitude, he says, "This should by no means intimidate us in the pursuit of the plan of separate confinement, for prisoners will generally be inclined to work, to relieve themselves." As to the system of the Maison de Force, at Ghent, which the Act had too closely followed, he quaintly but unanswerably observes, "That prison cannot be our rule; the daring mind of our people being very different from theirs. A Flanderkin, with some of the remains of the indolence of his former masters, may not be kept so easily to work alone as in company. He may
in conjunction with his colleague William Crawford, and which till that hour he had supposed to exist only in the imagination and fancy of himself and his associate. Yet while this prison was standing as a momento of Howard and Hanway, and a present example of their enlightened views, the Government were groping about for a model, and sending their Commissioner to America, in search of what lay under their nose! But the wonder is not so much that this prison had been thus overlooked, as that the system carried out in it with complete success should be suffered to sleep for nearly fifty years. True, the plan had been in operation until 1816, as we have said; but who was the wiser for it? Who brought the fact under public notice? What member of the government, or of the legislature, made it the basis of a method of national utility? For anything that concerned the interests of the kingdom at large, the Petworth House of Correction might have been in Kamtschatka, at Timbuctoo, or in the moon. But not only was there an example of the cellular system about this time at Petworth, but also at Gloucester, and at Horsham, where the discipline was administered with similar success. Still all the evils of gaol association were permitted to go on; and until the first report of the Inspectors of Prisons for the Home Department startled the united kingdom by their graphic delineation of the foul abomiations that disgraced the metropolitan prison of Newgate (1834), no step was taken to grapple with the abuses of our penal system.
An attempt it was no more-to palliate those evils, was made by the projectors of what is called the Silent System; they were well-meaning men, who wished to get rid of the horrible and loathsome abuses of the plan of association, but did not clearly see their way, nor understand the nature of the subject with which they undertook to deal; and as the Silent System crosses our path in our progress to a sounder plan, we will at once sweep it away, and demolish it root and branch, bark and foliage.
We affirm then, that the Silent System, originating in a conviction of the great and manifold evils of gaol association, and a desire to guard effectually against them, is cumbrous
and intricate in its construction, unequal to the end at which it professes to aim, and dependent for its successful working upon agencies which its advocates cannot ensure us. If it possesses any good qualities, they are contingent and accidental, while its defects are necessary and inherent. Against what does this system set itself in opposition? Against a law of nature against the communion of man with his fellow-against the most deeply seated and most ineradicable instinct of humanity-the wish to hold intercourse in thought and feeling with those who are placed for hours, and days, and months together, within sight and hearing of each other; and that too while they are under the very circumstances which impart an edge to the desire of mutual acquaintance. Doubtless a dozen or a score of passengers may be associated in a railway carriage for hours without the exchange of a single word between any two of them. But this arises from their ignorance of the present circumstances and destination of each. Let those fellow travellers be bent upon a common point of pleasure or of business, and the case becomes immediately changed. Those who had never met before will soon make each other's acquaintance; and you will find it no easy task to interdict or suspend all intercommunication. The case is beyond all comparison stronger between fellow-prisoners. The very stringency of the regulations that forbid all intercourse between them only acts as an incentive to ingenuity to baffle them; and we know well what adroitness and tact the human mind and frame acquire by practice, when the man is impelled by necessity, or strong inclination. That every attempt to evade the rule of enforced silence is detected, no one will be hardy enough to affirm. But some notion of the extent to which that evasion is carried may be formed from this recorded fact, that in the prison of Coldbath Fields, in which the system was carried to its highest state of perfection, the punishments for "talking and swearing" amounted in 1836 to no fewer than 5,138! Consider, too, the posture of the prisoner's mind while occupied in attempts, often successful, to elude the vigilance of the monitor, or while amused in watching and secretly applauding
such attempts on the part of others: can any one believe that under such circumstances he can receive any salutary impression of the penal nature of his position, or have any inclination or opportunity for self-examination or reflection?
gation of punishment, which such removal brings with it. It is plain, also, that the qualifications required in a monitor must be sought for in vain in the guiltiest class of prisoners, out of which the monitors must commonly be selected. Can we expect to find in such, alertness, temper,vigilance, firmness, industry, habits ofobedience, and integrity? Yet these are the characteristics of a good monitor. Besides, how can such a system as this be made universal? In some
But there is a still stronger objection against this system. Its warmest advocates admit that they cannot carry it into operation without the employment of means which are obviously opposed to the spirit of the constitution, and to the first principles of substantial justice; they confess that they must be permitted to inflict punishment for every detected violation of the prison rules. How frequent those punishments are, we have already seen. How unjust they are is plain. How calculated they are to irritate and exasperate the prisoner is sufficiently obvious. The prisoner himself is not slow to perceive all this. He sees that the privations that occasion him most discomfort are not those to which he has been legally sentenced he feels that he is enduring sufferings over and above the awards of law, and, stung by the injustice, his sense of his guilt is overborne by that insurgent spirit wisely implanted in us all, which impels even the most degraded to withstand oppression in whatever garb it may wear, and from whatever quarter it may approach us. And who are the agents which the Silent System chiefly employs to enforce its harsh regulations? Prisoners themselves, men as deeply stained with guilt as those whom they are employed to coerce. The culprit sees this too, and he sees it with feelings little fitted to reconcile him to his treatment. "The oldest thief makes the best monitor," has become a gaol apophthegm. This alone suffices to ensure the condemnation of the system; for here it is plainly implied that it treats with the greatest leniency those culprits whose guilt is deepest, by setting them to watch over, and report for punishment, those who are less criminal than themselves. As the prison punishments-punishments for violating the prison regulations-mostly consist in reduction of food, this is followed by ill-health; then comes removal to the hospital, with all the relaxation of discipline, and consequent miti
prisons it will work well, because it is well worked; in others, which are out of the range of public view, and where suitable officers cannot be found, the whole will break down. If the sole end at which a good system of prison discipline ought to aim were, to prevent, by whatever means, the prisoners from audibly conversing with each other, we should admit that the Silent System had not been wholly unsuccessful. But if, in securing this end, the means have been ill-devised, harsh, and of uncertain efficacy; if, while the prisoner is forbidden to articulate sounds, he has the opportunity of making and exchanging significant signs; if, by a system of refined surveillance, his mind be kept perpetually on the fret, and diverted from the contemplation of his own conduct and condition, and directed to the invention of devices for defeating his overseers, or for carrying on a clandestine communication with his fellow-prisoners; deriving no benefit, in the meantime, from the offices of religion, nay, converting the most solemn of his religious offices into an opportunity of conversing with his fellows; then we say that the benefits of the Silent System are dearly purchased by the measures it employs to obtain them.
And all this intricate machinery is constructed for what? For the purpose of overcoming difficulties which its founders have themselves created! They assemble together social beings, interdict communication between them, and then punish them for yielding to that most powerful of human impulses the desire to interchange thought with those with whom they are compelled to associate. Here is a difficulty contrived with perverse ingenuity, as if merely for the purpose of surmounting it; and when it fails (as it must perpetually) revenges
itself upon the prisoner for the remissness of the officer! And you subject the untried to it! Why, the difficulty and hardship of the System are felt chiefly in its earlier stage. The untried prisoner is perplexed and worried by a multiplicity of intricate and minute observances, which are enforced by punishments. So that an untried and possibly innocent prisoner undergoes the sharpest portion of the discipline. But there is even a worse evil than any we have yet noticed the evil of recognition. A man unjustly accused, able to establish his innocence, and discharged without a stain upon his character, may receive an incurable wound in his reputation from the mere circumstance of his having been associated, for a period however short, with companions of vicious habits and tainted morals, and being subsequently recognized by them. Consider how deep and overwhelming are the anguish and dismay with which a person of unblemished character contemplates his committal to prison. In urging the necessity of shielding an innocent member of society, as far as is practicable, from an evil so dreadful as this, we are not more powerfully sustained by the dictates of reason and humanity, than by the very spirit of the law itself, which guards with extreme and justifiable jealousy the rights and feelings of innocence.
We have now done with gaol association, and its miserable succedaneum the Silent System; would that the kingdom had done with them too! We boast, and it is a just boast-that we have not one law for the rich, and another for the poor. But we have one punishment for the North, and another for the South-one for the East, and another for the West. We punish leniently in Newgate the very same offence which we visit with severity at Pentonville. And that we shall continue to do until we have uniformity of system, and one form of penal discipline for the three countries. What shall that be?
hold no communication whatever, either by sight or hearing, with any fellow-prisoner. This is the plan which, as we have already seen, commended itself nearly a century ago to Howard, and still more distinctly to Hanway; which was exemplified at Petworth, Horsham, and Gloucester, which was advocated in England by Bishop Butler, Sir William Blackstone, Lord Mansfield, Dr. Paley, Sir Samuel Romilly, Mr. Wilberforce, Archbishop Whately, Lord John Russell, Earl Grey, Sir James Graham, and Sir George Grey; in France by M. de Beaumont, M. de Tocqueville, M. De Metz, M. Lucas; in Belgium by M. Ducpétiaux ; in Germany by Dr. Julius, and other distinguished jurists; in Poland by Count Skarbek; in Sweden by the King. Before its general adoption in Europe it had winged its way across the Atlantic, and was so extensively and successfully adopted in the United States of America, that its revival in England soon followed, and it settled once more in the land to which it owed its birth.
It was in the year 1838 that the Rev. Whitworth Russell and Mr. Crawford presented to Government, in their capacity of Inspectors of Prisons, the elementary principles of a sound system of penal discipline, which, after a long and patient research and inquiry, had been carefully elaborated by them. Of that system the isolation of the criminal from his fellow-prisoners was the basis. Under the system propounded by those eminent prison reformers the solitude of the cell was alleviated by important moral elements, calculated to sustain the mind, and to promote reformation, while the punishment remained sufficiently severe. To this system they gave the distinctive name of THE SEPARATE SYSTEM; and they recommended the erection of a Metropolitan Prison, both as a model and as an experiment as to its results. Thus originated the Prison at Pentonville. Lord John Russell was then Secretary of State for the Home Department, and first gave official sanction to the proposition. At the time of the completion of the prison, Sir James Graham had succeeded to the administration of that department; and the commissioners nominated to conduct the experiment included statesmen and professional men of great eminence.
These were, the late Lord Wharncliffe, then Lord President; Lord John Russell, the Duke of Richmond, the Earl of Devon, the Earl of Chichester, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Benjamin Brodie, Dr. Ferguson, Major (now Lieut-Col.) Jebb, Mr. Crawford, and the Rev. Whitworth Russell. It was impossible to have formed a commission more entitled to the confidence of the country. On the 22nd December, 1842, the prison was opened for the reception of convicts under sentence of transportation, who were to undergo there a confinement of eighteen months, and then to complete the term of their sentence in a distant clime.
our firm conviction, that the moral results of the discipline have been most encouraging, and attended with a success which, we believe, is without parallel in the history of prison discipline." Well, the reader will naturally say, "Have you any more Reports to the same effect?" Alas, we now must change those notes to tragic." "What,--has the system broken down?" No; the system has been subverted! Without any reason, publicly and officially assigned for the change, the grand principle of the Separate System, that which gave name to it, that which gave efficacy to it, that which wrought effects at once so encouraging and so marvellous in the eyes of the Commissioners, and which drew from them those expres sions of satisfaction and admiration which we have just cited,-the strict and uninterrupted isolation of each prisoner was, without any publicly assigned, and, we venture to say, without any assignable cause, completely subverted. We have a right to demand, and we do now solemnly demand, an explanation of this. How came it to pass that a system of prison discipline, which had been originally devised by the most renowned philanthropists that ever dignified human nature; which had been tried, and marked for sterling, by the most wary and perspicacious minds that were ever turned to the subject; which had won by its intrinsic excellence the approbation of the whole civilized world; which had wrought effects so unparalleled, that it would be the bitterest of sarcasms to call upon any other system that ever was constituted by man, to produce the like,-how came it to pass that that system should have been silently, and we blush to say it, hitherto almost without remonstrance,* bereft of that which alone gave it vitality and effect the strict separation of prisoner from prisoner? In addition to this, the term of imprisonment was reduced from eighteen months to twelve.
In the absence of all evidence as to
For five years this system continued in operation, without any important modification, with beneficial effects upon the mind, health, and morals of the prisoners far exceeding what its founders had ever anticipated. The Yearly Reports of the Commissioners during the whole of this period attest the excellence of the system in the most unequivocal terms. In the Second Report, after the first year's experience, they say, "There exists abundant proof of the moral and religious improvement of the prisoners." In their Third Report, "The experience gained during the last year has fully confirmed the opinion we before expressed, and has multiplied the facts upon which that opinion was founded." The Fourth Report reiterates the same conclusion :"The experience of another year, strengthened by the highly gratifying account which we have received as regards the conduct of the prisoners who have been sent abroad, both during the voyage and subsequent to their arrival in Australia, has more strongly than ever impressed us with the value of this corrective and reformatory system of prison discipline.” The Fifth Report repeats the foregoing statements, and contains the following remarkable passage :-" On reviewing these opinions, and taking advantage of the experience of another year, we feel warranted in expressing
Not wholly without remonstrance. We have now before us a volume entitled, "Results of the System of Separate Confinement, as administered at the Pentonville Prison;" by the Rev. John T. Burt, Chaplain of the New Prison at Birmingham, who was for nearly twelve years Assistant Chaplain at Pentonville, in which he indignantly denounces the unwarranıtable alteration.