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deal more numerous. Some circumstances which we shall presently mention respecting the Maison de Force at Ghent, coincide singularly with what has happened in the gaol at Gloucester. The same thing which has occurred at Gloucester, we fear will happen in the gaol at Newgate after all the benefit it has derived from Mrs. Fry's exertions. Far be it from us to depreciate either their merit
We have examined her arrangements, and observed the calmness, kindness, judgment, and precision, displayed in the superintendence of them by the ladies who are her chief coadjutors. It is impossible to witness the labours of these ministers of benevolence, and the involuntary gratitude and respect they draw from some of the most abandoned of the human species, without fervently wishing them success. We do not understand that Mrs. Fry's object is to shew that her discipline would supersede other punishments, but to add its effects to that of the punishment which the law now imposes. The time during which criminals usually remain under her care will not permit her to niake any greater experiment, and we certainly entertain apprehensions, which the conduct of some of Mrs. Fry's scholars when removed elsewhere has served to confirm, that the good impressions made in Newgate are too often transient, and that the improvement she has there introduced being subject to all the reverses which have happened at Gloucester, and in the Maison de Force at Ghent, will not be found to insure invariable and permanent reformation.
It has been supposed, however, that penitentiaries possess virtues both for terror and reform which no other places of confinement have ever yet claimed. Perhaps this may be true. That the treatnient which prisoners and convicts now experience in prisons, bridewells, houses of correction, and in penitentiaries, is an incalculable improvement on the old system, and an excellent punishment for minor criminal offences, is beyond all question. Neither do we feel any disposition to deny that it has completely and permanently reformed many who have been guilty of delinquencies of a deeper dye. We only say that if the penitentiary is expected to purify most of those whom it receives within its walls, or eventually to supersede the necessity of capital punishment, we can see no good reason to suppose that it will ever fulfil the expectations of its patrons. The very uncertainty, which must always exist, of a supply of gentlemen of requisite capacity and condition, willing to devote their time to its superintendence, presents a very serious difficulty. As long as an institution possesses the charm of novelty, and the admiration of its original founders and promoters continues undiminished, it is watched and cherished with a degree of tenderness and solicitude under which it cannot fail to prosper. But a decline in the warmth of attachment sooner or later takes place, and the
injurious injurious effect must be more sensibly experienced, we should think, in penitentiaries or prisons, than in many other establishments of a somewhat similar nature. In charities, refuges, or houses of industry, the errors or veglect of their visitors or directors seldom go further than to circumscribe the sphere of their utility; whereas, if the same thing occurred in a penitentiary set apart for the punishment of great crimes, it would fail to effect its purpose altogether. It is only on the supposition of penitentiaries being kept in a state of admirably tempered management, that they have ever been alleged to be an adequate substitute for severe punishments at all. Too much severity or too much lenity is admitted to be equally hostile to reformation; and when it is considered how much skill is requisite not only to hit this medium at first, but to adhere to it afterwards, we see no great chance that the first or any succeeding list of managers will be able to attain it. Without the assistance of such a class of persons the prospect seems. still more hopeless. The best general rules which can be framed for the guidance of a hired governor and his subordinate officers will not insure the invariable performance of their duty, or that nice discrimination in the treatment of prisoners on which their reformation so mainly depends. The pentagons might be kept quite clean, the routine of the house might go on without any interruption, and the male and female prisoners night bow and curtsey in their cells to passing visitors as becomingly as ever, although the regenerating spirit of the place had long ago fled. Whatever is connected with outward appearances will be among the last things to suffer, as it is to them that the attention of strangers is principally directed, and more especially is this the case where the expense is borne by the public.
Let us now turn from the difficulty of the management requisite to work reformation, to the subjects upon whom it is to be wrought. Many of them have grown grey in iniquity, and others have been from 10 to 20 times in prison by the time they are 17. years of age. The general or frequent real reformation of such malefactors, and especially of those who infest large towns, as forgers, utterers of forged instruments, housebreakers, thieves, and pickpockets, of whom so large a portion of the whole catalogue of convicts consists, would be one of the most extraordinary moral phenomena the world has ever seen. They are not fit for country labour in New South Wales, nor have they been inured to the sedentary occupations which can be followed in a penitentiary. Instead of being regarded as rational creatures, misled by strong temptation, or hurried by passion into acts of criminality, and of whose amendment any just hopes can be entertained, they come at last, from the complete destruction of every moral principle and feeling,
to be distinguished from the other sorts of vermin which afflict mankind, by little else than their superior powers of doing niischief. That they should quickly accommodate themselves to the life of a penitentiary, and often assume an air of contrition and repentance, is extremely natural. It is their interest to do so, because it may probably shorten the period of their imprisonment, and, at the worst, makes it more tolerable while it lasts. Mr. Buxton, at page 87 of his Prison Discipline, says, that while he was in the prison he was then inspecting, a woman earnestly solicited a wheel, saying, employment would ease her mind, and help her to while away the time.' Temporary amendment is not sufficient proof of a lasting change either in principles or conduct. It is easy to tell when bodily diseases are cured, but in those of a moral kind it is almost always impracticable. Dissimulation is so prominent a characteristic of those who have once become abandoned, that until it is ascertained how they avoid or resist templation when left at their own disposal, no conclusion can be safely drawn respecting them. Two or three years, which is the utmost length of time to which examination has been carried into the conduct of convicts after their discharge from prison, is too limited a period of probation. Nothing short of the fullest evidence of the good behaviour of a long list of persons who have been reformed in penitentiaries can demonstrate their universal efficacy as a punishment. This the penitentiary at Milbank, which was opened only in 1816, cannot afford, until it has existed four or five times as long as it has yet done. In justice to the governor and those who are now acting under him, we are bound to state, that as far as we had an opportunity of judging, they seem to be as zealous and competent as any that could have been selected to fill their respective situations. Still the place did not answer the ideas we had formed of it; and besides the general objections we have specified to all houses of confinement whatever, there are one or two which seem applicable to the penitentiary at Milbank with peculiar force. The confinement can, in no instance, be properly called solitary, unless when it is imposed for gross misbehaviour while there; nor is it so nearly approaching to it as, it strikes us, it ought to be. A large proportion of the prisoners are found labouring, two and three together, and all of them must, to a certain degree, be relieved or amused by the visitors who pass and repass their cells. This evil has not yet got so far ahead in the penitentiary as in Newgate, where as much harm must be done, we should think, to the prisoners on the two public days as can be counteracted during the rest of the week. The last and greatest fault we find with the Penitentiary is that it is too comfortable. The time is past indeed when it was the ambition of the governors to have a bedroom and parlour for each of its inmates; but oven now, it has by
no means that air of austerity which a house of penance ought to
We are inuch mistaken, if it will not be found that one-third of the labouring population are not so well provided with lodging, food and clothing as the criminals who are sent there for punishment. If there were fifty penitentiaries like that at Milbank planted up and down the land, we are confident that, when their merits came to be known, there would a sufficient number of candidates to till them. If this be the case, one of the surest safeguards to virtuous conduct is removed; for we know no rule more cardinal than this, that in all sorts of prisons their inmates should fare worse than almost any individuals who earn their bread by their own unassisted industry.
The observations hitherto made on the most approved method of treating convicts in prisons and penitentiaries have been confined to reformation only. Another, and, to the best of our judgment, a more important object of punishment is terror, which the confinement now recommended seems to have very little tendency to produce. The mild treatment which criminals experience, the shortness of the period now thought sufficient to effect a cure, the absence of unsuitable company, which follows from the length to which classification is carried, the very relief which moderate and constant out-door or in-door labour affords to the mind, the exertions made to provide situations for prisoners after their discharge, and the quick and complete manner in which lost character niay
be retrieved-all conspire to diminish the apprehension with which a lapse from innocence used to be regarded. Nothing else, as far as we can perceive, can have occasioned the crowded state of Gloucester gaol, which is mentioned by Mr. Cunningham; and to the sanie cause we should ascribe the extraordinary number of convicts confined in the Maison de Force at Ghent. Mr. Buxton, at page 96 of his Prison Discipline, says, that its present management is so excellent that only ten per cent. of the felons return, and few of the others; but admits that the number there confined amounts to 1300. This seems an extraordinary proportion of malefactors for a narrow territory; and as Mr. Buxton mentions that Mr. Howard saw it in 1775 or 1778, when its regulations were good, and again in 1785, when they were bad, it immediately occurred to us as probable that Mr. Howard might have given the number of prisoners he found in it at one or other of these periods. Accordingly, on turning to page 79°of his account of German prisons, he states the number of prisoners he found there in 1775 or 1778 at 280 men and 117 women, making altogether 369 persons. The facts then appear to stand thus:- -in a country where the amount and condition of the inhabitants seem remarkably stationary, where, Mr. Buxton says, there are no capital punishments except for pre
meditated murder, and where the management is described as have ing generally been excellent, the number of criminals has more than trebled in little more than 40 years. Unless some explanation can be given of these circumstances, it would be difficult to imagine any thing less favourable to the effect which mitigation of punishment has in preventing crimes, than the result which they afford.* They certainly outweigh any contrary inference which can be drawn from the account given, at page 105 of the same pamphlet, of the prison at Philadelphia. Mr. Buxton says, that capital punishment was abolished in Pensylvania in 1791; and he compares the state of the prison from July, 1789, to June, 1791, under the old system, with its state from June, 1791, to March, 1795, under the new; at the end of which time he shews the comparison to be exceedingly in favour of the latter. We have no doubt it was, and have introduced the fact here, in order that our readers may be aware of it, and that those who examine the account itself, may set whatever value on it they think proper. As Mr. Buxton seems to have bestowed considerable pains iu collecting such documents, we could wish that in shewing the effect of the new regimen in the prison of Philadelphia, he had taken a longer and later period for the comparison. We should think there must have been several returns made by the governor of the gaol of Philadelphia between 1795 and 1819, when Mr. Buxton's work was published; and as the last of them, from the maturity which the discipline inust have reached and the effects it produces, ought to be the most important, we wish they had been communicated. They probably will not be found to answer Mr. Buxton's purpose so well as those which he has quoted. No other facts than those which we have now mentioned, bearing upon this
* Since the above was written, we saw this Institution in the end of August, 1820. Without meaning to call its utility in question, we may be permitted to state, that, unless we are much nistaken, there are many persons in England who entertain notions of the variety of ways in which the prisoners are there employed, of the neatness of the place, and efficacy of the discipline, which an inspection of the establishment does not fairly warrant. Unless the information of the officer who accompanied us was incorrect a niuch larger proportion of the prisoners return than Mr. Buxton in his tract on prison discipline has stated. The number of prisoners too seems still to be increasing. When we were there, they aniounted to 1196, and 150 had a few weeks before been sent off to what are called the gullies at Antwerp, though they do not strictly answer to the name.
At Wilwoerde, near Brussels, there are said to be other 800; and at the gallies at Antwerp just mentioned, there are about 1100 more, selected as greater criminals than those at either of the other two prisons, and who are confined either for a longer period, or for life, and in chains. Should these details be exact, there are now about 3096 convicts in the three great criminal dépôts of Brabant, besides all those who are condemned to one year's imprisonment or less by the different local jurisdictions; which excessive number in a country neither in extent nor population much exceeding Yorkshire, seems to afford stronger proof than the result of the discipline of any one particular prison could do, of the general inefficiency of the criminal laws there established.