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APPOINTED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE
Act 5 & 6 WILL. IV. c. 38.
TO VISIT THE DIFFERENT
PRISONS OF GREAT BRITAIN.
SCOTLAND, NORTHUMBERLAND, AND DURHAM.
Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty.
PRINTED BY W. CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET,
FOR HER MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE.
FIFTH REPORT on the PRISONS OF SCOTLAND.
To the Most Noble the Marquess of Normanby, Secretary of State. MY LORD,
Edinburgh, 6th June, 1840. SINCE the presentation of my last Report, much of my time has been occupied, first, in business connected with the passing of the Prisons Act, and, secondly, in my duties as a member of the General Board of Directors of Prisons in Scotland. Owing chiefly to these circumstances the number of prisons which I have visited this year is smaller than usual. This, however, is not much to be regretted, because in the generality of cases there could have been but little chance of inducing those to whom the management of the prisons has been hitherto entrusted, to incur much expense, or to take much trouble in making improvements, when on the eve of a new system. The prisons visited, include all the largest and most important Prisons visi'ed. in my district, and a reference to the several Reports will show that in some cases at least my visit, notwithstanding the circumstances referred to, has not been unproductive of advantage, though in other cases it will appear that I was unsuccessful in obtaining the adoption of alterations which were pressingly required, and which would have entailed but a small disbursement. It is very satisfactory to think that the unjust method hitherto existing of levying the expense of prisons, and the inefficient management under which many of the prisons have been placed -circumstances which have done much towards paralyzing attempts at extensive improvements—are now drawing to a close, and that in a short time a new system will be in full operation.
As additional proofs of the necessity of this new system, I would refer your Lordship particularly to the Reports on Lanark, Peebles, and the male department of the Glasgow Gaol.
The most pleasing improvements which have taken place since my last Report Latest Improveare in the prison of Dumfries, and in the female department of the Glasgow Gaol. ments. The case of Dumfries shows how much can be done even with an ill-constructed prison and under other unfavourable circumstances, if there be but a sincere desire to turn every means to the fullest account, and an honest determination to appoint the best qualified man that can be obtained, without regard to interest or inclination of any kind, for keeper. I should remark that in both instances the alterations were made under the superintendence of Mr. Brebner, governor of the Glasgow Bridewell, and that the officers appointed were of his selection, the one placed in charge of the Dumfries prison having been trained under his eye.
Considerable improvements, also, though of a less striking and satisfactory kind, have taken place in the Edinburgh gaol and the Edinburgh Bridewell. A large new wing has been put up at the Glasgow Bridewell
, containing more than a hundred separate cells, and in the course of a few weeks it will be ready for the reception of prisoners. Its erection does much credit to the Commissioners of the Bridewell, and is in accordance with that enlightened and liberal system of management for which they have been distinguished. The additional accommodation was urgently wanted, and little doubt could exist as to the best plan for furnishing it; but as the Commissioners possessed no legislative authority to incur the necessary expense, the only means by which the work could proceed was for them to become personally liable for the cost, and to trust either to the profit of the prisoners' labour in future years, or, in the event of such a measure as the Prisons Bill passing, and of the commissioners ceasing thereby to have charge of the Bridewell, to the passing of another Bill to add the expense of the new building to the prison assessment for other purposes. Many under such circumstances would have allowed the evils of a crowded prison to continue ; but the Commissioners of the Glasgow Bridewell chose rather to encounter the hazard of personal pecuniary loss. An Act has indeed been obtained for paying the cost of this new wing in the way
Evils of Association of Prisoners, and
referred to; but the conduct of the Commissioners in incurring the risk of such a Bill not passing did them honour.
Among other points calling for particular notice in the Reports on the different Advantages of the prisons, I would beg to direct your Lordship's attention to the evils of association Separate System. of prisoners, and to the advantages of the separate system, as evinced in the account
of the prison at Perth, the gaol and Bridewell of Aberdeen, the Glasgow Bridewell, and the prisons at Ayr and Dumfries. By referring to the Report on the Perth prison, page 22, your Lordship will find a case in which, owing to two prisoners being placed in the same cell, and to their retaining their own clothes, from the want of a proper prison dress, a robbery of a five pound note was committed in the prison itself, leading to a new prosecution and a new term of imprisonment. At the Aberdeen Bridewell, where separation is the ordinary rule, but where prisoners are sometimes so employed as to bring them in contact with each other, a prisoner engaged in changing the web on the loom in another prisoner's cell, took the opportunity of giving his temporary companion minute instruction in the art of coining false money; and in the Aberdeen gaol, where the prisoners used to congregate in the day-rooms, without occupation and secure from observation, a man actually coined some base money in the presence of six or seven other prisoners. He had brought the mould in with him concealed in a pill-box, and for metal he used a pewter spoon, which some of his friends and associates had sent to him with a supply of food, such supplies being at that time permitted.*
The ingenuity with which prisoners when together will elude regulations is shown in the account of the Glasgow gaol this year, page 2. I had recommended that smoking should be prohibited, and that tobacco in every form should be excluded. T'he magistrates agreed in the propriety of prohibiting smoking, but thought that tobacco in the form of snuff should still be allowed. The consequence was that the prisoners used the snuff to smoke with, making tobacco pipes with the clay given them to clean their rooms with, which they dried in the sun; and as a means of procuring a light they struck the nails in their shoes on the stone floor.
In the Report on the Glasgow Bridewell, page 3, an advantage is pointed out arising from the separation of prisoners, which so far as I am aware has hitherto escaped notice, namely, the better state of mind in which prisoners who have been separated appear at their trial, and the greater readiness with which they acknowledge their offences. A portion of the Glasgow Bridewell is used as a gaol for untried prisoners, and it is observed that prisoners brought to trial from the Glasgow Bridewell, when really guilty of their offences, generally plead guilty at once, and show contrition for what they have done; while prisoners from the Glasgow gaol, where there is no separation, often brazen out their offences, treat the matter with levity, and notwithstanding the clearest evidence against them plead not guilty. The contrast in this respect between the prisoners from the two different prisons at the last autumn circuit was so marked, as to excite the public observation of the judge on the bench. It was afterwards discovered that the prisoners in the gaol had entered into a sort of agreement to refuse to plead guilty.
I have before given instances of well conducted prisoners expressing their preference for the separate system. More testimony of the same kind will be found in the Report of the prison at Ayr, page 13. One prisoner in his examination says, that he « considers it fortunate that he came to this prison (where the separate system is in use]. It was the best thing that could come across him.
Thinks it a good rule for the prisoners to be kept separate. Is glad that he has not been placed in company with any other prisoner. If two or three are put together, and one is worse than the others, he teaches the others bad precepts. The teacher is a great object in the prison. He instructs the prisoners, explains what they read, and reasons with them. He is very useful; it is always a pleasure to see him come into one's cell. Declarant could not read when he came to the prison, and he can now read tolerably well. Has found much comfort in reading ; would not take 301. for what he has learnt of the teacher since he has been in prison. Likes the prison library. Has now acquired a taste for reading which he has no doubt will continue after he has left prison.” Another man in the same prison “thinks the prison is managed in such a way as to be for the real good of the prisoners. It is a good plan to keep the prisoners separate, because some are greater blackguards than others. Would have been glad to have had a companion with him if he had known him to be of good character, but would prefer being alone to running his
* P. 18.