Abbildungen der Seite

Captain Hall, the governor of Parkhurst prison, testified that the boys on their first arrival were placed in a probationary ward, in separate confinement, for at least four months; but even while there, their isolation was by no means complete. "A boy is taken out several times from his cell in the course of the day; twenty minutes in the morning to wash him, shortly afterwards an hour to go to the chapel, an hour and a half for exercise, at school for two hours, and at evening prayers for fifteen minutes. During that time he sees the other boys, but cannot speak to them." They take their meals in solitude, while in the probationary ward; afterwards, they take them together, 360 in a large hall. After their probation, also, they are allowed, several times a day, to walk about in the yards together, to talk with each other, to play at leapfrog and the like. From 100 to 200 boys are associated in this way, three or four wardens being always present to prevent disturbance, fighting, or improper language.

Sergeant Adams, a barrister of thirty-five years' standing, who has had peculiar opportunities of seeing and sharing in the administration of criminal law, testified as follows, having visited Parkhurst only three weeks before.

"They have forty solitary cells, and every child who is sent to Parkhurst is locked up in one of these cells for four months after he goes. I call it solitary; perhaps the word separate is the term used; but it is solitary in this respect, that he is there for the whole 24 hours, with the exception of when he is at chapel, and two hours when he is at school, where he is in such a pen that he can see nobody but the minister. His sole employ. ment is knitting and reading good books. . . . . . It seems to me that it can only make them sullen. . . . . . The system of solitary confinement operates very differently indeed upon different children. In some it produces, not actual insanity, but great mental irritation; others care little about it. . . . . . I understand it is found useful, if I may use the term, in taming the boys; and that there is much less difficulty in reducing them to obedience afterwards than there was before the cells were in use. If so, it is a strong proof of the effect of solitary confinement on the human mind."

After admitting that the separate system, as carried out in America, has caused insanity to a fearful extent, he says:"I much doubt whether, as carried out in this country, it does cause insanity; but from all I can learn, I believe it produces such a prostration of the energy of the mind as to make its sub

jects mere docile, harmless creatures, though still in possession of their senses."

"At the end of a long period, say 12 months, do you consider that they are deficient in energy to earn their bread?" “I think they are; from all I can learn, that appears to be the result."

[ocr errors]

M. D. Hill, Esq., Recorder of Birmingham, a favorer of separate confinement, after admitting that 18 months is too long a period for any one to be subjected to it, says, "I quite agree, that when it is continued too long, there does seem, in the majority of cases, to be an unfavorable effect produced both upon the physical man and upon the mental man. I do not think it amounts to producing insanity, but it appears to have a tendency to weaken the mind and the will; to weaken the will in particular."

Captain Maconochie, who had been for four years governor of the penal settlement of Norfolk island, where he had over 1,500 convicts under his care the whole time, says, that no one can visit Pentonville prison without seeing in what way a person confined there is injured; that the energies both of his mind and body seem to be prostrated.

"It is my opinion from the look; there is a pasty, white, subdued look. I have been much in the habit of scanning men in that way, and forming an estimate of what they are, both morally and physically, from their external appearance.

[ocr errors]

"I think two years' separation will make a man so enfeebled, both in mental and physical energy, that he will with very great difficulty indeed be recovered, if he does not even run the risk of his life."

Rev. W. C. Osborn, chaplain of Bath jail, thought "that six months would be long enough for a total separate confinement," and feared an injurious effect upon the health of the prisoners from a longer time. He said, "The change from separate confinement to entire liberty is too great," and that a mode of preparing them gradually for association with society would be extremely desirable.

The prisoners in Bath jail "are brought into the chapel in classes, varying from 8 to 12, under the schoolmaster; then I have classes myself of all the prisoners, to examine them as to the knowledge they have obtained under the schoolmaster's teaching. While in class, as when in the chapel during divine service, they are in separate boxes and unable to see each other."

Rev. J. Kingsmill, for four years chaplain at Pentonville, describes the case of one very determined and skilful offender, who had been engaged in all species of successful robberies, and was called by the officers "the Jack Sheppard of Pentonville," and who was reformed by the discipline at that place.

"He paid great attention to religious instruction, and submitted his mind completely to the counsels we gave him, and he actually tried to reform the next prisoner in the adjoining cell by his communications; that was a proof of his improved character, and the attempt was to be tolerated under his great feeling."

Mr. Kingsmill thought the Pentonville system should not be tried


"beyond 12 or 15 months, and not for that period with some. should not like to see 6 months' separation tried upon a certain condition of men; but that would be a very small exception."

"I cannot say what part is affected; but I have seen some . persons with very weak minds indeed in some cases almost immediately disturbed, and so uneasy and restless, and not giving attention to books, or religion, or trade, or any thing else, that I should certainly dispose of them at once; they are not fit for Pentonville. If the mind does not engage in some object with us, I consider that there is danger; or if it is a very active mind, and has not food for its activity."

Rev. John Clay, chaplain of Preston prison, says that the system of separation was adopted there two and a half years ago, and his testimony in favor of the system is perhaps stronger than that of any person who was examined. But his evidence shows that the system was greatly modified. For instance,

"We have working in the open air, and have always had it with respect to a certain portion. We are taking down buildings, and 20 or 30 men are working in the open air, entirely separated from the possibility of communication with each other, and under the surveillance of the officers."

"If I or the governor see the slightest symptoms of depression of spirits, which we seldom do, we take the man out, and put him to a little gentle labor; to clearing the corridor, for instance, or the outside of the place; he does not know the motive for it."

Capt. W. J. Williams, who had been a prison inspector for twelve years, testified that he had examined the prison at

Preston, of which Mr. Clay is chaplain, and that there was "a separation of the convicts there to a certain extent, but not to the same extent as at Pentonville." When asked if the prisoners at Preston worked without any communication with each other, he said, "A portion of the prisoners do, and a portion do not."

"At Wakefield, the separate system has nearer approached its model at Pentonville than at Preston; but it was obliged to be dropped on account of the health of the boys suffering from it. The boys were put in close separate confinement at first, and afterwards, on their suffering from debility and contraction of the joints, it was obliged to be relaxed, and the boys were permitted to play at leapfrog, and enjoy similar recreations; since which, the authorities have not returned to the former system, and the boys therefore have their play-hours every day."

When asked if the separate confinement affected the minds of the boys at Wakefield, making them sluggish or feebleminded, he replied:

"That I cannot say, because it was not persevered in. Directly these premonitory symptoms, as I may call them, showed themselves, the system was modified; but that there was danger to the mind under those circumstances, there can be no doubt."


The following is an extract from the evidence of Sir Peter Lawrie, who has long presided in one of the criminal courts in London, and has had very considerable experience of the silent system, as a visiting magistrate." In regard to the separate system, he said :

"I have very carefully examined all the Reports upon the subject, but I have not personally inspected any prisons in which that system was adopted, because I considered that the opinions of the inspectors of the prison were less liable to mistake than the opinions of a person making a cursory examination."

When asked if he thought that the silent system had an injurious effect on the health of the prisoners, he replied:

"I do not think it produces any prejudicial effect. I think it works remarkably well. I think the silent system the best system of imprisonment we can possibly have, provided separation is effected at night."

"In the prisons that you have inspected, you have the means of separating the prisoners at night?"

"Not so fully as could be wished, but to a very considerable

extent. I think every prisoner ought to have a separate sleeping room."

"Though you have had no personal experience, what is your opinion upon the separate system? Do you think it hurtful to

the mind?

[ocr errors]

"Judging from the Reports, I should say that the evidence shows that it is exceedingly dangerous to mental health; and I think it is a failure, as regards the reformation of prisoners." "Do you think the silent system has an advantage, looking to the reformatory effect?"

"I do, because there is the effect of example."

But we have given testimony enough to prove, that the experience of England, as far as it goes, is as fatal as that of America to the continuance of the separate system; and even that public opinion in the former country is rapidly coming round to a conviction of its pernicious and inhuman consequences. In the United States, the question is virtually settled by the appearance of Mr. Gray's pamphlet ; for we cannot believe that even Pennsylvania will any longer allow the prison at Philadelphia, with its annual train of horrors, to cast an opprobrium on the justice and humanity of the State.

ART. VI.A Report on the Trees and Shrubs growing naturally in the Forests of Massachusetts. [By GEORGE B. EMERSON.] Published agreeably to an Order of the Legislature, by the Commissioners on the Zoological and Botanical Survey of the State. Boston. Boston. 1846. 8vo. pp. 547.

It would be difficult to find a more provident and thrifty people than those who have rather oddly come to be distinguished, some would say stigmatized, among their fellowrepublicans by the title of Yankees. The union of shrewdness, industry, invention, and economy, which forms the Yankee character, is the more remarkable as it is not the offspring of necessity. That pinching poverty, whose laws of frugality hardly suffice to keep starvation here unknown and almost inconceivable. If

« ZurückWeiter »