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It is an error much too prevalent amongst the many, who have never thought accurately on the subject, that the final object of criminal jurisprudence, is the punishment of the guilty. Persons, who entertain this sentiment, are perfectly satisfied if the criminal be but punished, without considering whether his punishment be of any advantage either to the individual himself or to society at large. On their system, punishment is in fact nothing more than legal vengeance. It must indeed be acknowledged, that many of our own penal provisions, as they produce no other effect, appear to have no other end, than the punishment of the guilty. If, for instance, a criminal be sentenced to a term of imprisonment, it too often happens that no good results from the proceeding either to the sufferer or to the public. The criminal gains nothing in prison but confirmation in the habits of depravity; and he is afterwards turned out again upon the public, fitted by the punishment of one crime, for the perpetration of others. Thus both parties are losers.
It will undoubtedly be evident to every reflecting mind, that the end of criminal jurisprudence is not the punishment of the criminal, but the prevention of crime. Punishment, abstractedly considered, so far from being a desirable object, is a real evil :-but it is a necessary evil; it is an act of self-defence, by which every civilised society seeks a protection from those outrages, which would otherwise terminate in its destruction.
There are two ways, in which the punishment of offenders against society may operate as a prevention of crime. First, by the fear, which it is calculated to impress upon all those who, although they have not committed crime, are exposed to the temptations which lead into criminality. This fear undoubtedly produces a very strong and a very general effect; and the more certainly crime is followed by punishment, the surer and more powerful does this effect become.
To ensure the certainty of punishment, two things especially appear necessary ;-a vigorous and vigilant police, by which crime may be easily and immediately detected ; and penal laws formed on the principles of true justice, and mild enough to be carried, without reserve, into constant execution.
The second method, by which punishment may act as the preventive of crime, is the reformation of criminals. This consideration will lead me immediately to the subject, on which I am now desirous of stating my sentiments; for the reformation of criminals is the true object of prison discipline.
Prisons ought to be so conducted as to produce reform: they too often are so conducted, as to be the very seminaries of crime.
To prove the latter assertion, nothing is necessary but a reference to the descriptions contained in Buxton's book on Prison Discipline, of the Borough Compter, the jails in Tothill-fields, at Guildford, St. Alban's, and Bristol ; and the same truth may without much difficulty be collected from the preceding part of the present work. It will be observed, however, that my plan is different in one important respect from that of the author now alluded to. He has selected the strongest specimens of bad and of good prisons. In his account of the jails above mentioned, he to us a forcible picture of every thing that is miserable in suffering and ruinous to morals. In that of the prisons at Bury, at Ilchester, at Ghent, at Philadelphia, and of the female side of Newgate, we are introduced to a totally opposite system,-a system of order, inspection, industry, and excellent moral discipline.
The contrast is extremely striking, and enables the author to prove, in a manner highly interesting to his readers, the important fact, that prisons ill arranged and ill regulated are productive not only of needless suffering, but of multiplied crime: on the other hand, that prisons well arranged and well regulated have the strongest tendeney to diminish crime, by fixing, in the very offscouring of society, the habits of industry, sobriety, and virtue. The plan of the
present work admits of no such contrast. We have visited -ter. tain prisons, without any selection, and merely because they lay on the route by which, on other accounts chiefly, we found it necessary to travel. The description of these prisons therefore (a description perfectly simple and in many cases not very interesting) will present, it is presumed, an average of the real state of prisons in England and Scotland. It must be acknowledged that the
average is low-that the result on the whole is a very unfavorable one.
Some of the prisons now described,--for instance, Durham Old Jail and House of Correction, and the Jails at Haddington, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Carlisle, are scarcely exceeded by any thing of badness in Buxton's worst specimens. Others, for example, the Bridewell at Aberdeen, and House of Correction at Preston, approach in some respects to his standard of excellence. But they are nevertheless not without defects, which have hitherto prevented their becoming, to the full extent, schools of reform. A third description of prisons, such as those at Wakefield, York, Edinburgh, Lancaster, Liverpool, and Manchester, presents to us a medium picture of good and bad qualities ; the proportion of what is good or bad varying of course in the different jails, and the whole leaving an impression not altogether of the most pleasing kind.
On the general retrospect, (notwithstanding some important exceptions,) it is impossible not to perceive, that the prisons which this journey has given us the opportunity of inspecting, have a tendency rather to the increase than the diminution, rather to the production than the removal, of misery and crime.
I shall now trouble the reader with some general observations on what has appeared to us worthy of notice in these prisons ; and, as I pass along, I shall venture to recommend a few regulations, by which, in many cases, that which is hurtful may be remedied, and that which is wanting supplied.
There are certain peculiarities in the construction and management of many jails in Scotland, which, in the first place, deserve a distinct notice. They may be shortly enumerated as follows: No airing-grounds ;- no change of rooms ;-tubs in the prisoners' cells for the reception of every kind of filth ;-black holes ;- no religious service ;-jailers living away from their prisons ; consequently, an impossibility of any inspection, and an almost total absence of care ;– free communication through the windows of the cells with the public.
The three last-mentioned particulars have an obvious tendency to encourage disorder; the others as evidently entail a dreadful degree of wretchedness. To the particulars in Scotch Jạils which
are productive of unnecessary suffering, may also be added the long iron bar which is fixed in the floor, and through which the legs of the prisoner are fastened by rings. This, as far as we have observed, is the most usual method of chaining adopted in Scotland—and a more cruel one could not easily have been devised; for it not only keeps the legs of the prisoner constantly apart from each other, but prevents his undressing or going to bed.
It is indeed a happy circumstance that so many of the prisons in Scotland are without any inhabitants. Certainly, when any unfortunate person does become the inmate of some of these dreadful abodes, his situation is truly pitiable. : He probably finds himself in a damp, dark, and filthy cell ; it may be, with only straw for his bed—assailed by the most noisome smells-entirely solitary, without any possibility of change, exercise, or relief. If he has been inprudent enough to attempt his escape from his misery, that misery will be doubled by his being chained to the iron bar, or consigned to the yet more terrible dungeon denominated the black hole. Amidst all this suffering, no religious instructor visits him, and even his appointed keeper lives entirely out of his reach.
Can it be justifiable that any human being, and more especially the untried prisoner, who is innocent in the eye of the law, should be exposed to sufferings so multiplied, and so little alleviated, and for a length of time together ? :
There are two points, to which it appears necessary once more to advert, before I leave the subject of « misery in Scotch prisons ;”-the first is the treatment of debtors; the second, that of lunatics.
By the law of Scotland, if a debtor escapes from prison, the jailer, and, through the jailer, the magistrate who issued the war. rant, becomes responsible for the debt. It is necessary, of course, that the jailer and the magistrate should protect their own interest. The consequence is, that the Scotch debtor is consigned to the closest and most severe confinement. He has no yard to walk ing-no means of taking exercise or changing the air ; if there be. a yard in the prison, he is probably not allowed to make use of it : he is kept, like the vilest criminal, perhaps with numerous companions, in some close, and miserable, and fetid apartment, which he is permitted on no occasion to quit, even for a moment. His health is exposed to the most serious injury; and there is actually nothing to alleviate his distress but the lethargy of a de
* The iron bars, in the condemned cells at Edinburgh, are fixed in the wall ; and as the prisoner is fastened to them by a long chain they do not produce the effects here mentioned.