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The Prison System Enquiry Committee was established in January, 
1919, by the Executive of the Labour Research Department, v/ho 
considered that the moment was opportune for a detailed investigation 
of the working and effects of the English Prison System. There 
had been no systematic enquiry since the Prisons Departmental 
Committee of 1894-5, and an exceptional fund of evidence was avail- 
able in the prison experiences of a large number of men and women 
able to observe and to record their observations, who had been 
imprisoned as suffragists, or anti-militarists, or for other political 
offences. There seemed to be, at the time, no prospect of any 
Government enquiry. Moreover, it was felt that a less official form 
of investigation would have considerable advantages, as being entirely 
untrammelled by departmental associations and calculated to bring 
new points of view to bear upon the problem. 

The Committee was from the first representative of the various 
schools of political thought, and it included in its membership civil 
administrators, magistrates, retired prison ofBcials, experienced penal 
reformers, doctors, and lawyers, besides a number of ex-prisoners. 
From January, 1921, it has been unconnected with the Labour 
Research Department and has had its own establishment. 

The object of the Enquiry has been the discovery of the facts, and 
not the preparation of pioposals of reform. Before that can be 
done effectively the operation of the present system and its results 
must be carefully examined and precisely set forth, and it is to this 
preparatory task that we have devoted ourselves. All that this 
Report claims to be is a description (as accurate and complete as 
conditions have allov»'ed) of the English Pi'ison System as it is 
actually working to-day, accompanied by a study, based upon our 
evidence, of its physical, mental, and moral effects upon those who 
are subjected to it. Nevertheless, at the end of the chapters in 
Part I. of the Report we have tabled the principal defects revealed 


by our investigation ; and in our concluding chapter we have indicated 
briefly what, in our view, must he the broad principles of any 
adequate scheme of reform. 

The Enquiry has had to face the initial difficulty of the secrecy 
which surrounds the prison system. It is practically impossible for 
the public to obtain entrance to prisons or knowledge of what goes 
on inside them. The Piison Commission itself is one of the most 
secluded of Government Departments. The Commissioners publish 
annual reports, but (more especially since 1915) the information 
provided is scanty, whilst the published code of prison rules gives 
little indication of the actualities of the prison regime. The only 
really informative official publications are the Standing Orders 
relating to Local and Convict prisons and Borstal institutions. They 
regulate almost every detail of prison life ; in the case of Local prisons 
alone they number nearly 1,500. But these volumes are issued 
secretly and are carefully guarded. 

At the commencement of its investigation, Sir Sydney Olivier, 
K.C.M.G., C.B., the chairman of the Committee, approached the 
Home Office and asked whether the Committee could be supplied with 
a copy of the Standing Orders. Sir Edward Troup, the Under- 
Secretary of State for the Home Department, replied that he had 
spoken to Sir E. Euggles-Brise, the chairman of the Prison 
Commissioners, who thought that "it would not be desirable" to put 
the volume in question into the hands of the Committee. Sir E. 
Troup stated, however, that the secretary to the Prison Com- 
missioners "would be glad to explain some, at any rate, of the points 
in which you are interested and might be able to let you have copies 
of some of the Orders." 

Accordingly, a preliminary series of points was drawn up as to 
which we desired information, and Sir Sydney Olivier personally 
took this memorandum to the Home Office. Mr. A. J. Wall, the 
secretary of the Prison Commissioners, gave Sir Sydney verbal 
answers to certain of the questions, but said that others would 
require further reference. Sir Sydney left the memorandum with 
Mr. "Wall, understanding he would confii-m the answers given 
verbally and supplement them, so far as possible, with the informa- 
tion desired. A few days afterwards, however. Sir Sydney received 
an official letter from Mr. Wall (dated December 31st, 1919) stating 
curtly that the Commissioners could not furnish private individuals 
with detailed information of the kind required. Some further efforts 
were made by the chairman of the Committee ; but the Commissioners 
adhered to their i-efusal. 

This avenue of information being closed, we approached members 
of the prison staff directly, either submitting to them written 


questionnaires upon matters about which we required information, 
or seeking their consent to be interviewed. It was only after we had 
gathered a great deal of evidence that the Home Office issued the 
following instruction to the governors of Local and Convict 
prisons : — 

Prison Commission, 
Home Office, 

London, S.W.I, 

13th May, 1930. 
It has been brought to the knowledge of the Commissioners/Directors 
that a circular proceeding from the secretary of a Prison System Enquiry 
Committee, containing many interrogations as to the internal administra- 
tion of prisons, is being addressed to certain of their officers, medical 
officers, chaplains, etc., with the object of eliciting their views, under 
promise of secrecy, on divers matters with a view to eventual publication. 
Governors will inform officers to whom such queries are addressed that 
the Commissioners /Directors deprecate this method of seekin:: information 
from a public department as strongly as. they are grateful to learn, it 
has been deprecated by many to whom the circular has been addressed. 
It is, of course, well known that Statutory Rules and Standing Orders 
forbid the communication, without authority, of matters relating to the 
department for the purpose of public use, and governors will inform all 
those to whom such circulars have been or may be addressed that either 
no reply will be sent or the writer will be told that any application for 
information on such matters must be addressed to the Prison Com- 
missioners/Directors, Home Office, Whitehall. 

A. J. W^\LL, Secretary. 

It will be noticed that in this circular the Prison Commissioners 
deprecated our method of seeking information, and ad\'i3ed the 
members of the prison service to reply that any information on such 
matters must be addressed to themselves at \Yhitehall. They did 
not say that such an application had already been made and that the 
information had been refused. 

As the result of our questionnaires and interviews, evidence was 
obtained from 50 prison officials — Anglican chaplains, Eoman 
CathoUc priests, visiting ministers, medical officers, and warders of 
different grades. To this official testimony we were able to add 
evidence from 34 agents of Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies and 
other persons having supervision of, and intimacy with, ex-prisoners, 
from 22 visiting magistrates, and from 290 ex-prisonere. Among the 
ex-prisoners were a large number of men and women who had been 
sentenced to imprisonment (mostly for terms of hard labour) for 
political offences, but it included also a number of ex-prisoners com- 
mitted for criminal offences who had had experience of both Local 
and Convict prisons. 

This personal evidence has been analysed with great care. It has 
been further checked and supplemented by a detailed examination of 


the reports of the Prison Commissioners for tlie last 25 years, as well 
as other official publications and such unofficial literature upon the 
subject as exists. Later on in the course of the Enquiry we had the 
good fortune to obtain a copy of the official volume containing the 
Bules and Standing Orders for Local prisons (1911 edition), and 
this has been extensively quoted in our Report. We have also had 
before us the abridged editions of the Standing Orders officially 
issued for warders, both at the Local and Convict prisons, which 
include the amendments made up to the year 1913 ; and the Prison 
Commissioners' Reports have from time to time also contained a few 
selected new or amended Orders. 

From these various sources we believe that we have been able to 
collect substantially accurate information about every phase of the 
prison system. If in any case the Standing Order quoted or referred 
to has been amended without our knowledge before the writing of this 
book, the secrecy of the Commissioners must be held responsible for 
the error. 

When the mass of collected information had been sifted and 
compared, the Report was prepared under our editorship, and in 
consultation with the Executive Committee, consisting of eighteen 
members of the General Committee of the Enquiry. Much of the 
evidence relates to the war years, 1914 to 1919, which were marked 
in prison by certain temporary modifications of the treatment. We 
ourselves spent considerable periods in prison during these years 
(one for over 12 months and the other for 28 months), and we have, 
of course, written with that experience in mind. But we have taken 
some trouble to make our description correspond with the actual facts 
of the present day (i.e., the winter of 1921) by taking note of the 
comparatively slight changes in the routine that have been introduced 
since 1919, as indicated both by the Reports of the Commissioners 
and by the evidence of prison officers and of prisoners released as 
recently as the summer of 1921, as well as through statements 
elicited from the Home Secretary by questions in Parliament. The 
body of our book was, of course, written before the Report of the 
Prison Commissioners for 1920-21 was pubHshed in November last, 
but we have attempted to include the latest statistics from that report 
and to mention the changes therein announced. 

A large part of the book was written by ourselves, but we have 
had the co-operation of a number of experts on different aspects of 
the subject. We must especially mention Sir Sydney Olivier, 
K.C.M.G., the chairman of the Committee, who has had long official 
experience in various departments of the State, including the duties 
of revising judicial sentences and of serving as a prison visitor and 
as a pubUc officer responsible for the supervision of prison admini- 


stration; Miss Margery Fry, J. P., and Mr. Cecil Leeson, the 
secretaries of the Howard League for Penal Eeform ; the Rev. W. D. 
Morrison. LL.D., the author of books on the treatment of crime, and 
formerly in the prison service; Dr. Ernest Jones. M.D., B.S., 
M.E.C.P., D.P.H., the author of well-known works on psychology; 
Mr. C. A. Mace, M.A., of Queen's College, Cambridge, who has 
been chiefly responsible, as a competent psychologist, for Part II. 
of this work; Captain Arthur St. John, from 1907 to 1919 hon. 
secretary of the Penal Reform League, who has contributed the 
Appendix on American experiments; Dr. George W. Kirchwey, the 
president of the American Prison Association, who has revised this 
Appendix in the Ught of the latest developments; Mr. George Ives, 
the author of "A History of Penal Methods''; Mr. R. F. Budden, 
B.A.. who has been responsible for the statistical Tables; Mr. Lowes 
Dickinson, ^LA., Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and Mr. 
Laurence Housman, whose literary experience has been of much 
assistance; Mr. Ben Spoor, M.P., and Mr. Tom Myers, M.P., who 
put a number of questions to the Home Secretary at our request; 
Mr. W. H. Thompson and Mr. \V. A. Evill, who provided us with 
much legal information; Mr. Norman Penney, who read the proofs; 
and Mr. T. Edmund Harvey and Mr. Clifford Allen, who also helped 
in proof reading and other ways. In addition to these, we wish to 
acknowledge the help of Mr. H. Goitein, Mr. A. Creech Jones, and 
Mr. J. Wray in preparing and revising the material for various 
chapters, and of Miss E. TuUoch, Miss V. Wentworth, and Miss 
M. Louis, as well as of the Labour Research Department, for 
secretarial assistance. 

It is also our duty to record here the gratitude of the Committee 
and of the editors to the many friends and sympathisers whose 
financial assistance has rendered possible the holding of the Enquiry 
and the publication of the present volume. 

A volume entitled "English Prisons Under Local Government," 
being a history of English prison administration to 1877, with a 
continuation bringing the story to 1895, by Sidney and Beatrice 
Webb, with a preface on the theory of punishment by G. Bernard 
Shaw, is published simultaneously with this work, and the two books 
should be read together for a right understanding of the growth of 
the prison system. We wish to record our indebtedness to Mr. and 
Mrs. Webb for the benefit of their experience at many points in the 
conduct of the Enquiiy and in the preparation of this Report. 

In conclusion, we may express our hope that the present work 
will lead to greatly enlarged knowledge among the public of the facts 
of prison life, and that it will assist in bringing about the fundamental 


changes which will be required, in order to substitute for the existing 
punitive system methods based on principles of curative and 
educational treatment. 

Dccemher nth, 1921. 

Stephen Hobhouse. 
A. Fexker Brock way. 


"Whilst this book was in the press, Sir E. Euggles-Brise retired 
from the chairmanship of the Prison Commissioners and was 
succeeded by Mr. M. L. Waller, who has served as a Commissioner 
since 1910. We have thought it best to leave unamended the many 
references to Sir E. Euggles-Brise in his capacity of chairman, as 
our account relates to the prison system under the administration 
for which he was chiefly responsible. It is only fair to Mr. Waller, 
however, to state that evidence is now reaching us from a number of 
different quarters which suggests that he is entering upon his duties 
with some reforming zeal and with a mind receptive to new ideas. 
Already some minor reforms have been introduced; they have been 
noted as far as possible in the following pages. 

We trust that the Prison Commission, under its new chairman, 
will speedily proceed from these minor changes to really fundamental 

Note on Certain References in the Footnotes 

P.O. Report = Annual Report of the Prison Commis- 
sioners for England and Wales. 

S.O. =One of the Standing Orders issued privately by 
the Commissioners for the Prison Service. 

For fuller descriptions of other authorities, to which 
reference is made in the footnotes, the reader is 
directed to the List of Authorities given on 
pp. 704-706. 


Part I — The Prison System 

CHAPTER I.— The Prison Population. 

The Number of Prisoners — The Offences Committed — The Prison Population 
Analysed — Accidental Criminals (Malicious Violence — Lust — Misfortune) — 
Habitual Criminals (Lapses — Professionals — Vagrants) — Weak-minded 
Criminals — The Location of English Prisons. 

Appekdix. — The Statistics of Crime and Imprisonment. Their Signifi- 
cance and Limitations — The War and After. (Tables. — The Movement of 
Crime — The Classification of Crime — The Classification of Criminals — Fines 
and Imprisonment — Prisoners on Remand — Age and Sex — The Occupation 
of Prisoners — The Education of Prisoners — Length of Sentence). 

pages 3-41. 

CHAPTER II. — The Preliminaries to Imprisonment. 

The Courts and Their Functions (Courts of Assize — Courts of Quarter 
Sessions — Courts of Summary Jurisdiction) — The Principles of Punishment 
in English Law — Appeals (From Magistrates — From Quarter Sessions and 
Assizes) — Police Cells — Alternatives to Imprisonment (Fines — Probation — 
Restitution — Borstal — Preventive Detention — The Birmingham Experiment). 

pages 42-53. 

CHAPTER III. — The Machinery of the Prison System. 

The Development of the System — The Prison Acts — The Prison Commission 
and the Home Office — The Inspection of Prisons — The Annual Reports — 
Rules and Standing Orders — The Secrecy of the System — The Obstacles to 
Reform — The Lack of Investigation and Experiment. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 54-72. 

CHAPTER IV.— The Aims of the System. 

The Policy of the Prison Commission up to 1898 — The Present Commis- 
sioners' Theory — Retribution, Deterrence and "Reformation" — The 
Reformative Factors of the Regime — How Far Prisoners are Regarded as 
Amenable to Reformation — The "Individualisation" of Punishment. 

Note : "The English Prison System." 

The Principal Defects. 

CHAPTER v.— The Prison Buildings. 
The General Plan— The Halls— The Cells— The Grounds. 
The Principal Defects. 

pages 73-85. 

pages 86-92. 


CHAPTER VI.— The Routine. 
Reception — The Contents of the Cell — The Daily Routine — The "Hard 
Labour" Regime — Some Breaks in the Monotony— The Prison Sunday — 
The System of Progressive Stages — Discharge. 

The Principal Defects. 

Appendix. — The Prisoner's Ignorance of "Privileges." 

page.<! 93-108. 

CHAPTER Vn.— Prison Labour. 

The Three Categories of Labour — The Absence of Industrial Training — 
The Penal View of Labour — The Workshops — The Absence of Open-air Work 
— The Supervision of Prison Labour— The Problem of Payment. 

Note : Unauthorised Crafts in the Cell. 

The Principal Defects. 

Appendices. — 1. The Payment of Wages to Pbisoners. 

2. The Value of Prison Labour and the Cost of Prisons 

pages 109-125. 

CHAPTER VIII.— Diet and Hygiene. 

Diet— Dress — Exercise — Personal Cleanliness — The Prison Laundry — The 
Condition of the Cells — Sanitation. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 126-148. 

CHAPTER IX.— Education. 

The Educational Standard of Prisoners — The Educational Scheme until 

1919 — The Present Educational Scheme — The Teaching Staff — Education in 

Convict Prisons — Unsuitability of the Elementary Education Scheme — The 

Theory of the Provisions for Further Education — Reasons for Their Complete 

Failure — Prisoners' Efforts at Self-Culture — The Inadequacy of the 1919 


Note : Adult Education. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 149-170. 

CHAPTER X.— Recreation. 
Lectures in Convict and Local Prisons— Concerts —Debates — News of the 
Week — Prison Libraries — Illiterate Prisoners. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 171-184. 

CHAPTER XI. — Chaplains, Relioious Services, and Visitation. 

The Official Chaplains— The Chaplains' Duties— The Cell Visits— The Chapel 
Services — The Handicaps of the Chaplain — The Roman Catholic Priests — 
Visiting Ministers — Other Visitors to Pri.«oners — The Lady Visitors — 
Visitation of Male Prisoners. 

The Principal Defects. 

Appendix. — A Roman Catholic Priest on the Prison System. 

pages 185-2C5. 


CHAPTEE XII.— Letters and Visits. 

icy of 1 
'isits Ta 

The Principal Defects. 

The Infrequency of Letters — The Censorship of Letters — The Conditions 
under which Visits Take Place. 

pages 206-213. 

CHAPTER XIIL — Cl.\ssification in Local Prisons. 

Cla.«sification in Theory and in Practice — The Second Division — The First 
Division — Political Prisoners : The "Churchill Rule" — The Star Class — 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 214-230 

CHAPTER XIV.— Punishments. 

Prison Offences and their Punishment — The Number of Punishments — The 
Trial Before the Governor — Dietary Punishment — Corporal Punishment — 
The Restraint of Violent Prisoners. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 231-245. 

CHAPTER XV.— Executions. 

The Treatment of Condemned Men — The Effect upon the Prison Population. 

A Principal Defect. 

pages 246-260. 

The Health of Prisoners and the Medical Staff. 

The Health of Prisoner* on Reception — Effect of Imprisonment upon Health 
(Deaths in Prison) — The Medical Staff — The Medical Officers and the 
Prisoners — The Extent of Malingering — The Adequacy of the Medical Staff. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 251-262. 

CHAPTER XVII.— The Treatment of the Sick. 

Treatment of Specific Complaints — (Eyes, Teeth and Skin — Consumptive 
Cases — Venereal Diseases — Forcible Feeding — Surgical Operations, etc.) — 
The Prison Hospital — Solitary Confinement — The Hospital Staff — The 
Hospital Diet — Absence of Hospital Treatment in Small Prisons. 

Note : A Medical Opinion of a Prison Hospital. 

The Principal Defects. 

Appendices. — 1. Report of Two Cases of Death in Prison, .Tanuary 

3rd and 4th, 1919, prepared by a Grocp of Fellow- 

2. Life in a Prison Hospital. 

pages 253-233. 


CHAPTER XVIII.— The Mentally Deficient. 
The Number of Mentally Deficient Prisoners — The Treatment of the 
Mentally Deficient — The Observation Cells — The Insane. 

The Principal Defects. 

Appendix. — In an Obskkvation Cell. 

pages 284-294. 

CHAPTER XIX. — Juvenile Adult Prisoners. 

The Number of Juvenile Adults — The Modified Borstal System — The 
Contamination of Juvenile Adults. 

Note : Special Treatment of Prisoners under 25 years of Age. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 295-304. 

CHAPTER XX.— Unconvicted Prisoners. 

The Number of Unconvicted Prisoners — The Conditions of Imprisonment — 
The Effect upon Young Prisoners — Appellants. 

The Principal Defects. 

Appendix. — Notes of a \Vo:.i.\n Remand Prisoner. 

pages 305-315. 

CHAPTER XXI.— Penal Servitude. 

The Convict Population — Classification — Distinctive Features of the Convict 
Regime — Convict Labour and Industrial Training — The Routine at Convict 
Prisons — The System of Progressive Stages — The Long Sentence Division 
(Life Sentence Men) — Juvenile Adult Convicts — The Invalid Convicfe 

Note : New Recreation Scheme for Convicts. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 316-335. 

CHAPTER XXII.— Women Prisoners. 

The Population of Women's Prisons (Cruelty to Children — Abortion and 

Infanticide — Prostitutes — The Unconvicted — Juvenile Adults) — The Regime 

— The Diet — The Silence Rule and Other Features — Babies in Prison — 

Convict Women. 

Note : The Law regarding Prostitution. 

The Principal Defects. 

Appendix. — A Case of Remand for Medical Examin.'VTIOn. 

pages 336-352. 

CHAPTER XXIII. — General Characteristics of the Routine. 
The Suppression of Personality — The Apologia of the Chairman of the Prison 
Commission — The Rule of Silence — A Survey of the Routine — The Failure to 
Reform — The Cry from the Prison Cell. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 353-361. 


Part II — The Effects of the System 

CHAPTER I. — The Problem and the Evidence. 

The Conflicting Views of the Effects — Evidence from Official Sources — 
Evidence from Unofficial Sources — The Value of the Political Offender's 
Evidence — Evidence from Persons Familiar with Discharged Prisoners. 

Note : The Use of the Word "Reform." 

pages 476-484. 

CHAPTEE II. — Ad.\ptation to the System. 

The "Sensitive" and "Hardened" Types of Prisoners — The Process of 

pages 485-487. 

CHAPTER III.— Political Offenders. 

Mental Effects in the First Stage : Excitation — The Second Stage : "Making 
the Best of It" — The Third Stage : Deterioration — The Fourth Stage : 
Apathy — Some Personal Descriptions — Outstanding Features of the Mental 
Degeneration — The Effects Upon Moral Character. 

Note : The Beneficial Effects of Imprisonment. 

pages 488-500. 

CHAPTER IV. — Ordinary First Offenders. 

The Making of the "Criminal Type" — Mental Reactions of the Prisoner : 
The Hardening Process — The Theory of "the Short and Sharp Lesson" — 
The First Shock and the Subsequent Adaptation — E.xaggerated Emotionalism 
Among Prisoners — The Deterioration of Moral Character : The Loss of Self- 
Respect — The Experiences Following — The Mental Condition of the 
Discharged Prisoner. 

Note : Probation in America. 

pages 501-517. 

CHAPTER v.— Reconvicted Prisoners. 

The Petty Recidivist — The Recidivist Convict — The Mental and Moral 
Deterioration of Convicts — Official Admissions of Deterioration. 

Appendix. — The Statistics of Recidivism (Tables : Proportion of 
Convictions of Previous Offenders to the Total Number of Convictions- 
Criminal Recidivists Tried on Indictment Only). 

pages 518 533 

CH.\PTER VI. — Insanity Among Prisoners. 

The Extent of Insanity — The Effect of the Length of Sentence — The 
Development of Insanity. 

Appendix. — Tables of Prison Insanity (The Ratio of Insanity to Prison 
Population — The Period Elapsing Between Reception and Certification— The 
Relation Between Insanity and Length of Sentence — The Ratio of Insanity 
in Prisons During and Since the War). 

pages 534 549. 


CHAPTEE XXIV.— The Prison Staff. 

The Governors — The Duties of the Governors — The Influence of the 
Governors — The Subordinate Staff — The Duties of the Warders — Their 
Relations with the Prisoners — Espionage within the Prison Staff — Other 
Classes of Warders — The Secrecy of the Service— The Wardresses — The 
Fitness of the Staff. 

Note : An Officer's View of the Prison Service. 

The Principal Defects. 

Appendix. — The Conditions and Pay of the Prison Service. 

pages 362-388. 

CHAPTER XXV.— The Visiting Justices. 

The Visiting Committees for Local Prisons — Their Judicial Powers — Their 
Contact with Unconvicted Prisoners and other Special Classes — The Hearing 
of Complaints — Prisoners Unfit for the Discipline — The Visiting Committees 
and the Commissioners — The Boards of Visitors to Convict Prisons— The 
Limitations of the Boards. 

The Principal Defects. 

Appendix. — PETiTioNa. 

pages 389-409. 

CHAPTER XXVI.— The Borstal System. 

Borstal Institutions (The Statutory Ba.sis and the Standing Orders — The 
Borstal Population — The Buildings — The Staff — The Regime— Industri..^ 
Training) — The Borstal Association (The Results)— Borstal Treatment of Girl 
Offenders (The Regime — The Results). 

Note : Reforms at Borstal. 

The Principal Defects. 

pages 410-440. 

CHAPTER XXVII.— Preventive Detention. 

The Inauguration of the Experiment — Camp Hill Prison and its Regime — 
A Visitor's Impressions — The Parole Lines and the Disciplinary Grade — Tho 
Governor, the Staff, and the Advisory Board — The Drawbacks of tho 
System — The New Method of Licence — Tlie Results of Preventive 
Detention as compared with Penal Servitude — The Habitual Criminal and 
Possibilities of Reform — The Proposed Extension of the System. 

Tho Principal Defects. 

pages 441-466. 

CHAPTER XXVIII.— The Care of Discharged Prisoners. 

The Aid of Discharged "Local" Prisonerg— The Licensing and Aid of 
Dischai'ged Convicts. 

pages 467-474. 


CHAPTER VII. — Suicide and Attempted Suicide. 

The Ratio of Suicide to the Prison Population — The Age Incidence of Suicide 
—The Greater Frequency of Suicides Among Criminals of Passion— The 
Greater Frequency of Suicides in the Early Period of Imprisonment — 
Suicide and the Environmental Influence of Prison Life. 
ArrENDix. — Table of Suicides in Prison During and Since the War. 

pages 550-560. 

CHAPTER VIII. — Specific Causes of Deterior.\tiox. 
The System as a Whole — The Silence Rule — The Experiment of "Talking 
Exercise" — Separate Confinement — Prison Discipline — Absence of Self- 
Espression in Occupations. 

pages 561-579. 

CHAPTER IX.— General Conclusions. 

Physical Pain Replaced by Mental — Effects on "Sensitive" and "Hardened" 
Types — Insanity, Suicide, and Mental Deterioration — Specific and General 
Causes of Deterioration. 

AprENDix. — The Effects of Imprisonment upon the Sexual Life. 

pages 580-589. 

Concluding Chapter 

Society and the Offender 
The Need to Revise Our Penal Theory — The Directions of Reform. 

-A. Note by the Chairman of the Enquiry. 

pages 590-598. 


I. — Specimens of Evidence. 

A Church of England Chaplain — A Free Church Visiting Minister — A 
Medical Officer — A Warder — An Agent of a Discharged Prisoners' Aid 
Society — A Criminal Convict — A "Lifer" — ^A Preventive Detention Prisoner 
— A Political Prisoner — The Mental Effects of Imprisonment. 

pages 600-650. 

II. — Some American Experiments. 

The Reformatory Movement (The Indeterminate Sentence — Factors of the 
Discipline — Schools — Books and Magazines — News — Recreation — Music — 
Chaplains— Food— Conversation — Letters, Visits, etc. — Dres-s — Buildings and 
Hygiene— Punishments and Rewards — The Illinois Progressive Merits System 


— Wardens' Experiments)— Convict Road Camps and Farms— The "Honor 
System" — Corporate Responsibility of Prisoners — Mr. Mott Osborne's 
Experiments — The Entry of Science — Prison Industries — Conchision. 

pages 661-599. 

III. — Report and Recommendations or the Indian Jails 
Committee after Investigating English and American 

The Silence Rule — Cellular Confinement — Recreation — The Staff — Labour — 
Mental Defectives — Unconvicted Prisoners — Indeterminate Sentence. 

pages 700-703. 

IV. — List of Principal Authorities. 
Official Publications — Reports of Associations — General Literature. 

pagei 704-706. 


pages 707-728. 


Two Wings of Wakefield Prison - - - . page 87 

Wakefield Prison Hospital and an Exercise 

Groitnd page 87 

Two Views of the Interior of a Prison Cell page 95 

Two Views of the Interior of a Hall at 

Dartmoor Prison page 321 

















In order to judge our Prison system rightly it is necessary to know 
what kind of people become prisoners. Unless the men and women 
who experience the conditions detailed in the following chapters are 
constantly present to the reader's mind as live human beings, the 
purpose of our report must largely fail. 

How many persons go to prison? For what length of sentence? 
For what offences ? What kind of persons ? These are some of the 
questions we shall try to answer in this chapter. 

The Number of Pbisoners. 

It is good to be able to say at the outset that our prison population 
is st-eadily diminishing. In 1876-77, when prison administration 
was first centralised, the daily average population in Local prisons' 
was, broadly, 20,000. In 1913-14 (the year before the war) it was 
14,300. In 1918-19 (the last war year) it was 7,000. In 1920-21 
it was 8,400. The great drop between 1914 and 1918 was due 
principally to war conditions — to full employment, to liquor restric- 
tions, and to the inclusion of a large proportion of the male population 
in the army ; but the post-war figures for 1920-21 show comparatively 
little increase. The maintenance of the low figure is probably in 
part due to the retention of some of the war-time liquor restrictions, 
but other and more permanent factors have contributed. 

The figures we have given relate to Local prisons only, but the 
returns of offenders sentenced to penal servitude in Convict prisons 
show a similar and continuing decrease. The daily average popula- 
tion in Convict prisons in 1876-77 was, broadly, 10,000, as compared 
with 2,700 in 1913-14; 1,200 in 1918-19; and 1,400 in 1920-21. 
These, added to the figures for Local prisons, make a total average 
daily prison population of approximately 30,000 in 1876-77, as 
compared with 17,000 in 1913-14; 8,200 in 1918-19; and 9,800 in 
1920-21. The prison population last year was, therefore, consider- 
ably less than one-third what it was 40 years ago. If we compare 
the number of admissions to prison in recent years, the decrease is 
even more striking, as the following Table shows: — 

' There are two types of prison — <») Conrict prisons, for those sentenced to penal 
serritude, the minunnm t«rm of which is three ;earj, and fb) Local prisons, for all others, 
the maximam term being two years. 



Annual Admissions to Prison.* 

Local prisons. Convict prisons. Total. 

1913-14 150,308 ... 808 ... 161,116 

1918-19 27,625 ... 454 ... 28,079 

1920-21 48,588 ... 492 ... 49,080 

The proportion of prisoners to the general population is shown 
in the following Table: — 

Ratio of Prisoners per 100,000 of the Population. 

Five years ended 1903 -4 512.3 

1908-9 540.3 

„ 1913-14 437.5 

,, 1918-19 ... ... 157.4 

Year 1919-20 98.4 

Year 1920-21 116.7 

The low ratio for the five years ending 1918-19 represents the 
abnormal period of the war. 

These figures include both men and women. It is important, 
however, to divide the sexes, because they represent very different 
problems. The figures for women only are as follows: — 

Daily Average of Women Prisoners. 

Local prisons. Convict prisons. Total. 

1913-14 2,236 ... 95 ... 2,331 

1918-19 1,322 ... 83 ... 1,405 

1920-21 1,159 ... 76 ... 1,235 

It will be noted that women prisoners number about 14 per cent. 
of the total, and that the decrease in women prisoners corresponds 
to the general decrease. 

The average length of the sentences served in Local prisons is 
about five weeks; in Convict prisons, about four years and ten weeks. 
The average length of sentences in Local prisons has very slightly 
increased since 1900; in Convict prisons it has decreased by one- 
year.* Of the 48,588 persons committed to Local prisons in 
1920-21, no fewer than 11,950 were sentenced to two weeks or less; 
5,190 of these were sentenced to one week or less. 

The Offences Committed. 
The question, .'.'E<w- what. of ences do people go to prison?" may 
be answered under different categoriesT "Talking the records of a 
period of years and classifying them under the three several heads 

(1) serious (murder, wounding, sexual offences, burglary and fraud), 

(2) petty (including drunkenness), and (3) oSences against regula- 
tions, we get approximately 17 per cent, serious, 73 per cent, petty, 

2 3*8 Table, p. 27. Conrt Martial prisoners and debtor* are included in the figure? 
giren abore. 
» See Table, p. 41. Cp. also Footnote 1. p. 93 and p. 316. 

%4M^ ^Ch-J^' 


and 10 per cent, against regulations.* Classified under the three- 
heads (1) against the person, (2) against property, and (3) other 
offences, the returns show approximately 8 per cent, against the 
person, 18.5 per cent, against property, and 73.6 per cent, other 
offences. Of the last, about nine-tenths are convictions for drunken- / 
ness and vagrancy. About two-thirds of the offences against the^ 
person are non-indictable assaults, often occasioned by drink.* 

A more detailed and informative classification is shown in the 
following Table, where offences are divided according to motive. 
These belong to 1913 (the last normal year before the war), but are 
approximately true of any year, the percentage vaiying but little.* 

Classification According to Motive.'' 

Male Prisoners. Female Prisoners. 

Malicious Offences ... 10 per cent. ... 7 per cent. 

Agst. Person 8 per cent. Agst. Person 6 per cent. 

Agst. Property 2 per cent. Agst. Property 1 per cent. 

Sexual Offences ... ... 2 per cent. 

Acquisitive Offences 



Other Criminal Offences 

25 per cent. 

10 per cent. 

45 per cent. 

4 per cent. 

9 per cent. 

22 per cent. 
35 per cent. 
20 per cent. 
1 per cent. 
Offences against Regulations 10 per cent. 

The sex variations have considerable significance. The general 
field of female criminality is, indeed, remarkably small compared 
with that of men, drunkenness and sexual offences (and the relation 
between the two is, of course, close) accounting for no less than 70 
per cent, of their convictions. 

An extraordinarily large percentage both of men and women go to 
prison in default of paying a fine: in 1913 it was 50.2 per cent, in 
the case of men and 69 per cent, in the case of women.' Since 
1915, owing largely to the operation of the Criminal Justice 
Administration Act, the percentage has been steadily falling, and in 
1920-21 it stood at 30 per cent., taking men and women together. 
But even so, it means that nearly a third of the prison population are 
there through faihng to pay a fine.' 

A later chapter describes the conditions under which remanded 
persons are confined; and their approximation to those of an 
ordinary prison is a very grave matter, especially when we 
consider the high percentage of those sent to prison on remand, 

• S«e Table, p. 29. 
' See Table, p. 30. 

•The Prison Commifsioners in their report for 1913-14 point out that no less than 
Jo-16ths of the indictable oBences are larcenies and acta of diabonesty, that is, offences 
against property. 

' See Table, p. 32. 

• See Table, p. 55. 

• See Table, p. 36. 


whom the magistrates subsequently find it unnecessary to sentence/* 
In 1920-21 no less than 10,300 persons came within this category, 
and the Prison Commissioners point out that, while the general 
admissions into prison have fallen by 62 per cent, since 1913-14, 
this figure only represents a fall of about 18 per cent." In 1919 no 
less than 55 per cent, of those sent to prison on remand were released 
unsentenced, the number of cases being 22,701. During the years 
1905 to 1913 (we exclude the abnormal war years) the percentage 
varied from 42 to 48 and the actual number of cases from 34,721 
to 39,481.'^ 

The Prison Population Analysed. 

We now approach the more difficult question, "What kind of 
persons go to prison?" We take in the first place the simple 
category of age. The following Tables give the ages of prisoners in 
the years 1905, 1913, and 1920-21": — 

Age and Sex of Prisoners. 



Under 16 16-21 

1,010 16,028 

15 6,646 

6 4,211 
















60 & over 

















If these figures 
results : — 

be given in percentages, 

they show the following 



Under 16 
















60 & over 














The fall in the number of prisoners under 16 is due to the Child- 
ren's Act, 1908. A part of the fall in the number of prisoners 
between 16 and 21 is due to the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, 
and to the introduction of the Borstal System in 1909. 

»• See p. 305. 

»» P.O. Report, 1920-21, p. 11. 

»2 See Table, p. 37. 

" See Table, p. 38. 


The following Table indicates the proportion of prisoners drawn 
from the different classes of occupation. The percentages for 1913 
may be taken as typical : — 

The Occupations of Prisoners.^* 

Labourers, etc. - - - - 60.6 

Mechanics 13.1 

Factory Workers - - - - 6.2 

Shopkeepers and Dealers - - 4.8 

Army and Navy ... - 3.1 

Prostitutes - - - - 2.8 

Domestic Servants - - - 2.3 

Shop-workers and clerks - - 2.3 

Professional - . . . . .4 

Foremen, etc. - - - - .1 

No Occupation .... 5.3 

The term "labourer" is probably used to cover all unskilled and 
semi-skilled workers. 

From the Tables illustrating the educational standard of prisoners '* 
it will be seen that in 1913 96.5 per cent, of prisoners could not 
write "well" and that 13 per cent, were illiterates. From this and 
the Occupational Table given above one fact becomes clear : prisoners 
are drawn very largely from the poorest and least educated class. 
This conclusion is borne out by all who have had contact with the 
prison population. 

"Prisons are largely peopled by the very poor, the very ignorant, 
the physical and mental weaklings, the unemployable, and the 
unskilled, to say nothing of the drunkards," said Dr. Smalley in his 
report as Medical Inspector of Prisons in 1909." "An examination 
would show that poverty and destitution play much greater parts 
in the causation of crime than is generally believed," asserts Dr. 
James Devon, a member of the Board of the Scottish Prisons 
Commission and previously medical officer at Glasgow prison. We 
quote the following passage from the paper which he contributed 
to the National Conference on the Prevention of Destitution, June 
1912: — 

My personal view is that poverty and destitution are at the root of 
most offences against the law. Everybody can see that a man may bo 
tempted to steal if he is destitute, but those who have never felt the 
pinch of poverty, combined with the absence of friendly aid, can hardly 
imagine how men are embittered and goaded into acts of brutality ; 
how they are tempted to seize desperately on every chance of even 
momentary forgetfulness of their fate; how continually they have to 
dodge rules and laws that never incommode their more fortunate 
neighbours ; how hopeless they become, and how broken in spirit ; how 

>* See Table, p. 39. A large nnmber of ofiencea in th» army amd nary are, ol course, 
dealt with under military and naral discipline. 
'» See Table, p. 40, jummari»ed on p. 150. 
" P.C. Report, 1908-9, p. 55. 


easy it is for them to drift into courses condemned by those whose life 
is brighter and whose opportunities are greater." 

In his book, " The Criminal and the Community," Dr. Devon 
emphasises that it is particularly the overcrowding of the poor in 
large towns that causes crime. He points out that the discomfort, 
irritabihty, and other mental conditions which result from over- 
crowding lead to crimes against the person just as hunger and want 
lead to crimes against property." In their report for 1920-21, the 
Prison Commissioners emphasise the relation between unemploy- 
ment and crime. Experience has shown, they say, "that when the 
Board of Trade percentage of unemployment reached its highest 
figures, the prison population invariably rose accordingly; and that 
in time of industrial prosperity the fewest prisoners were received." 
They explain the comparatively small increase in the number of 
prisoners during the trade depression of 1920-21 as due "principally 
to the effect of unemployment pay, which has prevented acute 
distress." " 

It is sometimes argued that the majority of those in prison for 
theft are habitual offenders, and that only a comparatively few 
ofiences against property are due to destitution. " This is to lose 
sight of the fact that nobody is a habitual offender at first," is Dr. 
Devon's comment. "The starting point of the career of many 
habitual criminals was their destitution. It threw them into 
conditions favourable — I might almost say compelling — to the com- 
mission of crime, and their first criminal act in its result shut the 
door against their return to honest and suitable employment. " " In 
his work on "Eecidivism," Dr. J. F. Sutherland places "slumdom" 
as the principal factor in the making of habitual offenders.^' 

The Italian criminologist, Lombroso, popularised the view that 
there is a criminal type: "That hterally from top to toe in every 
organ and structure of his body, from the quality of his hair, at one 
extreme, to the deformity of his feet at the other, the criminal is 
beset with definite morbid and physical stigmata."" Hardly any 
competent criminologist now holds this view. Most of those with ' 
experience of prison populations denied it from the first, and the 
matter was, we think, put beyond doubt by the publication of Dr. 
Goring's "The English Convict." Dr. Goring examined 3,000 con- 
victs at Dartmoor, Portland, Parkhurst, and Borstal prisons.*' His 
investigation proves decisively that Lombroso's theory is not justified 
by the facts, and that "the physical and mental constitution of both 

1' Report ol the Proceedings of the Crime and Inebriety Section of the National Conference 
on the Preyention of Destitution, 1912, p. 21. 

" Op. cit., pp. 79-82. 

i» P.O. Report, 1920-21. p. 6. 

»• Report of the Proceedings of the Crime and Inebriety Section of the National Conference 
on the Prevention of Destitution, 1912, p. 22. 

a> Op. cit. (1908), p. 59. 

sj "The English Convict," p. 13. 

3* Borstal was not then a Reformatory. 


criminal and law-abiding persons of the same age, stature, class, 
and intelligence, are identical."" 

At the same time, as we should expect from the fact that "prisons 
are largely peopled by the very poor, the very ignorant, the physical 
and mental weakUngs," Dr. Goring's evidence conclusively shows 
that criminals as a body suffer abnormally from defective physique 
and defective mental capacity. "In every class and occupation of 
life," states Dr. Goring, "it is the feeble-minded, and the inferior 
forms of physique — the less mentally and physically able persons — 
which tend to be selected for a criminal career. " " 

The prison population has been classified in many different ways. 
The classification made by Dr. Smalley in his "Prison Hospital 
Nursing" seems to us to be as valuable as any, although, as we shall 
point out, there are certain omissions. He divides criminals into 
four classes — (1) Accidental Criminals, (2) Habitual Criminals, (3) 
Weak-minded Criminals, and (4) Insane Criminals." The inclusion 
of the fourth class is only technically correct, legal and moral 
responsibility being absent; and since "criminal lunatics" are not 
now detained in prisons, we can dismiss it from our consideration 
here. The three other classes we shall proceed to describe. 

Accidental Criminals. 
The accidental criminals include those who have been guilty of 
(i) crimes of malicious violence, such as assaults, manslaughter, 
and murder, (ii) crimes of lust, or (iii) one of the many offences 
against property for which misfortune or some exceptional temptation 
is responsible. 

Malicious Violence. — "A stout, strong, healthy, thick-set indivi- 
dual, if anything rather below the average stature of his class. " This 
is Dr. Goring's portrait of a person prone to criminal violence. 
Such offenders are generally characterised by a degree of strength 
and of constitutional soundness considerably above the average of 
other criminals, and of the law-abiding community."' They have 
qmck and ungovernable forms of temper, are obstinate, and are 
also differentiated from other types of convicts by increased suicidal 
tendency and by an augmented proclivity to be eventually certified 
insane." Prisoners who come in this group are probably not more 
than five per cent, of the whole. 

Lust. — Criminals of lust are divided by Dr. Smalley into 
three types — (a) the leisured sexualist, (b) the committer of 

** "The English ConTict, p. 370. 

" "The English Conrict," p. 261. Dr. Goring concluded that "relatirely crime is only 
to a trifling extent the prodoct of social inequalities, adrerse enrironments, or other 
manitestation; ol what may be comprehenairely termed the force of circumstances," but 
on this point he has been Tigorously, and we think successfully, assailed, especially bi 
Sir Bryan Donkin, M.D. 

"Op. cit. (1902), pp. 217—222. 

" "The English Convict," p. 200. 

»» Ibid, p. 245. 



some gross act of bestiality, and (c) the committer of outrage upon a 
child. The second is often of weak intellect and a "low, coarse- 
minded being, ill-educated, ill-favoured in appearance, living more 
often than not in a country district, who satisfies his desire by some 
gross act of bestiahty." The third type frequently, commits the 
crime when inflamed by drink, and is, says Dr. Smalley, more nearly 
allied to the insane class. Those guilty of indecently exposing the 
person are usually chronic alcoholics, though occasionally they are 
in the early stages of insanity or suffer from epilepsy. 

An ex-prisoner gives the following description of prisoners of these 
classes with whom he came into contact : — 


W was an extraordinarily fine-looking old man of sixty, erect, 

tall, with a leonine head and white beard. He was serving a term of 
two years for criminal assault — his second sentence for a similar offence. 
He was very emotional and sometimes broke down in tears. Except 
that he had a fierce temper, he seemed normal. He had courage and 
generosity, risking severe punishment and loss of the best job in the 
prison to bring me papers daily. His crime seemed to be the result of 
an abnormal and uncontrollable passion. 


T was the landing cleaner, fifty or thereabouts, a slouching, ugly 

figure, ill-featured, and always smiling childishly, obviously weak- 
minded. His offence was an act of ghastly bestiality. He did his 
routine duties well and was strikingly honest — for instance, he would 
never take bread from another prisoner's cell. He finished a sentence 
of nine months and was back again in three weeks with an eighteen 
months' sentence for the same offence. He was obviously a mental case 
and ought to have been segregated under decent conditions. 

In the case of men, sexual offenders only number 2 per cent. 
The high percentage of women in this category — 25 per cent. — ^is due 
to offences connected with prostitution. Special attention is given 
to this subject in the chapter dealing with women prisoners. '' 

Misfortune. — A very large proportion of the prison population 
comes within the third group of accidental criminals — the criminals 
of special temptation. "As a class," says Dr. Smalley, "they present 
no indication of diseased or defective mental organisation; time and 
opportunity count much in the production of the crime. Possibly 
in the case of many who take special credit to themselves for not 
having departed from the paths of rectitude, it is only owing to their i 
being more happily circumstanced and without adequate temptation." i 
It is difficult to select cases to illustrate this type of prisoner ; the i 
group is so comprehensive. The following example may be given 
from the evidence of an ex-prisoner: — 


A man came next door to me once for three months' hard labour, 
convicted of receiving stolen property. His coming in had kept others 
out. He had never known prison before, and the effect on his mind 
was terrible. He cried every day for almost a fortnight. He had left 

2» See pp. 338-40. 


a wife and six children outside and was unable to get into touch with 
them. He told me afterwards that it was a few words of sympathy 
and cheer from myself which had kept him from taking his life. 

A visitor to a prison gives these instances : — 


A piteous case of an ex-soldier, 4 years' service, wounded repeatedly. 
Nine wounds in his back (the warder stated), left hand entirely useless, 
terrible stammer, seemed a mere wreck of a man. Said he had only 
stolen because he was hungry (three months — doing first month 
"separate"). On leaving cell I said to the warder, "He doesn't seem 
the kind of case who ought to be here." "No," said the warder, "he 
ought not to be here. There's a many gets here that never ought to." 

A young man, sensitive-looking and with a terrible expression of 
misery. In for deserting his wife and children and going off to Scotland 
with another woman. He looked broken. 

From the notes of a witness who has had a wide experience of 
women's prisons, we give the following examples: — 

Talked to a gipsy woman with a baby nine weeks old. Sentence, six 
months for fortune-telling. Matron encourages her to be out in the 
exercise ground as much as possible, but felt it an abominable thing to 
condemn a baby to pass the first six months of its life in prison. The 
woman has six children. The father is doing his best for the other five. 


One family of three all in prison. Charge, concealment of birth. 
Parents took the child away from the girl and did away with it. Seemed 
hard that the girl should be there at all. 

A girl of 21. Was taken up by an American officer, got nsed to free 

spending with him. When he left her, went as maid into a nursing 
home where she stole £19 from a patient whilst the latter was under 
an anaesthetic. She was remanded several times and allowed bail. When 
she found that imprisonment was certain she swallowed a bottle of 
poison. This was three days before I saw her, and she was still weak 
and ill, though pulling through. She was evidently in a nearly desperate 
condition when brought in. The matron said, "Wasn't it a silly 
thing to do?" The girl said, "Well, I shan't do it again," and laughed, 
but added that she didn't know that it wouldn't have been better if 
she'd died. I tried to cheer her up a little, and we talked of the proud 
and pompous prison cat who comes and looks in at her through the bars. 
She was a rather sweet-looking girl, probably a little slippery and weak, 
but not the least what one thinks of as a criminal type. 

We have already shown how frequently crime is committed under 
conditions of destitution and hunger. This is often the case with 
persons of weak will and resisting power, and the danger is always 
great that the accidental offender will become the habitual offender. 

Habitual Criminals. 
It is difficult to calculate the proportion of prisoners in the second 
main class of prisoners, that of the habitual offenders, owing to tlia 


inadequacy of the statistics provided by the authorities. The figures 
given are those of convictions; no attempt is made to show the 
actual number of different individuals involved. If, for instance, 
any person is convicted three times during one year, he counts in 
the official Tables as three convicted persons. Nevertheless, the 
Tables v^^hich we give on pages 532 and 533 are very significant in 
their indication of the large number of prisoners who are "habituals. " 

Eeturns given in the Prison Commissioners' Eeport for 1920-21 
show that during the year no less than 54.4 per cent, of the male 
prisoners and 73.3 of the women prisoners had been previously 
sentenced, that 27.53 of them (taking men and women together) had 
been sentenced at least five times, that 19.71 had been sentenced 
at least six times, that 12.73 had been sentenced at least eleven 
times, and that 2.61 had been sentenced at least 21 times."" As 
four convictions qualify a man for becoming a "habitual" offender," 
it will be seen that the convictions of this class compose about one- 
third of the total. 

Dr. Smalley divides "habituals" into three groups — (i) lapses 
from the accidental class, (ii) professional criminals, and (iii) 

Lapses. — ^The accidental criminal who becomes an habitual does 
not choose a life of law-breaking, like the professional thief, 
but has drifted into it. He has no positive motive of wrong-doing, 
but lacks sufficient incentive towards right-doing. By his experience 
both outside and inside prison he becomes a much deteriorated 
person. The following is an example of this class, and is typical : — 

S vras an old man of about eighty years of age who had been half 

his life in prison. He was as typical an old gaol-bird as one could meet 
anywhere. He was a violent critic of the Government; but chiefly it 
seemed because the price of beer had gone up. Whatever it cost he was 
determined to have it when he got out. He had a grand idea that he 
was being diddled by the prison authorities out of one or two days' 
remission, and although the warder explained to him time after time 
that it was all right, he insisted upon seeing the Visiting Magistrates 
about it. On this topic he harped day after day. That his long and 
repeated imprisonments had not made him reconciled to the life was 
further explained by the very emphatic way in which he once remarked, 
"The devil lives inside this prison." From the cleaner's point of view, 
also, he was a difficult customer, as he was always spitting about the 

place. If any man was an "incorrigible rogue" I should say S was. 

They kept him in hospital because he was an old man and probably 
put him down officially as suffering from senile decay. He limped about 
with a stick, although the chaplain told me that when released from 
prison he walked away with the greatest ease ! He was always 
grumbling, and there was a general feeling of relief in hospital at his 

Was such a man entirely bad? Well, let me record this. He kept 

»• Op. cit., p. 8. 

»» i.e., according to the Pretention of Crime Act (19Q8), quoted on p. 441. 


asking me how long a sentence I had got and wanted to know what for. 
I told him "two years." "Two years!" — he kept saying it to himself 
with indignation, and asked me several times, to make sure it was not 
a mistake. He had been a bottom dog long enough to feel indignation 
at a harsh sentence on a fellow creature. 

There are reports in the newspapers almost daily of cases of con- 
stantly repeated imprisonments. One or two instances may be 
cited. The Times of July 21st, 1920, gave the case of a burglar 
of 67 who had been convicted 28 times and had spent 49 years in 
prison. The same issue recorded the case of a man of 39 who had 
been in prison for some portion of every year since 1897. In the 
Press of September 29th, 1921, the death was reported at Parkhurst 
prison of a convict aged 81, who had spent nearly 70 years in 
prison. The annual report of the Penal Eeform League for 1920 
told of a woman of 79 who had spent 50 years and five months in 
prison. One of our witnesses speaks of a woman serving her 200th 

The youthfulness of many habitual offenders when they com- 
mence their careers of crime needs emphasis. In his report for 
1912-1913, the Governor of Camp Hill Preventive Detention prison 
stated that no less than 20 per cent, of the prisoners — all of whom 
had been sent there as "habitual criminals" — were under 30 years 
of age when so sentenced, and that 50 per cent, were under 40. He 
stresses the accidental nature of their criminal career. "These 
men make promises of reform which they really mean at the time, 
and if regular work could be found for them, well away from their 
old haunts and bad companions, and a judicious supervision kept 
over them, I believe that a fair proportion might in time become 
respectable citizens." 

""cnminals accept prison as an inevitable part of their careers, 
and almost invariably settle down and make the best of it. 
They are the best behaved prisoners, rarely giving warders occasion 
to punish them and generally earning the full remission obtainable. 
"They know they have been running risks," says an ex-prisoner, 
"and philosophically conclude they have been unlucky. Their only 
grievance is that they are aware of so many people outside, worse 
than themselves, perhaps, who ought to be in." 

Professional thieves often come from comfortable positions and 
are frequently men of some education. The following interesting 
character sketch of perhaps a rather exceptionally good type is con- 
tributed by an ex-political prisoner: — 

W , the hospital cleaner, was serving his third or fourth sentence 

— one of 18 months — for larceny. He told me he had been a bank 
clerk and a railway clerk, and had found his jobs monotonous and 
grinding. He came from a "respectable" family and was evidently, 
from his whole style and manner, a person of good breeding. His speech 
was that of an educated man ; his knowledge of the world was large. 


He told me that hia family could never make him out, how the rest 
of them were doing well, and he was always the black sheep ; but he 
said that he was perfectly happy and enjoyed the life he lived outside. 
He calculated that since "living on his wits" he had had five years out- 
side for one in prison, and that the game was worth the candle. He 
realised, however, that now he would get a heavier sentence each time 
and that next time he would get three years. This was too much, and 
not infrequently he talked as if he had made up his mind to turn over 
a new leaf — not that he for a moment admitted that he had done any- 
thing wrong, but from policy. 

Inside prison, any way, he was an admirable person, and in the half- 
year I worked with him, he and I never had a cross word. If we started 
together to scrub the downstairs passage, he being the faster worker 
(and he scrubbed till the sweat was running down his face) would never 
stop when he got half-way, but would go on till he met me. He practically 
ran the hospital, arranging baths, putting on dressings, and in every 
way showing himself a handy man, a conscientious worker, and an 
efficient organiser. 

The two warders trusted him absolutely as to the serving of meals and 
in all other ways ; and he never betrayed that trust. In religion he 
would call himself an atheist. He looked upon the clergy, and in 
particular the regular prison chaplains, with some contempt, as men 
paid to do a soft job. Yet he was somewhat superstitious. He told 
me how largely thieves believe in a kind of Destiny ; he said he usually 
had a kind of premonition as to when he was going to be arrested, and 
other men had the same. For all the difference between us in tempera- 
ment and outlook, I genuinely took to the man, and when we parted on 
his release it was with a handgrip that denoted strong, sincere feeling. 

Dr. Smalley points out that all professionals are not of this well- 
behaved type. "Sometimes they are reckless and insubordinate, lay 
plots to escape, with the expenditure of much labour and great in- 
genuity. They are familiar with the prison routine, keen to seize 
any advantage they can, and utilise any small lapse of duty on the 
part of an officer to gain a hold upon him, and, by threats of betray- 
ing him to the higher prison authorities, to obtain surreptitious 
privileges. Some again are lazy and will resort to any subterfuge 
to evade work — malinger illness or insanity." 

Another type of professional criminal is revealed in the following 
note in the evidence of the woman witness from whom we have 
already quoted: — 

A most impressive middle-aged woman, who assured me that the book 
she was reading was an excellent translation from Victor Hugo, but 
considerably abridged. She is an officer's daughter with a long career 
of shabby crimes behind her, including the ruin of several boys. She 
was in for selling the plate of a furnished house she had taken. She 
does not do associated work as "she prefers to be alone" ! 

Vagrants. — The third group of habituals is composed of vagrants. 
In 1913, 20 per cent, of the prison population were vagrants. 
During the war they practically disappeared. Since the war they 
have begun to re-appear, but in 1920-21 they still numbered less 
than six per cent, of the prison population. An examination at 


Gloucester prison in 1919 showed that 41 per cent, of the prisoners 
of this class were habitual vagrants and mendicants, that 31 per 
cent, were casual vagrants, unwilling or unfit for work, that 11 per 
cent, were old and infirm, and that 17 per cent, were bona fide 
working men seeking work. 

The habitual vagrants are often weak-minded, and are generally 
lazy and dirty. When oakum-picking was the usual task given to 
short sentence prisoners many vagrants would not do it, preferring 
punishment. Frequently vagrants were sent to prison for refusing 
to do the allotted task in the workhouse, and sometimes apparently 
they continued to refuse in prison, but the Governor of Eeading 
prison reported in 1911 that "out of 95 men committed to this prison 
for refusing to work in the Union during the past year, I cannot 
recall a single case of any such men failing to complete their allotted 
task in prison." 

There are a number of vagrants who deliberately seek imprison- 
ment during the winter months ; sometimes a man and his wife both 
endeavour to get sentenced for similar periods. On this point an 
ex-prisoner says : — 

It is generally the homeless vagrants who resort to this mode of life 
during the winter months when the barns and hedges are too cold and 
damp to sleep in and no land work is to be found. A warder said to me 
on this point, "They come in to fatten up during the winter — and have 
not such a bad time neither. Why, judging by the condition in which 
they come here, they never had a wash the six or eight months through. 
Here they get a room to themselves, clean bed linen and underwear, a 
bath every week, good food — and library books ! They generally know 
which prisons to come to and we generally get more or less the same lot 
over and over again. When their time's up they go out to where they 
decided beforehand to meet, and if one is out before the other, he or she 
waits until they can start off together. They do odd jobs through the 
spring, summer, and autumn on the land, fruit picking and so on, until 
they have a flare up — 'merry feast' — if they have enough money — and 
then they come 'in' again for the winter." 

Weak-minded Criminals. 

Dr. Smalley's third class is composed of the weak-minded. A 
large proportion of the vagrants are weak-minded and epileptics. 
In his annual report for 1910, the medical officer for Pentonville 
prison, writing of vagrants suffering from traumatic epilepsy, says 
"the sufferers are all men who have been actually employed in useful 
work, and many of them are manied and have children depending 
on them. Through circumstances over which they have not any 
control, they find themselves cut off from all chance of obtaining 
regular, or indeed any employment, and so drift on into this helpless 
and hopeless position." 

How many prisoners are weak-minded it would be difficult to 
estimate, but the proportion is certainly large. Dr. Goring estimated 
that between ten and twenty per cent, of criminals are mentally 
defective, and Sir Bryan Donkin, the hon. medical adviser to the 


Board of Directors of Convict Prisons, has put the proportion at the 
higher of these two figures. The Mental Deficiency Act, which 
began to operate in 1913, gave the authorities the power to remove 
congenital cases from prison, but since the Act has only been 
partially apphed and such cases are only 30 per cent, of the whole, 
the number of mentally defective persons who remain in prisons is 
still large. 

In his annual report for 1904-5, Dr. Smalley gave considerable 
attention to this question of the feeble-minded prisoner. Although 
16 years have passed, what he wrote is applicable to present condi- 
tions, except that it is possible that the prisoner, "S.D.," whose 
case he cites, might have been removed as a congenital defective. 
We quote some passages from his remarks : — 

The offencea committed by these feeble-minded persons are for the 
most part of a trivial character, such as begging, drunkenness, petty 
stealing, sleeping out, etc., but although the less grave forms of crime 
predominate, there is a potentiality in the feeble-minded class for crime 
of a serious character. This is shown by the fact that many of these 
persons are eventually sentenced to penal servitude for rape, arson, 
carnally knowing, shooting with intent, manslaughter, and murder, who 
have previously had several short sentences for minor offences. The 
bulk of them are recidivists, and there Beems a tendency for their 
offences to increase in heinousness as time goes on, until advanced old 
age ia reached and they become unfit to engage in active crime. . . . 

As a forcible instance of this class of person I would mention the case 
of S.D., a man who, without much real vice, is a habitual offender, 
whose crimes have increased in heinousness and who, not certifiably 
insane, is certainly not a suitable person to be at large. His criminal 
career commenced when he was about 14 years of age. From 1880 to 
1889 he had 18 convictions, varying from a few weeks to 12 months, 
mostly for stealing. In 1892 he was sentenced to 10 years' penal servi- 
tude for rape. Released from this sentence, he had nine summary 
convictions for vagrancy and for failing to report himself to the police, 
and at present is undergoing penal servitude for arson (stack firing). He 
has no delusions and knows quite well right from wrong, but he is of 
limited intelligence, and his memory is poor ; he can only read words of 
one syllable, and cannot write at all, and although he has had opportuni- 
ties in prison he has learnt very little indeed. He is usually quiet, 
tractable, and cheerful in prison, will work fairly well, under the super- 
vision of persons who understand him, but does not get on well when 
under ordinary penal discipline. Thus for 25 years he has been 
maintained, for by far the greater part of the time, by the State, and 
in the brief intervals has probably lived on individuals of the community, 
in addition to the harm, misery, and the cost of his depredations. He 
is now only about 39 years of age, and, unless his mental condition gets 
worse, so as to admit of his being certified and kept in a lunatic asylum, 
there are probably still many years of crime before him.'^ 

From the evidence of a woman visitor to prisons we give the 
following particulars of some weak-minded prisoners: — 

" P.O. Report, 1904-5, pp. 59-40. 



Alice went down to the Court with the expreseed intention of cheeking 
the magistrates. Alice is often in for drunkenness. She is a girl about 
23, and has a very bad character. A bright, pretty girl, but quite un- 
manageable sometimes, very hysterical and subject to fits of ungovernable 
rage, when she throws things at people and cares for no one. She has 
turns when she screams and shouta and whistles and sings and bangs on 
her door. Then she is sent to the punishment cell or put in the strait 
jacket till she promises to behave. 

Her great passion is for babies and children. Last time she had an 
unmanageable fit, the matron went to her and said, "If you'll promise 
to be good, I'll show you a little baby." The girl promised, and Alice 
was taken to see and hold a prison baby and was quite good all day. If 
she may take any toddlers who are in with their mothers round the 
exercise ground in the morning, she is quite quiet and good. The matron 
and doctor think she would never get into a fury with children and 
ought to be with them. She says she will have a baby of her own as 
soon as she can get it. 

In a cell padded with mats sat a poor epileptic, so plainly mentally 
deficient that it seemed absurd that she should be trying to read " The 
Chaplain of the Fleet." I held out my hand for the book. She took 
my hand, shook it in a characteristically silly way, and said brightly 
that she felt a "lot better to-day." 

A little mentally deficient, middle-aged woman, in for neglecting her 
children. The seventh was in prison with her, a mite who only weighed 
61bs. when it came in. 

The medical officer of Lancaster prison gave the following 
examples of mentally deficient prisoners in his report for 1910. 
Similar cases could be cited to-day: — 


A woman, aged 28, unmarried, for neglecting her infant child, 
sentence 9 months ; other children she has had have died. Has a record 
of 54 convictions for drunkenness, theft, neglect, etc., no place of abode, 
no friends. y 

A man, aged 48, sentence one month for sleeping out., etc. : 10 
convictions for begging, etc. Died in prison hospital, worn out by 
exposure and semi-starvation. 


A man, aged probably 60, had no definite idea of his age or birth- 
place. 43 convictions, no friends, wanders about the country. 

A woman, married, aged 43, drunkenness, one month, 14 convictions, 
is alcoholic, suffers from loss of memory. 

"All this is very pathetic," adds the medical officer, "and certainly 
calls for some other method of dealing with these unfortunate people 
than that of constantly sending them to prison." With that view 
every reader will concur. 

No place is found in Dr. Smalley's classification for prisoners 
committed for drunkenness, perhaps because their stay in prison 
is generally very short. Thirty-five per cent, of the men and 45 per 


cent, of the women prisoners are sentenced for this offence, how- 
ever, and the frequency with which they return makes them an 
important part of the prison population. They are mostly from the 
poorer classes of society. This is natural, as drunkenness is not 
directly punishable by imprisonment, but only by a fine with 
imprisonment in default. Hence it is only the poor who go to prison 
for over-drinking, whilst they also lack the facilities of the rich to 
hide the results of the habit. Heavy drinking is, of course, a cause 
of many of the other offences for which people are committed to 
prison. Nor does Dr. Smalley make mention of prisoners found 
guilty of "Offences against Eegulations, " although they number 10 
per cent, of the prison population. Most of them are accidental 
criminals, infringements of the Education Act accounting for a 
large number. 

We have now broadly described the population of our prisons. 
Many of those who are in prison have no doubt sinned against their 
light; a proportion of them have deliberately adopted a dishonest 
course of life as their means of livelihood; but for the most part 
they are victims of vicious social surroundings and poverty — a 
wretched collection of human beings, physically weak, under- 
nourished, mentally undeveloped, lacking in will power, the out- 
casts of our civilisation. Let the fact be borne in mind throughout 
these pages that if those whose lot is described have sinned against 
Society, Society hae in the fii'st place sinned grieviously against 

The Location of English Peisons. 

The male Convict prisons are stationed at Dartmoor, Maidstone > 
and Parkhurst, and the women convicts are confined at Liverpool. 
The Local prisons number 40, and are to be found at the 
following places : Bedford, Birmingham, Bristol, Brixton, Canter- 
bury, CardiS, Carlisle, Carmarthen, Carnarvon, Dorchester, 
Durham, Exeter, Gloucester, Holloway (women only), Hull, 
Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Liverpool, Maidstone, Man- 
chester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Northallerton, Northampton, Norwich, 
Nottingham, Oxford, Pentonville, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, ' 
Shepton Mallet, Shrewsbury, Swansea, Usk, Wandsworth, Win- 
chester, Worcester, and Wormwood Scrubbs." 

The Preventive Detention prison (for men only) is at Camp Hill 
(Isle of Wight), and there are Borstal institutions for boys at 
Borstal, Feltham, and Portland (until recently a Convict prison), [ 
and for girls at Aylesbury. I 

In the following chapters an attempt is made to make clear what I 
these places signify to the prisoners who are confined in them, to 
the staff who administer them, and, not least, to the society which ] 
they are supposed to protect. 

>> The number of Locul prisons fell from 113 in 1876 to 56 in 1914. It was announced I 
whilst this book was in the Press that the Commissioners intend to close the prisons at t 
Northampton, Carlisle, Canterbury, CarnarTon, Carmarthen, tJsk, Worcester, and 


Appendix to Chapter One. 


In the accompanying Tables we have gathered together some of the 
available statistics relevant to the subject of this work. The Tables deal 
with the movements of crime, the classification of crime and criminals, fines 
and imprisonment, prisoners on remand, the age and sex of prisoners, the 
occupation of prisoners, the education of prisoners, and the length of the 
sentences imposed. The intention of this not« is to make a few comments 
apon the Tables with a view to making their significance and limitations 

Tables A and B deal with the movement of crime. There are, in the 
published statistics, four Tables bearing upon this subject, but none of them 
gives a really accurate view of the increase or decrease of crime. A Table 
is given of crimes reported to the police as having been committed, but it 
only professes to deal with indictable offences (i.e., the more serious ones),* 
and, even so, provides no clue. Many offences never reach the ears of the 
police, and, on the other hand, many are reported upon insufficient or con- 
flicting evidence. A Table of convictions is given, but this inevitably under- 
estimates crime, since many crimes are never brought to trial, and many 
more fail to secure conviction through lack of sufficient evidence. A Table 
of commitments to prison is given, but this, again, can afford no indication 
as to the total amount of crime. The degree to which magistrates enforce 
the law, the increased use of fines and probation orders, and legal changes 
in the treatment of certain types of offenders, render these returns almost 
useless. Lastly, there is a Table of trials, which has two evident deficiencies 
— (1) in respect of the crimes which are never brought to trial, and (2) in 
respect of the trials which result in acquittals. But since these deficiencies 
tend in opposite directions and so partially cancel one another, this Table 
may be taken as giving the fairest view of the movement of crime, and we 
have accordingly utilised it here in Table B. 

There are, however, some general defects which are common to all 
criminal statistics, and which must be borne in mind when we come to 
consider the significance of Tables A and B. The chief defects are four : — 

(1) In the totals of crimes, etc., no attempt is made to distinguish the 
actual number of different individuals involved. Thus, if any person be 
convicted three times during any year he counts in the Tables for three 
convicted persons. This confusion is serious. The Prison Commissioners 
have usually ignored this, but in their report for 1913-14 they indicated, for 
the first time,' that out of the total number of commitments to prison 
(103,010 males and 33,414 females), 19 per cent, of the females and 32 per 
cent, of the males were committed more than once during the year : that is 
to say, the 103,010 males represent not more than 83,344 persons and the 
33,414 females not more than 22,699 persons. Indeed, since many prisoners 
are committed more than twice a year, the accurate numbers will even be 
smaller stHl. 

(2) Any variation in the efficiency of the police will result in an increase 
or decrease of the returns, although the actual volume of crime may not vary. 

• For & Jfoto oa the Statistics of RecidiTism, see pp. 528-33. 
' See list o{ indictable and non-indictabla offence* on p. 31. 
»P.C. Report, 1913-14, p. 6. 


(3) Any variation on the part of the public in reporting oiienceB and in 
prosecuting will have a similar effect. 

(4) The effect of all Summary Jurisdiction Acts, extending the powers of 
Police Courts, has been to show an increase in the offences concerned. Police 
Courts offer much prompter facilities in applying the law, and experience 
shows that people will not take the trouble to prosecute, or even to inform 
the police, if their time is to be occupied by prolonged attendances at the 
higher Criminal Court and possibly journeys to the nearest Assize town. 

It will be noticed from Table B that indictable and non-indictable offences 
move independently. Many of the latter are trivial, and the increase shown 
since 1857 can be accounted for by the greater number of bye-laws and 
regulations rather than by any increase in petty criminality. It will be 
observed, for instance, that there was a strong upward tendency in the 
figures for the two years 1912 and 1913, but the light nature of the offences 
responsible for the increase may be judged by the fact that the number of 
commitments to prison, as will be seen from Table C, actually decreased 
during the same period. The main increases of late pre-war years were under 
the following heads : — Offences against the Highway Act (due to the growth 
of road traffic), Betting and Gaming (since the Street Betting Act of 1906), 
Sunday Trading and Vagrancy. Trials for Drunkenness and Assaults (these 
usually move together). Offences against the Education Acts, and Poaching 
have decreased. Despite the absolute increase in the number of trials for 
non-indictable offences, it will be seen that the proportion of these offences 
to the population was about the same in 1913 as in 1857. 

When we turn to the volume of indictable offences (which include all the 
serious forms of crime), we see that the number of trials remains almost 
constant right up to the beginning of this century, when a rather alarming 
increase set in. There has been much speculation as to the origin of this 
increase. In the first few years of this century the operation of the Summary 
Jurisdiction Act of 1899 was no doubt partly responsible, but apart from 
this the cause is obscure. There are signs that the wave was being checked, 
in spite of the jump in 1912; the advent of the war prevents us from 
determining this with certainty, but the figures of commitments to prison 
eince the war indicate that the decrease in crime has on the whole continued. 
As far as the statistics allow us to judge, the wave was almost entirely 
the work of recidivists.* 

From Tables C, D, E, and F, we notice that the female prison population, 
which varies from about one-third to one-quarter of the male population, 
has almost continuously decreased since 1905, although the male population 
has fluctuated considerably. Another point worth noting is that in 1908 
and 1909 the number of men committed to prison was 10,000 above the years 
immediately preceding and following these two years ; 1908 was a bad trade 
year (1909 was rather better), and this causal factor is reflected in the larger 
figures for vagrancy and acquisitive crimes recorded in Table F. 

The decrease in commitments to prison during the last decade must not 
be accepted as denoting an equivalent in crime. It is due in great 
part to (1) the exclusion of young offenders from prison by the Children's 
Act of 1908 ; (2) the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, which 
provided, inter alia, for the granting of more time to pay fines; and (3) 
the widening of the provision for probation. 

Tables G and H are the most illuminating of the series, so far as the nature 

•* See pp. 528-29. 


of the crimes which lead to imprisonment is concerned. Commencing with 
the first classification, we see that imprisonments for malicions crimes, both 
amongst men and women, have decreased, though very irregularly. The 
crimes against the person are mostly assaults, probably due to drink ; as we 
have previously remarked, the two columns follow one another fairly 
appro-ximately. Malicious crimes against property are few in number, and 
move somewhat arbitrarily. The great increase in male sexual offender.** 
is entirely due to a provision of the Children's Act of 1908, which made it 
possible for cases of indecent assault on young persons to be tried summarily. 
The female sexual column is the Table of prostitution — other sexual offences 
among women are very rare. About two-thirds of these commitments are 
in default of paying a fine. 

The column of drunkenness is the only one in which the males and females 
move together. It is popularly supposed that drunkenness and larcenies 
move in opposition to one another, good trade years producing more drunken- 
ness and few larcenies, and vice versa. This does not appear here, though 
the operation of fines may obscure the facts.* 

Many offences in connection with the Vagrancy Acts have been classified 
in the column devoted to acquisitive crimes, e.g., frequenting, being in 
possession of pick-locks, and living on the earnings of prostitutes ; the 
remainder, such as begging and sleeping out, are included under Vagrancy, 
together with offences against the Poor Laws. About half of these last 
offences are committed by paupers in the workhouses and the increase in 
their number during the first five years of the century was put down by 
some authorities as due to the fact that the amelioration of prison discipline 
made prison life easier than workhouse life. The increase was checked, 
however, from 1905 onwards ; the large decrease in 1913 followed the intro- 
duction of the Way-Leave System. The other half of the Poor Law offences 
consists mainly of neglect to maintain one's family. 

"Other Criminal Offences" are mostly cruelty to animals and offences under 
the Prevention of Crimes Act. Women are rarely convicted for cruelty to 
animals, although the number of women sentenced for cruelty to children is 
high. "Offences against Regulations" are chiefly offences against Police 
Regulations, the Education Acts, and the Highway Act. Practically all are 
in default of paying a fine. 

The next group of Tables refers to fines and imprisonment. Tables K and 
L show that the numbers of men sent to prison with and without fines 
respectively are almost equal ; in the case of women, twice as many enter 
prison with the option of a fine as without. 

It is only fair, however, to compare the number of those imprisoned in 
default of a fine with the number of fines imposed, and this is done in Table 
M. The gradual increase in the percentage from 1899-1909 has never been 
satisfactorily explained. It should be mentioned that in many cases, such as 
brothel-keeping and bad cases of adulteration, magistrates are bound to give 
the option of a fine, though often they would rather imprison the offenders 
straight away. They therefore sometimes adopt the course of imposing very 
large fines in the expectation that such offenders may be unable to pay. 
This may be a partial explanation of the increased percentage. 

The available figures relating to prisoners on remand are not very full, 
but they reveal the disgraceful fact, emphasised elsewhere, that more than 
half of those remanded to prison, or committed to trial without bail, are not 
sent to prison in the end.' Not only that, but 50 per cent, of thosa who do 

* See pp. 17-18. 

• See pp. 5-6 «nd 305-6. 


return, according to Table L, are sent to prison in default of paying a fine. 
We should like to give a Table recording the number of persons admitted 
to bail, but the statistics are quite inadequate, onjy referring to those com- 
mitted for trial. 

The classification of the age and sex of prisoners (Table 0) shows the marked 
difference between the sexes very clearly; the difference is so great that it 
is best to consider them separately. In one respect, however, they are alike. 
The returns for both males and females reflect the influence of the Children's 
Act in the great reduction in the number of prisoners under 16 years of age. 

In the case of the males there are two high waves : one in 1904 and 1905 
and the other in 1908 and 1909. The first is spread over all ages above 21 ; 
the second is not shared in by those over 60, though there is no very obvious 
means of accounting for this. The decline in the number of males from 21 
to 30 in the last few years is more rapid than in the case of the older men, 
but this is probably due to the greater proportion of first offenders and the 
more lenient methods of dealing with such. 

Amongst the women we find only one wave, culminating in 1903, after 
which the decline is practically continuous. The fluctuations in the various 
ages are far more erratic than amongst the males and do not bear any relation 
whatever to one another. 

In Table P returns will be found giving the previous occupations of 
prisoners. Little is to be gained by comparing years ; the numbers vary from 
year to year within fairly narrow limits and without any conceivable law. 
The proportions for 1913, given in the chapter to which this note is appended,^ 
may be taken as representing any year. 

This Table is necessarily an approximate one. The evidence is obtained 
in many cases from the prisoners themselves, and their veracity is not always 
unimpeachable. It would be valuable if, in the published statistics, offences 
were differentiated according to the occupation of the offender. 

The Education Table (Q) is more interesting. The proportion of illiterates 
is greater amongst women than men. The great increase in the women of 
superior education in 1911 is no doubt due to the activities of the women 
suffragists. The proportion of illiterates of both sexes declines rapidly and 
continuously, except for a lapse amongst women in 1913. This may be partly 
accounted for by an improvement in the attainments of the general com- 
munity, but such a change would hardly have such rapid effects. Possibly 
many were young offenders who are now kept out of prison. 

The Table R, comparing the average length of sentences, is noteworthy 
as showing a continuous decrease in the length of penal servitude sentences 
and an increased length in sentences of simple imprisonment. The increase 
in the length of imprisonment sentences is accompanied till 1905 by an 
increase in the number of sentences, mainly sentences of three months. Since 
then the number has decreased, and the increased length probably means 
a tendency to do away with shorter sentences, and deal with trivial offences 
and first offenders more by fines and probation. There has also been an 
increased number of long sentences under the Borstal System. 

The War and After. 
The published statistics were much cut down during the war, and most 
of the useful Tables omitted, so that, apart from anything else, we have 
no reliable basis for comparison. But, in any case, the immense alteration 

' See p. 7. 


in the habits and conditions of life would vitiate any comparison with the 
pre-war figures. Some of the facts, however, are interesting. 

Table A seems to shew that the volume of Indictable Offences has 
remained about the same. We shall see later how far this is true. The 
Non-Indictable Offences, however, showed a marked decrease during the war ; 
the year 1916, of course, marks the entrance of D.O.R.A., and the number 
of fresh offences created thereby. In 1919 we see the beginning of the 
inevitable reaction, but it is a matter for some congratulation that this is 
not observable amongst the Indictable Offences. 

Tables E and F show in a very marked degree the influence of the war 
in totally upsetting the relative proportions of the different categories of 
crime. Of more interest, however, are the actual numbers. In the first 
place, we must note the enormous reduction in the total number of com- 
mittals to prison — from 139,060 in 1913 to 19,965 in 1918, while there is only 
a small increase in the first post-war year. As we shall see, at least 50,000 
of this must be put down to the Criminal Justice Administration Act of 
1914, which allowed time for fines to be paid ; about 25,000 or so are to be 
attributed probably to the effect of employment and high wages, w^hich 
enabled more fines to be paid. The rest represent a real decrease in crime. 

The first column in Table E shows that the number of committals for 
serious (i.e., indictable) offences dropped suddenly to a level figure round 
about 12,000, in spite of the impression given, as noted above, by Table A. 
The drop in the second column, which conditions the alteration in the 
various percentages, represents a real decrease in both larcenies and drunken- 
ness — the latter doubtless being connected with the liquor restrictions. 
This decrease in drunkenness is also reflected in the third column of Table 
F, while the corresponding decrease in assaults (these two invariably move 
together) is shown in the first column. The correspondence between the 
second column in F and the first in E is, of course, perfectly natural ; the 
huge majority of serious offences are against property. 

The war statistics are quite inadequate to enable us to compile Tables G 
and H, and we are thrown beck upon isolated remarks of the Prison Com- 
missioners. Sir E. Ruggles-Brise pointed out in the Commissioners' Report, 
1918-19,' that war conditions may be said to have assisted this decrease in 
three ways — (1) restrictions on the consumption of intoxicants ; (2) continuous 
employment ; and (3) the absorption in military service of habitual offenders. 
With regard to the first it may be mentioned that, under normal conditions, 
higher wages and convictions for drunkenness go together ; during the war 
they did not. With regard to the second, it is interesting to note that tramps 
disappeared entirely in the last years of the war ; but they have re-appeared 
to some extent since the Armistice. 

Since the Armistice there has been, as might have been expected, an increase 
in crime, but it is by no means so large as might have been anticipated. 
It will be seen that the number of prisoners (excluding court martial 
prisoners and debtors) increased from 25,376 in 1918-19 to 43,267 in 1920-21 ; 
but the latter figure is less than one-third of the number of prisoners in 
1913-14, and, as the Prison Commissioners remark, "so small an increase 
in a year in which there has been much unemployment and industrial unrest 
must be regarded as noteworthy, constituting, as it does, a departure from 
the experience of fox-mer years." ' The prison authorities, we are told, 

» Op. cit. p. 33. 

♦P.C. Report, 1920-21, p. 5. 


"are unanimous in ascribing so small an increase during this exceptional 
year principally to the effect of unemployment pay, which has prevented 
acute distress." '" 

Table K shows the result of the Act of 1914 in allowing time to pay fines ; 
the extraordinary figures speak for themselvea. We see that there was a 
reduction of imprisonments with the option of fines from 75,152 in 1913 to 
5,264 in 1918-19. 

The next interesting Table is ; and here we can estimate the third of the 
effects of the war mentioned above— the absorption of habitual offenders in 
military service. As regards males, the most arresting point that arises is 
that the reduction of crime is almost as well marked in the case of men 
over military age as in that of younger men ; the increase since the Armistice 
shows the same feature. Exactly the same movements are shown amongst 
females of 30 and upwards, but females of 16 — 21 moved the opposite way. 
This is the only category of offenders which increased during the war, and 
it is entirely due to prostitution. Since the Armistice it has dropped, and 
the figures for 1920-21 are the lowest on record. 

Table R also seems to have been affected by the war, though it is not 
quite apparent how this has come about. Part of the increase in the length 
of imprisonment sentences is due to the influence of the Act of 1914 in doing 
away with short sentences. 

As regards Recidivism, no statistics are available. The Prison Com- 
missioners in 1916 reported that there were fewer first offenders, but more 
convictions per year per man. In 1920, however, they noticed an opposite 
tendency, and stated that recidivists were becoming fewer. It remains to 
be seen which of these tendencies will prevail. 

An unexpected fact has been the large proportion of offenders amongst 
the demobilised men. In 1919-20, 6,461 demobilised men were received on 
conviction, of whom 3,411 (33 per cent.) were first offenders. Only 1,388 
{22 per cent.) could be called habituals. There were 9,580 ex-soldiers com- 
mitted to prison in 1920-21 : but we are not told how many of the 18,000 
first offenders were drawn from these. The governors of various prisons 
record the emergence since the war of a "new .stamp of offender." The 
governor of Durham prison says that "men and women of respectable ante- 
cedents and parentage, in regular employment, and in no respects associated 
•with the criminal class, are taking to serious crime (embezzlement, fraud, , 
false pretences, housebreaking, and robbery) with astounding facility." He 
thinks that the fall in wages, rather than a spirit of lawlessness acquired 
during the war, is responsible. The governor of Wandsworth prison states 
that "the experience and knowledge gained in the army of motor-mechanics 
has led to a large increase in garage-breaking and motor-thieving." This 
type of offender "is usually intelligent and of fairly good education." The 
governor of Shrewsbury prison reports the coming of many men "whom in 
years before the war it would be quite the exception to receive, e.g., railway 
guards and engine drivers, men with excellent records of long service, and 
in receipt of a high rate of pay." '* 

It is far too early yet to say what the new norm in Criminal Statistics will 
be; but there is every reason to hope that it will be considerably lower 
than the old norm. Conditions of life are still unsettled, however, and one 
cannot forecast developments with certainty. 

'• Ibid, p. 6. 
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S3 " 13 

«^ «^ ^ 



The crimes and offences included under the different heads in the 
two following Tables are : — 

Malicious, Against Person : Indictable Offences. — Murder, Attempts and 
threats to murder. Manslaughter, Wounding, Endangering lives at sea 
and railway passengers. Assault, Intimidation, Cruelty to children. 

Non-Indictable Offences. — Assault, Intimidation, Cruelty to children. 

Malicious, Against Property : Indictable Offences. — Arson, Setting fire to 
crops, etc.. Killing and maiming cattle. Malicious use of explosives. 
Destroying ships, railways, trees, and shrubs, etc. 

Non-Indictable Offence. — Malicious Damage. 

Sexual : Indictable Offences. — Unnatural vice, Attempts to commit same. 
Indecency with males. Rape, Indecent assaults, Defilement of girls. 
Incest, Abduction, Bigamy, Indecent exposure. 

Non-Indictable Offences. — Prostitution, Indecent exposure. 

Acquisitive : Indictable Offences. — Procuration, Sacrilege, Burglary, 
Housebreaking, Shopbreaking, Attempts to break into houses, shops, etc.. 
Entering with intent to commit felony. Possession of housebreaking 
tools, etc.. Robbery, Extortion by threats. All kinds of larceny. Embezzle- 
ment, Obtaining by false pretences. Frauds, Falsifying accounts. 
Receiving stolen goods, Offences in bankruptcy, forgery and uttering. 
Coining, Piracy and slave-trade. Poaching, Brothel-keeping, etc. 

Non-Indictable Offences. — Adulteration, Brothel-keeping, Offences 
against Fishery and Game Laws, Intoxicating Liquor Laws (Selling to 
persons drunk. Illegal sale of drink. Selling to children). Labour Laws 
(Breach of Contract, Offences under Special Trades Acts), Offences 
against Pawnbrokers' Act, Unlawful possession, Stealing, Vagrancy 
Acts (Possessing picklocks, Found on enclosed premises. Frequenting, 
Living on prostitutes). 

Drunkenness : Indictable Offence. — Habitual drunkenness. 

N on- Indictable Offences. — Drunkenness, Habituals obtaining drink. 

Vagrancy : N on- Indictable Offences. — Vagrancy Acts (Begging, Sleeping 
out, Gaming, etc.). Offences under Poor Laws. 

Other Criminal Offences : Indictable Offences. — Abandoning children. 
Procuring abortion. Concealing of birth. Offences against the State, 
Offences against Public Justice, Blasphemy, Libel, Suicide, etc. 

N on- Indictable Offences. — Cruelty to animals. Indecent advertisements. 
Prevention of Crimea Acts, Intoxicating Liquor Laws (Offences against 
Public Order). 

















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K Table Showing Imprisonment With and Without the 
Option of a Fine. 


Without Option 

With Option 

In Default 
of Sureties 

Total of 

































































155,198 i 





137,468 ! 

Time Time not 


Allowed Allowed 




1,526 52,462 


102,888 m 



3,615 19,085 





2,286 13,380 





1,093 7,401 


31,750 - 



536 4,728 





635 8,668 





1,165 12,239 



The returns for the years 1914-21 are taken from the Prison Commissioners' 







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M Table showing Number of Committals in Default of 
Payment of a Fine. 

No. of Cases in 

No. of these who 


•which a Fine 

went to prison 

Per Centage 

was Imposed 

in Default 





















































































The figures have not been published since 1913. 




N Table Showing Prisoners on Remand and the Number 
Returning to Prison. 

Total Remands 

Number of 


j Number who 


and Committals 

such Persons 

1 '*' 

did not 


for Trial 

Convicted and 

Return to 

■without Bail 

sent to Prison 










1 17,069 







i 50 











1 20,148 






1 20,184 






; 20,751 













55 1 






55 i 




39,245 i 


53 ! 






53 1 






55 i 






62 ! 






50 j 






41 1 


















42 j 






45 1 



1 The last year for vbich figcres are available. 


















































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Table Showing the Average Length of Sentences 
(excluding Court -Martial Sentences.) 







Number of 

Average Length 

Number of 

Average Length 


in years 


in months 




















































































1 58,180 





i 42,819 















i 34,279 





1 42,785 


> The flgurM 3inct 1915 are of neeessity approiimationa, «nd probably represent a slight 
«T«r-estiinat«. They art calculated from retaras giTen in tho Prison Commissioners' Reports. 




The Prison Commissioners in their report for 1899 wrote that 
" the close necessary relation between the administration of justice 
and a knowledge of prison discipline is becoming every day more 
manifest; and it cannot be expected that there can be a satisfactory 
administration of justice, when there is not a correlative acquaint- 
ance with the exact method followed in the execution of the? 
sentence." * 

This statement, together with its converse, is still true. Some 
knowledge of the administration of justice is as necessary for 
an intelligent approach to the problems of the prison system, as 
knowledge of the latter is necessary for the due administration of 
justice. In this chapter, therefore, we shall attempt to give a very 
brief description of the powers and the practices of the criminal 

The Courts and Their Functions. 

In England and "Wales the courts can be divided into three groups, 
viz. (1) Courts of Assize, (2) Courts of Quarter Sessions, and (3) 
Courts of Summary Jurisdiction. 

Courts of Assize. The Courts of Assize have complete jurisdic- 
tion over all indictable offences.^ They are presided over by a High 
Court Judge or (when there is pressure on judicial time) by a 
Commissioner of Assize. A judge travels to different parts of the 
country, and the prisoners are tried before him and a jury. The- 
cases have all been the subject of a preliminary examination andi 
investigation before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction,' which has' 
the power to dismiss the charge on the ground that there is nor 
evidence upon which to send the offender for trial or that no jury 
would be likely to convict on the evidence. 

The Central Criminal Court which sits at the Old Bailey in 
London is a Court of Assize with a jurisdiction in London, Middle- 
sex, and parts of Surrey, Kent, Essex and Hertford. In this 

1 P.C. Eeport, 1898-9, p. 7. 

* As in Courts of Assize and Quarter Sessions the procedure is by indictment, the oHences, 
tried by these Courts are called "Indictable OHences." All the ancient Common Law' 
OHences are indictable, and so are all statutory oHences unless the statute expressly provides 
some other mode of trial. A list of indictable and non-indictable oHences is given on p. 31.j 

' In theory the Grand Jury may (except in certain cases) "present a Bill" (i.e., send for; 
trial before a judge and petty jury) on evidence laid before it for the first time, but in 
practice the procedure is as stated here. 


instance there are generally four trials proceeding in diSerenb 
Courts, presided over by the Recorder, the Common Sergeant, the 
Commissioner, and in the case of more serious charges, by a 
High Court Judge. Sometimes, when there is a very heavy list and 
there are long cases to be heard, two High Court Judges sit at the 
same time. 

Courts of Quarter Sessions. The Courts of Quarter Sessions are 
held in the different counties and all County Justices are entitled 
to sit on the bench. In the County Sessions the chairman is elected 
by the Justices from among themselves. Borough Sessions are 
presided over by the Recorder, who is a barrister appointed by the 
Home Office. The trial is before him and a jury. The London 
Sessions have a salaried chairman and deputy chairman, who must 
be barristers. As in the case of the Courts of Assize, a Court of 
Summary Jurisdiction investigates the charge in the first instance. 
Some of the more serious crimes (e.g., murder, attempted murder, 
rape, arson, perjury, etc.) are not triable at Sessions but only at 

Courts of Summary Jurisdiction. In country districts, the 
Courts of Summary Jurisdiction are composed of lay (unpaid) 
magistrates with a chairman appointed by the bench, and in almost 
all cases at least two lay magistrates must be present. In some 
of the larger towns a stipendiary magistrate is appointed with the 
same powers as two lay magistrates. 

Courts of Summary Jurisdiction have large powers to dispose of 
all cases of non-indictable offences* such as drunkenness, adultera- 
tion of food, cruelty to animals, common assault, betting, brothel- 
keeping, prostitution, etc., and in certain cases, such as larceny of 
goods of not greater value than £20, the obtaining of goods by false 
pretences, and indecent assaults on children, they may dispose of 
indictable offences, if the defendant consent. 

As a rule, a Court of Summary Jurisdiction cannot impose a 
severer penalty than three months' imprisonment with hard labour, 
although in a few cases, such as living on the earnings of a 
prostitute, aggravated assaults on women, or assaults on constables 
in the execution of their duty, the maximum is six months. With 
the consent of the defendant, these Courts can also try certain other 
eases, such as cruelty to children, which are punishable with more 
than three months' imprisonment, the maximum rising in the case 
of an ex-convict charged under the Prevention of Crimes Act to 
twelve months. They have the power to try " children " and 
" young persons " for all offences other than homicide, if the 
parents, in the former case, do not object, and if the defendant, in 
the latter case, consent. 

Although Courts of Summary Jurisdiction have no power to 

* See list of soch offences on v. 31. 


inflict long sentences, the powers of the bench are of great import- 
ance, both because of the very large number of cases tried and be- 
cause the majority of those who commit serious crimes begin their 
criminal career in these courts. These two facts require particular 
emphasis in view of the preponderance of lay magistrates. 

The actual conditions in a Court of Summary Jurisdiction— or 
Police Court, as it is popularly known — vary greatly according to 
the temperaments, tempers, and experience of the local magistrates 
and the attitude of the police. The resultant impossibility of 
standardising the conduct of the court makes reform difficult. 

Defendants brought before the Court have either been arrested 
(with or without a warrant) or have been served with a summons. 
In the provinces a summons is usually issued on application 
to the Magistrates' Clerk and is signed by a magistrate. In London 
a personal application to the magistrate must be made. This latter 
is the better practice. Provincial magistrates generally sign 
summonses without any knowledge of the complaint. They ought 
at least to exercise their power to see that summonses are only 
granted in proper cases. 

In order to issue a warrant for arrest an application must be made 
to a magistrate. If it be granted, the police arrest the defendant 
and he is detained in custody pending the hearing of the charge. In 
many cases a warrant is issued where a summons would fully serve 
the purpose. If a remand be ordered at the trial, the defendant is 
sometimes released pending the hearing on his own recognisances, 
but generally he must provide bail in order to be at liberty. Far 
too frequently bail is refused." 

In Courts presided over by lay magistrates there is a clerk who 
is usually a solicitor. Some courts are under the almost complete 
domination of the clerk. This is due partly to his special know- 
ledge and experience, and partly to the fact that the magistrates sit 
by rota. They are thus only on the bench at intervals, while the 
clerk sits continuously and often plays a decisive part in the pro- 
ceedings. An experienced solicitor gives this description of the 
course that is frequently followed: — 

The defendant is charged with an offence. Usually the police give 
evidence. A police witness states in the customary automatic fashion 
what he has to say. The clerk raps out at the defendant, " Any 
que.stions to ask the officer?" The defendant starts to make a state- 
ment, bat is told he must ask questions only. Often he cannot fram* 
a question. 

After the evidence for the prosecution, the clerk says "Do you wish 
to make a .'statement, or give evidence on oath?" Sometimes a few 
scrappy sentences are uttered. Often nothing is said. The clerk 
consults with the magistrates, and the chairman of the bench says, 
" Ten shillings," " 14 days," " 3 months " or whatever may be the 
penalty. A police officer touches the defendant on the shoulder and 
number ten is in the dock almost before number nine has left. 

» Cp. p. 305-6. 


The proceedings are sometimes fairer than this, but in many 
cases all the forces of authority are brought to bear against 
the miserable being whom the police have brought before the 
Court. As a general rule the police evidence is accepted much 
too readily. The fact that recently when a defendant in a principal 
London Police Court said he was doing nothing, the magistrate 
thought it proper to reply, " Then what do you suppose the police- 
man has brought you here for?" is an indication of the reliance 
which is placed upon the poUce statements. A man is supposed 
to be innocent until he be proved guilty, but in practice a police 
prosecution usually means a conviction. 

In many courts, too, the cases are tried far too hurriedly. Some- 
times forty or fifty cases are disposed of in two hours. In that 
time it is quite impossible for a msigistrate to give the cases the 
conscientious attention and consideration they require, " In my 
opinion," remarks a solicitor with an extensive knowledge of the 
courts, " convictions would not be recorded in many cases if more 
care were taken by the magistrates to see that all cases were 
judicially tried and that the evidence for the prosecution was 
examined with as much suspicion as that to which the evidence for 
the defence is subjected." This witness adds: — 

The most tragic eight in our police courts is that of the habitual 
criminal. Some miserable wretch is charged with being drunk or some 
poor woman is charged with soliciting. There is no doubt about the 
offence. The magistrate asks, "Has he (or she) been here before?" 
"Yes, sir," answers the police officer; "fifty-three times." "Twenty 
shillings or fourteen days," orders the magistrate — and the prisoner is 
taken away to spend a fortnight in prison with the certainty that within 
a few days of his release he will be back again. A more futile proceed- 
ing could scarcely be imagined. 

The administration of justice which can only find this method of 
dealing with such human derelicts condemns its authors and agents 
far more severely than it condemns its victims; haste, prejudice, and 
lack of imagination or humanity are its main characteristics, as any- 
one who will spend a few hours on a Monday morning in a police 
court in a poor district will soon discover. 

These criticisms of the conduct of Courts of Summary Jurisdic- 
tion apply also in some measure to Courts of Assize and Quarter 
Sessions, but not by any means to the same extent; for here the 
defendant is usually represented by a barrister, the presiding judge 
is more experienced, and there is a jury. In the case of judges, 
however, ignorance of the realities of the prison regime is general. 

The duties of a Judge of Assize are rendered more difficult by his 
inability to postpone cases for further diagnosis and investigation, 
as it is most unUkely that he w^ll be presiding at the next assizes. 
At the London Sessions postponement is possible, and sometimes 
this course is usefully adopted; but the enquiries are usually made 
by the police who lack the qualifications for the kind of investigation 


which is often necessary. Nevertheless, Courts in continuous 
session can give much more careful consideration than others to the 
circumstances and needs of the prisoner. 

The Pbinciples of Punishment in English Law. 

When the magistrates have decided to convict a prisoner they 
must decide the appropriate treatment of the offence. Unfortunately 
this does not appear to be a serious problem to the average bench. 
What is involved in the decision is often inadequately realised and 
the official assurance " he will be well looked after in prison " too 
readily accepted. Few magistrates know anything about prison 
and prison treatment; and many neglect to use the powers which 
they possess of making decisions other than the imposition of 
sentences of imprisonment. 

It has been suggested that no one should be permitted to sentence 
others to imprisonment who has not experienced imprisonment him- 
self. This may appear a fantastic proposal, but all magistrates should 
certainly exercise their rights to visit prisons and to talk privately 
with the prisoners, without the presence of a warder. The per- 
functory tour through prison buildings which Visiting Magistrates 
generally make, is practically worthless.* 

The principles of English law as to punishment are set out in 
Lord Halsbury's " Laws of England " in the following terms: — 

The policy of the law is as regards most crimes to fix a maximum 
penalty which is only intended for the worst cases and to leave to the 
discretion of the judge to determine to what extent in a particular 
case the punishment awarded should approach to or recede from the 
maximum limit. . . . 

The object of punishment is the prevention of crime, and every 
punishment should have a double effect, namely to prevent the person 
who has committed a crime from repeating the act or omission, and to 
prevent other members of the community from committing similar 

The Court in fixing the punishment for any particular crime will 
take into consideration the nature of the offence, the circumstances in 
which it was committed, the degree of deliberation shown by the 
offender, the provocation which he has received, if tlie crime is one of 
violence, the antecedents of the pri.=!oner up to the time of his sentence, 
his age and character^ and, except in the case of habitual criminals, any 
recommendation to mercy which the jury may have made.' 

This statement represents an advance on earlier views, but, as is 
often the case, the theory and practice are by no means identical. 
Until comparatively recently, the actual practice was generally to 
measure the penalty entirely by the crime committed, irrespective of 
extenuating circumstances, previous good character, extreme youth, 

« Cp. pp. 594-8. 

f Op. cit. (1909), Vol. ix., pp. 425 and 427. 


*tc., the sole exception being in the case of insanity. This principle 
has in many respects been modified by the Probation of Offenders 
Act, the Summary Jurisdiction Act, and the Children's Act, and at 
the present time there is practically no fixed penalty. The discretion 
given to the Courts is enormously wide, and the character and 
severity of a sentence depend to a large degree upon the tempera- 
ments and idiosyncrasies of individual magistrates. Some judges 
beheve in flogging, for instance, others do not. Some judges are 
particularly opposed to aliens, others place the sanctity of property 
before that of persons. 

Courts still show too great a tendency to measure out the punish- 
ment in a crude relation to the offence, and allow much too little 
for the fact that many prisoners are more the victims of society 
than offenders against it. The shock of appearing in Court would 
often be sufficiently deterrent to a first offender without sentence. 
When one considers the ordeal of a person who for the first time 
finds himself in the hands of the law, the shock of arrest, the 
publicity and shame usually associated with police court proceedings, 
it is evident that little if anything more is required in the average 
case than a few words of advice or warning. 

Murder is now the only offence with a fixed sentence; if the 
verdict be manslaughter the sentence may be anything from a few 
<]ays to penal servitude for life." The creation of the Court of 
Criminal Appeal has done something to prevent excessive sentences. 
In that Court there is an encouraging tendency to consider the 
circumstances of the prisoner and not merely the crime he has 


From Magistrates. A person who pleads not guilty, but is found 
guilty by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, may appeal to the next 
Quarter Sessions. The appeal is a re-hearing — the onus of proof 
resting (or being supposed to rest) on the prosecution. In the 
provinces there can be no appeal, even against the sentence, if the 
defendant pleaded guilty, but in London an appeal may generally be 
made to Quarter Sessions against the conviction and sentence, despite 
a plea of guilty.* 

The expense of an appeal is considerable and for the average 
defendant is practically out of the question. In the first instance, 
sureties must be found for the cost of the appeal; also at many 
sessions the defendant has to pay his own costs even when success- 

• The Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914 (Section 13, i) prorides that "no 
TCrson shall be sentenced to imprisonment by a Court of Summary Jurisdiction for a 
period of less than fire days"; but if an offender be fined and only pay part of the fine, 
le may be sent to prison for less than fire days in default of the unpaid portion. 
Prisoners may be sentenced to detention in police cells for four days or less, but this is 
not done in London. 

* Metropolitan Police Courts Act, 1839, Section 50. The right of appeal is restricted to 
cases where a fine of more than £3 or imprisonment for more than a month has been 



ful." Further, in London, it is actually the case that, when the 
defendant has pleaded guilty and has lodged an appeal on the ground 
of an excessive sentence, even though he succeed in gaining a 
modification of the sentence, e.g., the substitution or alternative of a 
fine, he is still ordered to pay not only his own costs but those of 
the Crown. It will be seen, therefore, that to appeal is a ingbt 
Umited almost entirely to the rich. 

From Quarter Sess'ons and Assizes. Prior to 1907 there was no 
appeal from Quarter Sessions or Assizes, except on points of law, 
hut by the Criminal Appeal Act there is now a right of appeal to 
the Court of Criminal Appeal constituted by the Act. 

Police Cells. 

A preliminary to imprisonment to which attention must be given 
is the period of confinement in the cells at police stations. A 
prisoner may be kept in a police cell when awaiting trial, between 
one appearance in Court and another, whilst awaiting removal to 
prison, or in fulfilment of a sentence of detention for four days or 

The cells are usually small and excessively bare places, containing i 

only a long wooden seat, used as a bed, and an open w.c, some- i 

times flushed from outside only The evidence of our witnesses j 

shows that the conditions vary, but complaints of bad ventilation, 1 

lack of warmth, and insufficient and dirty blankets are very frequent, t 
The criticism is also made that prisoners have no information as 

to their riehts regarding such things as visitation and the provision | 

of books and papers and meals, and that the police take advantage j 
of the prisoner's position to extort tips. 

In the case of women prisoners, serious complaint is made that j 
male police are in attendance. As long ago as February 13, 1913, ; 
Mr. McKenna (who was then Home Secretai-y) stated in the House I 
of Commons that " a male warder is never in charge of female cells, - j 
a matron being always in attendance when women are detained," ] 
and that "the matron personally looks after the female cells, attends ■ 
to the needs of female prisoners, and always accompanies the officer 
in charge of the station when he visits the cells." This was a very 
misleading description of what actually occurs. At most police 
stations there is only one "matron," often the woman who cleans 
the place. She is not in fact "in charge" of the women prisoners 
at all — the constables are responsible — and even if she were, she j 
could not be on duty for all the 24 hours. "We give details of two 
recent cases which indicate some of the disagreeable features of the 
present practice. The first case occurred in June, 1920: — 

'" An experienced solicitor says: "If a defendant appeals against a conTiction by a 
Magistrate and wins his appeal, the conviction being quashed, he is very seldom allowed 
any costs airainst the Crown or the Police who are the nominal prosecutorg. Thit it a 
t'leat hardship." 


A woman (afterwards acquitted) was kept in a police cell from Tuesday 
till the following Sunday. During the whole of this time she waa 
obliged to sleep on a plank bed or shelf, without either mattress or 
piUow. There was no chair or other article of furniture in the cell 
beyond this plank ; the only sanitary utensil provided for use at night 
wa* an ordinary bucket. In the day-time the sergeant's wife brought 
her meals, and when rung for took her to the lavatory. At night she* 
waa in the sole charge of the police constable, who looked at intervals 
into the cell through the spy-hole. Once a day she was allowed out to 
wash herself, but during the whole time she could not undress. She 
was unable to obtain the sanitary towels which she required, though 
the sergeant's wife in kindness gave her two old pieces of table-cloth. 

The second case occurred in September, 1920: — 

A girl of sixteen was charged with breaking conditions of probation. 
She waa confined in a police cell from eight o'clock on Saturday evening 
until ten o'clock on Monday morning. She was open to observation by 
male police officers during the whole time, and was only attended by a 
woman once each morning when she was given an opportunity to wash. 
She had to use the w.c. in the cell, despite the possibility of a constable 
appearing at any moment. She states that a constable unlocked the door 
and came into the cell during the night and spoke familiarly to her. 
She was too frightened to lie down on the plank bed and sat up all night. 

It is obvious that women ought to be placed permanently in charge 
of women prisoners at police stations as they are in prisons. It is 
scandalous that the existing practice should have been permitted un- 
challenged so long. 

Alternatives to Imprisonment. 

It will be generally accepted that a person should not be sent to 
prison if the case can be otherwise dealt with. Merely from the 
economic standpoint, a man or woman in prison is a bad investment, 
a fact which the authorities now appreciate, and in the Home Ofl&ce 
circulars magistrates have more than once been asked to consider 
the alternatives to imprisonment. In passing, it may be urged that 
circulars of this character should be brought to the notice of each 
magistrate and not sent merely to the Clei-k of the Court. At 
present magistrates are often ignorant of their contents. 

Fines. It is common in Police Courts to impose a fine with 
imprisonment as an alternative. Repeated advice to magistrates to 
give defendants time to pay fines was so constantly ignored that in 
1914 a provision was included in the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 
prohibiting the use of a warrant of commitment unless (1) a person 
with ability to pay declined to do so, or unless (2) on being 
questioned he expressed no desire for time to pay or failed to satisfy 
the Court that he had a fixed place of abode in the district, or unless 
(3) there were other special reasons. The time allowed must be 
not less than seven days. If the fine be not paid in the time 
prescribed, the Court may extend it. 


This provision is applied in a very casual manner and the limita- 
tions are serious. In their report for 1920-21 the Prison Com- 
missioners point out that of the 13,404 prisoners received in default 
of fine, no less than 12,239 had not been allowed time to pay before 
committal to prison. "The fact," they proceed, "that 5,088 or 38 
•per cent, of those committed in default paid their fine, either wholly 
or in part, soon after reception into prison is suggestive that hard- 
ship may be imposed by the condition .... that the offender 'must 
satisfy the Court that he has a fixed abode within the jurisdiction' 
before time can be allowed in which to pay the fine." " The Prison 
Commissioners have persistently protested against the sending to 
prison of offenders who have been given the alternative of a fine, and 
the proportion of such convictions has fallen in recent years." All 
those with knowledge of the facts agree that far more opportunities 
for the payment of fines should be provided, and the present pro- 
visions made more operative. 

The giving of time for fine-paying is unpopular with some Court 
officials owing to the trouble involved; and since some Courts are 
largely in the hands of the clerks, their objection is often a serious 
hindrance to the grant of adequate opportunities. A more valid 
objection is the burden which the infliction of a fine frequently places 
upon the family of the defendant, who, avoiding inconveniences 
himself, relies upon his relatives to keep him out of prison. 

The Act of 1914 also gives magistrates power to place a young 
offender between sixteen and twenty-one under "supervision" until 
a fine is paid. Insufficient advantage is taken of this provision. 

Probation. The Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, represented a 
very great advance in the treatment of law-breakers. By this Acfc 
the Courts are empowered, despite the fact that an offence has been 
committed, to discharge prisoners either absolutely or conditionally. 
Where a Court is of opinion that, " having regard to the character, 
antecedents, age, health or mental condition of the person charged 
or to the trivial nature of the offence, or to the extenuating' 
circumstances under which the offence was committed," it is in- 
expedient to inflict any punishment, or expedient to release the 
offender on probation, it may without proceeding to conviction 
either dismiss the charge or discharge the offender conditionally on 
his entering into a recognisance to be of good behaviour. The 
conditions may place the offender under the supervision of a pro- 
bation officer or other person, and may apply also to residence, 
abstention from intoxicating liquors, or any other matters which are 
calculated to prevent a repetition of the offence. The Act also 
provides special Probation Officers for children. 

Under these wide discretionary powers a magistrate need never 
send a first, or indeed any, offender to prison. Unfortunately, tho 

"P.O. Report, 1920-21, p. 10. 

'2 See Tables on pp. 34, 35, and 36. 


Act has been made far less operative than it deserves. In 1912, 
the Home Secretary felt it necessary to state in a circular to 
magistrates that " many minor offenders are still committed to 
prison for offences for which imprisonment appears to be an in- 
appropriate and sometimes a hannful form of punishment, and he 
fears that Courts of Summary Jurisdiction do not always fully realise 
the wide powers given them by statute to deal with minor offenders 
without having recourse to imprisonment. ' ' That this should be 
the case is lamentable. The opportunities provided by the 1907 
Act might save hundreds of offenders from the fatal disgrace of 
imprisonment without in any way prejudicing the interests oi 

Restitution. The Act of 1907 also applied another new principle 
of great possibilities — that of restitution. It gave the Courts the 
power, in addition to making Probation Orders, to levy damages 
upon offenders (not exceeding in the case of a Court of Summary 
Jurisdiction the sum of £10). Practically no advantage has been 
taken of this power. 

By the Prevention of Crime Act, 1908, another innovation was 
made in our criminal system. The object and provisions of the Act 
were, on the one hand, for the reformation of young offenders, 
under what is now known as the Borstal System, and, on the other, 
for the segregation of habitual criminals over a longer period under 
Preventive Detention. As both systems are described later, we 
need only here explain briefly with what classes they deal.'* 

Borstal. Any offender either convicted on indictment of an indict- 
able offence or summarily convicted of an offence punishable by one 
month or upwards without the option of a fine, may be sent to a 
Borstal institution either by a judge or by Quarter Sessions, there 
to be dealt with under the Act, provided that 

(1) It appear to the Court that the offender is not less than 16 
nor more than 21 years of age. 

(2) It be proved that the offender (if summarily convicted) has been 
previously convicted or that he has previously committed a breach 
of a Probation Order, and 

(3) It appear that, owing to his criminal habits or tendencies or 
association with bad characters, it is expedient that he should be 
detained for instruction and discipline. 

The Court may, after enquiring into the circumstances of the case, 
sentence the offender to detention in a Borstal Institution for not 
more than three and not less than two years. Magistrates have 

" Sir Robert Wallace, K.C., Chairman of the London Sessions, stated on July 22nd, 1920, 
*h»t it had been found at the London Sessions that ont ol every 100 priEoners on probation. 
96 never returned to a life of crime. 

'*Cp. Chapters 26 and 27 of bhis Part. 


powers under the Act to make enquiries as to the offender and the 
Prison Commissioners may submit a report." 

Preventive Detention. Any adult prisoner charged with a felony 
or certain misdemeanours may also be charged with being, under the 
terms of the Act, a "habitual criminal." " It must then be proved 
(1) that since attaining the age of 16 years he has at least three 
times previously been convicted of ciime, and (2) that he is leading 
persistently a dishonest or criminal life; or (3) that he has been 
previously found to be a habitual criminal. If found guilty of the 
crime, he may be sentenced to penal servitude; if also found to be 
a "habitual criminal," he may receive a further sentence of 
Preventive Detention to commence on the expiration of the other. 
A penal servitude sentence of at least three years is a necessary 
preliminary to Preventive Detention, of which five and ten years 
are respectively the minimum and maximum terms. These terms 
are, however, in most cases greatly reduced by the wide extension 
under this Act of conditional release. 

The Birmingham Experiment. At Birmingham a serious attempt 
has been made by the local magistrates to prevent the committal 
(especially in mental cases) of persons unfit for prison life. The 
medical officer of the prison, who is an expert, appointed at the 
magistrates' request, watches all cases on remand; and the appoint- 
ment of a doctor to report on other adjourned cases out of custody 
has also been approved by the city authorities. 

Under this provision any charged person exhibiting mental 
instability, or abnormality, or repeatedly committing the same 
offence, is, upon sufficient evidence, remanded by the Court for 
enquiry. When suitable, baU is allowed on the charged person's 
voluntarily undertaking to submit himself to the Court doctor. In 
other cases, he is remanded to a special place of detention in the 
prison for medical observation. If the Court, when the case is 
recalled, decide to convict, the medical officer of the prison or the' 
Court doctor gives evidence. Upon this evidence the order of the 
Court is made. Imprisonment is only resorted to when the Court 
considers that " a period of detention under medical supervision is 
the proper method of dealing with the case." A person so 
sentenced may be committed to a part of the prison set aside for 
treatment of special cases. 

A large number of persons unfit for prison conditions have been 
saved from imprisonment by this procedure. " Investigation has 
shown that the criminal is to a large extent defective mentally and 
physically," says the committee responsible for the inauguration of 
this scheme, " and proper medical advice may in many cases 

15 Prevention o! Crime Act, 1908, Part 1., Section 1, and Criminal Justice Administration 
Act, 1910, Section 10. 
»• Prevention ol Crime Act, 1908, Part 11., Section 10. 


remedy his defect and make him a decent member of society." The 
committee adds that "physical defects in many cases are respon- 
sible for crime"; and that "in practically every one" of the cases 
referred to the prison doctor " some defect in the offender has been 
found," so that his report has in each case enabled the Justices to 
deal more satisfactorily with the offender. 

During the year ending August 31st, 1920, 151 offenders were 
thus treated by the medical officer of Birmingham prison. Of these, 
39 (or less than 26 per cent.) were subsequently sentenced to 
imprisonment ("these are in a sense our failures," says the medical 
officer), 16 were placed on probation, 59 were dismissed or adjourned. 
15 were found insane, and 14 were dealt with under the Mental 
Deficiency Act." The magistrates of the Bradford Bench have 
adopted a similar scheme. 

This chapter cannot be closed without emphasising the helplesa- 
ness of many prisoners, particularly in pohce courts. The poorer a 
prisoner is the less chance he has of receiving justice. No expense 
is spared as a rule in the prosecution, but beyond the totally in- 
adequate Poor Prisoners' Defence Act" (which only applies to 
prisoners tried at a Court of Assize or a Court- of Quarter Sessions), 
no provision whatever is made for the defence of a poor prisoner. 

It is presumed that all are equal before the law. This is an amiable 
fiction. Magistrates may do a little to make the presumption of 
equality a reality ; in so far as they attempt it they assist in 
making our criminal administration respected ; in so far as they 
do not, they perpetuate conditions which in many respects fall 
administratively far behind the more recent provisions of the law for 
the modification of our penal code. 

" Dr. Hamblin Smith, the medical officer at Birmingham prison, in his report for 1919-20, 
makes the following reference to the progress of the scheme:— "The scheme i5 oa 
the mo(t enlightened lines of modern criminology, and one has great hopes of its extension. 
Any attempt to work such a scheme in a perfunctory manner coald be only a failure, and 
would bring the scheme into contempt. The scheme cannot yet be said to be in full working 
order. An essential element is the proTision of special remand department: in the prison, 
and these are not yet complete. But some success may be claimed already. . . . Indeed. 
I would claim that the establishment of such a department will proTe, in the long run, 
the best inrestment a community could make, for uninrestigated criminals are the moat 
expensire luxuries. The complete logical working out of such a scheme would requir« 
alterations in the present law." No report is given ol the achene in the Commisaioners' 
report for 1920-21. 

'» The most helpless prisoners are not able to take adrantage of this Act, owing to inability 
to make the requisite statement or to disclose any defence. 


The Development of the System 

The terms machinery and system, however convenient for descrip- 
tive purposes, are as a rule somewhat too cold and mechanical in 
their associations to be happily applied to methods of organising 
human beings. But, if the reader of this book has either been him- 
self an inmate of an English prison or had an opportunity of looking 
into the unpublished and jealously guarded volume of Standing 
Orders which regulate almost every detail of the daily lives of 
prisoners and their oC&cers, he will acknowledge, we think, that the 
two terms in question are particularly well suited to describe the 
elaborate, centralised, and rigid manner in which the administration 
of our English prisons is conducted. 

The steps by which the present administration of this system has 
been evolved can be described in a few paragraphs.* 

The eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth saw 
the abolition in this country, by progressive stages, of mutila- 
tion, the stocks, the pillory, and of transportation or banishment, 
and the restriction within narrow limits of the death penalty and 
flogging. Within the same period the principle had been established 
that imprisonment should mean not merely compulsory detention,- 
y as had previously been the case (at least in theory), but detention 
/ combined with servile labour and other punitive conditions. There- 
1 fore, for the last seventy years, at least, "prison" (in its modern 
/ sense) and the imposition of a fine have been almost the sole penalties 
^. adjudged to law-breakers ; and in the very large proportion of cases of 
those who cannot — or will not — pay, the sentence of a fine has 
t brought imprisonment by default. 

By the end of the first half of the nineteenth century, prisons 
had come to be divided into two distinct classes — Convict prisons, 
containing tjne. offenders committed for thejaoger sentences, known. 
as penal servitude, and I^aTprlsons, for those senteneed for shorter 

> For a detailed description of this evolution the reader is referred to "English Prison* 
under Local Government." by Sidney and Beatrice Webb (Longmans, Green), published 
simultaneously with this volume. 


terms. The former class were from the first (i.e., after the dis- 
""cOTitinuance of transportation) under the direct control of the Central 
Government; and up to 1877 the external history of Local prisons 
centres round a series of attempts on the part of Whitehall to get an 
increasing measure of control over the management of these prisons 
also. During this period the management of the Local prisons 
(apart from a few anomalous "franchise prisons") was vested in 
the County Justices of the Peace "in Sessions assembled" and iu 
the members of certain municipal corporations. In the Prison Act 
of the year 1865 an elaborate code of rides for the governance of 
prisons was set out and made binding on all these prison authorities, 
the actual administration of the gaols being still left in their 
hands; but in a large number of instances these regulations were 
not effectively observed, and for various reasons the Central Govern- 
ment found itself without the requisite power to enforce their 

^ , TgE Pr ison Act s . 
The Government accordingly aecMe5" to assume not only the 
control but the direct administration of the Local prisons. This was 
dong,b;^^^the Prison Ag^j;>LJ.877, which vested the legal estate of these 
pnsonsmThe TlSwIy constituted^Board of Commissioners, who were 
to administer them under the authority of the Secretary of State"fl5f 
Honie. Affairs, New Commissioners were to be, and still are, 
appointed on the recommendation of the Home Secretary, who also 
appoints the chairman. Their number must not at any one time 
exceed five. Compensation was paid to the local authorities, and an 
attempt was made to retain their interest and co-operation by the 
institution of Visiting Committees of Justices, to whom considerable 
responsibilities and powers were assigned. As will be indicated in 
a later chapter,^ this attempt has largely proved to be a failure, and 
since 1877 the administration of prisons has been almost completely 
.-jcent-rftlised, aUke in large matters of policy and in the smallest 
-dfitaJls of routine. 

The declared objects of the change from local to centralised 
administration were two; first, the apphcation to all prisons of a 
uniform system of punishment (calculated, it was hoped, to repress 
crime) on the lines of the code contained in the 1865 Act'; and 
secondly, greater economy in public expenditure, secured more 
particularly by a large reduction in the number of prisons.* These 
two objects were apparently achieved by the operation of the 1877 
Act. The changes were not, however, by any means entirely 
beneficial. On this point the evidence may be quoted of two com- 
petent authorities who had made a special study of the subject. 

=• Op. Chapter 25 of this Part. 

» The Departmental Committee of 1895 stated that the main principles of prison treat- 
ment had been laid down by the Act of 1865 and that they had not been altered or 
Drought into question np to 1894. (Report of Committee, p. 2, sect. 11.) 

■•There were 113 Local prisons in 1877; in 1885 there were 59 only. The two objects 
are as stated by Sir Edmund Du Cane, who administered and largely influenced the 
Iraming of the Act. (See his "Punishment of Crime," p 99 ) 


The Eev. W. D. Morrison, himself at that time a Prison Chaplain 
of long experience, wrote in 1894 : — 

It is not to be denied that the Local prison administration in operation 
before 1878 had its faults and undoubtedly required radical alterations. 
But it had its virtues, too. Prisons can never be successfully admini- 
stered without a practical knowledge of the prison population, and an 
intimate acquaintance with the prison staff. Both of these requisitea 
the county magistrate* possessed, and as a result prisoners were never 
mechanised into mere pieces on a chess-board, and the prison staff was 
never rendered impotent as a reformative agency by a smouldering spirit 
of disaffection. In fact, the old Local prison administration was a 
system which kept the ruling classes in touch with social miseries in 
their acutest form. Local power created local interest and a sense of 
local responsibility.* 

The Departmental Committee on Prisons, in their 1895 Report, 
described the conditions obtaining before 1878 in the following 
words : — 

The best prisons under the former regime, while comparing satis- 
factorily in point of order and discipline with the prisons of to-day, 
were managed on lines in all probability more likely to produce a healthy 
moral effect of a permanent kind on the prisoners. But in other cases 
the management was unsatisfactory. Taking the prisons generally there 
was no settled and uniform principle of treatment ; the Act of 1865, 
which constituted the Prison Code, and which it was intended should be 
adopted and administered in all prisons alike, in many prisons was 
imperfectly carried out ; and the resulting inequalities as between one 
prison and another led to a very considerable amount of mischief and 

The centralised system set up by the 1877 Act continued un- 
changed until the next Prison Act, which was not passed until 1898. 
The reforms then made were the result of a persistent agitation in 
the Press and on the platform, which led to the appointment in 
1894 by Mr. Asquith, as Home Secretary, of a Departmental Com- 
mittee on Prisons, under the chairmanship of Mr. Herbert Gladstone 
(now Lord Gladstone). The recommendations made by this Com- 
mittee in their Report of 1895, whether relating to the treatment of 
prisoners or to the machinery of administration, were, however, 
as will appear in the sequel, only very partially adopted as the result 
of the 1898 Prison Act. This Act, with the rules from time to time 
made under it, and the 1877 Act (the greater part of which has been 
left unmodified) still govern the treatment of all prisoners and pre- 
scribe the duties of those in charge of them. 

The Prison Act of 1898, unlike that of 1877, dealt with Convict 
establishments as well as with Local prisons. The first Convict 
prisons (at Millbank and Pentonville) had been under special unpaid 
Committees responsible to Whitehall only. When Portland and 

' "Are our Prisons a Failure?" by the Rev. W. D. Morriion in the "Fortnightly Review," 
1894, Vol. LV., p. 461. 

« Report of 1895 Committee, v. 6, sect. 23. 


Dartmo'vr were in process of construction in 1850, the control and 
administration of penal servitude prisoners was vested in a Chairman 
and Board of Directors of Convict prisons. In 1877, though there 
is nothing in the Act to indicate it, the persons who held the ofiQce of 
Directors of Convict prisons were selected to be Commissioners of 
Local prisons, and this union of the two functions in the same 
persons remained the practice until 1898, when the new Act specific- 
ally provided that the Prison Commissioners should be by virtue of 
their ofiSce Directors of Convict prisons. Since 1896 the Annual 
Reports on the two classes of prisons have been combined. Down 
to the 1898 Act the control of the Central Government over Convict 
prisons had been complete and unquahfied. But in this Act an 
attempt was made, following on the report^ of the Departmental 
Committee, to introduce local supervision by providing for the 
appointment, by the Home Secretary, of a Board of Visitors for each 
Convict prison. Owing to their restricted powers and also perhaps 
to their narrow standpoint, these bodies of local magistrates have 
proved even less effective as critics and initiators of reforms than 
the older institution of the visiting justices of Local prisons.' 

The chief importance of the 1898 Prison Act lay in the incentive 
which its provisions gave to the framing for both Local and Convict 
I prisons of a new code of rules embodying some at any rate of the 
I reforms advocated by the Departmental Committee of 1895. Under 
it the Home Secretary (acting presumably on the advice of the Com- 
I missioners) may make rules of any kind for the administration of 
! prisons and the treatment of prisoners, subject only to the following 
i restrictions : — 

(1) The rules must have "regard to the sex, age, health, industry, 
and conduct of the prisoners," and must provide for ameliorations 

1 for the benefit of less criminal classes of prisoners to be styled 

1 "offenders of the first" and "of the second division" respectively. 

I The rules may only authorise the infliction of corporal punishment 

in certain strictly defined cases ; and they may enable a prisoner to 

earn remission of a portion of his sentence by special industry and 

good conduct. 

(2) The rules must, before coming into force, lie before each House 
; of Parhament for thirty days, and cannot be brought into force, 

without a new draft, should either House present an address against 

In accordance with these provisions, complete new codes of rules 
were drawn up and brought into force in April, 1899. These codes, 
as interpreted and expanded by the unpublished standing orders, 
have been but slightly amended and, allowing for the establishment 
of the Borstal and Preventive Detention systems, remain the basis 

-ee pp 402-7. 


of prison treatment to-day." It does not appear that either House 
of Parhament has ever taken the trouble to debate, far less to present 
an address against, any of the rules made under the 1898 Act either 
in 1899 or more recently. 

In addition to Local and Convict prisons, other kinds of penal 
institutions have been established under various statutes. These 
comprise the State Criminal Lunatic Asylum, the State Inebriate 
Reformatories created under the Inebriate Act of 1898, and the Pre- 
ventive Det-ention Prison and Borstal Institutions established under 
the Prevention of Crime Act, of 1908. With the exception of the 
Criminal Lunatic Asylum (now under the Board of Control),' all 
these institutions are under the direct administration of the Prison 
Commissioners, subject only to the authority of the Home Secretary 
and to the co-operation of certain committees to whom is delegated 
work connected with the supervision, discharge, or after-care of the 

The Prison Commission and the Home Office. 

We can now survey the centralised machinery of government of 
English prisons. The Secretary of State for Home Affairs is the 
responsible head of the Prison system. The Prison Acts, in fact, 
provide that many of the proceedings of the Commissioners shall 
have the express sanction of the Home Secretary; for instance, in 
the making of rules for prisons and prisoners, it is the Home Secre- 
tary who is personally responsible. But in practice most of the 
day to day administration is done by the Prison Commissioners, 
either under that title or in their capacity of Directors of Convict 
prisons. The Home Secretary is not only one of the principal 
members of the Cabinet, but he is as heavily weighted with diverse 
functions as any Minister of the Crown. Unless, therefore, hefi 
take some special interest in prisons and their reform (as was the 
case with Mr. Winston Churchill during his brief Secretaryship 'ml 
1910 and 1911), he is unlikely to interfere with the proposals orf 
policy of the Commissioners — an apathy on his part which isi 
encouraged by the still greater apathy of the public at large. ■.■. 

It is true that Parliament has an opportunity of discussing prison'i 
administration every year on the estimates. But this opportunity \a\ 
seldom taken, and the debates when they have taken place have been 
of a perfunctory character. Almost the only occasions on which the 

• The only important alterations in the published Rules have been lor Local prisons:— 
(1) the introduction ol new dietaries in 1901, (2) the extension ol remission of sentences 
to all prisoners with more than a month's sentence in 1907, (3) the special treatment 
introduced lor juvenile adults in 1909, and (4) the "Churchill" Rule for non-crimina 
prisoners in 1910; and as regards the dietaries, classification, separate confinement, anc 
long-sentence privileges for Convicts (in 1901, 1905, 191J., and 1915). 

It is significant that all the (uncancelled) published rules made under the 1898 Ar 
since April, 1899, up to January, 1921, are contained in a small eight-page leaile 
("Rules for the Government of Local and Convict Prisons," printed in January, 1921) 
There have been a multitude of new (unpublished) Standing Orders. (See p. 64.) 

' The Board of Control has been the central authority for Lunacy and Mental Deflcienc 
eince 3 914. 


House of Commons has seriously considered the subject of imprison- 
ment during the last twenty-five years have been in connection with 
the 1908 Prevention of Crime Act, the 1914 Criminal Justice 
Administration Act, and in special regard to the treatment of women 
suffragists, conscientious objectors, and other political prisoners. As 
already mentioned, there have been no debates in regard to the new 
prison rules that have been laid before the House from time to time. 
And since the Prison Act of 1898 there has been no Eoyal Com- 
mission or Departmental Committee appointed by any Government 
to enquire into the condition of English prisons, with the sole excep- 
tion of quite a minor Enquiry which was held in 1910-11 on the 
supply of books to prisoners. This neglect of the subject appears 
to be a measure of the amount of interest taken by the public in 
criminal prisoners, more than of any defects in the forms of parlia- 
mentary procedure. 

Apart from the personal control of the Secretary of State, there 
remains the question as to how far the permanent heads of the Home 
Office have a say in prison administration ; for in practice, of course, 
the approval of the Home Secretary implies at any rate a formal 
ratification by someone in the department who acts as his adviser. 
On this matter no authoritative information is available, but it 
appears to be the case that the approval of the Home Office staff is 
given, in the vast majority of instances, as a matter of course, not 
only to any published regulations, but even to minor alterations pro- 
posed by the Commissioners in the unpublished Standing Orders. 

The Prison Commissioners are a body corporate, having a common 
seal, and a power to hold land, the legal estate of the prisons being 
vested in them. They appoint the "subordinate officers" in every 
prison. This term '* includes all prison officers with the exception 
of the governor (including deputy governor), chaplain, visiting 
minister, medical officer, and matron, who are appointed, as are also 
the inspectors of prisons, by the Home Secretary. It may, however, 
be assumed that in the vast majority of cases, it is the Commissioners 
who nominate the higher prison staff and recommend their promotion 
and dismissal. 

In respect of Convict prisons the Commissioners have large and 
direct powers of punishing prisoners, subject only to the approval 
of the Home Secretary as regards sentences of flogging, and subject 
to their option to delegate the exercise of these powers in any par- 
ticular case to the Board of Visitors. They may take evidence on 
oath and act as if they were the Justices of the Peace for the county 
in which the Convict prison is situated. In Local prisons the 
general award of punishments, together with a few other executive 
functions of a minor character (apart, of course, from those within 
the Governor's discretion), has been delegated under the 1899 Rules 
to the Visiting Committees of Magistrates. These Committees have 

" See Prison Act. 1898, Sect. 14. 


also, in theory, under the Prison Eules, the opportunity of acting 
as a check upon the administration of the Commissioners as bodies 
of independent critics who are empowered to report direct to the 
Home Secretary, as well as to the Commissioners. In point of fact, 
as is more fully set out in a later chapter," they have not exercised 
«!uch a function to any appreciable extent. 

One remarkable circumstance must here be mentioned, which has 
possibly done almost as much as the character of the law itself to 
secure for the Prison Commissioners a commanding and unbroken 
supremacy over the administration of the service. Although the 
Commission has now been in the place of authority for about forty- 
three years, there have been during the whole of this period only 
two chairmen to guide its policy and to preside over its executive 
acts. Not only so, but both of these chairmen have apparently 
been dominating personalities, and circumstances have contributed 
to make their rule even more absolute than might otherwise have been 
the case. In the first place, they have not been elected by their 
colleagues on the Commission, but, as the law provides, by the Home 
Secretary; and the body over which the chairman presides is one 
of only three or at most four members, besides himself, and of 
members whose tenure of office has been short compared to his own. 

Further, we understand, it has been the practice for only the 
chairman, and not the whole Commission, to have the ear of the 
Home Secretary. The first chairman. Sir Edmund Du Cane, had 
already had long experience as the leading Director of Convict 
prisons and as Inspector General of Military prisons when he took 
up office in 1878. From that date up to his retirement in 1895 he 
held a commanding, indeed, probably an autocratic position. Before 
1895 effective meetings of the Board of Commissioners, who were 
supposed to act with the chairman, appear rarely to have been 
held except for the consideration of prison appointments." Sir 
Edmund Du Cane was on his retirement in 1895 succeeded as chair- 
man by Mr. (now Sir) Evelyn Euggles-Brise, who had been on tha 
Commission since 1891, and remained its chairman until the close of 
1921, a period of 26 years. During that period the three (or at times 
four) other places on the Commission have been filled by 
twelve different gentlemen." These Commissioners have, witla 
scarcely any exception, been selected from three quarters only — 
the higher administrative staff of the Home Office, the prison 
governors, and the prison medical officers." The chairman's in- 

" Cp. pp. 389-90 and 599-402. 

" Dep. Committee Report, p. 42, Sect. 119, and Sir E. R. Brise's Evidence thereto. Cp. 
Dn Cane, "Punishment of Crime," p. 186. 

J» In reply to the suggestion, in the House of Commons on June 22nd. 1921, that a 
woman should be appointed as Prison Commissioner, the representative ol the Home Office 
urged that "the work ol the Prison Commissioners is too heavy to make it possible t^ 
replace any ot them by a vfoman without administrative experience of prison*." 

'< The suggestion that one Commissioner should always be a medical man was madp 
the 1895 Committee but was not acted upon until 1898, as the Commissioners previously 
objected to it. (See their Observations, Cmd. 7995, 3 896, p. 17). 


fluence and policy appear to have dominated the management and 
development of the system." 

The Inspection of Prisons. 

The Commissioners are assisted by a secretary and three inspec- 
tors, as well as by a medical inspector, a chaplain inspector, and a 
woman inspector.'" These inspectors, though appointed by the Home 
Secretary, are under the control of the Commissioners. They spend 
part of each month at headquarters, and the remainder in inspections ; 
it has been the rule that each prison should be visited by an inspector 
every other month. Their annual reports (usually quite brief docu- 
ments, except in the case of the medical inspector) are made not to 
the Home Secretary but to the Commissioners, and are subject to 
their censorship before publication. This fact is all the more 
surprising seeing that the 1895 Departmental Committee expressed 
the view that the intention of the Act of 1877 was that the Prison 
Inspectors "should be independent altogether of the Commissioners, 
and act directly on behalf of the Secretary of State." They com- 
mented on the actual position of the inspectors, and suggested that 
the inspectors might report direct to the Home Secretary, and that 
independent annual reports from them should be laid before 

The Commissioners were, however, able to make out a case that 
the only independent authority contemplated by the 1877 Act was 
the Visiting Committees of Magistrates, and that the Act "made the 
, inspectors part of the administrative machinery, to be in fact the 
eyes and ears of the Commissioners." As to the suggestion that the 
inspectors should report direct to the Home Secretary, they 
solemnly asserted that "to appoint an intermediate authority between 
the Secretary of State and the Commissioners who aid him under the 
,Act, would be the introduction of a starthng and novel principle, 
iwould degrade the Commissioners, and seriously impair their dignity 
'and prestige, and weaken their administration."" Since this protest 
:no attempt appears to have been made to secure a more free and 
independent inspection of the prisons. 

In 1895 the Departmental Committee reported that "while the 
inspection (of the prisons) has been carried out with a zeal and 
success testified to by many witnesses, it has necessarily assumed 
a somewhat formal and routine character." If one may judge from 

I " Cp- r- "74 and the extracts from the writing? of Sir E. Ruggles-Bri»e given in Chapter 
{4. Sir E. Rnggles-Brise has written an apologia of his administration under the title "The 
lEnglish Prison System." See pp. 84 and 554-59. 

j »• The chairman's salary is £1,800 a year, and that of the other Commissioners £1,000 

> year. The secretary is paid £740 a year: the inspectors, from £600 to £800; the 

Bedical inspector, £740; and the woman inspector, £400. The appointment of a woman 

"ctor was recommended by the 1895 Departmental Committee. The Commissioner* 

"ted to it, and the appointment was only actually made in 1907-8. possibly as an 

eet fruit of the Suffrage agitation. (See the Statement of the Commissioners, Cmd. 

O, 1898, p. 19). 

>ee 1895 Dep. Committee Report, p. 41, Sect. 115 and 116. 

Obseryations ol Commissioners (Cmd. 7995), 1896, fp. 51-2. 


evidence that we have taken and from the uninteresting nature of 
their reports, "formal and routine" is still the dominant characteristic 
of the duties performed by the three inspectors." It is true that 
prisoners are invited to make complaints to the inspectors, their cell 
door being thrown open for a moment while this official passes by. 
But in many cases the visit is so rapid and unexpected that the 
opportunity is lost from want of presence of mind. On the other 
hand, some ex-prisoners have told us that they got redress from the 
inspectors more readily than from the Visiting Magistrates, although 
the latter should be the more independent authority." 

The evidence suggests that a well-equipped and independent 
inspectorate reporting directly to the Home Secretary — the reports i 
being automatically presented to Parliament without alteration — ! 
might produce a body of valuable conclusions about the effect of the I 
prescribed forms of discipline and treatment, thus laying the founda- ; 
tion for a progressive series of improvement in the regime. 

The inspectors, in their annual reports, frequently state that they; 
have "separately and conjointly" held enquiries at different prisons 
into questions referred to them by the Commissioners, to whom theyi 
have afterwards submitted special reports. These enquiries are ini 
no way public; and the department's policy of secrecy has led toi 
the extraordinary assumption that no enquiry or investigation intoi 
prison administration can be permitted by any other persons th-^" 
those forming part of the administration itself. The result is tl 
when grave allegations have been made that the Prison Comnii-- 
sioners' own regulations have not been observed, and that cruelty 
and oppression have taken place, or when particular penal metb 
have been seriously impugned, no other steps have been taken 
successive Home Secretaries (except on a few rare occasions, e.g.,j 
when exceptional political prisoners were involved) than to obtair; 
the judgment, after an entirely official investigation conducted irj 
secret, of officers belonging to the very administration concerned : 
and on these judgments, the Prison Commissioners and the Homfj 
Secretary have arrived at conclusions, of which only a discree'i 
abstract is communicated to the House of Commons or the public 

The Annual Eepoets. 
Every summer the Commissioners draw up a report addressed ' 
the Home Secretary in respect of the year ended on the previous 3 i 

>» The reports of the woman inspector and the medical inspector are much more oriiji- ; 
and suggestire. 

2" Thus one man with experience of six different prisons (during 1916 to 1919) writ 
"Inspectors seem to hare rery little power of initiatire, or eTen of interpretation, gene: 
advising one to appeal to the Commissioners, but they act as a Rood deterrent to GoTer; 
of a too encroaching tendency, who could otherwise flout both Whitehall and their prigoi. 
I had always full opportunity of speaking to Inspectors." 

Another ex-prisoner, who had been in fire prisons during the same period, makes ' 
following statement: — "It is only by dogged determination that prisoners benefit 
complaints. The only punishment meted out to me, if I may call it by such a name, 
the deduction of two remission marks for non-fulfilment of my task, this being due 
illness. After placing the matter before the task-master, chief (warder), gorernor, 
doctors, and risiting magistrates, I finally interriewed the inspector of prisons and got ll 


of March. During the years preceding 1915 this consisted of the 
f oUovsring parts : — 

(1) A general report upon the condition of the Local and Convict 
prisons and of the other institutions under the Commissioners' control. 

(2) Reports by the various Inspectors, the Surveyor of Works, and 
the Comptroller of Accounts. 

(3) A number of Appendices containing statistical Tables and other 
information in regard to prisons, prisoners, finance, prisoners' aid 
societies, etc. 

(4) "Extracts" from the reports by the governor, chaplain, and medical 
officer of each prison and other institution. 

During the war the pubhcation of most of the Tables, and of the 
reports of the inspectors and superior prison oflScers was discontinued 
on grounds of economy. But this pubhcation has not since been 
resumed, and the annual report for 1920-21, which was issued in 
November last, is a thin volume of 46 pages, containing only the 
general report of the Commissioners, some particulars relating to 
the prison staff, and half-a-dozen statistical Tables required by the 
provisions of the Prison Acts. 
j It is, however, doubtful how far the pre-war reports of the 
i governors, chaplains, and medical ofificers, as well as of the 
j inspectors, had much value as independent evidence of the results 
i of contemporary prison administration. They are, as passed for 
i publication, for the most part formal and uninteresting; it is only 
j very rarely indeed that any criticism of the official regime appears 
j in them. One of our witnesses, who had been between 1908 and 
1918 a chaplain in both Local and Convict prisons, states that 
1 governors' and chaplains' reports are carefully censored by the Com- 
missioners and not usually pubhshed in full. His own experience, 
• he says, indicated that the Commissioners would not publish any 
i portions of the report from a governor or chaplain with which they 
j disagreed. Another chaplain of a large Local prison tells us that, 
I when he first entered the service he used frequently to include in 
i his reports to the Commissioners both criticisms and recommenda- 
, tions, but that he ceased to do so after some years, seeing that they 
were not published, and that no attention appeared to be given to 

I A medical officer of long and recent experience informs us that 
j criticisms and suggestions made by prison doctors are seldom 
published, the result being that most medical officers content them- 
! selves with making a very dry and barren report. A governor states 
jthat he has "lots of plans," which he inserts in his annual reports, 
|but that nothing gets done.*^ This evidence inevitably raises the 
'suspicion that a similar censorship may have been exercised from 
time to time over the reports of the inspectors of prisons. 

■ *\^* .'* * noticeable fact that when gorernorj, or other superior officers are rernrted as 
'criticising any feature ol the system, the particular criticism is nearly always to be found 
lin sBTeral reports from different oflScers. The Commissionerg then make nse of these 
Icriticisms to push a particular object, which commends itself to them. This strongly 
liuggesls that in such cases the criticisms hare been inrited by the Commissioners themseires. 


Rules and Standing Orders. 
The procedure, according to which statutory rules affecting the 
treatment of prisoners have to be pubUshed and laid before Parlia- 
ment for thirty days, has been already described. But the general 
public do not realise that the published rules form a very small part 
of the huge array of instructions which regulate, down to the smallest 
detail, the daily routine of the prisons, a routine which tends to be 
quite uniform throughout the Prison System. The published rules 
are only supplementary to these Standing Orders, as they are called ; 
in the case of Local prisons there were 313 published rules i 
in 1911, but as many as 1,441 Standing Orders, some of them i 
of great length. The Standing Orders prescribe, for instance, 
besides the precise daily and weekly time table, the exact objects i 
(from personal clothing to books and cell furniture) allott-ed to each 
prisoner, and the principles to be followed by the governor in censor- 
ing his letters; they dictate the exact procedure according to which 
he is to be periodically searched for the discovery of unauthorised 
possessions, and the extent to which he is to be denuded of belong- 
ings when punished with "close confinement"; and they fix the 
authorised "means of restraint," the treatment of mentally defective 
and suicidal cases, and the long list of possible breaches of discipline 
for which a prison warder is liable to punishment by fining or 

The Secrecy of the System. 
It is obvious that such Standing Orders affect the life and welfare 
of the prisoner and the prison officer as vitally as do the published 
Statutory Rules. Yet they are not published, and their communica- 1 
tion to anyone outside the prison service is most jealously and in{ 
most cases effectively guarded." Further, all prison officers, 
whether warders or of a higher category, are pledged, as a condition 
of retaining their posts and their prospects of a pension, to secrecy. 
The following Rule applies to warders: — 

(1) An officer shall not make any unauthorised communication con- 
cerning the prison or prisoners to any person whatever, and shall not 
without authority communicate to the public Press information derive • 
from official sources or connected with his duties or the prison, and a- 
such communication by an officer without authority will be regarded 

a breach of confidence and will render him liable to dismissal. 

(2) An officer shall not publish a book on matters relating to t: 
prison department without the sanction of the Secretary of State. 

As regards the higher officers, a circular letter was sent rou; 
during 1920 to prison governors, alluding especially to the publica 

22 The 1895 Committee, besides suggesting that the inspectors of prisons should report 
independently to the Home Secretary and to Parliament, also recommended that the 
"standing orders issued by the Prisons' Board, and circular letters embodying general: 
regulations, should be printed in the annual report of the Prisons' Board and laid beforf; 
Parliament" (1895 Departmental Committee Report, p. 43, Sect. 121). Except for the 
Tery occasional publication of one or two selected standing orders in an appendix to the 
Annuai Report, no attention has been paid to this recommendation. 


lion of the views, on the internal administration of prisons, of chap- 
lains and medical officers, and stating that "it is well known that 
Statutory Rules and Standing Orders forbid the communication with- 
out authority of matters relating to the department for the purpose 
of public use." " 

The Obstacles to Reform. 

How far, we may ask, has this all-embracing secrecy and 
suppression of possible criticism and interference, been counter- 
balanced by constructive efforts on the part of the administrators 
themselves? The writer of a small volume, published in 1911, 
which may be regarded as a kind of semi-official apologia for our 
prison system,'* therein stated that the Commissioners, far from 
being hidebound by red-tape and tradition are "reformers of the 
keenest and most intrepid kind," and proceeded to assert fearlessly 
that "all that has been done, including the gi'eat reforms in the 
treatment of the juvenile adult prisoners at Borstal and elsewhere, 
; has been directly initiated by the Commissioners themselves, and 
j in no single instance forced upon them by opinion and pressure from 
! without. " This statement appears to us to be somewhat exaggerated 
and unfair to the 1895 Departmental Committee, who definitely 
.adumbrated in their report the experiments afterwards made in 
•connection with the Borstal system" and the Preventive Detention 
jof habituals ; while the only other notable reforms that are observable 
iin the last twenty years seem to have owed their initiation to the 
'active mind of Mr. Winston Churchill, whose plea for justice to 
the criminal at the end of his speech on the Prison vote in July, 
1910, stands out as the noblest official utterance of the kind in our 

But a tribute must, notwithstanding, be paid to the Commissioners 

^nd their chairman, for the fact that they have, if very slowly and 

icautiously, persisted, in spite of the apathy of Parliament and public 

"■ inion, in developing the reforms that had been suggested to them 

the Departmental Committee. They have not stereotyped their 

pwn rigid methods, as could fairly be said of their predecessors 

oefore 1894. To them is due a considerable share of the credit for 

!:he improvements (especially as regards facilities for the payment of 

pnes) effected by the Criminal Justice Administration Act of 1914. 

and we cannot overlook the assertions of the writer already 

;unted — assertions corroborated to us in the course of our 

|uiry by some (though denied by others) of our witnesses who 

e had personal dealings with the Commissioners — that the 

This circular is giren in the Foreword to this volume. 

Our Prisons," by Arthur Paterson (p. 8). At any rate, the writer received moat 
Mional privileges lor investigation, and his articles (first published in "The Times") 
-ed the blessing of the Commissioners in their Report lor 1909-10 (pp. 24-5). 

>ir E. Da Cane thought the proposal of the Committee to establish a penal reformatory 
•x)d idea." (Dep. Committee B«port, 1895, p. 30, and Evidence, p. 370.) 
- Parliamentary Debates (House of Commons), July 20th, 1910. 


Commissioners are "instinct with life and energy," that they "lode 
upon their progress as simply a foundation on which to build more 
and more," and that "no reformers outside have more plans in 

their heads for improving prison administration than 

the of&cials within the department."'' 

And here we touch the first and most disastrous defect of the 
present administration. The Commissioners have been far too 
dependent upon their own ideas. The complete centralisation of the 
administration in their own hands, the failure to appoint prison 
governors with the ability and the freedom to experiment in new 
methods of management, the want of any effective independent 
inspection, the veil of secrecy secured by the denial to their staff of 
the right of published criticism, by the restrictions that confine the 
visitation of prisoners to a few individuals selected by themselves, 
and by the failure to publish the Standing Orders, these things have 
in effect deprived the Commissioners of the two most effect" 
sources of inspiration and reform, namely an inside experience ti 
has enthusiasm and initiative, and an outside enthusiasm that is ba. 
on correct knowledge. 

The way in which the administrative methods of the Com- 
missioners have prevented the growth of a reforming initiative' 
among members of their staff is illustrated by the following extract; 
from, evidence given to us by a chaplain of nine years' standing: — 

The government of prisons is very centralised, and control is practicallj- 
continuous by the Commissioners. Direct instructions are constantly 
being sent to prisons by memoranda, telephone, etc., and governors tendi 
to rely more and more on the Prison Commission and are constantly 
referring matters there. Direct orders are sometimes given one month 
and reversed shortly afterwards. The Commissioners govern through, 
the governor. ■ 

And matters are made worse by the apparent inability of t 
Chairman of the Commissioners, in whose personal control tive 
government of the system resides, to pay any but the rarest visits 
to particular prisons. Apart from communications sent from White- 
hall by post or wire, no close personal touch has in effect beeOi 
maintained between the Commissioners and the realities of prisoni 
life; but no autocratic regime can expect to obtain good results, 
without an intimate and sympathetic touch with the objects and 
instruments of its administration. 

It was pointed out in 1895 by the Departmental Committee! 
(quoting the words of an Under-Secretary of State for the Home 
Office) that the Prison Commissioners had none of the advantageii 
possessed by the officials who administer, for instance, the Mine? 
or the Factories Acts, where all classes of persons interested are both! 


2' Paterson, "Our Prisons," p. 8. 


ready and able to direct attention to defects and suggest improve- 
ments. The Commissioners learnt nothing from prisoners, and 
little more from warders; and the superior officers, so it was 
contended, are deterred by the autocratic character of the adminis- 
tration from making useful recommendations. For this reason, and 
because, as the committee had already stated, "experience shows 
that in almost every society or organisation the most effective 
changes come from outside influences," suggestions for reform 
"must usually come from philanthropists, who have excellent 
motives, but no knowledge of the full working of the prison 
machinery which they propose to amend."" 

Here we touch the other great drawback of the Department's 
pohcy. The Commissioners have chosen to ignore the suggestions 
of outside reformers, and they have felt justified in doing so because 
the outside enthusiasm has not as a rule beer grounded on sufficient 
knowledge, and because also, again owung to the general ignorance 
of the truth in regard to the inside of prisons, there has been no 
ciently widespread enthusiasm for reform. No powerful 
itation for penal or for any other reforms can be aroused without 
a knowledge of the existing evils and defects. 

I'or this want of knowledge the public themselves are in the first 
instance to blame. Though there have indeed been indications 
e.g. in the way "habituals" return again and again to prison) that 
ething was wrong with the system, they have acquiesced in their 
orance of it and have not demanded that the veil of secrecy should 
torn aside, and the true facts b'^ investigated by competent 
rsons. "Knock, and it shall be opened to you," is a maxim that 
is true not only of the spiritual life. If there had been persistent 
knocking at the prison gates both in and outside Parliament, an 
sntrance would have been ere now effected and the gloomy secrets 
>f the prison house would have been revealed. 

But the officials at Whitehall must, of course, share with the 
onblic the blame for the absence of a well informed enthusiasm for 
:tter penal treatment, inasmuch as it has been their policy, as 
tiave already shown, to prevent the public from having any 
r iependent knowledge of prison matters and to assume a constant 
-faction with the methods of discipline and treatment in use at 
given time." ^o unfortunate has been the official fear of inter- 
nee from those whom they have recently styled the "advocates 
o-called prison reform"!'" 

395 Departmental Committee Report:— Sect. 118, p. 42, and Sect. 123, p. 44; also 
nee, p. 395. We have Tentured to bring together passages from two different sections 

, f the Report, as their juxtaposition appears to elucidate the argument, without doing 

jiolence to the meaning of the Report. 

= ' *ir Godfrey Lushington, the Under-Secretary already quoted, told the Departmental 

ittee that, when a philanthropist proposed a reform, it is apt, however beneficial it 

e. to be rejected by the Commissioners, as "unnecessary, inconvenient, extravagant, or 

-..^:;ipatible with discipline." Later on, when "public feeling becomes stronger and better 

.Qfurmed," the Home Secretary or some Parliamentary Committee might decide that th* 

'"'^?L "^^^ notwithstanding good enough to be adopted. Dep. Committee Evidence, 1895, 

" P.O. Report, 1918-19, p. 6. 


The Lack op Investigation and Experiment. 

Nor can it be shown that, within the administration itself, there 
has been adequate provision for psychological research. One of 
the most important needs of our time, in the field of education, and 
in that of social and international justice, is a theory of punishment; 
which will fit the facts of human psychology and ethics and preserve | 
us from the pitfalls into which indignation with human error is too' 
apt to lead us. For the construction of an adequate theory of, 
punishment we need, among other things, a gre'^t body of careful, 
investigation into the mental and moral effects of penally inflicted! 
suffering, of different kinds and under different conditions. The' 
difficulty is to isolate the effects of such penal treatment from effects i 
proceeding from other circumstances of the man's environment, i 
Such isolation can be far more effectively secured under prison; 
conditions than almost anywhere else, for in prison the penal treat- j , 
ment has, as a rule, been made to cover a very great part of thej 
prisoner's whole environment. 

A central authority, which has been applying a system of treat- 1 
ment, penal, deterrent, and reformative, to each and every detail ofi 
the lives of prisoners of every type, has had an unrivalled opportunity! 
for elucidating the mental and moral reactions of human nature tojj 
punishment, and so laying the foundations for a true theory of! 
punishment. This the English Prison Commission has neglected | 
to do. The only published scientific investigation that has up to thei 
present been carried out under its auspices has been that of Dr.;' 
Charles Goring upon convicts at certain prisons; but that; 
investigation, valuable as its results are as regards some of the 
general characteristics of criminals, dealt scarcely at all with the 
effects of punishment and prison treatment upon their mental and 
moral life." Faced with the awkward and tennble fact of recidivism,! 
i.e., the great tendency among convicted prisoners to commit offences 
which bring them back into prison again and again, the Com- 
missioners have made but little use of their large opportunities for' 
discovering, by bold experiment and sympathetic study of their 
charges, whether different systems of treatment would check this 
tendency." Their cautious experiments at the Borstal Institutions 
and at Camp Hill — for youthful and hardened offenders respectively} 
— are only at last beginning to throw a partial light on this question. 
An investigation of the causes of crime and of the response ol 
abnormal offenders to treatment less repressive than that of the; 
fixed prison routine is now being carried on with praiseworthy care-j 
fulness, in connection with Birmingham prison; but it was the Ion' 

»' See Note 11 on p. 479. No true psychological investigation of English prisoner 
has yet been published; though, according to the Commissioners' Report for 1919-20 (p. 22) 
one is now being carried out at the Borstal Institutions. As to previous enquiries into thi| 
mentality of prisoners, see Note 12 on p. 480. 

32 Even their Statistics of Recidivism are most inadequate as a means of measuring it i 
«ztent and nature. See pp. 19 and 528. 


magistrates and not the Prison Commissioners who initiated this 

And if the Prison Commission have done little to encourage the 
individual investigator to give sympathetic study to the prisoner and 
his response to the prison environment, they have done equally little 
to concentrate and increase the store of collective wisdom by pro- 
moting the organisation of frequent conferences among their own 
staff and other persons associated with prisoners. Between 1877 and 
1885 there were annual conferences of Visiting Magistrates from thf 
different Local prisons; " after 1885 these gatherings lapsed and have 
not since been renewed. Yet the 1895 Departmental Committee 
emphasised very forcibly the need that more should be attempted in 
this direction. In their Report they pointed out how in the 
administration of the Mines and the Factories Acts and also in the 
Education Department the ofi&cials meet annually, to the great 
advantage of the service, for the discussion of important questions. 
jThey then go on to say : — 

We think that it is most essential that similar conferences shonid be 
held in London on matters connected with prisons. Prison officials, 
managers of reformatories, officers of prisoners' aid societies, and 
representatives of visiting committees should assemble annually, either 
collectively or in such sections as might be found most convenient, in 
order to compare experiences and to discuss the working of methods of 
treatment which to some extent might be experimental. In this way 
the Commissioners would be brought into beneficial contact with all 
classes of officials directly concerned in prison affairs ; the Secretary 
of State would be kept informed of the general currents of thought on 
prison treatment as well as of the practical working of the prison 
administration ; and thus the high responsible authorities would be in 
a far better position than at present to arrive at decisions, and to take 
any action which they might think desirable.'* 

In spite of the recommendation of the Committee, no conferences 
»f the kind have been held, with the exception of one or two confined 
jo the Association of Lady Visitors to Prisons and of the conferences 
■{f the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies;" but these last named 
iodies have not been considered as having anything to say upon the 
ireatment given within prison walls. 

i In other countries conferences of the prison staff and oflBcials are 
jrequently held ; in the United States, in particular, by this method 
ind by the wide powers of experiment and investigation vested in 
he staff, a flood of light is being poured upon the psychology of 
jrisoners and the possibility of rehabilitating "incorrigibles." It 
- a pity that England should lag behind owing to the inertness of 
ae central authority or to its jealousy of any interference with its 

'"» pp. 52 and 53. 

'bserrations ol CommiBsioners (Cmd. 7995), 1896, p. 17. 

■ 395 Dep. Committee Report, p. 44. 

The Annual Conference of these Societies is nsnall; attended by officials from some 
? prisons, at their own expense. 


own ideas of administration. There is reason, however, to think 
that the Commissioners may now be ready to change their pohcy in 
these respects. The newly formed "Eepresentative Board for 
Superior Officers" of prisons may prove a useful instrument of 
reform, if it is prepared for the unprejudiced discussion of methods ; 
of prison treatment and does not merely concern itself with questions { 
affecting the staff alone." 

To sum up. However great may have been the advantages ' 
derived from the substitution, since 1878, of a centralised national 
administration of prisons for the multiplicity of local administrations 
which existed prior to that date, the national administration has 
suffered, and is still suffering, from certain grave defects. These 
defects and the failure to discover any effective remedy for them 
appear to be largely due to the administrative system itself. The ; 
usual, and to some extent unavoidable characteristics of administra- i 
tion by a hierarchical bureaucracy appear to have been intensified by i 
the assumption, which has marked the whole history of the Prison; 
Commission, that a high degree of national uniformity was the most i 
essential feature of their system. Now, whatever there may be toj 
be said in favour of uniformity, it has the drawback of excluding; 
experiment, increasing the difficulty of innovation, and discouraging 
initiative and suggestion among the staff. In view of the extremely \ ; 
provisional character of all our knowledge about the effects ofj^ 
imprisonment, and the very tentative nature of our conclusions, it 
would be hard to exaggerate the disadvantages of the rigidity which 
this desire for uniformity has produced. 

The thick fog of official secrecy in which the prison administration 
has been, and still is, enveloped, is open to very serious objection. 
Whether this policy of strenuously enforced secrecy has been adopted 
as a means of maintaining uniformity, by preventing the spread of 
such minor deviations as cannot fail to occur in particular cases ; or 
whether, as it is sometimes alleged, the secrecy is supposed to 
prevent inconvenient complaints and demands, or to check possible: 
developments of insubordination, among prisoners or staffs; or^ 
whether, on the other hand, it is merely a matter of official protection 
against Press or Parliamentary criticism, the ignorance in which the 
public is kept leads to grave evils. When we consider the various 
penal experiments made in other countries and the enormous 
advances of recent psychology, we can scarcely doubt that, but foii 
this policy of secrecy, combined with the tradition of rigid 
uniformity and the centralisation of the administration, there would 
have been ere now a complete recasting of our repressive and un- 
educational system of prison discipline, or at any rate a great 
modification of it along the lines of the significant experiments made 
by the Commissioners themselves at the Borstal and Preventive 
Detention institutions. 

As things are, our prison system still embodies a considerabl* 

»' See p. 385. 


number of the defects, which were attacked, though in too tentative 
and cautious a manner, by the Government (Dommittee of twenty - 
five years ago, to which we have so often referred. The Committee 
(if wc may make one final quotation from their Eeport), after express- 
ing the opinion that theoretically the arrangement of the prisons 
administration is an excellent one, being "elaborately designed to 
ensure the proper treatment of prisoners, the maintenance of 
discipline, the order and cleanliness of all prisons," go on to state 
that they have found, however, 

that in practice some of the different branches of the organisation 
only fulfil their duties imperfectly. The Visiting Committees not 
unfrequently do little, for reasons already noticed. The prisoners' aid 
societies are isolated bodies, some excellent, some satisfactory, some 
almost useless, some practically non-existent.^* The Secretary of State 
has great powers ; but it is obviously impossible for him to follow the 
details of prison management without neglecting other duties of equal 
or greater responsibility. Necessarily he can only deal with those 
matters which are specially referred to him by the Commissioners or 
which are brought to his notice in some other way. The government of 
prisons has therefore been practically in the hands of the Commissioners. 
It has been frequently said, and we have found that the conduct of 
prison affairs has in many respects been too unbending, and has run 
in grooves too narrow for the application of higher forms of discipline 
and treatment which we think are required.^' 

The reader must be left to judge from the remainder of this bo<^ 
to what degree the same faults of a "too unbending conduct of 
prison affairs," of an administration "running in too nairow 
grooves," and of a failure to apply "higher forms of disciphne and 
treatment" are present in English prisons of to-day, as it is generally 
agreed, even by the present Commissioners," that such defects were 
present in those of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. 

"This description of the Aid Societies is not now correct; but the Aid Societies hare no 
iS»y in prison management. 

" 1894-5 Departmental Committee Eeport, p. 42. 

*' PC. Eeport, 1918-19, p. 7, quoted on p. 74. 



1. — The Prison Commission is both autocratic and irresponsible. It 
theoretically under the control of the Home Secretary, but in practice 
largely independent of him. Parliament exerts little influence upon it, aii 
there is an almost entire absence of influence from the local areas, whici. 
are only represented by committees of visiting magistrates. 

2. — The officials of the Prison Commission hold their posts for long perioii 
unchallenged. The Commissioners are selected from restricted circles. Thes 
lack personal touch with the prisoners. 

3. — There is an absence of any independent inspection of prisons and of 
independent enquiries into special complaints and occurrences. Such enquiries 
as the Commissioners hold are secret. 

4.— The general policy of the Prison Commission has been to throw a veil 
of' secrecy over the prisons. The Standing Orders are not published. Visits 
to prisons are discouraged. The staff are forbidden to criticise or to divulge 
the details of the prison treatment. 

5. — The annual reports of the governors, chaplains, and medical officers, 
when published at all, are liable to censorship by the Commissioners. The 
inspectors' reports are formal and restricted in scope. 

6. — There are no conferences of prison officials and experts on the subject 
of penal methods and prison treatment. There is very little research among 
prison officials into the problems of penology. 

7. — Owing to these defects, the Commissioners have remained too 
dependent on their own limited and uniform conception of prison discipline : 
they have been deprived of the practical enthusiasm of an experienced staff 
enjoying opportunities of initiative, as well as of the stimulus exerted by 
a powerful and correctly informed reforming movement among the outside 


The Policy of the Prison Commission up to 1898 

Before considering the principles and purposes of English twentieth 
century prison administration, it is desirable to cast a brief glance 
'backward over the earlier policy of the Prison Commission. For 
the new rules introduced under the 1893 Prison Act did not constitute 
iinything approaching to a revolution in the regime (as was the case, 
"or instance, with the Adult Reformatory System in America), but 
A'ere rather a development, on less repressive lines, of the older 
,:4yst«m of discipline, which is intimately associated with the name 
,)f Sir Edmund Du Cane, chairman of the Prison Commissioners -^ . 
Irom their creation in 1877 until 1895. l^f^^'^J^^ 

\ The Prison Acts of 1865 and 1877, and the code of rules in force ^ / %- 
|inder them, do not contain any direct statement of penal principles, <-(fy Jh^ 
jhcugh, as Dr. R. F. Qi , ^ int on writes , "anyone who reads the Prison ' dt— 

ivct of 1865 will see that, intKe view of the legislators of that time, ^^'SJI/a 
he primary and essential object of a sentence was- should be '"'^-^C^ 
:enal and deterrent; and even the Prison Act of 1877 still embodied 
lieTpenal theory, although it provided for more reformatory methods 
han hitherto had been in practice.'" But the two Acts themselves 
[id not specifically acknowledge the reformative principle, as does, 
br instance, the Prevention of Crime Act of 1908.' 

Sir Edmund Du Cane, who controlled the administration of the 
vo Acts, described their object as that of "promoting uniformity, 
.:onomy, and improved administration," and "that which is the 
lain purpose of all, the repression of crime." In the attainment 
' this object he claimed (in 1885) "complete success."* In Du 
ane's book, from which this quotation is drawn, there are various 
jissages, which may be taken as authoritative statements of the 
jinciples on which his administration of the prisons rested. For 
jstance, he states that "the employment of prisoners may be made 

Knduce to any or all of three objects — firstly, to create a deterrent 

'J". Qainton, "Crime and Criminals," p. 45. 

'^rt I. of this Act is described as dealing with the rclorraation of vcung offendera; 
«i Section 13 of Part II. speaks of "reformatire influences" for habitual criminals. As to 
'1 use of the term "reform," see Note, p. 484. 

J®' ^Q^ Cane, "The Pnnishment and Prerention of Crime" (1885), p. 109, Cp. aUo 



effect on the prisoner himself and on the criminal class; secondly, 
to produce a reformatory effect on the prisoner himself ; and thirdly, 
to recoup, as far as possible, the cost of maintaining the prison."* 
In other passages the object of economy in administration is 
stressed more than that of "reformation" in the prisoner, penal deter- 
rence being always kept in the first place." And the character of the 
reformation contemplated may be gauged by the following statement 
made in the Commissioners' 1885 Eeport in reference to the "pro- 
gressive stage system" of privileges and rewards: — "The moral 
education effected by this system (which is, of course, far more 
important than literary education) is testified by the most remarkable ! 
diminution in the necessity for the application of the usual punish-: 
ments for prison offences," * i.e., reformation meant mainly outwardi 
conformity with the rigid prison rules. I 

In the words of the present Commissioners, as given in the 1919' 
Report, "when uniformity of treatment had been established by; 
the Prison Act, 1877, it was believed that a system of strict order 
and discipline would, by its equal, methodical, and well-organised; 
application to all, gradually crush resistance to law by its deterrent' 
effect."' Sir E. Du Cane, to whose policy this quotation clearly' 
refers, retired from the Board of Commissioners in 1895, and '' 
Departmental Committee on Prisons, which reported in the sa; 
year, led up to the changes introduced by the Prison Act of 1898. 

The Present Commissioners' Theory. 

During the whole period which was opened by the last nameci 
Act, the government of English prisons has again been under tht 
direction of a single vigorous mind. This circumstance has made i' 
easy to discover, up to a certain point, the character of the purpose!: 
and the principles which have guided the administration of the Prison 
System since 1898.' Though these principles are not, as we shal 
see, clearly worked out in their application to detail, and thoug! 
one could wish for a greater amount of definiteness and of consistenc; 
in their expression, yet they are expressed, with considerabl 
emphasis and frequency, in the Commissioners' Annual Eeports 
fi'om 1898 up to, at any rate, 1914. It is interesting to find certain 
leading ideas set forth in the papers written by the chairman of thj 
Commissioners in connection with the International Prison Congres 

" Op. cit., p. 170. Cp. ibid., pp. 1-2, 6-7, and 189-190. 

• Compare, for instance, the great emphasis laid upon the reduced cost of prin 
administration in Op. cit. pp. 98-104, and in the Summary contained in the P.C. Repoi' 
1893-94, pp. 16-19. The principle of economy in administration, especially as regar 
the prison staff, is hardly, if at all, dwelt upon in the Commissioners' Reports of the U 
twenty years, but it has undoubtedly affected the character of the discipline, to t! I 
prejudice of the prisoner. Sea the discussion of this question in regard to the pririlcc 
of prisoners on pp. 106-7. 

• P.C. Report, 1885, Sect. 49. 
' P.C. Report, 1918-19, p. 7. 

• The Prison Rules published in April, 1899, remain, with but tew changes, the basis 
prison treatment to-day. See Footnote 8, p. 58. 

RETRIBTjTION, deterrence and "REFORMATION 75 

of 1900 * reappearing from time to time in aimost the same words in 
these Annual Reports. 

Eetribution, Deterrence and "Reformation." 

"The purpose for which prisons exist," the Commissioners have 
stated more than once in recent years, ''is the due punishment p|-. 
fully responsible persons."'* And, as will Be seen by later q\iota- ■ 
"Hb'ns, they regard punishment (or the penal system) as involving' 
three factors — xetrituition^ 4eterrence» and reformation. By retribu-; 
_tion is apparently meant "the making of the relationship of sin ta 
suffering as real, and as actual, and as exact as it is possible to be 
made," — as a kind of moral "compensation for injury wrought 
The second factor-::::^£tgjrxfiiice — merges, in their minds, with the idea 
of prevention, or isolation, as when, for instance, commitment 
prison is mentioned as being required "either as an expiation of thd^ 
offence, or for the due protection of the community from acts of 
lawlessness."" "Rpfopnatinn is defined as the "effort to restore ay 
man to society as a better and wiser man and a good citizen. " " / 

The Commissioners have also made it clear that their continual 
endeavour has been to "preserve the balance between the three 
factors of punishment."" "Our constant effort," they stated in 
1912, "is to hold the balance between what is necessary as punish- 
ment and for the due execution of the sentence from a penal and 
deterrent point of view, and what can be conceded, consistently with 
this, in the way of humanising and reforming influences."" And 
again, as recently as 1919, after stating (as already quoted) that 
deterrence was the chief principle of the central administration before 
1894, they went on to say that "since that day the problem haa 
been, more and more, how to reconcile the due punishment of crime 
with the reformation of the offender." " 

The clearest exposition of their principles and, in particular, of 
how this balance is, in their view, to be preserved, is to be found in 
the Annual Report of 1913 Here, asserting that "the purpose 
of the penal system cannot be better defined than by the old-fashioned 
formula, which provides that it shall be retributory, deterrent, and 
reformatory," they proceed to state that, if this formula be correct, 
"the important thing is — as to the order of precedence of the three 

» Beport on the Proceedings of the Fifth and Sixth Int«rn&tion&l Penitentiary Congreesea 
by Sir E. Ruggles-Brise (1901, Cmd. 573). 

••P.O. Report, 1912-1913. p. 31, Cp. P.O. Keport, 1908-9, p. 26. 

•> Report on the Sixth International Congress, pp. Ill and 116. 

'^P.C. Report, 1912-13, p. 11. See Note on p. 484 as regards the use of the 
term "reformation" in this Tolnme. 

" P.O. Report, 1912-13. p. 23. 

»* Report on Proceedings of the 1910 (Waihington) International Penitentiary Congrts* 
(1911, Cmd. 5593). p. 75. 

«» P.O. Report, 1911-12, p. 27. 

" P.C Report, 1918-19, p. 7. 

^ iufi 


If by "retributory" is meant not the vulgar and exploded instinct of 
vengeance or personal revenge, but the determination of the human 
consciousness that the system of rights shall be maintained, and Uiat 
he who offends against it shall be punished, and that the punishment 
shall be of such a nature as to deter him and others from anti-social acts : 
if by "reformatory" is meant the accepted axiom of modern penology 
that a prisoner has reversionary rights of humanity, and that these must 
be respected consistently with the due execution of the law, and that 
no effort must be spared to restore that man to society as a better and 
a wiser man and a good citizen — any inversion of these factors of punish- 
ment would be fatal ; but among loose thinkers and loose writers the 
impression seems to be gaining ground that this historic order of the 
factors of punishment should be inverted, and that the object of punish- 
ment shall be altogether reformatory, as little as possible deterrent, and 
not at all retributory." 

The substance of the above passage, with its insistence tliat 
retributory punishment and not reformation or reinstatement is the 
primary purpose of imprisonment, is also to be found in the speech 
made by the chairman of the Commissioners, as president-elect, in 
1910, to the International Prison Congress at Washington." It is 
in antithesis to the view which has been accepted for some decades 
by the leading American prison administrators — a view which 
apparently dominated the first International Prison Congress of 1872. 
when one of the final recommendations of the Executive Committee 
ran as follows : — 

Recognising, as the fundamental fact, that the protection of society 

is the object for which penal codes exist, we believe that this protection 

is not only consistent with, but absolutely demands the enunciation of 

the principle that the moral regeneration of the prisoner should be the 

primary aim of prison discipline.^* 

It is clear then that this view was not the official English view in 

1913. Since that date the Commissioners have made no definite 

pronouncement on this all important subject." But we find the 

present Home Secretary telling a deputation that saw him in March, 

1918, on the subject of prison reform, that "the basis of our criminal 

procedure is not, as so many speakers have said, to improve the 

prisoner; the very root basis of it is to prevent people committing 

crime." " We wonder if the Home Secretary would be prepared to 

subscribe to the doctrine of the learned author of the "History of 

English Criminal Law," who asserts that "the criminal law proceeds 

upon the principle that it is morally right to hate criminals, and it 

confirms and justifies that sentiment by inflicting upon criminala 

punishments which express it"?" 

It is not easy to find out from the copious reports of the Prison 
Commissioners exactly how they have applied to the actual condi- 

"P.C. Report, 1912-13. pp. 22-23. 
'» Report of the 1910 Congress, p. 72. 

"Quoted on p. 16 of a report of the London International Prison Congress (18721. 
published by the Howard Association. 
20 But see the Note to this Chapter on "The English Prison System," p. 84. 
>» Penal Reform League Record, 1919, p. 50. 
22 Sir J. F. Stephen, "History of Criminal Law in Enjland" (1883), Vol. II., p. 81. 



tions of piison treatment their principle that imprisonment should 
combine a larger portion of retributory punishment with a smaller^ , j^ 
portion of reformation or lehabilitation. C',,JC^(/¥^ 

"The principle of the English system," wrote the chairman in\ \ 
1900, "is to deter by an exact, though not a severe, discipline, in-/ /y 
culcating habits of obedience and order, and at the same time to^w ^"^ 
sceiorm. by labour, education and religious ministration."" This \ 
statement is repeated in substance in several of the Commissioners' ^ 
Annual Reports. The 1898 Report describes the system as one 
"which properly relies on a quiet and unostentatious method of 
orderly government, i.e., on discipline, .... which simply 
insists on order and obedience and cleanliness and industry, as a 
primary and essential condition of imprisonment."" The 1912 
Report speaks of 

the policy of the department, having for its object, con.sistently with an 
exact and orderly control, and the maintenance of a high standard of 
discipline, the introduction of a system of rational, productive, and well- 
regulated labour .... and the earnest desire that every man and 
woman shall profit while in custody, rot only from those lessons which 
can be learned from order and discipline, and the habit of obedience 
and industry, but from the moral and spiritual influences, which can 
be brought to bear by the exhortations of ministers of religion . . .'* 

A little later on in the same Report the Commissioners are some- 
what more specific as to the precise features of the regime which 
they regard as distinctively punitive. 

The penalty of crime is in the dishonouring circumstances, which must 
accompany loss of liberty ; in the deprivation of what liberty permits in 
the way of indulgence and self-gratification ; in compulsory labour ; in 
the loss of self-respect. Nothing can add to the fietrissure which these 
things involve.^' 

This is the most detailed statement that has been vouchsafed to 
us, though it would be possible to quote isolated utterances which 
indicate that the "strict separation" and "onerous tasks" of the 
first stage of "hard labour" and "penal servitude,"*^ the enforced 
silence,'' the restriction of visits," and other features, are all re- 
garded as })elonging to the punitive and deterrent rather than to the 
reformative factor. 

*' Report of the Proceedings of the Brussels Congress, p. 135. 

»«P.C. Report, 1897-8, p. 7. 

»s and " P.O. Report, 1911-12, p. 27. 

" P.O. Report, 1911-12. pp. 11 and 55, Cp. also Report of 1894-5 Departmental 
Committee, p. 20, Sect. 52. In the Commissioners' Report for 1909-10 (p. 15), the. nine 
months' period of separate confinement for convicts is said to have been altered, "having 
regard to its penal value only," the original idea as to its reformatory effects having been 

Sir E. R. Brise, in 1900, wrote of cellular confinement as being "valuable as a deterrent 
in the early stage of imprisonment, but the unnatural condition ol life operates against its 
value as a moralising or improving system." (Report of 1900 International Congress, 
p. 70; and compare also ibid, p. 136.) 

*» "In the interests both of the public and of the prisoner, prison should not be a place 
of cheerful conversation, but one where it is constantly brought home to the offender that 
the way ol the transgressor is hard." Recommendation of Sir A. Cardew and Mr. Mitchell- 
Innes, Inspector of English Prisons, on p. Ill of Report of Indian Jails Committee, 1919-20. 

"Report of the Brussels International Prison Congress (1900), p. 128. 


It should be observed that the punitive features of imprisonment 
serve, in general, a double purpose. They visit the offender with 
retribution ; and they are intended to deter, as far as possible, both 
the offender himself and other potential offenders from violations of 
the law. 

The Eefoemative Factors of the Regime. 

Although one might well wish for some clearer enunciation, it may 
at any rate be gathered fiom such passages as we have quoted that 
the exact discipline of prison, with its different characteristics, of 
which some are enumerated in the last paragraph, is chiefly intended 
to express the retributive and deterrent factors of the treatment. It 
is true that certain of these component parts of the discipline are 
regarded as having in them something also of the "reformative" 
element. This is the case, for instance, with the enforced labour," 
and the habit of obedience." The initial period of one month's 
separate confinement in the cell for hard labour prisoners is also 
justified, in certain cases, as being beneficial, as a kind of quarantine, 
to quiet a man down and to ensure his personal cleanliness, before 
he goes to work in association with others." The denial, too, to all 
prisoners of the right of open communication one with another by 
word or hand is considered as being not only punitive but reforma- 
tive in a negative kind of way, as it is intended (however ineffectually) 
to prevent the moral contamination of the less corrupt by the more 
corrupt, as well as to safeguard against conspiracy for harmful ends." 

And as regards the whole regime we find the Commissioners in 
their Report for 1913-14 quoting with approval a prison chaplain 
who emphasises the human, educational, and hygienic nature of the 
system, as he regards it, and writes (m words which we fear many 
prisoners would feel to be a bitter travesty of the actual facts) of the 
"honest attempt (which) is being made to carry out the gospel pre- 
cepts of righteousness and humanity in the prison administration."" 
But these passages scarcely affect the general rule that the discipline 
is primarily considered as punitive, and only reformative, if at all, 
to a very shght extent. 

In another chapter is described the system of progressive stages, 
.iccording to which certain "privileges' (which would appear to most 
people to be elementary human rights) are step by step accorded to 
prisoners, provided they show good behaviour and industry, i.e., are 
not detected in any breach of the rules. Similarly, the remission 
of a fraction of the sentence may be earned by good behaviour. 

*• Cp. P.O. Report, 1912-13, p. 47; where the Comptroller of Prison Industries writes of 
its being the first aim of modern treatment "to educate and train inmates in habits of 
industry and self-reliance." 

s> P.O. Report, 1911-12, p. 27, quoted above. 

52 Cp. Dr. R. F. Quinton, "Crime and Criminals" (1910), p. 236. 

" "Memorandum on English Prison System," Sect. 20, p. 527 of Report of Indian Jail» 
Committee, 1919-20. 

»■• P.C. Report, 1913-14, p. 8. 


These alleviations have, of course, as the Commissioners inform 
us, a good effect upon the outward conduct of the prisoners. Thus 
in 1903 they emphasise the principle that "discipline in prison is 
better maintained by hope than by fear," and state that "the greater 
privileges accorded to prisoners are bearing their fruit in the shape 
of better discipline, greater industry, and contentment."" Similar 
effects in the way of making the prisoners less discontented are 
ascribed to the privileges introduced in 1905 for long-sentence con- 
victs whose outward behaviour is good.'" But while the Commis- 
sioners have refrained from contending that these results of the 
"discipline" betoken anything in the nature of moral regeneration," 
they have not in their reports of recent years admitted (as did their 
predecessors 25 years ago) that "the worst criminals are very 
often the best-conducted prisoners,"" and that therefore good con- 
duct and freedom from punishment in prison bears no relation to 
good citizenship outside — a fact of very general observation which 
many prison administrators find it convenient to forget. 

It is doubtless owing to a tacit recognition of the negative effects 
upon the prisoner of the chief features of the "discipline" that the 
Commissioners, in their reports of recent years, usually indicate the 
reformative element of imprisonment as residing, not in the discipline 
at all, but rather in "all those reclaiming influences, which form 
the burden of a chaplain's work."*' 

The chaplain is almost the only official who has no disoipUnary 
duties, and it is his business to "use his best endeavours to promote 
the reformation of the prisoners under his spiritual charge."*" His 
visits and exhortations, in conjunction wth the chapel services, the 
library, the lectures and addresses, and the co-operation of other 
visitors (rare as both lectures and visits have usually been in the 
past), are said to "form a great moral force which is operating in our 
prisons, with the single-minded view and ambition of uplifting those 
who have fallen from the ranks of honest life and industry. " *' Some 
of the chaplains themselves in their reports ascribe the moral re- 
generation of their charges to the influences that they have been able, 
by these methods, to exert upon them whilst in prison." 

»5 P.O. Report, 1902-3, p. 27. Cp. Sir E. R. Brise's Report of 1900 Congress, p. 155; 
snd A. Paterson, "Our Prisons" (1911) : "Incitement to well-doing, rather than pnnishnent 
lor ill-doing, has become the dominant note in prison management" (p. 11). 

s«P.C. Report, 1905-6, pp. 24-5. 

*' Contrast the Summary of the Pre-1898 policy given on pp. 73 and 74 above. 

" Obserration of Prison Commissioners on 1895 Committee's Report, 1896, Sect. Vlll.d. 

5' P.C. Report, 1903-4, p. 31. 

"I Prison Rules, 1899, No. 52. 

*' P.C. Report, 1908-9, p. 25. 

*= See Note 6 on p. 478 and pp. 499-500. 

It is worthy of mention that considerable stress is laid upon the reformative asi>ect of 
imprisonment (without any direct mention of the punitive factor) in the Rules and Orders 
drawn np for the guidance ol the warders. Compare, for instance. Rule 108, which is 
quoted in Note 25, p. 572. But the force of this and other somewhat similar injunctions 
is taken awav, even on paper, and much more in practice, by other rules which govern the 
relationship of warder to prisoner. 

The majority of the warders who gave evidence to this Enquiry were insistent that the 
first object of the system was punitive, and that the reformative element was quite in 
the background. 


How FAR Prisoners are Eeqarded as Amenable to Eeformation. 
But indications in their reports, though mostly of a negative kind, 
clearly suggest that the Commissioners have at heart been fur 
from satisfied with the capacity of the ordinary prison and of the 
chaplain's department to regenerate effectively any class of prisoners. 
(We are not dealing here with the Borstal or Preventive Detention 
systems, both of which are now quite definitely intended to be 
primarily reformative in effect. Hitherto only a small minority of 
youthful and professional offenders respectively have come under 
these more humanising regimes). In the first place the 

Commissioners constantly emphasise the futility from the re- 
formative (and often indeed also from the deterrent) standpoint 
of quite shor-t sentences, for young persons especially, but 
also for adults. "Unnecessary commitment to prison," they 
wrote in 1912, "we believe to be one of the most urgent 
of social problems . . the question of prison reform, 

if numbers are taken as a test, being how to deal effectively with the 
mass of persons coming to prison under short sentences of a month 
or less."" In 1913 they deplored the short sentences for older 
prisoners and spoke sorrowfully of the "thousands of young persons 
of both sexes now graduating to the later stages of incurable re- 
cidivism under the futile system of recommitment for petty 
offences."" Such sentences, they had written in their 1907 
Report, only "familiarise with what ought to be the great mysterv 
and dread of the interior of a prison, and do not admit of sufficient 
time for the application of any useful reformatory influence."" 
Perhaps the clearest pronouncement upon this theme is to be found 
in Sir E. R. Brise's contribution to the 1910 Congress, from which 
we have already quoted : — 

A succession of short sentences, it may be for trivial offences, unde^ 
the ordinary prison regime, as devised for adult prisoners, has a tendency 
rather to accentuate than to arrest the habit of crime. They are costly 
to the state and prejudicial to the individual, and an almost certain 
prelude to his complete and irretrievable downfall." 

In the case of young persons up to 21 years of age, the Com- 
missioners have, since 1898, faithfully and consistently urged that 
commitment to the ordinary prison is a fatal expedient. We find 
them working for and welcoming the provisions of the Criminal 
Justice Administration Act of 1914, which, by facilitating the pay- 
ment of fines, was "calculated to be of far-reaching effect in saving 
thousands of young persons from the stigma of imprisonment";*'^ 
just as in 3909 they expressed intense satisfaction that, under the 

<» P.O. Report. 1911-12, p. 8, Section.* 12 and 13. 

In the year 1920-21, out of 42,785 persons received into Local prisons, no less than 
25,376 had sentences of not more than five weeks. (Cp. Footnote, p. 93.) 

** P.O. Report, 1912-13, p. 9. 

■"iP.C. Report, 1906-7, p. 14. Cp. also P.O. Report, 1900-1, p. 13, and P.O. Report, 
1910-11 (Part II.), p. 81. 

■" Report on Washington Prison Congress, p. 37. 

«'P.C. Report, 1913-14, p. 15. 


provisions of the Children's Act, no boy or girl under 16 could, except 
in extraordinary circumstances, be sent to prison." 

Equally consistently, though for a different reason, the Coramis- 
Bioners have urged that prison is not the place for the mentally 
deficient; they cannot be reformed or cured in prison, which is a 
place intended for "fully responsible persons, sane in body and in 
mind."" Neither can the inebriate be cured or reformed by 
imprisonment." The tramp or vagrant is in a different category from 
the two pathological types which we have just mentioned, and yet 
the Commissioners are equally clear that their prisons are not in- 
stitutions adapted either to reform or to deter him. "The diminution 
of this (vagrant) class," they wrote in 1903, "is not, in our opinion, 
likely to follow from any alteration of prison regime" (in the direction 
of making it more punitive)." Again in 1910, vagrants "come to 
prison under successively short sentences, with no advantage to the 
community or to themselves."" 

Similarly in the case of the adult professional or habitual criminals 
who form a most important part of the prison population, it is 
admitted that ordinary prisons fail almost entirely to be places of 
reformation. The saying of the French sociologist, Gabriel Tarde, 
"la criminalit6 se localise en devenant une carriere," is quoted at 
least five times in reports issued by the Commissioners since 1898 
to account for the dreadful phenomenon of recidivism,** i.e., 
recidivism is explained as being "a narrowing of the area of crime," 
a tendency to confine it to a "residuum" or "substratum of incor- 
rigible offenders — of men who make crime a profession; against 
whom the most elaborate penal code and the best administered prison 
system is powerless."" These are the men, upon some of whom 
the novel methods of the Preventive Detention regime ai'e now being 
tried, and in the chapter dealing with that promising experiment 
there have been collected some other statements of the Commis- 
sioners emphasising their view as to the hopeless character of this 
class," as it was, before the effect of a more humanising treatment 
had been actually tried. 

We have negative evidence, too, that prison is not expected to 
reform habitual criminals, in another favourite "fundamental prin- 
ciple" of the Commissioners' policy, viz., that "wp to a certain age 

•"P.C. Report. 1908-9, p. 21. 

■•» P.C. Report, 1912-15, p. 31. Cp. PC. Report, 1908-9, p. 26, and other passages. 

*• P.C. Report, 1908-9, p. 26. 

" P.C. Report, 1902-3, p. 14. Cp. P.C. Report, 1908-9. p. 10. where this opinion i? 
?aid to bo shared by "eTery tbonghtfal and experienced prison o£Beial" whoso Tiew was 

■-■^ PC. Report, 1909-10, p. 8. 

■' In the Commissioners' Reports for 1898, 1911 (p. 8). and 1913; and twice in reports 

ntributed by the Chairman to the 1900 International Congress (pp. 107 and 141). The 

uotation is from Tarde's "Philosophic Pgnale" (1912 translation), p. 384. 
'♦ Report of 1900 International Congress, r- 107. The alternative explanation that 

■v-idiTism is the effect of "a system conducted by hamane men on hnmane principles" 

' dismissed as "not reasonable"! Ihid, p. 141. 

55 See pp. 462 and 463. 



every criminal, not mentally defective, is potentially a good citizen, 
and it is the duty of the State at least to try and effect a cure, and not 
to class the offender offhand, without experiment, with the adult 
'professional' criminal."" The "certain age," it is made clear in 
other passages, is twenty-one ; those over twenty-one are described 
as having "passed beyond the age at which they can be expected to 
be responsive to Borstal methods."" For the recidivist or habitual 
over twenty-one prison is not a place of reformation or even of deter- 
rence, but rather one of retributory punishment or of temporary 
isolation from the community — indeed, in one passage the chairman 
of the Commissioners describes prisons as "having lost their power 
of deterrence and become nothing else than costly shelterhouses, 
where the energies of a certain number of lawless bandits may be 
recruited for new enterprises against the goods and chattels of 
defenceless and unoffending citizens."" 

It is therefore abundantly clear, on the express admission of the 
ofi&cial reports, that the ordinary regime of the Local or Convict 
prison, as in force with but few changes during the last twenty 
years, is not expected to have any reformative influence, that is, 
any beneficent mental and moral effect, upon a large proportion of 
the prison population — none upon the feeble-minded, or the in- 
ebriate, or the tramp, the short sentence prisoner in general, the 
young person up to the age of twenty -one, or the professional or 
habitual of any age. Nor, we imagine, is it ofi&cially presumed to 
have any reformative influence upon the political offender — the con- 
scientious objector or the revolutionary. All these classes, while 
in prison are effectively isolated from the community, cut off from 
their ordinary occupations, and maintained at the public expense; 
but, as far as the official literature goes, there is little evidence of 
any beneficent effects that prison has or is intended to have upon 

The extent of the reformative influence, which the Commissioners 
have, as we have seen, emphasised as one of the great features of the 
system, has thus been narrowed down to only a comparatively small 
section of prisoners, practically to adult first offenders of what is 
termed the "accidental" type of criminal — or in other words to the 
"star" class in Local and Convict prisons. How far this class has 
been effectively reformed or deterred is discussed later in this book." 

=6 P.O. Report, 1907-8, p. 13. Cp. P.C. Report. 1904, p. 19, and the Report of the 
1900 International Congress, p. 103, and Report of the 1910 International Congress, p. 36. 

«' PC. Report, 1912, p. 12. 

28 Report of the Sixth International Congress (1900), p. 107. 

='■• There are occasional suggestions in recent official literature that the character of 
the prison regime is unimportant and that the responsibility for "reformation" rcsti entirely 
or almost entirely with the After-care agencies. See P.C. Report, 1906, p. 38, quoted on 
p. 478, and cp. P.C. Report, 1919, p. o3. 

»• See p. 226 and pp. 501-13. 


The "Ixdividualisation" of Punishment. 

The chairman of the Commissioners in his speech as president- 
elect to the Washington Prison Congress in 1910, put in a powerful 
plea for greater "individualisation of punishment." 

"In all the prison systems of the world," he said, "that will be the beat 
where the arrangements admit of the greatest individual attention being 
given to each individual case. ... I mean that each man convicted 
of crime is to be regarded as an individual, as a separate entity or 
morality, who, by the application of influences, of discipline, labour, 
education, moral and religious, backed up on discharge by a well-organised 
system of patronage, is capable of reinstatement in civic life.*^ 

As is, we think, sufficiently shown in other parts of this book, 
English prisons have not reached any high standard of such in- 
dividualisation ; as much is indeed occasionally admitted by the 
Commissioners. This deficiency is certainly not altogether, nor 
perhaps even chiefly, their fault, since it is not they but the Courts 
who decide which persons shall be entrusted to their charge. As 
their medical inspector wrote in 1909, "The clearing out from our 
prisons of the drunkard, the tramp, and the imbecile, will materially 
assist this development by allowing prisons to be used exclusively 
for the treatment of the criminal, and will thus facilitate the exten- 
sion of those methods of individualisation, of the value of which the 
success of the Borstal system is likely to be so conspicuous a proof. "" 
And the chairman of the Commissioners went further than this in 
ithe paper read to the 1910 International Congress, in which he wrote 
;that "ordinary detention in prison, and especially where the popula- 
Ition is large, as in the prisons of the metropolis, cannot, even with 
I the greatest care and the best possible arrangements, allow of that 
i specialisation and individual attention which is essential if a real 
impression is to be made on the younger criminals." " 

All the passages from the utterances of the Commissioners, which 
have been quoted in this chapter, have with one exception been taken 
from their pre-war reports. Since 1914 the much less bulky reports 
I that have been issued have almost entirely omitted mention of the 
, imderlying principles or effects of ordinary imprisonment — as opposed 
jto Borstal and Preventive Detention. It seems possible, if not 
] probable, that the upheaval of ideas caused by the war and the extra- 
! ordinary results which are apparently being obtained as regards the 
reinstatement of so-called incorrigibles under the Preventive Deten- 
tion system are leading the authorities to revise their views as regards 
the scope and relationship of the reformatory and punitive factors 
of imprisonment. Perhaps the Commissioners are by now facing 

•• S«port of 1910 (Washington) International Prison Congress, pp. 73-4. 

•* P.C. Heport, 1908-9, p. 36. Cp. also Dr. R. F. Qninton, "Crime and Criminals" (1910), 
pp. 236-8, 117-18, and his "Modern Prison Curriculum" (1911), pp. 236-38. 

" Eeport of 1910 iWashington) International Prison Congress, p. 37. 


the question, whether it is possible to combine reformative and 
punitive elements at all in one system of prison treatment, withcwit 
almost all that is reformative or curative being neutralised by the 
punitive elements. 

Note on "The English Prison System. 

Since thiss chapter was prepared, "The English Prison System," by Sir 
Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, has appeared in print. (It was written, the authw 
informs us, in 1915, though the statistics have been brought up to date). 
Very little fresh light is thrown in this volume by the Chairman of the Prison 
Commission upon the confused aims of the system as we have tried to 
interpret them in the foregoing chapter. It is still maintained that prison 
is a place of punishment ; that "the primary and fundamental purpose of 
punishment, say what we will, must remain in its essence retributory and 
deterrent" ; that this must involve "the assertion of the system of rights 
by pain or penalty — not pain in the physical sense, but pain that comes from 
degradation and the loss of self-respect" — and that all that the reformatory 
features of the prison system can do is to "try and mitigate this inevitable 
incident of all punishment." — pp. viii, and 1-4. We deal with some aspect* 
of Sir E. Ruggles-Brise's book in Chapter XXIII. of this Part. 




The persistence in the principles of prison treatment of retributory and 
deterrent factors, to the exclusion of truly preventive and educational 
principles, such as are suggested in the concluding chapter of this book. 
(See "Society and tlie Offender," pp. 590-98). 



The General Plan 

We now pass on to describe the actual conditions of prison life. 
It is necessary to begin with the buildings, so that the surroundings 
of the prisoner may be realised. "It appears," wrote Major H. S. 
Rogers, the Surveyor of Prisons, in 1910, "that a prevaihng idea on 
prison construction was to provide heavy massive and gloomy 
structures, giving an impression of donjons, bars, and chains; small, 
heavily barred windows, with obscure glass, dark passages, etc."' 
Since most English prisons were constructed before the prison system 
was unified under the control of the Prison Commissioners, it would 
not be fair to lay upon the shoulders of the present authorities all 
the responsibility for their grim, ugly, forbidding appearance. , But 
^rim, ugly, and forbidding they certainly are, and few prisoners who 
, approach them for the first time do so without a sense of hopeless- 
ness and terror. 

High walls, heavy iron gates, castellated towers, huge blocks 
with rows of small and strongly -barred windows — these are some of 
the features which strike chill into the heart. When one has gone 
through the two gateways at the entrance of the prison, — the first 
must always 'be securely locked before the second is opened — this 
impression is somewhat reUeved, in some cases, by beds of flowers, 
and green lawns, and perhaps, a group of attractive buildings. At 
Wormwood Scrubs prison, for instance, the heavy gateway once 
passed, the entrance might be that to a college. The gravel drive 
encircles a well-kept lawn bordered by red geraniums. In the 
back-ground is a big chapel built in grey stone in the Norman style. 
Leading to it, in front and to the right, are passages lined with 
stone arches, like the cloisters of some monastery. Other prisons 
have similarly pleasing entrances. But after passing from the 
gateway to the entrance hall, colour and beauty are rarely seen until 
the term of imprisonment ends. In most cases the prison itself is 
unrelieved drabness. 

» In a paper prepared for the International Penitentiary Congress, Washington, 1910 
(Aotes dn Ck)ngre8, 1913, Vol. V., pp. 101—148). 



To face p. 87. 


The Halls. 

Prisons are constructed on t wo system s — the radial system, 
exemplified in Pentonville prf^on, 'and tlie'T)Tock system exemplified 
in Wormwood Scrubs. In the former, the halls containing the 
cells radiate from a large central tower. In the latter, the halls 
are separate and parallel. 

The former system has the advantage of concentration, enabling 
the wings to be supervised easily from thci "centre" and facilitating 
service and communication On the other hand, as Major Rogers 
points out, it has serious disadvantages. It is impossible, for 
instance, with the radial system, to site the wings so as to obtain 
direct sunlight on all cell windows during a portion of the day, and 
the angles between the buildings cannot be searched by the sun; 
consequently there is stagnation of air. There is the further 
objection that owing to the close proximity of the cells in the 
adjoining wings, "a number of cell windows on one side of the 
angle must have obscure glass, and also, to prevent commimication 
by shouting, such cells cannot have windows to open unless 
screened." One of our ex-prisoner witnesses points out in this 
connection that these cells particularly need all the light they can 
obtain since "under the best of circumstances they would be dark 
as, by reason of their situation, the light is considerably cut off." 

The main disadvantage of the block system is its costliness and 
the absence of concentration. In the case of large prisons, how- 
ever, the latter, Major Ecgers insists, is not a serious drawback in 
relation to discipline, since when the halls are long and high, 
supervision from one centre is impossible even under the radial 
syptem. On the other hand, the block system has important 
advantages. It enables the halls to be built running north to 
scath, thus allowing the sun to enter all the cells for a portion 
of the day at least; and the stagnant air angles are avoided. An 
ex-prisoner who was loc'-ted in a sunless cell for nine months, 
suggests how important from the prisoner's point of view is the 
first of these considerations " I spent a summer in prison," he 
says, "yet, except for forty minutes' exercise, I scarcely saw the 
sun. My cell was in a basement and was dark and chilly even in 
bnlliant sunlit weather. The yard upon which the window looked 
was largely in shadow and our workshop was sunless, too. When 
I c^me in from exercise each day my heart sank with the feeling 
of entering a dungeon. The absence of light and colour and 
warmth depressed me terribly" 

The halls in both the radial and block systems are similar. They 
are long and narrow, the cells being arranged, on the ground floor, 
on either side of a 16 foot corridor. The halls vary from two 
storeys high in the small prisons to five storeys high in the large 
prisons. The upper cells open on narrow galleries, leaving a space 
down the centre. Across this space, on the level of the first floor. 




wire netting is stretched to catch prisoners should they attempt to 
commit suicide by throwing themselves from an upper storey. 

The cells in Local prisons are as a rule almost precisely thirteen 
Jeet by seven, by uiAe high.' (In Convict prisons, where the cells 
have not, until quite recently, been used for labour, they usually are 
abou^ tejpLififiLjiy^eX£iL-by nine). The ceilings and a large part of 
Tfie walls are lime-washed, but there is a dado of dull brown of about 
four feet deep. The outer wall is cement plastered, in order that any 
tampering with it for the purpose of escape may be quickly dis- 
covered. In the wall, near the door, is a gas-box, enclosed by 
wh'te rippled glass, nine inches square. The gas-jet is lit from 
outside the cell. In a few prisons electric light is used. 

Our ex-prisoner witnesses frequently complain of the poor light, 
both during the day and in the evening. They assert that the 

dimness makes both v/orking and reading difficult. "At pri.son, " 

says one, '_^&oHift of the north cells are so dark that I had to work 
.for a good part of the d-^.y standing on my stool at the window." 
Several of these witnesses state that their sight has been injui-ed by 
the strain. The lighting, has, however, been improved during 
recent years. Formerly one gas-jet served to light two cells. 

The windows in the cells vary in size from 14 to 21 
panes, each about eight inches by four. With a few exceptions, the 
A^indows are now made of clear glass, and one at least of these 
small panes is made to open; in most cases, two open. Judging 
from the view of Major Eogers, the prison authorities only 
reluctaiitly insert^efl panes which open. He records the fact that 
direct access to the outer air has been advocated for both moral 
and hygienic reasons, but says that "as regards the latter a good 
c^eal of nonsense is talked, for in a cell with a proper and efficient 
system of flue ventilation, the opening is more likely to interfere 
with, than to assist, a constant change of air." But he pathetically 
adds that "in prison work outside opinions of faddists and others 
have to be reckoned with." Major Eogers finds consolation, how- 
evei, in the fact that open panes enable the prisoner to clean the 
outside of the windows.' 

The object of the surveyors in their heating and ventilating 
arrangements is to keep the cell temperature at about 60 degrees F. in 
winter and to ensure that a current always passes through the cells. 
Our ex-prisoner witnesses all ridicule the suggestion that such a 
eat is maintained. One of them who occupied a cell in which the 
landing thermometer was placed states that day after day the 
1 temperature registered was below 50 degrees. An ex-convict says 

2 Celh vary somewhat according to the date of constmotioa of th» prisons, etc. For 
detailed description ol the ceU, see np- 95—97. 

3 Op. cit., p. 135. 



"■"t ija_tb£ winter the thermometer during several nights regis^ftd 
Iggjsees. Many ex-prisoners say that they could only^eep 
w'lemselves warm by putting their blankets and rugs round them, 
and by tramping up and down the cell. Evidence of this character 
comes not from one prison, but from prisons in all parts of the 

The system for heating and ventilation is for warm air to enter the 
cell thiough a grating high in the wall and to traverse the cell 
diagonally to an extract grating at the foot of the opposite wall. 
Theoretically, this system may be admirable, but actually the cells 
are stufly on still days and draughty on windy days. Many of our 
ex -prisoner witnesses complain that in the mornings they were 
heavy and dizzy with the closeness of the atmosphere, and several 
of our warder witnesses speak of the foul air which meets them 
when they open the doors. Often the cuiTent of air is imperceptible. 
"It was long before I could determine which was the intake and 
which the outlet ventilator," an ex-prisoner remarks." 

The cell floors are sometimes made of stone flags, sometimes of 
tiles, of slate, of asphalte, of concrete, of wooden planks or of wood 
blocks. The stone, tile, slate and concrete floors are very cold. 
The asphalte floors are warmer ; but the appearance is not pleasing. 
Wooden planks are apt to harbour vermin and they smell badly 
when constantly sluiced with water. The best flooring is un- 
doubtedly wooden blocks; most of the hospital cells have such 

i In addition to the ordinary cell, there are many varieties for 

I special purposes, e.g., the Hospital Cell, the Special Cell, the Silent 

Cell, the Padded Cell, the Observation Cell, the Matted Cell, the 

; Tubercular Cell, and the Condemned Cell. Reference is made to 

these different types of cells in subsequent chapters. .:>^, .*' /•;' 

On each landing there is a sanitary annexe, occupying the widtk^ 
of a cell. If the hall be large a sanitary annexe is placed on eitheri 
.side. In each annexe there is a w.c. and a slop sink with taps/ 
The e annexes are open to the hall, and Major Rogers admits thai^ 
("certain objections" can be made regarding them. _One obvious > 
! objection is that the tap from which drinking water is obtained is. 
over the sink in which chambers are washed out, and both opeja-j 
tions are done at the same lime. 

Prison halls almost invariably have basements, so that the 
windows of the lowest cells are frequently beneath the level of thp 
; ground. Major Rogers explains this by the style of architecture 
of The nineteenth century, but, in at least one prison, a basement 
landing has been inserted in recent years. Majy ,pf. ^h^^, hnifli / 
ments are dark and depressing places, but tEe prison authorities ^^j^^^"^ 

* .Standing Orders insist that prisoners shall be instructed to open the ventilator when / 

leaving their eellf, and that "on nnlocking the prison in the morning, all sliding sashes, ' 

etc.," shall be opened "and remain open daring slop and pot emptying." We hare not 
tosnd any ex-prisoner who ever knew these orders to be enlorced. 

. 1//)^ CjtM^ 


have Hone a good deal to improve the hghting of the cells by digging 
a broad trench outside the windows. 

There is a special Eeception Hall, containing baths and cells 
which are little larger than telephone boxes. They are used by 
prisoners only on the days of reception and discharge. The other 
principal prison buildings are the workshops and the hospital.* 

The Gbounds, 

The walls surrounding many prisons are from 20 to 25 feet 
high, but in the case of the more modern prisons they are rarely 
mare than 16 or 18 feet. The higher walls "shut out the light and 
air, and are very costly to build and maintain." Major Eogers 
points out that the 16 foot wall is as effective in preventing escapes 
as tbe 20 feet wall, since it cannot be reached by a man standing 
on another's shoulders, and, if a pole or rope or a ladder be used, 
the second presents little more difficulty of scaling than the first. 
As a precaution against escapes, however, a Standing Order* pro- 
hibits the placing of plants or shrubs against the boundary walls of 
prisons ; much valuable space for fruit growing is thus wasted. 

Except where there are grounds connected with the prison at the 
back, there is only one entrance The second entrance, where 
there is one, is not always double, like the front, and less care is 
taken in regard to it, as Mr. De Valera and his colleagues found 
when they escaped from Lincoln Prison in 1918. No building is 
allowed within 20 ft. of the prison wall and there is a patrol path 
round the exterior. Where there are prison grounds outside the 
main wall, they are sometimes suri-ounded by an additional eight 
foot wall, with barbed wire above; sometimes only by barbed wire. 

Escapes from prison are very rare, and even when prisoners 
succeed in getting away they are almost invariably captured later. 
Formerly, says Major Eogers, the custom was to obtain security of 
prisoners "by the provision of very high walls, excessively heavy 
bars and bolts, etc., to all openings in all buildings, and by the use- 
of massive walls throughout. Experience has shown that if 
prisoners outside their cells are left to themselves, walls, bars, and 
bolts will not hold some of them and recently the tendency has 
been to rely on observation by the staff more and more, and to assist 
the staff a clear view of the exterior and interior of buildings should 
be aimed at by the avoidance of angles and hidden nooks."' 

It is difficult to convey an impression of the hope-destroying, for- 
bidding aspect of prison buildings. They embody architecturally 
the repressive charactenstics of tbe prison system. Many of our 
witnesses, drawn from both officials and ex-prisoners, express the 

4 See pp. 115 and 269-70 and 277. 

• No. 824. 

» Op cit., p. 108. 


view that the only reform to which the buildings can be usefully 
subjected is dynamite, and the suggestion is not extreme. Within 
the walls and halls of the present institutions it would be difficult 
for any educative, reformative, and kindly influences to operate. 
They seem absolutely aliei to the best qualities of the human mind 
and spirit. As Dr. Healy says in "The Individual Delinquent":' 
"The highest exponent of treatment en masse is the prison building 
v.'here — even if the aim be not to depress all consciousness to 
a bare, vacuous level — such largely is the eSect. No better illustra- 
tion of the childishness of our effort-, to ameliorate criminalistic 
conditions can be found taan the planning of buildings which does 
not first and foremost take into account the conditions and 
possibilities of mental life." 

"Neither milk-white rose, nor red 
May bloom in prison air; 
The shard, the pebble, and the flint 
Are what they give us there : 
For flowers have been known to hear 
A common man's despair. 

"The vilest deeds like poison weeds 
Bloom well in prison air ; 
It is only what is good in man 
That wastes and withers there. 
Pale anguish keeps the heavy gate. 
And the warder is Despair." * 

•Op. cit. (1914), p. 170. 

• Oscar Wilde: "The Ballad ol Readimg Gaol." 



1. — The architecture is depressing and inhuman. 

2. — There is a marked absence of colour and beauty both within and 
■without the buildings. The grounds accessible to prisoners are generally 
bare and frequently without flowers and shrubs. 

3. — The cells are often dark^ particularly in the basements and in the 
angles of the halls in the radial system. ]Many of the cells are sunless. 

4. — Frequently the cells are badly ventilated. Only two small window 
panes open at the most. 

5. — The heating and lighting arrangements for the cells are often 



Imprisonment in the Third Division, for some period not exceeding 
six months, with or without hard labour (and "hard labour" does 
not entail any large differences of treatment), is by far the com- 
monest form of "prison" awarded by the Courts. A description of 
the first four or five months of the third division prisoner's life will 
cover the case of a vast majority of convicted prisoners.' The regime 

1 prescribed by the Rules and Standing Orders for the third division 
offender forms the basis of treatment for all the different classes 

! confined in a Local prison, with the exception to some extent of 

■"prisoners awaiting trial" and of the rare "offenders of the first 
division." Even convicts usually serve the first stage of penal 
servitude in what are practically the "third division" conditions of 
a Local prison, and when they proceed to the convict prison the 
variations in the routine are not many.' This uniformity of treat- 
ment for practically all classes of prisoners is in flagrant contradic- 

|tion with that "individualisation of punishment," which is the ideal 

^of the chairman of the Prison Commissioners.* 

I "We propose then to outline in a brief but comprehensive manner 
jthe chief outward features of the environment of a short sentence 
Iprisoner, and of the third division (with or without "hard labour") 


1 • According to the figures published by the Prison Commissioners in their latest report, 
I out of a total of 49,712 prisoners "received under sentence" during the year ended 31st 
March, 1921, at least 41,286 were classified as offenders of the third division (with or 
without hard labour). There were 5,204 persons in the category of "debtors"; while the 
numbers sent to penal servitude and to Borstal institutions were only 492 and 632 
respectively. (See the 1920-21 Report of the Commissioners, pp. 3 and 40). The classifica- 
tion given is not quite clear. There were also 388 "Court Martial" prisoners, of whom 
the majority were probably classified as Third Division. The prevailing sentence is a short 
one— for, during 1920-21, out of 42,785 offenders sentenced to simple imprisonment by 
the "Ordinary Courts" (i.e., excluding Court-Martial prisoners), no less than 40,085 were 
sentenced to terms of six months or under, all sentences of over one month being, more- 
iover. remitted in the event of good conduct to the extent of one-sixth of their duration. 
In the case of 25,376 of these offenders, imprisonment lasted for a> period ranging between 
lone day and five weeks. (See Appendix No. 4 to the 1920-21 Report). 

j *Op. pp. 319—325. 

* Cp. p. 85 and pp. 355 and 555. 


in particular, during (say) the first week of his sentence, with a 
summary of the alterations that take place in it in the weeks succeed- 
ing. A fuller and more critical description of many of these features 
will be found in later chapters.* This plan will entail the necessity 
of some little repetition, but its adoption appears to be necessary, 
in order to give the reader a clear and connected picture of the 
prisoner's life — a picture unencumbered by a multiplicity of criticism 
and detail.* 


The history of our prisoner necessarily begins at the Criminal 
Court. The magistrate has pronounced the sentence; the inter- 
mediate stay in the police cell is at an end; the "Black Maria" van 
— or perhaps it is merely an escort of one vigilant policeman — has 
discharged the convicted offender at the prison gate. The gate 
closes sternly upon him, and the outside world knows him no more. 

The place of transition into the prison world is known by the not 
unfriendly name of "Eeception." After a short stay in the porter's 
lodge, and the formal entry of his name in the "Body -receipt" book,' 
the offender is locked up in one of the "Reception" cells or cubicles 
(which sometimes bear dirty traces of previous occupants) until the 
warder in charge has leisure to attend to him. The isolation from 
life outside, already begun, is now completed by an enforced separa- 
tion from his clothing and other personal belongings. His property 
rights are to be in abeyance for the time of his detention, but 
scrupulous provision is made for their reappearance after his release ; 
an elaborate inventory is drawn up of every article of clothing, as 
well as of the contents of his pockets, purse, and any other receptacle 
in his possession (these are tied together and put away in the 
store). He must strip himself to the skin, abandoning as a rule 
every belonging. The only possible exceptions are his spectacles, 
false teeth, or any surgical appliance of which the medical officer 
may specifically approve.' 

In this nude condition he is examined medically, should the doctor. 
be in attendance. He is also examined "for the discovery of any 
scars and distinctive marks or peculiarities which will assist in 
identification."* After this he is ushered into a kind of loose box 

* The present chapter, though written primarily in relation to men prisoners, applie» 
almost equally to the women, the differences in the regime for the latter being only few, 
as explained in Chapter 22. 

5 Much of the evidence, on which this and other chapters are based, is necessarily 
drawn from the actual experience of the writers themselves and of many other witnesaea 
during the war years 1914 to 1919, years marked in prison by certain temporary modifica- 
tions occasioned by the reduction of the staff, the shortness of food stuffs, and the need 
lor war work. But the writers have taken some trouble to make the description correspond 
to the actual facts of the present day (the winter of 1921), by taking note of the 
(comparatively slight) changes in the routine that have been introduced since 1919. 

« "The officer in charge will obtain a receipt for the bodies of the prisoners." (S.O. 175). 

' A married woman is allowed to retain her wedding ring. Women may also wear their 
own hair combs, provided they are clean and suitable. (S.O. 202.) 

8 S O 19 and 20. The orders direct that this examination and the searching chould 
not be made in the presence of another prisoner; but this rule has not always been 
followed according to our witnesses. Offenders ol the first division, of the second ai^'^'o^ 
if not previously convicted, and offenders sentenced to less than a month, are exemptea 
from the examination for "distinctive marks." 

To face p. 95 


which contains the reception bath. His plunge into its regulation 
nine inches of warm water cleanses him, we may hope, from the last 
vestiges of external contamination still adhering from his previous 
environment; in the case of some prisoners, at any rate, the bath 
is by no means an undesirable precaution. By the bath side he 
finds a towel and a makeshift assortment of prison clothing, collected 
by the prisoner who works as "cleaner" in reception, with little 
regard in many cases for height or girth. The complete outfit (for 
a man) consists of a prison uniform (collarless coat, waistcoat and 
buckled trousers) stamped with the broad arrow, along with a cap 
of the same material, heavy shoes, socks, cotton shirt, a coarse 
handkerchief, pants and flannel vest. The sentenced offender is 
now a fully equipped prisoner, or at least he will be so as soon as 
he has been presented with a Bible and prayer book, a pair of sheets, 
a pillow slip, a small towel, and a brush and comb, which form his 
only articles of equipment other than those which are inseparable 
from the cell. 

Before he leaves reception the prisoner is supposed to have several 
other interviews (though these may be postponed until the following 
day) besides that with the prison doctor. The chaplain enquires as 
to the prisoner's religion, whether he is "Church of England," and, 
if not, whether he wishes to attend the Church services. The school- 
master asks about his education, and presents him with a single 
''educational" book and possibly a school primer, which will have 
to serve, together with his Bible and a regulation "devotional book," 
ias his only mental food for the next four weeks.* The governor or 
chief warder informs him that all conversation is forbidden and that 
he will be punished if he does not precisely obey all prison rules 
including those on his printed card, with its formidable list of possible 
offences. He is also probably given some instructions as to the 
cleaning and arrangement of his cell, and told that all applications 
jto see the governor, chaplain or doctor must be made without fail 
first thing in the morning. But, as often as not, many of his duties 
(as well as most of his rights) are left for the prisoner himself to 
discover, in the course of more or less painful experience. 

The Conten'ts of the Cell. 

The warder unlocks the door leading into the great hall of the 
prison, and, with his bunch of jangling keys at hand, accompanies 
the new inmate to the cell destined for his home. Here his name 
itself becomes lost, and he assimilates himself to the cell by buttoning 
on to his coat the unsightly yellow badge, inscribed with some such 
^evice as "A. 3. 21" or "C.2.8," which has been hanging over the 
door of the empty cell." The warder sees that the cell water-can 
has been replenished and that the cleaning materials are not 

I • We belieTe, howcTer, that now, in some prisons at any rate, there is a change of the 
padncationaV book at the end of the first tortnight. 

I "A. 3, 21, for insUnce, means the twenty-first cell on the third Landing of Hall "A." 



exhausted. The door is banged and double locked, and the prisoner 
is left alone with his thoughts. 

/^The cage in which he now finds himself is a stern and bare little 
] room, of which the measurements are as a rule seven i'eetJby-thirteen 

] and nine feet high." Its furniture consists of a wooden table (either 

^ movable or" fixed), a small stool without a back, and a bed-board. 
The window is so high up that it is necessary to stand on the stool 
to look out of it, and this, to make matters worse, may be regarded 
as a punishable offence. It consists of two or three rows of small 
panes, of which, at the most, two panes (each about eight inches 
by four) can be opened by sliding them aside along a groove. The 
little light and view of the sky and of the prison walls that the window 
can afford to the cell occupant is considerably diminished by several 
heavy iron bars that are fixed across it outside.'' The massive iron 
door, thickly studded with bolts and screws, has no handle inside, 
but is provided with a small glass "spy-hole" for observation pur- 
poses. A more or less inadequate ventilating and heating system is^ 
provided; and incandescent gas (behind a pane of frosted glass) on 
electric light is available, though it is often not lit before darkness! 
has already set in. The cell is, as a rule, whitewashed once a year, j 
the lower portion of the walls being colour-washed. This process! 
does not usually hide a collection of pathetic and in some cases j 
objectionable inscriptions that are scratched upon the walls fromj 
tyne to time. 

\ The most conspicuous object of the cell is the bed-board, consisting; 

^of two or three planks fixed on a low support, and measuring about! 

(_JjyNo feet six inches by six feet. This leans against the wall in the; 
day-time, accompanied by a hard stuffed pillow in its white case.! 
The sheets, blankets, and mattress that make up the bed (often ; 
inadequately) are in some prisons slung over the top of the bed-board; 
during the day, in others they have to be rolled up tightly in a neat 
but most unhygienic roll that stands in one corner under the window. ; 
In this corner, too, is the little shelf, on which have to be crowded! 
the most precious objects of the cell — the white glaze pint pot, thei 
salt jar, the knife and spoon, the brush and comb, and perhaps a 
tooth brush, a small allowance of soap and sanitary paper, the slate j 
and slate pencil, the religious and library books, and, after the; 
expiration of eight weeks, a little wooden rack to hold the monthly' 
letters from home and possibly three or four photographs of relatives. 
Besides this shelf and its contents, the only authorised adornment! 
of the walls is a collection of printed cards that hang upon a nail. I 
One of these cards contains Church prayers and formulae; another! 
threatens the prisoner with punishment for improper behaviour or! 
for carrying out, except by special authority, a number of activiti'^i 

"Cells, of course, vary somewhat according to the date of construction of the prison, 
etc. j 

>» The windows in the most modern cells are without the bars, owing to the fact that 
sashes can now be cast in manganese steel, which even the heaviest blow will not break. 


that would be quite innocent in normal life. A third explains the 
"system of progressive stages." 

On the floor, opposite the cell door, are arranged in symmetrical 
position a metal water can, covered by an enamel plate, an earthen- 
w-are "chamber" with its metal top, and a small tin basin." These 
utensils are flanked by a brush and pan, a scrubber, some cleaning 
rags, and a little box containing brickdust and whitening. At the 
side hangs a small towel and a dishcloth. There is also a bell handle 
(for use in very special emergencies), the pulHng of which raises an 
indicator outside the door that remains extended until the warder 
(often after an interval of many minutes) comes to the cell. To 
these items we have only to add the prisoner himself and the 
materials and implements for his sewing or other work. The 
enumeration of the contents of the prison cell will then, we think, 
be complete." And these contents are, generally speaking, identical 
for every cell in England, the arrangement of them being subject to 
only slight variations within certain Umits of choice allowed to the 
{authorities of each prison." 

The Daily Eoutine. 

I "It is now 4-30 in the afternoon," the chairman of the Prison 
pommission is reported as saying to the general secretary of the New 
j^ork Prison Association in the summer of 1911, "and I know that 
just now, at every Local and Convict prison in England, the same 
things in general are being done, and that in general they are being 
pone in the same way."" At that date a precise uniformity of 
rime Table was, along with other uniformities, one of the features 
?f the system. This uniformity has, since 1919, been somewhat 
Mtered, owing to the concession of an eight-hour day to the warders. 
I^ow the Time Tables for the different prisons may differ slightly 
pne from another, being fixed in each case after consultation with 
jhe governor and warders." But the differences are not suflScient 

prevent the account here given from being a substantially accurate 
)icture of the daily routine in all the Local prisons of England and 

'* Enamel water-canj and basins are now, we andeistand, being snbstitated for metal 


•* Ontside each cell door hangs a board, which is dirided into flye compartments. In 
liese Tarious cards relating to the prisoner are put. These cards indicate his name and 
ifence (hidden on the rererse side), his prison number, the length of liis sentence, his 
ccupation, the particular tools he has in his cell, his sectarian belief, or lack of it, and 
ie earliest and latest dates on which his sentence may expire. The lower half of this 
oard is occupied by a sheet npon which the marks that "he has earned by his industry are 
scorded. If a man be sick or reported to the goTernor, or has a library catalogue; these 
kcts are also indicated by cards pat on the board by the warder. In short, on this board 

1 the prisoner's biography, kept continually up to date. 

" We understand that the Commissioners offer as many as six different styles of cell 
rrangement, out of which the Gorernor may choose one for use in the prison. 

'•"The Treatment of the Offender," being the 67th Annual Eenort of the Prison As3»- 
-Mon of New York (1911-1912), p. 151. 

Owin? to the limitation in the number cf the staff, the eight-hour day for warders 
resulted in less time being spent by pri.soners in associated labour and consequently 
■>• confinement to the celU. This is a great hardship. Cp. pp. 322 and 378. 



The rising bell rings about 6-30 a.m. The prisoner must rise 
at once, so as to put on his trousers and shoes, wash his hands and 
face in the small basin, roll or fold up his bedding and poHsh or 
sweep his floor by ten minutes to seven, when he is supposed to be- 
gin his task of " cellular " labour — usually the sewing of post-office 
bags. A few minutes previous to this the warder has unlocked his 
door, so that he can put out his " slops " to be emptied by the 
prison "cleaner" and his water-can to be refilled; or else he takes 
them to the sanitary "recess" himself. If he has any complaint 
or request to make to cell warder or governor, to chaplain or doctor, 
he must look sharp and give in liis name now, before the warder has 
relocked the door and passed on to the next cell. This is his only 
recognised opportunity." 

For about an hour the prisoner is expected to work at his stitching 
or other task, and then the door opens again and his pint pot is 
hurriedly filled with the porridge which, with six ounces of bread, 
forms his breakfast. Once, twice or three times a week, according 
to the nature of the cell floor, a bucket of water (cold water usually); 
is put inside, and he must spend his after breakfast leisure in scrub-j 
bing the floor. Every day, too, either before or after breakfast, he 
must scrupulously polish up his tins, and arrange them, empty; 
(save for the water can) against the wall, as already indicated.' 
About nine o'clock the bell rings for chapel. The doors are rapidly,' 
unlocked and the prisoners emerge from their cells, and under the! 
eyes of watchful warders, prompt to arrest any attempt at talking,! 
they pass "at cell distance," along the landings into the Church ot 
England Chapel. Here they have a service lasting from fifteen ta 
twenty minutes, and an opportunity at last of using their tongues J 
as they join in the hymn or prayers. Another march back to th^ 
cell, and then the doors are opened for "exercise," unless, as id 
sometimes the case, it has taken place before breakfast. 

It is laid down that every prisoner "when employed in cellular o; 
indoor work, shall, when practicable, be permitted to take exercistj 
in the open air for an hour. " " If the weather is very wet, the exerj 
cise may be taken inside the prison, round and round the various eel; 
landings, or it may, as often happened during the war, be omitteo 
altogether. To the man confined during all the rest of the day t( 
cell or workshop, this brief spell in the open air should be refreshim 
indeed. He fills his lungs, he sees the faces of others, he is undei 
the freedom of the sky; he has sometimes vegetables and eveil 
flower-beds to look at besides the stern buildings of the prison an(| 
its encircling walls. But the sense of freedom is to a very large exj 
tent spoilt by the character of the exercise imposed — a monotonouj 
and uninterrupted perambulation in single file round and round t\v 

'« On some prisoners the nervous strain entailed by this rule, and the fear of for^ettirl 
it, is consideratile; when the door is first opened in the morning, the man has been i; 
solitary confinoment for at least 14 hours. 

i» Resnlation 45. During the war, this hour waa reduced, owing to shortage ol staff 
45 or 40 minutes. 


(or sometimes three) concentric tracks, under the orders and vigilant 
gaze of the warders, stationed on raised platforms, so as to detect all 
attempts at conversation and to regulate the distances between the 
trampers. And the prisoner is supposed (more particularly if he is 
working in his cell during the day) to rob himself of a portion of his 
short recreation by watching for an empty closet and falling out for 
the performance therein of his daily function. 

About a quarter past ten "Lead in" is sounded by one of the 
senior warders, and there is a general march back to the cells. It is 
a rule that every man after entering his cell must close his door, 
which locks automatically upon him. Here, if he is in the first 
month of "hard labour," he sits until noon at his solitary task, 
stitching mail bags (the most usual occupation) or coal sacks, or 
possibly picking oakum. Otherwise he lines up in the hall with 
the others, to be marched off to a workshop for a spell of work in 
"silent association" under the strict supervision of a warder. During 
the course of the morning the governor rapidly passes round the 
prison on his daily inspection ; but it is most exceptional for him to 
speak to a prisoner, apart perhaps from a formal "All right?" unless 
there is something obviously at fault. ^* 

At noon the dinner trays appear, and the warders, with two or 
i three prisoner assistants, rush round the prison hurriedly opening 
j and closing the cell doors, so as to thrust in the double tin containing 
! the chief meal of the day. About foiiiy minutes are allowed for 
I dinner, and then the prisoner (if in his first month of "hard labour") 
is expected to resume his solitary cell-labour until supper time. If 
jhe is "on association" he may continue his mid-day pause until 
j half-past one, when he is allowed out again for a second and longer 
spell of workshop labour until about 4-15 p.m. Once this is over, 
ithe only other incident of the day is the brief opening of the door 
some ten minutes later, when an allowance of cocoa and bread, with 
two or sometimes three ounces of some relish is handed in to him 
for supper. The door closes, and, except under most extra- 
ordinary circumstances, such as the rare visit of the chaplain, it 
•cannot be expected to open again for over fourteen hours — imtil, 
about seven next morning, the warder breaks in once more upon 
the lonely man with the dreary order: "Slops outside." 

At least two hours of the four that now elapse between supper 
and bed-time " are supposed to be spent in labour, so as to complete 
the full number of prescribed hours." In practice, however, there 
8 a certain fixed daily task (e.g., so many bags or sacks) allotted, 
md the man who is expert and diligent enough to complete his task 
3y supper-time can, in some prisons at any rate, spend most of the 

*• See a description of this Inspection, pp. 365 and 366. 

*' Until recently there were only three hours, as "lights out" and rising were both fixed 
j.n hour earlier (8 p.m. and 5.30 a.m.) 

H.'*"**" •'°'"'' per diem (exclusive of meah, etc.) lor male prisoners at hard labour durins 
|ne first month. Nearly nine hours for other prisoner.', who are "on asjociation." See 
•esulations 39 k 40 and the 8.0. quoted on p. 112 of the P.C Report for 1911-12. 


evening hours in reading his Bible or other book, in pacing round 
his cell, writing rhymes or blasphemies upon his slate, or occupying 
his vacancy in any other of the very limited, means that a cell 
affords. Outside "the prison wards are bare and silent, and dark 
except for a beam of light at every cell lamphole. They are un- 
frequented, save for the night-warder, who moves in felt slippers, 
and peers in at the cell spyhole as he works his way up the long 
landings from cell to cell. From the inside of the cell one hears 
nothing of him except a click of the spyhole shutter and the dry 
dragging sound of the slippers."" In this way the caged man is 
never certain of privacy ; and he is always hable to be threatened by 
a harsh voice with punishment next day if, for instance, he is not 
working (even though his task be completed) during the prescribed 
hours, or if he has taken down his bed before the final bell rings, 
or is suspected of communicating with his neighbour by standing! 
on his stool at the window " or rapping on the wall. I 

At nine o'clock the bell rings for "Lights out"; the gas is soon 
extinguished by the patrol warder, and the prisoner is left for nine! 
and a half hours to sleep or dream or fret away the night on hisi 
narrow bed-board, until once again he starts on his dreary round! 
of morning tasks. \ 

The preceding paragraphs give a pretty exact description of the! 
routine which repeats itself day after day, with the sole exceptiorj 
of Sundays," in the experience of every "offender of the thirdj 
division" (whether a "first offender" or not), unless he be fortunatti 
enough to have one of the very limited forms of labour, such afl 
gardening, or "cleaning," which gives him a variety of tasks ir 
different parts of the buildings and grounds. 

The "Hard Labour" Eeqime. 

The differences between the sentence "with hard labour" and thai 
without it are concentrated in the first month. The hard labou 
sentence carries with it the additional penalties of (1) a plank bedi 
that is to say, deprivation of the mattress for the initial fourteei 
days," (2) "strict separation" in the cell, and no work in "associa 
tion" for the first four weeks, and (3) during the same period ;i 
slightly longer day's work — ten hours instead of 8 J hours. Thesj 

'» Our quotation is from an ex-prisoner; E. W. Mason: "Made Free in Prison" {191Si 
p. 158. j 

'* In at least one instance we know of prisoners being punished for this offence, whe 
listening eagerly for the distant sounds of Carol-singers at Christmas time. See p. 232. 

'* On Saturday afternoons the prisoner has to work alone in his cell, instead of in tt 
shop. Since March, 1921, we understand, as some compensation for this, an addition; 
period of exercise has been introduced on Saturdays in some prisons, lor certain classil 
of prisoners, particularly the young prisoners. 

J« The effect of the plank bed on prisoners varies, of course, greatly. We quote, wit!i 
out comment the view of a Prison Governor on this matter:— "In my opinion, reports (i-; 
for punishment) would further, if all male prisoners were supplied with • 
mattress; idleness during the first week or two of a man's sentence is the principal oftenc, 
and I believe it arises largely from want of rest at night, when on a plank bed." (P-"! 
Report, 1902-3, p. 460.) 



differences do not apply to women, who have their mattress and 
their association from the first, whether sentenced to "hard labour" 
or not. Nor do women now pick oakum. After the first month 
there is no practical difference between the "hard labour" prisoner 
and the other third division offenders — a fact, as has been pointed 
out, that is often unknown or forgotten by the magistrates and 
judges who award sentences. 

"Strict separation," as applied during the first month of "hard 
labour," means, in practice, that a man is locked up alone in his cell 
on each week-day for nearly twenty-three hours out of the twenty- 
four; the cell door being opened during that period only nine times 
at most, viz., once for an hour's exercise, once for twenty minutes' 
; chapel, three times for the admission of meals, once, (or twice) for 
emptying "slops," once for the governor's formal inspection, and 
once, when the instructor comes to take away the work done, and 
to bring fresh materials. When it is realised that none of these 
breaks afford any opportunity for conversation, the demorahsing 
monotony of such an existence should not need emphasising. On 
' the other hand, the advantages of "associated" over solitary labour 
i are not as great as might be supposed, at any rate under a warder 
i who secures observance of the enforced silence. It may indeed be 
I a relief to see one's fellows and to move about from one's cell to the 
' workshop and back again; but some persons, notwithstanding, prefer 
I the privacy of their cell to being always under the eye of an officer, 
among men with whom every form of intercourse is rigidly for- 

[ Some Breaks in the Monotony. 

j The rigid daily routine, which has been described, is modified 
■slightly, but only slightly, in two different ways; first, by certain 
j periodic incidents which are liable to occur during every week of the 
sentence; and secondly, by what is known as the "System of Pro- 
igressive Stages." 

In default of other exciting events, the weekly bath and the weekly 
i change of "washing" often loom largely above the horizon of a 
[prisoner's life. To men who are not afraid of warm water the 
'excursion to the prison bath is a comforting and enjoyable incident, 
though enjoyment is in many cases a good deal spoilt by the short- 
■ness of the time allowed. And once a week a change of shirt, 
handkerchief, socks, and towel is thrust into each man's cell; the 
vest and pants being changed every fortnight. The third division 
prisoner has no private "kit"; but all these articles circulate in- 
discriminately throughout the prison. This unhygienic practice (for 
the V* ashing of underclothing is often quite inadequate) has some 
'cMnpensations, in that it affords an element of exciting speculation 
'as to the possible size and good condition of the garments which 
chance allots to each individual prisoner. A more unpleasant 
break in the usual monotony (occurring sometimes once a fortnight, 



sometimes rather less often) is the "surprise" search by two 
officers of the prisoner's cell and person for the detection of 
"prohibited articles," i.e., anything whatever which is not included 
in the official dress and equipment. The clothing of prisoners is 
similarly searched when they return from labour in the prison 
grounds. Contraband articles are often found, but experienced 
prisoners can generally evade discovery. 

The periodic visit of the chaplain ought to be a much more 
important event than those which we have just mentioned, and it 
is doubtless welcomed by almost every prisoner as an opportunity 
for a little general conversation with a fellow-man, if for nothing 
more. Unfortunately, however, owing to want of time and tlie 
large number of men under his charge, the chaplain's visits to the 
ordinary prisoner*' are usually short and infrequent. A man would 
be exceptionally lucky if he had a ten minutes' visit every two or 
three weeks ; and what is such a short period to one who is otherwise 
officially condemned to perpetual silence? There are, it is true, 
the surreptitious whisperings to fellow prisoners. And there may 
occasionally be an opportunity for a few friendly words with a 
warder; but, if so, this is in spite of the regulations, which provide 
that "an officer shall not speak to a prisoner unnecessarily" and 
"shall not allow any familiarity on the part of a prisoner towards 
himself or any other officer. " " 

"Were they more frequent, addresses given by well-equipped 
lecturers would be to many perhaps the greatest relaxation of prison 
life. Until recently, however, there were practically no prisons 
where the adult male prisoner could attend a lecture more often than 
once in three months. Now, however, we believe that it has been 
found possible in a few prisons to arrange for an hour's lecture for 
most prisoners once a month, or even once' a fortnight. 


The Prison Sunday. 

"We have so far omitted to deal with the Prison Sunday; but un-' 
fortunately that day usually affords no compensation at all for the 
monotony of the rest of the week. Saturday night lasts for ten 
hours — for the Sunday bell rings later, about 7 o'clock. 
There is no Sunday "workshop," nothing but meals, chapel, and 
exercise — the dreary exercise on the circular track. 

All prisoners, except the few employed on such a task as cooking, 
spend the whole of the week-end from noon on Saturday until 
exercise on Monday in the solitude of their cells, with the exception 
of two Church of England services lasting about an hour each, and 
a bare thirty minutes' "exercise" allowed on Sunday morning." 

2' i.e., apart from those who are sick, or under panishment, or being, e.g., prepared lor 

3« Regulation 114. 

3» Since March, 1921, an additional period of exercise has been introduced on Sunday* 
in some prisons, for certain classes of prisoners, particularly the younger prisoners. 



i ^ 

They are allowed, if they wish, to work in their cells at their weekly 
task, and this option, owing to the excessive monotony of the day, . 
is welcomed by many prisoners. Attendance at chapel services is 
optional (that is to say, a man must either go to all chapels or none 
at all); here again it is probably the fact that Sunday would other- 
wise be a day of unbroken solitary confinement that causes the great 
majority of men to attend the church, jservices. Prisoners have no 
Sunday exercise during the first month of their sentence, unless they ' 
have elected to be absent from all chapels. Men who are content 
to laze, or who can take sufficient interest in the few books which 
have been allotted to them, doubtless look forward to their weekly 
"day of rest"; but to others Sunday is, as we have had it described 
by many prisoners, as well as by warders and chaplains, the "worst 
day in the week." 

The System of Progressive Stages. 

The remaining variations of the routine, which characterises the 
first month of every sentence in the third division, arise from the 
"System of Progressive Stages." The object of this device is best 
described in the words of Sir Edmund Du Cane, the Commissioner 
under whose regime it was introduced'": — 

The principle on which this system is founded is that of setting before 
prisoners the advantages of good conduct and industry, by enabling them 
to gain certain privileges or modifications of the penal character of the 
sentence by the exertion of these qualities. Commencing with severe 
penal labour — hard fare and a hard bed — the prisoner can gradually 
advance to more intere.sting employment, somewhat more material com- 
fort, full use of library books, the privilege of communication by letter 
and word with his friends ; finally the advantage of a moderate sum of 
money to start again on his discharge '*.... His daily progress 
towards these objects is recorded by the award of marks^ and any failure 
in industry or conduct is in the same way visited on him by forfeiture 
of marks, and consequent postponement or diminution of the prescribed 

Reserving punishments for later treatment, we will assume that 
the prisoner consistently succeeds in gaining the full number of 56 
marks obtainable for his task of labour and for good conduct under 
the stage system; the amount of the task appears to vary in an in- 
equitable way, but the majority of prisoners get full marks without 

'• The Stage and Mark system was adopted by the ConTict Prison Directors under the 
Penal SerTitude Act of 1857, having been first introduced in Australasia by Governor 
Maconochie, of Norfolk Island. The privileges that could be gained in Sir E. Du Cane's 
day were somewhat less extensive than those of to-day, but the system with its four stages 
has remained substantially the same since its introduction in 1878. (See the Report of 
the P.C, 1878, Appendix 12.) 

" The right of a well-conducted prisoner to his gratuity has now been abolished, but 
•n the other hand, since 1907, if his sentence is over one month, he has been able to 
«»rn a remission of one-sixth of its duration. 

'^ Sir E. Du Cane: "Punishment and Prevention of Crime" (1885). p. 77. It may be 
observed that the present progressive variations of the treatment are tiased partly on the 
principle that a sharp lesson or shock must be administered to all offenders at the 
beginning of their sentence, and in the case of the very numerous prisoners, who have very 
short sentences (i.e., of a month or less), throughout their sentence. (See pp. 503-7.) 


much difficulty. With this assumption each of the first three stages 
will last four weeks successively. The ix>utine of the first 
stage has been already described. "When the prisoner receives 
the stripe on his arm, which marks his entrance into the second stage, 
he will, if he has a "hard labour" sentence, start on associated labour 
in the workshop or elsewhere; if he is illiterate, or almost so (but 
not otherwise), he will be eligible for short periods of school instruc- 
tion; he will secure half-an-hour's exercise on Sunday; he may 
keep in his cell if he makes special application, four photographs 
of relatives or friends; and he will have issued to him, with a limited 
opportunity for choice, one work of fiction, which may be changed 
weekly, together with a fresh "educational book," of which a fort- 
nightly change at most is allowed him. Entrance into the third 
Btage (after eight weeks from conviction) is marked by the addition 
pf a second library book to the weekly allowance, as well as by the 
first opportunity for communicating with family or friends. A visit 
of twenty minutes' duration is allowed, and the prisoner may write 
a letter and receive a reply to it. A second letter and reply may be 
obtained in lieu of the visit. 

The fourth stage is reached by the well-conducted prisoner at the 
end of twelve weeks, and with it he obtains all the privileges that 
can be gained as a matter of right in a Local prison, even for a man 
with a two years' sentence." The only thing (apart from the addi- 
tional stripe) that distinguishes this stage from the previous one is 
that six weeks subsequently to the first letter and first visit, a second 
letter and second visit are allowed. Thereafter these letters and 
visits become obtainable at the end of each succeeding four weeks. 
In this final stage the visits may last for half-an-hour. All 
letters and replies are subject to censorship. Visits take place in 
the presence or neighbourhood of a warder, and all contact between 
the visitor and the prisoner is prevented by a wire netting or by two 
rows of bars with a space between. (We understand that arrange- 
ments are now being made to enable prisoners to see visitors without 
these barriers). 

We have now, we believe, described with fair completeness all the 
outstanding features in the life of the well-conducted "local" 
prisoner, whether he remains in the prison for three or for twenty 
months. That it should be possible to describe the external features 
of his life so completely in a few pages is evidence of the extent to 
which imprisonment has been reduced to a regulated and uniform 

"The paralysing immobility of a life, every circumstance of which 
is regulated after an unchangeable pattern, so that we eat and drink 
and lie down and pray, or kneel at least for prayer, according to the 

" A prisoner who remains after six months may now possibly be allowed a note bcok 
and pencil "lor purposes of special stndy," and he may get one of the coteted "red band 
occupations, e.g., in the library or the garden. 


inflexible laws of an iron formula : this immobile quality that makes 
each dreadful day in the very minutest detail like its brother . . ." " 
— this feature at any rate of Oscar Wilde's powerful indictment of 
the prison regime remains, in spite of recent improvements, almost 
as true to-day as when "De Profundis" was written a quarter of a 
centurj' ago. 


Every prisoner, whose sentence exceeds a calendar month, ig 
released when five-sixths of his sentence has expired, unless he has, 
by idleness or bad conduct, forfeited the whole or a part of his 
remission.** And even the most idle or rebellious prisoner reaches 
at length the day of his discharge, which cannot, except in cases of 
insanity or dangerous illness, be postponed beyond the date fixed by 
the law. On the day before the discharge he is examined by the 
doctor, and admonished by the chaplain and possibly by the governor. 
By means of a card that has been hanging in his cell he has already 
been made aware that he is entitled to apply to the Discharged 
Prisoners' Aid Society; and he has probably been interviewed by 
the representative of the Society, in case he wishes for assistance 
in securing employment, lodging, or temporary maintenance. 

On the eventful morning of his discharge the prisoner does not 
emerge with the rest for exercise or chapel, but is brought down to 
the "Reception" cells, and there once more puts on his own clothing 
and receives back any money or personal property which he had 
with him on admission. Then he is ushered forth again into 
the world outside the prison gates alone, or to be met, it may be by 
his own relations or friends, or possibly by the Agent of the Aid 
Society. Where he is unable to reach his destination on foot by 
midday, he may be given a railway warrant to his home or to the 
place of his conviction, "whichever is nearest."** 

»< Wilde: "De Profundis" P- 22. 

"This 15 the actual practice, under Rule 37 (A), which runs as loUows: — A conTicted 
prisoner sentenced to imprisonment, whether by one sentence or cnmnlatire sentences 
for a period exceeding one calendar month, shall be eligible, by special industry and good 
conduct, to earn a remission of a portion of the imprisonment not exceeding one-sixth of 
the who!e sentence. 

This Rule, in its present form, was introduced in 1907. Up to 1899, prisoners in Local 
prisons always had to serre their full sentence. The introduction and extension of th» 
conditional remission of sentence were welcomed by Prison Gorernors, who frequently 
asserted in their Reports that it wa; a powerful incentire to industry and ?ood conduct. 
It should be obserred that in Local prisons the discharge before the expiration of the 
actual sentence is not accompanied, as is the case with conricts, by any restrictions (as 
regards reporting to the police, etc.) after release. 

" S.O. 117 (1911), which adds, howerer, "In the case of prisoners of the ragrant class, 
whose object may be to continue their journey at the public expense, the GoTernor may 
withhold the fare altogether, or, if he thinks fit, gire a warrant to the place of con- 

Where a prisoner's fare is paid, it is usual for a warder in plain clothes to accompany 
him to the railway station. 



1. — The rigid and monotonous uniformity; the obtrusive and military- 

2. — The suppression of choice and personality, the treatment of men and 
women merely as bodies ; the absence of individualisation. 

3. — The atmosphere of distrust and deceit. 
4. — The depressing "bareness" of the solitary cell. 
5. — The 17 to 23 hours of daily solitude. 
6. — The constant lack of privacy, 
7. — The rule of perpetual silence. 

8. — The neglect to inform a prisoner of his "privileges." 
9. — The transformation, under the Stage system, of elementary right* 
into rewards. 


Appendix to Chapter Six . 


One of the most frequent complaints made by ex-prisoners ia the ignorance 
in which they are kept of the "privileges" to which they are entitled. Often 
they speak of this feature of their experiences with intense bitterness, due 
no doubt to the fact that the prison routine is so monotonous and prison 
existence so bare that any relief becomes a matter of great importance. 

The cards which hang on the cell wall contain a long list of prohibitions, 
but, except for the minimum "rewards" connected with the Progressive 
Stage System, little information is given of the few obtainable variations 
of the rigid regime, and even when such information is given it is sometimes 
so worded that its significance is not clear. 

The first rule on the cell card is the command : "Prisoners shall preserve 
silence." Many prisoners at first interpret this as meaning that they must 
never address, not merely their fellow-prisoners, but the officers, and con- 
sequently refrain from consulting them about matters of the routine which 
often cause them much anxiety during the early days of their sentence. 
"When I entered prison," says one ex-prisoner, "I endured much unnecessary 
misery because I thought I should be reprimanded if I asked the warder 
about things which I did not understand." One of the early anxieties of 
prisoners is their inability to complete the regulation "task" at their work. 
They are rarely told that the Standing Orders insist that the instructor shall 
give them a proper opportunity to become proficient before expecting the 
full "task." 

One of the early "privileges" unrealised by most prisoners, owing to the 
obscure wording of the Library Books Card, is the possibility of obtaining 
books of moral or religious instruction and "schoolbooks," in addition to 
the "education book," allowed during the first mouth. Nor do many 
prisoners know that they may change their "education book" after a fort- 
night, whilst almost all are ignorant of the fact that they can have it 
changed by application to the chaplain if it is unsuitable or if they specially 
desire some other educational work. Another little known "privilege" in 
connection with books is the possibility of obtaining books from outside the 
prison if friends are ready to give them to the prison library. 

Turning to matters of cleanliness and sanitation, prisoners have often been 
left ignorant of the possibility of obtaining a toothbrush, whilst the fact 
that they can borrow a pair of nail scissors from the landing officer is scarcely 
ever known. Many prisoners at first are also unaware that by ringing the 
cell bell they can obtain permission to go to the w.c. 

One of the cruellest features of imprisonment is the isolation from home 
and relatives, yet prisoners are often not informed even of little relaxations 
which ease this hardship. There is a Standing Order, for instance, which 
permits prisoners to have four photographs of relatives in their cells when 
they have completed a month of their sentence ; it is very rarely that they 
are informed of this officially. If they learn of the "privilege," it is gener- 
ally through illicit conversation with other prisoners. More serious, some- 
times, is the prisoners' ignorance of the fact that they can obtain permission 
to write special letters on urgent domestic or business matters, whilst the 


printed instructions which hang on the wall do not even acquaint a prisoner 
that he is allowed to receive and write a letter in lieu of a visit. 

Another "privilege" unknown to prisoners is their right to make any 
complaint or application to a Visiting Magistrate privately. Even the fact 
that they may see a minister of their own religious denomination in private 
is not known to many. Least known of all the "privileges," perhaps, is 
the power which the Standing Orders give to governors to permit prisoners 
who have served 12 months in prison to converse at exercise. 

The failure to acquaint prisoners with their "privileges" is no doubt 
lai'gely due to a reluctance on the jiai t of the officials to make any modifica- 
tions of the routine which demand extra thought and effort. They run ia 
the groove so constantly that they can with difficulty get out of it. But the 
suppression of prisoners' "privileges" is also undoubtedly due to shortness 
of staff owing to motives of economy. Every little relaxation requires per- 
sonal attention and supervision on the part of some officer (and generally 
more than one), with the result that such changes in the customary routine 
are restricted to the minimum. So long as the present system of discipline 
persists, this tendency would seem inevitable, but, even so, prisoners have 
just as much right to be informed of their "privileges" as of their punish- 
ments, and there seems to be no reason why a card of things permissible 
should not hang side by side with the card of things prohibited. 






Pbisok^ jnduatr ies are ^ unsatisfacto ry from almost every point, of 
view.- They are of the most elementary character and are performed 
in a crude, amatemish way. Only in a very few instances are they ' 
of any educational value to the prisoner, whilst they are a serious 
economic loss to the nation. The "instructors " are rarely trained 
men, and efficient machinery and equipment are almost entirely 
lacking- The workshops are frequently poor, and the prisoners/ , Z 
"work under conditions which give them little interest in their labours /;^i*^^ 
and no incentive to do well. -^ ^^ 

The Three C.\tegories of Labour. 
The oflficial statistics divide the employment in Local prisons into 
three main categories : Manufactures, building, and domestic service. 

Those engaged in domestic service comprise cooks,' gardeners, 
stokers, laundry workers (women when available), hospital orderlies, 
and "cleaners, " as the prisoners are called who are engaged in clean- 
ing the halls, distributing the food, and otherwise assisting the 
oflScers. The "cleaners," despite the disagreeable nature of some of 
their duties, are considered among the most favoured of prisoners, 
since they have a greater sense of liberty than those who are confined 
to the workshop, they are frequently able to seciure for themselves 
any surplus food, and, by their constant contact with the landing 
officer, they often succeed in breaking through his ofiicial reserve 
and in gaining a more or less favoured position. The work of 
"cleaner" in the Reception Hall is particularly prized, since, 
despite every precaution that may be taken, it provides obvious 
opportunities for securing tobacco, newspapers, and other forbidden 
articles from the outside world. 

Officers generally select their "cleaners" from among the 
"habituals" on account of the fact that they "know the ropes." 
"The man who adopts crime as his vocation is by no means a use- 
less person in prison," remarks Dr. R. F. Quinton. "It is to him 
chiefly that prisons are indebted for that shining cleanliness which 
characterises them. He scrubs the floors, polishes the iron work, 

> Some ex-prisoner witnesses romplain that although the prisoners who are employed in 
the kitchen work all Satnrda; afternoon and en Sundays, they have the same 
cell "tasks" as other prisoners, and consequently are compelled to work seven days a week. 


and is ready and expert at all the hundred and one jobs which 
ordinarily devolve on the housemaid. ... All these duties he 
performs with readiness and alacrity under the supervision of his 
officers, who, for the most part, prefer an old hand for these 
purposes."* One of our ex-prisoner witnesses gives particulars of 
a case where a landing officer keeps the position of "cleaner" open 
for a certain habitual prisoner whenever he is discharged, knowing 
that he is certain to return within a short time.' 

The category of Building has reference only to the premises them- 
selves, and ordinarily accounts for few men, but during 1920-21 
a large number of prisoners were employed on a housing scheme 
for officers' quarters, the daily average of such workers being 324. 
Practically all prison alterations and repairs are done by prison 
labour, and sometimes quite ambitious schemes, such as the erection 
of the fine chapel at Wormwood Scrubbs, are carried out. 

Under the remaining heading of Manufactures we find the 
following trades represented in the 1920-21 returns: — 

Bakers 62 Nose bag makers - - - 185 

Basketmakers - - - - 51 Oakum pickers - - - 156 

Bedmakers 201 Pickers and sorters - - 228 

Bookbinders . . . . 59 Sackmakers - . . . 50 

Brush and mopmakers - - 42 Sailmakers . . . . 5 

Carpenters . . . . 41 Ship fender makers - - - 167 

Dressmakers . . . . 3 Shoemakers .... 143 

Glovemakers .... 15 Smiths and fitters ... 82 

Knitters and repairs - - 235 Stonebreakers .... 4 

Labourers 17 Tailors 214 

Mailbag makers ... 2736 Twine and ropemakers - - 36 

Matmakers .... 92 Washers 51 

Moulders 331 Weavers 170 

Needleworkers and repairs 409 Woodchoppers .... 118 

Except for a little pea sorting, etc., done under contract locally, 
all this work is done for Government Departments. 

The Absence of Industri.m., Training. 

The Comptroller of Industries, who is charged with the superin- 
tendence of all prison industries, claimed in his report for 1909 that 
"it may be truly said that many (prisoners) carry away with them 
on release a cognizance of some trade or craft likely to prove invalu- 
able to such as seek an honest livelihood .... we are doing our 
utmost to carry out the wishes of the legislature by using industrial 
training as a leading factor in the reclamation of the criminal class." 
The evidence we have received has entirely failed to justify this 
claim. Instead, the statements of our witnesses indicate the present 

» "Crime and Criminals" (1910), p. 92. 

• S.O. 257 reads : "The domestic serTice of the prison, cleaning, etc., should be performed 
by prisoners under short sentences, who have no knowledge of, or in whose case time will 
not permit of instruction in, industries requiring skill. When other classes of prisoner* 
are available, those known to be old offenders should not be so employed." Of all Standing 
Orders this is probably ob5erTed the least. 



truth of the assertion of the Departmental Committee on Scottish 
Prisons (1900) which remarked, after investigating conditions in both 
Enghsh and Scottish prisons, that "no one ranks very high the 
educative or reformatory influence of prison labour." 

In the case of Juvenile Adults (between 16 and 21), a definite, 
though inadequate, attempt is made to impart some industrial 
training, but no serious effort is made to train other prisoners in 
skilled industrial processes. It is true that a Regulation insists that 
"the trades and industries taught and carried on shall, if practicable, 
be such as shall fit the prisoner to earn his livehhood on his release." 
It is true that a Standing Order demands that "the longer sentences 
shall be concentrated exclusively on such industries as require 
training and technical skill," and that the governor shall have 
regard to "such benefit as a prisoner might derive on discharge from 
training and employment at any particular industry." It is true, 
also, that the claim is made that in recent years even the short, 
sentence prisoners have been trained.* 

But our evidence conclusively proves that neither the rules nor 
the claims of the Commissioners are of much value in actual 

To a number of witnesses we have put this definite question : 
"Have you known any cases of men who have learned a trade in 
prison sufficiently to earn their living at it outside?" Of forty-three 
warders, chaplains and agents of Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies, 
only three are able to quote instances of prisoners who have learned 
a trade in a Local prison.* 

"I have never heard of a prisoner learning a trade in a Local 
prison so as to get a living at it," says the agent of a Dischargefl 
Prisoners' Aid Society, "and what is more I have never heard of 
anyone else who has heard of such a person either." "There's 
nothing to learn here that a man can use after he goes out," says a 
warder at a large prison, "except sometimes he will pick up enough 
matmaking to allow him to go round putting new edges to mats." 
"I haven't heard of anyone getting his living by a trade learned in 
a Local prison," says another warder, "with the exception of one 
or two who were taught basket making and repairing." 

The last remarks will enable the reader to understand, perhaps, 
what the Prison Commissioners mean when they say prisoners are 
taught trades. They mean that they are employed on comparatively 
simple processes like mat-making, or basket-making, or mailbag 

* "Since the war started," wrote the Commissioners in their Report for 1917-18, "it 
has been the practice to teach trades to habitual offenders undergoing short sentences. 
Progress was slow at first, but each time these prisoners returned to prison they became 
more efficient, with the gratifying result that since 1913-14 the number of inmates on 
low grade industries has fallen from 19 to 2 per cent." The Comptroller of Industries 
stated that this was being done as long ago as 1899, but the practice does not seem to 
* been maintained. The low grade industries are picking oakum, nnslranding cotton, 
nnravelling wool, breaking stones, etc. 

.,J^ ^-*'oo''^^*i"„l*"'''^'^* ^°^ learning trades provided in Contict prisons are described on 
VV- o22 and o23. 


Bewing or laundry work. No trades demanding any degree of skill 
are taught in Local prisons' and such trades as are taught are only 
half-taught. "The quality of work," says another warder, "is nob 
such as would fit anyone for work outside." ' 

There is a special class of prison officers described as "instructors" 
whose duty it is to teach and supervise prison industries. It is 
clear from our evidence that many, if not most, of these officers have 
themselves received no training in the industries in which they give 
instruction, but have "picked it up" in the course of their duties in 
prison. None of the "instructors" who have given evidence had 
had any training. We give some typical instances. — 

A. Assistant instructor in tailoring. Had never learned the trade. 
Only picked it up in prison. 

B. Instructor in brush making — scrubbing brushes, broom-heada, grate 
brushes, hair brushes, — but when he left the prison service he found 
that he had not the qualifications to obtain work as a brush maker. 

C. Instructor in mat making, brush making, sack making, tailoring, 
knitting, and the making of mail bags, hammocks, gloves, and sea- 
men's bags Had never learned any of these trades, and admitted 
that he would not be able to earn his living at them outside prison. 

D. Instructor in mail bag and hammock making for eight years, but 
admitted that skilled prisoners had often instructed him. 

E. Trade instructor for ten years, but had had no training. 

"It is seldom that an experienced and highly ti'ained instructor is 
found in a prison," says one warder. "Indeed, it frequently 
happens that men who have had no experience except service in the 
regular forces are instructors and men with knowledge of a trade are 
employed in disciplinary work." Another warder complains that 
appointment as an instructor depends upon favouritism. 

We recognise that the prison authorities are faced by serious 
difficulties in approaching this question of industrial training and in 
the organisation of the prison industries generally. The prison 
population is below the normal scale, physically and mentally, and 
is largely unskilled industi'ially, and prisoners rarely serve sentences 
sufficiently long to enable them to learn a trade requiring much 
practice or skill. No one will blame the authorities for failing to 
transform all prisoners into skilled workmen. The solid ground 
for criticism of prison labour, as revealed in our evidence, is to be 
found in the fact, not that it fails to train prisoners sufficiently to 
earn a livelihood as skilled artisans, but that it hopelessly fails to 
train them in any effective degree whatsoever, or even to encourage 

• Very ocrasionally prisoners skilled in some cralt are able to work at their craft. "A 
prisoner skilled in woodcarving," says the Governor ot Preston Prison (Annual Report, 
1904) "has carved a magnificent oak eagle lectern and several other things for the chapel." 

' More than one ex-prisoner states that he learned more from skilled fellow prisoners 
than from the instructors. "I got to know quite a lot about carjicntry." says one. "because 
I worked with a prisoner who was a skilled carpenter. If I had only received the in- 
Ktrnctions given me by the officer, I shouldn't have i)rogressed much." 


in them any aptitude for work. This failure is due to the character 
of the work and the conditions under which it is done. These we 
will proceed to describe. 

The Pen.\l View of Labour. 

The Commissioners are supposed to have thrown over the penal 
"view of labour (except during the early stages of impi-isonment), as 
long ago as 1896, but the punitive element still characterises practic- 
ally all prison work. There are many monotonous processes 
performed by hand which would be performed by machinery in any 
up-to-date factoiy. This is partly due, no doubt, to the difficulty of 
providing sufficient work for rapid manufacture, and of running well 
equipped workshops by the low-conditioned and constantly changing 
prison population ; but it is certainly due also (despite all theoretical 
repudiations) to the punitive conception of the work, and to the 
system of silence and separation which could not possibly be fitted 
in with any remunerative forai of co-operative production. 

Work is regarded not as a means to an end, emphatically not as 
a craft, but as a prescribed task to be fulfilled as part of the punish- 
ment of imprisonment. More than one prisoner describes how, ^ ^ 
when the supply of canvas had given out, completed mail bags were J rfU^^ 
deliberately taken to pieces so that the tasks might be forthcomingr\ 
"There is little wonder," remarks one ex-prisoner, "that the man/ , j/-^ 
who makes, unmakes, and remakes the eternal mail bags should> '^^^^ 
decide that what is known as 'honest work' is an abominable fraud.'"/ 

This same attitude towards work on the part of the authorities is 
revealed in other quotations from the evidence of ex-prisoners. 
"CJoal," says one, "is deposited on one side of the prison for no '' , 
other reason than to provide fetching and carrying for some of the 
prisoners." "In my experience," says a second witness, "the coal 
and coke had to be carried a considerable distance in buckets, whilst i JHB 
wheelbarrows capable of holding three times the quantity were ("^^M^H 
locked up in the adjoining building." "The work in the wood- 
yard," says another ex-prisoner, "was a ridiculous waste of energy. 
How quickly it could have been done in a saw mill ! " "The prisoners 
supplied the dri^ang power to all the machinery in the weaving 
shed," says a third. "I am a cotton weaver, and assert confidently 
that it would be impossible to learn to weave on such machines." 
Wiiting of the same machines another ex-prisoner says: "One man 
by means of a power loom could weave as much in one day as the 
whole shed, comprising 22 looms, could do in a full week." "All 
processes of mail bag work could be done better and more cheaply 
by machinery," says another witness. Similar statements have 
been made to us again and again. 

So far as the work given to Har4 Labour prisoners during the 
early stages of their imprisonment is concerned, it was stated by 
the Prison Commissioners in 1896 to be deliberately penal. They 


remarked that in their opinion it was "of the highest importance 
that penal labour of a deterrent nature should accompany the early 
stages of imprisonment." The Departmental Committee of 1896 
quoted a statement by Sir E. Du Cane, then Chairman of the Com- 
missioners, to the effect that the punishment of "hard, dull, useless, 
uninteresting, monotonous labour" is necessary, although he added 
that "there is a limit to the time during which a prisoner can be 
advantageously subjected to it, for it is decidedly brutalising in its 
effect. ' ' 

The fact is that though the treadwheel and crank have gone — often 
they were purely penal contrivances without productive capacity — 
many of the tasks at present imposed during the first month retain 
their vices. Oakum picking is still sometimes enforced;' and little 
more can be said in defence of oakum picking than of the treadwheel. 
"Beyond keeping unskilled labourers from idleness," remarked the 
Comptroller of Industries in his report for 1904, "there is no redeem- 
ing feature about oakum-picking. On the contrary, the work is of 
a low grade, second only to the obsolete treadwheel; the task is at 
all times difficult to enforce; and the oakum, even when well picked, 
seldom commands a ready sale. ' ' * 

The picking of horsehair, the sorting of cotton, the teasing of 
cocoanut fibre, and similar processes upon which prisoners are 
commonly employed at first are not so hard and painful as 
oakum picking, but they are almost as wasteful. They are 
done laboriously by hand because they are considered suitable 
for cellular labour, because they can be learned easily by short 
sentence prisoners, and, presumably, because their monotony gives 
them the desired penal quality. No prisoner doing this work would 
be encouraged in habits of industry. Instead, he would be 
encouraged in habits of shirking. The effect of attempting to make 
prison labour "deterrent" with a view to inculcating a distaste for 
prison is to make labour itself distasteful. 

In criticising the character of the manual labour enforced in 
prison, we do not forget that much modern factory work is both ' 
monotonous and degrading too, and that from an educative point 
of view hand work which allows some initiative and expression is 
far more valuable than tending to machines. Our criticism is that 
prison hand-work permits neither of these things. It merely compels 
prisoners to do mechanical work by hand, in a word, to become 
inefficient machines.^" 

• S.O. 250 limits oakum-picking, "unless otherwise ordered," to the first 14 days of » j 

sentence ol hard labour and states that "it is not desirable when more suitable forms of [ 

labour are available." Oakum-picking is recommended, however, for prisoners who cannot j 
be trusted with tools. The number of pickers in 1920-1 was 156. 

» "The work is monotonous and often painful to those unaccustomed to it, making tht | 
fingers cracked and raw." — Governor Pentonville Prison, Annual Report, 1904. j 

i" Kven in hand-weaving the slightest variation from the prescribed pattern or stripes [ 
is prohibited; yet, despite this, an officer says that men employed in this rather more 
interesting work are much more manageable than those employed on mail bags. See Note 
at the end of this chapter, "Unauthorised Crafts in the Cell." 


The penal character of prison labour is emphasised by the I 

imposition of a "task" which has to be performed every day by all 
prisoners certified as fit to do it by the medical officer. The "task" 
works out very unevenly for different prisoners and for different 
forms of labour, and is the cause of much anxiety to some prisoners, 
although others, after a little experience, perform it easily. Marks 
are awarded by the instructor according to the degree of industry 
shown by the prisoner. Eight, seven, or six marks may be earned 
daily, but in practice, so long as the prisoner works to the satisfaction 
of the instructor, eight marks are given." 

The Workshops. 
The prison workshops can rarely be described as model establish- 
ments. In many cases the old treadwheel buildings were converted 
into workshops, with not very satisfactory results. Generally they) 
are dull, ill-lit, uninviting places, such as only third rate industrial 
firms would be satisfied with. In a few prisons more modern v\"ork-s^ 
shops have been erected, but neglect is common. One witness 
describes how the roof of a twine-shed at a certain prison was so 
badly in need of repair that water flowed in whenever there was rairi'. 
In other prisons the workshops are described as "cheap," 
"cramped," and "poor." The women's sewing room of one prison 
18* stated to be "very low." In many prisons there are either no 
workshops or only one or two, so that the prisoners have to work 
in association on the basement landings. Often these landings are 
quite inadequately lit for such work as sewing, and in winter they 
are draughty and cold. 

The Absence of Open-air Work. 

The best form of work for prisoners is undoubtedly not manual 
or mechanical labour done in cell or workshop, but open air employ- 
ment on the land; yet of the daily average of "effective" workers 
in prison during 1920-21, only 118 (or 1.68 per cent.) were employed 
in gardens or on the land. The Departmental Committee of 1895 
stated that "it is agreed by all medical experts and prison officials 
that no kind of employment is more useful," " but pointed out that 
"most prisons are, unfortunately situated in large towns and 
populous places" and therefore provide little opportunity for open- 
air work. The committee recommended that "the 160 acres within 

"Prisoners who are sick in hospital are only credited with six marks a day in the 
first instance, but the governor has power, on the recommendation of the medical officer, 
to allot additional marks, and the full eight are almost invariably given. No marks ae 
given for conduct, but they can be forfeited by misconduct. A prisoner must earn 224 
marks in each stage, until he reach the fourth stage, in which he completes his sentence. 
A prisoner who earns full marks has one-sixth of his sentence remitted. (See j). 105). 
Previous to March, 1917, prisoners were given a little extra diet — in one prison a 
pint of cocoa, in another a piece of bread and a pint of cocoa, in another a piece of bread 
and cheese, in another a pint of tea— for doing 55 per cent, above the "task." For 24 feet 
of canvas sewing, for instance, such rewards would be given. Was there ever such sweating? 

" Our evidence entirely corroborates this statement. Some of our warder witnesses 
»tate that prisoners, particularly agricultural workers, ask for land work, on the ground 
that (we auote from an officer) "sewing softens them so much that afterwards they are 
incapable of doing a day's work and can't keep a job." 


prison walls" should be used as far as possible for gardening 
purposes, and they stated that they saw "no reason why prison 
yards, especially the portion set aside for women, should not be made 
less ugly by the cultivation of flowers and shrubs." In the case 
of prisons in agricultural districts, they recommended that "it would 
be desirable whenever possible to acquire land adjoining such prisons 
for the purpose of labour." 

The Prison Commissioners in commenting upon these recommend- 
ations pointed out in their report for 1905-06 that only 70 acres could 
possibly be used for cultivation by prisoners and that 59 acres of 
these were actually so used. The governors of prisons, they 
said, had been instructed to bring the remainder into cultivation 
"wherever possible." Our evidence makes it clear that the area 
of land available for the employment of prisoners remains compara- 
tively small. In some of the prisons there are still no vegetable 
gardens, even in country districts. This is deplorable, for such work 
is both healthy, reformative, and easily learned. The experience of 
the allotments adopted so extensively during the war showed the 
possibility of acquiring skill in gardening work in a comparatively 
short time, and that a remarkable liking for it can be developed in 
most people. 

Moreover, open-air work, as American experience has proved, 
possesses greater possibilities of efficiency than other forms 
of prison labour. In 1905 the Commissioner of Labour 

(U.S.A.) published a report comparing the value of prison 
and free labour. It proved that in farming, prison labour had 75 
per cent, of the efficiency of free labour, 99 per cent, in road work, 
and 107 per cent, in lumbering, remarkable results in view of the 
character of the prison population. In indoor occupations the 
efi&ciency standard was much lower — ranging from 60 per cent, in 
boot and shoe manufacturing to 45 per cent, in the manufacture of 
chairs, tables, etc. These returns re-enforce from the point of view 
of economy the acknowledged advantages of outdoor work from the 
point of view of health. Lumbering is not an extensive English 
industry, road work may be thought undesirable; but there is no 
reason why the employment of prisoners on farming should not be 
extended widely." 

The Supervision of Prison Labour. 

It is the general rule in the case of all labour performed outside 
the cell that an officer should be on the spot to keep a vigilant watch 

" An interesting statement on the outdoor work done by prisonerg in New Zealand was 
made by Sir Robert Stout, the Chief Justice of New Zealand, in an interriew with a 
repre.sentatiTe of the "Manchester Guardian," on January 6, 1921. "As far as possible," 
he said, "prisoners are set to outdoor work, farming, tree planting, and so on. They have 
farms in sexeral districts, one of 2,000 acres. About fifty-seven million trees have been 
planted by prisoners. The outside work is of enormous benefit to the men. Their 
appetites and their weight increase. They work well, harder than ordinary men. Very 
few have to be punished for slacking. They know that their conduct is watched, and that 
if the Prison Board sees fit they will be released and work found for them. Their prison 
life trains them to work well, and people are always willing to employ them." 


over even' movement of the prisoner. Thus the work is done in a 
atmosphere of restriction and suspicion fatal to the creation of any 
high view of the dignity or social worth of labour, and a serious 
waste of time and energy occurs. The gardening gang, for instance, 
has to move as if they were roped together. Whenever one man 
has the smallest job in another part of the garden, e.g. emptying 
out some weeds or fetching some vegetables for replanting, the whole 
party has to down tools and accompany him; otherwise, the warder 
in charge would be temporarily out of sight or hearing of one portion 
or other of his gang. The whole effect is ridiculous in the extreme. 

There is one exception to this rule of close supervision. For 
many years it has been the practice in Convict prisons to permit a 
few "trustworthy" prisoners, denoted by red collars, to be employed 
away from immediate supervision. In 1910 this system was 
introduced into Local prisons, the prisoners concerned being 
denoted by red bands on the sleeves of their jackets. The governors 
of prisons and the Prison Commissioners have been unanimous in 
their praise of the red band system, not merely on the practical 
grounds of economising the employment of warders and enabling 
odd jobs to be executed promptly, but "for its moral effect in show- 
ing prisoners that if they behave well they will be trusted."'* 

It ought to be pointed out, however, that a mere handful of 
prisoners enjoy this privilege — not more than two in small prisons 
and six in large prisons. The red band prisoners are most frequently 
employed in the librarj-, in the garden, or as carpenters and fitters. 

The Problem of Payment. 

Before 1877, in certain English prisons, when under the control of 
the local justices, prisoners were paid regular wages for their work; 
amounting, e.g., at Preston and Southwell prisons, to 50 per cent, 
of the profits accruing to the prison by their labour." Since prisons 
have been under the Home Office, wages have not been paid to 
prisoners, but until 1913 it was the custom to pay them a small 
gratuity. The gratuity was never regarded as a payment for work 
done, however, and was abolished in that year as ineffective 
both as "a means of charity" and "as a means of securing 
the good conduct of the prisoners."" We find a large body 
of opinion among our witnesses in favour of the payment of 
wages." The superior prison officials are not, on the whole, 
favourable, but one governor at least would welcome a wage 
system. "At present," he says, "it is the wives and children 

" P.O. Report, 1910-11, p. 24. 

^L^«« "English Prisons Under Local Go»ernment," by Sidnev and Beatrice Webb, Chapter 
vm. (b). and "The English Prison System," by Sir E. Enggles-Brise, p. 155. 

"Nothing was paid to a prisoner in the first stage; Is. for 28 davs in the se'-ond stage- 
11. Od. in the third stage; and 2s. for each 28 days in the fourth stage. 

" See the Appendix to thii Chapter for instances of the parment of wages to prisoners in 
oUier countries. 


left outside prison who are punished most." An ex-prisoner who 
has for many years been prominently active in the Labour movement 
says: — 

The payment of wages would entirely change the industrial problem in 
prison. Its first result would be to give dignity and value to the work 
in the minds of the prisoners ; their daily labour would no longer be 
merely a "task." Secondly, it would enable the prisoners to contribute 
towards the maintenance of their wires and families whilst they were 
in prison. Thi."? would not merely relieve the terrible anxiety from 
which many prisoners suffer ; it would save the breaking up of homes 
and prevent many domestic estrangements and tragedies. 

But beyond this, if prisoners were paid the standard rate of wages, 
a reasonable sum having been deducted for the cost of maintenance, the 
necessity for restricting prison industries to such as do not involve 
"competition with any particular trade or industry" (Prison Act, 1877) 
would disappear, at any rate from the Trade Unionists' point of view. 
Under such circumstances I see no reason why Trade Union officials 
should not be permitted to enter prisons to make sure that no under- 
cutting of wages occurred. 

This last point is of great importance. The restriction upon 
industries quoted by this witness is a main factor in preventing the 
efficient organisation of work in prison. The Departmental Com- 
mittee of 1895 instanced the case of mat making which had "to a 
large extent been given up owing to outside agitation against 
competition of prisoners with free labour." The Committee 
examined two representatives of the Parliamentary Committee of 
the Trades Union Congress and the following paragraph in the 
report is devoted to their evidence: — 

These gentlemen gave very fair and impartial evidence. They admitted 
that industrial labour was morally and physically beneficial to the 
prisoners, and agreed that it ought to be found. They urged that direct 
competition with outside labour should not be allowed at "cutting prices." 
Taking their evidence as a whole, we gather that they approve of 
industrial training of prisoners ; and bearing in mind that the products 
of prison labour go to reduce the costs of prisons, they have no objection 
to the sale of prison goods pi'ovided that (a) they are not sold below the 
market price for the district or standard price elsewhere ; (b) every 
consideration is shown to the special circumstances of the particular 
industries to avoid all undue interference with the wages and employment 
of free labour. 

For our part we are unable to understand how the restriction of 
prison industries to work for Government departments surmounts 
the objection to "competition with free labour." If the Home 
Office publications were not printed at Maidstone Convict prison, 
they would be, printed at the standard rates by free labour. Similarly 
with the mail bags for the Post Office and the ships' fenders for 
the Admiralty which are made in prisons throughout the country. 
"The fact Trade Unionists must bear in mind," remarks the witness 
from whom we have quoted above, "is that all useful work done in 
prison is necessarily competitive with free labour. It is no use 


restricting prison labour. The right course is to demand that it 
should be done under Trade Union conditions." " 

"Prison labour is slave labour, which is notoriously inefi&cient 
and always will be so," remarks Mr. T. M. Osborne, the American 
prison reformer. Slavery is the right description. The work is 
compulsory, the worker has no choice of trade, he has no voice in 
the conditions of his labour, and he receives no wage. If it be said 
that freedom in these respects cannot be expected in prison, the 
reply must necessarily be: "Then you must not expect labour under 
the dishonourable conditions of prison to fit a man for honourable 
labour outside." Prison labour, at least under existing conditions, 
cannot possibly teach a man either the dignity of work, self-reliance, 
or responsibility to others. 

•« It is fairly clear that the outside agitation against prison competition has largely 
been inspired by those interested in the one exceptional industry of tnat-making. When ths 
agitation took place, mat-making was one of the smallest of British industries, mora 
persons being employed at it inside prison than »utside. 

Note on Unauthorised Crafts in the Cell. 

A.S a contrast to the lack of interest with which prison work is frequently 
regarded, we quote from the evidence of two witnesses who succeeded in 
secretly doing decorative needlework and weaving whilst confined to their 
cells (in the year 1918) for refusing to conform to prison rules. 

The first says : — "My evenings, after the risk of being disturbed by the 
entry of warders had ceased, were occupied with my decorative needlework. 
I am a natural 'fidget,' yet I have been so engrossed in my work, either draw- 
ing the designs or carrying them out in needlework on canvas, that I have 
sat from five o'clock, immediately after supper, till the bedtime bell was rung 
at eight o'clock, without once moving from my stool. I am quite sure that 
these little pieces of work have been the means of preserving my reason. 
My materials were all obtained from what is supplied for making various 
kinds of Post Office bags. I had the ordinary stout machine thread in black, 
white, browrf, and red, and for yellow I used the flax that is used for sewing 
buckles and straps on satchels. Small pieces of canvas of various kinds were 
also quite easy to obtain, and these I used as a base for my work." 

The other ex-prisoner says : — "So soon as I developed the possibilities of 
the situation so far as to obtain materials for weaving, I began to experience 
days of such complete absorption that time was no w^eariness whatever, and 
I lost all sense of confinement completely. I had lengths of different coloured 
threads passed under my door and placed in my potatoes, etc., by cleaners, 
and with an empty reel and some wooden bread skewers I invented a loom 
which embodied (though I say it) two or three really new principles. Having 
some weakness for design (I am a designer of fabrics by trade), I was able 
to proceed with the business apace. Weaving was new to me, and, like all 
that kind of work, fascinated me extremely." 

If it be possible for prisoners to do such intricate work under such circum- 
stances against the rules of the authorities, what might not be done if hobbies 
and crafts were encouraged? (See also pp. 162-65.) 



1. — The punitive conception degrades prison labour. The work is un- 
necessarily crude and monotonous and does not inculcate habits of industry. 
There is practically no up-to-date machinery. 

2. — There is scarcely any choice of labour. 

3. — The daily "task" is not proportioned to the capacity of the individual. 

4. — No wages are paid to prisoners. 

5. — The minute disciplinary supervision of the working parties is degrading 
and wasteful. 

6. — There is an absence of industrial training of prisoners sufficient to 
enable them to earn a living outside. 

7. — The trade instructors are usually themselves untrained. 

8. — The prison workshops are often ill-lit and unsuitable. 

9. — The number of prisoners employed in agriculture or open-air work 
is very small. 


Appendices to Chapter Seven. 


In many countries "wages are now paid to prisoners. In New Zealand, for 
instance, a prisoner who has passed out of the probation grade and has served 
three months of his sentence is qualified to earn wages. The wages are divided 
into two parts — "payment to prisoners for industry combined with good 
conduct," and "payment of daily wages to prisoners for the support of 
dependents." Both payments are carefully graduated according to a system 
of marks, combined with an extra remuneration for skilled labour ; but whilst 
it appears that all prisoners become in course of time able by good conduct 
to earn the former payment, the latter is only accorded to able-bodied male 
prisoners with proved dependents^ and under certain conditions to female 
prisoners with dependents. The maximum credited, except in the case of 
overtime, under the first head is 9d. a day to unskilled and ll^d. to skilled 
workers. No provision is made for spending earnings whilst in prison ; the 
money is credited to the prisoner against the time of his release. Under the 
head of daily wages for the support of dependents, sums which apparently 
vary between 5/- and 6/9 a day can be paid over to a prisoner's 
dependents. In arriving at the exact sum, skill, length of service, and the 
ordinary labour rates of pay are taken into account, and a deduction is made 
for the cost of maintaining and supervising the prisoner. 

In France the payment of wages is limited to prisoners serving sentences 
of more than 12 months. Contractors organise the workshops, supply the 
materials, the tools, and the foremen, and pay fixed wages, stated to be 
somewhat less than the district rate owing to the inferiority of prison labour. 
A part of the wage (pecule reserve) is handed to the prisoner on his discharge, 
the rest (pecule disponible) may be spent at the canteen. The work includes 
the making of brooms, brushes, wooden shoes, and, in the case of women, 
men's shirts. 

We take the following review of the practice in American prisons from the 
report of the Indian Jails Committee, 1921 (p. 146) : — 

In some States, such as New York, the gratuity takes the form of a 
percentage on the estimated value of the prisoner's work. In other 
States, e.g., Indiana, each prisoner employed under the contract system 
is allotted a regular amount of work to do, but for any out-turn produced 
in excess of that task he receives payment at a scheduled rate. This rate 
represents the full value of the extra work done and thus amounts to a 
wage for all work in excess of the fixed task, and may be quite a sub- 
stantial sum, as much as 30 dollars a month. In other States, again, 
such as Minnesota, the practice has been adopted of paying the prisoner 
regular wages ranging from 15 cents up to over a dollar a day for all 
work done. The wages belong to the prisoner, who is allowed either to 
remit them to his family or to let them mount up for his own benefit 
at release. The warden of one prison which did business in 1918 to the 
value of over 2^ millions of dollars stated that they had paid over 
seventy-five thousand dollars in that year in wages to prisoners. He 
added, "As far as discipline is concerned, we have had very little trouble, 
the men being so busy and so profitably employed that they do not 
bother with infraction of rules to any extent." We found indications 
of a growing opinion in America in favour of giving prisoners substantial 


remuneration for their work. Amongst other reasons it is strongly 
supported as helping a prisoner to provide for his family while he is in 
prison. It is also held to be at once remunerative to the State and 
reformatory in respect of the prisoner. At the institutions we visited 
the prison officials were strongly in favour of the principle, and it 
certainly seemed to us that where the prisoners were recieiving a reward 
in proportion to their out-turn they were working with a cheerfulness 
and interest very different from the slackness and listlessness we noticed 
where this stimulus was absent. 

The Indian Jails Committee itself, whilst repudiating "all claim or right" 
on the part of a prisoner to gratuities or wages, thinks "it may still be wise 
to furnish him with some motive for industry more effective than the fear 
of punishment and more immediately operative than the hope of expediting 
his release by remission. It is generally agreed that greater reliance can be 
placed on rewards than on punishments and that punishments are 
particularly inefficacious in stimulating men to industry." It, there- 
fore, recommends "that every prisoner on tasked labour should be 
allowed a money gratuity for any out-turn done in excess of the fixed 
task in proportion to the excess turned out," the gratuity to be the prisoner's 
own property. It is suggested that it should be "open to the prisoner to 
exchange the whole or any part of his gratuity for remission, if he wishes 
to do so," and that he should be allowed to remit it to his family or to spend 
half of it on comforts. 

A Commission of jurists and scientists, presided over by Professor Enrico 
Ferri, appointed by the Italian Government in 1919, has reported in favour 
of paying and organising prison labour along lines of free labour. "The 
criminals will have pay and hours identical with those obtaining under Trade 
Union rules. Not all their pay, however, will go to them. One- third will 
be devoted to the person for having injured whom the delinquent is in prison; 
one-third to the State for the maintenance of the offender; and the other 
third to the prisoner himself or his family." " 

i» The particulars ol the Italian Commission's report are taken from a summary 
"The Observer," January 23rd, 1921. 



The wastefulness of prison labour is shown by the returns the Prison Com- 
missioners publish as to its value. In 1920-21 the "average annual earnings" 
per prisoner were £44 2s. 9d., that is less than 18s. a week, or about 83. 
a week pre-war value ; and this was a very high figure compared with previous 
years. In 1878, when the Local prisons were taken over by the Government, 
the average earnings were £5 18s. per annum. They had advanced to 
£9 18s. 9d. by 1904 and to £13 2s. by 1908. 

These figures (except those for 1920-21, which are given in the Prison 
Commissioners' Report) are reproduced from Sir E. Ruggles-Brise's "The 
English Prison System," ^^ but they have little comparative value. In 1898 
the method of estimating the value of prison labour was entirely changed, 
"per diem" rates giving place to "per article" rates. Therefore it is obviously 
worthless to compare the figure for 1878 with the present figure. 

The estimated value of prison labour is now based, according to the Home 
Secretary, "on a comparison of the value of each article made in prison, with 
the value of a similar article outside." "' We presume this means that an 
article of prison manufacture is valued by the market price of a similar 
article made outside prison, but how frequently the valuation is made is not 
clear. The Home Office gave figures in a letter addressed to Mr. Ben Spoor, 
M.P., on June 3, 1920, which suggest that the assessment so far as mail-bags 
are concerned was fairly accurate in 1915-1916. During that year the trade 
quoted from 9d. to Is. for sewing bags, and the latter figure was the estimate 
of the Commissioners. Again, a Dundee firm asked 95d. for sewing a 
hessian bag, including cost of cord and sewings (then about lid.) and 
establishment expenses, which compared reasonably with 6d. estimated by 
the Commissioners for labour value only. During 1920-21 a rough attempt 
was made to re-estimate the value of prison labour according to the advance 
in wages outside prison. "Information was obtained from the Board of 
Trade," say the Prison Commissioners, "as to the average earnings under 
various trades in different years, and the percentage of advance has been 
! applied to the rates hitherto in force for the valuation of prison labour." " 
This change is responsible for the much higher figures given in 1920-21, but 
their reliability is extremely doubtful as the valuation of prison labour is 
now made on a basis combining two distinct principles ; that is to say, upon 
; the per article rate hitherto taken have been superimposed amounts propor- 
: tionate to the recent increases in wages. This combinaion is clearly unsound, 
as wages and prices do not change in exact proportions. Moreover, the 
! value of prison labour cannot properly be compared with labour outside, as 
the latter is applied to up-to-date means of production. In the case of the 
hessian bag mentioned above, for instance, the Dundee firm estimated the 
; price on the basis of machine sewing, whilst all sewing is done by hand in 
^ prison. Consequently, if the bag was rightly valued in 1915-16, it would be 
greatly over-valued now, as there has been added to it the increased wage 
rate of wastefuUy applied labour. 

"Op. cit., pp. 139 and 140. 

=" Letter to Mr. W. Lunn, M.P., Febmary 23rd, 1921. 

" P.C. Report, 1920-21, p. 17. 


It is of interest to give the estimated average value of the labour per man 
in some representative prison occupations. The figures are for 1920-21 " :— 

£ s. d. £ s. d. 


- 95 12 

Oakum Pickers 

9 10 10 


- 117 6 


Pickers and Sorters - 

14 5 

Building Workers 

- 60 17 


Ship fender makers 

26 9 8 


- 29 14 



52 17 8 


- 50 12 


Tailors - - - . 

49 13 5 

Knitters ... 

-- 20 15 

Weavers . - . . 

20 15 7 

Mailbag makers 

- 40 6 


Wood choppers 

18 4 


- 23 8 


In estimating the cost of the prison administration, a deduction is made 
for the "value of labour exclusive of employment in the service of the several 
[prison] establishments." In 1920-21 this sum was put at £210,436 for Local 
prisons, £51,211 for Convict prisons, £3,068 for Preventive Detention prisons, 
and £33,563 for Borstal Institutions, giving a total of £298,278.^* If prison 
labour were organised efficiently, there is no reason why a very large part 
of the cost of prisons should not be met by the value of the articles produced. 

As we have indicated in the foregoing chapter, prison labour in America 
often yields a remarkably substantial revenue. In this connection it is worth 
referring to a paper read to the Prison Association of New York in 1911, 
by Mr. O. F. Lewis, its general secretary, on returning from an investigation 
of English and European prisons. "The American who is familiar with the 
great industrial development of many of our prisons will feel that the 
English prisons are securing a small output indeed for the number of men 
they have," he says. He suggests that the Prison Commissioners do not 
want the financial return to shape the administration (a laudable attitude, 
were it not for the fact that their opposition to improved industrial organisa- 
tion is based on their opposition to co-operative effort by the prisoners), and 
emphasises the drawback of separate confinement from the point of view of 

The Cost of Prisons. 

It will be convenient to include here some figures regarding the cost of the 
prison administration. The Table given on the next page is taken from the. 
Commissioners' Report for 1920-21." 

It will be observed that the cost of "superintendence and staff" per inmate 
is nearly three times that of maintenance, and two-thirds that of the total 
cost. The cost per inmate has risen extraordinarily. In 1913-14 it was 
£27 14s. lid. (including State Inebriate Reformatories), as compared with 
£93 13s. lOd. in 1920-21. 

The total cost of the prison administration and upkeep in 1920-21 (includ- 
ing the Preventive Detention prison and Borstal Institutions) was £1.165,188. 
If this vast sum were doing something to lessen the volume of crime, it would 
be worth while. If, however, as the facts indicate, imprisonment helps to 
make criminals, this expenditure is not only colossal waste, it is positively 
injurious to the community. 

2S Calculated Irom the returns given on pp. 34-57 oJ P.C. Beport, 1920-21. 
2< P.C. Report, Appendix 7, Table A, p. 42. 
2i P.C. Report, Appendix 7, Table B, p. 43. 



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The question whether the scale and quahty of prison diet should 
form part of the punishment has long agitated the xesponsible 
authorities. In 1843 an enlightened Home Secretary, Sir J. 
Graham, declared that "diet ought on no account to be made an 
instrument of punishment"; but, since local administration was 
then in operation, he had no power to enforce his view. The local 
justices often acted on the theory that the diet should properly be 
part of the punishment, and in 1863 they were supported by a declara- 
tion of the Committee of the House of Lords on prison discipline 
to the effect that a "diet may be made a j.ust and useful element of 
penal diacipline." Following on the report of this committee, Dr. 
Guy was appointed to enquire into the dietary systems, and, when 
he sought official guidance as to whether he should follow Sir J. 
Graham's dictum or that of the Lords' Committee, he received the 
somewhat inconclusive answer that the diet ought not to be an 
instrument of punishment "by injury to health." 

A committee which framed new prison dietaries in 1878 applied 
the principle that "the shorter the sentence is, the more strongly 
should the penal element be manifested in the diet, ' ' with the result 
that, when a further committee considered this subject twenty years 
later, it found that the short sentence diets had been "inadequate." ' 
The Home Secretary accordingly abolished them and substituted a 
new commencing dietary for seven days. This committee in recom- 
mending the new diet expressed disagreement with the principle that 
short sentence diets should contain a penal element; but, "having 
regard to the grave dangers which would, in their opinion, accrue 
should the lowest scale be unduly attractive," they provided for it 
to "consist of the plainest food, unattractive, but good and whole- 
some, jtnd adequate in amount and kind to maintain health and 

What the committee of 1898 considered adequate may be judged 
from the following scale': — For breakfast, 8 ozs. of bread 

1 P.O. Report, 1899, p. 21. 
I Ibid. 

> Known as "A" Diet in the Rules for Dietaries established in 1901. They remained 
anchanged up to 1917. 

DIET 127 

and one pint of gruel; for dinner, 8 ozs. of bread and one pint of 
porridge (or 8 ozs. of potatoes or suet pudding); for supper, 8 ozs. 
of bread and one pint of gruel. Readers with more imagination than 
this committee will hardly be surprised to learn of the constant 
complaint of ex-prisoners that, except when asleep, they were never 
without the feeling of hunger during the seven days of this diet. 
Complaint of inadequacy is also repeatedly made by ex-prisoners 
regarding "B" diet, upon which, after the seven days, they completed 
their first four months' imprisonment. This was followed by "C" 
diet, which, although open to other criticism, was generally found 
sufficient in quantity.* 

This system of diets continued in Local prisons until 1917, after 
which the exigencies of the war necessitated a number of alterations. 
For a period of nine months the scale was wretchedly inadequate, but 
in 1918 a diet was introduced which was in many respects an improve- 
ment upon that of pre-war days ; the low diet of the first week was 
abolished, a pint of hot cocoa was provided at supper (prisoners never 
had a hot drink in the pre-war diet until they had served four 
months), and the items generally were more appetising and varied. 
This diet, which is, we understand, still experimental, has remained, 
and consists of the following items: — 

Daily — 1 pint porridge and 6 ozs. white bread. 


Daily — 1 lb. potatoes and 3 ozs. white bread. 

In addition — 
Monday and Thursday — 3 ozs. bacon, 3 ozs. beans, and 3 ozs. vegetables 

(usually carrots). 
Tuesday — 4 ozs. boiled beef, 1 pint broth, and 3 ozs. suet pudding. 

Wedn'iday and Saturday — ^21 ozs. soup, composed of minced meat, split 
peas, rice or pearl barley. 
j Friday — 6 ozs. fish and 3 ozs. suet pudding. 

I Sunday — 3 ozs. preserved meat and 3 ozs. rice pudding (sweetened). 


i Daily — 1 pint cocoa. 

] In addition — 

Monday and Thursday — 8 ozs. white bread, 1 oz. margarine, and 1 oz. 

Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday — 6 ozs. bread, 1 oz. bacon, and 2 ozs. 

' Wednesday and Sunday — Same as Tuesday, with 1 oz. margarine 


* Experience apparently conrinced the inspectors of ijrifons that the penal principle for 
dietary is nnsound, lor in their 1902 report they say, "It has been suggested that the 
.improTed food and treatment now accorded to prisoners may hare the effect of lessening 
the deterrent influence of imprisonment, but we hare no fear that these changes will 
.increase our prison population; a man will not willingly sacrifice his freedom for a few 
additional ounces of food." 


The printed store list includes the following vegetables, which an 
frequently given in the hospital diet and are sometimes allowed as 
gubstdtutes for a part of the potatoes in the ordinary diet : — Cabbage 
carrots, leeks, onions, parsnips, and turnips. These vegetables ar< 
always greatly appreciated by the prisoners, but in town prisons 
they are rarely provided. Vegetable gardens are frequently attache( 
to prisons in the country, and greater variety is possible. 

Even with the present improved diet, every ex-prisoner who hai 
I given evidence states that the effect was bad in some respect or other 
|Fifty complain of general debility, 31 of chronic indigestion, 14 o 
[frequent diarrhoea, 10 of skin rash, and nine of constant constipation. 
The medical ofl&cers, on the other hand, seem mostly satisfied 
One advocates "more green vegetable food and not so much starchj 
food." A diet speciahst criticises the diet principally on the groun( 
that it is excessively starchy and lacking in green stuffs. An excesi 
of starch, he says, forms "an over-stimulating and over-heating food 
which gives an apparent well-being for a time, but the permanen 
effect of which is bad. It maintains body- weight, but has very un 
favourable effects in other directions." 

The diet in Convict prisons has also improved greatly in recen 
years. An ex-convict who served a life-sentence tells us that in th( 
early nineties the food was so unsatisfying that "one could havi 
eaten, for a week and never been satisfied." It was a common prac 
tice, he says, for men to drink out of oil-cans and to chew rags 
Before the war there were varying diets at Convict prisons, worker 
on the farms and in the quarries receiving extra ; but now all convicts 
except those under medical attention, are given a uniform diet, com 
posed of the following : — 

Breakfast. — One pint tea, one pint porridge, six ozs. bread, witl 
i or Jf oz. margarine. 

Dinner. — First course, potatoes, with peas or beans, and either bacoi 
or meat soup, or hot meat, or corned beef, or fish. Second course, sue 
pudding mixed with treacle, or sweetened rice, etc. Seven ozs. bread 

Supper. — One pint cocoa, nine ozs. bread, 1^ ozs. bacon or cheese. 

An officer states that the improved diet has made a great difference 
"There is now very little waste of the food, and complaints are few,' 
he says. "The diminution of grumbling and of talk about the food i 
a great advantage." 

No one will claim that the manner in which the food is distribute< 
to the prisoners tends to have a civilising influence upon them 
There is an entire absence of those social elements which wi 
associate with meal-times, and which serve so effectively to develo] 

s It is a common belief among prisoners that the food ia regularly drugged for th 
purpose of depressing their spirits to acceptance of the discipline, quietening the sexna 
instincts, and relaxing the bowels. It is clear from our evidence, however, that ther 
is no foundation for tliis belief. Both warders and medical officers declare it to be a mjth 
See p. 586. 

DIET 129 

a sense of human fellowship and the cultivation of character. The 
rations, apportioned in the kitchen, are placed in tins, and then 
distributed to the prisoners in the solitude of their cells. The 
prisoner's door is opened about ten inches, the tins are thrust on to 
his table, and the door slammed to again. The whole process is 
impersonal and inhuman, a mere matter of providing the prisoners' 
bodies with sufficient food to keep them going. This is not a criticism 
of the operators, for obviously the more rapidly they distribute the 
food the hotter and more appetising it will be. It is the system 
itself which is at fault. 

If prisoners have complaint to make as to the quality or quantity 
of the food it must be made at once. Most prisoners accept what- 
ever is given them, many being of the spiritless, easily driven type 
that never complains about anything, others disliking to complain 
about such a thing as food, others quite unaware as to what rights 
they possess, others hesitating until it is too late, and many others 
refraining from complaint because they know that it will involve un- 
popularity with the warders and because their card of rules 
threatens them with punishment for "frivolous and groundless com- 
plaints." "Old hands," of the more courageous type, however, 
make a habit of examining their rations immediately, and, if anything 
be wrong, they hastily ring their bells before the officer has proceeded 
far down the landing. If the complaint be of under-weight, the 
: prisoner is allowed to see the ration weighed, and any deficiency is 
i made up; if it be of the quality, the matter is referred to the chief 
i warder. 

I Our evidence shows that under-weight is very frequent. In one 
i prison a number of political prisoners ingeniously constructed scales 
out of their work-tools, which resulted in a stream of applications 
every meal-time for rations to be weighed, and invariably the com- 
plaints were justified. One of these men had the hardihood to ask 
Ifor his food to be weighed twenty-six times in three weeks. The 
I outcome of this persistent protest was that the officers in the kitchen 
were given instructions specially to weigh the rations of these 
• prisoners before distribution ; but there is no ground for thinking 
that any greater care was taken over the rations of other prisoners. 
j Similarly, the food is often of poor quality, the flour musty, the 
I porridge thin (or thickened with mice-droppings), the potatoes 
'diseased, the meat leathery or bad. At one prison in 1919 the 
potatoes were uneatable for three months. At another "the oatmeal 
iwas contaminated with rat excreta," and, in consequence of protest 
I by political prisoners, was officially condemned. But we are assured 
that when the "politicals" were released "the old oatmeal was 
brought out again and was eaten by the ordinary prisoners." 

We do not wish to suggest that food is objectionable in this 
manner as a general rule. In some prisons scrupulous care appears 
;to be taken. But complaints of this kind are sufficiently frequent 
Ito demand notice and emphasis. 

Our ex-prisoner witnesses also very frequently state that the tins 
\ m which the food is served are dirty. No less than seventy-seven 



witnesses make this complaint. A deputation from the Penal 
Reform League which waited on the Prison Commissioners in 1920, 
suggested that the rust which gathers in the tins might be obviated 
if they were bowl-shaped, and the Commissioners promised that the 
tins should be made in this form in the future. We are glad to 
learn that during 1921 earthenware utensils were introduced at one 
large prison. 

Diet bulks veiy largely in the minds of most prisoners. This is 
no doubt in great part due to the monotony of prison existence, 
which tends to cause an exaggerated emphasis to be laid upon meals. 
But the inadequacy and monotony of the diet has certainly also 
been responsible for the constant thought of food. One witness tells 
liow prisoners employed on an outside works party picked up 
bits of cabbage stumps and carrots "to eke out the prison rations,'* 
and how one was discovered and consequently punished. Prisoners 
employed in the workshops complained to him that they could not 
eat nails or wood. "The worst of this shop," said one, "is that 
never by any chance does anything we can eat get into it. " Another 
witness records that during the period of short war rations prisoners 
ate the grease which they used in the making of ropes. 

One of the dietary problems arising from the imprisonment of 
political offenders is the frequent demand for a strictly vegetarian 
diet. This was provided for women suffrage prisoners at request, 
but had apparently fallen into disuse by the time of the war, for the 
"politicals" of this period only obtained it after much difficulty and 
delay. Several vegetarians refused all food containing animal 
matter, and, in spite of the sufferings which it entailed, subsisted 
for many months on the inadequate amount of bread, potatoes, and 
porridge contained in the ordinaiy diet. The vegetarian diet is still 
permitted, but ordinary prisoners very rarely apply for it.' 


All convicted prisoners wear a uniform. The prison authorities 
deny that it is "intended or designed as a garb of shame," but, 
crudely cut, untidy, ill-fitting, and sprinkled with broad arrows, it 
emphatically gives that impression. On the jacket hangs an ugly 
yellow disc, bearing the prisoner's number. 

The colour of the cloth varies with the classification of the prisoner. 
For the ordinary male prisoner it is drab, for the second division 

« The Vegetarian Diet is as follows:— 

Breakfast. Daily— 6 ozs. bread, 1 pint porridge, ^4 oz. margarine. 

Dinner. Daily — 6 ozs. bread, 16 ozs. potatoes. 

Sunday. Rice pudding as follows— IVi ozs. rice, 1 oz. milk, Vs oz. sugar, or 1 or. jam 
to each portion. 

Monday and Thursday. 6 ozs. beans or peas, 1 oz. cheese. 
* Taesday and Friday. Flour pudding as follows:- 2 ozs. flour, 14 oz. margarino, 1 ot. 
jam to each portion. 

Wednesday and Saturday. Vegetable Soup as follows:— 2 ozs. fresh vegetables, 2 OM- 
pearl barley or split peas, Va oz. onion, l-6th oz. flour to each portion, loz. cheese. 

Supper. Daily— 6 ozg. bread, \i oz. margarine, 1 pint cocoa, 1 02. cheese, 4 <)•• 

DRESS 131 

prisoner brown, for debtors and "remand" prisoners blue, for court 
martial prisoners dark grey. The cap, usually worn indoors and 
out, is made of a similar stuff. The brown dress and apron and 
white cap of the women prisoners give a rather neater and happier 
impression, but many women find even this uniform very distasteful. 
The first division and remand prisoners may wear their own clothing 
if they desire, and if it be clean and decent, but the number disc 
must be worn. 

In 1889 a committee appointed by the Government to advise 
about prison dress ' gave the following points in favour of a prison 
uniform : — 

(1) It is a safeguard against the introduction of infectious disease. 

(2) It is easily washed and repaired. 

(3) It is a safeguard against escape. 

(4) It is a means of classification. 

(5) It is a check upon the secretion of prohibited articles. 

(6) It saves private clothing from wear and tear. 

I In opposition to these considerations, some ex-prisoners strongly 
' urge that identical uniforms involve a suppression of personality, 
, and suggest that, even if prisoners must have different or additional 

clothing to their own, there is no reason why some variety of style 

should not be permitted. 

j A prison uniform was first advocated in this country by John 

! Howard, for reasons of humanity. At that time most prisoners 

i were in a wretchedly miserable condition, and those who were 

• penniless and unable to pay "garnish" on admission were 

1 forced to surrender some of their apparel, however scanty. An 

Act of 1779 directed that prison clothing should be adopted, but 

it is clear from certain prison rules of this period that John Howard's 

humane considerations did not guide the minds of the authorities. 

1 For instance, one of the rules of the Gloucester Penitentiary House, 

' 1785 (quoted by Major Arthur Griffiths in a historical appendix to 

■ the report of the committee of 1889) reads: "Offenders shall be 

clothed in a coarse and uniform apparel with certain marks or badges 

affixed to the same, as well to humiliate the wearer as to facilitate 

discovery in case of escape." 

I Prisoners are still "clothed in a coarse and uniform apparel with 
1 certain marks or badges affixed to the same," and, despite the 
denials of the authorities, they certainly serve not only to "facilitate 
discovery in case of escape" but to "humiliate the wearer" as well. 
Again and again our ex-prisoner witnesses protest against the degrad- 
ing effect of the prison uniform. "After I put on the prison clothes, " 
says one, "I had a difficulty to retain my self-respect. The ugliness 
of them, the dirty colour and the patches in the coat and trousers. 
I the arrows denoting my criminality, the disc bearing the number of 

' Departmental Committee of Inquiry as to Rnles concerning wearing ol Prison Dress, 
«te., 1889. 


my cell — all had a degrading effect, making me feel less a man and 
more an outcast." Warders speak similarly. "The prison garb is 
an unnecessary degradation," says one. "It is very humiliating," 
says another. "This is especially true of first offenders. To 
habitual criminals the broad arrows mean nothing." 

A male prisoner's clothing consists of jacket (buttoning tight up 
to the neck), waistcoat, trousers, shirt, flannel vest, cotton or flannel 
drawers, socks, and shoes; a woman prisoner's of jacket, skirt, 
apron, cap, calico or flannel shift, stays, flannel petticoat, calico or 
flannel drawers, stockings, shoes and nightgown. Calico under- 
clothing is given to all prisoners except those who arrive wearing 
flannel, but flannels are obtainable by any prisoner on application to 
the medical officer, although, as in the case of most "privileges," 
few are aware of this right. In addition, prisoners may wear a short 
cape, descending to the waist (if in hospital, a long overcoat) when 
at exercise or at work in the open on rainy or extremely cold days.* 

Male prisoners in Local prisons are never supplied with sleeping 
garments, nor are women prisoners serving sentences of less than 
fourteen days. Our ex-prisoner witnesses constantly complain of 
this. "It w^as most objectionable," says one, "sleeping in a shirt 
which had become damp and hot owing to exertions at work during 
the day." A woman prisoner serving more than fourteen days is 
generally provided with a nightdress, although the Standing Orders 
read that it is only to be issued "where the privilege is not likely 
to be abused or where the prisoner has been accustomed to wear it 
in free life." ' 

Some ex-prisoners complain of the insufficiency of the clothing, 
in cold weather. "The capes were of little use," says one. "They 
were small and often could not be done up owing to the buttons 
being off. In the cells we got bitterly cold. I used to wrap myself 
up in blankets." j 

The dilapidated condition of the clothing provided, par- j 
ticularly the socks and underwear, is a repeated complaint. One. ! 
ex-prisoner says: "If the memory of everything else iri connection i 
with my prison experiences grows dim, my recollection of the 
clothing, underclothing particularly, I was compelled to endure in | 
prison will vividly remain. I am well aware that it would easily be ! 
possible to show to any person or committee underclothing which 
would appear quite good, but, in the main, I have no hesitation in \ 
saying that they constitute a positive scandal : socks or stockings I 
which may be a collection of holes held together by threads of wool j 
or worsted, outer shirts that look more like a collection of dirty \ 
dusters stitched together anyhow, pants that hang in strips and have \ 
to be tied round the leg, if there happens to be a string or tape to i 


» Women prisoners are permitted to retain these rapes in their cells as an additional 
wrap. They find them a great boon in cold weather. j 

9 Appendix 15 to S.O., p. 462. 

DRESS 133 

tie them with." This experience is clearly not general, but it is 
sufficiently common to call for attention. 

The clothing is often repaired in the crudest way. It is done "as 
far as possible with old material," and (we quote the Standing 
Order") "the serviceable parts of condemned garments, sheets, 
blankets, etc., will be reserved for this purpose. . . . The tops 
of condemned stockings and socks will, when practicable, be un- 
ravelled and the material used again." Sometimes this material is 
not of a very promising character, and, when the generally inexpert 
hands of the prisoners who do the repairs are applied to it, the results 
cannot be expected to be very satisfactory. 

Little is done to induce prisoners to pay regard to tidiness : the 
dress, so wretched in character, is in itself no incentive, and attempts 
to encourage neatness and care are seldom made. The rules for 
Scottish prisons (1854) require the matron to instruct women 
prisoners in domestic matters and to "encourage them to put their 
own clothes into a good state of repair before they leave the prison" ; 
but nothing of this kind is done in Enghsh prisons." Indeed, one 
of oxrc warder witnesses laid particular stress upon "the careless 
way in which the private clothes of prisoners are tied up and put 
away." They are often spoiled, he says, "and the underclothing 
is not washed unless a special request is made."" One of our 
witnesses quotes a case where a prisoner was refused permission 
to repair his personal clothing before discharge. 

Practically all that has been written above applies to the clothing 
provided for convict prisoners. The uniform is slovenly and 

1 humiliating. The underclothing is often dilapidated and ill-washed. 
There is no encouragement of neatness in dress. But there are one 

; or two ameliorations which deserve mention. 

From September to April convicts are provided with cloth 
I leggings and a warm "cardigan" or "sweater," which may be worn 
'either under or over the shirt. They also have working "slops" 
.' or overalls (made of a kind of waterproof jute), marked with red 
stripes on deep blue, with the broad arrow superimposed — hideous 
things, but serviceable. Each convict has his own kit of underwear, 
I and an extra shirt is given to wear at night. At one Convict prison, 
I at least, slippers are provided for use in the cell. 

I There is a general complaint by our ex-prisoner witnesses that the 
: bedclothes provided are inadequate. The medical officer is permitted 
! to allow a third blanket "during severe winter weather" and generally 
' does so, but the blankets are usually thin and the cells are cold, so 
that it is the universal custom for prisoners to utilise mail-bngs and 
' stuffs provided for their work as extra covering for their beds. The 

HO. 1545. 

I ''^* hear (December. 1921) that instructions have now been issued that prisoners are 
I to be permitted to repair their own clothes and boots preparatory to release. 
- In certain prisons the private underclothing of prisoners is washed. 



prisoner whose work does not provide him with such materials is 
always an object of pity. 

To most prisoners "exercise" is the most welcome hour of the 
day. That it should be so considered illustrates the monotony of 
the general routine, for anything more dull and dreary than prison 
"exercise" it would be difficult to imagine. 

The scene itself ia depressing; prison walls and prison buildings 
are the surroundings. A series of circular concrete tracks, about 
four feet wide, with vegetables (sometimes grass) growing between; 
four large stone blocks, equidistant on the edge of the outermost 
circle; and a very conspicuous row of four or five w.c.'s, wretched- 
looking places with half -doors like cattle-pens : such is the typical 
"exercise" yard. Sometimes it is better, with flower-beds and green 
shrubs " ; sometimes worse — a bare surface of asphalte or gravel with' 
I not even a blade of grass." 

\ The "exercise" is as dreary as the scene. "Warders stand on 
duty on the stone blocks, to prevent talking and to give permission 
to the prisoners to "fall out" to visit the w.c.'s." ("Exercise" is 
the official occasion for this necessity; there is generally a queue 
of prisoners awaiting their turn). The prisoners walk round the 
tracks in single file, five feet apart ; the old and slow-moving in the 
inmost circle, the young and quicker on the outside. The former 
is sometimes not more than twelve feet in diameter; and shuffling 
round this is all the exercise the old folk have. In wintry weather 
the officers will sometimes permit those on the outer "ring" to run 
if they desire to do so. Lame prisoners are allowed to take what 
exercise they are capable of on a side track outside the circles. 

A good deal of conversation generally takes place at "exercise" 
despite the vigilance of the warders. Prisoners soon learn the art 
of speaking to the man in front or behind without moving the head 
and with little movement of the lips. It is only possible to say a- ! 
few words before coming within earshot of an officer, but in the | 
course of an hour devoted to "exercise" a good deal can be said. 
It is the custom of prisoners to endeavour to "fall in" next to their 
chums, but the warders prevent this whenever possible. 

Many prisoners, however, become too dulled by the prison routine 


1' A large nximber oJ ex-prisoner witnesses speak of the inspiration receiTed from these | 
rare patches of colour, and deplore the fact that they are not to b« seen more frequently i 
in prison. i 

i-« "For three months," states one witness, "I exercised in a stone-paved yard, surrounded 
by the ugly prison buildings on all sides. For about three feet one could, by walking on 
tip-toe, just catch a glimpse of some trees outside the prison: that piece of ground cams 
to be considered a sacred spot by many of us. After some heary rain, a few sprigs of 
grass— a deep, rich green— sprang up between two of the stone flags. How we treasured 
them! When, one morning, after a visit from the 'Garden Party," we found that the grass 
had been carefully dug out, I could not keep the tears from coming to my eyes, and for I 
many days I went about with a sense oi acute loss." 

'5 In some prisons the warders on duty walk round a concrete track between those on 
which the prisoners walk, and in the opposite direction. 


^o desire or 4 t> dare intercha nge of speech or glance. "They tramp 
rou53',"fe'ay"s"one o^ our"\\'ilrii?B5e«^**left7'"Tl^ht, left, right, — ^the 
seventy paces of the ring, with their eyes fixed on the ground or 
staring blindly at the man's back in front of them. It is like a 
funeral procession of dead souls." 

By the end of the hour most of the men have had enough. They 
are wearied by the monotony of the thing; they are tired out physic- 
ally. The order comes from the hall-door, "Send them in," and 
mechanically they return to cell and workshop. Those who are 
employed outside are often called away soon after "exercise" has 
begun, their work being apparently considered a sufficient substitute. 
In summer time a certain number of prisoners exercise before 
breakfast. On wet days it is the usual custom for prisoners to take 
exercise round the interior of the halls, although in one large prison, 
at least, "exercise" has been omitted altogether if the weather does 
not pei-mit it outside. In one or two prisons the governors divide the 
"exercise" period into two parts, half-an-hour in the morning and 
half-an-hour in the afternoon. Prisoners speak appreciatively of 
this innovation as an additional break in the monotony of the routine. 

Prisoners usually find Saturday afternoons and Sundays the most 
difficult period of their imprisonment, and the monotony is increased 
in the case of the first stage prisoners by the absence of "exercise." 
Many of our ex-prisoner witnesses strongly urge that Sunday./ 
"exercise" should be extended to all prisoners. "The First Stage 
men need it most," says one witness, "since they are confined to 
their cells even for their work throughout the week." Other ex- 
prisoners urge that additional "exercises" should be arranged for 
Saturday and Sunday afternoons. We understand that the Prison 
Commissioners have now introduced second exercises on Saturday 
and Sunday for certain classes of prisoners in certain prisons : the 
obstacle to a general extension is said to be insufficiency of staff. 

The Departmental Committee of 1895 recommended that "the 
simpler forms of gymnastic exercises" should be introduced, and 
that they might "take the place to a considerable extent of the 
monotonous walking." So far as we can discover, this recom- 
mendation has not been put into effect, despite the fact that more 
than one governor has advocated the same change and that the 
opinion of the medical officers is apparently unanimous that instruc- 
tion in physical drill for juvenile adults has most beneficial physical 
and moral results. 

Personal Cle.^nlixess. 

"A prisoner shall be requii'ed to keep himself clean and decent in 
his person," reads Rule 33, but our evidence indicates that only in 
the most extreme cases is anything done to ensure cleanliness and 

"During the three years I was in prison," states one witness, "I 
never heard a prisoner reprimanded for uncleanliness, although men 


were often obviously dirty, and boasted of the fact that, in order to 
^retain the polish of their bowls, they refrained from washing. 
*^here were other men, too, who disliked water and soap, and used 
as little as possible even at the weekly bath." Another witness tells 
how he was discussing with a prisoner the advantages of working 
in the kitchen. "You get a bath twice a week, don't you?" he 
asked. "Yes," replied the second prisoner, "but, then, you needn't 
get into the water if you don't want to." 

Visitors to the prisons are always impressed by the cleanliness of 
the halls and cells. The stone floors are scrubbed clean every morn- 
ing; the metal rails along the corridors shine brilliantly, the tin 
utensils in the cells glisten with almost dazzling effect as the light 
strikes them. The impression left is that whatever may be said in 
criticism of prisons, they must be very educative toward cleanliness. 

Yet ex-prisoners again and again assert that the cleanliness of the 
prison is only obtained at the expense of the cleanliness of the 
prisoner. The reasons for this we shall explain. If we seem to 
our readers to go into unnecessary and offensive details, we would 
point out that their importance lies in the cumulative effect, which 
is indicative of the callous and inhuman way in which prisoners are 
treated generally. Even if prisoners are sometimes too degraded 
to be concerned about these defects, to leave them undisturbed in 
their dirty habits is clearly wrong. 

The washing basins in many prisons are still made of tin which 
has to be highly polished." "The prison recipe for cleaning these 
utensils," says one ex-prisoner, "is to wet it all over, rub it over 
with soap, polish it with bath brick, and finish it off with whitening. 
What the prisoner is supposed to wash his hands in, after he has 
performed these various processes, I do not know. If he uses his 
basin, the polish all goes and his labour has been in vain." "If 
your tin was clean, you were dirty," remarks another ex-prisoner. 
"The compulsion to keep the tins bright discourages the use of 
them," says a third. Some prisoners apparently dispense with 
washing. Others resort to the use of alternative utensils. 

"I washed each morning in my enamel dinner plate to save dirty- 
ing my wash-tin," states one ex-prisoner, and a number give 
similar evidence. "One of the first bits of advice I got on entering 
prison," says another witness, "was to use the earthenware chamber 
for washing, in order to save dirtying the tin basin. This was 
commonly done. I was also told to use my prayer-card for a lid 
to my chamber in order not to spoil the polish of the tin lid. I 
found that many of the cards on the cell walls had dirty circles on 
them, showing that they had been used for this purpose." A 
warder of long experience asserts that prisoners often throw their 
urine out of the window and then wash in the chamber, and that 
they even throw out the solid excrement, wrapped in paper and rags, 

i« Enamel basins are now b^ing inlrodnred in some prisons, but the tin chamber lids 


in order to avoid dirtying the chamber. An ex-prisoner gives 
corroborative evidence. "For eight months," he says, "I was 
turned out alone in a small yard for exercise. Two or three times 
a week I used to find human excrement lying about, tied up in rags 
with twine." " 

It used to be the custom to supply tin chambers as well as tin 
water-cans and washing basins, and in some prisons they are still 
used to a hmited degree. This led to the same rags being used for 
cleaning the chambers and the other utensils, and the chambers 
themselves were almost always in a disgusting condition, despite the 
efforts of warders to secure constant polishing. The tin water- 
cans are now being replaced by enamel ones, the Commissioners 
having apparently realised the difi&culty of keeping the cans highly 
polished, and preventing the water which they contain (for which 
there is no other receptacle) from becoming dirty in the process. 
In many prisons only one opportunity of changing the water is 
given daily, and there are frequent complaints that it becomes 
undrinkably dusty. 

Eepeated complaint is also made that the basins supplied for 
washing are not big enough for serviceable use. "Washing had to 
be a mere cat's lick," says one ex-prisoner, "owing to limitations 
in the size of the bowl and the amount of water." In some prisons 
the washing-basins are only about ten inches in diameter at the top, 
six inches at the bottom, and very shallow. There is a second type 
of basin which is larger. Ex-prisoners frequently complain of the 
meagre allowance of soap, of the small towel, and of the inadequate 
supply of toilet paper. Other complaints are of the bad-smelling 
brushes supplied for scrubbing the floor and furniture of the cells, 
and of the dirty floor-cloths. 

J .No attempt is made to encourage decency in personal appearance. 
The use of razors is forbidden, except in the case of those awaiting 
trial and of offenders of the First Division. Clipping is substituted 
for shaving; the Standing Orders say that "the hair, beard, and 
moustache" must be cut once a fortnight, hut it is sgldom-that a 
prisoner receives such attention more than once a month,. and some 
Qf our witnesses speak of having to wait three months. The result 
IS that male prisoners always appear dirty and with grotesque, 
shaggy, half-grown beards. 

Our evidence suggests that this negligence is often serious in its 
lemoralising effects. A warder at a penal servitude prison, for 
nstance, says that a convict recently told him that his unshaven 
cace made him feel "as if he did not care if he ever washed his face 
'>r brushed his hair again." An ex-prisoner gives evidence as 

An ex^conrict giTcs similar eTidence regarding Conrict prisons. He says: "I hay 
nnwn men who rery seldom used their bowl for washing, in order to aroid the task of 
leaning the bowl. I hare known one or two men who on this account would ncTer nse it. 
^'hey gaTc their bowl a bit of a polish np once a week for the inspection, but they did 
nothing more with it. One weekly bath in the bath-house, where there waa no cleaning-up 
iit«rwards, sufficed them!" 
! F 2 


follows: "I was a bit of a swell before I went to prison, always 
being very particular about shaving cleanly and regularly. But I 
soon became accustomed to having a dirty-looking, bristly face, and 
since I came out of prison I have had quite a struggle to recover my 
old habits." 

The official reason for the prohibition of the use of razors is the 
danger that they may be used for the purposes of suicide or assault, 
but the absurd fact is that tools are commonly supplied to prisoners 
which could be used for either purpose just as effectively. For 
example, knives are provided for leather work and other processes 
which can be sharpened to such a degree that prisoners often use 
them as razors with most satisfactory results." 

Before 1899 prisoners in Local prisons had their hair cut -close, 
as penal servitude prisoners still do, but now a moderate length is 
allowed." Women prisoners only have their hair cut on the written 
instructions of the medical officer, endorsed by the governor. 

Prisoners are supplied with a hair brush and comb on reception. 
They are permitted to wash their hair brushes (and tea-cloths !) at I 
their weekly baths, but for this purpose no additional water is : 
allowed. There is a Standing Order that a pair of nail scissors shall i 
be kept by the officer in charge of each landing to be lent to prisoners j 
on application ; but it is clear from our evidence that very few 
prisoners know that they are obtainable. Many ex-prisoners who I 
have served the maximum sentence of two years never learned of 
this "privilege." Those who do not have scissors for the purpose 
of their work commonly keep their nails short by biting them. 

The possibility of obtaining tooth-brushes is more widely known, 
but prisoners frequently only learn of it by illicit conversation among 
themselves, and not through any official channel. Even after i 
application is made for a tooth brush, the prisoner usually has to i 
wait for a week or ten days before receiving it, and often longer, j 
Some ex-prisoners complain of the absence of a looking-glass in j 
the cell. The polished washing bowl is almost universally used as j 
^a substitute. 
^ By most prisoners the weekly bath is regarded as one of the few | 
]bright incidents in the routine, although there are some, as already j 
-/mentioned, who dislike it. Until 1911 the baths were fortnightly H 
Ithen they were made weekly. The majority of our ex-prisoner 
/witnesses speak appreciatively of the conditions under which the ! 

IS The habitual criminals under preTentire detention at Camp Hill are permitted safety | 
razors, and fears of suicide or assault have proved groundless. The chaplain at Camp Hill I 
stated in hi? report for 1911-12 that "permission to grow the hair to a moderate length 
and the possibility of having a cleanly shaved chin are instances of what might be permitted 
without weakening discipline and yet encourage the growth of self-respect." 

>' The prisoner who serves as "prison barber" (rarely has he had any experience of 
barbering outside prison; hair-dressing appears to be a law-abiding profession) passes from 
hall to workshop and workshop to exercise yard in pursuance of his duties. He is generally 
placed right under the warder's eye, but nevertheless "by working close to his client's ear 
and keeping up an incessant whisper, without as much as a lip movement" (we quote 
from a statement by a "prison barber"), he usually manages to serve as an eflectire 
circulator of prison news. 



bath is taken, but there are many complaints regarding important 
details. Insufficiency of time is one; about fifteen minutes is 
allowed from the time of entering the bath house to the time of 
leaving, but delay is often caused by the emptying and filhng. 
When the number of bathers is not large, however, additional time 
is generally allowed. 

Several ex-prisoners state that no distinct Jbath is reserved for 
venereal ana other medical casee. One records that when he 
^raiplained of this to the warder who assisted the medical ofl&cer, 
"he assured me that the baths were scrubbed out after these men."> 
In most prisons special baths are provided for those suffering from 
contagious diseases, the doors being marked with red crosses. -v 

A third complaint arises from the fact that in most of the large 
prisons the bath-house is a separate building. In winter-time this 
involves passing from a hot bath and steaming atmosphere into the 
cold air, with frequent halts whilst doors are locked and unlocked. 
Many ex-prisoners state that this was a cause of colds and chills. 

The Prison Laundry. 

The complaint constantly recurs that the underclothing of 

prisoners is irregularly supplied and badly washed." "In , " 

says one ex-prisoner, "I could not get clean flannels for three weeks, 
and found myself seething with lice at the end of that time." For 
the irregularity, a temporary shortage of staS may have been 
responsible, but it is evident that the causes of the unsatisfactory 
washing are more permanent. No less than fifty-nine ex-prisoners 
speak of the dirty clothes supplied, in contrast with six who state 
that the clothes were clean. "Many times," says one ex-prisoner, 
"I preferred to wear the underclothes I had on a whole month 
longer rather than change into those given me as clean." "I 
frequently had to refuse 'clean' clothes because they were dirtier 

than those I had on," says another. "At I was given a 'clean' 

j pair of cotton drawers having very obvious traces of having been 
worn by a man suffering from piles." An ex-prisoner who was 
employed in the laundry of a large prison gives the following 
description of the conditions there : — 

Prisoners engaged in scrubbing clothes are allowed only a certain 
amount of soft soap. The quantity is carefully weighed out and is 
generally inadequate. Men are expected to work at such a speed that 
the articles are not thoroughly cleansed. 

The handkerchiefs are first soaked in water drawn from the hot water 
tap, but the water is often not very hot. They are then scrubbed, a 
mild carbolic soap being used ; then rinsed, treated in a centrifugal dry- 
ing machine, and finally dried in a chamber heated to 100° F., a tempera- 
ture not sufficiently high to kill germs. I saw no special precautions 
being taken with the handkerchiefs during an epidemic of influenza 
which caused associated labour and chapel to be suspended for eight 

-• The S.O. proTide that cotton shirts, calico drawers, handkerchiefs, and stockings shall 
be washed weekly, and flannel Tests and drawers fortnightly (214). 


•weeks. It was frequently evident on inspection that the "clean" 
handkerchiefs had not been thoroughly scrubbed. 

The flannels (pants and undervests) were washed in machines which 
did not do their work efficiently, and then the neck and belt were lightly 
scrubbed. I found them literally saturated with dirt, even after they 
were supposed to have been washed. This was evidenced by the change 
of colour which occurred, when, acting contrary to instructions, I 
thoroughly scrubbed one or two. 

One of our warder witnesses explains the inadequate washing by 
the fact that it is done by "careless or inexpert prisoners," but it is 
evident from the statement given above that the washing arrange- 
ments themselves are also open to criticism. 

A number of witnesses complain that the underclothing worn by 
prisoners with skin disease is not properly separated. "Prisoners 
suffeiing from skin disease have their clothing washed separately," 
says an ex-prisoner who worked in the laundry, "but the trouble is 
that when these clothes are taken from the water the other prisoners' 
clothes are washed in the same water; this reduces the separation 
to a farce. This applies to all hospital clothing, too." A Standing 
Order (214) prescribes that "trousers which have been worn by a 
prisoner three months will be washed before they are issued to 
another." By far the greater number of prisoners are sentenced to 
terms of less than three months. The consequence is that one pair 
of trousers passes constantly to a succession of short term prisoners 
without being washed. 

The most frequent complaint regarding the bedding is that the 
blankets are dirty. They are supposed to be washed once a year, 
bat a number of ex-prisoners state that much longer periods have 
elapsed in their experience without a clean blanket being provided. 
The blankets are used indiscriminately by a succession of prisoners, 
and are often stained and soiled. Complaints regarding the sheets 
are fewer. They are supposed to be changed once every four weeks, 
and the pillow-slips once a fortnight. There are occasional com- 
plaints of verminous mattresses, and, more often, of the presence of- 
bugs in the bed-boards. "Insects gather between the cross-boards," 
says one ex-prisoner, "and multiply to a great extent in the summer ! 
time, no matter how clean one may scrub the bed-board each week. ] 

The bedding is aired by being hung in the hall outside the cell j 
door for an hour before breakfast once a week ; a stupid proceeding. \ 
The air at that time is often evil-smelling, following the emptying 
of the night's slops and there is dampness and dust from the floor- 
scrubbing and the collecting of mail bags, etc., which are proceeding. 
Why should not the bedding be hung either in the open-air or in a 
clean and well-ventilated hall for the best part of a day ? 

The Condition of the Cells. 
Complaints are sometimes made that the cells into which prisoners 
are put temporarily, such as the reception and punishment cells. 


are dirty. The reception cells are little more than boxes, and 
are occupied during the day only. A succession of prisoners passes 
through these cells, and some of them leave vermin behind. More 
serious are the effects in those prisons where the first night is spent 
in the reception hall. At one large prison, at least, the medical 
oflicer does not examine the "receptions" until the following morn- 
ing, and a promiscuous succession of prisoners, many dirty, some 
diseased, use the same cells and bedding. As a consequence both 
are frequently filthy. 

The punishment cells similarly have a succession of occupants, 
although the danger due to lack of medical examination is not 
present in their case. One passage from our evidence on this matter 
reads as follows : — 

When I first went into a punishment cell the walls were very dirty. 
I asked to be allowed to scrub them down, but the warder said this 
was not allowed on No. 1 Diet. The cell had apparently been used by 
a man whose nose was bleeding. There was blood deposited all round 
the walls. I pointed this out to the warder, a very considerate man, 
but he said it was against the rules to allow me to wash it. 

\Vhen the doctor came round I called his attention to the state of the 
cell. I suggested that for reasons of hygiene it would be as well if I 
were allowed to wash the walls. The water did not come that day. 
I then called in the deputy governor, and put to him that the rule 
should be set aside. He agreed to let me have the water, but it did 
not come until I had once more spoken to the warder. 

A number of ex-prisoners speak of the dust and dirt and smell 
caused by the work they were required to do in their cells. "My 
; cell task was picking horsehair," says one, "and the fine dust made 
my mouth and throat quite dry and entered my lungs. The dust 
; soon gathered on the walls and floor of the cell and every article in 
■ it — the table, the shelves, the books, the mug, plate, knife, and 
I spoon — so that one could write with the finger upon it. It must 
'have been unhealthy." Similar complaint is made of the dust 
I caused by the picking of cocoanut fibre — although it is not so dis- 
agreeable as horsehair,^' — and by the making and repairing of mail 
bags. "Some of the bags are made of Hessian," says one ex- 
prisoner, "a material from which a great quantity of fine dust is 
given off, and this is continually in the atmosphere of the cell. One 
' may be sweeping all day and never be able to get entirely free from 
dust, and any dust swept up has to be kept in the cell throughout 
I the day and night — dust pans are only emptied at breakfast time." 
! Strong complaint is made of the dirtiness of old mail bags upon 
I which repair work is necessary, of the smell of the material of some 
jof the bags," and as to the space they occupy in the cells. "My 
job was to put two patches upon large parcel-post bags," says one 

*' A SO. (259) r*ad« : "Hair and coroannt fibre shall not be picked in cells." It ii 
jclear from our evidence that this Order is sometimes not obterTed. 

I '* 1° 8t least one prison, mailbags returned for repair are fumigated before work is 
oegnn ni>on them. 


ex-prisoner, "and often I had thirty of these in my cell all day and 
night. They occupied a considerable part of the air space." 

Much work is necessarily dirty and disagreeable, but obviously 
such work ought not to be done in a small cell in which the prisoner 
is often confined for 23 out of the 24 hours. 


On no aspect of prison life is there greater divergence of view 
between official and non-official witnesses than that of sanitary 
conditions. The medical officers are practically unanimous that 
they are satisfactory ; the ex -prisoners who gave evidence are almost 
as agreed that they are unsatisfactory. The following are the chief 
grounds of complaint : — 

(1) Prisoners who for various reasons (including sickness — even 
diarrhoea cases) are confined to their cells, find great difficulty in 
getting permission to visit the w.c. The cell bell is rung in vain, 
and when the warders respond they often bully the prisoner into 
acquiescence of the use of the cell chamber. 

(2) The method of collecting slops from door to door in an open bucket 
is felt to be disgusting especially since the utensils sometimes get 
changed and are frequently improperly cleaned. 

(3) Inadequate segregation of men with infectious diseases, particularly 
venereal diseases, makes other prisoners reluctant to use the w.c.'g 
at "exercise," etc., especially if they are not kept clean. 

(4) Outside w.c.'s are semi-public, and are very draughty in cold 

(5) There is frequent shortage of toilet paper, and ill-fitting lids of 
chambers are common. 

The rigid discipline of the prison system is bound to cause con-| 
siderable difficulties in the matter of allowing prisoners freedom tci 
attend to the normal calls of nature. Water-closets are provided 
adjoining the "exercise" ground and the workshops; and on each 

ail landing there is one closet to every twenty cells or more. Bui 

these last closets are seldom used, save for emptying \:tensils, for, 

in the words of the Surveyor of English Prisons, "endeavour if 

made to induce prisoners to stool at exercise and in the shops, anc 

avoid using the w^.c. 's in the wings or their cell utensils. " Owind 

o poor health and irregularity of motions caused by the unnatura; 
confinement, the nervous strain of imprisonment, sedentary occupa 
tion, and the "sloppy" nature of the diet, a considerable number o: 
prisoners are unable to comply with this desire of the authorities 
In their case the cell chamber has as a rule to be used to relievf 
the bowels. 

How large is the number of prisoners inconvenienced in thi: 
disagreeable way is illustrated by the fact that as many as fifty-eigh. 
ex-prisoners state that they suffered materially from the sanitar; 
arrangements. Of 193 ex-prisoners whom we asked whether ai 


improvement of facilities to visit the w.c. is needed, 171 answered 
affirmatively, and most of them with considerable emphasis. Other 
unofficial witnesses take the same view. For instance, an agent 
of a Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society, speaking from many years 
experience, says that one of the most frequent complaints of ex- 
prisoners is the lack of facilities for performing natural functions. 
"Much pain is endured as a result," he says. 

Mr. A. J. Wall, the Secretary of the Prison Commission, stated 
in a letter to the Secretary of the Howard Association (May 14, 
1917) that "a prisoner is allowed, on ringing his bell, either to use 
the closet, or empty his cell chamber, if it had been used, between 
6 a.m. and 10 p.m. In the event of his having to use the cell 
chamber at night between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., he empties it on 
unlocking after 6 a.m. in the morning." If the Prison Com- 
missioners' orders were to this effect, they were everywhere ignored. 
No ex -prisoner or warder who has given evidence regarding prison 
conditions up to the year 1919 reveals knowledge of the practice of 
permitting prisoners to leave their cells after supper (4.30 p.m.) 
for the purpose of visiting the w.c. or of emptying the chamber. 
The only prisoners who were permitted to visit the w.c. after supper 
were those who were specially employed in association in order to 
perform urgently required war work, and even they were confined 
to the cells after 8 p.m. 

The best comment upon the Prison Commission's letter is 
provided in the evidence of ex-prisoners. When asked what he 
considered to be "the worst feature of prison life," an ex-prisoner 
answers, "having to ask for, and perhaps be denied, the use of the 
w.c." Another ex-prisoner tells how he once rang thirteen times 
without answer. A newcomer to prison describes his experiences 
thus: — 

I asked the warder if the piece of iron behind the door waa the bell 
handle to be uaed in case I should need to use the lavatory. His reply 
was as follows : "Do you think we have got nothing else to do but to 
run about and wait upon you ; you must go when it is convenient ; it is 
only a habit. You will have 'exercise' every morning and then is the 
time." With this he slammed the door. The next day I wanted to 
evacuate, so I asked the same warder on his visit in the afternoon 
whether I could go to the lavatory. The answer was curt : "Ask at a 
proper time, it is not convenient now." With this he abruptly left me. 

You will readily believe that I was in great pain the remainder of 
that day and night, and through the restraint I was forced to practise, 
my bowels refused to perform their normal functions for several days. 
In the course of work I was told by another prisoner that I was supposed 
to use the ut-ensil in the cell for that purpose. Something ought to be 
done in the way of a remedy as the idea of remaining in the cell with 
bad ventilation and human excrement is revolting to any decent humaa 

"If a prisoner needs to visit the w.c," says a woman ex-prisoner, 
"she may ring for hours without attracting attention." 


Apart from the lack of opportunities to visit the w.c. during the 
day, the time spent in the cell at night sometimes means that the 
chamber is not sufficiently large even for ordinary requirements. 
"There are thirteen hours of the day during which the chamber may 
not be emptied," says one ex-prisoner. "The wet food makes the 
prisoner pass an enormous quantity of urine, with the consequence 
that in nine cases out of ten he finds the utensil supplied to be not 
large enough. So he is driven to use his wash-bowl." Our 
evidence suggests that this witness exaggerated the frequency of 
the occurrence, but it is certainly not rare. 

We believe that since 1919 there have been certain improvements 
in the facilities provided for prisoners to visit the w.c. "A good 
deal of unpleasantness was caused through the revelations of the 
conscientious objectors," states a warder, "and men are now allowed 
to empty their chambers more frequently, though the opportunities 
are still insufficient." A medical officer, who admits that the 
arrangements have been bad in the past, says he has had no com- 
plaints for some time, adding, "we used to have complaints 
frequently." Prisoners are now stated to be permitted to attend 
the w.c. during breakfast and dinner and after supper until 8 p.m. 
A night commode is also kept on each landing and is available for 
men suffering from diarrhoea. Before these arrangements were put 
into operation, it was urged that the right to visit the w.c. would 
be abused. After a year's experience of the new system a warder 
states, however, that "cases are very isolated."" 

Two methods are employed of emptying cell slops. In some 
prisons, the prisoners themselves carry their chambers to the recess 
and empty and wash them. In other prisons, the chambers are 
placed outside the cell doors, and the cleaners empty their contents 
into a big pail, afterwards rinsing them in a smaller bucket."* j 

The first method is much preferable, although in some instances 
a large number of prisoners have to wash their chambers in the same 
bucket, and in others the chambers are emptied and the cans contain- - 
ing the drinking water filled in immediate succession at one sink. 
We quote from the evidence of ex-prisoners to illustrate the insani- ; 
tary nature of both practices : — { 

"At — ;— ," says one ex-prisoner, "the arrangement for cleaning the i 

earthenware chamber was most unsatisfactory — a pail of water at the ! 

Bide of the w.c. to dip it in after emptying. The water in the pail was ; 
very nasty. An ill-tempered officer would not allow a man to rinse his 
chamber with running water at the sink." 


"3 The improvements have not been carried out at all prisons. A witness released from \ 

a large prison in January, 1921, says that in practice there was no possibility o! being i 

let out of your cell to visit the w.c. at breakfast or dinner or in the evening. The patrol | 
warders would not answer the bells, at any rate, on any landing higher than the ground 

floor. ; 

^* An "instruction" for the guidance of ward officers reads: "On no account is the chamber j 

to be emptied into this pail if it contains excrement" (S.O. 210), but our evidence ghow« i 
that this is often done. 


"At ," says another ex-prisoner, "twenty or thirty men would 

Btand in a queue outside the recess, some carrying chambers which had 
been used for evacuation purposes, other carrying their cans for drinking 
water. Both would use the same sink, and often the sink would smell 
badly from previous use when we went to get the drinking water." 

The second method is condemned in the strongest terms by all 
who have had experience of it. "The stench was horrible at 6 a.m. " 
says one ex-prisoner, "when all the waste was put outside the cell 
doors to be collected up. It was also impossible to keep the pots 
clean, not having access to the taps. " "Many times I got a chamber 
in my cell for the next twenty-four hours streaked in and out with 
excreta," says another prisoner, "and a water-can in a filthy 

A third ex-prisoner describes what happens thus : — 

First thing each morning the warder opened your cell door, calling 
out "slops, water can, dust out." Then some other prisoner rushed 
round and emptied them, and as you were only allowed to put them 
out once a day, you may imagine the state of the chamber in many 
instances. The man emptied the slops first and, well, he couldn't help 
getting his fingers in the contents whatever it was. Then he rushed 
round with two or three water cans at a time, and I have got my water 
can back on several occasions with the handle and edge of the can 
marked with excreta. The old-time prisoners see that their mates have 
a well-cleaned can and put the filthy ones down for those who don't 

More than one ex-prisoner complains that on wet days "exercise" 
took place in the hall simultaneously with the emptying of the slops. 
"At that hour," says one of these witnesses, "there would be a 
chamber at every door which two or three prisoners would be empty- 
ing. Sometimes the stench would be awful. It was in this 
atmosphere that we marched round." The complaint is also 
frequently made that on Sunday mornings the collection of slops 
proceeded whilst open dixies full of porridge for breakfast stood 
near at hand on the landings. 

Some of the warders urge that the officers suffer equally from the 
bad sanitary arrangements. "It is a horrible task opening the doors 
in the morning, " remarks one. "The real sufferers are the warders," 
says another, "who have to stand by when the cells are opened 
and the chambers emptied without any chance of seeking fresher 
air. ' ' 

The half-doors to the w.c.'s, leaving a space of about one foot at 
the bottom and only rising to the level of the waist, are objectionable 
both from the point of view of draughtiness and lack of privacy. 
The w.c's in the "exercise" yards in winter time are bitterly cold. 
In one prison at least, where the w.c.'s face a wall, no doors are 
provided at all. Objection to the lack of privacy is urged particularly 
by women ex-prisoners. "The half-doors on the lavatory are most 
I indecent," says one woman witness, "especially when, as was the 


case during one month of the time I was confined in 'F' wing, work- 
men were being employed on the landing opposite." The nervous- 
ness caused by the feeling "that one is on exhibition when making 
use of the closet [to quote the words of another witness] , aggravates 
the constipation from which so many prisoners suffer. ' ' " 

If there be one place more than another in prison where the 
enforcement of cleanliness and decency might have been expected, i% 
ia in the hospital, but our evidence shows that the sanitary arrange- 
ments in prison hospitals are very inadequate. The following is 
from the statement of an ex-prisoner: — 

In hospital no provision was made in the cell for washing plates 
or mugs, and it was the cu.'!tom for prisoners to take them to the recess 
when they were allowed out of their cells to empty their slops. In 
the recess there was a w.c, a very small sink used exclusively by the 
cleaner, and a bath. The bath was used for the washing of plates and 
mugs, porridge dixies — and chambers. I have frequently seen a 
prisoner washing out his chamber at one end of the bath, whilst a 
second prisoner washed his plate and mug at the other end. This was 
a daily occurrence. 

Other prisoners have made similar statements, so the practice is 
obviously not exceptional but a recognised custom. 

There are also many complaints as to the infrequency of baths 
in hospital. , 

In hospital I did not get a bath during the whole of the 5^ weeks 

I was there. Twice applied. Both times told I would get one in my 

turn. -r-r 

In the hospital at there was no systematic arrangement for baths. 

I got one weekly by particularly requesting the principal warder ; he 
allowed me to bathe during the dinner hour and permitted me to use 
a special bath on another landing. But the other prisoners had to use 
the bath in which the chambers were washed out — on the rare occasion* ; 
that they got a bath at all. Some of the men told me that they went a ' 
month without a bath, and that, if they didn't want one, no one insisted j 
upon it. 

Such systematic neglect is without excuse. ' , 

The bad sanitary arrangements in prison are made worse by ' 
frequent carelessness. "The porridge or 'skilly' handle," states a| 
woman ex-prisoner, "was left for the night with the round closet I 
brush used for cleaning the pan of the w.c. in a pail used for the same i 
purpose." The following are the ironical remarks of another ex- \ 
prisoner : — ! 

It was always a source of cynical amusement to me that on my prison I 
library card should be the title of a book, usually supplied to prisoners i 
shortly before their discharge — "A Healthy Home and How to Keep 
It." As after many months I had not seen the book, I one day felt- 
inspired to enquire of my landing officer whether it recommended that ! 
salt should be kept in an open canvas bag in the w.c. "recess." | 

*» A witness says : "Once when visiting a rrison hospital with other members of the \ 
Grand Jury I was struck with the open and oHensive exposure ol an unfortunate prisoner 
found in these circumstances. And the State punishes what it calls indecency!" 


A Standing Order" insists that all w.c.'s shall be inspected by 
officers daily, but it is clear that this rule is frequently carried out 
in a most perfunctory manner, and sometimes not at all. One ex- 
prisoner states : — 

At there we earth closets. The pails in the •w.c. where I 

exercised were sometimes not emptied for ten or 14 days, and many 
times I had to complain because they were so disgustingly fulL 

These last cases are the results of negligent administration rather 
than of the bad system, but enough has been written to make clear 
that many features of the recognised prison routine are hkely to 
discourage prisoners from leading regular, healthy, and decent lives. 
The numerous defects mentioned in this chapter are not only bad 
in themselves ; they are significant of the careless attitude towards 
prisoners involved in the existing regime.*' As we shall proceed to 
show, this disregard of physical needs is accompanied by a still more 
serious disregard of the prisoners' mental and spiritual needs. 

»S.O. 332. 

*' An ex-prisoner writer : "One ol the most raluable things prison diacipline coald achiere 
lor many prisoners woald be the inctilcation of cleanly habits. Incidentally, a very strict 
'eleicing parade' for the inspection each day of the decency of prisoners would meet the 
desire of those who consider that prison treatment should be penal, as a large part of the 
praon population dislike so*p and water and cleanliness generally." 




1. — Diet is inadequate for some prisoners, and is excessively starchy and 
lacking in green stuffs. 

2. — The meals lose all social value owing to the separate confinement of 
the prisoners and the mechanical distribution of the food. 

3. — There is an inadequate opportunity for complaint by prisoners. Under- 
weight, badness, and dirtiness are frequent. The food tins are unsuitably 
made and are consequently often rusty and dirty. (Earthenware utensils 
are now provided at one prison). 


4. — The uniform is ugly, ill-fitting, and humiliating. 

5. — No sleeping garment is provided, except for women prisoners with 
sentences of at least 14 days. 

6. — The clothing is frequently dilapidated, particularly the socks and 
underwear. Little is done to inculcate tidiness in prisoners. 

7. — Owing to the cold buildings, the clothing is inadequate in winter. 

8. — The bed-clothes are inadequate in winter. 


9. — The monotony and the rigidly enforced silence and discipline of the 
* 'exercise" destroy most of its value. 

10. — The "exercise" grounds are generally depressing, and are frequently 
unadorned with flowers or shrubs. 


11. — The provision of tin utensils in the cells encourages uncleanliness to 
avoid the necessary polishing after use. (Some of the tin utensils are now 
being replaced by enamel ones). 

12. — The occasional clipping of the beard is an inadequate substitute for 
shaving and encourages carelessness as to personal appearance. 

13. — Underclothing is often supplied irregularly and is frequently badly 
washed. The laundry arrangements are often unsatisfactory. Except in 
Convict prisons, prisoners do not have separate kits of underclothing. 

14. — The arrangements for separating the underclothing of prisoners 
suffering from skin diseases are inadequate. 

15. — The arrangements for cleaning reception cells and punishment cells 
are often inadequate. 


16.— Prisoners confined to their cells have great difficulty in visiting the 

17. The method of collecting the slops from door to door in an open 

bucket is obnoxious. Generally, slops are emptied and drinking water 
obtained simultaneously from one sink. In some prison hospitals, chambers 
are emptied and plates and cups washed in one bath or sink simultaneously. 

18. Men with skin diseases, particularly venereal diseases, sometimes ui*e 

the same w.c. as other prisoners. 

19.— There is a lack of privacy in the w.c's. 



The Educational Standabd of Pkisoners 

"Prisoners," wrote the Commissioners in 1896, "are largely 
recruited from a class which, even now, is hardly touched by the 
Education Acts, and even if an elementary education has been given, 
lapse of time and the habits of life have effaced all memory of it."' 

This generalisation is, unfortunately, still to a considerable extent 
true to-day, if we accept the rough estimates submitted by the prison 
authorities.' Though the percentage of illiterates among convicted 
prisoners decreased from 21 per cent, in 1896 to 13.3 per cent. — 
18,491 illiterates in all — in 1913 (the last year for which returns 
have been published), the proportion of those unable to read and 
write "well" * remained almost stationary, comprising in 1913 as 
many as 96.5 per cent, of the total number convict-ed annually, as 
against 97.7 per cent, in 1896. After over forty years of compulsory 
education these figures are as distressing as they are unexpected. 

The Table given on the next page shows the estimated educational 
standards of prisoners on reception in the years selected.* The un- 
satisfactory results (as shown particularly in column 6) are to a great 
extent confirmed by the official Prisoners' Libraries Committee of 
1910. The report of this Committee states that "the days when the 
bulk of prisoners were quite ignorant and illiterate are past" ; but that 
"among local prisoners it is the exception to find persons of any 
substantial degree of education," and that "in the smaller Local 
prisons they are almost unknown."* Several chaplains have given 

' Obserrations of Prison Commissioners, 1896, p. 8. 

' The 1896 Prisoners' Education Committee gsTe (p. 6) the following warning in regard 
to statistics of prison education: — "In examining these statistics, howerer, it must be noted 
that the precise degree of education is not estimated upon a thorough examination, as the 
educational staH only examines those whom the sentence and age limits render eligible 
for instruction, the general ma=s of prisoners being classified principally on their own 
statements on reception." We beliere that a similar statement is still true to-day, bat it 
IS probable that the arerage prisoner would be more likely to orer-estimate his attainments 
th&a to understate them. 

* i.e.. at least as well as children in Standard V. of the elementary schools— the standard 
through which the child of arerage ability passes between the ages of 11 and 12. 

* See fuller Table Q, on p. 40. 

* Report of Prisoners" Libraries Committee, 1911, pp. 6 and 7. 



even more decided evidence, one of the most experienced asserting 
that the majority of prisoners have forgotten most of what they 
learnt at school.* 


Total Number 

Per Centage of the Total Number of Pri«oner$ returned at being 

of Prisoner* 

in each State of Instruction 











Read and 


Not above 

Read and 










in Reading 




I and 11 


III and IV 


Total of 
3. 4 and 5 

V to VII 





























41-0 38-7 








44-5 38-7 

. 96-5 




The totals include convicts who began their .sentences in Local prisons. 
Before the year 1907, Standards I. and II. were not distinguished Irom Standards III. 
and IV. No returns have been published since those lor 1913. 

The figures which we have extracted for the preceding Table are 
to be found in the Judicial Statistics, and have not, in the recent 
pre-war years, been divulged in the Annual Eeports of the Prison 
Commissioners, These reports convey the impression that only a 
very small proportion of prisoners — some six per cent. — have been 
receiving elementary (or indeed, any) education whilst in prison, 
and the ordinary reader would probably infer that most of the 
remainder had advanced beyond the need of it. This the Table 
completely disproves; and the small proportion is due, as we shall 
presently show, to rules restricting education to only a small 
minority of those who need it. 

The Educational Scheme Until 1919. 
The scheme of education in force up to 1919 originated from the 
report of a small Departmental Committee on the "Educational and 
Moral Instruction of Prisoners in Local and Convict Prisons," 
appointed in 1896, with a Prison Commissioner as Chairman, and a 
Governor as Secretary.' The 1895 Departmental Committee on 
Prisons had recommended, without going into detail, the estabUsh- 
ment of class teaching and the "extension of tuition to the prisoners 
generally who, it might be considered, would be the better for it.'" 

6 Incidentally, these figures and statements raise the question as to how far the general 
*duU populations of those districts (chiefly slum areas) from which the bulk of our 
prisoners are recruited, have dropped below the very moderate Standards IV. and V. since 
they left school. There appears to be no existing method of testing the matter statistically. 

' Report of Prisoners' Education Committee, 1896 (C. 8154). 

» Departmental Committee on Prisons, 1895, Sect. 74. 


These generous reoommendations the official Committee of 1896 did 
not uphold, though they made various suggestions for improvements 
in existing arrangements. 

In 1897 the Prison Commissioners partially carried out these 
suggestions in a new scheme, applicable to all Local prisons. The 
educational aim which is supposed to govern this scheme is set 
forth in the following words: — 

The objects of the new scheme are to bring the educational require- 
ments into conformity with that prevailing in the public elementary 
schools by the adoption of the first three standards of the day school 
code, our object being to provide such simple and elementary education 
as will suffice to enable an illiterate or imperfectly educated prisoner to 
obtain, during his imprisonment, such instruction as will enable him at 
least to read and write easily, and to conduct simple calculations in 
money, likely to be of service to him on discharge, for the purpose of 
the ordinary operations of his every day life.' 

This very moderate aim was, and still is, considered to have been 
attained when the prisoner, on a test examination, supervised by the 
chaplain, is able to pass out of Standard III. of the Elementary 
School Code, in each of the "three R's" which it comprises. This 
standard may be regarded as roughly equivalent to that through 
which the Elementary School child of average abiUty passes between 
the ages of nine and ten. The Commissioners decided that in a 
Local prison nobody over the age of forty should have instruction. 
In so deciding they were largely influenced by the view of prison 
officials who thought forty a good limit and that it "worked well." '* 

The Commissioners have frequently complained in their reports 
of the short time available; but they themselves made the task of 
the schoolmasters in this respect much harder by insisting upon the 
principle that the first month (sometimes, therefore, the whole) of 
every sentence should be passed in strict "separate" confinement 
and under other particularly rigorous and punitive conditions, which 
exclude education. It was made a rule (it is still operative for "hard 
labour" prisoners) that no education be imparted to any prisoner 
during the first four weeks (i.e., the first stage) of his or her sentence, 
on the grounds that "the first class hard labour undergone by 
prisoners during the first month should not be interfered with" and 
that "education should be looked upon as a privilege" to be obtained 
by a month's obedience and industry." 

Education having thus been cut out from the first month, its 
further limitation to prisoners under sentence of at least three 
months followed almost naturally ; for with the usual remission of a 
sixth part of his sentence, even a three months' prisoner would, 

• S«e P.C. Report, 1896-7, p. 18, and elsewhere. 
"Prisoners' Education Committee (1896), p. 8. 
"Prisoners' Education Committee (1896), pp. 6 and 8. 


under this rule, receive little more than six weeks' instruction, while 
a two months' offender would not get more than three weeks. 
Instruction for such short periods was not thought to be worth while. 
Prison education was accordingly restricted, as a general rule, 
to well conducted prisoners under 40 with sentences of three months 
and over, who had not passed out of Standard III., and to them it 
was only given from the beginning of the fifth week of their 
sentence. It is true that a Standing Order gave the chaplain a 
discretion (besides that of refusing instruction to those otherwise 
eligible) to "admit other offenders, in whose cases there is reason 
to believe that good results will follow from their being made subject 
to educational influences. ' ' " But the statistics show that this 
discretionary power was seldom exercised." 

The one change between 1897-8, when the scheme was introduced, 
and September, 1919, occurred in 1906-7, when class teaching was 
substituted for that given to each prisoner separately in his cell. 
Also, until 1910 the unfortunate students were only allowed to write 
on slates ; but then, it appears, pens, ink and paper were given them.'* 
The time devoted to this class teaching was limited to two hours on 
two days or one hour on four days each week, and was taken from the 
time otherwise spent in labour.'" The only subjects were, and are, 
reading, writing, and arithmetic, up to simple calculations in money ; 
but "the chaplain is earnestly requested to see that the examination 
for passing out of Standard III. (the final Standard) is strict" and 
that a prisoner is not exempted from instruction until he has shown 
himself able to conduct with ease these three elementary operations.'* 

The history of the change from teaching in cells to associated 
classes is instructive. The Departmental Committee of 1895 were 
not in favour of class teaching, mainly because with their traditional 
horror of "contamination," they did not want to interfere with the 
separate system then in force. The majority of chaplains, they 
asserted, much preferred the cellular system." Cellular teaching 
accordingly continued in force until 1906-7 when the Commissioners, 
suddenly decided to institute teaching in association in all the Local 

This step was no doubt due to the apparently successful results of 
the gradual introduction of associated labour about the year 1900. 
The outcome was similar; no evil results of class teaching were 
reported to the Commissioners. The Chaplain Inspector, reviewing 
the past years in 1915, declared that "the experiment of teaching of 

" S.O. 356. 

" The Instruction Tables published in (he Commissioners' Report for the rears 190S to 
1914 inrlusiTe, classify a small number ol prisoners (615 out of 8,800 under instruction 
in 1915-14) as being in Standard IV. on reception, and yet as passing the same examination j 
*"ont ol Standard III." as the remainder. The Chaplain Inspector's reports indnde tho«» 
prisoners as "under Standard IV.," so that the Table appears to be misleading. 

"P.O. Report, 1910-11, p. 45, and see Du Cane, "Punishment of Crime," p. 82. 

•' A minimum of four hours a week is required by the statutory rule 69. 

" S.O. 360 (1919), based on the old S.O. 359. 

" 1896 Prisoners' Education Committee, p. 7. 


prisoners in association instead of in separate cells has proved 
completely successful. The general results are better, and the time 
of the schoolmasters is economised."" 

In the report for 1908 we are told that a majority of the chaplains 
greatly preferred the teaching in association to the former cellular 
system, having been entirely converted by the experiment.'' Here is 
an interesting case, where an antiquated feature of imprisonment 
was maintained in force for many years, merely because the ofiScials 
had made no trial of any different method. 

The Present Educational Scheme. 
During the war, the education of prisoners was entirely, or almost 
entirely, discontinued, except, to some extent, in the case of juvenile 
:adults. In 1919 teaching was re-introduced, and a new educational 
ischeme and syllabus was circulated to all prisons in September of 
.that year, "after consultation with the Board of Education."'" 

This new scheme proves on examination to be merely a recasting 
|of the one in force before the war. Under that scheme, we have 
peen, teaching was restricted to those prisoners under 40 years of 
bge, with sentences of three months and over, who had not passed 
out of Standard III., and was only given from the beginning of the 
Sfth week of their sentence and for one hour on four days of the 
JA^eek. The existing scheme retains the same provisions as to the 
jElementary School Standards,*' but restricts teaching to those under 
■fee age of 25 years ; such prisoners, provided their sentence is over 
pne month, receive instruction for one hour on five days of the week 
excluding Saturdays and Sundays) from the beginning of their 
l-entence, except in the case of Hard Labour prisoners, who, as 
pefore, get no teaching while in separate confinement, i,e., for the 
'irct four weeks." 

For Juvenile Adult prisoners (those between 16 and 21) the new 
[^cheme allows the same hours of instruction from the date of con- 
Hction to all not above Standard III. serving a sentence of 14 days 
Ind over. It is only the comparatively few selected Juvenile Adults, 
'yith sentences of three months or more, sent to the four prisons 
tnown as "Collecting Depots"" Vr-ho "may be permitted to extend 
lieir education until they can pass out of Standard V." Otherwise, 

' P.C. Report, 1914-15, p. 34. 
l'* We are sorry to see, howerer, that the chairman of the Commissioners, in his recent 
' pok, suggests a reversion, in certain cases, to cellular teaching. Sir E. B. Brise, "The 
jngUsh Prison System" (1921), p. 127. 

p* This was. we understand, the first time that the Board of Education have even been 
''ke«1 to adTise the Commissioners. 

In the 1919 scheme the term "Grade" is substituted for "Standard." It seems, howev^-r, 
rable to retain "Standard," to aToid confusion, as this is the popular term still 
;se in the schools. 

He recognise, of course, that willinpness to behave should be a necessary condition 
= :iiii5sion to class-teaching. But many "hard labour" prisoners would behaTe as well 
•hose without hard labour. 

There were only, in 1920-21, 524 of this category out of a total of 4,217 male juTenile 
ts serving sentences in Ix>cal prisons in that year. (Home Secretary's reply to question 
May 3rd, 1921). The "depots" are Bedford, Bristol, Durham, and Liverpool prisons. 


all qualified prisoners, over and under 21 alike, get their instructioi 
under the same provisions. And not only is the same Elementar] 
School Standard still retained as a final test, but no appreciabl( 
advance in objective has been made. The object of Education ii 
Prison is expressed in the 1919 scheme in language which is practic 
ally identical with that used in the 1896 scheme, and indeed in th( 
Commissioners' Eeports on the subject, as long ago as 1878. Ii 
all these years no appreciable advance in objective has been made 
Prison education still aims at "affording every young prisoner th( 
opportunity of learning to read and writ© easily and to conduc 
simple calculatiQ43s in the money and other tables."" 

It is, of course, encouraging that the hours of instruction hav( 
been slightly increased (although the awful monotony of the week 
end is still left untouched) and that the restrictions as regards thi 
qualifying length of sentence and the date when teaching begini 
have been diminished. It is very deplorable, however, that n( 
definite provisions are made for the instruction of men and womer 
over the age of 24, i.e., of the large majority of the prisoners. Thii 
restriction is all the more surprising seeing that a considerable 
number of prisoners of this age evidently benefited by the instructioi 
given in past years. Even among those over 40 there must always 
be some who have a genuine desire to be taught; it is cruel and un 
wise to debar anyone, however old, from the opportunity of learning 
to read and write." The new scheme like the old provides, 
it is true, for a discretionary power on the part of the chaplair 
to include as pupils, exceptionally, those over th© age of 25. But 
it is unlikely, in view of the pressure on the chaplain's time anc 
thought, and th© difficulty in obtaining exceptions in prison routine 
that much advantage will be taken of this provision. i 

"The experience of past years," we are informed, "has satisfiec' 
the Commissioners that the best policy is to concentrate attentior 
on the younger prisoners, say under 25 years of age."" In thi 
absence of further explanation we can only suppose that the principal 
motive for the reduction in the age limit is economy, the fundi 
available being only sufficient to pay the salaries of a small numbe 
of poorly qualified and part-time teachers, regard being had to th 
fact that, for disciplinary and other reasons, classes are limited t« 
20 prisoners at most. 

The Teaching Staff. 

The teaching of prisoners is in the hands of an officer, who enjoy 
the title of "Clerk and Schoolmaster Warder," a class instituted il 
1895 to meet the need particularly of the smaller prisons, where ii 
was more economical to have one officer to perform both clerical an 
scholastic work."' These officers are selected from the general bod 

»*S.0. 359. 
28 Cp. Note on p. 169. 

-* This explanation, giTen in the 1919 scheme, is repeated, without addition, in ■ 
K. Rnggles-Brise's "English Prison System" (1921), p. 126. 
a' P.O. Dort. 1897-8, p. 24. 


of warders and have to pass a qualifying examination conducted by 
the Civil Service Commission." The examination is of a very 
elementary type, the only subjects being Reading, Writing from 
Dictation, English Composition, Copying Manuscript, Arithmetic, 
Digesting Returns into Summaries, and Book-keeping; it is a test 
of ability to do clerk's work, not of competence as a teacher. 

The chaplain, who may himself have no scholastic aptitude, is 
supposed to give the new schoolmaster-warder, "careful personal 
instruction, and direction as to the mode of teaching prisoners" for 
a period of six months, at the end of which probationary period a 
permanent appointment is made. A schoolmaster's pay is shghtly 
in advance of that of the ordinary warder, and he is not required 
:to wear a uniform."' He is supposed to be employed entirely on 
clerical and scholastic work and as prison librarian, with no disciplin- 
ary duties. It is obvious that a very poor standard of teaching 
abihty is all that can be expected from schoolmasters appointed 
upon these slender qualifications." Indeed, the incompetence of 
imost of them is recognised, we believe, by many chaplains. At the 
;3anie time, our evidence indicates that their moral influence upon 
the younger prisoners especially is good, compared with that of the 
jiverage warder. 

j The teaching of the few women prisoners who are eligible is at 
most prisons in even poorer hands. Regular "Schoolmistresses" 
only exist at three prisons (Holloway, Liverpool, and Manchester).*' 
Elsewhere an ordinary wardress undertakes the schooling in her 
[spare time under the chaplain's supervision. 

j Of the value of the class-teaching imparted the public have no 
means of judging apart from the meagre information given in the 
Commissioners' Reports. There is no inspection by any independent 
luthority, and in fact none at all that is worthy of the name. From 
;1905 to 1914 the annual reports of the Commissioners contained a 
cabular statement showing the progress during the year of those 
lander instruction. Thus during 1907-8 we are informed that, out 
pf 13,407 prisoners who were being taught, 5,407 passed through 
yae standard (beyond the degree of attainment at which they 
started); 3,180 through two; 1,163 through three; and 221 through 
''our standards. In 1913-14, out of 8,800 under instruction, only 
jt,147 made progress to the extent of one standard or more. This 
ig falling off in the proportion probably indicates a raising of the 

" Until recently the examination was by an Inspector of the Board of Education, who 
iwrely had to certify that the candidates had sufficient proficiency in reading, writing, 
'ind arithmetic to qualify them to pass a test about equal to Standard V. of tb« old 
Uementary school course. 

; " Plain clothes were recommended by the 1896 Prisoners' Education Committee "as a 
neans of increasing the respect of prisoners for the teacher," since the Committee found 

hat the schoolmasters were unanimously against the wearing of tho discipline officer'* 

' _^' At one at least of the four "Collecting Depot?" for jurenile adults the instruction is 
u'tren, we beliere, by a qualified certificated teacher, who comes in from the outside; bat 
'bia IS quite the exception. 

" They are selected after a Tery elementary examination conducted by the Board of 



standards of examination, for, as the Chaplain Inspector points out, 
the whole value of the figures depends upon the strictness of the 
passing-out examinations conducted by the various chaplains." 

Prison education is, of course, gravely handicapped by the short- 
ness of a majority of the sentences. Juvenile Adults, however, as 
has already been mentioned, now receive instruction from the date 
of their conviction, provided their sentence is one of at least fourteen 
days; while in certain prisons (where some of those with sentences 
of at least three months are congregated) these young persons may 
extend their education until they can pass out of Standard V. of the 
Elementary School. We may not unreasonably assume that the 
same provisions might with advantage be applied by the prison 
authorities, if only the funds were available, to prisoners of any age, 
who were willing to receive education. 

From the returns, which we have quoted on page 150, we can 
estimate that about 95 per cent, of the prison population are unable 
to read and write "well," i.e., to pass out of Standard IV. ; and of 
this 95 per cent, less than one-fifth have sentences of less than 
14 days. Assuming that (say) another three-tenths of them are 
ineligible from infirmity, unwillingness, or other causes, we an'iye 
at the conclusion that, on the Commissioners' own standard as applied 
to Juvenile Adults, at least 48 per cent, of the total prison popula- 
tion might reasonably be accorded definite instruction as far as 
Standard V. in prison. In point of fact, only 5,481 prisoners or 
about 12.5 per cent, of the men and women received into Local 
prisons were given instruction (and no higher than Standard ITI.I 
during the year ended 31st March, 1921." 

Education in Convict Prisons. 

Convict prisons ought to provide a greater scope for education, 
than the short sentence prisons. This was recognised partially even' 
under Sir Edmund Du Cane's stern regime. But the educational 
system for convicts is one of the few features of prison whiohi 
actually changed for the worse, in some important respects, as a 
result of the new rules framed under the 1898 Prison Act. Up to' 
that time, it was the practice for each convict under instruction toi 
receive a lesson (in class, as had always been the case in those 
prisons) of half an hour's duration once a week, between five and 
six p.m. The time in class was very scanty, but it was 
supplemented by private study, and the lesson was given bji 
a properly "certificated" teacher (one of a "highly intelligent andi 
valuable class of prison officers") and, most important of all, the 
education was continued up to Standard VI. of the Elementary 
School Code." There was no prescribed limit as to age or lengtl: 

" P.O. Report, 1907-8, p. 37. 

" The percentage receiving instruction under the older scheme, in the year 1913-1'j 
was 6.4 of the total number of prisoners received into Local prisons during the year. i 

^* Report of Prisoners' Education Committee, 1896, pp. 10 and 11. 


d{ sentence. In 1895 out of 1,065 convicts at Portland prison, 
266 or about 25 per cent, were receiving instruction." 

In 1900, as the result of the recommendations of the official 
'Prisoners' Education Committee," a new scheme was introduced. 
Under it convicts who had not passed Standard III. (and only these) 
vere placed under instruction from the first for one hour daily 
'taken from the time allotted to labour). If, at the end of six 
■nonths, the convict had not passed Standard I., his name was 
iable to be removed from the instruction list. In any case, 
education was no longer continued up to Standard VI., but only 
lip to Standard III." As a result of this change, certificated 
«ach6r3 have, we understand, gradually disappeared from Convict 
orisons, tlieir place being taken by the "Clerk and Schoolmaster 
vVarder" with only the slender qualifications already mentioned. 

In the years intervening between 1900 and 1914 convicts had at 
iny rate some advantages as regards education over the short 
,ientenc« prisoner, inasmuch as (a) the hours of instruction were 
homewhat longer, (b) there was no age limit of 40 fixed for eligibility, 
'•nd (c) the instruction began at the beginning of the sentence, there 
l»eing no short sentence disquaUfication. But, in other respects, 
hough in the case of convicts the need for education was much 
greater, its character and conditions were, generally speaking, 
iimilar to those of Local prison education. 

I This similarity was still further increased by the new Education 
i5cheme of September, 1919. Under this scheme the three 
llistinguishing features just mentioned have all disappeared; the limit of 25 is introduced for the convict as well, he also has 
ive hours instruction weekly, while Standard III. remains the limit 
10 which he is taken (except for the Juvenile Adult Convicts who are 
laken up to Standard V.) On paper, at any rate, the scheme is 
lientical in all material features for Local prisoners and for convicts, 
buch an assimilation we regard as unexplainably wrong ; first 
ecause the problem of the ever shifting short-sentence prisoner is 
ere absent, and secondly because the convict, with never less than 
stay of two years and three months to look forward to, has all the 
later need of intellectual pursuits as a means to healthy interests, 
rved faculties, and intellectual development." During 1920-21, 

bid. Appendix V. 

the S.O. quoted on p. 119 of the P.O. Keport, 1900-1901. 

e hare shown that, were it not for the restrictions imna«ed, the Tast mnjority of 
prisoners would hare been eligible for elementary instruction. In ConTict prisons 
lere has been no restriction as regards length of sentence, nor (up to 1919) as to age. 
ad yet the proportion of convict.? returned during the pre-war years as eligible for 
strcction up to Standard III. is, by comparison, remarkably small. Thus in 1913-14, 
It ol a total of 1.054 new conricts, only 122 or 11.5 per cent, were returned as eligible for 
Jtruction, only 14 ol thwe being illiterate. (P.O. Report 1915-14, p. 78). Unless s 
rtain number of men have been considered ineligible from advanced age or mental 
flrmity, this small proportion can only be explained by the existence of a much higher 
andard of education among prisoners sentenced to penal servitude than is the case 
T)2 those who serve their terma in Local prisons. As the majority of convicts have 
d a previous term or terms in these prisons, the explanation may be in part that 
have already reached the prescribed standard by instruction received during an 
■ er sentence. 


178 convicts, out of a daily average population of 1,435, were statec 
to have been receiving education up to Standard III.** 

Unsuitability of the Elementary Education Scheme. 
Quite apart from the special drawbacks peculiar to the prisot 
system, the value of the education actually given within the ne\\ 
limits is for two reasons unnecessarily restricted. In the firsl 
place, it is deplorable that teaching of a more than usually difficull 
nature should be entrusted to men who, as a rule, have no skill ir 
teaching and are often only slightly better educated than the bact 
ward scholars themselves. Secondly, the methods laid down foi 
instruction are most unsatisfactory. It is ridiculous (we quote a 
competent witness with some experience of prison education) "tc 
organise the work in Grades or Standards — a system which (though 
now somewhat obsolete in Public Elementary Schools) was designed 
for young children with a definite number of years for educatior 
before them."^* Such a plan is quite unsuited to adults or adoles- 
cents. Much more individual teaching is required, and instruction 
should not be confined to the "3 R's." The best criticism that can 
be made upon the present scheme of prison education is afforded 
by the admirable directions for the instruction of backward recruits 
(a class of pupils not very unlike those under the care of the Prison 
Commissioners) issued in the official handbook by the General Stafl 
of the War Office. 

"Careful individual instruction," so it is advised by the War Office 
handbook, "is the best means of developing the intelligence. Special 
classes should be arranged for the most backward, but it should be borne 
in mind that because a man required instruction in reading and writing if 
does not follow that his interest in such subjects as Citizenship and 
History is any the less or that he is incapable of profiting froit 
instruction in them. Such men should, as far as possible, be made t< 
feel that the education they are receiving is education in general subjects! 
and that the rudimentary instruction which has to be given them i.' 
only an accidental accompaniment to assist them in other subjects. Ever 
if for a time they have something of a struggle to keep pace, they wjl| 
be only the more encouraged to go on with the rudiments by beinj; 
introduced at once to the ideas for which the rudiments are wortl 
acquiring."*" i 

Some of the prison chaplains, we are informed, realise that thesf 
are the kind of educational ideals that ought to inspire the prisoi 
administration and that the teaching at present accorded t< 
illiterate and backward prisoners is almost valueless as a method o| 
education. That it has value for recreational purposes, we do noj 

3B Home Secretary in reply to Mr. T. Myers, M.P., November 10th, 1921. 

" The Prison scheme of 1919 is based, in an uncritical and very abbreviated form, npo 
the Board of Education's handbook "Suggestions for Teachers in Elementary Schools, 
(Revised Edition, 1918. H.M. Stationery Office). 

The Board of Education's "Suggestions," it cannot be too strongly emphasised, w 
written with a view to the in-^t ruction of children under 14. Yet the Prison Educatic; 
Scheme makes use of them, without in any way modifying them, to meet the requir 
ments of adult pupils. 

<« "Educational Training." War Office: 1920. Part 1, p. v^O. 


deny ; poor though it be it affords a welcome break to the perpetual 
monotony of silence and solitude of prison life. 

The Theory of the Provisions for Further Education. 
The vast majority of prisoners, we have seen, are persons who 
have not even reached the very moderate standard regarded as fairly 
satisfactory for a child of eleven or twelve; and for these backward 
scholars the Commissioners have thought it worth while to provide 
the needed elementary education in the extremely limited proportion 
of about 6 per cent, only.*' It is hardly surprising, therefore, 
that they should have made no provision at all for the instruction 
of the small proportion of prisoners who are able to read and write 
and do sums with comparative ease, and that the only "educational" 
larrangement available for them, as a rule, should be in the form of 
books for private reading. 

I The Departmental Committee of 1895 made no specific recom- 
imendations as to education other than elementary, though they 
advocated "the extension of tuition to the prisoners generally, who, 
ft might be considered, would be the better for it."" The question 
was further considered by the Departmental Prisoners' Education 
Committee of 1896 (of which three out of five members were prison 
officials). This Committee was not favourable to anything beyond 
!i shght extension of the facilities for the most elementary form of 
jjducation. Their recommendation was as follows: — 

While we are strongly in favour of every encouragement and 
opportunity being given to prisoners to improve themselves by individual 
effort, vre are of opinion that it is not advisable to carry elementary 
instruction in prisons further than the average standard laid down as 
being necessary outside the prison walls, and we think that when a 
prisoner has passed the Fourth Standard in the three subjects, reading, 
writing, arithmetic, he should be exempted from further schooling 
attendance. He should, however be permitted to have in his cell works 
of a higher educational standard than the fourth, subject to the approval 
of the chaplain.*' 

is View was adopted by the Prison Commissioners in framing the 
'lew educational scheme for Local prisons, introduced in 1897, 
vhich provided that "such as have passed Standard III. will be 
;:iven educational books in their cells and be encouraged to work at 
hem in their leisure time, e.g., during meal hours and after com- 
)leting the day's task."" 

Reasons for Their Complete Failure. 

This provision represents the total amount of education that has 

peen available in theory for the fairly literate inmate of a Local 

prison, at any rate up to 1919, — no instruction, but opportunities 

'or self -education with a certain amount of encouragement. In 

"i.e., np to 1914. For 1920-21 the proportion is stated to be 12.5 per cent. 
Report of Departmental Committee on Prisons (1895), Section 74, p. 26. 
i^risoners' Education Committee, 1896, p. 8. 
* P.O. Report, 1878, p. 155. 


actual practice the provision has, our evidence indicates, beer 
extremely unsubstantial, principally for the following reasons: — 

1. It is difficult for the prisoner to secure the books required. Ir 
the first place, according to the "Stage System," he is usuallj 
limited, at any rate during the first two months, to a single 
"educational" book which can be changed only once a fortnight 
and even afterwards he can only with difficulty secure suitable oi 
sufficient books for study. There has existed, it is true, an un 
published rule, allowing him, on special permission, books suppliec 
by his friends, on condition that after use they become part of th< 
prison library. But most prisoners are not informed of this rul( 
(normally only hearing of it by chance from another prisoner), o) 
they may not have friends able to supply them, or permission maj 
be refused, if the book is thought unsuitable by the Commissioners.* 
Hence in the vast majority of cases a man must depend for his 
materials for study on the resources of the prison library. 

Prison Libraries vary greatly. Most, we believe, contain a certair 
number of historical and scientific works, of technical manuals anc 
a few foreign language books. But even though in the last fe^^ 
years there has been more adequate provision (due partly to pur 
chases and gifts of books, and partly to the smaller number o: 
prisoners) many hbraries have certainly been inadequate to suppl] 
industrious prisoners with what they require. The prisoner \\ 
further hampered by the rule which limits to four the number o 
educational and "library" books (i.e., fiction, etc.) which he ma} 
keep in his cell ; and, in some prisons, by the inefficient machinen 
for exchanging and allotting books in advance. The following 
evidence of an educated prisoner (with expei-ience of three differen 
prisons during 1916 and 1917) indicates the drawbacks of thi 
system, with specific reference to the attempted study of a foreigi 
language, such as Italian and French. 

Even supposing that the libraries were richer than they are now 
under the present system a prisoner, after waiting a long time, migh 
possibly get a foreign text or a dictionary or a grammar separately 
Another member of the trio might appear perhaps six weeks or eve 
three months later. He could not get them together without e.xtreml 
difficulty and long sacrifice of other reading matter. Now obviously , 
schoolmaster worthy of the name ought to be empowered to enablj 
everybody who really wished to study a language to have a text, j 
grammar, and a dictionary simultaneously, as his educational or .scho< 
book, and to continue to receive two other volumes of fiction or gener.' 
literature as in the ordinary course. 

Another witness with experience of three prisons extending ove 
more than two years says (and this is typical): — { 

*5 "The Commissioners (who themsplres deal with all these applications) usually act. 'I 
the principle that permi.s.iion should only be giren for books of a special or technic 
nature. . . . which the prisoner can show to be of use to him for maintaining and i 
creasing his knowledge of his trade or some kindred purpose." Prison Libraries' Coramitt 
Report, 1911, p. 25. 


One could not do any consecutive reading. We might ask for a book 
and it might not come round for three or four weeks. 

2. A second great difficulty has been the absence of writing 
materials for note-taking and exercises. It is true that every prisoner 
has a slate pencil and a slate (the former sometimes broken, and the 
btter often scored with the engravings of a predecessor)." But, as 
almost any adult will find if he makes the experiment, a slate is a 
very inadequate substitute for pencil and paper; moreover, the 
prisoner needs them as an emotional outlet against silence and re- 
pression, as well as for notices to the librarian or warder. 
i Of the official prison chaplains who have given us evidence on this 
*?ubject as many as ten are in favour of a greater provision of 
jivriting facilities. One of them, with over twenty-six years' prison 
l^xperience, instances the case of a rather desperate character who 
•iffered to do three times the normal task of hard labour if allowed 
f^en and paper to write. The Commissioners refused permission, 
ind a prisoner of hopelessly bad conduct was the result. Another 
shaplain declares that "the slate is a barbarous provision for adults," 
md mentions one prisoner, able to write poetry of sufficiently good 
ijuality for one of his pieces to be included in the prison hymn-book, 
yho was naturally "much hampered by having only a slate." A 
Ihird suggests that prisoners "might be taught to take deeper 
jnterest in the books they read, if they were encouraged to write 
ssays on them." 

From many complaints by ex-prisoners on this subject, we give 
he following as typical: — 

The lack of mean.^ to write — one hasn't the heart to do much on one's 
slate — made systematic study very difficult. This lack is a very 
grievous one. One kept thinking round in a circle, instead of getting 
any "forrarder." 

mother writes that his great longing for constructive work only 
ound outlet on the rare occasions of his letters to his family. 
Several ex-prisoner witnesses have even singled out the lack of 
mting materials as the worst feature of prison life.*' 

3. But apart from the deficiencies of reading and writing materials, 
tie circumstances of the prisoner's condition are seldom conducive 
> study. In another chapter we shall show how the rigidity and 
uUness of the regime tend to impair the intellectual powers, to 
iscourage initiative and to produce apathy. Without the stimulus 
f companionship, of conversational discussion, and of class teach- 
ig, the average prisoner finds it very hard to apply himself to 
jstained study behind a locked door. He has not the "vocation" 
r the spiritual resources of the cloistered ascetic, and few ascetics 
ave condemned themselves to perpetual silence for months at a time. 

*il<?R** "^"^^ ^"^^^ introduced as part of the cell iurniture by the educational scheme 

"Cp. the instance given on p. 575 of the disastrous results of withholding composing 
atenalg from a musician. 


In some cases prisoners have only too much leisure for reading 
especially during the week-ends," but in others, where excessive task 
have been fixed, or evening labour is rigidly enforced, even afte 
the task is completed, there is insufficient time available for study 
It was all very well for the Commissioners to speak of "study durin, 
meal hours." Some men's constitutions do not allow of brain wori 
close on a clogging and starchy meal ; there is also the chance tha 
much of the meal-hour has to be occupied in cell-scrubbing, polishing 
or other domestic occupations. 

4. Lastly there is very little evidence of that "encouragement" o 
prisoners in self-education suggested by the Standing Orders. W( 
have heard of no coaching or advice being given by schoolmaste 
warders to those prisoners who pass out of their hands on the attain 
ment of Standard IV. The chaplain is required by the Standinj 
Orders "in the course of his cellular visitations to make it hii 
regular practice to interest himself and offer advice upon eacl 
prisoner's reading. ' ' " But the chaplain's visits are too brief and rar< 
(hardly ever more than a quarter of an hour monthly) to make sucl 
"regular practice" anything but a formality. He has too little tim( 
available for anything besides his routine duties. It is needless t( 
emphasise how little real help can come to a lonely and bewilderec 
man from occasional visits like these. The encouragement of self 
education is not such a simple matter, even when a man is free, 
much less when he is an offender living under repression. 

There may, of course, be exceptional cases where a chaplain, 
concentrating on some particular prisoner, has given him guidancf 
through a course of study. And, apart from literary pursuits, 
gifted prisoners have sometimes been allowed to employ their talentj 
in a way that is both educational and constructive, as for instana 
in the decoration of the chapel or the planning out of a bird's ey<. 
view of the prison. We know of a Catholic priest who gets hii, 
women prisoners to do drawings in pen and ink. But these an; 
rare oases in the barren desert of prison culture. ! 

Prisoners' Efforts at Self-Culture. 
The present writer may perhaps be pardoned for illustrating fron 
his own experience in a provincial prison some of the obstacles \t\ 
effective study. It was not until after the end of his first imprison! 
ment (lasting four months) that he learned from a fellow-prisone' 
the rule by which a few books might on occasion be presented to th 
prison library for the use of a particular prisoner. He wanted tj 
devote himself during his second sentence (one of two years harj 
labour) to the study of the text of the Greek Testament, and ha- 

<s The official Prison Libraries Committee of 1910 estimated that the time available fi; 
reading averaged about two hours on a weekday in a Local prison, besides five to 8' 
houri. on Sundays. This was probably an over-statement, though some men in^ sod 
prii^ons have had more than this. Now that lights out is at 9 instead of at 8 o'clocj 
most prisoners perhaps have three hours available for daily study. 

«3 S.O. 372. ' 


(therefore asked his relatives to send the chaplain a copy of this 
book, of which he might have the use. This was done; soon after- 
wards, during the usual two long months of isolation from all visits 
and letters, he was informed by the chaplain (who was most kind 
in the whole matter) that the volume had been received, and that 
he had written to the Prison Commissioners for permission to add it 
to the library. But a week or two later the chaplain opened the 
cell door agair and, with evident and somewhat shamefaced reluct- 
ance, informed the expectant prisoner that the Commissioners had 
written saying that they could not authorise the admission of the 
Greek Testament to the prison library, on the ground that such a 
book was not likely to assist the prisoner in his subsequent career. 
,This information received in the depressing solitude of prison 
i{the prisoner was suffering from chronic ill-health), left him 
jin a sufi&ciently tragic state of disappointment. 

i If the writer had been the average prisoner, without friends be- 
jlonging to the governing class and able to exert pressure on White- 
jhall, that would have been the last of his cherished study. But 
puch friends he happened to have, and accordingly six weeks later 
nhe volume reached his cell, where it remained during the rest of 
lis imprisonment. 

The concentrated study of it in leisure intervals, extending over 
leveral months, led the prisoner to conclusions as to the interpreta- 
ion of certain passages which appeared to him both interesting and 
lew." These he had to record upon his slate, which soon became 
ull to overflowing. When writing his monthly letter to his family, 
jie occasionally transcribed some of these notes, but naturally did 
bot care thus to occupy much of the precious three pages allowed, 
jie had, therefore, to rely on other expedients ; and being unable to 
rust a memory impaired by prison conditions, he pricked his notes 
vith a needle in the margins of the hymn book, which, since it was 
tot prison property, he hoped to retain at the conclusion of his 
entence. Other notes he copied briefly on the margin of each 
Qonthly letter received from home, when pen and ink were allowed 
lim for the purpose of answering it. These letters (fortunately not 
mpounded, as they might have been, when the writer left prison), 
nabled him to work up his notes into articles which appeared in 
heological and other periodicals, and thus (contrary to the 
xpectations of the Commissioners) assisted his career by bringing in 
loney when it was needed ! 

There have been many other recent cases where perfectly harm- 
J9S compositions of some interest and value have been surreptitiously 
reduced and smuggled out of prison. Some prisoners secrete bits 

!*• He was during most of thi?! time employed upon garden work under exceptionally 
jvourable conditions, so that his natnral powers were kept comparatively fresh. Later 
I • ^^^^ ^^ resumed the usual occupation of sewing mail bags, his powers of study 
'moled, and he read little but works of fiction. No assistance in study was offered by 
|ie chaplain, who, though doubtless willing enough, had too many duties to find time 
:r snch indiTidual attention. 


of pencil; a few have even improvised inkpots of soap or cobbler's 
wax. Spare pieces of sanitaiy paper serve as notebooks or carry 
illicit communications to fellow prisoners. In nine prisons at least 
during the war political prisoners succeeded, in defiance of all the 
regulations, in circulating among themselves minute newspapers 
containing occasional articles of some literary merit. In all these 
instances the prisoners concerned exposed themselves to the possi- 
bility of serious punishment, usually involving terms of bread and 
water and solitary confinement, if detected; and every now and then 
such severe punishment fell upon them. 

Prisoners, we submit, should not be driven to these awkward and 
surreptitious expedients in order to help forward their studies and 
to satisfy their desire for self-expression. And how many must 
have failed, for one reason or another, to make use of these un- 
recognised methods, to the detriment of their mental health and of 
their capacity for living intelligently after their release ! 

The upshot of the matter is that, under the system, or want of 
system obtaining in Local prisons, at any rate up to the new educa- 
tional scheme of September, 1919, there has been, with the exception 
of very few prisoners, nothing worth calling education for those 
who have passed beyond the elementary Standard III. The official 
Prison Libraries' Committee of 1910 assert that "instances of sub- 
stantial progress made by the use of the trade manuals (in the library) 
are numerous," mentioning the case of a man, self-taught in French, 
book-keeping, and shorthand. But they bring no evidence to sup- 
port their general assertion, and the considerations which we have 
mentioned disincline us to believe that it is based on anything but 
an unsubstantial deduction from one or two rare instances of 
exceptional prisoners. 

Of the urgent need and of the ample opportunities for education 
in prison (except for those under very short sentences) there is 
abundant evidence. The best witnesses are the extraordinarily! 
ingenious and pathetic objects, expressive of the baulked ai-tistici 
and creative instincts, which prisoners have surreptitiously produced) 
during their long hours of solitude. The variety of these produc-, 
tions is amazing, — elaborate designs scratched on slates oil 
even on a lajer of whitening transferred to the slate, tastefulb'i 
embroidered handkerchiefs, Christmas and birthday cards painted^ 
with artificially made colours, printing type cut in wood and lead.: 
pieces of rag twisted into fancy devices, flimsy objects made froir 
ra veilings of blankets, more solid ones from soap or cobbler's was 
with intricate inlaid patterns of coloured thread, tooth-picks, dice 
etc., carved out of a bone tooth brush, wooden toys, small wooder 
frames for photographs, even a beautiful little set of chessmen 
black and yellow, composed of cobbler's wax." j 

51 See also the description of the embroidery and weaving on p. 119, and of other eel 
occupations on vi>- 576-79. 


In a few cases, these artistic treasures have been smuggled out 
by the prisoner, or perhaps given to a waixier in recognition of some 
substantial act of kindness. But the prison authorities have usually 
seized them, verj' possibly rewarding with stem punishment the 
temerity of the artist." We have ourselves seen and admired some 
lof these productions and confess to a feeling of awe and veneration 
at the thought of the tremulous emotion with which they were pieced 
together and of the tender care which hid them away from the sight 
of the prison officers. 

A number of chaplains and others of the higher prison staff whom 
I we have consulted are decidedly in favour of greatly extending the 
educational facilities, particularly by allowing prisoners to practise 
isome craft especially during the long black hours of Saturday and 
I Sunday. Thus one chaplain (with experience of convict as well as 
JLocal prisoners) writes as follows: — 

To the extent to which prisoners are now allowed to decorate their 
cells with picture-cards— to that extent there is gain in mental content- 
ment, in evoking finer feelings or keeping alive affection. 

Provision might well be made for prisoners to express themselves in 
wood or leather or other materials ; much clever and happy work would 
be done, which would keep them from harmful thinking, feeling or 
acting in loneliness. I think outside educationist-s might be admitted 
to train and educate individuals during those long hours of solitude, 
just as outside chaplaims go round in such hours and converse and 
instruct religiously. 

A high prison ofiBcial of long experience has told us that he would 
give facihties for such occupations as water colour sketching so long 
as no tools were used which might facilitate assaults, escapes, and 
©uicides. Something of the kind is actually being done at Camp 
iHill Preventive Detention Prison.*' 

The In.\dequacy of the 1919 Reforms. 
We have so far been dealing primarily with the educational 
ponditions obtaining for post-Standard III Local prisoner's prior to 
he year 1919-20. It remains to enquire how far the educational 
scheme introduced in September, 1919, has affected them. 
The only relevant portion of this scheme runs as follows: — 

Prisoners who have passed out of Grade III. will be given school 
books in their cells and encouraged to work at them in their leisure 
time. They, and all prisoners desirous of improving their knowledge, 
will be encouraged to prosecute their .studies, and the chaplain and 
schoolmaster will assist them by personal guidance and instruction. 

There is also a new regulation, according to which an exercise 
X)ok and a pencil may, with the governor's concurrence, be issued 

anjf prisoner who has been at least six months in prison. 

These two rules represent the only advances made, in respect of 
'further" education, since the 1897 scheme (with the exception of 

. " I" on« prison at any rate, we are informed, these secret crafts arc not discouraged. 
jhcicgh the objects are confiscated when the prisoner leares. 

1 '' See p. 446. 



the increased lectures for Juvenile Adults) ; and the first of them is 
merely a somewhat more emphatic repetition of one of the provisions 
of that scheme. We have little evidence as to how far cellular 
instruction is in fact now given by the chaplains and schoolmasters 
to those who have passed Standard (Grade) III. As far as the 
chaplain is concerned, it appears in the highest degree unlikely, as 
we have already indicated, that he has, as a rule, adequate time to 
spare for this. What evidence we have supports this view. 

The supply of notebooks and pencils as aids to study would go a 
considerable way towards remedying one of the most serious 
deficiencies to which we have drawn attention. But there is reason 
to fear that extremely few prisoners receive them. The concession 
is restricted to the small minority of prisoners who have served at 
least six months and to these "subject to good behaviour 
and provided that the governor and chaplain are satisfied that a 
proper use will be made of them for the purposes of study and not 
for journalistic purposes." " And the only study allowed is that of 
"some particular subject, the knowledge of which is likely to benefit 
them on their discharge," i,e., presumably from the standpoint of 
earning their living." Writing materials would apparently be refused 
to a man who wanted them merely to prevent mental deterioration. 

The chaplain of one of the largest prisons states that the officials 
are very suspicious and oppose this reform, because it means more 
inspection and more work, although he adds that the Juvenile Adults 
make very good use of similar writing materials and very rarely 
abuse the privilege. There is altogether a want of positive evidence 
to show that the educational scheme in force since 1919 for Local 
prisons has materially improved the possibilities of education for those 
comparatively few prisoners who have passed beyond the elementary 
Standard III. 

We are glad, however, to have private information of a very 

recent experiment, in one prison only, which may have far-reaching 

results. Three skilled volunteers have been allowed to hold classes 

in embroidery and basket work on three aft-ernoons a week for the 

unconvicted women prisoners and also the convicted women who are 

in the hospital cells. The door is not locked and as a rule no ward-i 

ress is present. During the summer the class has been held outj 

of doors. Ihe results of the work are very creditable, and thei 

effect on the women is said to be excellent. One of the women, 

teachers writes: — j 

The work is greatly appreciated by the women. It not only aftordaj 

a real interest for them in their spare time, but the fact that we arej 

people coming in to them from outside, and are in no way connected! 

»* Reply to Mr. B. Spoor, M.P., March, 1920. It has also been stated that those prisoner); 
to whom writing materials are allowed are permitted to have books sent to them by theiil 
friends to a much greater extent than was the case under the older rules, and that thest 
books, as well as the note books, may be retained by them on their discharge. 

55 In at least one prison during the war a third division political prisoner obtaiopf 
leave to take an hour out of associated labour in order to recover his speed in shorthand 
so as to be able to continue earning his living as a newspaper reporter. This is ' 
precedent that might well be followed. 


with prison life as they know it, undoubtedly counts with them even 

more, and has made possible their attitude of freedom and courage 

towards the lessons. 
Some of the girls on remand here have taken work with them, when 

they go for trial, and have done a good deal, while waiting in the 

police court cells. 
We understand that the Visiting Justices contemplate making a 
^rant of money for the expenses of this admirable scheme ; and that 
.here is good prospect of the classes being opened to convicted women 
prisoners, apart from hospital cases. If successful in this prison, 
■ihere seems to be no reason why the scheme should not be extended 
iio all the other prisons, as soon as volunteer teachers are forth- 

j Evidence as to the conditions of "further education" in Convict 
{jrisons" is lacking. Outwardly they are the same for convicts 
\.% for Local prisoners under the 1919 Education Scheme. Cell 
^itudy, with the supposed assistance of the overworked chaplain 
ind schoolmaster-clerk (and the use in special cases of notebook and 
iDoncil after a prisoner has served six months), is the rule. 
j This last concession, under conditions similar to those obtaining 
in Local prisons under the 1919 scheme, has been made an occasional 
privilege in Convict prisons for some years past. The subjects 
pisually allowing of a notebook are shorthand, algebra, electrical 
engineering, tailoring, and a foreign language. In a few special 
;*ases a convict has been allowed to have drawing instruments in his 
jell. ^Ye have evidence of several well-educated convicts who have 
peen refused notebooks and pencils, ostensibly on the ground that 
;he subject w^hich they wished to study was not one likely to be of 
'ise to them in earning a hvelihood subsequently."' 

In conclusion, we may trace the highly unsatisfactory state of 
prison education to the following main causes : — 
[ In the first place, the maintenance of the punitive and deterrent 
jactor as the primar)' principle of the system has fatally hampered 
educational progress. In the days of Sir Edmund Du Cane the 
^rison Commission set itself definitely against the experiment, 
nstituted (with very httle success, it is true) in some of the county 
jrisons before 1878, of making literary education an instrument for 
ehabihtating offenders." This bias still survives. It has prevented, 

*• In two ol the Scottish prison;, weekly Brabazon classes for women prisoners are held, 
rith good results to which the officials testify warmly. 

•' Cp. pp. 322 and 325 for industrial training of conricts. 

*• In 1910-11 a new departure in Conyict education was made, though we can find no 
irice that it has been followed up. "Three men," the goTernor at Maidstone reported in 
;hat year, "have just commenced courses under the tuition of the International Corres- 
'^mdence School, the courses being Marine Engineering, Building Construction and 
jiechanical Engineering." 

I ^'Compare, for instance, the annual report of the Commissioners for 1885 (Sections 59 and 
1*7); "The deterrent and reformatory efiect of a sentence shonld not be sacrificed in order 
ihat a prison may be made a place of literary education"; and the ridicule cast by Sir 
K. Du Cane on Reading prison under the administration of the County Justices {Du Cane's 
'Punishment and Prevention of Crime," 1885, p. 57) : and also p. 79— "it would be bad 
iMiUcy to diminish the deterrent influence or penal discipline in favour of those who 
•re ignorant." Before 1878, prison education seems to have meant little more than being 

aught to read the Bible and other religious books. 


until within the last two years, any education being given to prisoners 
during the first month of their sentence, as it still does in the case 
of "Hard Labour" prisoners and those sentenced to one month only. 
It has in other cases unduly restricted the hours available for educa- 
tion, and has hampered the possible progress of the scholar in diverse 

Secondly, injury has been done to education by the rigid adherence 
to the rule prohibiting one prisoner from communicating with another 
— a rule partly punitive in intention and partly based on the fear of 
contamination and collusion." So long as this rule is maintained as 
an essential part of the discipline, the free supply of writing mateiials 
to prisoners will be impossible. It is too much to expect men who 
are prohibited from conversation with their fellows not to use their 
pencil for sending them occasional notes ; and this cannot be pre- 
vented if they have a pencil in their possession for study purposes. 

Thirdly, there is the over-ruling motive of economy. This has 
affected both the extent and quality of the education given. The 
very poor qualifications of the teaching staff and the deficiency in 
books and equipment, on the one hand; on the other, all the restric- 
tions of the benefits of education in regard to age, standard and terras 
of sentences, which we have detailed in this chapter — these very 
serious defects are at least primarily due to the Government's con- 
stant disinclination to allot larger sums for the instruction of the 
most despised portion of the community." "Whether this, and other 
like forms of public economy relating to national education and prison 
administration, are wise from any large and long-sighted standpoint 
of policy, is a question which, to say the least, is gravely open to 

Finally, the absence of any inspection of the educational arrange- 
m.ents in prisons by an independent authority (such as the Board 
of Education) is a serious disadvantage. Until provision is made 
for adequate inspection and criticism, prison education must remain i 
a veiled problem, hidden by the satisfaction of the Commissioners! 
with their own arrangements and by the gloom of official secrecy: 
that covers every part of the prison administration. 

'» Compare the remarks ol the Home Secretary in 1918 (to a deputation arranged by 
the Penal Reform I>eague) on this subject. "I am bound to say that some of the rule* 
and standing Orders with regard to books and writing materials are antiquated . . . . 
However, I know there are practical difficulties of supervision and that kind of thing . . . 
For example, you do not want to have men, under the pretence of writing, concocting, »s 
often does happen in prisons, crimes, when two or three happen to be out again together."| 
(Penal Reform League Record, 1919, p. 51). j 

"'It is hardly necessary to bring evidence in support of this assertion. We find it for 
instance in the report of the Official Prisoners' Education Committee of 1896, e.g., P.8/ 
Section 29, as regards the reasons against educating prisoners with sentences of less that 
three months; and in the reply of the Home Secretary in 1918, to the Penal Reform Leagnf 
deputation ("I do not believe you would depreciate by education the preventive effect ot 
punishment. But there are practical difficulties. It would involve more staff, more money 
and we have to tackle the Treasury"). P.R.L. Record, 1919, p. 51. No separate accouni 
is kept of the expenditure on education in prison. 

<i2 Another difficulty from the administration standpoint is, of course, the shortness o: 
the majority ol the sentences; but lor this the prison authorities are not in any w»] 


A Note on Adult Education. 

In the 1918 year book of the Workers' Educational Association (p. 263) we 
read : "The ages of the students range mainly from 25 to 40 years, though 
quite 10 per cent, of each year's membership have been between 40 and 50 
years of age." The reference is to the Association's summer school, but the 
Secretary writes that it is generally true of their students, adding that a very 
considerable proportion of them verge on 50 years of age. The following 
notes on the possibilities of adult education have been supplied to us by a 
university graduate, who has taken a leading part in the movement for adult 
education among artisans and labourers : — 

(i) The idea that men do not respond to education after 20-25 is an error. 

»Much intellectual growth takes place after 25, particularly in the 
working classes. 
) The idea that lack of previous education is an insurmountable obstacle 
to advanced education of a humane kind is also an error. 
What is true is (a) that most men lack the special preparatory 
knowledge necessary to certain branches of knowledge (e.g., weak 
mathematics may prevent advanced scientific work), and (b) that 
mental machinery — power of clear expression, etc. — gets out of gear 
between 14 and 18, and therefore men seem to the unskilled observer 
to be stupid. 

The fact is that the growth of interest and of general ideas goes on 
long after formal mental discipline has ceased. These can nearly 
always be appealed to once they are discovered. When they are 
discovered, practice very soon restores the power of expression in 
most cases, though not in all. As a matter of fact, the very backward- 
ness of the latter causes the first years of adult education to give 
"increasing returns," which astonish the teacher. I have seen 
apparently stupid men acquire the art of expressing themselves well 
on paper in a winter. 

(iii) Adults cannot be taken through a preconceived course. Education 
must start from their predominant interests, and teaching must be 
related to these, especially at first. Hence the teacher must get to 
understand them, and it is even more important for him to know 
his pupils than to know his subject. 

) The change in character which education under the right conditions 
can produce among adults is amazing. When a man discovers that 
he is really learning to understand big questions, he gets a new self- 
respect and hopefulness. The mental growth is nearly always a 
moral growth as well. 

) No one is hopeless, because everyone has some avenue into his mind. 
If the teacher does not find it, he is the wrong man. One must always 
assume that the student has a tender spot somewhere which education 
can discover. 


(vi) Men learn most easily in groups, because they educate each other, 
and can stand up to the teacher. 




1. — Education is seriously hampered by the punitive principles of the 
discipline and the silence rule. 

2. — Too little money is spent on education. There is no independent 


3.— Prisoners of 26 years and upwards are generally denied education, as 
are also those over 21 years, \yho have passed out of the elementary Standard 
III. Instruction is in any case only given in the three "R's" and only for 
five hours weekly, and it is not given to those whose sentence is a month or 
less, nor to hard-labour prisoners during the first month. In the case of 
those under 21, it is only given up to Standard V. when the sentences are 
three months or over. 

4. — The prison education scheme, though applied to persons between the 
ages of 16 and 25, is crudely based on a system drawn up for children under 

5. — Despite the greater possibilities for education in the Convict prisons, 
education is similarly restricted (except in the case of juvenile adults) to 
those under 25 years and under Standard IV., to five hours weekly, and to 
the three "R's." 

6. — The teachers are not trained and are generally incompetent, the 
qualifying examination for the "Clerk and Schoolmaster" grade of warder 
being very elementary. 

7. — No provision is made for further education, except in study under 
solitary and depressing conditions by means of an inadequate supply of, 
library books. Prisoners are not allowed writing materials (except slate ' 
and pencil) for the purpose of study, except in a few special cases when six I 
months have been served. i 

8. — The chaplain is too overburdened with work to assist prisoners iB 
further education. , 

9. — There is no provision for the learning of a craft or the practice ofi 
a hobby. 


Lectures in Convict and Local Prisons 

'.t is impossible to consider prison lectures as part and parcel of 
ty educational system. They have hitherto been too rare, or too 
sconnected in their subject matter. They must be treated as more 

the nature of recreation. 

In the early period of the penal servitude system, lectures were 
not unknown in Convict prisons, where the Directors experimentally 
introduced them; and at Woking, the "Invalid Convict prison" of 
the time, over 200 convicts voluntarily attended to hear such men 
as the Christian Socialist writers, F. D. Maurice, Thomas Hughes, 
and others. But when the punitive side of the system came to be 
more emphasised after the Royal Commission of 1863, this admir- 
able experiment was discontinued, and we hear no more of lectures 
either in Local or Convict prisons until the era of the Departmental 
Committee of 1S94-5. 

It is somewhat surprising that this liberal -minded committee made 
:.o specific recommendation as regards lectures in their report. The 
smaller and more ofi&cial Departmental Committee of 1896, having 
been specially directed to report on the subject, emphasised the 
objections advanced by many chaplains and other prison officials; 
in particular, "the necessarily penal nature of imprisonment and 
the ever present danger of injudicious relaxation of discipline," to- 
gether with "the terrible evils resulting from the injudicious 
association of prisoners." Owing to these considerations and to the 
material and practical difficulties involved, a very large proportion 
even of those witnesses who were favourable to the introduction of 
lectures, "gave their assent almost grudgingly, qualifying it by 
many conditions."' Nevertheless, the Departmental Committee 
recommended that lectures should be introduced as an experiment 

' e.g., the Bishop of Newcastle, as ex-prison chaplain, said that "prisons are not quite 
the placet to be made extremely attractire." 


in a few prisons, Local and Convict, and suggested very sensibly 
that subjects of a historical or biographical nature would be prefer- 
able to abstract themes such as thrift or temperance.^ 

The experiment, tried in both classes of prisons, was a remarkable 
success, in spite of the gloomy prophecies of the officials. We read 
in the report of the Commissioners for 1901 that "lectures on moral 
subjects are given by chaplains and educated laymen, and there is 
a general testimony to the good effect of this new departure." And 
in the same passage the claim was made that "a wide effect had 
been given to the recommendation . . . that lectures and 
addresses should be organised in such a way as not to interfere with 
the necessary deterrence of prison discipline."' 

Notwithstanding this statement of the Commissioners, it is quite 
evident that the introduction of lectures into the prisons was a very 
slow process, mainly because it was dependent upon uncertain 
voluntary effort, which, unfortunately, was neither readily forth- 
coming nor effectively organised. This was most marked in the 
case of the Convict prisons, doubtless owing to their more isolated 
position. Yet for convicts, with their long sentences, these 
diversions were required most. Accordingly, in 1909-10, Mr. 
Winston Churchill, when Home Secretary, approached the Treasury 
for a small grant to establish a paid system of lectures and musical 
entertainments in Convict prisons only. The Commissioners agreed 
that this innovation might be introduced "to relieve the monotony 
of penal servitude, without prejudice to good order and discipline," 
and in the next year (1910-11) definite arrangements were made for 
two lectures and two musical entertainments at each Convict prison 
in the year." Against these innovations no bad effects, so far as we 
can discover, have been alleged, and they have apparently been 
continued as regular quarterly events (with some interruptions, 
owing to the unusual circumstances of the war). Governors and 
chaplains have frequently testified to the benefit they have been to 
the prisoners. 

The general introduction of lectures into the Local prisons was 
almost equally slow, even for women and juvenile adults, who for 
a number of years alone benefited in the majority of prisons. 

As regards the women, a regular provision of lectures by lady 
visitors on secular subjects (health, nursing, and sanitation) was 
inaugurated in Holloway prison in 1904 "with perfect success," the 
privilege of attending being confined to "selected cases." A year 
later a similar lecture scheme had been adopted in 24 women's 
prisons. During 1909-10, 257 lectures were given in the 43 prisons 
containing women.' 

2 Prisoners' Education Committee Report (1896), p. 13. 
» P.O. Report, 1900-1, p. 21. 

* See PC. Report. 1909-10, p. 20, and 1910-11, p. 17. 
» P.C. Report, 1909-10, p. 54. 


ll During these years the provision of lectures to the juvenUe adults 
was also extended, so that, in 1909-10, 1,133 lectures were given 
to this class in the 56 Local prisons then existing. 

1: The male adult prisoners in Local prisons largely outnumber the 
women and juvenile adults taken together. But it was not until 
a year or two before the war that the men, in any considerable 
numbers, had an opportunity of attending a lecture. Thus, in the 
year 1909-10, the Chaplain Inspector informs us that the total 
number of lectuies given to the general body of prisoners in the 60 
idifierent prisons was 51 — less than one per prison. 

1} In 1911-12 the Chaplain Inspector stated that the lectures given 
to the general body of prisoners were infrequent, and that he "had, 
therefore, during his recent visits, conveyed to the prison chaplains 
the desire of the Commissioners that a monthly lecture of this kind, 
pn secular subjects, should (as at Euthin prison) be arranged for, 
If possible."' Unfortunately, this laudable desire for monthly 

Iectures, owing, we imagine, to the want of local initiative, failed in 
ts object, and instead, by 1913-14 at any rate, arrangements were 
o have been made for the general body of prisoners to have four 
lectures a year.' During the war even this plan broke down, owing 
fo the difficulty of obtaining lecturers and to concentration of 
prisoners upon war- work, and lectures ceased in most prisons for the 
ime being. 

In the period which has elapsed since the end of the war, the 
Ilomniissioners have, we understand, done something to encourage 
he introduction of regular and frequent lectures in all Local prisons. 
But no grant has been instituted towards the provision of paid 
ecturers in Local prisons. The organisation of interesting lectures 
s, therefore, dependent upon the initiative and energy of either the 
asiting committees of justices, or the chaplain and governor, or of a 
ombination of these. The results, naturally, are very variable. 
Ne have evidence that, in the case of a considerable proportion of 
he visiting committees nothing at all is done, the matter being left 
Q the hands of the chaplain. The chaplain, in his turn, is often 
landicapped by not having, or not choosing to have, the necessary 
eisure, and by not knowing where to secure suitable volunteers to 
leliver the lectures. 

As an indication, however, of what is being done in some prisons, 
give two instances that have come under our notice. 

At Birmingham prison a quarterly lecture is now given to the 
i^hole body of prisoners (attendance about 440); a monthly one by 

lady visitor, or other lecturer to the girls and women (about 
0); and a fortnightly one to the juvenile adults and a few 
ther men under 25 (attendance from 50 to 60). The visiting justices 
lave themselves been among the lecturers, and the subjects have 

• P.C. Report, 1911-12, p. 44. 

■ P.C. Report, 1915-14, Chaplain Inspector's report, p. 59. 


ranged from "Open Windows" and "Pawn-shops" to "Napoleon" 
and "Customs of the Orient." (Sacred concerts are also given in 
the chapel on Sunday afternoons about four times a year.) 

At Pentonville a system of weekly lectures has been in regular 
operation since November, 1919, for all juvenile adults, while men 
of the "Star" class and other first offenders have been allowed to 
join in debates, an extraordinary innovation, which we shall presently 
describe. Among the subjects treated at the lectures we find 
"Butterflies," by an artisan nature-lover; "Life in a Coal Mine," 
by an ex-miner; "Three American Presidents," by a college pro- 
fessor; and "Enemies of Human Life," by a medical man. 

The lectures have usually been held on Friday evening from 5-30 
to 6-30. One of the lecturers has written to us as follows with 
particular reference to an address (illustrated with slides) on 
"Characters from Dickens": — 

My audience numbered 49, plus four to six warders. They were the 
most appreciative audience I ever recollect speaking to. How heartily 
they laughed in response to Dickens' humour ! — while the hush that 
accompanied the stories of pathos was such that it could be felt.* 

The Prison Commissioners have publicly stated that, if suitable 
arrangements as to accommodation, etc., can be made, the lectures 
may be opened to all prisoners, and that, while general discussion 
is not permitted, questions may be put at the chaplain's discretion.* 
This is often done with great success. We understand, however, 
that, in practice, the number of lectures is very seriously restricted 
owing to the refusal of the Prison Commissioners to incur the ex- 
pense of keeping warders on overtime for more than one evening a 
week. This may mean that, where a weekly lecture is given to 
juvenile adults, the adult prisoners may only be able to attend a 
lecture once a month or even once a quarter. A practical difificulty 
also arises where the chaplain objects to the use of the chapel for; 
secular lectures, the chapel being often the only room of sufficient j 
size available. ' ! 

Most of the chaplains whom we have consulted are in favour of' 
an increase in the number of lectures, particularly during thei 
monotony of Saturday afternoon, and (in some cases) also on Sundayj 
evenings. If interesting and suitable subjects are chosen therej 
seems to be no reason why all prisoners, who are able to behave: 
themselves during the lecture, should not be given a chance of attend-j 
ing at least once a week In any case, there is, even under thej 
present restricted regime, a great opening available for service tcj 
prisoners by gifted men and women able to bring light and cheei; 
into their restricted lives. It is true that few people are ever lectureOj 
into a change of life, but anything that keeps a man from the morbic'; 
brooding that is characteristic of prison cannot fail to do good. 

* Compare the accounts of the emotional response of a prison audience giyen on pp. 50t!-S 
Reply to Mr. Spoor, M.P., March, 1920. { 



In addition to lectures, occasional musical entertainments, both 
sacred and secular, have been allowed and encouraged in the prisons, 
at any rate since 1910. The almost unanimous verdict of the prison 
authorities is that these concerts do good. "The good effect is 
evident," reported one chaplain in 1912, "the prisoners are touched 
by the music itself and by the interest taken in them by strangers." '* 
What evidence we have from ex-prisoners is to the same eSect. 
Concerts are dependent on the enlistment of local volunteers — 
orchestras, choirs, bands or individual amateurs, by the chaplain or 
visiting committee of each prison. For obvious reasons it is easier 
to secure such volunteers in the winter, and especially at the Christ- 
las season, than in the summer." The prisoners have not yet been 
lowed to organise their own musical entertainments, as is frequent 
some American prisons," and as has been tried with success at 
16 Preventive Detention prison at Camp Hill. 
In their report for 1920-21, the Commissioners announce that it 
proposed shortly to introduce recreation classes, for reading, 
citations, lectures, discussions, music, etc., in male Convict 
isons. By good conduct convicts will be able to participate in 
»se classes after serving two years of their sentence." 


In their report for 1919-1920 the Prison Commissioners announced 
a novel departure, so far as the English prison system is concerned, 
in the formation of debating classes at Pentonville, Wandsworth, 
and Maidstone prisons. They quoted the chaplain of Pentonville 
as describing the experiment as "an unqualified success," and as 
declaring that he "cannot conceive of any more humanising 
influence," and the chaplain of Wandsworth as commending a class 
which gives opportunity for self-expression, stimulating mental 
activity, and disseminating useful information. 

Prisoners speak with great appreciation of the debates. "I can 
assure you," says one ex-prisoner witness, "that as soon as one 
debate was over I was looking forward to the next, as the debates 
and the concerts were the only break in the frightful monotony of 
prison life." The prisoners are in general given a free choice of 
subject. Among the topics debated have been "Women's Work," 
"Are Men Better for the War?" "Trades Unionism," "Prohibi- 
tion," "Will and Fate," and "The Divorce Bill." 

At the Wandsworth debates no warders are in attendance; at 
Pentonville two or three warders sit at the back of the room, but a 

"o P.O. Report. 1911-12. p. 28. 

" At one prison, at least, the cnstom is followed of permitting friends of those taking 
part in the concert to watch the proceedings from an oTerlooking gallerv. The prisoners 
mttorly resent the curiosity of the risitors. "They pointed at us and strained their 
Becks to see us as though we were wild animals," says one ex-prisoner. 

" See p. 658. 

" See pp. 553 and 534. 


prisoner states that they never interfere and that conversation is 
permitted. "The behaviour of the prisoners has been excellent," 
says a visiting magistrate of Pentonville prison, "and the present- 
of the warders is hardly necessary." The debates last two hours; 
the chaplain generally presides ; the speeches of the two openers are 
of ten minutes' duration, those of other speakers of five minutes; 
a prisoner acts as minute secretary. "The chaplain adopted a 
splendid attitude," remarks one of our ex -prisoner witnesses. "He 
insisted that we wei'e free men for the time being." Occasionally 
one of the prisoners gives a "lecturette" instead of opening a debate, 
the other prisoners participating in the proceedings later with 
criticism and comment. One evening a London editor, imprisoned 
on a political charge, gave an address on "The Press." Other sub- 
jects treated by prisoners have been "Pig Breeding," and "Fishing 
in Labrador." 

"The debates have made a tremendous improvement in the mental 
lives of prisoners," declares an ex-prisoner. "They have given a 
fresh and living interest to prison existence. Whenever they get 
a chance, prisoners go on arguing with each other about the subject 
of the last debate or discuss the prospects of the next one." The 
prisoners who take leading parts in the debates are permitted 
to have a pencil and paper to prepare their speeches. The pencil 
must be returned on the following morning, but the notes for the 
speech may be kept. This privilege is also greatly appreciated. 

An incident occurred in connection with the debates at Pentonville 
which deserves record as an instance of the loyalty and unselfishness 
which so often characterise prisoners in their dealings with one 
another. "At first," an ex-prisoner informs us, "the debates were 
confined to 'Stars' and second division men. The chaplain told them 
that he had v/ritten to the Commissioners asking that another debate 
should be allowed on another evening in the week for the other 
prisoners. The Commissioners replied that they could not allow a 
second evening in the week, but that they did not object to the debates 
being extended to the other classes of prisoners. On hearing this 
the 'Stars' themselves proposed that their own debate should be held 
only once a fortnight, and that the hard labour and other third 
division prisoners should have a debate the alternate week. This 
was agreed to." 

The "Stars' " debate is attended by about 100 prisoners. The 
attendance at the second debate reaches 200, which represents the 
limit of the accommodation. 

The debates are of great value in themselves ; but they also have 
a wider significance which may not have been wholly realised. 
"The men are trusted," remarked tlie Chaplain-Inspector in an inter- 
view given to a Press representative, "and, being trusted, they act 
up to it." Therein lies the deeper value of this experiment; it has 


made a breach in the walls of suspicion and suppression which form 
the citadel of the prison system." 

News of the Week. 

The absence of newspapers is one of the most noticeable of prison 
deprivations. The traditional attitude of the prison authorities has 
been that news of the outside world must be kept from prisoners, 
but during recent years there lias been a welcome modification. 
In their report for 1915 the Prison Commissioners stated that 
"in consideration of the special efforts made by prisoners" 
on war- work it had been decided that they should once a week "be 
made acquainted with the progress of the naval and military opera- 
tions." In the 1919-1920 report the Commissioners added that they 
had informed governors that they had been "greatly impressed by 
the humanising effect in prisons of the weekly war address, and that 
they saw no objection to the continuance of the practice, which 
reacted favourably on the temper and attitude of prisoners towards 
authority, as showing that the authorities did not desire to exclude 
them, though prisoners, from all news of the outer world." The 
conscious philanthropy of this sentence indicates that the authorities 
still hold that prisoners have no right to "expect news of the outer 

! Our ex-prisoner witnesses state that in some prisons the present 
►veekly recital of news takes about 15 minutes. In one prison, at 
east, not only are events of general political and social importance 
recounted, but "all the football results, and any important boxing 
lews." This is a startling departure fi'om the attitude which 
Hgorously excluded such news from letters to prisoners and from 
ihe conversation at visits, on the ground that it would encourage 
'netting and gossip with the prison officers. 

The chaplain at Newcastle, writing of the news as given out in 
jiis prison, says "it is eagerly awaited and seems to have met a real 
ieed. It gives prisoners something to think over outside their own 
"jiarrow range of thought, and keeps interest alive. I believe that 
Inything which creates healthy interest fortifies prisoners against 
he temptation to a life of crime. Lack of imagination and the 
Ibsence of healthy interests are very noticeable amongst prisoners. " '* 

The provision of news has an important social effect upon the after 
Je of prisoners, in addition to the broadening of their interests in 
mson. It is the frequent testimony of the agents of Discharged 

e object of these eHorts (lectures and debates) is not merely educational, " says 
Ruggles-Brise ("The English Prison System." pp. 128 and 129). "Experience has 
lown that they have a psychological effect, which is even of greater importance and 
line. They provide healthy food for thought during many solitary hours, and so tend 
I preTcnt morbid introspection, brooding oyer wrongs or worrying about family affairs; 
ley break the unavoidable monotony of institution life, and provide a mental stimulus 
hich is of the utmost value. But more than this, the mere fact that a prisoner is 
sted, if only for a short time, to control himself without the restraint of authority, is 
rnmense value in building up that self-respect, without which restoration is impossible." 

P.O. Report, 1919-20, p. 28. 


Prisoners' Aid Societies that ex-prisoners have been at a serious dis- 
advantage on returning to normal life owing to their lack of knowledge 
of public events. A Salvation Army officer says that loss of contact 
with the outside world makes ex-prisoners "mentally petrified" \\hen 
they resume ordinary life. "My ignorance of well-known events 
often landed me in awkward situations and nearly revealed to my 
workmates that I was a 'gaol-bird,' " says an ex-prisoner. 

For this reason many of our witnesses — prison officers, chaplains, 
agents of Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies, and others — urge that 
prisoners should be permitted to see newspapers.'* One warder sug- 
gests that a prisoners' paper should be published giving a resume 
of the week's news. This is, in fact, done in Ireland, where ia 
1910 the Prison Board began to issue "an illustrated weekly publica- 
tion containing news of the main current events of the world" for 
circulation amongst "well-conducted prisoners of long sentences 
some time before their release." The Board justified the starting 
of the paper on the ground that "keeping prisoners of long sentences 
without any knowledge of current events leads to mental apathy and 
depression, and places them at a disadvantage on release."'' 

Prison Libraries. 

Tf prisoners have any appreciation of reading, the books provide 
by the library are their best prison friends. In the romance of a 
novel, or an exciting story of adventure, or in the concentration of 
attempted study, the prisoner for a time may forget his surroundings 
and find solace from the tyranny of prison discipline. 

Almost all prisoners who are not illiterate read books with avidity. 
The Departmental Committee on the Supply of Books to Prisoners 
(appointed by Mr. Winston Churchill in 1910)" found that "manyi 
prisoners never read at any other time than during their terms of i 
imprisonment." A governor tells us that prisoners read books asj 
a narcotic. "It takes the edge off the discipline." A prison officer i 
says that nearly all prisoners prize their books. j 

There are some prisoners, however, so a Jewish Eabbi informs us, 
who, although able to read, have not acquired the reading habit; 
sufficiently to practise it even in prison. A woman prisoner tells j 
us that many of the women prefer sewing to reading. But thf^-^'^ 
are the exceptions. Generally speaking, our witnesses assure 
that prisoners read as much as they possibly can. The Chapiaui, 
Inspector (in his report for 1902-1903) quoted a prisoner whcj 
described the library as "the one bright fight of his cell fife." 

16 We cannot forego quoting a contrary opinion expressed by a Roman Catholic priest 
"Prison is and .should be," he says, "a place of punishment, and not the vestibule oi ■ 
Free Library and Reading Room." 

J' Report of Irish Prisons' Board, 1910-11, p. 10. Compare also the practice in Amer, 
prisons, p. 657. 

18 Report of Departmental Committee on Supply of Books to Prisoners. (Cmd. 5589, 19 


During the first month of their imprisonment, prisoners in the 
third division are only permitted one "educational" book (which may 
be changed after the first fortnight), and possibly a "school book,' 
in addition to a Bible, Prayer Book, and hymnal, and a devotional 
book. The Bible, Prayer Book, and hymnal are officially considered 
a part of the furniture of every prisoner's cell." "School Books" 
are usually either elementary arithmetic instnictors, grammars, 
spelling books, or badly printed dictionaries. Such books are not 
given to prisoners except by request, and few prisoners realise that 
they have power to obtain them. The "educational" book allowed 
may be of a practically worthless character, or it may be a really 
valuable work. A prisoner is given one of these books on reception, 
and what he receives is generally a matter of sheer luck. Most 
prisoners never think of challenging what they are given, but if 
apphcation be made to see the chaplain a good book can generally 
be obtained. In any case, the books allotted to the prisoner's first 
month are normally quite insufficient to maintain his interest during 
the long hours of loneliness.'" This is the more important as 
about 80 per cent, of all prisoners receive sentences of one month 
and under and thus never become entitled to works of fiction. 

After the first month, third division prisoners who have earned 
their full marks are permitted one "library" book, that is, a novel or 
other work of fiction, and after two months, two "library" books. 
Prisoners in the second and first division are allowed two "library"' 
books from the first. Library books may be changed every week. 
During the last month of their sentence prisoners are given "A 
Happy Home and How to Keep It," a small book of elementary 
instruction regarding hygiene. 

When prisoners are in hospital the chaplain is permitted to alla%v 
them extra books, but we have no evidence that this is often done, 
despite the fact that most hospital patients are kept in separate con- 
finement. It seems frequently to be an unofficial custom, however, 
for a reserve supply of books to be kept by the hospital cleaners. 
The following quotation from our evidence will illustrate this 
practice: — 

In the cupboard of the hospital kitchen 30 or 40 books were hidden, 
and additional books were obtainable from the cleaner if one got on the 
right side of him. The hospital warders knew of this practice and 
tolerated it so long as the extra books were not in evidence when the 
governor or chief warder came round. There were no "searches" in 
hospital, so it was safe to put the contraband books behind the heating- 

•* Prisoners who describe themselyes as members of the Church of England are usually 
giTen either "The Narrow Way" or "The Traveller's Guide" as a devotional book. Non- 
conformists are permitted "Pilgrim's Progress"; while Jewish prisoners have a devotional 

I book of their own faith. 

I Roman Catholic prisoners have either a Catechism or "Think Well on't" as a devotional 
book. Instead of the Prayer Book they receive "The Garden of the Soul." 

J *'A woman Visiting Magistrate has. for instance, informed us of a woman doing her 
j first month, whose only book beyond the devotional one» was a small shilling volume on 
i the "English Constitution." " "It's not very interesting,' she said, 'and it'« old now, it's 
not even up to date.' " 


Whilst many sick prisoners seem to participate in this unofficial 
distribution of books, the frequency with which the complaint of lack 
of books appears in the evidence given by those who have been con- 
fined in a prison hospital shows that the practice is by no means 

In the larger prisons the educational books include some good 
histories, biographies, and works of philosophy and science, political 
social and physical. In smaller prisons the choice of books is much 
more restricted, and in both large and small prisons it is often diffi- 
cult for a prisoner to get a good work. Many of the educational 
books are not merely elementary (such are necessary for the majority 
of prisoners), but are of poor quality and obsolete.^' 

From the point of view of the ordinary prisoner there is little 
ground for complaint as to the character of the books provided." One 
of our witnesses, a librarian officer at a large prison, states that Miss 
Braddon, Mrs. Henry ^\^ood, and Charles Garvice are the favourite 
authors, and that Charles Dickens is the only standard author who 
challenges them. Scott, he says, is distinctly out of favour; among 
the modern writers the works of Arnold Bennett, George 
Birmingham, Hall Caine, and Thomas Hardy are most in demand. 
This witness adds that about one-sixth of the men who want books 
ask for works by well-known authors, and that many of them would 
rather read good books a second time than accept books written by 
indifferent authors. An ex-prisoner who worked in the library states 
that the great majority of prisoners, after becoming entitled to 
"library" books, never trouble to change their "educational" books. 

A large body of prisoners — the majority, probably — prefer bound 
volumes of magazines to books, despite the fact that, on account of 
its size, one magazine counts as equal to two library books." So 
popular are the magazines that at a certain prison where Eoman 

21 The Standing Orders for 1911 (No. 379) direct that "practically all kinds of boiks other 
than fiction" may be given as educational books. In exceptional cases the chaplain is even 
authorised to issue a "standard work of fiction" in this category, but we have never heard 
of any chaplain doing so. Until recently educational books hare, as a rule, been changed 
once a month, but now we understand they are changed every fortnight. 

-2 We have seen a copy of the catalogue at one of the largest prisons, and among the 
books in the educational section we find Bacon's Essays, Boswell's "Life of Johnson," 
John Bright's Speeches, Plato's "Republic," Prescott's "Conquest of Mexico," John Morley's 
"Burke," Gibbon's "Rome," and works by Carlyle, Darwin, Defoe, Emerson, Macaulay, 
Montaigne, Mazzini, and Ruskin. 

Among the "library" books represented are works by George Eliot, Jane Austen, George 
Borrow, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Sir W. Scott, W. M. Thackeray, H. G. Wells, 
Mrs. Gaskell, Rudyard Kipling, J. M. Barrie, and R. L. Stevenson. The majority of the 
books are by such writers as Miss Braddon, who is represented by 43 works, Wilkie 
Collins, Fenimore Cooper, Rider Ha?Kard. and Mrs. ITenry Wood. Books of poetry are 
few in number, but they are good. Among the authors in this section are Robert Burns, 
Cowper, Dryden, Longfellow, Milton, Shakespeare, Spenser, Tennyson, and Thomas Moore. 
Few prison libraries are, of course, as good as this. 

-' The magazines provided include "Chambers' Journal" and "The Cornhill." The 
Committee of 1910 discussed whether literary and political reviews of the type of the 
"Nineteenth Century," the "Saturday Review," the "Spectator," and even "T.P.'s Weekly" 
might not be introduced. It recommended that bound volumes containing issues of such 
publications for three months should be provided in the larger prisons, taking the view 
that only good could come "from admitting information as to the principal events of the 
outer world and the opinion of educated writers upon them." Our evidence indicates, 
however, that this reasonable recommendation has only been put into force in a very 
meagre way, if at all. 


Catholics and adherents of the Church of England had separate 
libraries, the priest found that the reason why a number of Roman 
Cathohc prisoners wanted to become Protestants was that the Church 
of England libraiy contained the "Strand Magazine" ! The Depart- 
mental Committee of 1910 were anxious not to encourage prisoners 
to read magazines and recommended that the proportion of magazines 
to books, which had been one-third, should be reduced. They 
eipressed the fear that the preference for the bound magazine arose 
from a desultory habit of mind, which found difficulty in sustaining 
attention on "a single story of any length." Their fear was doubt- 
less justified. In addition to the untrained state of mind which 
many prisoners bring to prison, the experience of prison itself is apt 
to destroy a capacity for sustained reading even in the most orderly 
land disciplined mind. 

' As might be expected, criticisms regarding the prison libraries 
come almost exclusively from educated prisoners. Complaints are 
j)articularly strong in the case of those who have been confined in 
small prisons. In the libraries attached to such prisons only a very 
fev7 good books are to be found, and, if an educated man serve a 
long sentence in a small prison, the limitation of reading is felt very 
keenly. The Departmental Committee of 1910 suggested that books 
might be borrowed from large prisons in such a case, but we have 
never heard of this being done. The governor of a small prison 
agrees that the libraries are "often stocked badly and with poor 

Many educated prisoners find that, even during the second and 
f-ucceeding months, when two fresh books may be issued to them 
weekly, they have not nearly enough reading material to occupy 
bhem when their task is finished, and especially during the long 
.veek-ends of solitary confinement. The results in many cases are 
iiisastrous. It is a pity that more books cannot be issued to them 
at a time, or that the books are not changed twice a week, as was 
[•ocommended by the 1896 Departmental Committee on the Educa- 
vional and Moral Instruction of Prisoners." 

The criticism is frequently made that prisoners often have no voice 
n the selection of their books. Prisoners are supposed to consult 
|i catalogue obtainable fi'om the warder on each landing, and to write 
\tn their slates the numbers of four books which they require. The 
'ibrary officer is then expected to note these numbers, and to supply 
jhem as soon as the books are available. In some prisons this system 
jvorks satisfactorily." In others the system is scarcely put into 
operation at all. "I passed through a sentence of three months' 
mprisonment without knowing that there was such a thing as a 

-* B«port of Committee, p. 13. It was also stated that at that time the changine of 
odks twice a week had recently been introduced and was working well at Portland 
ionTict prison. Apparently it has not been adopted elsewhere. 

I ** Experience baa shown that in large prisons it is necessary to hare more than foar 
^Mks noted. 


library catalogue," says an ex-political prisoner. "The result was 
that I had a series of trashy books which were simply not worth 
reading, the only exception being one novel by Lord Lytton. " "The 
books were given out as oranges would be at a children's party," 

says another ex-prisoner." 

Each year the chaplain is required to forward to the Prison Com- 
missioners, with the concurrence of the governor and visiting 
committee, a list of books which he desii'es for the prison library. 
But the books in his list must, as a rule, be confined to a catalogue 
which is supplied by the Commissioners. The chaplain's list is 
examined by the Chaplain Inspector and finally authorised by the 
Commissioners.^' New books are provided by an annual grant at the 
rate of 1/6 per head of the average population of the prison. One 
chaplain states that this sum is quite inadequate in view of the heavy 
prices of books at the present time." 

Illiter.\te Prisoners. 
As we have already indicated, 11 per cent, of the male prisoners 
and 19 per cent, of the female prisoners are illiterate.^' For them, 
scrap books are provided, composed of illustrations cut out from the 
obsolete books. These are of little value, and the monotonous 
existence of the prisoner who cannot read must be very hard to bear. 
"The man in the cell above me could not read," says an ex-prisoner 
witness, "and during the first month of his imprisonment he spent 
hours every day tramping up and down his cell — five steps, then a 
turn, again and again. The worst time was Saturday and Sunday, 
when he used to walk the cell for hours on end. Books enabled one 
to forget prison for a time, but this man was always like a caged 
beast." Some illiterates endeavour to keep their lack of schooling 
from the knowledge of their fellow prisoners, and regularly ask for 
library books. One ex-prisoner mentions that not infrequently they 
ask for Shakespeare and even for foreign works. 

The Departmental Committee of 1910 suggested that pictorial 
magazines, catalogues, and puzzles might be provided for illiterates.' 
So far as our evidence goes, little response has been made to this 
suggestion, although at one prison, at least, illiterates have recently i 
(at the schoolmaster's suggestion) been provided with jig-saw puzzles | 


2" A librarian officer who gave evidence to our Committee, sugcested that many of the i 
difficulties in connection with the distribution of books might be overcome il prisoners 
went to the library instead of the librarian going to the prisoners. The librarian frequently 
goes round with the books when the prisoners are out of their cells, so that they are not 
able to make any choice, if the books they have noted are not available. At one large 
prison this difficulty is obviated by the practice of making the distribution during the 
dinner hour. 

2' The chaplain may, after consulting the governor, excise from a book any matter which 
he considers objectionable, and in magazines particularly, whole pages are often cut out 
or covered over. Descriptions of expert burglaries, stories like the exploits of "Raffle* 
and criticisms of the prison system, are among the items censored. 

2s About 20 per cent, of the prison library is condemned each year as beyond repsir. 
although the Chaplain Inspector (in his report for 1902-1905) remarks that it is r»re 
that books receive rough treatment. The books are rebound, as long as it is possible, m 
a rather crude way by the prisoners who work in the library. 

29 Or were so in 1913. See pp. 149 and 150. 


as a recreation. The committee recorded that reading aloud to 
illiterates had been tried and had failed, but in view of the success 
of prison lectures we do not understand why this should necessarily 
be the case. 

The foregoing paragraphs may be taken as applying generally to 
the distribution of books in Convict prisons, with the following 
modifications. While in Local prisons the number of books issued 
is graded at first in accordance with the system of progressive stages, 
I the convict remains entitled throughout his sentence (except, of 
I course, when under punishment) to the same number of books, viz., 
'- r books, of which no more than two may be fiction." There is a 

_,er demand in Convict prisons for "educational" books, e.g., good 
,iiistorical or philosophical authors, in preference to novels. 

For obvious reasons the need of good library arrangements is of 
:i greater importance in the case of convicts than it is for short 
-, wience prisoners. "The library," Jabez Balfour wrote, "is the 
most successful factor in promoting the physical, mental, and 
spiritual well-being of the unhappy men who are congregated in 
Convict prisons. As regards myself, I beheve that I owe, under 
Providence, the retention of my reason, and with it the preservation 
of my life, during the ten years and more that I was a convict, 
entirely to the books which were at once my consolation, my 
instructors, and my friends.""' 

" The Prison Commissioners publish in their report for 1920-21 new Standing Orders 
relating to the progressive stage system lor convicts, which permit convicts additional books 
when they reach the "superior" stage, at the discretion of the chaplain. See pp. 333 and 534. 

»» Jabez Balfour, "My Prison Life," p. 231. 




1. — In most prisons there are many prisoners (especially the adult "hard 
labour" prisoners) who have only very rare opportunities of attending a 
lecture, or any other recreative gathering. 

2. — There is insufficient access to news of outside events. 

3. — Some of the libraries are badly stocked ; and, in the case of well- 
educated prisoners, the system of allotting books is often unsatisfactory. 

4. — The quantity of reading material supplied is often gravely insufficient, 
especially during the first month in a Local prison. 



The Official Chaplains 

; Under the provisions of the Prison Acts it is required that to every 
prison there shall be appointed "a chaplain, being a clergyman of 
the Established Church."' In an earlier chapter we have pointed 
,out that, according to the present system, the task of promoting the 
{"reformation" of the prisoner is entrusted to the chaplain.* What 
then are the chaplain's powers and duties, how does he exercise 
them, and what impression does he make on the prisoner thereby? 

In answering these questions it should be realised at the outset 
jthat all the work of the chaplain has to be done under Regulation 
57 of the Prison Rules, which requires that — 

the chaplain shall conform to the rules and regulations of the prison, 
and shall not interfere with the working of them as regards the safe 
custody, discipline, and labour of the prisoners, but shall support the 
governor in the maintenance thereof.* 

Chaplains are also forbidden to communicate to the Press, without 
special authority, information derived from official sources, or to 
jpublish any article or book relating to prisons or prisoners, unless the 
{sanction of the Commissioners has been previously obtained. They 
imay not even communicate with the friends of a prisoner without 
^he governor's sanction. 

j Every chaplain is therefore willingly or unwillingly obliged to 
perform his duties as a supporter of the authorities. He starts with 
las definitely designed a check upon his initiative as does the warder, 
with this difference — that while the warder is admittedly an instru- 
ment in the repressive regime of prison discipline, the chaplain's 
irelationship to the prisoners tends in an opposite direction to that 
discipUne. For example, the warder is prohibited from speaking 
familiarly with the prisoner and is obliged to enforce at all times 
the rule against conversation, whilst it is the duty of the chaplain 
ito have conversation with the prisoner and to become friendly with 

j ' 1865 Prison Act, Section 10. 
» See p. 79. 
• Rnles for Local prisons, 1899, Section 57. 



He is further allowed to give expression to truths which of them- 
selves throw a sharp light upon the ethics of prison conditions. One 
ex-prisoner, for instance, comments: — 

All Christian services and all Christian teaching in prison strike one 
with a sense of futility because the whole atmosphere of the prison life 
is a denial of Christianity. The forgiveness and love of God, etc., are 
meaningless terms to a man viho has never known forgiveness and love 
from men, and is in prison because men refused to give them to him. 

That this sharp contrast between Christian teaching and the treat- 
ment of prisoners is the most serious of all handicaps upon the work 
of chaplains is, in our view, obvious. As Thomas Mott Osborne 
/has — "The religious appeal, to be really .. effective, 
\ must be based upon a treatment of the prisoner somewhat in accord- 
y ance with the precepts of religion. Preaching a religion of brotherly 
love to convicts while you are treating them upon a basis of hatred 
is a discouraging performance."* 

The civil control of the chaplains does not only begin after their 
appointment. The responsibihty for their appointment itself is 
vested in the hands of the Secretary of State ; notice of the appoint- 
ment of a chaplain being afterwards transmitted through the 
Commissioners to the bishop of the diocese in which the prison is 
situate; from the bishop a licence has to be obtained before he can 
officiate. The chaplain's position is in consequence dependent upon 
the goodwill of two authorities, for he may be removed by the 
Commissioners, or the bishop may withdraw his licence at any 

The general supervision of all the chaplains is entrusted to a clergy- 
man, entirely responsible to the Prison Commissioners, who has the 
title of Chaplain Inspector.* This official spends his time in visiting j 
the prisons, and in the pre-war years his annual report used to be < 
printed with that of the Commissioners. He has no doubt also great 
influence in nominating clergymen for the office of chaplain.* 

The arrangements for the chaplaincies are of two kinds.' In some 
— usually the larger prisons — full-time chaplains are employed, who , 
have no paid duties except under the Commissioners. This is the ' 
case in the Convict prisons and in 17 of the Local prisons. In j 
the remainder of the Local prisons the chaplains are parish priests, ' 

* "Within Prison Walls" (1913), r- 324. 

* From 1896 until about 1903 there was a "Visiting Chaplain" with much the aim* ' 
dnties as the present Chaplain Inspector. We believe that the holders of these offices haw ! 
all hitherto been prison chaplains, previous to their appointment. 

* Cp. P.C. Report, 1907-8, p. 38, where the Chaplain Inspector states that he has been ; 
instructed by the Commissioners not to "present for the office ol prison chaplain" anyone ■ 
who has not a special fitness for the post. 

' Chaplains are paid salaries varying from £100 a year (part-time) to £450. The salaries •' 
of whole-time Roman Catholic priests vary from £200 to £400. Part-time Roman CatTiolic | 
priests receive from £10 to £150. Full-time chaplains and priests are granted, in addition. ' 
a house or an allowance in lieu. Nonconformist ministers are paid on a capitation rate of ' 
40s. a head, which diminishes as the numbers grow to one of 5s. per head per annum, y 
(Eeply of Home Secretary to Mr. T. Myers, M.P., October 31st, 1921). jj 


vho combine the two ofi&ces and are allowed to have the assistance 
t)f one or more curates in their prison work.* 

The Chaplains' Duties: the Cell Visits. 
While the activities of the chaplains tend to be restricted by their 
lependence upon official control and by the repressive character of , 
he regime, they are, as a rule, impeded in addition by the very^. 
raried character of the duties laid upon them. .f hese duties (a»--., 
lummarised by the Chaplain Inspector in 1911) include fTie conduct ^ 
)£ chapel services, interviews .with- «ll -^jiisoners on reception and 
lischarge, cell visits, supervision of secular instruction, guidance of \ 
ady visitors, arrangements of lectures, missions, and musical | 
services, Bible and religious classes, and a shai'e in the Prisoners' Aid ' 
Society's work. Beyond this the chaplain has further allotted to him 
Ihe charge of reading prayers daily to any sick who may be in hospital, 
!he admonishing of those under punishment, and the general super- 
asion of library arrangements; while, on the occasion of an 
Execution, he has to attend the condemned man and officiate at the 
■ragic ceremony itself. Last, but not least, he has to satisfy the 
justomary demands of a central authority in the way of completing 
ill! kinds of forms and returns. 

j It is hard, therefore, to put any precise limit to what may be 
Required of the chaplain in the performance of his round of responsi- 
biUties. Indeed, on the second head alone — his obligation to inter- 
new all prisoners on reception and discharge — the work, if properly 
^.arried out, may be considered in many instances a very exacting 
jask. As Dr. Quinton expresses it: — 

[ Only those who are conversant with the ordinary routine of a Local 

prison can appreciate the difficulties under which chaplains deal with 
short-sentence offendei's. In large prisons they arrive in shoals — a recep- 
tion of a hundred a day being nothing unusual — and they go out in shoals 
also, so that the prison becomes a thoroughfare. A very short interview 
with each incomer and outgoer under these circumstances obviously makes 
a large draft on the time available for their work under the routine of 
the establishment.' 

frVhen we read in the Chaplain Inspector's retrospect in 1915 that 
'the system of visiting is vastly improved. Admissions and dis- 
charges are no longer admonished in a body on parade, but interviewed 
Separately," we may well ask whether the chaplains who were 
'equired to carry out this improvement were given the additional 
Assistance necessary. We have no evidence that this was the case. 
i We have taken some trouble, by enquiries from trustworthy ex- 
prisoners as well as from chaplains themselves, to discover the 

I • This plan has certain obvious advantages, which have appealed so strongly to the 
jlcottish Prison Commissioners that in the prisons of that country there are, we nnder- 
tand, now no resident chaplains. All chaplains are ministers with local duties. They 
^re re-appointed each year and allowed to remain in oCBce only for a comparatively short 
enn. They are paid according to the number of hours a week they undertake to spend in 
ihe prison. "Often," we are told, "the particular chaplain cannot afford all the hours 
lie undertakes and has to find a substitute, and that brings in another man, which is 
ton<idered an extra advantage and safeguard." 
' "Modern Prison Curriculum" (1912), p. 139. 


average frequency and duration of the ordinary cell visit as dis- 
tinguished from that made on admission and on discharge. We 
understand that the official requirement, at any rate for Local 
prisons, is that every prisoner should be visited at least once a month. 
And on the whole it appears that a monthly visit lasting for some 
three or four minutes is what the average prisoner may expect as 
his share of the chaplain's time and attention. 

One chaplain, indeed, has told us that \mder the rules for cell 
visits, and dividing the amount of time available for visiting by the 
number of prisoners to visit, he is hmited to an average of four 
minut'es for each man once in two months. Where, as in moat 
cases, the monthly visit is paid, it may be as much as five minutes 
on the average, or, on the other hand, it may be reduced to a few 
seconds. Several prisoners with experience of more than one prison 
have described to us the pastoral visit as consisting of the unlocking 
of the door, of an abrupt question such as "Got your books all 
right?" and an equally abrupt bang of the door." 

On the other hand, there are no doubt exceptional cases of men, 
for whom the compassion or spiritual interest of the chaplain is 
aroused, so that he may feel it essential, even to the neglect of his 
other duties, to give them a full half-hour once a week or even longer. 
One chaplain informs us that he sometimes calls for a couple of 
prisoners, and interviews them in his room for an hour or so, the 
time being credited as equivalent to labour. 

As regards the value of this cell visitation, those who have only 
a flying question put to them, and a banged door, can hardly be 
said to have been visited at all, though, especially during the first 
month of separate confinement accorded to men prisoners, even the 
slight draught and disturbance created by this almost simultaneous ; 
entrance and exit no doubt serve as a welcome break to the prisoner's ; 
monotony. And even where the overworked clergyman manages to j 
find time to visit a prisoner for, say, ten or even twenty minutes j 
during the month, it is not to be expected, except in the rarest of | 
cases, that his influence upon the man's character can be a powerful 
one, or counterbalance in any effective way the repressive influences i 
of the discipline. It is clear that in the great majority of cases itj 
is not the chaplain who is to blame for the briefness and the rarity ! 
of his cell visits. The blame rests primarily upon the authorities; 


1" The following statements of chaplains are taken from the annual reports of the Prison i 
Commissioners: — ' 

All conyicts have been seen on reception and discharge, and the sick and those under | 
punishment have been seen daily. They have been regularly, systematically, and diligentlj 
visited in their cells. In addition to those who have made ap])lication to see me, they 
have been seen once in six weeks by the assistant-chaplain or myself. I do not considei 
that it is possible or necessary that they should be visited more frequently than this 
otherwise visiting would degenerate into an unseemly rush to see how many could b< 
seen in the time, which in a Convict prison is very limited.— (Portland Prison Chaplain 
in 1915-14, p. 125). 

Cellular visitation is carried out at this prison on a system by which every man receiver 
a visit at least once in six weeks. "Star" and second division men are seen once a montr 
— 5om« of them more frequently.— (Pentonville Prison Chaplain, in 1915-14, p. 69). 

TEE CHAPEI SERVICES •^===^^--''^' 189 

jvho have laid the burden of visitation upon one man with far too 
nuch to do." 

: The other instrument of "refonnation" ".available to the chaplain 
" *^e religious service in the chapel. In Local prisons this is held 

. during the week for about twenty minutes every morning 
iccording to the forms of the Church of England ;" in Convict prisons 
here is, as a rule, only one such service, of longer duration, on one 
veek-day.'* On Sundays the re are, in a ll prisons two services of 
ibout an hour~e¥cK.' " Two" sermons must be preached by the chap- 

. his deputy, or a substitute, on Sundays; and at least one 
.__:es3 is given during the week. There is usually a weekly "choir 
aractice" of the hymns. The sernces are as a rule attended not 
|)nly by prisoners registered as Church of England, but by most of 
'he others who are not Eoman Catholics or Jews. If a prisoner 
lesires to attend chapel at all, he is bound to attend always. 

In one or two instances the prison chapels are places of real beauty, 
'»ut generally they are hideously ugly. Frequently ornate decoration 
iias been attempted by amateur hands — perhaps by prisoners — ■ 
vith disastrous results. "I came to the conclusion," says one wit- 
jiess, "that the windows in our chapel were painted by an ex -prisoner 
vho had made the best of his opportunity to have his revenge upon 

ihe authorities!" Another ex-prisoner says, "The chapel at ■ 

jv'as like a cheaply-decorated showman's booth." In many cases 

ihe chapel furniture is similarly crude. "The pulpit at was a 

iarge square clumsily-constructed erection adapted more for an 
motion room than for a place of religious ministration," says another 

I In the conducting of chapel services the scope of the chaplain's 
personality is undoubtedly in some sense greater than during his ■'V- 
mrried cell visits. Here^ if he is a man predisposed to wide ^Y^^'f p /l-tO // 
i)athy and understanding of human nature, it is possible for him to' "■ 
jxpress some at least of the fundamental elements in the realm of 
Spiritual reahty in a less crudely personal and a more leisurely ,t^^ 

letting than any such reference might have or be supposed to have 
n the cell. Our evidence points, however, on the whole, to th«< 
onclusion that the devotional life in chapel sufiers almost as severely 
he personal interviews from the fact that those who conduct the 

;-'The rules further require a daily risit from the chaplain to all prisoners who are 
ither sick. i.e.. in hospital, or under punishment. We hare not space to deal with theso 
equirements. It is, howsTer, pretty clear that the pressure upon his time makes it usually 
tnpossible for the chaplain to gire adequate attention to the?e two classes cl prisoners, 
fhis is particularly unfortunate, as the sick are frequently, like those under punishment, 
1 solitary confinement and they are not entitled to additional visits from friends or 

' yes. 

-^ee Note on page 484 as to the use cf this term. 

In a few Local prisons, where the Roman Catholics hare to use the same chapel as 
Vnglicans, prisoners can only attend service on alternate days. 

l^efore 1914 convicts also had a daily service. "This," the Home Office asserts, "was 

-ed on representations made by chaplains of Convict prison.', supported by the 
ain inspector, that a better spiritual res.ult would be likely to follow from one longer 
e, with an address, on one week-day only, and experience has justified the change. — 

wer given by Mr. Sbortt to Mr. Myers, in the House of Commons, on July 7th, 1921). 


services are recognised as part of the prison regime, and therefore 
"; as incapable of yielding the intended fruits of love, joy, and peace. 
The Commissioners have styled the reclaiming influences of the 
chaplain "the essential complement of the sterner side of prison 
life." To most prisoners unhappily that so-called sterner side has 
neutralised if not poisoned its complement ; even in chapel the stern- 
ness is only too obvious, not only as a mental background, but in 
the obtrusive presence and occasional actions of the warders, who 
are seated amongst the prisoners so as to be able to observe theii 
least movements." 

Constant reference is made to this feature in the mass of evidence 
that we have received from ex-prisoners as regards the character 
of the chapel services. Thus one ex-prisoner (with experience in 
six prisons) writes: — 

So long as the silence regulation is maintained, so long will the warden 
be required to sit on high chairs, so as to overlook the prisoners, and 
command them to "kneel up, there !" when anyone adopts a too 
devotional attitude during prayers, lest he should be bowing his liead 
to talk to his neighbour. 

From one of the northern prisons we get the following: — 

It is a rule that during prayers a prisoner must sit with his back 
absolutely straight. It is an awful sight to see a warder step over from 
one form to another to a boy, who has broken down in tears, and get 
hold of his shirt collar and pull him straight. 

Such incidents make it natural that, to some at least of the prisoners, 
chapel should appear an evil farce, as described in somewhat bitter 
language by another writer: — 

One goes to the service, in a way, as to but one more prison occupation, 
which is presided over by a prison official in the person of the chaplain, 
with the governor as the personification of a system which endeavours 
to crush the personality and the good in a man and salves its conscience 
by two or three weekly services. 

A former inmate of a large women's prison writes to us as follows : — 
Somehow Sunday is the worst day in prison. From the first moment 
when one awakens one feels far more strongly than on week-days th( 
nervous tension of the place. There is no work, and an ominous husl 
seems to hang over the prison. After breakfast, time drags on inter j 
minably till the bell sounds for chapel. . . . What a travesty c); 
religion ! To see these unfortunates under close surveillance of officers 
supposed to be worshipping their Creator, in reality making furtiv( 

15 P.O. Report, 1903-4, p. 31. \ 

>6 There are fortunately indications that the authorities are feeling their way toward 
the remoTal of the warders from chapel. We know of one prison, where lectures are gi^e'i 
to a body of from 50 to 80 juvenile adults, with no one but the lecturer and chaplaii: 
present, yet good order and attention prevails. At one at least of the London prisons 
where debates are now held, no warders are present at those gatherings. Compare al? ■ 
the practice at the preventive detention prison (see p. 449). 

Further, the 1919 Prison Education Scheme contains the instruction (in regard both t j 
Local and to Convict prisons): "Except under unusual circumstances, a discipline office 
need not be detailed to attend school." (S.O. 358). 


i efforts, generally doomed to frustration, to satisfy their natoral cravings 
' for human intercourse. . . . 

But from some ex-prisoners comes evidence that the chapel services 
Id serve a useful purpose, particularly owing to the relief occasioned 
Dy breaking the silence in singing ; and also, though the evidence of 
'his is more rare, in a real religious sense. A witness from five 
jrisons states : — 

' I think that the chief value of the services lies in (1) communal singing, 

and (2) the spaciousness of the hall where the service is held. The sense 
of space was a very real pleasure to me. The religious value of the 
-ervices was nil. 

Chat the singing in chapel is not altogether in accord with its motive 
S borne out by an ex-prisoner, who states that it is not uncommon 
•0 hear around one, mingling with the strains of the hymn or the 
folemn responses of the Litany, and chanted forth under cover of 
jhe appropriate cadences, such unexpected refrains as " 'Eard from 
he o-old woman lately, Bill ?" or " 'Ow are you going on for grub ?" 
pf this we have had other evidence also. 

Our final citation from an ex-prisoner is of a kind that one would 
ike to meet with more often : — 

The Church of England services are one of the three things (the others 
are books and the flower beds) which made imprisonment bearable. Our 
chaplain was capable of making .some of us at least feel the joy of 
Christianity. He always conducted services with a kind, joyous, personal 

The possibilities open to a clergyman of sympathetic imagination, 
jven under the present regime, are thus described by the agent of a 
'risoners' Aid Society with many years' experience: — 

Chaplains have a magnificent opportunity, and many of them don't 
know how to use it. Preaching at these poor people is futile. Prisoners 
are the keenest of critics and they know when there is something human 
in the pulpit. ... I have seen overwhelming evidence that men may 
be influenced by the right type of men in the pulpit ; and I have been 
in prisons where the ministrations of the chaplain were a by-word. . . . 
Generally speaking, however — and I know quite a lot of prison chaplains — 
their work is worse than useless. 

We have questioned a number of warders as to the services, and 
ive found amongst them almost complete agreement that their value 

small, except as "breaks in the monotonous solitude," and in the 
plief afforded by the singing. One warder thinks that if prisoners 
ere offered the choice of attending services or having extra exercise 

e., the monotonous exercise of the circular track), the attendance 
ould fall immensely, w^hile another suggests that chaplains would 
' '^f much greater value, if attendance at the services were made 


Of all people, the Chaplain Inspector has the best opportunit" 
of making a survey of the outward character, at any rate, of th 
services in the 40 to 50 prisons which it has been his duty to visit 
Eeading through the Chaplain Inspector's reports to the Prison Com 
missioners during the ten or fifteen years ending in 1915,*' one ii 
impressed by his extraordinary and apparently undimmed satisfac 
tion with all the arrangements made for the prisoners' religioui 
needs and with the way in which the chaplains are carrying out thai: 
duties. The conduct of the services, the demeanour of the prisoners 
the system of visitation in the cells, the educational and library 
arrangements, the work of the Aid Societies — everything is "entirely' 
or "generally satisfactory." There is practically no criticism; a' 
any rate, none is published. The following are typical allusions t( 
the character of the chapel services : — 

Prisoners are devout in manner, hearty in responses . . . anc 
apparently deeply interested in the religious worship provided for them.'' 

Services are short, simple and devout. . . . Altogether it may b« 
doubted whether the spiritual needs of any section of the community arc 
better cared for than those of the prison population to-day." 

Everywhere I have found the demeanour of prisoners orderly and 
attentive ; and in most prisons there is unmistakeable evidence of interest 
and appreciation.^" 

As far as it is possible to ascertain, whether from printed reports 
• or private enquiries, the satisfaction of the Chaplain Inspector with 
the chapel services is shared by a large proportion of the officiali 
/;haplains.'' Many of them, for instance, appear to be ignorant oi 
the bad effect produced on the prisoners by the assertive presence 
of warders. 

To sum up, whatever moral or religious value the Church liturgj 
and the pulpit address may have to the jree man and woman, ii 
seems to us certain that their value in prison is bound to b(L 
diminished^ first, by the compulsion and the discipline which accora 
pany them, and secondly, when they form absolutely the onb( 
authorised breaks upon the silence and solitude of the week, an(: 
are consequently appreciated, in the first instance at any rate, simpl;; 

' ' None has been published since. 

J8 P.O. Report, 1906-7. 

10 P.O. Report, 1908-9. 

=0 P.O. Report, 1911-12, p. 44. The Official Prisoners' Education Committee of 189 
(p. 12), when remarking on the universally attested good behaviour oJ prisoners in chape 
expressed the view that "though the pleasure which they find in the services may ni 
always be strictly devotional, the mere habit of reverence, inculcated by constant attendanc 
cannot but be a distinct gain." We wonder ourselves whether compulsory religion of th 
kind is not more calculated to produce the hypocrite or the scoffer. j,-| 

2' It is among the chaplains of Convict prisons that we delect most signs of niisgivin!'; 
as regards the services. The chaplain at Parkhnrst prison, for instance, has stated j1 
one of his reports that "ordinary sermons are useless in an establishment of this kintj 
The 'atmosphere' is unusual and unless it be carefully analysed it is useless to hope I* 
successfully dissipate its most dangerous constituents."— (P.O. Report, 1912-13, Part Iu| 
p. 125). 


5r that reason and for the opportunity of some degree of unauthorised 
ammunication with other prisoners." 

Of one existing defect, at any rate, we are glad, to say very many 
f the prison chaplains are conscious, and that is of the deplorable 
lonotony that now characterises the prison Sunday as a whole (as 
'ell as Saturday afternoon), making it "the worst day in the week. " 
'hey would be glad of means to alleviate this evil and would doubt- 
'ss endorse, to judge from our evidence, in whole or in part, the 
allowing statement made to us by the same Aid Society agent whom 
e have already quoted in this chapter: — 

The week-end is one of the most depressing and irritating parts of the 

sentence. Except for attendance at chapel on Sunday for a short time, 

prisoners are quite alone, often with books they have read and re-read, 

i or books they do not like, or books that are quite unsuitable but were 

I the most easily available to the library officer. Only a comparatively few 

^ are visited by the chaplain during that period, and many of them would 

much prefer to work hard rather than be subjected to these long hours 

' of stifling loneliness. This enforced solitary period is the parent of 

I floured temperaments and explosive moods. They get things in the 

i wrong perspective and there is no one to put them right. Often men 

become slaves to their passions, stirred by unclean thoughts. Under an 

enlightened regime, week-ends might be made to contribute in a most 

valuable way to the recovery of the prisoners. 

The Handicaps of the Chaplain. 
It is not our intention to discuss here the chaplain's work in 
pnnection with the after care of his prisoners; he is always 
losely connected with the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society, and 
!d doubt in many cases puts in much exacting and devoted service 
;)th in collecting funds for the Society and attempting to restart 
jc-prisoners in useful occupations." But one unfortunate aspect of 
48 connection and of the chaplain's power generally of dispensing 
iivileges must be mentioned, as we have had much evidence of it. 

I An ex-convict, who has made good after serving three sentences 
f penal servitude, gives evidence to us as follows: — 

j Another vice which terms of imprisonment force upon most of the 

men is that of hypocrisy. Prison religion, for instance, is chiefly 

I hypocrisy in order to curry favour with the chaplain and get privileges 

j from him. The men who take the sacrament in chapel are often the 

meanest bea.sts in prison.-* 

p We may note here that, allowing for these considerations, some ol the most welcome 
!d eHectire addresses heard in the prison chapel are given by preachers coming in from 

In most years, bishops are reported as having preached in prison. (In 1910-11 we are 
lormed by the chaplain inspector that a^ many as "21 of our bishops" did so). At the 
jne time it is regrettable that these visitors have not taken more trouble to ascertain 
d make public the crying evils ol the system. 
■ - pp. 469-70. 

■ transcribe this last sentence with some hesitation; it is confirmed by at least 

her ex-convict and to some extent at least by the chaplain of Dartmoor prison in 

who stated that "in spite of the fact that numerous prisoners are apparently 

■1 us to take the Sacrament, I can detect scarcely any signs of spiritual life." — P.O. 

. rt, 1900, Part II., p. 551 



Another convict wrote from prison to his sister (in the year 1901 

unless a man leads a Christian life while in prison and repents, tak 
the Communion, and attends Bible Class, and the chaplain thinks he 
a reformed man, the chaplain might not recommend him to the (Aii 
Society. Of course, a lot of prisoners are really sincere, but some cs 
act anything from Hamlet to the second gravedigger to gain their ov 

Other ex-prisoners have made similar statements to us. Warder 
evidence is to the same effect. "The chaplain is just a blind," or 
warder says, "an excuse to get a few shillings, a particular bool 
and BO on." A Salvation Army officer, who has visited prison f( 
20 years, has given us his view that "the official chaplain is coi 
sidered by the men not as a spiritual adviser, but merely as a He! 
Agency. His connection with the prisoners is a materialistic oi 
almost entirely." Finally, a magistrate of long experience of e: 
prisoners asserts that "a man finds out that, if he keeps good frienc 
with the chaplain and Aid Society agent and appears very humb 
and penitent, he gets far better treatment." 

We have no wish to insist that this aspect of the matter is the on! 
one; but we are afraid that statements of this kind somewhat di 
credit the reference in the official reports to frequent cases 
"reformation."" Our present prisons are more calculated to pr 
duce hypocrisy than penitence, and chaplains, we fear, are oft( 
deceived." j 

Enough has perhaps been said in the earlier portion of this chapt 
to show what scant opportunities for really fruitful work are afford i 
by the interviews with the prisoner on coming in and going o\, 
together with the intervening cell visitation (if any). We m' 
attribute this in part to the exterior limitations imposed, and part' 
also to the psychological difficulties inherent in the situation, whii 
vary no doubt from cell to cell. And yet upon the chaplain devohs 
the most subtle and important of tasks. One political prisoij: 
(confined successively in four prisons) has put the need in the foUoj- 
ing simple way: — 

The Church of England chaplains (so far as my experience goes) |e 
very obliging and take a certain amount of interest in the prisonij' 
reading, but as to speaking for the interests of our Lord Jesus, I hie 
had no such communion with them, eager and willing though I wafk) 
have it. j 

Another ex-prisoner writes from a somewhat different staji- 
point : — ! 

Failing the presence of a psychological expert, one's chaplain ia M 
only person in prison whose duty it is to find out anything about oi'l 

as See p. 79. i 

** This question is further discussed in Part II. See especially Note on p. 484 M 
Note, pp. 498-500. 


state of mind. He should, therefore, be given much greater powers 
not only in supplying books, etc., but of advising concerning a man's 
work and everything else likely to affect his mental condition. 

This plea for a greater freedom in the performance of their service 
to the prisoner does not emanate from one class of witnesses alone. 
We have reason to believe that it is a need felt, if not expressed, by 
a number of the chaplains themselves. Some of the best of these 
have informed us how their efforts to improve the conditions of the 
prisoners on more humane and educational lines have been hampered 
by one or another of the higher authorities. It is somewhat 
surprising, indeed, that in scarcely any instance has a chaplain 
resigned his office expressly for the purpose of disclosing the baneful 
effects of the prison regime. On the other hand, the lack of inde- 
pendence and the hindrances imposed upon the work of befriending 
the prisoner are doubtless chiefly responsible for the generally 
admitted failure to attract the finest type of Anglican clergyman into 
the prison service.^' 

: Here and there, indeed, we have evidence of noble clergy who are 
wrestling with an almost impossible situation and doing their 
Master's work in shepherding their unhappy charges. But we could 
multiply indefinitely quotations from our evidence indicating that 
the majority of prison chaplains have not hitherto been of sufficient 
calibre to accomplish this heroic task. As one warder of long 
service has stated to us: — 

Chaplains nearly always end by surrendering to the inevitable. They 
find it very difficult to stand up against the requirements of officialdom, 
the obstacles placed in their way, the regime itself. There are formid- 
able limitations to their work, and those chaplains who came with ideas 
and an honest desire to do good slowly but surely assume the role cf 

: Our conclusions are that under the present system chaplains are 
!far too much under the control of the Commissioners, far too deeply 
involved in officialism ; that they have as a rule, a great deal too 
many duties to perform, too many prisoners to visit, too many forms 
to fill in, too much routine and secular work; and lastly, that their 
Christian work is hampered almost fatally by the repressive and 
thoroughly unchristian character of the system, in which they, like 
the prisoners and warders, are involved. Until these defects begin 
jto be removed, as we hope will be the case in the near future, the 

I •* One chaplain ascribes this failure chiefly to the facts that they are not appointed 
jtM mre in practice the Roman Catholic chaplains) by the bishop, and that they have too 
many secular duties in prison. Another chaplain states that large numbers ol the existing 
-haplains are wholly unsuitable, because "good men — except in rare instances — cannot bo 
obtained at Home OflSce pay." 

I " We add jnst two more representative quotations. This from an ex-prisoner who has 
known three different prisons :— "Prison chaplains have a tremendous opportunity. A good 
nan is very much appreciated by the prisoners; but unfortunately the average chaplain 
IS regarded as a joke, as one of the prison staff (and therefore a natural enemy) who is 
:lever enough (so they think) to stick to a 'soft job' by talking hypocrisy." And a warder 
of 28 years' service asserts: "The chaplain is now just a part of the establishment. The 
Old lags' know his weak points; the new prisoners are too reticent to an official. Chaplains 
should come in from outside, not as officials." 


authorities cannot expect to secure for the outcasts of society th 
spiritual friends and brothers whom many of them sorely need." 

EoMAN Catholic Priests. 

The Charter of religious liberty for the English prisoner runs h 
follows : — 

If any prisoner who is of a religious persuasion different from tha 
of the Established Church specially so requests, the governor shal 
permit a minister of that persuasion to visit him at proper and reason 
able times, under regulations approved by the Commissioners. Th 
governor shall cause such prisoners to be made acquainted with thi 
privilege on their admission.^" 

The large majority of those prisoners who avail themselves of thi 
liberty of choice (and choice is the rarest thing possible in prison 
are Eoman Catholics. In 1906 (it is unlikely that the proportion 
have altered much since) out of every twenty prisoners, approxi 
mately fifteen were registered as Church of England, four vver 
Roman Catholic and one only belonged to some other denomina 

The Eoman Catholic Church possesses an exceptionally favourei 
status in our prisons. Its chaplains are not appointed by th 
Commissioners, but by the bishop of the diocese, whose nominatio 
is approved by the Commissioners. Except in a few of the larges 
prisons they are not full-time officials, but visiting or parish priest? 
with other outside duties." For this reason Eoman Catholic chap 
lains enjoy an independence unknown to their Anglican coUeaguej 
at the prison ; their time (except perhaps in the case of the few fulj 
time chaplains) is not filled up with routine work; nor are thej 
regarded as officials in the same way as are the Anglican chaplain? 

2' We add a brief mention of one or two other matters affecting this chapter, whii 
cannot be more fully treated: — 

(i) In the la^t few years the Commissioners have experimentally allowed evangelis 
belonging to the Church Army to take the place of assistant chaplains in certs 
prisons. It seems possible that this may be an important development, leading i 
some cases to the substitution of these preachers for the usual type of chaplain. | 

(ii) Religious "Missions" are occasionally held by the Church Army and other bodi<; 

They may extend over four week-days, with daily services, the attendance at whij 

is strictly voluntary. I 

(iii) Bible classes are occasionally held by the chaplain for those desirous of attendir 

and confirmation classes for any prisoner who is to be confirmed by the bishop. ' 

The portions of the chaplain's department which fall under the heads of Library a 
Education have been considered in a previous chapter. 

»» Local prison rules (1899), Section 59. Cp. also Section 47 (4). 

31 Acrordin? to the Parliamentary Return made in March, 1906, out of 21.580 inmat 
of the 61 Local and Convict prisons then open in England and Wales, as many as 16,01 
were returned as "Church of England," 4,397 were Roman Catholics, leaving only 1,0': 
who professed other kinds of religion or none at all. (Of the?.e 1,094, 257 were Je'l 
while 22 returned themselves as Atheists and 26 as "No religion.") J 

The great preponderance of "Church of England" prisoners is largely due to tl| 
denomination being established as a national institution. Only a very few of such prisoni 
are members o? the Church of England, in the sense of being communicants or ev; 
attenders in ordinary life. | 

'2 The Local and Convict prisons all have part-time Roman Catholic Chaplains, exc<| 
those at Wormwood Scrubbs, Liverpool, Manchester and Dartmoor. 


A priest, who was Roman Catholic chaplain for six years at a 
Midland prison — a man whose sympathies were strongly on the side 
of the prisoners — has informed us that he was not interfered with 
in his ministrations either by the Commissioners or the governor. 
He held services on weekdays and Sundays, and had access to his 
prisoners at all times, with keys to their cells. None of the other 
Roman Catholic chaplains, whom we have consulted, have com- 
plained of their ministrations being seriously hampered by the 
Commissioners' regulations. 

From the abo^ e considerations and other evidence, we conclude 
that Roman Catholic prisoners are likely to get friendship and 
spiritual comfort to an extent which is unknown to most other 
prisoners. But for them also the punitive regime remains, cover- 
ing the greater part of their prison life ; and some at least of their 
chaplains are not sufficiently enlightened, as their evidence to us 
.testifies, to have any insight into the injurious and unnecessary 
jcharacter of that regime. 

Visiting Ministers. 
Turning to the visiting ministers of the various Free Church 
denominations (of which the Wesleyan Methodists are the most 
important for prison purposes), we find that though they are usually 
as free as the Roman Catholic priests from the stigma of officialism, 
yet they may be seriously hampered in their spiritual work by want 
of sufficient access to the prisoners, and of opportunities for holding 
united worship." 

! We have received complaints both from Nonconformist prisoners 
and from visiting ministers, that "there is nothing like religious 
equality in prison." In the first place, though a service or fellow- 
;ship meeting is permitted where the number of prisoners attending 
is in excess of eight or ten, it may not in any case be held on Sunday, 
jnor as a rule moie often than once a fortnight. Contrast this with 
'the daily and Sunday services of the Anglicans ! Secondly, it is, 
|we believe, exceptional for a visiting Nonconformist minister (other 
'than a Wesley an) to be allowed a key, so that he may have free and 
private access to the cells; nor, indeed, is he, as a rule, allowed to 
pay his cell visits on more than one short afternoon each week. 
These restrictions detract very largely from the good that an earnest 
minister could otherwise do. Not only is the time for prayer and 
conversation cut short, but the absence of a key means or may mean 
that the invaluable blessing of a sense of privacy is lost, owing to the 
presence, real or suspected, of the escorting warder outside the open 
jcell door." 

" We hare no intention of making any comparison here between the respectire virtOM 
oJ Anglican and Nonconformist (or Roman Catholic) chaplains. When General Booth 
asked for the prisons to be handed over to the Salvation Army's spiritual care, many "Army" 
iofficers with a knowledge of prisons thanked God that the request was not granted, leat 
[they should themselres become prison officials, with all the drawbacks incidental thereto. 

'* Owing to the small number of Nonconformists, such prisoners usually hare the advantage 
joJ more frequent visits than "Church of England" men. A Wesleyan minister writes to 
.n«: "Probably every Wesleyan prisoner is seen once a fortnight, perhaps for ten minute*. 
Uttle enough. Every day would not be too much." 


Prison ministers receive from the Government a small capitatior 
grant (starting at about £2 per prisoner per annum for the first fiv< 
prisoners). They are under similar restrictions to the chaplains, 
as regards the prohibition of communications with the friends of a 
prisoner, or to the press or public. 

In the case of the smaller denominations, it is difficult for a 
prisoner, unless he has active friends outside, to secure the greai 
privilege of a minister of his own persuasion. He is apt, for the 
convenience of the prison authorities, to be pressed into accepting 
the ministrations of the Established Church, or of the Wesleyaii 
minister." Until recently it was impossible for a man professing 
an "ethical" or "agnostic" philosophy to have any visitor at all; 
but now, it is stated by the authorities, "a prisoner who declares 
himself to be of no religious persuasion may be visited, for the 
purposes of moral assistance or guidance, by some person of repute 
approved by the Prison Commissioners for the purpose."" W( 
know of political offenders who have been able, with some difficulty 
to obtain this privilege ; but we have no information as to how far ill 
has been obtainable by other prisoners." ' 

Other Visitors to Prisoners. i 

The Departmental Committee of 1894-5, when discussing th<| 
difficulties inherent in any effort to bring "reformatory influences "j 
to bear upon prisoners, came to the following conclusions: — \ 

Without an excessive and impossible increase in the number of highej 
prison officials adequate individual attention to prisoners could not bl 
given. But the warders could be trained to do some of this work, ami 
under proper rules and regulations outside helpers could be brought iij 
to supplement the work of the prison staff. Ordinary amateurs, as 
rule, would be worse than useless. There are, however, many men am 
women in every centre of population, who^ by training and temperament 
are amply competent to render valuable assistance.^* 

*'■ We understand that any Nonconformist may attend the Wesleyan serrices, but thti 
many do not know of this privilege. ; 

'6 Answer giyen by Sir J. Baird to Mr. Myers in the House of Commons, on July 7tl 

"The following details may also be of interest: — 

(i) The work of the Salvation Army in the prisons (i.e., not including "After-Care'l 
extends, we understand, to (a) pastoral visits to prisoners who either belong to tlj 
"Army" or make a special request to the governor to see a Salvationist, (b) intervievj 
with prisoners who desire assistance from the "Army" alter discharge, and (c) tlj 
holding (very occasionally) of musical or mission services. i 

(ii) Jewish prisoners are exempted from labour on Sabbaths and the five principj 
festivals. A Jewish visiting minister informs us that he has come across quite I 
number of Jews who gave their religion as Church of England so as to avoid haviti 
solitary confinement on Saturday as well as on Sunday. I 

(iii) During the recent war there were for the first time sufficient "Quaker" prisoners ■; 
allow of religious meetings being held on the basis of free silence as practised li 
the Socicly of Tnends. At the;-e meetintis the prisonprs (or some of therl 
usually took more part in extempore prayer and preaching than the visiting ministi 
himself. It is conceivable that the orderly character and good results of this innovatuj 
had some influence with the authorities in opening the way for the recent introduotit 
of free debates in certain prisons. j 

»8 Report of 1895 Committee, p. 9. 


This cautious recommendation can only be said to have been carried 
out in regard to the female section of the prison population, and 
there only to a very limited extent. 

The Lady Visitors. 

In women's prisons access is allowed to a certain number of Lady 
Visitors, who visit the prison regularly. Each woman, if she so 
desires, is allotted to a visitor, who is supposed to give personal help 
and advice. All Lady Visitors are appointed by the Prison Com- 
missioners, with the concurrence of the Visiting Committee, and of 
the governor and chaplain of the prison. They are required "to 
work under the guidance of the chaplain, co-operating with him, and 
seeing such prisoners as may be arranged for in their cells or in a 
room."" They thus have a very definite official status; and the 
limitation of their numbers is rigidly secured to the central authority. 
I During the year 1913-14, we are informed, "over 200 ladies of 
various denominations, received the sanction of the Commissioners 
to visit in female prisons ; 2,893 visits were made, and 28,076 
separate interviews with the women held during the year. ' ' " These 
figures are not, however, so imposing as they might at first sight 
appear. They indicate that each Lady visited on the average about 
once a month, and had about ten short interviews during each visit. 
As there were 39 female prisons, each prison on the average 
had about five or six Lady Visitors. Further, 37,523 women were 
received in Local prisons during the year. How many of these, we 
may ask, got more than one of the 28,076 separate interviews with 
\z visitor during her sentence? Clearly the visitation of women 
prisoners is not overdone.^* 

' Apart from the rarity of the visits in many cases, it is obvious 
that the value o.^ the arrangements depends, not quite, but almost 
entirely, on the personality of the Visitor herself, and on her willing- 
ness to give good work rather than good words. The Visitor is 
inevitably something of an official. She is handicapped (far more, 
usually than she knows) by the fact that no prisoner is able to be her 
' normal self, and under the existing system it is almost impossible for 
the right human relationships to exist. But the mere fact of discuss- 
ing troubles wdth a friendly person from outside is often a relief to 
the prisoner and a certain amount of good work is certainly 

On the practical side of obtaining employment on discharge much 
help is given bv Lady Visitors. In Holloway, besides the four 
i Visitors for the whole prison, one Visitor is specially appointed for 
'the girls under the "modified Borstal" treatment, and she devotes 
much time to them. There is also a Lady Missioner. The Lady 

i »»8.0. 155 (1911). 

! "P.O. Report, 1915-14, p. 40. 

. ^'PreTious to 1895 the Commissioners were much less in favonr of Lady Visitors. In 

1894, ont of 54 prisons receiving women, 25 prisons had no visitors. Sir E. Da Cano 

suggested in his book that the visits of Elizabeth Fry and her friends ceased to be useful 

80 soon as the regular authorities in the prison had been stimulated to do their duty." 

— ( The Punishment of Crime," p. 48). 


Visitors in iSolloway have been instrumental in obtaining some 
recent reforms." 

Visitation of Male Prisoneks. 
In the male prisons there is, as a rule, nobody corresponding to 
the Lady Visitor, whose existence is probably chiefly due to the fact; 
that the chaplain is of the opposite sex to the inmates of female; 
prisons." It is true that one or two exceptional individuals, oi 
commanding personality and influence for good, (such as the late' 
Thomas Holmes, Secretary of the Howard Association) have beeui 
sufficiently trusted by the Commissioners to be allowed a free hand: 
in visiting prisoners. But in the ordinary way, the male prisonei: 
(whether a convict or a "local") receives no visits except (a) the 
rare periodic visit from relative or friend, (b) the visit from thc: 
chaplain or prison minister, and possibly (c) a visit from the agent, 
of the local Prisoners' Aid Society, or from a representative of thi 
Salvation Army, with a view to assisting him to find employment 
on his discharge. 

The value of the last class of visits is no doubt considerable fron:. 
the point of view of After Care;** but it can hardly be expected t(i 
have any lasting influence upon the character of the prisoner, if onlji 
because each prisoner receives as a rule no more than a single visit 
to discuss his future occupation, towards the close of his sentence! 
But there are exceptions to this generalisation, as in the case of th<i 
Aid Society agent who informs us: — 

I quickly discovered that I could not do my work well unless I ha<| 

access to prisoners long before their discharge, without an officer beinji 

present, and I so far carried my point that cell and pass-keys were give)} 

to me, so that I could visit prisoners at any time. 

Such a practice has hitherto been of rare occurrence. It is, how| 

ever, encouraging to note that the Chaplain Inspector is approvingl; 

quoted by the Prison Commissioners in their 1920 Eeport, as being \ 

strongly of opinion that an (Aid Society) agent ought to visit the prise 

daily to see not only prisoners due for discharge, but also th 

receptions, in order that he may begin his contact with probable client, 

right from the beginning of the sentence, and in the case of the u'r 

convicted, even before that time. By this means the agent could b 

in close touch with the prisoner, and in the case of one remanded fj 

committed for trial, he might be of great use to him in Court.^' j 

This excellent official suggestion, if it could be extended (as seem! 
to be contemplated) beyond the Society agents, may open the dec 
to the establishment in our prisons of lay visitors, who would ac 
as "prisoners' friends," and perform many beneficent services, sucl; 
as the chaplain, under present conditions, is unable to supplyj 
Many of our witnesses, ex-prisoners and others, have emphasise«i 

*^ See also the account of the educational work now being attempted in one prisoi, 
pp. 166-67. 

*' Tt may be noted that in the case of at least one reliKiouB body (the Society of Frienc 
or Quakers) a woman has been accepted by the Commissioners as » visiting minister (; 
prisoners of her own sex and denomination. 

** See Chapter 28 of this Part. 

«4 P.C. Report, 1919-20. pp. 28-29. Op. pp. 469 and 470. 


bhe need of such persons. Most of the agents of the Aid Societies, 
whom we have approached, are in favour of "much more approved 
dsitation," provided sufficient care is exercised in the selection of 
dsitors; and some of the chaplains concur in this, though there are 
other chaplains, who want the work left to themselves, and (in the 
words of one of them) object to "letting well-meaning amateurs from 
outside dabble." One high prison official is in favour of the men 
prisoners being visited by a Lady Visitor. "With the right woman, " 
he says, "it would be a tremendous help. The influence of a 
woman is refining, and in the case of married prisoners and boys 
her work might be of immense value."** At least one governor is 
quoted in the Commissioners' annual volumes as recommending the 
visitation of men prisoners on similar lines to that authorised in the 
case of the women.*' 

The great lack of unofficial prison visitors is doubtless largely due 
to dislike by the Central Authority of any interference in its own 
absolute control over the prison regime and to its dread of any 
ireform which would throw the prisons and their repressive arrange- 
ments open to the inspection of the inconvenient philanthropist ;*' it 
has also been felt that the punitive element of the treatment might 
be seriously impaired if a prisoner had frequent visits from 
sympathetic outsiders.** 

But the largest share of the blame for the desolate and friendless 
position of most prisoners must, we think, be laid at the doors of 
:;he intelligent public, and of the Christian Churches in particular, 
who have shown no insistent desire to befriend the prisoners and 
captives, for whom they sometimes offer up prayer. One of the very 
"ew volunteers, who has been allowed to visit prisoners before their 
;lischarge as the "honorary agent" of an Aid Society, writes to us 
« follows: — 

The first thing that struck me when applying for permission to visit 
prisons and prisoners, was the surprise that such an application 
evidently caused ; and when after much correspondence I was at last 
pat into touch with the Aid Society and eventually interviewed, I was 
made to feel how extremely rare such an application was, and how 
remarkably "good" it was of m^ to think of visiting prisoners for no 
apparent reason. And yet, one would imagine that anyone who had 
come into contact with any sort of Christianity, or who had merely read 
the New Testament would have taken some note of the words "I was 
^^■kk and in prison, and ye visited Me not." 

^J^^^ haTe been informed that in one prison Sisters oJ Mercy were for a long whils 
Tlowed to Tisit the juveniles and jnTenile adult prisoners on Saturdays in order to gire 
|iem religions instruction (in groups). 

i"e.g.. P.G. Report. 1900, p. 204. But the 3 894-5 Departmental Committee found that 
je general opinion of prison ofiBcials "appeared adverse to Lady Visitors, unless specially 
nalifled and selected with great care." (Report: p. 14.) 

*' Contrast the wise attitude taken up in the Report of the Indian Jails Committee, 
j>19-20 (Vol. 1, p. 259), where the practice of encouraging non-official visitors to Indian 
|i!ons is commended. 

'• "If the door were opened too wide, and visits (i.e.. to prisoners by Aid Society agents) 
■lowed indiscriminately, one of the principal ends of the punishment would be defeated." 
•per on "Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies." by Sir E. Ruggles-Brise, in Report of the 
■national Prison Congresses, 1895 and 1900, p. 128. 




Church of England Chaplains. 

1. — The contrast between prison treatment and the ethics of Christianity 
seriously and constantly handicaps the chaplain in his religious work. 

2. — The chaplain is appointed by the Home Secretary and is under the 
control of the Prison Commissioners. His official position and the numerous 
and varied duties he has to perform in connection with the administration 
of the prison detract from his influence and encourage hypocrisy in th« 
prisoner. ^M 

3. — The conditions of service do not usually attract the best type ol 

4. — The chaplain is overburdened with work. He has little time for tht 
proper visitation of prisoners. A visit of about five minutes once a montl 
is almost useless. 

5. — In addition to the incongruity of officially holding Christian service 
as a part of the prison routine, their value is impaired by the obtrusion o: 
the disciplinary element, particularly the prominent posts of observatioij 
occupied by the warders. 

6. — Sunday, owing to the excessive confinement, is to many prisoners th 
■worst day in the week. 

Visiting Ministers. 
7. — Owing to the favoured position of the Established Church, there 
no true religious equality in prison. 

8. — There is no Nonconformist service on Sundays, and rarely is one he); 
more than once a fortnight. j 

9. — Nonconformist ministers (other than Wesleyans) are rarely allows 
to have cell keys and all their cell visitation is generally restricted to oi; 
afternoon a week at the most. 

Other Visitors. 

10. — It is quite exceptional for an adult male prisoner to have the bene; 
of a visit from anyone except the official chaplain or visiting minister ; apaj 
from a single interview with an After-care agent. 


Appendix to Chapter Eleven. 


[The following is a copy of the replies sent (among a number of others 
from chaplains) to the secretaries of the Enquiry in response to a list of 
questions, by a priest who had been for some years chaplain at one of the 
smaller prisons. The italics represent the words underlined by the writer. 

It will be observed that this chaplain is in favour of more educational 
facilities, but is otherwise, apparently, quite satisfied with the existing 
regime. We give the statement without comment, as an illustration of the 
views of a certain type of official, who is not uncommonly to be found in 
the prison service, and much more among the superior officers, we think, 
than among the warders. The answers sufficiently indicate the questions put, 
but the full questionnaire will be found on pp. 601-3.] 

I consider that laws are made for the protection of the individuals of 
society. Laws thus made are then, in the first place, deterrent, and in the 
ttcond place, reformative. 

Under English justice everyone is innocent till proved guilty, and only 
then when proved guilty do the prison regulations affect the individual, and 
ihesf regulations necessarily then should be primarily deterrent and 
I secondarily reformative. 

1. I would not prefer local administration. 

2. The authorities have a clear idea of the deterrent and reformative 
elements in the present discipline. 

Yes. I consider it is reformative to some extent. But if not, then it is 
due., not to wrong personnel nor to bad regulations, but to the fault of the 
.individual offender against the law. 

3. I am not prepared to advocate free association among prisoners. 

] The present degree of association is of real value to subjects amenable to 

; The rule of silence, as now practised, is beneficial to subjects amenable to 
reformation — to others it is necessary punishment. 

I do not think it is good to give opportunity for the exercise of Christian 
and social virtues one towards another. 

Men are not injured morally by loss of self-respect involved, e.g., in being 
called by number ; in the convict dress, etc. Their self-respect is lost when 
they transgress the laws, and the sinking of personality, etc., would be a 
help to subjects willing to reform. 

4. I think the first month of solitary confinement is of value both in a 
deterrent and reformative direction. 

i To those amenable to reform the opportunity for reflection promotes peni- 
tence and desire for a better life — to others it most likely acts as a deterrent, 
and may possibly break the spirit of the prisoner, thus making him more 
amenable to prison discipline. 

I 5. I think it wise to encourage reform as in present Borstal and Preventive 
I Detention experiments. 

j I do not think we want a complete recasting of the present regime, and I 
ido not think it wise to give liberty to religious or other bodies to experiment. 


6. Prison regime is not responsible for the great number of recidivists, 
but more likely surroundings outside the prison. 

7. I do not remember any cases of a trade learnt in prison being such 
as to enable one to earn his living outside. 

8. I do not agree that greatest need is further classification and more 
individualised treatment. 

9. I do not think that many are now left in prison who ought to be treated 
in an institution for mentally defective. 

10. "Modified Borstal" system of treating juvenile adults is successful in 
giving a chance of starting afresh. 

11. I do not think that opportunities of communication between the 
prisoner and his family should be increased. 

12 I have found sincere repentance for past faults almost general among 
first offenders, but rarely among previously convicted prisoners. 

13. I have not come across cases who have received serious damage (a) to 
their physical health, or (b) to their mentality, owing to the condition of 
their imprisonment. 

14 The effect of confinement on a prisoner's mind is not necessarily bad, 
nor does it concentrate thoughts on crime, except in cases difficult of reforma- 
tion ; nor does it concentrate his mind on sexual things, except in cases so J 

15. I quite agree that most prisoners find Saturday afternoons aad 
Sundays exceedingly monotonous. 

Sundays might be much more effectively utilised for true educational and 
reformative purposes. 

Chaplains might classify prisoners into different groups, according to| 
educational facilities or the capacities of the prisoners ; and their education! 
or reformation might be attempted by the chaplain with the co-operation 
of warders and the help of efficient outside visitors, as suggested undeij 

answer to Question 21. i 


16. I have observed the effect of restraint and isolation on their menta! 
life ; in cases of subjects amenable to reformation it is generally good. Ir; 
refractory cases this restraint, etc., is only a deterrent. But no markec 
psychological change is noticeable in prisoners. 

17 Literature plays its part only according to the former inclinationr 
of prisoners. According to their former inclinations it is one of the chielj 
factors of mental health. Many but not most prisoners appreciate books. 

18. Greater facilities could be given for education, as suggested in answer 
to Questions 15 and 21. 

19 More facilities should not be given for creative activity, nor greate, 
provision for writing facilities. ' 

20 My religious ministrations have never been hampered by unreasonabi 
rules and restrictions. 

I would net like the discipline by warders to be less prominent durin 


21. It is not a good thing to leave the personal reformative side of the 
treatment to the chaplain only. The co-operation of warders and of efficient 

"outside visitors is desirable, as referred to in answers to Questions 15 and 18. 
Governors co-operate willingly and effectively in this work by personal con- 
tact and knowledge of prisoners. 

22. I do 710^ think the ground of many prison practices and restrictions 
iB the wish to save time and trouble and to keep down the numbers of the 

23. I consider the practice of putting men in "observation cells" a good 
one, and do not know of any bad results from this practice. 

24. Arrangements for "after-care" of prisoners are good and adequate. 

In my experience, societies are able to find work for all ex-prisoners who 
are willing to accept their help. 

This letter is in reply to the list of "Questions for con*ideration" which 
you forwarded, and is answered in rotation. 



The Infrequency of Letters 

A prisoner in the third division is not permitted to write a letter 
for eight weeks after the commencement of his sentence/ and to 
secure even this "privilege" he must earn full marks at his work 
and have a clean record so far as punishments are concerned. 
Following that he may receive a letter after six weeks, and after- 
wards every four weeks throughout his sentence.' Visits are 
allowed at similar intervals; if a prisoner does not have a visit, he 
may write and receive an additional letter, instead.' 

Many ex-prisoners describe the long intervals between letters, and 
particularly the initial eight weeks' wait, as the most cruel feature 
of imprisonment. "I entered prison recently -married," says one 
prisoner, who served a life-sentence. "Three years after, I heard 
that my wife was going wrong. I wrote, but was obliged to wait 
three months — as was the rule when I began my sentence — before 1 
could write again. The time was one of great anxiety. She 
eventually threw me over for another man, but I believe if I had 
been allowed more contact with her, I might have had her yet." 

"The long silence and the absence of news from home — especially 
to the man whose home is poor and whose wife is struggling," says 
a warder, "often depresses a prisoner almost to madness." "The 
mental agony of those who think anything about home would b6 
very largely reduced," says the agent of a Discharged Prisoners' 
Aid Society, "if letters were allowed once a fortnight." 

In the report of his visit to America in 1910 in connection with , 
the eighth International Penitentiary Congress, the Chairman of the i 

1 Prisoners are permitted to send a formal notification ol their imprisonment to one j 
friend "if the goTemor is satisfied that the prisoner's friends are not aware that he i» 
under sentence, or in what prison be is confined, and that it is desirable that the; should | 
be informed." j 

* Prisoners committed on default of payment of a fine, or for debt, may send a letter 
with the object of procuring release at any reasonable time. All prisoners may be per- 
mitted a special letter on the occasion of the death of a relatire, or on urgent business 
matters, or with the object of securing employment on release, but most governors are ' 
strict in the interpretation which they place on these words and allow special letters 
very rarely. The governor may at any time communicate to a prisoner "any matter of 
importance." j 

' For rules allowing more frequent letters and visits in the case of certain other classes of j 
pri-joners, see pp. 218, 221, 224, 227, 299-300, and 307-9. The even less frequent letters 
and visits allowed to convicts are referred to in pp. 325-6 and 334. 


Prison Commissioners for Scotland records that in American 
prisons "much more frequent letters from relatives are allowed 
than with us." One American governor, he adds, said he thought 
the British system "absolutely cruel."* Our ex-prisoner witnesses 
are, needless to say, unanimously of the same opinion, and a large 
majority of the official witnesses take the same view. 

"Much more frequent letters should be permitted," says the 

priest at one prison. "Family affection is, as a rule, the one link 

one has to work on, and if more communication could be kept up 

with home the men would have some hope." "Frequent letters, ' 

says a Nonconformist visiting minister, "would help to keep the 

prisoner alive to his social and family duties." "The influence of 

relatives and friends from outside has a beneficial effect on a 

; prisoner," says a warder, "and helps a man in those hours of 

soHtude of which a prisoner has far too many." "Letters are 

^ humanising," says a Wesleyan minist^er at a large prison; "to 

I deny them is a cruel and hardening punishment." 

j On the rare occasions upon which the present infrequency cf 
j letters is justified by our witnesses the grounds are three. One or 
; two officials defend isolation from relatives as a punishment.* 

Several point out that more letters would involve an addition to the 

staff in order that the necessary censorship could be carried out. 
, One priest says that the fewer the letters from home the better, since 

"parental weakness, if not criminality, is often responsible for the 
I crimes of the children." The following statement by an ex-prisoner, 
1 submitted to us quite independently, happens to deal with all three 

points : — 

The withholding of letters is a pnnishment not only to the prisoner 
but to his dear ones. It would be difficult to say who suffers the more 
— the man in his cell, cut off from home for eight weeks, full of 
remorse, anxious as to how his family is getting on, worrying, perhaps, 
over a wife or a child who is ill ; or the woman at home, grieving over 
the man in disgrace, wondering what has become of him, asking herself 
again and again if his health can stand it. Moreover, the more 

, criminal a man is, and therefore, presumably, the more deserving of 

I punishment, the less likely is he to feel this deprivation of letters. 

It is upon the least criminal type of prisoner that the punishment falls 
most heavily. 

If we pass from the point of view of punishment to the point of view 
of reform, it cannot be doubted that in the great majority of cases 
letters from home have a softening and humanising effect. If any 
letter is bad in its influence, the governor always has the power to 
stop it. 
The objection that more letters mean more censors surely ought not 

I to stand in the way. If letters would help to unmake criminals the 

I extra censors would be cheap. 

*0p. cit. (Cmd. 564), 1911, p. 19. 

•Bee Report of Brussels International Prison Congress (1900), p. 128. (Quoted oa 
p. 201.) 


The Censorship of Letters. 
Both the outgoing and incoming letters are read by the officials 
and are liable to be censored. The prisoner is informed on one of 
his cell cards that he must not write about his treatment in prison, 
but as a matter of fact allusions to prison routine are permitted 
by Standing Orders unless they are made in the way of complaint.' 
In many cases tJie effect of the rule prohibiting complaints gives the 
recipient of the letter a quite wrong impression of the conditions and 
feehngs of the writer. "I should just like to write you a letter in 
which I could insert black as well as white," a convict once wrote 
in a letter, "I'd turn this show upside down." But even these 
words were deleted. 

An ex-prisoner says on this point: — 

Many prisoners receive replies from their friends saying that tlify 
are pleased to have such cheerful letters. The prisoner either smiles 
grimly or curses vigorously when he reads this. It is practically 
impossible for a prisoner to write anything but a cheerful letter. If 
he complains of anything, what he writes is immediately deleted. On 
this account it is practically impossible to ascertain the true feelings 
of a man in prison. 

Allegations of ill-health are permitted "if they contain no complaints 
of medical or prison treatment," but letters containing such allega- 
tions must be accompanied by "a short statement of the prisoner's 
real state of health signed by the medical officer." ' 

On the first page of the official note-paper upon which prisoners 
write to their friends, a printed notice appears to this effect: — 

The permission to write and receive letters is given to prisoners for j 

the purpose of enabling them to keep up a connection with their . 

respectable friends and not that they may be kept informed of public i 

events. | 

Nevertheless, the Standing Orders state that "news of public events j 
is not necessarily to be treated as objectionable," and instruct the; 
governors to consider whether it can be put to improper uses. | 
"News of passing interest, such as shipwrecks, accidents, etc., of I 
even political events are as a rule quite unobjectionable," but j 
accounts of racing, football, pugilism, etc., are open to doubt as ; 
"possible subjects of betting amongst prisoners or of attempts at | 
famihar conversations with officers. ' ' The application of this rule | 
varies greatly. In some prisons news of public events is permitted 
fairly freely; in others, the censorship is rigorously applied to all 
news relating to other than domestic affairs. For instance, the j 
following passage was deleted from a letter sent to Dartmoor Prison j 
in 1904:— \ 

One of our eld favourites, Dan Leno, is dead and it was a splendid | 

funeral. I think all the musical artists were present, and the flowers j 

• "Complaints of prison treatment should be deleted. . . . But mere allusions to priion 

routine may be quite admissible. As to these there can be no hard and last rule, DU» 

governors are advised to use their discretion in a liberal spirit." (S.O. 591). ] 

' (S.O. 591). 


were splendid. The Lord Mayor's Show waa a good old-fashioned one 
this year. 
What harm is there in a passage like this ? 

News of the conviction of other prisoners is deleted unless the 
persons concerned are relatives of the prisoners. 

When there is objectionable matter in an out-going letter, the 
prisoner is given an opportunity to re-write it in the first instance. 
An "inward letter" containing objectionable matter, "too long for 
deletion," is returned to the sender for re-writing, but "when the 
objectionable matter consists of one or more short sentences," it is 
copied into the "Erasure Book." Matter deleted from out-going 
letters is similarly placed on record in the prison books. 

The process of censorship often involves delay, and one of our 
ex-prisoner witnesses complains of the anxiety this occasions: — 

When there is matter in one's letter which it is thought necessary to 
refer to the governor or the Home Office, one is (so far as my experience 
goes) not informed unless the decision is to delete or suppress. 

The result m that there is great delay in the dispatch of the letter 
and consequently in the reply, with the result that one wonders anxiously 
what may have happened to the person to whom the letter is sent. For 
example, when I was in prison a letter which I wrote was held up for 
ten days without my knowing, and I became very concerned as to my 
wife's health. Not receiving my letter when she expected it, she became 
concerned about me, too. 

This may seem a trivial matter, but to a prisoner eagerly anticipat- 
ing a letter from home after two months' silence, and left in separate 
confinement for many hours daily, to brood over the delay and to 
work his mind irto a fever of anxiety over its possible meaning, it 
is a cause of very real suffering. This witness indicates that the 
deletions made in his letters were afterwards mentioned to him, but 
our evidence shows that in many cases they are not mentioned to 
the prisoners concerned. 

Complaints by ex-prisoners of censorship of letters are many and 

bitter. "I know hundreds of cases," writes an ex-convict, "where 

prisoners' letters were half blotted out or stopped altogether." A 

1 common occasion of deletion is the making of a request to relatives 

to petition the Home Secretary for commutation of sentence or re- 

; lease. The Standing Order on this point does not justify these 

1 deletions. "It is not desirable," it reads, "to encourage prisoners 

; to request their friends to petition the Secretary of State on their 

I behalf, but a letter written with this purpose should not be dis- 

I allowed."' That many such letters are in fact disallowed we have 

convincing evidence. 

To supplement the periodical letters, prison chaplains are 

; permitted, in the case of juvenile adult prisoners, to write to the 

1 local agent of tha National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to 

Children, who may visit the relatives of the prisoner and report on 

' (S.O. 591) 


his visit to the chaplain. The chaplain may then pass on to the 
prisoner what he has heard. In the case of ordinary prisoners, the 
chaplain may not communicate with their relatives without the 
permission of the governor. Since 1909 Lady Visitors have been 
permitted to communicate with a woman prisoner's friends "where 
it is clearly for the benefit of the prisoner. ' ' The governor or chap- 
lain must always be consulted. 

The lack of facilities to communicate with the outside world leads 
to a good deal of illicit correspondence through prison of&cers and 
by other means. Prisoners' friends are informed on official note- 
paper that "persons attempting to clandestinely communicate with, 
or to introduce any article to or for prisoners, are liable to be severely 
punished." Nevertheless, considerable "trafficking" of this char- 
acter occurs, and from time to time prison officers are dismissed for 
engaging in it. 

The Conditions Under Which Visits Take Place. 

Visits are permitted at similar intervals to letters,' and all that 
has been written in criticism of the infrequency of letters applies 
equally to visits. There is, likewise, a censorship of the conversa- 
tion at the visits similar to the censorship of letters, whilst the 
conditions under which the visits take place form one of the most 
humiliating features of prison life. 

The number of visitors is limited to three. Each visitor is required 
to give his name and address and relationship to the prisoner. Per- 
sons who have served sentences in prison are not admitted unless 
they be near relatives. An ex-prisoner complains that he found it 
very difficult to get permission to have a visit from a gentleman who 
was interested in him without being personally known to him. 
"Every petty objection was raised," he says. Children, other than 
infants in arms, are not admitted to visit prisoners except in the case 
of political offenders. The first visit is limited to twenty minutes. 
Subsequent visits may last half-an-hour. I 

Visits take place ordinarily under one of two arrangements, 
described in prison parlance as the "meat-safe" and the "cage""! 
respectively. The former consists of two small compartments ' 
similar to telephone boxes, partitioned from each other by two \ 
screens of thick wire gauze about a foot apart. The visitors stand j 
in one box, the prisoner with an officer behind him to "censor" the j 
conversation, in the other. The wire gauze so darkens everything '] 
seen through it that no clear impression can be obtained of the i 
persons in the opposite box. "When my wife visited me," saysj 
an ex-prisoner, "I was entirely unable to recognise what I after-! 
wards found to be an excellent photograph of our child." 

' The governor may allow a prisoner to receive a special visit if arrangements respecting ; 
his private affairs could not be completed before conviction, and on other very exceptional 
grounds. The Visiting Magistrates have the rovirer to allow an extra visit, but generally : 
leave the decision to the governor. Two magistrates who have given evidence cite cues j 
■where they have granted permission for a special visit despite the previous refusal of the ( 
governor. ' 

'<> We hear (December, 1921) that the "cage" is no longer to be used for visits. 


The second arrangement is a most literal example of the truth of 
the analogy which continually comes to one's mind when writing 
of prisoners — the analogy of caged animals. A room is divided by 
two parallel rows of bars reaching from floor to ceiling, into two 
bare cages with a corridor between. The prisoner stands in one 
cage, the visitors in the other, and the ofi&cer sits in the corridor 
dividing them. 

"I shall never thoroughly get over the shock which I had when I saw 
my husband through the bars," says the wife of an ex-prisoner. "It 
makes me ill now to think of it. He stood pressing forward through 
the bars, clasping them tightly, his face dirty and unshaved, his eyes 
distraught, his body clothed in a rough ill-fitting way. Just for % 
moment I felt that I was looking through the dim light at some fierce, 
uncouth animal at the Zoo. Then I forgot his looks. The only thing 
that mattered was that it was he. But after I left him the cruelty of 
the thing was a bitter persistent memory." 

The humiliation of visits under these conditions is felt so acutely 
both by prisoners and visitors that often they prefer to do without 
them and take advantage of the rule allowing an exchange of letters 
I instead. "I had one visit from my wife and boy during 17 months, " 
' says an ex-prisoner, "They were in one cage and I was in another, 
i with a warder between us. The visit lasted half-an-hour and was 
! 80 painful to all of us that I never had another." An ex-convict 
I states that a number of men refused to have visits because of the 
humihation of the "wild beast cage." "Many men (myself in- 
cluded) discouraged visits," says another ex-prisoner. "The full 
degradation of one's condition and the full brutality of the system 
were most apparent in this period of barred and baffled communion 
■ with the outer world. It tended to leave one in a state of hysteria 
! or else suppressed fury, and generally shattered and restless for 
I many days." "The conditions under which the visits take place 
represent the old idea of seeing how much punishment and degrada- 
tion the authorities can pile on," says a Roman Catholic priest. 
"I know a lot of men who refuse visits on the ground that they 
cannot stand the humiliation." 

Another factor making against visits is the expense of travelling. 
This is particularly the case at the Convict prisons which are situated 
in isolated parts of the country and often long distances from the 
J home of the prisoner. We are informed that only about five per cent. 
of the convicts at Dartmoor have visits Dislike of the visiting 
arrangements and "a growing feeling that more can be accomplished 
in a long letter than in a flying visit" (we quote a Dartmoor official), 
are partly responsible for the infrequency, but the economic reason 
is undoubtedly mostly so. Some of our witnesses, including one 
high official, have strongly urged that the relatives of prisoners 
should periodically be provided with free railway passes. 

In special circumstances, governors are permitted to allow 
prisoners to have visits in an ordinary room. In this case the 


prisoner sits at one end of a table and the visitors at the other, with 
the officer midway." The prisoner is required to keep both his hands 
on the table "so that the officer may see that the prisoner does not 
receive anything." Some of our ex-prisoner witnesses say that they 
preferred the "meat-safe" system of visits to the open-room system, 
because, under the former conditions, they could often speak without 
being overheard, one officer frequently having to supervise several 
visits in neighbouring boxes. The range of conversation permitted 
by officers varies greatly. Some do not permit the prisoner to make 
any reference to what occurs in prison nor the visitor to give any 
account of public affairs. 

In cases reported by the medical officer to be seriously ill, visits 
are permitted in the hospital, an officer being in attendance, of course. 
If a prisoner be critically ill, relatives are allowed to visit hira 

It is the custom in many American prisons to permit prisoners 
to visit dying or infirm relatives on parole. In Scotland, also, per- 
mission is often given for a prisoner to attend the death-bed or 
funeral of a relative, though under escort, but in England this 
humane practice has not been so generally followed. During the 
war a few political offenders were given 72 hours leave on parole 
either to visit relatives critically ill or to attend funerals, and in at 
least one instance since the war the same "privilege" has been 
granted to a political offender. More than one of our witnesses urge 
that this practice should be extended to all offenders. "The Scottish 
custom of sending an officer in plain clothes with the prisoner might 
be followed where thought necessary," suggests a chaplain. 

The full importance of this whole question of visits may not be 
appreciated on a first consideration." It is not simply a matter ot 
human kindness; it is definitely a matter of saving prisoners from 
mental and moral deterioration. "The visit of a wife or a mother 
or a sweetheart had a wonderfully refining and beautifying in- 
fluence," writes an ex-prisoner. "Prison conditions are hard and 
harsh and sordid. The mental atmosphere is lowering and the 
isolation is dangerous to moral character. Into the midst of all this ; 
came the shining, loving face of a pure woman. It lifted one right | 
up again." ! 

It is as short-sighted as it is inhuman to permit such influences j 
to operate so rarely. "The best influence to which the prisoner 
might be submitted," wrote Prince Kropotkin, of Eussian and French! 
prisons, "the only one which might bring a ray of light, a softer j 
element into his life — the intercourse with his relatives and children! 
— is systematically excluded."" The same might still be written, j 
alas ! of EngUsh prisons to-day. ■ 

•1 One goTernor sometimes permitted a chaplain or the agent of the Discharged Prisoner, 
Aid Society to be in attendance at a visit in place ol a prison officer. 

12 See pp. 198-201 for the Tisitation of prisoners by other persons than their family anc 

»» "In Russian and French Prisons" (1887), p. 320. 




1. — Letters are allowed to be received and written too infrequently, the 
initial delay of two months in the case of third division prisoners being 
particularly cruel. 

I 2. — The range of censorship in the case of incoming and outgoing letters is 
nnnecessarily extensive. 

3. — When incoming letters are returned to be re-writt«n, the prisoners are 
inot informed. Much anxiety is occasioned by the unexplained delay. 


4. — Visits are allowed too infrequently, and they are too short. 

5. — The subjects to which reference in conversation is allowed are un- 
necessarily restricted. 

1 6. — The conditions under which the visits take place, either in the "meat- 
'safe" or "cage," are degrading. 

7. — The long distances from the homes of the prisoners and the consequent 
expense of travelling often prevent visits taking place. 

8. — Ordinary prisoners are debarred from visiting a dying relative or 
I attending the funeral, however close the tie between them. 



Classification in Theory and in Practice 

Classification has become a commonplace of prison theory, but 
has not yet been satisfactorily applied. There have been both divided 
authority and inconsistency of method. 

When the prison administration was centralised in 1877, the 
Home Secretary was given power to place particular classes of 
prisoners in particular prisons or parts of prisons, but the Depart- 
mental Committee of 1895 found that this provision had been "very 
sparingly used."^ An effort had been made to keep first offenders 
and juveniles apart from habituals, but the Committee reported that 
no adequate attempt had been made "to secure a sound system of 
classification in Local prisons." In Convict prisons, prisoners 
clearly not of the habitual type had been separated into a Star class* 
since 1879, and one of the results of the Committee's recommenda- 
tions was that a similar classification was introduced in Local prisons 
in 1896-97, with the object of securing "the separation of such 
prisoners from those who are versed in crime and of corrupt habits." 

This was the first important attempt at classification in Local 
prisons. Two years later, under the Prison Act of 1898, a more 
ambitious scheme was introduced, but the responsibility was in 
this instance placed in the hands of the judge or magistrate 
who convicted the prisoner. He was given the power to direct 
that prisoners should be treated as offenders either of the 
first or second division, in all cases where there "is evidence 
of good character over a considerable period of time, and when it 
is clear that exceptional temptation or special provocation has led 
to a merely temporary deviation from the paths of honesty, or to 
an act of violence not in consonance with the natural disposition of 
the defendant." 

' Report of 1895 Committee, p. 28. The sexes had been separated, and also penal 
servitude prisoners from the short sentence prisoners in Local prisons. 
' So called because bhey wore red cloth stars on their caps and tunics. 
» P.O. Report, 1896-7, pp. 13 and 141. 


Both the framers of this Act and the Prison Commissioners hoped 
that a considerable proportion of the very large number of persons 
annually convicted to prison in default of payment of a fine would 
be allotted by the Courts to the second division. "The second 
division," the Commissioners wrote in 1903, "was intended to meet 
the case of persons guilty of offences not implying great moral 
depravity, and to a large extent the cases of persons committed to 
prison in default of paying a fine where the antecedents were respect- 
able."* In this hope, however, they were almost completely dis- 
appointed.* The creation of the second division made no appreciable 

The Prison Commissioners also anticipated that the introduction 
of these new divisions would mean the automatic disappearance of 
the Star class, but in this they were disappointed, too. The judges 
and magistrates not only made very little use of their new powers ; 
when they did take advantage of them they placed many men in the 

, second division who would not have been considered fit to belong 
to the Stars. Consequently the Star class was continued among 
third division prisoners, in addition to the second and first division 

i classifications. 

The failure of the courts to classify prisoners led the Prison Com- 
missioners to suggest in their report for 1910-11 that the responsi- 
I bility should be left entirely in the hands of the administrative staff 
; of the prisons. This proposal the Home Secretary did not accept, 
I but the Criminal Jurisdiction Act, 1914, gave the visiting magistrates 
1 of prisons the power to place prisoners in the second division in the 
I absence of any direction by the Court. They have taken httle advan- 
tage of this provision. 

The object of the creation of the first division was to give separate 
I treatment to "first-class misdemeanants," but, again, the courts 
i almost entirely ignored their powers, with the result that Mr. 
I "Winston Churchill found it necessary to table a new rule in 1910 
^ enabling the "privileges" of the first division to be extended to 
i prisoners in the second and third divisions who had been convicted 
j for offences "not involving dishonesty, cruelty, indecency, or 
i serious violence." This rule was applied for a time to women 
j suffrage prisoners, but has been used even less than the classifica- 
! tions which were placed in the hands of the courts. 

These are not the only classifications. On the official prison 

"muster ticket," prisoners with hard labour, court martial prisoners, 

debtors, and penal servitude prisoners are mentioned in addition, 

and this list curiously omits the juvenile adults and juveniles.* The 

I conditions under which these different classes of prisoners are con- 

* P.O. Report, 1903, p. 25. 
»P.C. Report, 1911, p. 23. 

* To complete the list, unconTicted prisoners and appellants must be added; and there 
are the rarious classes ol convicts in penal servitude prisons. See pp. 295-304, 305-13. 
and 317-35. 


fined are described later. Here our intention is to consider how far I 
the classifications succeed as a whole. 

The verdict of our witnesses, both officials and ex-prisoners, is 
practically unanimous that the attempt to separate the various classes 
has failed. "I was supposed to be kept apart from other prisoners," 
writes an ex-political prisoner, "but during the 28 months I was in 
prison I not merely became acquainted with, but got to know well, 
prisoners of every class — juveniles, juvenile adults, Stars, debtors, 
remands, second division prisoners, habituals, and internees. I even 
spoke to women prisoners. The only class of prisoner I didn't con- 
verse with was the first division, and that for the simple reason that 
there was never one in the building 1" "All the classes could easily 
communicate with each other — by stealth, of course," remarks % 
witness who served a long sentence for a criminal offence. "Such 
illicit communication is possible under any conditions, between land- 
ings, between wings, between the prison and the hospital, and even 
between different prisons. I sent messages to men I knew in another 
prison by means of 'transfers,' and got messages back." 

A warder ridicules the idea that the separation can be effective 
so long as the different classes are housed on the same landing, or 
in the same building, or go to the same workshops, whilst a governor 
admits that contact must occur so long as the various classes are 
accommodated in the same prison. "It would be best to classify them 
in separate buildings," he says, "but that would cost too much. As 
it is, there is undoubtedly a good deal of contamination of youthful 
offenders by hardened criminals." 

We do not mean to suggest that such separation as there is does 
nothing to prevent contamination. We think it is indisputable that 
the existence of the Star and juvenile adult classes has sheltered 
to a certain degree first and young offenders from some of the corrupt- 
ing influences of habitual criminals, ineffective though the separation 
has been. But this only represents the negative object of classifica- 
tion: appropriate treatment for the different types of criminals is the- 
positive and more important object. This aim the prison authorities 
have to all intents and purposes ignored. As for individual treat- 
ment, the goal of classification, it is not even dimly hinted at under 
present conditions. 

The majority of our official witnesses take the view that, whilst 
the present classification has failed, further classification and more 
distinct separation would succeed. They argue from the point of 
view both of the prevention of contamination and of the treatment 
of the prisoner. But most of those possessing experience of prisons 
recognise the difficulties. "You want a separate class for almost 
every prisoner and to know each as a man," is the conclusion of a 
warder of more than twenty years' experience. "This means up- 
setting the whole system from top to bottom." 

That some classification is necessary no one doubts ; mental 


'deficients need separate treatment, inebriates need separate treat- 
ment, j'oung persons in their formative years should be protected 
from unreheved contact with criminals. But when these distinct 
types have been separated and appropriately treated, and when 
everything has been done by probation and similar means to keep 
as many people as possible out of prison altogether (including the 
whole of the Star class), the fundamental difficulty will remain. 
I On what principle is classification to proceed? Is the number 
of offences to be the test? Many prisoners with a clean official 
record have lived worse lives and have a worse influence than 
hardened criminals. Is character to be the test? It is impossible 
for either a magistrate or a governor to judge a prisoner's character.' 
"It is possible to read a prisoner's record, but not to read his mind, 
'disposition, or moral character," remark Mr. Mitchell Innes, 
Inspector of English Prisons, and Sir Alex. Cardew, of the Madras 
Executive Council, in the report of the Indian Jails Committee, 
,1921. "No classification can detect the future habitual in the 
present first offender, unless indeed the prisoner is clearly defective, 
and, even then, temporary' mental differences exist.'" 

; Moreover, from the point of view of treatment, that is of fitting 
^prisoners for ordinary life, it is doubtful whether specialised segrega- 
tion is of value beyond a certain point. Unless special treatment 
idemauding separation be necessary, the limitation of association to 
(persons of the same peculiar or degraded type may be positively 
harmful ; certainly it is not likely to encourage in the offender the 
recovery of a decent mode of conduct among normal people. A 
witness who has given his mind to this subject for many years, 
urges that the best classifiers would be, under freer conditions, not 
ijudges or governors, but the prisoners themselves. 

"The first step, it seems to me," he says, "is to establish confidence, 
eo-operation, and a sense of individual and collective responsibility 
amongst the prisoners. Then they may begin to find out that certain 
individuals amongst themselves can't or won't play the game, and some 
of these may turn out to be defectives, who would be better cared for 
elsewhere. Others may prove to be individuals with an evil influence 
which they don't feel able to cope with. Here the medico-psychologist 
might come in and help." 

I A prison warder puts forward a similar view. "I would not 
Separate men into classes so much," he says, "but I would allow 
them to choose their own friends." 

j The whole problem is admittedly complex. Certainly all attempts 
^o classify have so far failed. Perhaps the prisoners at Sing Sing 
prison. New York, pointed the way to the solution when, under Mr. 
Mott Osborne's system of corporate responsibility, they took the 

'"Who 15 to do it?" asks a high r''ison oflRcial. "The poTernor? My experience isi 
ibat ii a bo; is good-looking he is pat into the Star das;. It is not a matter of the crime 
or of character, but ol looks and smartness. A psychological expert? Very difl&cult!" 

• Op. cit., p. 112. 


course anticipated by the witness whose evidence we have quoted 
above and asked for the help of the doctors when they found certain 
defectives among their number who did not respond to the appeals 
of mutual welfare and responsibility. 

This view does not involve the sacrifice of individual treatment. 
To discover, as far as possible, how each prisoner came to commit 
the offence, what were the contributing conditions — economic, 
domestic, industrial, physical, mental and moral — and to prescribe 
treatment best suited to his particular needs, such individualisation 
must undoubtedly be the path of any real progress. The most hope- 
ful advance in English penal methods is the experiment along these 
lines now proceeding at Birmingham." 

The Second Division. 

The original purpose of the second division, as created by the 
Prison Act of 1898 and the Eules made under it, has already been 
stated. The "privileges" attached to this division, differentiating 
the treatment from the usual prison regime already described, are 
comprised under the following heads": — 

1. The prisoner is, as far as possible, kept apart from other classes , 
of prisoners. i 

2. The governor may, on application, release the prisoner from' 
the obligation to take a bath on entering the prison. j 

3. The prisoner may, on application, receive a pint of tea in lieu! 
of porridge for breakfast. 

4. The prisoner cannot be compelled to clean any part of thei 
prison except his own cell and utensils." I 

6. The prisoner's clothes are of a different colour (for men, choco-i 
late, instead of ugly drab; for women, grey-green, instead of! 

6. The prisoner is not compelled to sleep on a bare board, withoutj 
mattress, for the first fourteen days of his sentence (as is 9t\ 
male hard labour prisoner). 

7. The prisoner can be employed on work of an industrial or 
manufacturing nature only. 

8. The prisoner is allowed a visit and a letter, in and out, every 
four weeks, instead of having to wait eight weeks for the first: 
and six weeks for the second. The greater fi^equency of visits! 
is counterbalanced by the fact that they are uniformly of 1*| 

» Cp. pp. 52 and 53. ! 

10 See Sections 232-242 of the 1899 Rules for Local prisons, and Sections 1-3 of the 190:j 

Rules for Dietaries. I 

11 This rule is not always observed. An ex-prisoner of the second division writes: "I wsi 

compelled to clean part of the iirison and so were other second division men. They di' 

scrubbing, etc., in the early morning just as much as the third division men." 


minutes' duration, instead of the 30 minutes allowed to third 
division prisoners after the first visit. 

9. In other respects offenders of the second division are subject to 
the general prison rules, i.e., the rules which apply to third 
division prisoners. 

Besides the above "privileges," laid down by the published regu- 
lations, there appear to be two others of some importance, which 
apply in practice to second division offenders. It is usual to supply 
them JTOTYi the first with two books, one "educational" and one of 
a brighter kind (the latter changed weekly), instead of their having 
to exist for the first four weeks on a solitary "educational" book uf 
possibly a very indifferent nature. And they sometimes have the 
great hygienic advantage of retaining the same "kits" of under- 
clothing (or rather two interchangeable kits) throughout their sen- 
tences, instead of interchanging garments promiscuously with their 

1 It will be seen that the only differences of any real importance 
between offenders of the second and third divisions are (1) the separa- 
tion from close contact with the (presumably) most objectionable 
prisoners;" (2) during the first few days an extra book or two, and a 
mattress; and (3) a visit and letter after the first four, instead of 
after the first eight weeks. 

i Apart from these points, prison conditions are the same for both 
divisions. The second division offender, hke his brother in the 
division below, assumes, when he enters "reception," an ill-fitting 
garb sprinkled with broad arrows, and leaves behind him every 
vestige of his property and of his connections with the world out- 
side. He is, like him, continually either under lock and key or 
under the watchful eye of the warder. He has the same bare dismal 
cell, the same monotonous diet, the same extreme paucity of books 
and writing materials. He is subject to the same rigid daily routine 
— ^the mechanical perambulation on the exercise ground, the silent 
occupation in the workshop, the 14 hours of unbroken soUtude 
within cell walls. He has to suffer from the same objectionable 
sanitary arrangements. He has no greater opportunities of associa- 
tion with the chaplain or other members of the staff. He endures 
the same regime of enforced silence — or of surreptitious conversa- 
tion; he is liable to the same punishments if he is caught talking 
with his neighbour or trying to do him some little service. 
■ In two respects, indeed, the second division prisoner may be 
actually worse off than the third division prisoner. He may find 
'' mseif the only, or almost the only, prisoner of his class in the 

"A woman ei-prisoner of the second dirision informs ns that this "privilege" was not 
.ztecded to her, and more than one male witness who had experienced second dirision 
treatment gives similar evidence. 

err^^^o^S*'^*'^'''" ^^ second and third division prisoners is often lax. One witness whn 
^An »„ V J ''^ "^ * second division prisoner in a large prison says that "second division 
I^ '^/''l '^'ebed. attended chapel, and took their hatha in association with thiid 

nvision men of the Star class." 


gaol." He is then deprived, owing to his segregation from the rest 
of the prison, of those occasional opportunities for unrecognised 
communication with his fellows, which to many, if not to most ■ 
prisoners, prevent the torturing monotony and unnatural silence of j 
the routine from becoming quite intolerable. [ 

The second disadvantage is also a consequence of the limited size ;' 
of this class. Since they must be separated from the rest of the '• 
prisoners, it is necessary to restrict the work of second division 
prisoners to a very narrow field, and many of the more desirable 
employments are placed outside their reach. One warder considers 
that this drawback makes the second division, despite its relaxations, 
less advantageous than the third. 

How small is the number of second division prisoners may be 
judged from the fact that whilst in the fifteen years ending 1914 (the 
last for which figures are obtainable) the number of second division; 
prisoners fluctuated between 1,475 and 2,455 for the year, the! 
receptions varied between 136,309 and 197,941. The question of 
second division treatment is, therefore, a comparatively unimportant 
issue. And in view of the slight difference between the two types i 
of treatment, it would, it appears to us, have remained comparatively! 
unimportant, even if the desires of the Commissioners had been 
realised and the great mass of "quasi-criminal" persons "of respect- 
able antecedents" had been consigned to it by the courts. 

The First Division. 

The numbers in this division, also instituted by the Prison Act o) 
1898, are extremely small; the annual totals for England and Walet 
fluctuated between 16 and 65 during the years 1900-11 inclusive 
except for 1906-7, when they were swollen to the figure of 160 bj 
committals in connection v/ith the Woman Suffrage agitation.' 
One measure, the Vaccination Act of 1898, expressly prescribes firsM 
division treatment for persons convicted under it. But th(] 
statistical Tables indicate that the commonest offence for which th(l 
Courts assign persons to the first division is non-compliance witl 
the Elementary Education Acts. 

The "privileges" to which the first division prisoner is entitle(j 
under the regulations, are, in comparison with third division, ver; 
considerable, and may be summarised as follows: — j 

Like the man in the second division, he is supposed to be kep 
apart from other classes of prisoners. Beyond this he has, or ma:j 
have, if he has the means to pay for them, peculiar advantage! 
which are shared by no other class of inmate, except the uncon; 

i" This is admitted by the Commissioners, who wrote in their report for 1906 o( tt 
embarrassment occasioned bv the small number of prisoners placed in the second dirifi.' 
"the nnmber being so few that it is not possible to work them in assoeiation, thus lendeni 
abortiTe the object of classification." 

i» P.O. Report, 1911, p. 23. 


victed prisoner awaiting trial. (The rules for "trial prisoners" are 
:o a very large extent verbally identical with the first division rules ; 
Dut, as indicated elsewhere, most trial prisoners, owing to their 
ooverty, are unable to secure these "privileges"). Thus he 
nay wear his own clothing. He may have "such books, 
aewspapers, or other means of occupation" as are not considered to 
DC "objectionable" by the authorities. He may be visited once a 
"ortnight for a quarter of an hour by three friends and may write 
4nd receive one letter in each fortnight; for special reasons the 
Visiting Committee may ^increase this allowance of letters and 
raits. Further, he is not required to work and "may be permitted, 
if practicable, to follow his trade or profession," receiving the whole 
>f his earnings, if he is not maintained at the expense of the prison. 
If he has the requisite means, he may arrange to have his own food 
Supplied and even have a limited quantity of beer or wine, "subject 
jO such restrictions as may be necessary to prevent luxury or 
vaste." Finally, the Visiting Committee may, "if, having regard 
\0 his ordinary habits and conditions of life, they think such special 
brovision should be made," permit the first division prisoner (1) to 
fwcupy at the rent of 2/6 weekly a superior and specially furnished 
room or cell, (2) to have the use of private furniture and utensils 
suitable to his ordinary habits, and (3) to have at the charge of 6d. a 
lay, the help of another prisoner, "relieving him from the perform- 
ance of any unaccustomed tasks," such as, e.g., the cleaning of his 
•ell and the washing up of his crockery." 

Though the regulations are silent on these points, first division 
)risoners are apparently sometimes allowed an hour's open-air 
kercise in the afternoon, as well as in the morning, with the 
lipportunities of unrestricted conversation with some other first 
Uvision inmate of the same sex, should any such be found in the 
Prison — a rare occurrence. In most cases, too, a visiting minister 
M the prisoner's own denomination is allowed free access to him for 
it least an hour each week. 

The first division offenders are the aristocrats of the prison world, 
^he rules affecting them have a class flavour about them, and are 
'^ndently intended to apply to persons of some means, who are in 
he habit of keeping servants. A poor man, who had no trade by 
yhich he could earn in prison, would hardly be better off in the first 
|han in the second division, except that he could have his own 
flothes and books, and enjoy a visit and letter fortnightly instead of 
'nonthly.'' But almost all first division prisoners have doubtless the 
ns to take full advantage of the privileges allowed.'* They have 

'* See sections 213-231 of the Rules for Local prisons. Two ex-prisoners of the first 
linsion complain strongly that they were never made aware ol the details ol these 
iprinleges," e.g., the cost of the special cell. 

I " Two of onr witnesses who hare undergone first division treatment state that they were 
jermitted to have flowers sent by friends. In one case this was only allowed alter much 

'•ne witness, however, who has had first division experience, says, "I had neither the 
e nor means to pay for comfortable board and lodging, so shivered in an arctic cell 
•• turned with loathing from the food offered me." 


however, to forego the use of tobacco and, unless they can show that 
"writing" of some kind is their profession, they have no opportunity 
for recording their thoughts on paper beyond the fortnightly letter. 

These may be serious deprivations, and, in any case, the essence 
of the punishment of first division prisoners is in the denial of almost 
all freedom to communicate with their fellows and in their perpetual 
confinement within their cells or other parts of the prison precincts. 
Apart from these severe restrictions upon their movements, first 
division prisoners are not subject to anything in the nature of 
"discipline" or "treatment." They have merely to undergo a 
rather rigid form of internment, the severity of which doubtless 
varies very much in accordance with the dispositions of the officers 
who administer it. 

The object of this internment is presumably either to deter such 
offenders, and others also, from repetition of their offences, or else 
to isolate them temporarily from society, inasmuch as their liberty 
of action is regarded by the Government as being dangerous to itself 
and to the community. 

Political Prisoners: The "Churchill Eule." 

Political oSences on the part of British subjects are not recognised] 
as such by our laws. The provisions in regard to such offences inj 
the Extradition Act of 1870 relate solely to foreigners who are! 
charged with offences committed against foreign Governments.! 
When the 1898 Prison Act was framed, it was doubtless intended: 
that political offenders "having regard to the nature of the offenctj 
and the antecedents of the offender" should be consigned by the! 
Courts to treatment in either the first or second division, but, as W6: 
have seen, this differential treatment was very sparingly accordecj 
by the Courts. Recognising the iniquity of treating political 
prisoners as ordinary criminals in the third division, Mr. Winstorj 
Churchill, when Home Secretary, introduced a New Rule (numbereci 
243 A), in order, as he said, to mitigate the more degrading conditionfj 
of prison treatment for offenders whose crimes do not imply "mora 
turpitude." Or, in the words of the Commissioners' Report foi 
1911-12, "the purpose of the new rule 1 

was to mitigate the disgrace, and discomfort, and the stigma of imprison' 
ment in cases where the offence and the character and antecedents of th; 
offender do not call for a full and rigorous application of penalty." ' 

Rule 243A came into force in July, 1910, and runs as follows: — ; 

In the case of any offender of the second or third division whos| 
previous character is good, and who has been convicted of, or committel 
to prison for, an offence not involving dishonesty, cruelty, indecency, f 
serious violence, the Prison Commissioners may allow such ameliorati' 
of the conditions prescribed in the foregoing rules as the Secretary i 


State may approve in respect of the wearing of prison clothing, 
bathing, hair-cutting, cleaning of cells, employment, exercise, books and 

Provided that no such amelioration shall be greater than that granted 
under the rules for offenders of the first division. 

This rule was introduced to meet the case of the prisoners con- 
ict^d for their part in the Woman Suffrage movement. During 
910-12, 508 prisoners are stated to have been dealt with in accord- 
nce with its provisions. The rule was also applied in a rather less 
enerous way between December, 1917, and April, 1919, to 
onscientious objectors to military service, who had served twelve 
aonths in the third division ; but the benefit of it was not usually 
iven to offenders against the Defence of the Eealm Act, nor was it 
xtended to the Communists imprisoned during 1920-21. The rule is 
learly capable of application to any political offender not guilty of 
erious fraud or violence, or indeed to anyone who may be irr prisoned 
or the breach of a police or governmental regulation ; but, except for 
he two classes mentioned, it has remained practically a dead letter, 
"he Home Secretary says that ' ' neither prisoners whose offences are 
ue to political motives, nor any other class of prisoners are 
ntitled to claim the benefit" of the rule and that "each case or 
lass of cases is judged on its merits."" The rare application of 
he rule suggests that a strong pubUc agitation is the only kind of 
j merit" which secures favourable judgment. 

' The general effect of the rule is to give a selection of the first 
ivision privileges to third division (or in some cases to second 
ivision) prisoners. The particular selection is governed by the 
standing Orders which the Home Office and the Prison Com- 
lissioners may agree to be sufficient and appropriate to the cases 
nder consideration. In the case, for instance, of conscientious 
ibjectors of more than a year's standing, the only relaxations of 
bird division treatment allowed were as follows: — 

(1) Instead of the one silent and regulated exercise, two periods 
of exercise were conceded daily, at which men could walk and 
talk in twos and threes, choosing their own companions each 

I (2) Books might be sent to them from the outside so long as they 
i were not of an "objectionable" character. These might be 

changed weekly, but only four books were permitted in the 

cell at one time. 

I (3) Men might wear their own clothing, or supplement the prison 
clothing by additional garments of their own. (This provision 
was acceptable, owing to the need of extra warmth in the cells. 
Overcoats and gloves were the items of personal clothing 
usually added to the prison kit.) 

'^' Reply to Mr. T. Myers. M.P., February 23rd, 1921. 


(4) Men might write and receive a shorter letter every fortnight, 
in lieu of a longer one once in four weeks. The monthlj' 
visits were to be held in a "private" room (with a wanlpr"! 
instead of on either side of double bars or gratings. 

(5) Another prisoner might be set, on payment of a small charge, 
to clean the privileged prisoner's cell and utensils. (It is 
doubtful whether any conscientious objector availed himself 
of this "privilege.") 

(6) A very limited amount of choice was allowed as regards the 
kind of prison labour assigned to the prisoner. 

Experience has gone to show that the first two of the above 
relaxations were much valued in most cases, the third in some cases, 
while the last three, or at any rate the last two, were of trifling 

The Standing Order introduced in 1910, for the sake of the 
Woman Suffrage prisoners, included all the above privileges, but 
was of a somewhat wider nature, as it allowed a weekly parcel of 
food weighing not more than eleven pounds to be sent into each 
prisoner, and to be kept in her cell in the daytime. It also provided 
that these prisoners should be specially searched only by an officer 
appointed for the purpose ; and that they should only be employed 
on the lighter forms of labour. 

Even thus the status under Eule 243A, as hitherto interpreted, 
falls much short of full first division treatment, under which fort- 
nightly visits and daily supplies of food are allowed, the use of a 
special cell and furniture is conceded, together with permission to 
follow one's own trade or profession, and the admission of news- 
papers and books bearing on current events, as well as "other means 
of occupation." 

It is doubtful how far such ameliorations of the prison regime as 
have been allowed under the "Churchill Eule" sufficiently alter the 
character of prison life, so as either to remove its supposed deterrent 
value or to give it a reformative virtue. It must in any case 
remembered that where these privileges are only granted to a sni..^ 
proportion of the prison inmates, they tend to create, by way "■ 
contrast, a greater sense of privation among the others, who fail 
understand why they also cannot share in them." 

The Star Class. 

Prisoners in the Star class are defined by Standing Orders 
those "who, after full enquiry, are found to have not been previoi;> 
convicted, and are not habitually criminal." The object of the cla- 

20 "Prisoners of one class would be extremely jealous ol any litUe privileges which in, 
be granted to prisoners of another class.," says an ex-nrisoner, "tlie feeling of injust 
being apparently quite free from any consideration as to the relative merits of the Iw i 
classes, or the magnitude of the crimes they had committed, Both were unlucky folk again.* j 
whom society had a grudge, and it was unfair that one section of the unfortunates shouli: 
be treated better than another." 


he Orders proceed, "is to secure the separation of such prisoners 
rom those who are versed in crime and of corrupt habits. ' ' 

The Star system, as already recorded, was started in Local 
•rifaons in 1896-1897 following a recommendation by the Depart- 
mental Committee of 1895. In commenting upon this recom- 
lendation in their 1895-1896 report, the Prison Commissioners 
rgued that the efficiency of the Star class system in Convict 
'risons had depended upon (a) time for enquiry, and (b) "facility of 
ransfer," and drew attention to the fact that 75 per cent, of the 
risoners in Local prisons" were sentenced on an average to about 
v\'o weeks' imprisonment, and also to the difficulties of organising 
rison labour so as to segregate the Stars. 

The method of selecting Star prisoners is as follows : — The 
olice representatives at the Court are asked to furnish a report on 
he "character and antecedents" of prisoners who have not been 
reviously convicted, whose previous offence has been of a trivial 
haracter or who have been committed "several years before." 
Vhere no information is procurable, the governor uses his discretion, 
nd doubtful cases are submitted to the Eegistrar of Habitual 
Criminals with a description form and the finger impressions. The 
33ults of this enquiry are submitted to the Visiting Magistrates, who 
re supposed to give their formal decision in the matter.'* 

The Standing Orders expressly say that inclusion within the Star 
lass "does not confer any privileges or differential treatment." 
ps purpose is purely segregation. Star prisoners must be located 
a cells "where they cannot come in contact with prisoners of other 

asses," and must sit in chapel and take exercise separately. 

The actual operation of the Star system is criticised in three 
pirticulars by our witnesses. In the first place, the Star class has 
vo distinct disadvantages. It is the custom of officers to treat Star 
risoners with greater severity than habituals (the latter become an 
pcepted part of the institution), and the rule of segregation hmits 
|ie range of industries to which they may be put. For these reasons 
iany prisoners prefer not to be placed in the Star class. 

Secondly, before first offenders are placed in the Star class they 
;equently mingle wdth habituals whilst on remand, and in many 
risons it is the custom to class them among the habituals after 
f.ntence whilst their claim not to have been previously convicted is 
ivestigated. The Standing Orders say that "during enquiry the 
Hsoner will be kept apart from other prisoners," but our evidence 
liows that in many cases this is not done. On this point an 

j^perienced warder says : — 

It is during the first few days that it is most important to keep first 
offenders from being associated with those who are "prison-hardened," 
but under the present arrangements it takes a week or so to ascertain 

' The nnmber of prisoners serving very short sentences has decreased considerably. The 
;2rage length of sentence in Local prisons is now about five weeks. See p. 4. 
^Cp. P.O. Report, 1896-7, p. 141. 



whether a man should be treated as a Star prisoner, and, by the time he 
is placed with the Star class, the harm has been done and he hat 
acclimatised himself to the prison and the surroundings. Whilst or 
remand, too, the first offender mixes, often to his disadvantage, with tht 

The third ground of criticism has already been emphasised — tht 
inadequacy of the segregation when, in due course, it is supposec 
to be enforced. "The Star class are not strictly separated," con 
tinues this witness. "They are employed in the domestic servia 
of the prison, in the bath house, at chapel cleaning, etc., and thi 
constantly brings them in contact with other prisoners. ' ' Evideno 
to this effect is general. 

Despite these defects, our witnesses on the whole take the vie\ 
that the placing of first offenders in a separate class is of some valu 
in preventing contamination. The first returns of the Prison CoiD; 
missioners suggested that this classification was highly justified, bi; 
year by year the percentages of Stars given by the Commissioner i 
as returning to prison have mounted up, rising between 1897 an; 
1910 from 4.9 to 9.2, in the case of men, and from 7.0 to 14.4, ii 
the case of women.** Even from these figures, it is clear (aft(i 
allowing for the rise that would be expected to occur over the greatt I 
period of years) that the early hopes of the Star system have imj 
been realised, and further considerations confirm this conclusion, 
is most unlikely that the Commissioners' returns can be accepted fj 
complete. They are based, in the first instance, upon the statemenj 
of the prisoners themselves, who would naturally be anxious not 
disclose previous convictions. The figures for all prisons have n 
been given since 1910, but in 1911 the Prison Commissioners pu 
lished returns relating to one prison — Stafford — which showed th 
no less than 33.6 per cent, of the first offenders — the great majori 
of whom would be Stars — received during the five years ending 
1904, returned to the prison between the years 1900 and 1910 ■ 
The difference between these figures and those given previously 1| 
the Commissioners for the whole of the country cannot be reconcile j 
and, moreover, as the Commissioners admit, the Stafford returj 
were incomplete, since they make no allowance for first offenders w 
subsequently found their way into other prisons. This contrti 
strongly supports the view that the Commissioners' figures are ij 
too favourable. The Stafford returns, it should be noted furtb! 
only relate to a period of ten years. The number of Stars, who '< 
the course of their life eventually return to prison, is probably wl 
over the 33.6 per cent, shown by the Stafford figures. 

Nor can the undoubted fact that many Star prisoners succeed! 
remaining out of prison subsequently be taken as evidence of eitl,^ 
the deterrent or the reformative value of the prison system \ 
general, or of the Star system in particular. Many first offend? 

2» P.O. Report, 1897-8, p. 18 and P.O. Report, 1909-10, p. 22. 
a* P.O. Report, 1910-11, pp. 18-20. 


re entirely accidental criminals, imprisoned for an offence which 
hey would never be likely to repeat. Others are effectively pulled 
p by the shock of the disgrace of conviction, quite apart from 
irison treatment. Still others are kept out of further misconduct by 
he care of relatives and friends. These factors are enough in them- 
elves to account for almost every case of a prisoner who avoids 
illing into the clutches of the law a second time. 

. The number of persons imprisoned as debtors during 1920-21 was 
,204. In 1918-19 it was 1,830, and in 1913-14, 14,138. The 
ecrease since 1914 is approximately proportionate to the fall in the 
umber of prisoners generally. 

The conditions under which debtors " are imprisoned are very 
■jnilar to those which apply to other prisoners. The "privileges" 
'hich they enjoy may be summarised as follows: — 

(1) A debtor may wear his own clothing if fit for use,** and may 
have his own hair brush and comb "and any other article of 
toilet" permitted by the governor. 

I (2) He may from the first have two library books a week, as well 
as educational and religious books, and may have "one of his 
own books (if unobjectionable), in lieu of a Ubrary book." 

j (3) He may work, where practicable, at his own trade or pro- 

■ fession. Otherwise, he is employed at a prison industry and 
paid not more than 2/6 a week for his work if he perform the 

I (4) He is permitted to converse with a prisoner of the same class 

i when at exercise. 

I (6) He has two exercises daily. 

j (6) He is allowed one visit (of 15 minutes) and one letter each 

I week. 

I Except for these relaxations, debtors are treated exactly as are 

nsoners convicted of criminal offences. 

. Before the rules of 1899, prisoners of the debtor class were 
flowed various indulgences, such as a common room for daily 
^sociation, freedom from compulsory work, and the receiving of 
fcals (beer and wine were allowed) from outside. The Depart- 
lental Committee of 1895 described this class as "very unsatisfac- 

f Debtors are committed to prison on the theory that a person who fails to pay a debt 
j»en ordered to do so by a competent court, "haying the means to pay," commits an act 
; contempt. "Any persons imprisoned for default in payment of a debt, including a ciril 
jbt recoverable summarily or in default, or in lien of distress to satisfy a sum of money 
judged to be paid by order of a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, when the imprisonment 
to be without hard labour," are classed as debtors. The following remark by the 
iTemor of Worcester prison in his annual report for 1909 is of interest: — "I find that 
I great proportion of the debtors are rictims cf the 'tally-man' — an indiridual who cajoles 
p wires into purchasing unnecessary articles on a system of weekly payments — frequently 
e husbands know nothing of these transactions until the judgment summons is served 
irsonally upon them." 

l'* The prison uniform for debtors is blue, similar to that of the anconricted prisoners. 
-' For non-fulfilment of the "task" the debtor is liable to punishment. 



tory," declared that "there seems to be no sufficient reason why thej 
should be more favourably treated than other prisoners," anc 
recommended that "they should be made to work to a reasonable il 
not penal extent."^' 

The Prison Commissioners, commenting upon this expression oi 
view in their report for 1895-1896, went considerably further ir 
urging the stiffening of the conditions of debtor prisoners. 

"We are strongly of opinion," they said, " that the effect of the 
privileges they now enjoy is demoralising, and is a disadvantage in the 
administration of the prisons, and, further, that judging by the frequent 
return of the debtor class, we unhesitatingly say that imprisonment ir 
these cases is not deterrent. We, therefore, recommend that all classes 
of debtors and surety prisoners should, as regards employment, be treated 
in the same way as prisoners sentenced to simple imprisonment, i.e. 
without hard labour." 

The Government did not go as far as the Commissioners desired, 
but by the 1899 rules, which were made under the 1898 Prison; 
Act, the conditions of imprisonment for debt were made to approacl 
far more closely to the conditions of imprisonment for crime. Th( 
Commissioners anticipated a considerable reduction in the numben 
of debtors as the result of this change, and in the following yea 
they reported a decrease of 600. But in their report for 1902-1901 
they were compelled to note the "considerable rise in the number o 
prisoners committed for debt, the numbers being 16,312 as compare* 
with 14,039 the previous year," and proceeded to say that so far th, 
expectation of a smaller number of debtors coming to prison i! 
consequence of the more rigorous treatment authorised by the Act c 
1898 had not been fulfilled. An examination of the figures suggest. 
that the rise and fall in the number of debtors depend much moi 
upon the conditions of trade and employment and other extern! 
conditions than upon any changes made in the prison treatment (j 
debtors. { 

If the Standing Orders were interpreted strictly, the position (j 
the debtor would, in certain respects, be considerably worse thai 
that of the ordinary prisoner. They lay down that cellular confinv 
ment "will be the general practice, exception only being mac 
where association is practicable under supervision."^* Apparent 
association under supervision generally is practicable, since cj 
witnesses both from large and small prisons report that advantai; 
is frequently taken of the further clause that debtors shall be ehgib 
for employment outside the cell — cleaning, painting, odd jobs, et 
— provided that they are not brought into immediate and clo 
contact with ordinary criminal prisoners." 

A debtor confined in a small prison is often the only prisoner 
his class, and, consequently, has both to work and exercise in iscl? 

2* 1895 Departmental Committee Report, p. 33. j 

as S.O. 1041. t 

'"A part ol S.O. 1041 reads: "A debtor who has no criminal antecedents will not 
aBsociated with one who has been prerionsly conricted ol crime." 


ion. sometimes completing the whole of his sentence under condi- 
ions of separate confinement. "One wretched debtor," remarks a 
/itness, describing a visit to a small provincial prison, "was enjoy- 
ig the privilege of exercising alone, on a barred-in square of asphalt. 
I think company — even under supervision — would have been 

Debtors may secure release at any time on the payment of the 
mount which is owing, and on payment of a portion of the amount 
an secure a proportionate remission of the sentence. They are 
ermitted additional letters and visits for the bona fide purpose of 
bcuring the payment of the debt. The maximum terra of imprison- 
;ient for an ordinary "debtor" is 42 days, but 21 or 28 days is a 
iiore usual sentence. 



1. — Putting aside the question, whether under a different system the 
isolation of the different classes of prisoners would be necessary, the existing 
classification is neither effective in preventing "contamination," nor utilised 
for the purpose of securing appropriate and individual treatment. 

2. — With the exception of the few first division offenders, the treatment 
of the existing classes is governed by the same repressive and demoralising 
principles that characterise the regime of the third division hard-labour 

4 yv 





Prison Offences and Their Punishment 

Prisoners who do not keep the prison regulations are Uable to 
lunishment, and, since the regulations are of such a character that 
io one can possibly keep them, prisoners never feel immune from 
'unishment. Not only is obviously improper behaviour, such as 
iolence to a fellow prisoner, idleness, indecency, or irreverence in 
hapel liable to punishment, but if a prisoner speak he may be 
unished; if he whistle or sing or make any "unnecessary" noise"; 
■ he nod his head, or smile, or raise his cap to another prisoner; 
' the tins in his cell are not polished to the pleasing of the landing 
flficer; if he leave his "appointed location" without permission; 
* he have a pencil or other forbidden article in his cell ; if he give to, 
r" receive from, any other prisoner "any article whatsoever without 
eave"; or even if he attempt to do any of these things, he becomes 
uilty of an offence, for which an officer can report him to the 
ovemor, and the governor sentence him to close confinement, loss 
I remission marks, and a period of punishment diet. "It seemed 
y me," wrote Jabez Balfour, "that my one chance of safety was to 
D nothing at all, and that if I succeeded in such a task I should 
3 considered a well-conducted and industrious prisoner." ' 

The degree to which a prisoner's life is hedged about by 
e possibility of punishment is illustrated by the following "crimes" 
jmmitted by some of our witnesses : — 

Offenci. Punishmint. 

Tins unpolished One day No. 1 diet;* on© week 

separate confinement, one day re- 
mission lost, and letter and visit 
postponed a week. 

Leaving place to visit lavatory One week separate confinement, one 
without permission day remission lost, and letter and 

visit postponed a week. 

Singing Three days No. 1 diet, 14 days 

separate confinement, two days 
remission lost, and letter and visit 
postponed 14 days. 

"My Prison Life," p. 263. 

Since 1918, No. 1 diet has consisted of 12 ozs. bread, 8 ozs. potatoes, and water per 
<T, and No. 2 diet ol 12 ozs. bread, two pints porridge, and 8 ozs. potatoes. See pp. 238-39. 





Non-perfoimance of "task" ("I 
could not perform full 'task,' 
was new to the work") 

Whistling on exercise 

Lending a book to fellow prisoner 

Raising hat on account of heat 
("charged with signalling to an- 
other prisoner") 

Trying to look through window at 
Christmas singers 

Talking in bathroom 

Possessing a pencil 

Accepting two ozs. of bread from 
fellow prisoner 

"Complaining to officer who had 
wrongfully reported another 
prisoner for talking and for stat- 
ing that I was the guilty man" 

Having pen concealed in cell 

Giving another prisoner a piece of 

Saying "Good Morning" to a 


Two days No. 1 diet, one week 
separate confinement, one day re- 
mission lost, and letter and visit 
postponed a week. 

Two days No. 1 diet, one week 
separate confinement, one day re- 
mission lost, and letter and visit 
postponed a week. 

Three days close confinement, one 
week separate confinement, one 
day remission lost, and letter and 
visit postponed a week. 

One week separate confinement, one 
day remission lost, and letter and 
visit postponed a week. 

One week separate confinement, one j 
day remission lost, and letter and | 
visit postponed a week. | 

One day No. 1 diet, one week i 
separate confinement, one day re- i 
mission lost, and letter and visit ; 
postponed a week. j 

Fourteen days separate confinement, j 
two days remission lost, and 
letter and visit postponed a week. 

One week separate confinement, i 
three days remission lost, and : 
letter and visit postponed a week. 

One week separate confinement, one ■ 
day remission lost, and letter and 
visit postponed a week. | 

One week separate confinement, two' 
days remission lost, and letter j 
and visit postponed a week. 

Three days No. 1 diet, 14 days; 
separate confinement, three days! 
remission lost, and letter and: 

visit postponed 14 days. j 


One day No. 1 diet, seven day.-j 

separate confinement, three days, 

remission lost, and letter antij 

visit postponed a week. j 

Three days No. 1 diet, one weekj 
separate confinement, one dav 
remission lost, and letter anci 
visit postponed a week. 


OiTiNCE. Punishment. 

Pricking holes in toilet paper ("to Fourteen days separate confinement, 

indicate numbers of library books two days remission lost, and letter 

desired, in case they should be and visit postponed 14 days, 
rubbed off slate") 

Making notes from Green's History One day No. 1 diet, one week 
on Christmas Card with black separate confinement, one day re- 
chalk mission lost, and letter and visit 

postponed a week. 

Singing carols on Christmas Day Three days No. 1 diet, 14 days 

separate confinement, three days 
remission lost, and letter and 
visit postponed 14 days. 

The above cases all occurred in Local prisons. We are able to 
supplement them by instances in Contact prisons taken from letters 
written by men undergoing penal servitude.* In one of these letters 
we read "the reason why I got punished is for giving a loaf of bread 
away. I got too much and could not eat it, so I gave this loaf away, 
and the officer saw me give it to the other man, then he reported 
me." Another convict, a Star man, wrote "you would not believe 
what a man has got to put up with here. The other day I was 
whistling to myself, anyone half-a-yard away from me could not 
hear me. Yet I got reported for it and lost a month's class and 
42 marks. . . •" (a sentence afterwards reduced). Another case 
: is of a man who on the morning of his reception greeted a companion 
in misfortune with the words, "Good morning, Jack." For this 
crime he was punished with two days bread and water diet. We 
i quote three further extracts: — 

I have had the misfortune to lose 30 remission marks through being 
caught with a needle and thread. These are prohibited articles. I 
only had them for the very harmless purpose of sewing on buttons when 

I accidentally caught my breeks on a nail and made a large rent in 
them whilst at work, and having a few days previously accidentally made 
a small tear in the same breeches . . . 'twas thought I had wilfully 
torn them. . . . (The governor) put back my day another six and 
I lost all privileges for a month. Being quit« innocent of any wilful- 
ness or even carelessness, and a warder having seen and testified that 
the large rent was the result of an accident, I naturally felt it rather 
hard lines and waa a little disheartened. 

A prisoner asked me a civil question concerning a tune book. We 
are both in the choir, and I gave him a civil answer. The ofiicer in 
charge saw us and reported us, made an exaggeration of the case, with 
1 the result that I lost a few days remission and some stage. 

A large number of such instances might be quoted. 

I * A* fmct that the writers of the letters knew th»t they wer« liable to censorahip makes 
' the reliability of theii itatementc probable. 



If prison ofl&cers always reported prisoners when they observed 
them breaking the regulations, practically every prisoner would be 
reported in the course of a week. Broadly speaking, ofi&cers do not 
report prisoners for talking, for instance, unless they have broken 
the silence rule fairly persistently, and in most instances they give 
warning.* The officers themselves, however, are liable to punish- 
ment by fine if they do not report prisoners for breaches of discipline, 
and sometimes the proximity of a superior officer compels a warder 
to place a prisoner on report. Many warders complain bitterly of 
the unfairness of their position in being expected to enforce rules 
which cannot be enforced. 

This fact that the rules are of such a character that they cannot 
be rigidly enforced, and yet are enforceable at any moment, places 
a power in the hands of the officials which is open to serious abuse. 
If an officer become prejudiced against a particular prisoner, it is 
always open to him to find occasions for reporting him, and more 
than one of our ex-prisoner witnesses complain that officers have 
made a "dead set" against certain men. Many of our officer wit- 
nesses agree that in certain exceptional cases this abuse arises. 

A few ex-prisoners also complain that certain warders have sought 
to find occasions for reporting in order to obtain the good opinion of 
the governor with a view to promotion. Most of our officer witnesses 
deny, however, that governors expect reports or that promotion 
depends upon them. They agree that there was a time when this 
was the case, but, as a rule, they say it is not so now. Exceptions, 
however, remain. "In my prison," says one officer, "many men 
are unjustly reported. The governor expects reports — and, of 
course, they have to be made." Another warder remarks, "Young 
officers, like police (and some never grow old in this respect) allow 
personal feeling and ambition to prompt many of their reports." 

It is a very usual custom for the charges against prisoners to be 
exaggerated. "One New Year's Eve," says an ex-prisoner, "I 
rapped on the wall to my neighbour at midnight. I was caught and 
reported; I was rendered almost speechless next morning by the 
charge brought against me. It included not only knocking the wall, 
but shouting, banging my utensils, and generally making a disturb- 
ance likely to upset the discipline of the prison ! ' ' One officer states 
that it is almost always the rule to exaggerate the case against the 
prisoner, and he admits that officers go out of their way to support 
each other when giving evidence. "^ 

The Numbeb of Punishments. 
The number of punishments imposed is steadily decreasing. The , 
Prison Commissioners attribute the diminution to "the policy ■ • • \ 
of increasing the rewards and encouragement in the case of well- 

* There are exceptions. One ex-prisoner writes: "Our officer demanded the strictest 
observance of the silence rule. The consequence of this severe repression of the natural , 
use of speech was a very ugly temper among the men. Had he been on duty permanently 
an explosion would have be«n inevitable." 



behaved and industrious prisoners. ' ' * "We should ourselves attribute 
the decrease to the less rigid prison routine and the less hard enforce- 
ment of prison discipline. The amelioration which has taken place 
in prison conditions during recent years has been considerable, as 
will be seen from the descriptions given elsewhere, while the general 
tendency towards leniency in enforcing discipline is attested by 
almost all our witnesses of long experience. 

The decrease in the number of punishments is shown in the 
following Tables based on the returns of the Prison Commissioners : 

age of Prisoners Punished in 

Local Prisons 











Particulars of Prisoners Punished in Convict Prisons. 




Total Male 








for Violence 


Average for 5 years 

ended 1906-7 






91 19 

„ 1911-12 

4,211 ! 2,961 




M 9' 

„ 1916-17 






For year 1917-18 . 







,, 1918-19 . 







1919-20 . 







1920-21 . 






The Prison Commissioners classify prison offences under four 
heads — violence, escapes and attempted escapes, idleness, and "other 
breaches of the regulations." In 1920-21, 26 cases of violence 
occurred in Local prisons (women were responsible for seven), seven 
escapes or attempts (all men), 631 cases of idleness (women 27), and 
4,587 other breaches of the regulations, most of which would be in- 
fringements of the silence rule. In Convict prisons there were 161 
cases of violence (of which four were women), three attempted 
escapes, 69 idleness (one woman), and 858 "other breaches" (15 
women). Eighty-seven of the cases of violence occurred at the in- 
valid prison at Parkhurst, where there are many mental patients. 

The Trial Before the Governor. 
Several ex-prisoners declare that the ordeal of awaiting trial and 
of the trial itself is a greater strain than the punishment. One of 
these witnesses says : — 

5 P.O. Report, 1906-7, p. 27. 


I could never sleep when I anticipated being reported. I had no f« 
of the actual punishment, yet the thought of what I had to go throi 
so upset me that my mind went over the prospects of the morrow aga 
and again. ''^ 

Another witness who was located in proximity to juvenile ad 
prisoners states that he heard them sobbing for hours when they 
were sent back to their cells on report, yet they frequently went 
through the punishment itself light-heartedly. i 

The trial before the governor is certainly calculated to tax the | 
nerves of the prisoner unless he be thoroughly hardened to such \ 
proceedings. The door through which he enters the orderly room \ 
opens on to a narrow dock cut off from the rest of the room by a \ 
high iron railing. In this dock stands the principal warder of the I 
prisoner's hall. The governor is seated at a table with his clerk | 
standing to the left of him, the deputy governor or chief warder '. 
standing behind him, and the "Eeports and Applications" officer i 
near by. In the centre of the room is the officer making the charge. 
The tone of the proceedings is as formidable as is the scene. 

The charge is read out, the officer gives his evidence in a sing- 
song voice, the governor, or his clerk, noting it in his book. The 
prisoner is then asked whether he has anything to say. In the great j 
majority of cases the prisoner neither attempts to deny the charge ! 
nor to excuse his conduct. The governor then reads out the j 
sentence, writes down the particulars in his "Offences and Punish- ! 
ments" book, and the prisoner is hustled away to undergo the 
punishment awarded.' 

The governor is permitted to sentence a prisoner to No. 1 punish- 
ment diet for three days, No. 2 punishment diet for 21 days, to close 
confinement for three days, to reduction in stage for 14 days, to for- 
feiture of remission of sentence by 14 days, and, in the case of 
idleness or refusal to work, to deprivation of mattress for three days. 
If a prisoner be charged with a serious or repeated offence ' ' for which 
the punishment the governor is authorised to inflict is deemed in- 
sufficient," the governor is instructed to report the matter to a 
member of the visiting committee' (or a director, in the case of 
Convict prisons). The committee (or director) has the power to remit 
a portion of any punishment ordered if the prisoner express contrition 
and if the governor "has good reason to believe that the effect of the 
punishment already undergone has been such that he is not likely to 
repeat his offence. " ' 

No prisoner may be placed on punishment unless certified fit by 
the medical officer. The form which he is required to fill in is as 
follows : — 

• The goTernor is reanired to make a brief statement of the case in his book, including j 
the eTidence of the officer and any defence made by the prisoner. Erery Saturday the pages ' 
used during the week must be detached and forwarded to the Prison Commissioners, by 
■whom they are afterwards returned, being then pasted in a guard book and retained at 
the prison. The governor must giTe his reasons for dealing leniently with any prisoner. 

' See pp. 391-3. 

» 8.O. 459. 




1 HEREBY CERTIFY that I have this day examined Reg. No. 

and find him capable of undergoing the several descriptions of punishments 

'at specified below; also that he is for restraint of 

Handcuffs, Leg Chains, Cross Irons or Body Belt and Canvas Dress. 

Description of Punishment. 



Scale of Diet! Corporal 

{especially as regards 
mental state.) 




No. 2 Cat o' Nine Birch 

Tails i Rod 



1 * 


« * 

*Here insert "fit" or "unfit." 

Medical Officer. 

In at least one prison, despite this elaborate certificate, a reliable 
iwitness informs us that the medical officer did not take the trouble to 
jexamine prisoners reported for punishment. He says: — 

Whilst I was at I was sentenced to one period of three days No. 

1 diet, with close confinement, to one period of nine days No. 1 diet, 
with close confinement, and three periods of 15 days No. 1 diet, with 
close confinement. Two M.O.'s visited the prison, but neither of them 
ever examined me. They used to ask if I was all right, and when I 
answered "Yes, so far as I know," they did not worry themselves further. 

! It is not necessary to stress the gravity of the laxity and neglect 
■•which this statement reveals. 

j Prisoners placed on punishment used to be confined in entirely 
dark cells. The Prison Act of 1877 diminished the power to confine 
prisoners in these cells, and after the report of the Eoyal Commission 
on the Irish prisons in 1884, which strongly condemned them, the 
use of entirely dark cells was discontinued. 

j Prisoners frequently undergo their period of punishment in their 
own cells. In other cases a landing of ordinary cells is set apart 
for punishment purposes.' When a prisoner is ordered close confine- 
ment" or punishment diet, all articles are removed from his cell 
except his stool, his chamber, his Bible, and an educational book of 

! • In at least one prison the cells on the runishment landing have glazed windows, and 
ta«T* are no opening panes. 

'" In December, 1921, the Prison Commissioners instmcted governors to permit prisoners 
sentenced to cellular confinement, or other pnnishment, an hoar's exercise daily. 


the severest kind." At 8 p.m. the prisoner on punishment is permitted 
to take his bed-board, mattress, and bedclothes into the cell for the 
night, but they are removed again first thing in the morning. If a 
prisoner on punishment be removed to hospital, the time spent in 
hospital counts as part of the sentence awarded. If, however, it is 
subsequently found that he has been malingering and the medical 
officer certifies that such is the case, a fresh punishment is imposed 
for this offence in addition to the balance of the first punishment. 
If a prisoner commit a further offence while undergoing punishment 
he is tried again immediately he has completed his period of close 
confinement. If he be on No. 1 diet he cannot be awarded a second 
period of that diet, but No. 1 diet may be substituted for No. 2 
diet, or No. 2 may be awarded so as to overlap with No. 1. 

Dietary Punishment. 

There are two diets utihsed for purposes of punishment. No. 1 
diet consisted, from 1901 until 1918, of lib. of bread per diem, with 
water. In 1918, in accordance with war-time regulations, only 12 
ounces of bread were allowed, eight ounces of potatoes being given 
additionally. No. 2 diet, before 1918, was made up as follows: — 

Breakfast. — Bread, 8 ozs. 

Dinner. — Porridge, 1 pint; Potatoes, 8 ozs. ; Bread, 8 ozs 

Supper. — Bread, 8 ozs. 

In 1918 the bread was reduced to 12 ozs., and one pint of porridg« 
given additionally. These punishment diets still remain in force. 

The "bread and water" diet may not be given for more than threi 
days. If No. 1 be ordered for a longer period, "the bread and water' j 
diet must be alternated with the ordinary diet every three days. No , 
1 diet may not be ordered for a period of more than 15 days, ancj 
"no prisoner who has been upon this diet shall be again placed upon 
it for a fresh offence until an interval has elapsed equal to the perioc! 
passed by the prisoner on No. 1 diet." This rule is interpreted aii 
meaning that the number of days actually spent on "bread anci 
water" diet must elapse before the punishment is renewed. Thui 
if 15 days No. 1 diet be ordered, nine days must pass before punish 
ment recur. i 

No task of labour is enforceable when a prisoner is on "bread anci 
water" diet, but the prisoner may "be allowed the option of perform 
ing suitable labour in the cell." The work provided is frequently 
oakum picking." j 

11 Although the chaplain is instructed by a Standing Order (353) to use great care i; 
selecting such books, always recollecting that a man under punishment must not be allowej 
any book that does not (a) convey instruction, and (b) reciuire effort to master its content! I 
a broad interpretation to this phrase is frequently given. One ex-prisoner, for instancf 
was allowed Boswell's "Life ol Johnson," another any educational book in the library, -j 
third witness, however, says that the chaplain in his case was doubtful about allowing hii 
the "Meditations of Marcus Aurelius." { 

" Cp. p. 114. 


Arost of the prison medical officers apparently think that 
re is no need to modify the practice of imposing dietary 
punishments. One of them, however, strongly objects to such 
punishments. "The only punishment should be the deprivation of 
privileges," he urges. "More privileges should be gainable which 
could be taken away if necessary." This doctor points out that 
punishments are administered even in asylums, but they take the 
form, not of the deprivation of food, but the deprivation of such 
"privileges" as tobacco or attendance at an entertainment or dance. 

The Departmental (Committee of 1895 recommended that "No. 1 
diet punishment should be inflicted with great care," especially 
urging the need for precaution in the case of women. "Undoubtedly 
it tends to lower the system," their report proceeds, "and this in 
itself is most undesirable. " " The Prison Commissioners subsequently 
summarised the Committee's recommendation upon this point in 
these words: "No. 1 dietary punishment to be inflicted only when 
no other sufficient substitute is to be found, such as loss of privi- 
leges" ; and declared, "We have systematically enjoined on governors 
our view on this question, which entirely coincides with the recom- 
mendation. " ** Our evidence does not suggest that governors have 
been greatly impressed by the Commissioners' communication to this 
effect. "A sentence of bread and water diet is almost inevitable for 
the most tri^-ial offence subsequent to being reported for the first 
time," remarks one ex-prisoner \\'itness, and all other witnesses 
support his view. 

Dr. E. F. Quinton asserts that dietary punishment is often found 
to be the only way, short of the inffiction of corporal punishment, of 
appealing to the feelings of an idle or insubordinate person ; for there 
are prisoners who light-heartedly submit to loss of remission marks, 
loss of stage privileges, loss of gratuity, or even to cellular confine- 
ment, if their diet is not reduced." A warder of long experience 
declares, on the other hand, that "diet punishment with old lags is 
not a severe form of punishment — ^they say they lie flat on their backs 
and do not feel the hunger very much."" Other prisoners, he 
acknowledges, suffer intensely. About a third of our prison officer 
witnesses urge that punishment by diet reduction should be abohshed. 

Corporal Punishment. 
Corporal punishment can only be inflicted upon prisoners con- 
Ticted of felony or sentenced to penal servitude or hard labour who 
are foimd guilty of mutiny or incitement to mutiny or of gross 

»» 1895 Departmental Committee Report, p. 16. 

»♦ Obserrations ol the Commissioners, 1896 (C.7995), p. 2. 

'* "Crime and Criminals," p. 27. 

■• This is borno ont by the personal experience of a witness. "Dnring four months at 

prison," he says, "I was sentenced to three days, nine days, and three periods of 15 

days on No. 1 punishment diet. At the beginning, when I felt the hunger most, I spent 
much time lying on the floor, my head propped up on a book. I found that by this means 
the pain became much less acute. During the second period of punishment — that ol nine 
days — I found that inacUon of this kind was unnecessary. I had become used to the low 
diet. At the end ol my third period ol 15 days the medical (^cer forbade further dietary 


personal violence to any officer or servant of the prison." Ordinarily, 
at least three members of the visiting committee (two of whom must 
be justices) must be present when the sentence is passed, but the 
Secretary of State may appoint a Metropolitan PoUce Magistrate 
or Stipendiary to take their place. The sentence must be confirmed 
by the Secretary of State." 

The medical officer is required not only to certify the prisoner as fit 
to undergo the punishment beforehand, but to attend the flogging 
and "give such orders for preventing injury to health as he may 
deem necessary." Apparently, however, he only intervenes when 
vitality is dangerously lowered. When there is any record of pre- 
vious mental defect in a prisoner "recommended" for corporal 
punishment, the special attention of the Prison CJommissioners must 
be called to it." 

The instrument used in inflicting corporal punishment upon a 
prisoner over 18 years of age is either a cat-o'-nine-tails or a birch 
rod; in the case of a prisoner under 18 the cat-o'-nine-tails must 
not be used. Thirty-six lashes or strokes may be given to a prisoner 
over 18, eighteen to a prisoner under 18. 

The flogging is attended by the governor, the medical officer, the 
chief warder, and a hospital warder, whose duty it is to give the 
prisoner brandy in the event of faintness. The warder who carries 
out the punishment is invisible to the prisoner, so that he may be 
ignorant whose hand is responsible for the blows. The neck and 
kidneys of the prisoner are protected from injury by leather straps, 
and after the flogging he is generally taken to the hospital and 
nursed until he is normal again." 

The following description of flogging by cat-o'-nine-tails, though 
written half-a-century ago, is, we believe, approximately accurate 
to-day : — 

The prisoner is fastened to a triangle, or to an apparatus somewhat 
resembling the stocks, so that he can move neither hand nor foot. His 
back is bare, the man who wields the "cat" shakes out its nine thongs, 
raises it aloft with both hands, and deals the criminal the first blow- 
across the shoulders. A red streak appears on the whit* skin. Again 
the thongs are shaken out, again the hands rise, again the whips are 
brought down with full force, and the streak on the skin grows redder 
and broader. A turnkey gives out the number as each stroke falls, and 
the silence is only broken by his voice, the descent of each successive 
blow, and by the cries or groans of the sufferer.*' .... 

I'ln addition, when a Court of Assize or Quarter Sessions sentences a prisoner to corporal 
punishment, it is the duty of the governor of the prison who has had the custody of thft 
prisoner during his trial to carry out such sentence by a prison officer, unless instruction* 
to the contrary are given by the Court. 

»« Prison Act, 1898, Section 5. 

i> When a prisoner reported for an offenc* punishable by corporal punishment is within 
a few days of his release and time will not admit of the necessary formalities, particulars 
are required to be forwarded to the Commissioners with a view to a prosecution in a 
Court of Law. 

20 Formerly he would be put in chains or sent to work the next day. 

3> A gorernor declares that he prefers to witness an ezeoution rather than a flogging. 


It is far from an agreeable task to watch the face and figure of the 
flogger as he executes the sentence, and few would deny that the moral 
effect upon Atm must be as great as upon the criminal whom it is his 
duty to whip. The State, when it sanctions the use of the lash, causes 
a human being to do just such an act of violence as it desires to check. ^" 

Dr. Devon has strongly emphasised this last aspect of corporal 
punishment. "Will the man you employ [to flog the prisoner] not 
be a brute also? . . . Does your official imprimatur remove 
the brutahty of his act? ... If not, one result would seem to 
be that at the end you have two brutes among you instead of one. * ' " 
The majority of prison officers look with abhorrence upon the duty 
of flogging, but to judge from our evidence, many of them consider 
that corporal punishment is necessary as a deterrent to assaults. 
"God help the warders if corporal punishment were abolished," a 
governor exclaims. One warder urges, however, that if prison 
disciphne were more humane, such a deterrent would be unneces- 
sary. "The repression of the prison system," he says, "provokes 
outbursts of temper resulting in assault. " " A principal v^arder illus- 
trates the truth of this statement from his own experience: — 

"When I was a young man," he says, "a convict only had to shake 
his head to be brought before the governor. All that is a thing of the 
past. The result is that convicts do not feel the strain so much and 
there are not the violent outbursts which come from unnatural repression. 
In the old days the assaults usually took place in chapel, where the 
warder was likely to be taken unawares." 

A serious objection to corporal punishment is the eSect of a 
Bogging upon the prisoners as a whole, from whom, sometimes, the 
shrieks of the victim cannot be kept. "The knowledge that one of 
their number is to be flogged not only creates a state of unrest among 
the men, " says one officer, "but it seems to appeal to an ugly temper 
.n them. Fear may prevent further assaults, but every officer finds 
that the temper of the men is more difficult and that the tone of 
jihe place is lowered." 

I The number of prisoners subjected to corporal punishment has 
^atly decreased during recent years, as the following Table 
ndicates : — 

Number of Annual Floggings. 

Local prisons. Convict prisons. 

Average for five years 





>> ») 





" " 





L " 





Hn the year ending 




»> ;> 


1918-19 .. 



>> i> 





, »*L. O. Pike, "History of Crime in England" (1876), Vol. II., p. 576. 
a» "The Criminal and the Commnnity," p. 171. 
i •* Op. pp. 509-10 and 564. 



The decrease in the number of prisoners sentenced to corpora 
punishment followed the Prison Act of 1898, which greatl] 
diminished the offences punishable by flogging. During the foui 
years previous to the passing of the Act the number of inflictions o] 
corporal punishment in Local prisons was 301. During the faui 
years immediately following its enactment the numbel- was 92. "Ii 
was considered by some at the time," remarked the Prison Commis' 
sioners in their report for 1902-3, "that the removal of this powerfu 
deterrent would adversely affect the discipline of prisons and rendei 
it less easy to maintain. As a matter of fact, however, comparing 
the four years following the Prison Act, 1898, with the four yean 
preceding it, the yearly average number of offences against prisor 
discipline had decreased from 147 to 131 per 1,000 of prisoners.""' 

Nevertheless, some visiting committees represented to the Home 
Secretary that there had been difficulty in dealing with serious 
offences other than mutiny and violence owing to the restrictioii 
of corporal punishment. The Prison Commissioners, "after careful 
examination," were not satisfied that this allegation could be main- 
tained. In the first place, apart from the general improvement in 
discipline as revealed by the above figures, they were able to show 
that there had been "a most notable rise" in the number of the very 
offences for which corporal punishment was still inflicted, "from 
which it may be inferred," they proceeded, "that corporal punish- 
ment is not the only, or even a sure deterrent, against the commis- 
sion of serious offences against discipline." The Commissionen 
remarked finally that they beUeved that the "limitation of corp<^rii 
punishment . . . has been justified by its results." 

The fall in the number of cases of corporal punishment canno, 
be accounted for, however, solely by the restriction under the 189^1 
Prison Act. Between 1901-2 and 1920-21 the number fell fron 
25 to one in the case of Local prisons, and from 21 to nonii 
in Convict prisons. Two governors put the decrease down to th 
fact that criminals are now of a better type than formerly. Anothei 
governor thinks "the better type of warder has most to do with it:'; 
But most of our witnesses take a similar view to that quoted abov 
from the evidence of a principal warder — that, apart from the 189 
Act, the easing of discipline has been chiefly responsible for thi 

Eestraint op Violent Prisoners. | 

There are six means of restraint authorised for use in prisoi 
They are "to be used only as a measure of restraint, and not as 
punishment," " but in actual practice we fear that insufficient attei 
tion is paid to this distinction. Three of these appliances — the loofj 
jacket, the canvas waistcoat and trousers (a canvas frock in the cai 
of women), and ankle straps may only be used on the recommend 
tion of the medical officer. Two — body belt and handcuffs — can ! 

2» Op cit. p. 24. 
2» S.O. 446. 


iused on the instruction of either the governor or medical ofl&cer. 
The canvas suit (or dress) to be worn by prisoners who 
destroy their clothing can be used apparently on the order 
of the governor alone. All cases of restraint must be 
reported to a member of the visiting committee forthwith, and hand- 
cuffs may not be used for a longer period than 24 hours without the 
oz'der of a member of the visiting committee. During 1920-21, 18 
male and four female prisoners were put in irons or handcuffs in 
Local prisons, and 28 male prisoners were similarly treated in Con- 
vict prisons. Of these 28, as many as 22 were at the invalid prison 

I at Parkhurst. 

' Despite the fact that Rule 92 says that "no prisoner shall be put 
;in irons or under mechanical restraint as a punishment," our 
'evidence suggests that the strait jacket is often used for this pur- 
pose and in such a way as to involve much unnecessary pain. The 
j following statement is made by a trustworthy ex-prisoner witness : — 

During the time I was in the hospital I occasionally saw prisoners 
brought over from the main prison, generally with a black eye or their 
face disfigured in some sort of way. The prisoners who fed them said 

they were perfectly sane. If Dr. thought that any man was 

malingering he would put them in the padded cell. In fact, he oft€n 
used to shout, "Put him in the pad, that'll cure him." 

I A prisoner named F and I carried a man on a stretcher from E. 

Hall. He looked very ill, and was shaking and trembling all over. 
The warders said he was "swanking," i.e., shamming. We put him in 
the "pad," and he was kept there for two or three days. It was his 
first time in prison, therefore he wouldn't be an expert in "swanking." 

On another occasion a Canadian soldier named F had attempted 

suicide, and was placed under observation. He was confined in the 
padded cell and was also put in a strait jacket. On the evening of 

March 30th, 1918, about 5-30, F wanted to use the lavatory. The 

principal warder asked me to unbutton his trousers. The jacket was 
j strapped so tight that I could hardly get my hand up to it. While doing 

I my best to unbutton the trousers, F called out to me, "You are 

hurting my arm." The principal warder shouted, "Break his b 

arm, the Canadian." 

After having returned from the lavatory he was put into the "pad" 
again, trussed up like a chicken, and was moaning and crying, and 
seemed to suffer great pain. About 6-30, the R.C. priest, who happened 

to be in the hospital and whom F had complained to, asked the 

principal warder to loosen the jacket a little (not to take it off). The 
principal warder replied, "He is all right, he is only 'swanking.' " 
Wen, whether he was "swanking" or not, the other prisoners were 
unable to sleep for the groans and crying during the night. 

When D , a prisoner, called to the night nurse and asked him to 

unloosen the jacket he would not do so, and, as I am led to believe, 
could not do so, as a junior officer cannot undo what his superior 

has done. As F 'a cries continued throughout the night, other 

prisoners complained, especially another Canadian, but his language I 
will not repeat here. 


During the following morning, March 31st, I discovered that the 

jacket had been taken off F . When the medical officer put in an 

appearance, D , who had been principal spokesman, was summoned to 

his room and "told off." 

We have similar evidence from several ex-prisoners. 

In Convict prisons restraining irons — i.e. chains locked at the i 
waist and ankles — are fastened upon men who have attempted to I 
escape or who have committed assault. They can be used on the ' 
order of a director for a period up to six months ; an ex-convict 
assures us, however, that they are not very efifective in preventing , 
movement. These prisoners are further distinguished by a grotesque I 
parti-coloured uniform of drab and black, in the case of those guilty ' 
of assault, and of yellow and black, if they have attempted escape. 

"Silent" cells are provided for noisy prisoners. "Not in- ; 
frequently," records Major Eogers, the Surveyor of Prisons, "old i 
prisoners, either from devilment, temper, or irresponsibility, com- 
mence shouting and making a disturbance in the cells at night." | 
Other prisoners raise their voices in protest, with the result that ^ 
"the prison block is not what it ought to be. " Major Eogers states !■ 
that experience has shown that such men, if placed in cells where | 
they know they cannot be heard, soon give up shouting, and, to meet \ 
this need, two or three "Silent" cells have been built in the largest | 
prisons outside the halls. Where, as in most prisons, the "Silent" | 
cells are placed in the basements of the ordinary halls, they are, « 
despite the double doors, "practically useless for silencing men 
determined to make a row." " 

"Special" cells with padded walls and extra strong fixtures are I 
also provided "in which violent prisoners may be placed for their ; 
own security or that of others." These cells may not be used; 
without the authority of the medical officer, and the Prison Cora- i 
missioners explained when they were introduced (1899) that their i 
use "is restricted to the time and occasion when they are necessary i 
for the prevention of violence of prisoners, and we have forbidden i 
their use for penal purposes." 

3' Paper prepared for International Penitentiary Congtross, Washington, 1910. (Actei 
du Oongris, Vol. V.. pp. 123-4). 



1. — The severe discipline, finding expression in a multiplicity of rules 
,vhich cannot possibly be kept, makes liability to punishment constant. 

1 2. — The fact that rules cannot be rigidly enforced, and yet are enforceable 
.t any moment, gives officers the power to victimise prisoners capriciously 

3. — It is the custom of some officers to exaggerate the charges against 
•risoners, and they support each other in giving evidence. 

4. — The trials of prisoners for prison offences, before the governors and the 
isiting justices, are unduly intimidating. 

S — Medical officers sometimes certify prisoners as fit for punishment 
/ithout examination. 

6. — Punishment by lowering the diet is dangerous to health. 

7. — Many prison offences are the result of nervous exasperation. In such 
isea, to impose close confinement as a punishment tends to aggravate tha 
aose of the outbreak. 

1 8. — The infliction of corporal punishment has a demoralising effect upon 
ae whole prison population and is degrading to the officer who performs 
Se duty of flogging. 

9- — "Means of restraint" are sometimei used for punitive purposes. 



The Treatment of Condemned Men 

Prisoners who are charged with murder are generally kept in the 
prison hospital before the trial, often in dormitories with other; 
prisoners. After sentence of death has been passed, they are con-i 
fined in special cells about three times the size of the ordinary cell; 
If in good health they are placed in the "condemned cell" in thd 
ordinary part of the prison, if in poor health, in a similar cell irj 
hospital. On the morning of the execution the condemned man if! 
removed to a cell within a few yards of the gallows' shed. It is hertj 
that the last interview with the chaplain takes place. 

Efforts are made strictly to segregate prisoners condemned to bf 
hanged, and, so far as speech and ordinary means of communicatioij 
are concerned, with success, after the sentence of death is passed! 
But in many cases the "condemned cell" is located among tm 
ordinary cells, and the presence of the condemned man in their midsi 
is very real to the other prisoners.^ One ex-prisoner witness, speak: 
ing of a man condemned to death for the murder of his wife, statel 
that he was kept for three weeks in a "condemned cell" at th 
"centre" end of the hall occupied by the juvenile adults. Thii 
meant that practically every prisoner passed the cell during the coursj 
of the day. ; 

Two officers remain with the condemned man night and day. Thi| 
extraordinary surveillance has as its chief object the maintenanci 
of the majesty of the law by preventing the suicide of its victim. 0| 
the material side, however, some efforts are made to make the lafl 
days of the condemned man as comfortable as the conditions wi 
allow. Extra diet is sometimes given, and the cell is furnished wit 
a bed, and three exercises are allowed daily. One witness tells ho^ 
a box of dominoes was provided for a "condemned man" who aske 

1 Major Rogers, the Suryeyor of Prisons, stated in a paper read at the Internationj 
Prison Congress, Washington, 1910, that "great care is exercised in the selection 
the position of the cell so that the execution shed can be reached without haTing 
traverse a long distance, or descend sters, or come under view of other cell windows." (Act| 
du Congres, Vol. V., p. 130). If that be the case, the authorities, as what ^follows wl 
make clear, are not always to be congratulated on the results of their "care." 


to be allowed "a game. " * No one may visit a prisoner who has been 
sentenced to death except with the special consent of a member of 
the visiting committee or of the Prison Commissioners. Visits take 
place in the "caged" visiting cells in the presence of two warders. 
The chaplain, the medical officer, and the governor see the prisoner 

Our evidence differs as to the relationship which exists between 
the "condemned man" and the warders in charge of him. No 
doubt the relationship varies. By ex-prisoners the assertion is 
frequently made that the warders are callous, but prison officials 
assert that the officers are good companions to the condemned man, 
and one prison warder states that he has known cases where the 
murderer has thanked the warders for their cheerful words. Dr. 
Devon records that the warders almost always report that the con- 
demned man was "not such a bad fellow." 

The varying attitude of prison officials towards men sentenced 
to death is suggested in the following statement by an ex-prisoner : — 

Warders in conversation told me how they disliked the job of having 
care of a condemned man after sentence and prior to his execution, and 
what a nervous strain it was. One of them told me that the condemned 
men (three) put under his care had been quite ordinary decent fellows, 
better than the average prisoner. He told me this story of a negro, 
who had repented of his crime and had surrendered to the police. The 
prison chaplain came to see him daily, but he was cruelly inhuman and 
unsympathetic. He used to order the negro to kneel down, "gabble 
off" some prayers, curtly ask if he had anything to say, and then depart. 
After some days the negro declined to accept his ministrations. Then 
the chaplain left for a week's vacation and a visiting curate came. His 
actions were entirely different. He was brotherly and humane and quite 
melted the negro, addressing him by his Christian name. By the day 
of the execution the prison chaplain had returned. Immediately the 

I man was dead the chaplain turned to the warder and said, "Well, we 

I have got rid of a rare rascal there." 

"I could restrain myself no longer," said the warder to me. "I told 
him I thought the negro was a gentleman and that in a moment of 
passion he had done what many of us might do. I told him that he 
had given himself up and that his behaviour showed that he was really 

j penitent. And I told him that I thought he had treated the negro 

I scandalously." 

The Effect Upon the Prison Population. 
I Evidence of the bad effect of executions upon both the staff and the 
'other prisoners is unanimous. "It upsets everyone," remarks a 
I governor, and a chief warder and a medical officer emphasise its bad 
j effect upon the warders particularly. 

j The following statement by an ex-prisoner illustrates this 
I demoralising effect of an execution upon the prison population : — 

* One warder describes how a condemned man in his charge pleaded to be allowed a 
bntton. "We let him hare one," he proceeds, "and we soon realised what he wanted it 
for. He played shoTe-halfpenny continually till his execution," 


I left Pentonville prison in July, 1916, two or three days before tha 
execution of Roger Casement. There was intense nervous excitement ^^ 
in the prison. The chief topic of conversation among the prisoners was 
the forthcoming execution. Would Casement be reprieved? Could you 
see him go out to exercise? The whereabouts of his cell, the attendance 
of warders day and night, the food he got, the whereabouts of the hang- 
ing shed, particulars of the cleaning of the shed by a prisoner, the 
programme on the day of the execution, the details of the hanging — all 
these were eagerly discussed whenever an opportunity of conversation 
occurred — and in the workshop they were many. The execution was 
obviously a topic of frequent discussion among the officers, too. Some- 
times they joked about it before the prisoners. 

I was in prison at the time of the execution of a man named , 

who had murdered his wife and baby. He was detained in hospital for 
several weeks before trial, and was a subject of excited interest among 
the prisoners. 

As the day of the execution approached — it became generally known 
about a week before the date — the excitement of both prisoners and 
warders rose. Prisoners mounted to their windows at every meal-time 
when the condemned man went out to exercise under the close escort of 
two warders. He could be seen from two wings of the ordinary prison 
and from one hospital wing. In the evenings the juvenile adults worked 
on the landing of the hall in which my cell was located. I could hear 
whispered conversation about the details of the murder and of the 

' ' I have never seen anyone who had anything to do with the death 
penalty who was not the worse for it," declares Dr. Devon. "As 
for the doctor, who must be in attendance, it is an outrage on all his 
professional as well as his personal feelings. . . . There has 
never (for very many years) been any pretence that the executioner's 
occupation is not a degrading one."' 

The cruelty of the death sentence in its eSect upon prison officers 
is movingly expressed in a conversation which an ex-prisoner 
records in the following statement : — 

A principal warder told me what a strain it was to have to attend 
executions of men who had been under his charge for many weeks, men- 
whom he had got to know well and sometimes almost to love. "For 
many nights before and after an execution I cannot sleep," he said. 
"Before it comes, every time I see the man or think of him the thought 
of what I shall have to do at the execution strikes me. I see him 
hanging there, whilst I hastily undo the buttons of his jacket and pull 
open his shirt for the doctor to listen to his heart. After it has taken 
place, I cannot shake the memory of the scene from me. You see, I 
have sometimes been in daily contact with the man a month or more, 
and often he has bared his soul to me. Many of these men have occupied 
quite a warm place in my heart." 

In some prisons, at least, the "condemned cell" is stationed at a 
long distance from the gallows' shed, and the wretched man has to 
pass, on the morning of the execution, before the eyes of many of 

» "The Criminal and the Community," pp. 169-171. 


he other prisoners. Upon this point the following quotation from 
he evidence of an ex-prisoner is emphatic: — 

On the day of the execution I was in close confinement under punish- 
ment, but I was aware of a curious nervous tension in the prison. 
Prisoners were kept in their cells until about 11 o'clock. At about eight 
I heard the door of the "condemned cell" unlocked and the prisoner taken 
through the hall in which I was. He was then taken down the side 
of a yard under the full view of two wings, to the special cell, where 
he spends the last hour with the chaplain. This is within a few yards 
of the hanging shed and is situated within the view of three wings 
(F.H.I.) of the prison. Afterwards I heard other prisoners talking of 
these proceedings in great detail. 

This is not the place to argue whether the death penalty is ever 
ustifiable, but it is within our province to urge that no man con- 
temned to death should be hanged in a prison. An execution in- 
ivitably brutalises the already unhealthy atmosphere of prison and 
eacts most disastrously upon both officials and prisoners. 

The Capital Punishment Act of 1868 requires that the sheriff 
;harged with the execution, and the governor, chaplain, and medical 
>fficer shall be present at the hanging. They are generally accom- 
)anied by one of the principal warders, one of the hospital ofl&cers, 
knd the two officers who have been in charge of the condemned man, 
n addition to the executioner and his assistant. The Capital Punish- 
nent Act contains a clause allowing any Justice of the Peace for the 
urisdiction to which the prisoner belongs and "such relatives of the 
)risoner or other persons as it seems to the sheriff or the visiting 
ustices of the prison proper to admit" to be present at the execution, 
rhis clause is rarely, if ever, put into operation, although on one 
•ecent occasion two Press men were permitted to attend an execution. 

The number of persons hanged in 1919-20 was 13. The average 
lumber of hangings annually during the five years, 1909 to 1914 
we omit the exceptional war years) was 15.6. During that period 
i2 persons were hanged despite recommendations to mercy by the 
ury. Women found guilty of murder are almost invariably re- 
)rieved, serving a sentence of penal servitude instead; but a woman 
vas hanged in 1907. 




Leaving aside the question of the justifiability and expediency of capital' 
punishment, an execution has a demoralising effect upon the whole prison 
population, is degrading to every official concerned, and certainly ought 
not to take place in a prison. 



Health of Prisoners on Eeception 

The Departmental Committee of 1895 reported that "the average 
prisoner in height, weight, strength, and mental condition is 
markedly below the average of the outside population," and all 
subsequent evidence has borne out this view. The late Dr. Charles 
Goring, whilst pro\Ting that there is no such thing as a criminal type, 
shows also that the average criminal is less healthy, physically and 
mentally, than the law-abiding citizen. He found that, except in 
the case of criminals convicted of fraud, "the mean stature and 
weight of the criminal is from one to two inches, and from three to 
T^lbs. less than the corresponding stature and weight of the non- 
criminal pubhc." * 

Dr. Goring 's investigation was concerned primarily with convict 
prisoners, but his comparative statistics of the physique of convicts 
and of the occupants of Local prisons show that they approximate 
closely, and his conclusions are generally endorsed by Local prison 
authorities. "The intellectual and moral inferiority which charac- 
terises so large a section of the criminal class," reported Dr. Smalley, 
late Medical Inspector of Prisons, in 1908, "is associated with a 
physical inferiority of at least as pronounced a degree." "Out of 
706 prisoners who were received into the hospital, 239 were admitted 
on their reception into prison," wrote the medical ofl&cer of Penton- 
ville prison in 1912, "and 189 of these remained in the hospital 
during the whole of their imprisonment, which indicates the large 
number of prisoners received suffering from physical and mental 

» "The English ConTict," 1913, p. 194. 


Effect of Imprisonment upon Health. 
The prison population being thus below the standard of health 
on entering, how is it affected by imprisonment? If we took the 
number of "sick" prisoners treated outside hospital, together with 
the hospital inmates, we should conclude that prisons are disease- 
ridden. In 1920-21 the daily average of such prisoners was 1204, 
which was 14.35 per cent, of the total average daily population. 
But the fact is that a great proportion of those who report sick suffer 
from quite minor complaints — constipation, headaches, stomach 
disorders, coughs, cuts, etc. — which would ordinarily receive simple 
domestic treatment, but which in prison can only be treated by 
application to the medical officer. * 

The prison test of health is bodily weight. So long as the monthly 
returns do not show loss of weight a prisoner is assumed to be 
healthy. The medical officers apparently all consider this test to 
be satisfactory. One of them, however, qualifies his approval with 
these remarks : — 

The body-weight test is sufficiently satisfactory for judging the 
general health of large bodies of people, but it is an unsatisfactory test 
for the individual. I mean this : if you have a large body of people 
and their weights drop, you can be certain there is something wrong. 
If their weights remain normal you can be fairly sure that their physical 
condition is normal. Indeed, it is difficult to think of another general i 
test. But an individual may be all the better for losing weight and ail 
the worse despite gaining weight. 

If greater individual attention were paid to the health of prisoners 
than our evidence proves to be the case, there would be less ground j 
for criticism of the bodily weight test. i 

The ofi&cial view of the effect of imprisonment upon health, bothi 
physical and mental, is that it improves. As long ago as 1894, | 
when conditions were less good, the Prison Commissioners in their i 
annual report claimed that "residence in prison in England and I 
Wales is favourable to the maintenance of health and strength.'!] 
"Physical health nearly always improves," a governor declares.] 
"Any mental weakness generally improves. Discipline, absence of: 
excitement, of drink, of excitement of the opposite sex, has a tran-j 
quillising effect." "My experience is that prison is a sort of 'restj 
home' for many, and that the improvement in health is usually very' 
marked," says a medical officer, and he is supported by a number 
of his colleagues. 

On the other hand, some of the medical ofl&cers do not share this 
view. One states that in some cases prisoners suffer mentally; 
another that the effects of imprisonment are harmful both physically 
and mentally in the case of long sentences; another that prisoners 

2 An experienced nurse, commenting upon this practice, suggests that the time of the 
doctors could be freed for more responsible duties which are at present neglected if a sister l 
or a trained male nurse were authorised to deal with these minor complainta, "just as » 
matron deals with them in a boys' school." 


suffer in health "to some slight extent"; another that "they do not 
tend towards improvement." 

Dr. Goring 's general conclusion upon the matter was that neither 
physique nor mentality is apparently affected, but that in certain 
respects rariations occur. Mortality from accidents and infectious 
diseases he found to be less than the general population standard; 
from suicide and surgical operations very much more; from tuber- 
sulosis about the average.* These conclusions, it should be noted, 
were reached on evidence derived from Convict prisons, where the 
diet is fuller than at Local prisons. Dr. Goring 's only test of physical 
health was body -weight. 

In contrast with Dr. Goring 's conclusions, our evidence impres- 
jsively denotes the bad effect of imprisonment upon health. Seventy 
!Df our ex-prisoner witnesses state that imprisonment caused general 
debility, 35 state that it seriously affected their nervous system, 29 
state that their digestion suffered, 16 state that their eyes suffered,* 
.and 10 that their lungs suffered. These are the principal prejudicial 
'.effects reported, but many others are mentioned. 

; Certain considerations, however, tend to qualify this testimony. 
Most of these witnesses were imprisoned during the war, when the 
diet was most seriously reduced. Many of them were hitherto 
jiccustomed to conditions of comparative comfort. Most of them 
|3erved long terms, and some, indeed, owing to repeated convictions, 
more than the maximum two years permitted by law, with practic- 
jiUy no respite. 

I "With these points considered, on the evidence before us, our con- 
Islusion is that most prisoners on short sentence improve in physique, 
owing to the fact that so many of them are in a low condition of 
aealth on arrival, although in some cases the strain of even short 
'sentences has a damaging effect. In the case of those who serve 
long sentences, in Local prisons particularly, they generally become 
^^eriously weakened, suffer severely from nerve strain, with loss of 
physical energy to a very marked degree, while any flesh gained is 
iauffy and flabby in condition. The mental effects are dealt with in 
j later chapters. 

Deaths in Prison. — The authorities are always anxious to prevent 
ieaths occurring in prison. One of the rules reads that "whenever 
:he medical ofi&cer is of the opinion that the life of any prisoner will 
je endangered by his continuance in prison, or that any sick 
Dnsoner will not survive his sentence, or is totally and permanently 
anfit for prison discipline, he shall state the opinion, and the grounds 
thereof, in writing to the governor, who shall duly forward the same 

; * "The English Convict," pp. 228 and 229. 

; * As described elsewhere, the lights in some cells are very defective, and reading and 
liewing are a aerions strain upon the eyesight. 


to the Commissioners." The result is abnost invariably an order 
for the release of the prisoner, if suitable conditions can be found 
for him outside prison. Indeed, prisoners are sometimes released 
when it would be more humane to keep them in prison. The 
coroner at an inquest held in Shrewsbury prison on January 18th, 
1918, remarked that "the last sick man who was discharged died 
on the steps and another died in a railway train." A coroner's 
inquest must be held on every death that occurs in prison. 

In his annual report for 1898-99, Dr. Smalley explained how it is 
that some deaths occur in prison despite the efforts of the authorities 
to avoid them. The prisoner may have no friends or relatives, or, 
if he has, he may not wish to throw himself upon them. The friends 
may be unable or unwilling to be burdened. Eelease must also be 
recommended with great judgment. "If the case is one considered 
suitable for release, there must be some guarantee that the position 
of the prisoner is not rendered worse by such release than by remain- 
ing in the prison. All this takes time, when perhaps there is Httle 
to spare. ' ' Further, the patient may become critically ill suddenly, 
so that removal might jeopardise his life. 

The policy of releasing prisoners suffering from fatal maladies 
makes the death-rate of prisons comparatively low. The following 
are the Local prison figures for 1912-14, the three years preceding 
the abnormal period of the war, and for 1919-20 and 1920-21: — 

Deaths other 

Per thousand of 

than hangings 

the prisoners 

and suicides. 
















• _ 1 J t n 


•_ -\ r\c\r\ c\t _• _!„ 

The deaths in Convict prisons numbered 12 in 1920-21, giving £ 
death-rate from natural causes of 8 per 1,000 of the daily average' 
population. In 1919-20 the rate was 7.6. 

The large proportion of deaths in prison which occur shortly after 
reception demands particular notice. So long ago as 1885, Sii 
"William Harcourt, then Home Secretary, issued a circular to the 
courts urging that "it is desirable that every care should be taken td 
prevent persons afSicted with fatal disorders from being sent td 
prison, which are places of penal discipline, and which cannot servti 
their proper purpose when the prisoners are received in a dying state,! 
or in such a condition that they have to spend the whole of theii! 
term in the prison hospital." The practice, however, persists, anc, 
a large number of people seriously ill continue to be sent to prison.| 
The medical statistics for the years 1911 to 1914 (the statistics have 


jeen omitted since) show that in Local prisons the number who died 
vithin three weeks of entering were: — 

1911-1912 43 

1912-1913 30 

1913-1914 40 

The Medical Staff. 

In 1898 the rule was made that one of the fire Prison Commis- 
iioners and Directors of Convict prisons must be a medical man,* 
md Sir H. Bryan Donkin, M.D., was appointed. Resigning 
n 1909, he retains his voice on the Board of Directors of Convict 
)risons as honorary "medical adviser." The present medical 
nember of the Commission is Dr. Dyer, who served previously both 
is a medical officer and inspector of prisons. Whilst satisfied with 
he present medical representative on the Prison Commission, some 
nedical officers urge that the appointment should be made electively 
)y all members of the prison medical service, the criticism being 
requent that the Commissioners take little notice of their recom- 

Promotion is now a matter of time, until recently it was a matter 
)f the prison population. "The result was we had no incentive to 
•educe the prison population," remarks one medical officer frankly. 
'Indeed, the incentive was in the opposite direction. The more 
)risons and prisoners there were, the more jobs and the greater the 
'.hances of promotion. Therefore, we were not inchned to welcome 
nethods which made for less prisoners."* 

There is a Medical Inspector of Prisons, and it is his duty to visit 
hem periodically, taking particular note of the sanitary arrange- 
nents, the food supply, the details of the hospital regime, and the 
nedical attention generally. Most witnesses agree that these 
nspections are hurried and superficial, but occasionally they result 
n improvements being inaugurated. 

Each prison has at least one medical officer specially responsible 
or the health of its inmates, with the exception of Camp Hill Pre- 
'entive Detention prison, which utihses the services of the doctors 
.ttached to the neighbouring Convict prison at Parkhurst, and the 
vomen's convict section of Liverpool prison and the men's convict 
ection of Maidstone prison, which share the staS of the Local 
)rison. There are three medical officers at Brixton, Holloway, 
jiverpool, and Parkhurst prisons, and two at Manchester, Penton- 
ille, and Wormwood Scrubbs prisons. At 31 of the smaller prisons 
'Uly part-time medical officers are employed. 

» See p. 60, Footnote 14. 

• One medical officer strongly urges that the prison medical service should be taken over 
y the Ministry of Health and associated with the asylum serrice. "An exchange of work 
nd posts between these two services," he says, "would be adrantageous and welcome." 
he scale of remuneration for medical officers has recently been considerably advanced, 
lass 1 is now from £450 to £700, Class 2 from £225 to £500. Bonus and housing 
icommodation are in addition. One medical officer declares that even these improvements 
•ave the scale worse than that paid in the army and navy. The hours of work appear to 
3 reasonable, and no complaint is made of the lack of freedom. 


The views of both medical officers and prisoners on the advantages; 
and disadvantages of part-time service vary. Some medical officers: 
are in favour of part-time employment. "It is advantageous,", 
says one, "to have work outside, otherwise one may become 
narrowed." Some think full-time employment better, but they do 
not consider that small prisons provide sufficient duties. One! 
medical officer states his opinion thus: — ' 

Prison duties cannot be carried out properly by a half-time M.O. It 
is impossible for a half-time man to make an adequate inquiry into the 
mental condition of prisoners. That would require more time than a 
half-time man could be asked or expected to give. 

In the case of the ex -prisoners, some take the view that the part- 
time medical officers are more hurried and superficial, others that 
they are more humane and less subject to the hardening effects dg 
the prison regime. \ 

The medical officer is the most powerful official in a prison. "01 
all the officers," says Dr. James Devon, "he has the freest hand." 
The medical officer can order prisoners increased or special diets i 
can exempt them from doing full "task," can apportion them special 
work, including work in the open air, can secure additional exerciw 
for them, can prohibit dietary punishment or cellular confinement 
can remove them at any time to hospital, can place them ii 
dormitories or observation cells or padded cells, and can order theni 
to be put in strait jackets; can recommend surgical treatment out 
side the prison; can, with a fellow -doctor, certify them insane, am' 
with the concurrence of a visiting magistrate have them removed t(j 
an asylum ; and finally, can recommend their release. It will be seerj- 
at once that a great deal depends on the attitude and capacity o 
the medical officers.* 

The Medical Officers and the Prisoners. 
In the evidence we have received as to the character and efficier^^ 
of medical treatment in prison, the work is sometimes praised, n; 
often severely censured. The following statement made by 
prisoner who had served sentences of hard labour in five prit' 
reflects the opinions of many others, both appreciative am 
condemnatory : — I 

I was in prison only 10 days and saw the medical officer bu! 

once, being discharged unexpectedly. He examined me with greate 
care than I ever experienced afterwards on entering prison, soundin: 
my lungs and heart and asking a number of questions about my medica! 
history. He impressed me as a man who knew his work and perfomn 
it conscientiously. 

At , the medical examination on reception was very perfunctorvi 

and on the three or four occasions on which I had to see the medica, 
officers, they struck me as doing their work rapidly and mechanically 

t "The Criminal and the Community," p. 218. 

s Any improper exercise ol his powers renders a medical officer liable to an action 
common law. 


without much care. For almost every ailment one or two stock closes 
of medicine were given. An example of this was a case of a Scottish 
lad who asked for more food in view of the fact that he was doing 
heavy gardening work. The medical officer, not understanding his pro- 
nunciation, ordered him the customary dose of medicine, which the boy 
at once drank off, so taken aback was he by the lightning decision of the 
doctor ! 

Despite the fact that medical officers are permitted (so I understand) 
considerable liberty, the doctors at this prison seemed to me to do every- 
thing, according to routine. At the same time, whilst curt, they were 
always civil to me. 

At , the assistant medical officer was both uncivil and curt. His 

language was frequently almost as bad as anything I ever heard in 
prison, either from officers or prisoners. He seemed to look upon every 
prisoner as a scoundrel or a shirker, and to consider that every applica- 
tion for medical treatment was a cloak for malingering. His brutal 
attitude caused him to be hated throughout the prison, and many 
prisoners refused to make any application owing to fear of him. Like 
many men of this type, his brutality was a covering for cowardice. On 
the rare occasions when prisoners "stood up" to him, and told him that 
he ought to be civil or threatened to report him, he changed his tone at 
once. In one instance of which I have first-hand evidence, after leaving 
a prisoner in his cell unattended, with an open expression of view that 
he was malingering, this doctor was suddenly summoned to the cell and 
found the occupant to be dangerously ill with appendicitis. The 
prisoner (a reliable man) told me afterwards that the doctor's fear that 
he might die and the lack of medical attention consequently be exposed, 
was almost pathetic. 

The senior medical officer at this prison was civil, but officially distant 
and cursory in his duties. His examination on reception did not occupy 

more than twenty seconds, and during the two months I was at , I 

was never examined again, nor, except on discharge, even asked if I were 
"all right." 

At prison the medical attention was far more thorough and 

efficient. During the eighteen months I was there, two doctors were in 
charge successively, and both of them were most conscientious in fulfilling 
their duties. They went the round of the prison once a week, and^ while 
they did little more than pass the cell doors, if any complaints were 
voiced, they immediately made an examination. When a prisoner was 
in separate confinement, they generally examined him once a week, and 
their examinations were always careful. 

When a prisoner was run down or suffered from loss of weight, he 
was readily transferred to hospital, and in hospital the medical officers 
paid detailed attention to the patients. They were reserved in their 
attitude towards prisoners, but I do not think any doctor could have 
been more attentive. 

At , the medical attention was disgracefully bad. It is a small 

prison, and the hospital is only opened when prisoners are exceptionally 
ill. The medical officer was employed part-time only, and although I 
had a period of three months' bread and water there and eight months* 
separate confinement, I was only examined once, and that when I was 
suffering somewhat acutely from intercostal neuritis. The doctor was 



kindly to me personally, but my experience suggested that he was n 
competent at his job, and information given to me by others strong 
bore out this view. 

In a questionnaire which we sent out to 218 ex-prisoners who h£ 
served terms of imprisonment in Local prisons, there was include 
a request for an expression of opinion on the medical attention. Tl 
replies may be summarised as follows : — 

Poor or hurried ... ... ... 78 

Inhuman ... ... ... 38 

Suspicious of Malingering ... 18 
Good or fairly good ... ... 29 

The proportion of adverse criticism is even more pronounced tha 
these figures suggest, owing to the fact that in almost every cas 
the expressions of satisfaction referred to two particular medics 

The following are typical quotations from this body of evidence :- 


The three doctors with whom I came in contact appeared to be carefi 
and conscientious, though one of them had sometimes a roughness < 
speech and impatience of manner which I know some of those whom 1 
treated felt rather keenly. I 

II. \ 

Reluctant to put men in hospital. Entire lack of sympathy. Eveij 
prisoner, unless life is obviously in danger, is treated as a malingerel 
The manner of all doctors I have met in prison is a disgrace to tl' 
profession and markedly in contrast with the manner of doctors outsidl 


M.O. at was the most objectionable man in the prison servic; 

and one never went near him unless one could help it. When one di 
one got no attention nor attempt at diagnosis. . . . There is an i; 
evitable absence of trust. For example, I have been under speciaiisi 

for eczema, but when I stated this fact to the M.O. at , with' 

request to be given work elsewhere than in a laundry, he stated that | 
my story was true I ought not to be in a laundry, but he would take-jj 
action as I might be telling a lie. ! 

Hurried, callous, and insulting. Although suffering from neuralgi 
with abscess, I was afraid to see the doctor. 

V. I 

Medical attention is a disgrace. One is treated just like an animal !| 
the M.O. Half a dozen stock medicines supply the remedies for ai 
disease, with very few exceptions. 


One immediately beneficial reform would be the discharge of alm(| 
all the present staff of M.O's, who are almost without exception of t 
worst "institution official" type. In all my experience of six prisonsj 
only met with one M.O. who treated prisoners with anything approac; 
ing the sympathy and consideration they would give to patients outsid 


The above evidence has been provided by political prisoners, but 
it is borne out by the evidence which has reached us from ex- 
prisoners of a more usual type and from other officials in the service. 
An officer of 20 years' experience, for instance, when asked whether 
be had known governors or medical officers who had had a good in- 
fluence on prisoners, repHed, "Yes, in the case of governors; no, in 
:he case of doctors."" There is much to suggest that many 
medical officers are even more cursory and contemptuous in their 
treatment of ordinary prisoners than in the case of poUtical prisoners 
iS'ho, it should be remembered, often have many inconveniently 
influential friends outside prison. Particulars have been given us of 
1 woman who died of cancer very shortly after being censured by the 
nedical officer for expecting treatment "as though she was in a 
convalescent home." Another prisoner who was always said by 
:he medical officer to be shamming, was found to be in a most critical 
condition when taken to a hospital after release. 

1 The Extent of Malingebixg. 

j That much malingering occurs cannot be doubted. Mr. Tighe 
Hopkins " quotes a description by Dr. Tennyson Patmore of how 
16 "cured" a convict sent from another prison to \Yormwood 
5crubbs, as suffering from "grave epileptic fits." The patient was 
jut to bed, and Dr. Patmore solemrJy remarked in his hearing that 
^here was no "medical treatment available for such a case save a 
arotracted course of very low diet." In less than a week the man 
oronounced himself "entirely cured" and never to the end of his 
sentence had he another epileptic fit ! 

Dr. E. F. Quinton, of Holloway prison, argues that criminals are 
*bnormally insensitive to pain. He writes: — 

I have, for instance, frequently laid open acutely inflamed abscesses, 

hich to an ordinary patient, with a normal nervous system, would 

^ause intense pain, and fished out such foreign substances as bits of thread 

I and wire, which had been purposely inserted in the flesh by the convicts 

J themselves, without apparently causing any real suffering. In the case 

of one prisoner who had acute inflammation in both eyes that lasted 

, several days, and was of a suspicious character, I stumbled accidentally 

on the exciting cause. The patient was constantly tampering with some 

part of his body and was an adept at shirking work. He deliberately 

drank the lotion supplied for his eyes, and I was summoned hastily 

to find him ill with unpleasant symptoms. I discovered in each eye 

tncked in under the lid, a small piece of spring steel which he had no 

time to remove when his symptoms came on. He admitted afterwards 

that he had been in the habit of "wearing" them in his eyes for a couple 

of days so as to get ready for the doctor." 

I • ConricU from Portland and Dartmoor, however, report satisfactory attention from the 
ijedical officers, althongh more than once a phrase such as "They shared the hardness of 
he prison staff" is added. A woman convict, who served her sentence at Aylesbury, gives 
'n opposite view: "Very nnsympathetic. Only concerned in seeing how mach you can 
|t»nd without dying." 

j" "Wards of the State" (1913), p. 228. 
'' "The Modern Prison Cnrriculnm," pp. 107-8. 


The fact of malingering is sometimes cited as a proof of the innate! 
dishonesty of prisoners. It might rather be regarded as evidence ofj 
the intolerable nature of the conditions from which they desire to! 
escape. Certainly, when prisoners are prepared to inflict upon them-, 
selves pain of the severe character described above, it goes to prove 
that the treatment to which they are being subjected is beyond 

We must add, however, that we have ourselves received nc 
evidence of malingering of this extreme kind. One witness in thfi 
course of a careful analysis of the malingering now practised ir 
prisons, says: — 

My experience leads me to take the view that the ofRcial suspicioi 
of malingering is much exaggerated. Hospital conditions are littlt: 
better than ordinary prison conditions, frequently they are worse, .•;( 
prisoners generally now have no object in getting into hospital. 

There are exceptions. Discipline in hospital is generally relaxe< 
somewhat. Where dormitories are used, hospital treatment is certainl;' 
better, and sometimes prisoners will risk a period of separate confinej 
ment in the hope of eventually getting the job of "hospital cleaner"-! 
one of the best jobs in the prison. These are all incentives t 

Sometimes, too, a prisoner will dislike his work or the officer in charg 
of his party, and will try to get into hospital to escape one or thi 
other. Sometimes a prisoner will have a pal in hospital whom he want 
to join. I 

Two prisoners often arrange to put down for the M.O. on the sam| 
morning in order to get an opportunity of meeting and conversatioj 
whilst waiting outside the doctor's room. Sometimes one would heaj 
a prisoner whisper to a pal as two separate working parties passed eacj 
other : "Report sick to-morrow." ! 

There are times when the strain of the discipline, the constant supe! 
vision, the work, and the diet of ordinary prison conditions becoirj 
unbearable. Then the comparative comfort of the hospital cell, tV 
relaxation of the ever present eyes of the warders, the rest from worli 
and the possibilities of a larger diet encourage one to put down for tl 
M.O. in the hope of getting a short respite. - ; 

Finally, from desperation of the sheer monotony of prison life, oil 
sometimes puts down for the M.O., the governor, the chaplain, or an 
one else with the idea of a little relief from the ordinary routine. Wht. 
locked in one's cell, to hear a warder come along the corridor and op(| 
another cell door makes one feel quite jealous — even if the prisoner ' 
only to be taken to the doctor's room. These trifling breaches in t 
rigid time-table of prison existence are quite red-letter occasions. 

Whilst, however, some malingering is admittedly practised, it ■ 
not excuse the serious medical neglect which our evidence indie, 
sometimes occurs. 

The Adequacy of the Medical Staff. 
Among the points raised by the evidence from which we h^i 
quoted earlier in this chapter, is the alleged hurried character 
examinations and treatment. The majority of medical offic 


apparently consider that the facihties for treatment are sufi&cient. 

y of them assert that prisoners are regularly examined and that 

have every possible attention. 

Upon these replies we must make the comment that only in an 

insignificant number of cases have ex-prisoners borne out the view 

that adequate medical attention is given, and in no single instance 

have they suggested that a periodical examination of prisoners is 

made." One witness who has undergone terms of imprisonment in 

three London and two provincial prisons says: — 

I was always examined on reception, generally in a very hurried way. 
When reported for punishment I was sometimes examined ; on many 

occasions I was merely asked if I was all right. At , the M.O. 

used to come round the landing once a week and ask if we were all 
right. Once when I was rather seriously ill I had a thorough examina- 
tion, and perhaps on three or four other occasions I was given a hasty 
examination owing to special circumstances, such as a letter of enquiry 
from influential friends. But there was no regular examination, and 
unless a prisoner took the initiative in applying for treatment or com- 
plaining sick when the M.O. came round (and one needs to screw oneself 
up to do this as imprisonment curiously destroys self-reliance) any 
malady, unless very obvious, would certainly go unattended. 

jCareful consideration of our evidence points to the conclusion that 

jthe present medical staS ought to be large enough to treat the 

jordinary physical ailments of the prison population, even to the 

iextent of a periodical examination of every prisoner, taking a certain 

- '"-ber each day. Certainly it would be large enough if it were 

lemented by trained nurses. But clearly, with only the present 

., psychological study and treatment of the individual is quite 

ossible ; and more and more it is being realised that such treat- 

jinent is what a large number of prisoners need." 

j With the exception of Birmingham prison, the mental treatment 

|of prisoners seems to be almost entirely neglected. We beheve we 

(are correct in stating that none of the medical ofi&cers, even at 

jBrixton or Holloway prisons, to which hundreds of cases are sent 

for mental obser^-ation, or at Parkhurst prison, the prison to which 

;physically and mentally weak convicts are sent, have any special 

jqualifications for the diagnosis or treatment of mental cases." Sir 

jE. Euggles-Brise states that all medical officers are required to have 

j"a practical knowledge of insanity";'* but the phrase appears to 

jsignify httle. 

1 " At some rri?ons the women prisoners are eiamined weekly lor indications of "itch" 
|ar for dirty heads. 

" In the year 1913 (the last normal year lor which figures are obtainable) there was 
one medical officer lor 499 prisoners at Birmingham, one for 495 at Dnrham, one for 477 
at Leeds, one for 637 at Wakefield, two for 1,146 at Wandsworth, and two for 1,365 at 
Wormwood Scmbbs. 

'* Yet 20 years ago Sir E. Raggles Brise referred to "the growing belief, fostered by 
the derelopments of anthropological science, that criminality is largely the effect of mental 
[Causes; and that. conseQuently. a prison doctor must be qualified, not only to deal with 
physical disease, but also to note and detect the symptoms, mental or nerrous, which may 
iinTalidate the full responsibility of conduct." (Report of Brussels International Penitentiary 
Congress, 1900, p. 61.) 

-= "The English Prison System," p. 185. 



1. — Prisoners who serve long sentences generally become seriously weakened, 
and suffer severely from nerve strain. \ 

2. — Medical officers of good calibre are rarely attracted to the prison; 
service. The medical attention is frequently hurried and callous, and: 
suspicion of malingering is very prevalent. ; 

3. — The medical staff is not large enough to enable individual psychological i 
study and treatment to be undertaken. Nor is it, as a general rule,! 
competent for such duties. 



Phe medical officer usually sees prisoners in his room. In certain 
prisons, however, the practice is for him to visit the prisoners in 
"jheir cells, accompanied by a hospital officer and a prisoner carrying 
i medicine tray. The latter method has the advantage of not neces- 
sitating prolonged standing in the corridor on the part of the 
ipplicants. Frequently the prisoners have to stand in a row outside 
:he doctor's door for half-an-hour or even an hour. If they are weak 
;his is a great strain, and in the winter the corridors are often cold. 
The evidence we have received from ex -prisoners as to the cruelty 
>f this practice is considerable. The following quotations are 
pypical: — 
' I. 

W. was so ill that he leaned up against the wall whilst awaiting the 
doctor. We were kept standing for 40 minutes. He was bullied for 
I resting against the wall, by a warder, who said "Are you having a 
sleep?" etc. W. was then seriously ill. [W. died five days later.] 


Applicants are kept standing a long time, with the result that a man 
rear to me fainted one day. 


Sometimes I got quite dizzy, owing to having to stand such a long 
time when I was in a weak condition. It was often more than an hour. 


Twice when I was waiting for the doctor, men near me vomited badly. 

We have received frequent complaints as to the limited oppor- 
;unity prisoners have of applying to see the doctor. Applications 
^ave to be made to the warder when the cell door is first opened in 
she morning. Prison officers have instructions to summon the 
oiedical officer when patients need attention, but our evidence proves 
ihat much unnecessary suffering is undergone because of the diffi- 
culty prisoners have in approaching the medical officer. It also in- 
iicates that there is some necessity to accelerate the medical 
ittention after the doctor has seen the prisoner. 


Treatment of Specific Complaints. | 

Eyes, Teeth, and Skin. — Practically no attention is paid to eye-; 
sight. If a prisoner cannot see to do his work or has pains in his 
eyes, the custom is to give him a drawerful of glasses and tell him 
to select the ones which suit him best. Persistence, however, will 
sometimes secure that the eyes are tested, and one witness records 
that the medical officer obtained from the Home Office permission 
for him to be taken to an oculist. In this case the prison authorities 
paid the oculist's fee, but the prisoner was required to pay for thei 
new glasses. i 

The care of the teeth is almost entirely neglected. No attempt; 
is made to get prisoners to clean their teeth. One ex-prisoner states, 
that "the present remedy for all dental trouble is extraction, and; 
extraction by untrained warders with clumsy instruments." This 
statement appears to be approximately true so far as Local prisonsj 
are concerned. If prisoners are sufficiently importunate, the servicesj 
of an outside dentist can be obtained, the prisoner paying the cost.| 
In the case of convict prisoners, where longer sentences are served,! 
the prison authorities pay more attention to dental needs, and 
dentists visit the prison at the public expense. i 

Skin complaints are common in prison, due no doubt to the absence] 
of green stuffs in the diet, the confined existence, lack of exercise.j 
lack of cleanliness — both personal and general, and also, in somtl 
small degree, to contagion. As typical of the unsatisfactory treatj 
ment of these complaints, we quote the following statement from at 
ex -prisoner : — 

After I had been in prison a few months I was troubled with ai 
itching sensation, on the hands. The symptoms became more serious anci 
I decided to go to the doctor. He merely told me to go back to my, 
cell. Soon a warder came for me and told me to pack up as I waij 
going to an "itch cell." Two cells are set aside for the treatment o:' 
this disease. I had to leave all my possessions outside the cell ancj 
Btrip off all my clothes and throw them outside ; then I had to put oij 
an old shirt and get into bed between dirty blankets, there being m 
sheets. ' 

Then a warder came with a prisoner who painted my body almosi 
completely with a yellow liquid, although the disease had affected onK 
my hands. I then got back into bed and the paint slowly dried. Dinne| 
was eventually brought and placed on the table, which was out of m; 
reach. I had previously examined the utensils in the cell; the kniff 
was red with rust; the plate was filthy. I was now expected to ge: 
up, attired only in a damp shirt, and serve myself with dinner and i\ 
wash my utensils. I lay in bed and dinner was taken away. 

First thing next morning the warder came and said, "Empty you 
pot." As this meant going out into the hall, I refused to do it untij 
my clothes were brought. When I had performed the task I got bac: 
into bed again. 

A little later the doctor inspected me and ordered me another coat o 
paint, which was administered that morning. On the following (tb; 


third) morning, I was again visited by the M.O. and was afterwards 
taken to hospital for a bath and given a change of underclothing. Before 
I left the "itch cell' I heard a man being put into the next cell to be 
treated for itch, as I gathered from the conversation between prisoner 
and warder. 

I experienced the symptoms of itch for some weeks afterwards, but 
these slowly died away. Yet even admitting the efficiency of the 
medical treatment, I contend that it should have been administered in 
hospital, and not under conditions so like those of punishment. 

Two other ex -prisoners give very similar evidence. 

Consum-ptive Cases. — The prison treatment of cases of phthisis 
has greatly improved within recent years. In his annual report for 
1899, Dr. Smalley stated that the segregation of tubercular prisoners 
"is ver}- easy to say, but not so easy to carry out." The next year, 
however, he reported a beginning in segregation, and a series of 
elementary regulations were tabled for the treatment of phthisical 
cases. In 1901 it was decided to construct specially airy cells for 
tubercular prisoners, but it was only in 1913 that the Comptroller of 
Accounts reported "considerable progress." The cells include iron 
bedsteads, oak chairs, smooth cornerless walls and extra ventilation. 

Dr. Smalley 's 1907 report on the operation of the regulations 
relating to tubercular prisoners (based on Convict prisons only), 
gives the average tubercular death-rate (1898-1902) as 2.00 per 
thousand. In 1903-7 it became 1.17, a decrease coinciding with the 
introduction of the new regulations and an improved standard of 
diet, with an increase of fatty elements. 

Dr. Smalley gives a comparative Table, showing the deaths of 
convicts from phthisis to be well under those of the general male 
population, and of certain occupational classes outside, but apart 
from the fact that the systematic release of dying prisoners makes 
the comparison valueless, it is no testimonial to the prison authori- 
ties that their own statistics compare favourably with those produced 
outside by bad housing and other adverse conditions. There is no 
reason why prison conditions should not be made definitely 

Venereal Diseases. — In connection with the Eoyal Commission to 
enquire into the prevalence of venereal disease, the medical officers 
of all Local prisons were asked during the six months, November 1st, 
.1913, to April 30th, 1914, to report to the Prison Commissioners the 
•number of cases of manifest venereal disease received each month. 
The returns may be tabled as follows : — 

Males. Percentage. Females. Percentage. 
Suffering from gonorrhoea 488 .7 106 .62 

Suffering from syphilis ... 1,011 1.58 233 1.36 

Dr. Smalley (1913-14) points out that only those cases in which 
there were manifest symptoms were reported ; the Wassermann test 
was not applied. All these cases, he states, were placed on active 


treatment, but, owing to the short sentences of many, "a cure can- \ 
not always be effected, and the returns indicated that about half of i 
those received into prison suffering from venereal disease are still I 
in an infectious condition when discharged." 

The results of examination in three prisons for evidence indicating ' 
that the inmates had suffered from syphilis showed 299 (or 17.04; 
per cent.) male convicts, out of a total of 1,755, as presenting signs; 
of venereal disease. Among 100 female convicts, six had a history 
of syphilis, but, adds Dr. Smalley, the same steps for examination^ 
as were taken in the case of male convicts were not feasible in the! 
case of females, and the percentage may therefore be placed as muchj 
higher than six. f 

The medical officers seem for the most part to be content withj 
the provisions for treating and isolating cases of venereal disease.! 
Only one considered the facilities inadequate. But from ex-} 
prisoners complaints of laxity in isolation are frequent. We quotet 
some: — > 


Isolation lax. Sheets round the w.c. and on the floor when V.D. casesi 
used them for syringing, were mixed with the other prisoners' sheets! 
when sent to be washed. The V.D. cases were kept in the prison andl 
isolated there, but came over to hospital for syringing frequently. ! 


At , all the hospital cases exercised together and the venerea! 

disease and other patients used common w.c's. 


The prisoners suffering from venereal disease have special tins, bui 
they are collected in the same tray as the others, and the tins are al 
taken to the kitchen and washed in the same water. The men whij 
collect the tins are in some cases suffering from the same malady. Tb! 
V.D. prisoners use the same w.c, etc., as the other prisoners, and arj 
allowed to do orderly work in the ward. \ 


Whilst I was in hospital acting as an orderly, a man had to be treatei, 
who had been infected with venereal disease through being cut on th 
chin by the clippers used for shaving. Following this, the M.O. gav 
instructions that the clippers should be dipped in disinfectants befor 
use in every case. 


During the greater part of the time I was at the men sufferin] 

from venereal diseases were not kept isolated. They used the same batfc! 
and lavatories as the rest of us, and their work and tools were mixed u 
indiscriminately with those that others had been using. After a time, ai 
a result of vigorous protests by the other prisoners, a separate bath wa 
put aside for the use of infected men and they were put in cells in ' 
separate hall, but even then the isolation was not complete. No adequat 
medical attention was given, however, and finally four Colonial soldieri 


who were infected, hunger struck for several days in order to draw 
attention to their condition and to get transferred to another prison 
where proper treatment would be given. One of them, a New Zealander, 
said he was determined that he would not go back to his wife until he 
was cured, and he had been kept in prison over a year without any 
proper treatment. 

Some of the laxity revealed in this evidence may have been due 

to war conditions. Even so, it was inexcusable'; nor can shortage 

of staff be urged as an excuse in every case. The following 

^*^atement, for instance, is made by an officer about the present 

mgements at a Convict prison: — 

Venereal cases have special tins, knives^ and forks, also special kits 
of underclothing, but their tins and underclothing are washed in the 
same place as the others. There is a w.c. for these "special cases," but 
it is not properly used by them. Men will not go to it as they are afraid 
of being marked out from among the rest, and they are not compelled 
to do so. The present precautions are useless. The only way to prevent 
infection would be to absolutely isolate all the venereal cases in a 
separate part of the prison. 

Forcible Feeding. — Artificial feeding is not infrequently resorted 
to in prison. Some of the evidence which we have received regard- 
ing it is very disturbing. We give as an example extracts from the 
statement of one of ten political prisoners artificially fed in a northern 
prison during February, 1919 : — 

While we were being forcibly fed on the morning of Wednesday, 
February 17th, the doctor used the same feeding tube in the nose of 
each man. Some of the men were suffering from nasal catarrh. Each 
one protested to the governor against the use of the same tube. The 
operation caused much loss of blood, each prisoner being supplied down 
the nose. The doctor used such violence to me that he drew a handful 
of hair from my head. 

Feeding through the nose continued until February 23rd. The hunger 
strikers having lost much blood, complained to the governor, and have 
since been fed through the mouth. On one occasion while being fed 
through the nose the doctor placed the tube in a position which 
obstructed the food. When the obstruction occurred, the doctor had 
left the prison wing and had to be called back to insert the tube afresh, 
as I was in a very serious condition owing to the tube resting on the 
windpipe. The doctor inserted the tube again, which was so big that 
the milk still refused to run. He was obliged to fix a smaller tube 
which had already been put in another prisoner's nose. I complained 
to the governor and have since then been fed through the mouth. The 
language of the doctor was most foul. . . . 

^Ye should be reluctant to publish a statement of this kind were it 
not corroborated by the other prisoners who underwent forcible feed- 
ing at the hands of this doctor. 

On March 14th, 1918, W. E. Burns, a poHtical prisoner, died 
in Hull prison. At the inquest on March 21st, 1918, the jury 
returned a verdict that he died from "pneumonia, consequent upon 


the inhalation of some fluid food during the forcible feeding." The 
jury held that no blame whatever was attributable to the doctor, but 
the evidence suggested some fault in the tube used for the operation. 
During the proceedings the following questions were put to the 
medical officer: — 

The Foreman : Did you e.xamine the man before you forcibly fed him 
to see whether he had pneumonia on him or not? 

A : No, I just examined. He had not got any sign of pneumonia. 

Mr. Owen (for the relatives of the deceased) : The forcible feeding 
brought the pneumonia on? 

A : It did. 

Mr. Owen : And it killed him ? 

A : Yes. 

Later, this question was put regarding the tube : — 

Mr. Owen : I put it to you — I am not trying to impute blame— the 
fact is that if it had been longer the breathing in would not have affected 
the food passing? 
A : No. 

A second medical man, Dr. Pigeon, gave it as his view that the tube 
was "a little too flexible." 

We do not wish to convey the impression that prisoners who 
refuse to take food are as a rule carelessly treated when resort is had 
to the operation of forcible feeding, but, in, view of the evidence, the 
verdict of the jury in this case might have the effect of encouraging 
a most undesirable sense of immunity among medical of&cers. Our 
evidence suggests that they often regard forcible feeding very lightly, 
and we think it well to point out that other medical men take a very ' 
different view. Quite apart from accidents like that in the Hull case 
many medical men hold that the effects of forcible feeding are often 

Surgical Operations, etc. — The Criminal Justice Administration 
Act, 1914, included a clause authorising the Home Secretary to 
permit a pi'isoner who is suffering from a disease which cannot be 
properly treated in prison, or who requires an operation which cannot ' 
properly be performed in prison, to be taken to a hospital or other 
siiitable place. Whilst absent from the prison, the prisoner is 
deemed to be in legal custody. No operation can be performed with- 
out his consent. 

The Prison Commissioners in their report for 1919-1920 describe 
this as a most useful provision, "enabling skilled operative and other 

' A medical man who has himself been a prison doctor makes the following comment 
npon the Hnll case:— "It is absolutely scandalous that any food should get into the bronchial 
tubes or lung or even the larynx. The tube often catches at the top and may get into the 
top part of the larynx, but in that case only about six inches has gone in, and if the milk 
is poured in then it would certainly go into the larynx, bronchial tubes, and lungs. But 
the tube should be passed 18 inches, and this is known by a mark or piece of cotton on 
the tube; then if the person is breathing comfortably the milk is poured in, and eren it 
he coughs it cannot go into the bronchial tubes unless about 10 inches of the tube comes 
out first, when of course the milk should be stopped. Mr. Owen should have said: 'If the 
tube had been passed further in (i.e., into the stomach), then the coughing could not have 
induced inspiration of food into the lungs.' " 


treatment to be given in all cases in which it could not be secured 
in prison except at very great expense." "With rare exceptions," 
they say, "the practice has not been abused by prisoners absconding 
while in hospital." In 1920-21, 54 prisoners were removed to 
hospital under this provision. Of these, eight died. 

The necessity for more suitable conditions for the performance of 
operations was conclusively shown by Dr. Goring. Commenting 
upon the fact that the death-rate from intestinal obstruction and 
peritonitis is 24 per 1,000 in prison, as against nine per 1,000 in 
the general population, he explained the high prison mortality thus : 
*' These bodily conditions, including strangulated hernia, involve in 
every case the performance of a major surgical operation, the results 
of which, in prison hospitals, could not be expected to attain the 
high level of success obtained in general hospitals."^ In addition 
to the absence of proper facihties for the operation, success is 
probably prejudiced by late diagnosis. From what has been written 
above it is e\ident that a patient may lie unattended for some hours 
before the necessary steps are taken. 

The Prison Hospital: Solitary Confinement. 

The daily average number of prisoners in hospital during 1920-21 
was 375 — 266 males and 109 females. The proportion to the 
general prison population was 3.7 per cent, in the case of males and 
9.4 per cent, in the case of females. In 1919-20 the proportions 
were 4.5 per cent, and 9.1 per cent, respectively. 

We print as an appendix to this chapter an account of life in a 
prison hospital. The feature of this description which will immedi- 
ately impress the reader who is not familiar with prison conditions 
will be the solitary confinement to which the writer was subjected. 
That anyone suffering from illness or accident should be kept in 
solitary confinement, except on account of dangerous mental derange- 
ment, will, we believe, strike every ordinarily humane person as 
monstrous. The longest term of separate confinement which a 
prisoner undergoes outside hospital is one month. But it is the 
custom in hospital to keep a prisoner in separate confinement for 
much longer periods, and generally without any additional provision 
of books and with the absence of any work to occupy his mind.' 

The following extracts from our evidence illustrate the cruelty of 
this system : — 

* "The English Convict," p. 224. 

• S.O. 288 reads: "Prisoners who are under medical treatment in cell or in hospital bti* 
»re not confined to bed shall be giren light employment il they «o desire and ii the medical 
officer sees no objection." But the staff do not like work to be done in hospital, and a 
prisoner rarely knows that it is permitted. The medical officer of Wakefield prison in his 
report for the year 1912-13 acknowledges that "in regard to those patients whose cases 
demand a long period of detention in hospital, there is necessarily a great deal of monotony 
in iheir lires, arising from the lack of occupation and amusement," and records that "at 
the suggestion of the Commissioners," he has introduced the use of frame knitting maciiines 
by patients in his cells. "It has served in some instances," he says, "to afford a healthy 
stunnlns otherwise entirely wanting. In one weak-minded case, notably, it has given the 
"*''6ii' a new interest in life, with beneficial effects on mind and body." This is the only 
rel«r«nce to this experiment we have seen. What happened to it? 



There was one old man, sixty years of age, suffering from acute, 
rheumatism. He served the whole of his eighteen months' sentence in 
hospital, and during the six weeks that I was there he was confined 
to his bed in his cell the whole time. There was a second old man of : 
seventy years of age who served a twelve months' sentence in a hospital i' 
cell, and there was a tubercular patient (afterwards removed to die in 'i 
Woolwich hospital) who remained all day in an ordinary hospital cell — % 
although in his case the door of the cell was left open. Anyone with ai 
little imagination will appreciate what physical and mental torture such 
treatment involves. 


I was in hospital six months. The single cell confinement was worse 
than in the prison cells. It was more quiet and we were locked in all 
day. It nearly drove me mad. i; 


The cell system in prison hospitals is bad. It shuts up a man n; 
than the ordinary prison routine. After the serving of supper at 4 p.m., . 
a man is left entirely till about 5.45 a.m. next morning. Men may j 
die between those hours ; a sudden attack, relapse, or fit may take place, i 
and no one at hand to help. The mental effect of the cell confinement ' 
drives some men nearly mad. 


I cannot imagine any punishment much worse than being in a pi i 

^- . 1 

I was in hospital eight weeks owing to heart trouble following the I 

shock due to my imprisonment. I was kept in separate confinement the 

whole time. The mental effect was terrible and indescribable. The | 

absence of anything to do became unbearable, and I asked for some 

sewing and was given some caps to do. The conditions were such that j 

it was only after I had been in the hospital a month, or five weeks that j 

I came to know I was in hospital at all. {From a woman ex-prisoner). \ 

Medical officers generally advocate the extension of the dormitory j 
system and the restriction of cellular treatment. "Dormitories | 
are unquestionably better than cells," one remarks. "They ought j 
to be extended as fully as possible, but it is a question of the cost."- 1 

The objection most frequently raised to the proposal that the j 
dormitory system should be extended is the danger of contamination. : 
Upon this point the English Departmental Committee of 1895 j 
reported : "Our inquiry has led us to believe that the evils attributed | 
to contamination have been exaggerated so far as male criminals are | 
concerned," whilst the Scottish Departmental Committee (1900) 
recorded that the prison officials denied that association in hospital, 
so far as it is practised, results in contamination. The advocates of 
the dormitory system agree, of course, that there must be stric*^ 

The Hospital Staff. 
The official manual for members of the Prison Hospital Staff lias : 
been "Prison Hospital Nursing," a book of 360 pages, "published by j 
authority" in 1902 and written by Sir Herbert Smalley, M.D., the j. 


late medical member of the Prison Commission. The tone of the 
book is on the whole sympathetic and human, although the dis- 
ciphnary aspect of the officer's duties often finds expression. The 
following passage describes what should be the general attitude of 
the hospital warders: — 

Disabuse your mind of the idea that the prison is a den of iniquity, 
the warder a surly guardian, and that, because you have only criminals 
to deal with, they do not require the same skill, care and attention when 
ill, as is deemed requisite for those more happily situated. Enough 
for you to remember that, though probably more frail morally, and 
perhaps also mentally and physically, than those met with outside the 
prison wall, yet they are as capable of being influenced by care, gentle- 
ness, and upright conduct as most other human beings. Who can tell 
what good may be done by a kind action and a good example, when a 
stubborn nature is softened by the levelling hand of illness ? * 

These are excellent sentiments. Unfortunately, however, the 
Prison Commission does not apply them, nor allow its officials to 
apply them. 

Dr. Smalley says that criminals when ill require the same "skill, 
care and attention" as those more happily situated. Our evidence, 
from which we quote later, proves that the Prison Commissioners 
markedly fail to provide skilled attention for the patients in prison 
hospitals, and that the hospitals staffs are quite inadequate to give 
the "care and attention" which those in their charge require. Nor 
is it of much avail to urge hospital officers to be "kind" when they 
are prohibited by the prison rules and Standing Orders from any 
human relationship with prisoners. Equally with the disciplinary 
officers, they are not permitted to be friendly or familiar with 
prisoners, and are liable to reprimand for breaches of this rule.* In 
actual practice, discipline is generally less strict in hospital than in 
other parts of the prison, but this relaxation is unofficial and is due, 
not to any modification of rules, but to the partial detachment from 
the eye of authority which the hospital enjoys. On the occasion of 
the regular visits from the governor, deputy governor, or chief 
"■^rder, the discipline is as rigid as elsewhere.* 

In a reply given by Mr. W. Brace, M.P., then Under-Secretary for 
the Home Department, to a question by Lord Henry Cavendish 

* Op. cit., p. 14. 

* Miss Beatrice Kent (Royal British Nurses' Association), on the occasion of a deputation 
to him, March, 1918, gave the Home Secretary the following account of a conversation 
between the governor of HoUoway prison and a nurse on the hospital staff:— The governor 
»ent for this particular nurse, and he said, "I hear yon talk to the prisoners." — "Yes, Sir, 
I do, I certainly talk to the prisoners." — "You are not to talk to the prisoners, it is not 
your business to talk to the prisoners: you are here to nurse and nurse only." She is a 
woman of some spirit, and she said, "What, is it treasonable to talk to a prisoner?" — "No, 
I do not say it is treasonable, but you are not to do it, you are not here to talk to prisoners." 

* Searches rarely take place in the prison hospital, but one witness describes how officers 
from the discipline staff were sent to perform this duty and cites a case when a consumptive 
man was stripped and searched with no hospital warder present. "It is not a common 
occurrence," he says, "taking place only when there is suspicion of contraband articles, 
but it is objectionable on many grounds. Surely the health of prisoners should be put 
before the object of finding bits of tobacco? And surely, if a search is necessary at all. 
it should be carried out by the hospital warders? The hospital staff not unnaturally 
resents this procedure." 


Bentinck, November 6th, 1918, the arrangements for staffing prison 
hospitals were described as follows : — 

At the male prisons shown on the attached list ' there are hospital " 
officers most of whom had previous service in the Royal Army Medical 
Corps, or as sick berth stewards in the Royal Navy. Before being 
appointed as hospital officers in the prison service, they underwent a 
special training for at least two months in prison hospital duty at a 
large prison hospital and were reported as efficient and satijsfactory. 
They do not wear a distinctive uniform. They are wholly employed 
in hospital duty, unless the number of hospital patients falls so that 
there would not be sufficient duty for them, in which case they would 
be employed on some discipline duty. 

In the male prisons in which there is no hospital staff the average 
number of sick requiring special nursing is so low that the whole-time 
services of a nurse would not be justified. In such prisons where the 
need for a nurse arises, the governor is authorised to engage an outside 
nurse or nurses, or, if this is not possible, nurses would be sent from , 
some other prison. j 

As regards the female prisoners, all female officers go through at 
least one month's training at the training school in simple hospital | 
duties. Many of the female officers have had previous experience of i 
nursing, and the governors of the various prisons consider this previoua 
experience when selecting officers to act as nurses. At the larger ' 
prisons many have been employed as hospital officers for years and are ; 
reported to be quite efficient. They do not wear any distinctive uniform. , 

In all but a few prisons, the number of hospital patients is so small, j 
averaging less than one, that the employment of a whole-time nurse is 
not called for. If a case calls for special nursing, which in the l 
opinion of the medical officer could not be carried out by one of the 
staff, the governor is authorised to engage an outside nurse or nurses. 
Further the Commissioners are now arranging for all the female officers 
to undergo six months' training in hospital duties at the training school. 


At the first glance, perhaps, the arrangements outlined in these ' 
statements may seem satisfactory. More detailed consideration and i 
the evidence of experience prove that they are very unsatisfactory.- ! 
The fact is that the number of hospital officers is quite inadequate ; 
and that they are trained in a most amateurish way. 

Most of the male hospital officers, we are informed, have "had j 
service in the R.A.M.C, or as sick berth stewards in the Royal i 
Navy." It will be noted that it is not claimed that all the male 
hospital officers have had such experience; those who have not had 
it enter upon their duties with no more experience than two months' | 
training in a prison hospital. Nor is it claimed that the members \ 
of the hospital staff who have served in the R.A.M.C. belonged to 
the "nursing section"; and the elementary duties of the privates in 

T Prisons where hospital officers are employed:— Aylesbury (1), Birmineham (2), Borstal 
(1), Leeds (3), Lirerpool (5), Maidstone (3), Manchester (5), Newcastle (1), Parkhurst (2), 
Pentonville (5), Portland (9), Preston (1), Shrewsbury (1), Wandsworth (6), Winchester 
(1), Wormwood Scrubbs (6). In addition, 27 hospital officers are serving with the colours. 


the general duty section of the R.A.M.C. are well known. Even 
when serving in wards, they are not expected to do more than light 
fires, clean stoves, sweep floors, carry refuse, scrub tins, etc., etc. 

To be satisfied with giving men who act as the responsible staff 
under the medical officer, without the guidance or instruction of any 
fully-trained nurses, merely two months' training in the narrow 
school of a prison hospital impresses us as scandalous.' "The male 
officers do not get much training," admits one medical officer. 
"The tests which they have to pass at the end of the two months 
are very simple." It is not necessary to suggest that every officer 
employed in the prison hospital should be a skilled nurse, but that 
a proportion of them should be thoroughly trained for hospital work 
would seem to us a moderate demand to make. 

We are glad to record, however, that during 1919 the Prison Com- 
missioners began to employ five fully-trained nursing sisters in the 
hospital attached to Holloway (women's) prison. An account of 
their work appeared in the "British Journal of Nursing" (October 
18th, 1919). It is from this account we quote : — 

One sister devotes her time to the venereal cases, and it is the duty 
of a second to observe mental defectives and report the result of her 
observations to the medical officer, a third deals with the surgery cases, 
the fourth devotes herself to midwifery, and the fifth has charge of the 
skin cases, from which it would appear, as this Journal has always 
pleaded, that there is a great scope for the services of trained nurses 

1 in our prisons. Their work might be usefully extended to preventive 

I nursing amongst all the prisoners.' 

There is now a Hospital Lady Superintendent at Holloway prison, 
! and an Advisory Board, with the Medical Commissioner as chairman, 
land "including medical, nursing, and lay representatives" has been 
] established with the object of "placing the hospital staff on a more 
I satisfactory basis."" But even the Lady Superintendent is not a 
trained nurse. 

The view of the medical officers is, so far as we can judge, 
predominantly against the regular employment of women nurses in 
the hospitals of male prisons, but one doctor has expressed the 
opinion that it would be a good thing to employ nurses on the same 
looting as nursing sisters in the army: — 

There should certainly be trained nurses, but if you had women nurses 
in a male hospital you would have to have some system like the army 
system : women of education who would be of a different status from 
the ordinary officers and who would associate with the M.O. and with 

I •rttem 

e Departmental Committee on Scottish Prisons (1900), after reviewing the English 
•Titem ol training, expressed the Tiew that "it is donbtlul if two months is suflBciently long 
» period of training," and suggested that it should be sir months. 

• The Royal British Nurses' Association, of which the "British Journal ol Nursing" ia 
the organ, strongly urges that trained women nurses should be employed in aJl prisons. 
'* P.O. Report, 1920-21, p. 20. 


the governor. That would work. It would be an excellent plan. But 
the women would have to stand in the same relation to the officers as 
Army Sisters to the R.A.M.C. men. 

This would seem to be an eminently reasonable proposal. Under 
the present regulations a woman nurse may be called in to attend 
a serious male case; but only very rarely is this done. 

But even if a proportion of the hospital attendants were fully- 
trained nurses, it is quite clear that the number of hospital officers 
is utterly inadequate. Reference to Mr. Brace's list of prisons 
where hospital officers are employed shows that they number 20 out 
of the 64 prisons and Borstal Institutions." In many smaller prisons 
there has been no officer with any hospital training, and only in 
cases of extreme gravity are nurses called in from outside. In the 
larger prisons the staff is frequently insufficient to allow a hospital 
officer always to be in attendance. 

The evidence of the inadequacy of the hospital staff is indisputable. 
The insufficient provision of night nurses may be taken as an 
example. The official manual for the prison hospital staff lays 
particular stress upon the necessity of having alert and efficient 
hospital attendance during the night. How far this necessity is 
recognised may be judged by the following item of evidence from a 
prisoner: — I 

The two hospital warders possessed a little medical knowledge, but at 
night the hospital was in the sole charge of a night watchman (agedj 
approximately 60) who had no idea whatever of nursing or rendering | 
any medical assistance in case of need. He had a key of the cells in I 
a sealed case which he must not use except in case of dire extremity. It] 
often happened that prisoners in the cells might have to take medicinesl 
at intervals during the night. In these cases the night watchman would: 
go to the bars of the gates at the stated times and hold the medicine! 
through to the prisoners in a spoon. The prisoner (and this happened| 
in cases where he had a "temperature") had consequently to get out ofj 
bed and walk across the cold floor to the gate to receive the medicine. 
The danger of catching a chill in doing so is obvious. 

The hospital to which reference is made by this prisoner is attachedj 
to a comparatively small prison. We have similar evidence about! 
a hospital attached to one of the largest prisons: — j 

At night the ordinary discipline warders were on duty in the hospital. 
In case of serious illness there was no one with knowledge or experienc( 
to attend to the patients' needs. I write "patients." I never heardi 
the word used in hospital. Its associations are far too human. 

The Hospital Diet. : 

The normal hospital diet is of a better quality than the prison diet 

" In calculating the number of prisons and Borstal institutions, where there are a pn 
and a Borstal Institution in one place, we have counted them as one institution onl.v. 


but is rather less in quantity." The dinner is made more appetising 
by the inclusion of four ounces of vegetables in addition to potatoes, 
generally greens, carrots, parsnips, or turnips. Frequently the 
medical officer orders an extra pint of porridge for breakfast, and 
since the supply of porridge for hospital is as a rule plentiful, and 
large bowls are provided, the ration in fact is often a quart. For 
special cases a pudding diet is given; for other cases, a low diet. 
The medical officer has the power to order special diets as the needs 
of any patient may require.'^ 

Absence of Hospital Treatmext in Small Prisons. 

The information available regarding the absence of hospital 

j treatment in small prisons reveals a most serious state of affairs. 

"The conditions of medical treatment in small prisons are very bad 

indeed," states one medical officer of long prison experience. "The 

hospitals are scarcely ever opened. There are no hospital officers, 

I or perhaps only one." 

I The practice in small prisons is to employ a half-time medical 
! officer, and prisoners are only removed to hospital when they are in 
I a serious condition. Otherwise they remain in their cells, in which 
i a bed is sometimes placed. We quote a description by an ex- 
j prisoner : — 

In February, 1919, I was on the sick list for 14 days for influenza. 
There was a hospital in the prison, but it was not used whilst I was 
there. I was given no proper nursing. I had a high temperature for 
several days. It was only with difficulty and delay that I was able to 
get warm water for a wash, or an extra blanket. Ordinary food was 
given me after the doctor's first visit, although he said I was too ill 
j to be allowed to walk to another cell, and afterwards put me on milk 

The ordinary cleaner cleaned out my cell and made my bed — I was 
given a bed — but there was no proper nursing and no one seemed 
particularly responsible. If I had not known how I ought to have been 
nursed, and asked and insisted on the necessary things being done, I 
might have had a very bad time. Medical treatment and attention 
seemed of a very off-hand character and gave one the impression that 
there was no one in prison who minded very much if you lived or died. 

'-The normal diet is as follows: — Breakfast: Breafl. 8 ozs.; tea, 1 pint, containing l-6th 
i oz. tea, ^ oz. sugar, and 2 ozs. milk. Dinner: Meat 5 ozs. (cooked); potatoes, 8 ozs. ; 
I Tegetables, 4 oz?.; bread, 6 ozs.; salt, >4 oz. Supper: Bread, 8 ozs.; tea, 1 pint. 
, For some cases the "Pudding Diet" is given: — Breakfast: White bread, 6 ozs.; milk, 1 pint. 
■ Dinner: Rice pudding, containing 2 ozs. rice, 1 egg, and 10 ozs. milk; or batter pudding, 
; containing 5 ozs. flour, 1 egg, and 10 ozs. milk; or custard pudding, containing 1 egg and 

10 ozs. milk. Supper: White bread, 6 ozs.; milk, 1 pint. 
I For certain cqses the "low diet" is given:— Breakfast : Bread, 6 ozs.; tea, 1 pint (ingredients 
' M in ordinarj diet). Dinner: Cornflour, containing 1 oz. cornflour, 1 pint milk, 1 oz. 
I sugar, to produce one pint. Supper: Bread, 6 ozs.; t^a, 1 pint. 

I " Our evidence points to the fact that the hospital cleaners take advantage of the 
exceptional diets ordered by the medical oflScers for special patients to retain choice portions 

1 for themselves. One witness says:— "At it used to be the recognised custom lor the 

; cleaners to take all the cream off the milk which came for patients. Similarly, when the 
I medical officer ordered special diets, the cleaners generally helped themselves to a slight 
portion before it reached the patient." 



A comparison of the medical care given in large and small prisons 
is possible by means of the following Table which gives the propor- 
tion of admissions to hospital to the total admissions to prison for 
the last three years for which statistics are published: — 

Large Prisons (Daily Average above 1,000). 





1 in 11 




1 in 13 

1 in 15 




1 in 15 

1 in 15 



1 in 16 

lin 15 

Wormwood Scrubbs .. 

1 in 16 





1 in 26 

1 in 24 




1 in 15 

Small Prisons (Daily Average between 100 and 







1 in 227 

1 in 189 



1 in 44 

1 in 45 




1 in 126 



1 in 113 

lin 75 



1 in 62 

lin 78 


1 in 104 


lin 81 


1 in 125 

1 in 101 

1 in 95 


1 in 206 

1 in 134 

lin 94 


1 in 238 

1 in 364 

1 in 961 

Northampton ... 

1 in 260 

1 in 205 

1 in 227 


1 in 298 

1 in 1413 

1 in 185 


1 in 320 

1 in 537 

1 in 439 

Northallerton ... 

1 in 554 

1 in 470 

1 in 484 


1 in 945 

1 in 363 

1 in 118^ 

Shrewsbury No adn 

lission to hospital 

1 in 659 

1 in 646 


1 in 242 

1 in 324 

1 in 327 

If it is found necessary, in the case of the larger prisons, to admiii 
to hospital one in every 15 prisoners, the medical attention whiclj 
only gives hospital treatment to one in every 325 prisoners in thti 
case of the small prisons, is obviously grossly inadequate. These 
figures indicate a particularly glaring instance of the pursuit o 
economy at the expense of injury to the health and life of th« 

What a prison hospital might be is suggested by the evidence o 
one witness who describes hospital conditions under the influence o 
a medical officer who avoided the use of cells as far as possible, anc 
made the conditions in the dormitories approximate to those of ai 
ordinary hospital. The highest tribute is paid to this doctor by ever 
ex -prisoner who has been under his charge: — 


The medical officer of prison is quite the most hamane doctor I 

have met in prison ; and the hospital was conducted on almost ideal 
lines. The rules of the prison were relaxed to such an extent that it 
was difficult for me to realise that I was not in an ordinary hospital 
ward. The maximum of cleanliness, fresh air, and general curative 
influence seemed to be the natural order of things. The relaxation of 
prison discipline was quite against the official rules and regulations, and 
was entirely owing to the character of the M.O. 

There is nothing in our evidence to suggest that the humane treat - 
nent given at this particular prison was not justified by the results, 
indeed, it is the recurring testimony of those who experienced it that 
hey obtained new hope from the care and consideration shown to 

A Mediccd Opinion of a Prison Hospital. 

It will perhaps be well to give here a description of a prison hospital 
vritten by a medical man after a visit. It corroborates what has been 
irritten above, particularly as regards the cellular confinement of prison 
patients : — 

I "Many cases were treated in the cells. The temperature charts were on the 
•ell doors, one showing a temperature of 102 degrees. The treatment of single 
patients, with fever, with little attention at day and none at night, in the 
onfined cells common in prison establishments, should be unhesitatingly 
ondemned. The whole hospital arrangements seemed to me to be far from 
|Ven moderately acceptable. 

j "There was a small operating theatre, moderately well-equipped, but in 
eed of modernising. The sterilising room next to the operating theatre was 
|ot very neatly kept, and we were informed that salvarsan or allied substances 
>ere prepared there by the medical officers for administration. It is almost 
needless to remark that, in deference to the current ideas of surgical asepsis, 
sterilising room should be kept scrupulously clean, and that the proper 
lace for the preparation of salvarsan or any of the anti-syphilitic remedies 
)or administration should be in the pharmacy." 

i There are occasional complaints by ex-prisoners as to the situation of the 
ospitals. "At Maidstone the hospital cells are close to the workshops. The 
oise is very trying for some," states one witness. "One of the defects of 
^eeds hospital was its sunlessness," says another. "The cells face north-east 
;y east." Another ex-prisoner complains that the exercise ground is as 
uninspiring" as that of the prison, and many of our witnesses comment upon 
he absence of beauty. In most prison hospitals flowers are never to be seen. 
The absence of flowers is a strange feature," says one ex-prisoner. "They 
re not to be seen even in the ward." 



1. — Prisoners who are weak through illness often have to stand for long 
periods whilst waiting for the medical officer. 

2. — Opportunity to apply to see the medical officer is restricted to the first 
opening of the cell door in the morning. I 

3. — In the Local prisons the care of the eyes and teeth is neglected, an(^ 
skin diseases are inexcusably common. 

4. — The segregation of venereal disease cases is lax. 

5. — Artificial feeding is often enforced with insufficient care. 

6. — Patients in prison hospitals are frequently kept in solitary confinej 
ment, sometimes for very long periods. • 

7. — The rules of discipline are not officially relaxed in hospital. 

8. — The hospital staff is inadequate and, except at HoUoway prison, ther<| 
are no properly trained nurses. Even at Holloway, the superintendent - 
the hospital is untrained. 

9. — The hospitals in small prisons are only opened rarely. In thestj 
prisons, prisoners who are ill are generally left in ordinary cells. 1 


.-i,.pendices to Chapter Seventeen. 




W had been declining in energy and vitality for some time. Friday, 

December 20th, at 12 noon, F , a prisoner on B3 landing, was ordered to 

distribute clean linen. Noticing that the canvas bag in which the clean 
linen was packed was damp, he drew the landing officer's attention to it 
and was informed that the linen had only just been packed in the bag. He 
distributed the linen, warning each man — "Take care, the washing is damp." 
The linen to be changed included flannel vest, pants, cotton shirt, socks, 

handkerchief. F noticed that all the linen was damp, and some wet 

through. At 1-30 three men asked to have linen changed, owing to dampness 

(G.K.K.). Later in the day, W said to B , "I believe I have put 

on a damp shirt. I wish I had changed mine like the others." 

Tuesday, December 24th. — At factory in morning W showed signs of 

chill, and P advised him to report sick. In the afternoon W went, 

with seven other men, to bath. On trying water, three men, W , F , 

and M -V decided to refrain from bathing owing to coldness of w'ater. 

■ Having tested temperature with thermometer, officer in charge gave them 
permission to do so. This necessitated sitting in a damp, cold atmosphere 

for 25 minutes^ while other men bathed. Same afternoon another man (B ) 

noticed that W looked unwell. On questioning him he answered, "I 

am cold." 

Wednesday, December 25th. — W was feeling better and told P so. 

I Thursday, December 26th. — Again unwell, and asked F and P 

I whether if he reported and was detained he would be prevented having a 
[ visit he was expecting. He was assured it would not, and then said, "I 
would not like my wife to have a fruitless journey all this way." 

Friday, December 27th. — Had not reported. Told L in the morning 

that he had the worst cold he had ever had ; it was cutting his chest in two. 
Had the expected visit in the afternoon. Same afternoon was particularly 

noticed by C and P to be decidedly unwell. F states that during 

December 24th — 27th W could not read or sleep, and had to pace the 

cell to keep warm. 

Saturday, December 28th. — Reported to see doctor at 6 a.m. At 7-15 
\ attended usual Saturday chapel service. At close of the ser\'ice it is the 

role for all prisoners to stand while chaplain passes to vestry. W was 

noticed by F (at side) and B (immediately behind) to be quite unable 

to rise at the moment. 8-45 a.m. went to exercise. At 9-0, W was called 

away, in company with other applicants, by hospital officer to wait for doctor. 

The waiting takes place in assembly haU — the men standing close to the 

wall. W having leaned against the wall was ordered to get away from 

the wall. Some minutes after he approached officer in charge of the hall 
and asked if he might be allowed to sit down while waiting. Permission was 
granted, and he sat on stool in adjacent cell. This incident was noticed 
by L , F , H , E , and P . Doctor arrived at 9-30. (The 


waiting is usually of about half-an-hour's duration). The hospital officer 

having previously taken temperature^ doctor saw W in the same condition 

sitting. No examination (i.e., testing of lungs with stethoscope, etc.) was 
made ; the doctor asked a question or two, then ordered him to cell and into 
bed (prison term, "Detained 24 hours, bed down") ; three doses of medicine, 

no change of food. At 12-0 F was sent to change W 's cup, the first 

having been broken. He rendered a little assistance, placed food close to 

bed, etc. At 1-30 F again sent to empty W 's slops. He noticed 

that breakfast and dinner were practically untouched. F asked if he 

would like his books and was told he was unable to read. 

Sunday, December 29th. — At 9-30 a.m. doctor saw W in bed. At 

about 2-0 p.m. W was ordered to rise, fully dress, and pack necessary 

articles in preparation for transfer to hospital. After nearly an hour he was 

taken with five others (F , A , F , B , E ) to hospital. They 

were walked in the open air, on a cold, damp day, a distance of about 150 
yards. After being weighed, all were sent to bed in hospital cells. At 4-0 
o'clock tea served, ordinary prison diet, and an additional pint of milk (first 

alteration in diet). F was placed in next cell to W , and says that 

during the night he was very restless and troubled with violent and incessant 
fits of coughing. 

Monday, December 30th. — At 6 a.m. all men were ordered by hospital 

officer, T , to rise, empty slops, make beds, and sweep out cell. On way 

to empty slops, F noticed W , in shirt and pants, attempting to make 

bed, but really leaning over and supporting himself upon it. In morning 
doctor made the one visit of the day. Apparently in no case did he make 
an examination ; simply ordered to keep men in bed, pudding diet, and 

quinine. This was the first radical and beneficial change in diet. W ■ 

steadily got worse during day. At night F again heard him coughing 

violently. Several times the officer on night duty came to cell and called 
through closed door, "Are you all right?" 

Tuesday, December 31st. — Consultation of the two doctors on W 's 

case, and examination. After dinner, removed, with three others, to hospital 

ward. Here F , who supplied most of the foregoing information as to 

treatment in hospital, lost sight of the case, being himself confined to cell 
as a mild case. 

During the period December 27th to 30th, W was able to eat scarcely 

any food. Complete relaxation of discipline in ward. An ordinary prison 
officer was placed in charge during day. Hospital officer T was trans- 
ferred to night duty, and remained in ward through night. Two convict 

cases (one, M , being fortunately a qualified chemist) were given as 

assistants. Brandy, oranges, Oxo, etc., were supplied from now. In after- 
noon W evidently regarded as seriously ill, his wife being sent for. 

Wednesday, January 1st, 1919. — In afternoon two cylinders of oxygen 

were obtained locally and administered, it appears, by M (the convict 

chemist). The cylinders were faulty, only enough for a few minutes' supply, 
as was evident from officer's annoyance. Doctor was not present. Witnesses 

K , H , F . Doctor was evidently notified by telephone of failure ; 

but it was not until over 24 hours later, that is almost certainly on the 
morning of Friday, January 3rd, that an attempt to repair failure by renewal 
of supply took place. Two further cylinders were brought and oxygen 

administered. Doctor again absent. W 's condition was then hopeless. 

Death occurred at 12-30 p.m. 




B was ailing and weak for at least 12 months before death. He was 

regarded as being among the weakest physically among us. During summer 
1918 (about July) he reported sick one day. After seeing doctor he was 
told to fall in and return to work. He protested that he was quite unequal 
to work, and was told that the doctor had not excused him. He maintained 
that he was unable to work, and was finally sent back to cell. 
I A day or two after he was taken to hospital suffering from gastritis. After 
a week in hospital (on pudding diet) he was discharged, presumably cured, 
and returned at once to ordinary prison diet. Was put on light work as he 
was still unwell (but not by advice of doctor^ simply the humanity of officer). 
After that he continually looked weak and ill, and on several occasions was 
asked by various men if he felt ill. He told several that he was often unable 
to digest food. 

j Satttkday, December 28th. — He reported sick, received same treatment 
as W . No examination, sent to bed, and three doses. 

Sunday, December 29th. — B dressed and saw doctor in hall, after- 
wards went back to bed ; 2 o'clock, told to prepare for hospital. Same 
treatment as W rest of day. 

Monday, December 30th. — Same as W . From 28th to 30th ate little 


Thtjrsday, January 2nd. — B became delirious, jumping out of bed 

and walking about ward. It was found necessary to have two cases (F , 

G ), who were recovering, to keep him in bed. 

Friday, January 3rd. — Oxygen administered and probably did some good, 
life being prolonged a little, but on Saturday, January 4th, death occurred 
shortly after 3 p.m. 



The following vivid description of a prisoner's life in hospital has be^ 
given us by an ex-political prisoner : — 

Sometimes during the vreeks of my solitary confinement I had thought that 
it might be a pleasant thing to fall ill, for then I would be taken to the 
hospital ; and there I might be put with other men, to whom I could talk ; 
and there I might have better food and not always be so hungry ; and, 
perchance (so little did I yet know of prison) there might even be a nurse 
or a matron. But such dreams were quickly to be dispelled, when on account 
of a broken wrist I did enter the desired retreat. 

My arm having been set and put in splints, I was, to my amazement, 
locked up alone in a cell ; and there in a solitude broken for but an hour a 
day, I was to remain for eight weeks. The cell was better, it is true, than 
the cells in the prison itself. It was slightly larger ; the windows, although 
stoutly defended with iron bars, let in a little more fresh air ; and the walls 
were not whitewashed, but painted a restful green. Moreover, instead of a 
plank to sleep on, I had a bed. 

For several days I had to remain in bed, in great pain and with no solace 
of any kind. Prisoners, even when in hospital, may only see visitors and 
write and receive a letter at rare intervals, and for some weeks yet I would 
not be entitled to such privileges. The doctor visited me daily ; each morn- 
ing the governor made his lightning inspection, and the chaplain opened my 
door for a second to ask if I were "all right" ; two orderlies, prisoners "doing 
time" for forgery came for a few minutes after breakfast to sweep the 
wooden floor of my cell ; and thrice every twenty-four hours a warder brought 
me my scanty meals. Such were the only breaks in the monotony of those 
first few interminable days — days that wore down at length to wakeful and 

still more interminable nights I was unable even to read. I had 

broken my eyeglasses; and, full as was my cup of misfortune, the loss of | 

my glasses was, perhaps, the bitterest drop of all. | 

****** { 

Fortunately, however, a sense of the ridiculous did not wholly forsake me. 
On my second day in hospital, while I was feeling sick with pain, yet hungry [ 
through weakness, a warder brought in my dinner and set it silently on the j 
small wooden table beside my bed. The dinner consisted of two herrings • 
on a plate full of vegetables, and the problem that now faced me was how 
with one hand (for the other was powerless) to balance the plate, while 
with a spoon, the only implement allowed, I broke open the hardest fish ; 
that ever swam the seas ! At each new attack on the herrings, fresh 
quantities of vegetables fell over the plate on to the bedclothes ; until at j 
length on plate and counterpane there was such an inextricable mess that 
I had to abandon the fight for my meal, and, tickled irresistibly by the 
stupidity of the situation, to laugh and laugh aloud. I had little dinner j 
that day ; but perhaps the laughter did me more good. I 


On the fourth day I was able to rise from bed, and to fall in with the i 
ordinary hospital routine. This began each morning at 5.30, when prisoners! 
were awakened by a bell. By six o'clock they were supposed to be washed 
and dressed ; but being one-handed I was unable to wash properly and was 
never offered any assistance. Breakfast was served at 7 ; and at 8, when 
the warders returned from their own meal, the two orderlies came in, under j 


apervision, to clean my cell. At about 9, prayers for the hospital patients 
¥ere held daily and lasted for upwards of 15 minutes. At 11, there came 
'exercise" for three parts of an hour, followed by dinner at noon. Supper, 
,he only other event of the day, was served at 4.30 and the bell for bed 
lounded at 8. No work — except a little occasional cleaning — was offered 
,wen to those patients capable of doing it ; and the regulations admitted of 
io increase in the number of books. 

"Get ready for prayers/' said a warder opening my door promptly at the 
jame hour each morning. And I would wander out of my cell into the 
:orridor, into which other prisoners in varying stages of infirmity and sick- 
aess, would be moving slowly. Forming into single file, this strange little 
procession of derelict men — numbering as a rule between ten and twenty 
and all wearing the grotesque garb of shame — would limp and slouch along 
to a large room, in which the chaplain would already be seated at a 

The prisoners all enjoyed prayers ; not because they cared a jot for any- 
thing the chaplain said, but because prayers made a break in the maddening 
monotony of their lives, and because they had an opportunity for illicit 

At the appointed time each morning the same little procession shuffled out 
for "exercise." The hospital "exercise" ground differed slightly from the 
other "exercise" yards in the prison. There were, of course, the two narrow 
rings on which the prisoners walked in single file ; but around and between 
the rings were grass plots and flower-beds, whilst four seats were provided for 
those too infirm or weary to walk for the full time prescribed. Those 
patients who could sustain a good pace kept to one ring, the other being 
reserved for those too ill or too old to do more than totter along. Some of 
the prisoners walked with a certain swinging defiance in their gait ; but there 
were other men with hollow eyes and sunken cheeks to whom every move- 
ment was an effort, while one old man was quite blind and was led out to a 
seat, where he sat during the whole period. ... I saw nothing, of course, 
of those hospital inmates who were too ill to attend prayers or join the 
1 "exercise" party, but on two occasions I heard a fellow-prisoner go mad. 
In each case the unfortunate man was left to rave violently in his cell through 
several days and nights before being taken away — presumably to an asylum. 
• ••••* 

There were two great events in the week for me. One was the visit of 
the Nonconformist minister from the outside world, who spent a short time 
with me each Friday. The minister was the only person, apart from the 
prison staff, who was ever allowed to enter my cell. The other event was 
the mid-weekly change of books. 

In due course my glasses were mended and reading became for me again 
the one possible spur for the leaden-footed hours. . . . Thus the dark and 
weary days wore by. There are things that words will not describe ; and 
the life of some of the patients in our prison hospitals, languishing through 
weeks and months of isolation, 

"Hid from the light of every fair, 
Holy, and clean, and human thing. 
Till silence stabs them like a sword," 
ia among them. . . . 



The Number of Mentally Deficient Prisoners. 

Dr. Charles Goring estimated the proportion of mentally defective; 
criminals as certainly not less than 10 per cent., and probably not! 
greater than 20 per cent.' The lower estimate was based upon the; 
official prison returns, which Dr. Goring regarded as very incomplete. \ 
Sir Bryan Donkin, the Medical Adviser to the Directors of Convict | 
prisons, allows 10 to 15 per cent, as the proved proportion of the! 
definitely weak-minded, but considers the true maximum probably j 
higher; the "demonstrably mentally defective" he estimates at 201 
per cent.* Both Sir Bryan Donkin 's and Dr. Goring 's estimates 
were made when the Mental Deficiency Act was less operative, but, 
as we show later, the Act has had little effect upon the prison 

In the Criminal Lunatics Act of 1884 the principle was laid down I 
that modifications in prison treatment should be made in the case of: 
prisoners "who appear to be from imbecility of mind unfit for thai 
same penal discipline as other prisoners." The Prison Commis- 
sioners were for a time content to give discretion to the medical j 
officers "to deal individually with each case on its merits," and it 
was not until 1900 that special rules were drawn up for the treatment i 
of mentally defective prisoners. These rules provide for prisoners 
who are suspected of mental deficiency being placed under observa- 
tion in special cells, or wards, and for modification of the general 
treatment as regards employment, diet, breaches of discipline, and 

A record kept of the number of prisoners coming within the scope; 
of these rules shows them to be about 400 every year. After 1912,! 
all cases of "well-marked" mental deficiency were included, not 
merely those unfit for discipline. The result was that the number 
jumped to 932 in 1913 and 843 in 1914. A high prison official has 
made the interesting statement that governors have opposed doctors 

» "The English Conyict," pp. 254 and 255. 

a "The Feeble-Minded Criminal," quoted on p. 254 of "The EnglL«h Oonvict." 


certifying criminals as mentally defective, since it means that they 
are unable to punish them for breaches of discipline. 

In 1908 a Eoyal Commission on the Feeble-Minded was appointed, 
and from its recommendations developed the Mental Deficiency Act, 
which came into operation in 1913. The Act gave the Home Secre- 
tary the power to transfer any prisoner certified by two medical 
practitioners to be mentally deficient from birth or early age to an 
institution for mental defectives. Dr. Smalley, the late Medical 
Commissioner, estimated, however, that only 30 per cent, of the 
mental defectives in prison would come within the scope of the Act, 
and, reviewing its terms, he somewhat despairingly declared "it will 
be a long time before the desired ehmination from prison of all per- 
sons mentally affected will be attained." 

Experience has justified his pessimism. The war made the 
operation of the Act ineffective, owing to the unwilhngness of the 
local authorities to spend money and to the commandeering of the 
State institution for mental defectives which had been erected near 
Liverpool; and even so recently as 1919-20 less than half (54 out 
of 120) of those certified to be within the scope of the Act were 
actually transferred to the institutions provided for them. In 1920- 
21, 104 prisoners were certified, and orders were made for their 
removal in the case of 62. 

On March 31st, 1919, the Prison Commissioners classified the 
inmates of Local prisons who showed obvious signs of mental defect 
or weakness of mind. The returns are tabulated as follows : — 

Mal&s. Females. 

Certifiable under M.D. Act 61 16 

Mentally Deficient but "insuflaciently marked 

to make them certifiable" ... ... ... 46 33 

Weak-minded but not due to early defect ... 108 35 

These figures, which, of course, only include a fraction of the 15 or 
20 per cent, estimate of Drs. Goring and Donkin,* demonstrate that 
of 299 persons in prison who were "in the opinion of the medical 
officers likely to repeat their offences or indulge in criminal acts as 
a result of their mental condition," no less than 222 were outside 
the scope of the Mental Deficiency Act. Moreover, there would 
certaunly be a still larger proportion of uncertifiable defectives among 
those whom this cursory survey did not reveal. It will be seen, 
therefore, that despite all that has been written regarding the un- 
suitabihty of prison conditions for such persons, approximately 
two-thirds of the mental defectives who are sent to prison are still 
legally condemned to remain there. 

The Treatment of the Mext.\llt Deficient. 

A picture of the existence which mentally deficient prisoners lead 
is given in the following statement by an ex-prisoner : — 

• As to the incompleteness of the figures, see p. 480 (iootnoto 12) and pp. 518-19. 


Owing to the fact that the hospital was crowded, I was transferred^ 
to the landing in a hall used for the mentally deficient. The landing 
was known in prison parlance as "Rotten Row." This was the most 
distressing period of my imprisonment. To walk down the hall and 
pass several cells with the doors replaced by iron railings, like a cage 
at the Zoo, and to see behind them men whose reason was impaired, 
perhaps muttering to themselves, or making grimaces, or walking the 
cell or lying on the floor shouting and singing, was more than one's 
reason could bear without acute depression. Sometimes one would be 
awakened in the night by the shrieking of a prisoner, and twice there 
was a terrible racket owing to a prisoner smashing his windows and 
utensils; on these occasions most of the occupants of the landing seemed 
to join in the din by shouting and banging their doors, and ringing 
their bells. One day a boy of 21 was brought to the padded cell at the 
end of the hall. He had been employed in the kitchen and had tried 
to throw himself into the boiler. For four nights and days he scarcely 
ceased shouting, so that at last one felt that something was missing 
when he was quiet. He used to tear to pieces the cardboard plates! 
given him for his meals and he tore his clothes to threads. After about; 
a week he was removed to an asylum. { 

I exercised with the occupants of this landing, and it was a tragic] 
sight. There was one man who was a picture of abject misery. He 
never took his eyes from off the ground and stood facing the wall, only, 
shuffling to and fro a few feet despite the intense cold of wintry winds.! 
When the warder spoke to him he looked blankly into his face, and h«j 
had always to be led out to exercise and in again. Another mani 
appeared to be 60 years of age. I was told he was only 39. He used! 
to spend the whole of exercise-time racing up and down a path about 
ten yards long, waving his head from side to side, and talking to him-: 
self with great earnestness. He had the mind of a simple child, and| 
was unable to do anything for himself. For instance, he would start; 
out for the lavatory the other side of the exercise ground, but before ; 
he had got half way, he would walk in a different direction and lose all 
sense of his whereabouts and the object with which he had set out. 

It amazed me to find such people in prison. The magistrates whc 
sent them to prison appear to me to be guilty of crimes much greateil 
than many of those which they judge from day to day. { 

Generally the quarters provided for mentally deficient prisoners irj 
Local prisons are a part of the prison buildings and are as bare and! 
ugly as the rest; but at Birmingham the feeble-minded are accom' 
modated in a separate building, with separate entrances and S| 
separate garden for exercise, and the walls are decorated withj 
brightly -coloured pictures.* Some description of the exceptional 
arrangements made at Parkhurst prison, where mentally deficient] 
convicts are congregated, will be found in a later chapter. 

The Observation Cells. I 

There are four kinds of observation cells used for mental defectives j 

The first is like an ordinary cell, but has an iron railing gate insteac 

of a door. The second is an ordinary hospital cell with a spy-holti 

■• This is in connection with the special investigation of unconvicted prisoners describe< 
on pp. 52-55. 


in the ceiling. The third has coir matting on the floor and about 
seven feet up the walls; above the door, also padded, is a trap-door, 
with bars to protect the observing officer from assault. The fourth 
is a padded cell thickly upholstered with cushions ; the ceiling, some 
12 feet high, has a skylight, and there are several spy-holes; there 
are no utensils for drinking or convenience, only a drain in the centre. 

The first and second types of observation cell are used for elemen- 
tary mental cases ; the first particularly for prisoners addicted to self - 
abuse. The third type is used for prisoners subject to epileptic or 
other fits or inclined to violence. The fourth is only used for very 
violent prisoners. In some prisons the observation cells are located 
in the hospital, but in many they occupy a landing in the ordinary 
prison buildings, a bad arrangement both for the cases and for the 
ordinary prisoners. 

i The warder in charge of the observation ward is instructed to 
■observe the prisoners regularly and to enter in a book how they 
spend their time. The occupants of the padded cell are supposed to 
be observed at least every half-hour. One of our warder witnesses 
iasserts that the succeeding warders in charge of the observation cells 
nearly always repeat the record of the first, and that this duty is 
often performed very carelessly. 

Having received some very disquieting evidence both from ex- 
prisoners and warders as to the use to which observation cells are 
iput, and their disastrous effects on those confined in them, we 
■questioned a number of medical officers and chaplains as to their 
value. Almost without exception they replied that the observation 
cells are necessary and well-adapted for their purpose, and that if 
properly used they do not endanger mental stability. The contrary 
view of warders and ex-prisoners is almost as unanimous. One 
warder, whilst acknowledging that the cells with iron railing gates 
are sometimes effective in checking the habits of a man addicted 
;to self -abuse, strongly criticises the arrangement by which prisoners 
in these cells are placed next door to one another in a promiscuous 
way. "The proximity of the prisoners leads to the demoralisation 
of the innocent by the viciously confirmed," he says. He also 
points out that the warders placed in charge of observation wards 
are entirely without training for their work. Another warder, after 
endorsing the remarks of this witness, adds that he fears that 
observation cells are sometimes used as a method of punishment. A 
third describes observation cells as "torture chambers." A fourth 
urges that observation cases should be placed in a hospital ward. 
"They only get worse caged up like animals for months." A fifth 
says that the effect of leaving observation cases in open-door cells 
lin the prison is that the other prisoners jeer at them as they pass by, 
jinaking them worse. They ought to be removed to hospital.* 

'^ i^* other hand, some warders declare that the open-door obserration cells are 
preferred to the ordinary cells by many prisoners. One remarks that he had known a man 
t)eg to be put in an observation cell in aider to break the monotony of the »eparate con&ne- 
nient with a closed door. 


In an appendix will be found a remarkable description of the ex- 
periences of a prisoner who was confined in a cell in an observation 
hall. We give here two statements from ex -prisoners ; the first is 
made by an ex-prisoner who was himself confined in an observation 
cell for nearly 12 months : — 

From what I have seen and experienced I can say that the system of 
observation has the effect of intensifying the mental condition and driving 
the prisoner to further distraction. Especially is this so in the case 
of men considered to be becoming affected mentally by imprisonment. 
The observation cell is the first step, the padded cell the second, and \ 
the asylum the third. I 

This was so in the case of R — F — . A very important point to my j 
mind is that the attention of the governor had to be called to this man by 
his fellow prisoners before he received any consideration whatever, and 
while he was still in an ordinary cell. A man can b© gradually develop- 
ing into a tragic mental state, and pass unnoticed. The chaplain may 
pay his periodical visits, and understand the case not in the least, and 
the walk round weekly of the doctor La generally — well, just a walk ; 
round. j 

This man F — had been heard talking to himself a great deal, some- 
times at day time, other times at night, and to look at his eyes there j 
seemed to be something wrong. When attention was called to him, after 
being watched more carefully in his own cell, he was placed in an 
observation cell — next to ray own, in fact. Hitherto he had not been 
noisy, and spoke more or less in ordinary tones. But after two daysi 
"under observation," shouting was more predominant than speaking ^ 
and signs of distraction were evident. After four or five days he wa»! 
raving, and he was transferred to the padded cell in the middle of the! 
night, when he became intensely excited and destructive. I knew he| 
was being watched, for I could see the warder sometimes, just at the! 
side of the doorway. j 

Later on a soldier was placed in an observation cell near me, on. 
similar grounds. At first he could not be restrained from singing loudly,; 
and walking about his cell in an excited way. Observation turned the' 
singing into loud shouting, door banging, destruction, abuse to warders,- 
to whom he had shown no signs of ill-feeling before, and after a fewl 
days the padded cell was his lot, and we knew where he would be taken. 
a little later on. } 

The second statement we give is an account of the development olj 

a negro prisoner towards insanity : — 

Darkey was a negro who had been sent to prison for assaulting »r| 
old woman. From the moment of his entry he seemed dazed anc' 
crushed ; the cold cells and wintry weather combined with the solitsrj 
confinement, completed his undoing, for he rapidly developed symptomij 
which caused the doctor to place him in a gated cell for "observation. 'j 
At first he was allowed cell furniture; utensils, bedding, slate, pictum 
book (for he could not read), but he was deprived of these some day. 
later, either because of a "crime" or the development of dangerouj 
symptoms, and was also "taken off work." Having nothing to do, h 
sat hour after hour dazed, shivering, and gibbering, nought to take hi; 
thoughts away from himself or interest him in the slightest degree. Hi 
became worse, was removed to a mat cell, and given a blanket fo 


additional warmth. He was not allowed to leave his cell, to which he 
took a deep dislike, for several officers had to force him back the first 
time he went out. All his slops were carried away by another prisoner 
escorted by a warder. 

I was taskmaster's assistant and had ample opportunity for going 
about the prison unescorted and was thus able to observe the unfortunate 
men under observation as I passed their cells. The negro especially 
attracted my attention ; huddled in a corner of his cell, silent, crushed 
, and with a vacant gaze. Shut up, like an animal in a box, fed at fixed 
\ intervals, peered at every half -hour; thus he was whilst his sanity 

Several times I saw him standing in the centre of his cell gazing 
vacantly at a divested garment or part of his naked body. I tapped at 
his door to attract his attention, but he was too obsessed to notice me. 
Then he would look around with vacant, staring eyes, which had an 
expression of unutterable defeat. 

Darkey became worse, his clothes were taken from him and bedding 
given to him to induce him to sleep. The officers said Darkey would 
soon be off his "nut." 

Some time later I peered in at the negro again. Despite the cold he 
was standing in the centre of his cell, naked. He had daubed himself 
all over with his breakfast porridge and would from time to time regard 
various parts of his porridge-painted body. The sight sickened me. 

The negro became worse daily. It seemed as though I watched him 
lor ages, but time seems long in prison. 

I passed his cell one afternoon when the landing officer was collecting 
dinner-tins. The negro, who was under some bedding at the far end 
of the cell, beckoned the warder towards him. The latter, a kindly 
disposed man, complied with the request, when suddenly he was clutched 
desperately round the legs by Darkey .... At length two officers 
hastened up — and they immediately set about freeing their fellow warder 
by shaking off the negro, perhaps not roughly, but none too kindly, 
I fear. 
Next day I passed Darkey's cell. It was empty, 
bhese statements could be supplemented by similar evidence from 
nany other ex-prisoners. One witness who says that he nearly lost 
lis reason in prison describes how, "when one is going mad through 
he soUtude and silence, to be put under observation and given more 
>f the sohtude and silence is like the last straw." A third tells of a 
)risoner who was deaf and dumb. "He went out of his mind, was 
iept in a strong cell for a whole week without exercise, and got into 
-n awful condition, losing control of all his faculties. He was 
ifterwards removed to an asylum."* 

! The influence of imprisonment in encouraging attempts at suicide 
s discussed in another section of this report. In the Standing 
Orders it is pointed out that the tendency to commit suicide is greatest 
curing the first week of imprisonment and among first offenders, and 

' The hnmiliation of the obserTation cell seems peculiarly cmel in the case of prisoners 
barged with attempted suicide. To their already desperate condition is added the shock 
nd degradation of finding themselves in prison and the unspeakable misery of being in 

cage. The prison authorities are not to be condemned for this. They hare not the stafl 
ir careful attention and unostentatious watching and would be severely blamed if the 
risoner succeeded in killing himself in prison. It is the Home Office which is at fault. 




that precautions are therefore especially necessary in such cases. 
Instructions are given that a prisoner with suicidal tendencies shall 
be watched with "much care" and that he shall be deprived "of any 
facihties for hanging or strangling himself." 

The Insane. 
A prisoner who is found to be insane is sent either to a county 
asylum or to a criminal lunatic asylum. The only circumstances 
under which an insane person is kept in a Local prison is where the 
sentence is less than a month and the case is not urgent; then the 
transference to a county asylum takes place at the end of the sen- 
tence. The decision whether a prisoner should be sent to a county 
asylum or a criminal lunatic asylum depends both upon the gravity 
of the offence and the nature of the disease. 

During 1920-21, 85 prisoners were certified insane and removed 
to asylums. Since 1908, 1604 prisoners have been certified insane, 
the highest number being reached in 1912, when 156 were certified. 
These figures do not include those found insane on indictment, nor 
the small number of cases whose sentences were too short to allow 

One of the prison rules reads: "Where the medical officer con- 
siders it necessary to apply any painful test to a prisoner to detect 
malingering or otherwise, the test shall only be applied by authority 
of an order from the visiting committee or a commissioner." The 
nature of these "painful tests" may be judged from the following' 
description of an apparatus at Dartmoor to test whether a convict; 
is shamming lunacy: — i 

Suppose a telephone box constructed of iron bars, and enclosed in s' 
huge glass coffin. Within the bars is just room for a man standing 
upright, who can be easily viewed from all directions through the ban 
and glass. A warder's explanation of this apparatus is as follows : A\ 
convict apparently becomes insane and is suspected of shamming. Hr 
is removed to hospital, stripped, and placed in the cage, which is guardecj 
by a warder and inspected by the doctor. Above the convict's (supposec' 
lunatic's) head is an ordinary shower bath apparatus, which is turnec 
on, and left on if need be for 15 minutes (but not for more). Now thi 
psychology of that test is as follows : If the man is only shammin( 
madness, he will of course know why he has been removed to hospital 
He will understand that he is supposed to be a lunatic, and, having n<j 
other explanation for the shower bath without end, will suppose that i 
is the hospital treatment for his condition. Consequently, when thr 
torture becomes unbearable, as is likely in less than five minutes {in viev! 
of the temperature of Dartmoor water, plus iron bars) he will confess t< 
the doctor that he is shamming and so escape further treatment. ! 

But the man who is genuinely mad having no such internal key to thi 
situation— no consciousness of pretence — will stand or collapse under th'. 
15 minutes shower bath without confession. The correctness of th 
psychology is only less admirable than the perfect adaptation of mean- 
to an end. 
We are glad to record that, so far as our evidence reveals, thi' 
diabolical test has only once been used since 1901. 



1. — Two-thirds of the mental defectives sent to prison are legally 
condemned to remain there. 

2. — The prison discipline generally, and the "observation cell" arrange- 
ments in particular, are calculated to drive some persons to insanity. 


Appendix to Chapter Eighteen. 


[The following extracts are taken from an unpublished account of tiis 
experiences, written by an ex-prisoner who is stone deaf. He served a 
sentence of some months in the third division in the year 1912 for an offence 
involving neither violence nor immorality. We consider it right to say that 
we have not verified this statement, but we think that the sincerity of the 
author is obvious.] 

After I had been in hospital for some months, the chief doctor left for 
another prison. Before he left I was brought before him and examined, and 
seeing that my sight was worse, and also that my general health was much : 
impaired, he directed that I was to be allowed to remain in the ward. 

Soon after his departure, however, I was again placed in the ordinary part 
of the prison by the deputy, who was now acting as chief doctor. I protested i 
to the governor, but as he was unable to interfere I again petitioned the Home i 
Secretary, I being then in such a state of health as to render me quite unfit ! 
for the ordinary prison life, with its nerve-racking routine and rough food. ' 
In my petition I gave a brief statement of my case, setting forth the con- i 
fiistently harsh and unfair manner in which I had been treated by the deputy j 
medical officer from the day of reception. 

As a consequence he had me brought before him. He appeared to be in ' 
a violent rage, and, after asking several quite irrelevant questions about j 
matters he must have been perfectly well acquainted with, gave an order j 
for me to be located in what was called C. Hall. j 

"Abandon all hope ye who enter here." Dante's famous inscription might | 
well have been written over the portals of this building. Though I had \ 
never been inside an asylum or similar institution, I quickly recognised the 
character of the place to which I had now been brought. | 

I have no doubt that many sane men placed in such a position would have i 
stormed and raved. I did neither. As I called to mind all the stories I ! 
had heard, and what I had read concerning the conduct of such establish- 1 
ments, I recognised the worse than futility of violence. Therefore, I calmly 
seated myself on the little wooden stool and awaited developments, occupying 
myself meanwhile with a book I found on one of the shelves. Every few , 
minutes an officer would look through the spy-hole in the door, doubtless ; 
expecting to find me in a state of panic. During the whole of the night a j 
flaring gas jet was kept burning, rendering sleep impossible. ' 

Soon after the grey light of morning broke, the door was opened. I 
contented myself with quietly preferring a request to be allowed to see the 
governor. I was advised to consult the medical officer instead, but I \ 
persisted in my application. I then wrote a brief request on my slate that 
either the hospitals I had attended or the specialists I was under should be 
communicated with concerning my mental condition. This I handed to the 
governor on his usual morning visit, at the same time submitting that as 
he knew the facts of the case it must be manifest to him that I was being, 
treated in a way obviously prejudicial to my health, and, therefore, as , 
governor of the prison, he had it in his power to intervene, even against the 


He carefully read what I had written, and said that, whilst he had no 
)ower to do anything himself, he would put me down to see the Visiting 
,'ommittee, and I could also petition the Home Secretary. 

Two days passed, during which I maintained an outwardly calm demeanour, 
hough the strain of knowing that one was in such a place was terrible. 
5ome of the scenes I witnessed whilst in this hall were calculated to try the 
lerves of the strongest. Several of the inmates had fits, and would fall 
lown whilst in the exercise yard — the most dreary and depressing spot 
maginable, surrounded by high brick walls. Others were simply wrecks of 
lumanity, the dull pallor of whose faces and apathetic look betokened the 
ibsence of mind within. Yet others there were whose flushed cheeks and 
juick, restless step, told that theirs was suffering of a different nature. 
Some perhaps, driven over the border line of sanity by the injustice and 
orutality of our laws, or wrongs of some other kind — wrongs which call to 
leaven for vengeance but which can never be righted in this world — the 
:onstant brooding over which had adversely affected the reason. There are 
nany such men in our prisons. 

Whilst passing along the corridor to and from exercise I noticed men whose 
:ell doors had been left open for the purpose of observation, aimlessly 
wandering about inside. A glance at their faces was sufficient in most 
:ases to show that with them hope and reason had alike fled. There was one 
old man in particular, whose peculiar little shuffling walk to and fro, to and 
fro, across the narrow limits of his cell recalled to my mind some caged 
animal I had seen in captivity. Once he stopped for a moment and looked 
in my direction with vacant, unseeing eyes from which the last spark of 
light must have long since died. The mind had gone. Where was the soul! 
I wondered. It should be apparent that on the score of humanity alone, 
if on no other grounds, such cases should not be kept in a prison at all. . . . 

Upon returning to my cell after the first day's exercise I felt so depressed 
that I feared, should I be kept long in such surroundings, I might easily share 
the fate of the poor helpless creatures I had seen. I remembered having 
read that even doctors hesitate to take up this branch of medicine, constant 
association with the insane being apt to have an unfavourable influence upon 
the health of the most robust. The effect can therefore readily be imagined 
m the case of one whose bodily powers had been weakened by illness or 
disease of any kind. 

There seemed something in the psychical atmosphere of the place which 
hung about it like a pall, creating an indescribable feeling of sorrow and 
despair. All that was most sad, all that makes life appear darkest and 
most drear was there, weighing down the spirits with a sense of grief and 
loss unutterable. . . . 

As thoughts such as these passed through my mind I placed myself in 
God's hands praying — as I never prayed before — that whatever else He in 
His wisdom might decree I was to suffer, that in His mercy I might be taken 
from a world which for many years owing to my infirmity had shown little 
to attract or allure. A great peace then filled my soul, and I seemed to 
know that my prayer was answered and that my stay in my present situation 
would not be of much longer duration 

I On the third morning I was visited by the doctor, who, I had strong 
reasons for supposing, had been interviewed by the governor on my case ; so 
I made no direct appeal to him save to point out how prejudicial my present 
position was to my general health, and in particular to my sight, the light 


from the narrow window (smaller even than those in the prison) not beinj 
sufficient to read or write by except with extreme difficulty. He saic 
nothing in reply, but within a few minutes of his departure an officer arrivec 
who informed me that I was to go back to hospital. It can be bettei 
imagined than described with what feelings of relief I received this 

For many a day after — and even now at times in dreams — I have beer 
haunted by the visions of what I had seen in this place, which seemed U 
touch the lowest depths of human misery and degradation ; and it is the 
misery of what I have witnessed, and the uneasy conviction that some fellow- 
creature may be suffering under circumstances similar to my own, that has 
led me to speak of things over which it might otherwise have been well tc 
draw a veil. 



The Number of Juvenile Adults 

We have before us a record of the prisoners under 21 years of age 
sent to a northern prison during the year 1907. The list includes 
11 boys of 15, and two of 14; the offences are almost invariably 
either gaming, obstruction of the highway, or some petty theft. 
For instance, the two lads of 14 are recorded as having been found 
guilty of gaming, playing football in the highway, and street trading, 
in the one case, and of stealing a pair of boots in the other. The 
sentences for both were "seven days," in default of paying fines of 
17/6 and 15/- respectively.' 

Happily the imprisonment of boys and girls under 16 years of 
age is now a very rare occurrence. Before 1909 they were some- 
times sent to prison at even younger ages than those instanced above ; 
the Commissioners' Eeport for 1908-9 records, for instance, that four 
children under 12 had been received that year. The Children Act 
of 1908, however, absolutely prohibited children under 14 being 
committed to prison, either on conviction or under trial, and the 
sentencing of young persons between 14 and 16 was disallowed 
unless "the court certifies that the young person is of so unruly a 
character that he cannot be detained in a place of detention" or 
"that he is of so depraved a character that he is not a fit person 
to be so detained." ^ 

The effect of this amendment of the law is shown in the following 
Table: — 

The Number of Prisoners Under Sixteen. 

Males. Females. Total. 

1908-9 ... 515 ... 14 ... 529 

1910-11' ... 32 ... 2 ... 34 

1913-14 ... 12 ... — ... 12 

1920-21 ... 6 ... — ... 6 

* It is worth recording the "family history" of the second of these prisoners as illustrative 
of the kind of conditions among which so many "criminals" grow up: — "Parents both liTing. 
Father has no regular work. Gets drunk Tery often. Also mother. Has a poor home. Has 
nerer done any work and none to go to on discharge." 

'Children Act, 1908. Section 102 (3). In no case may an oHender under 16 be 
••ntenced to penal serTitude. Ibid Section 102 (2). 

' The first complete year during which the Chi'.dren Act was operatire. 


Prisoners under 16 are known in prison parlance as "juveniles." 
They are treated very similarly to the "juvenile adults" — those be- 
tween 16 and 21 ; they need not, therefore, be dealt with separately 
here. It may be recorded, however, that our evidence suggests that 
juveniles are sometimes sent to prison for very inadequate reasons. 
Thus a witness describes how on January 10th, 1920, a little gipsy 
girl of 14, who had been arrested on a charge of stealing was trans- 
ferred to prison.* merely for having broken a window at night at the 
Eemand Home. "The sound of her sobbing in her cell at night was 
most pitiful," adds this witness. The injustice was the greater in 
this case because the girl was eventually acquitted. 

A second instance : One of the writers of this book came in 
contact when in prison with a bugler of 15 sentenced to one month's 
imprisonment for stealing a bicycle, on the ground that he was too 
unruly to detain elsewhere. He was a most promising type of boy, 
adventurous, but certainly not criminal or dangerous. The court 
sent him to prison under the exception permitted by the Children 
Act because he had escaped from the police station. "But," 
as he remarked, "what soldier wouldn't have done it? They put me 
in a yard to exercise alone, and the wall wasn't six feet high. Of 
course, I was over in a jiffy. " Later we shall make further reference 
to this boy, which will show how disastrous the imprisonment of 
juveniles may be." 

There are no restrictions upon the sending of young persons 
between 16 and 21 to prison; they may be sentenced to any term 
from five days to life, and at the present time there are juvenile 
adults serving life sentences at Dartmoor. 

The following Table shows the number of juvenile adults 
imprisoned in 1901-2, in the year immediately before the war, and in 

The Number of Juvenile Adults in Prison. 

Males. Females. Total. 

1901-2 ... 13,342 ... 2,200 ... 15,542 

1913-14 ... 6,320 ... 858 ... 7,178 

1920-21 ... 4,217 ... 743 ... 4,960 

A very large number of juvenile adults are sentenced to short 
terms for trivial offences; in 1920-21, for instance, 1831 boys and 
"the great majority" of the girls were sentenced to terms of one 
month or less.** And despite the Criminal Jurisdiction Act, 1914, 
which empowers the court to place young offenders under super- 
vision until the fine be paid, a large number are still sent to prison 

* Under Section 97 (2) of the Children Act. 

5 "Unruly" or "depraved" boys and girls between 14 and 16 sentenced to terms in certified I 
schools may also be detained in prison (Children Act, Section 63) until a school is found 
for them. As ten-elevenths of these institutions are under private management (although 
almost entirely supported by public money), and as there is no obligation on the managers 
to accept a particular child, there is sometimes considerable delay. 

« P.C. Report, 1920-21, p. 12 

paid Fine 

were not 



allowed time 


to pay Fine 


... 52 

... 132 


... 23 



... 61 

... 153 


... 51 

... Ill 


in default of paying a fine, as the following Table given by the 
Comniissioners in their Eeport for 1920-21 reveals: — 

Number of •Juvenile Adult Male Prisoners Committed for One 
Month or Less in Default of Payment of Fine, etc. 

Number who Number who 


1 month and over 3 weeks 
3 weeks and over 2 weeks 

2 weeks and over 1 week 
[ 1 week or less 

Total ... 647 187 455 

It is the general view that punishment of trivial offences by the 

I imposition of short sentences is particularly futile in the case of 

i young offenders. In their Eeport for 1920-21 the Commissioners 

I urged that "there is marked evidence of the need for the effective 

' operation of Section 1 (3) of the Act of 1914, whereby 'supervision' 

may be exercised over lads until the fine imposed by the Court is 

forthcoming." They pointed out that "whilst under the facilities 

afforded by the Act of 1914 for the payment of fines, adult male 

prisoners committed in default of payment this year had decreased 

by 82 per cent, since 1913-14, in the case of lads of 16-21 the 

decrease has been only 71 per cent." ' No less than 455 boys were 

, received during the year with sentences of one month or less who 

had not been allowed time in which to pay their fine, and, as the 

■ above Table shows, a considerable number of these paid after 

reception into prison. It is disgraceful that lads should be sent to 

j prison unnecessarily in this manner. 

Forty-two per cent, of the male juvenile adults received into 

J prisons during 1920-21 had been sentenced previously. Twenty-two 

per cent, had been sentenced once before; four per cent, more than 

four times. Sixty per cent, of these lads were convicted of offences 

against property. Of the girls, about 43 per cent, had not been 

, previously convicted. Thirty-four per cent, of them were convicted 

I of larceny, etc., and 26 per cent, of indecency, etc. 

i The poor physique of J.A.'s (as the members of this class are 
i called) is a constant cause of comment by both officials and ex- 
I prisoners. 

"There were 80 or so J.A.'s in our prison," writes an ex-political 
prisoner. "They were the puniest set of boys I have ever set eyes on. 
Had I not known that the class was limited to those above 16, I should 
have said that many of them were not more than 12, some not mors 
than 10. One little fellow was so diminutive that I wouldn't take an 

■ P.O. Report, 1S20-21, p. 13. 



officer's word for his age — I sought an opportunity to ask him personally. 
'Sixteen and a half,' he replied, although, as he looked up, his baby face 
seemed that of a child in an infant class. The majority of these boya 
were obviously under-nourished and stunted, the product of the worrt 
conditions of poverty." 

In 1908 Dr. Smalley prepared a table comparing the height and 
weight of juvenile prisoners with young persons of the same age 
(1) in the general population, (2) among artisans in towns, and 
(3) among the labouring classes in the country. We reproduce the 
particulars for the ages 16 and 20: — 

Comparison of Average Height of Juvenile Adult Prisoners with 

.^•A,^^^,.^., y^j „,^^ 

•-'""""' ■'•'y^' 











16 .. 

62.26 ins. 

64.31 ins. 

62.85 ins. 

63.62 ins. 

20 .. 

64.94 ins. 

67.52 ins. 

66.50 ins. 

66.93 ins. 

Comparison of Average Weight of Juvenile Adult Prisoners with 

Free Population of the Same Aqe. 


J.A. General Artisans Classes 

Age Prisoners. Population. (Towns). (Country). 

16 ... 111.1 lbs. 119.0 lbs. 112.2 lbs. 117.2 lbs. 

20 ... 130.6 lbs. 143.3 lbs. 136.4 lbs. 144.3 lbs. 

It will be seen that the average J.A. prisoner of 16 is more than 
two inches shorter than the average boy or girl of the same age, 
and nearly eight lbs. less in weight, and that at 20 he is more than 
2| inches shorter and nearly 13 lbs. lighter. 

The Modified Borstal System. 
Since 1906 juvenile adults serving terms of imprisonment in Local 
prisons have, in increasing numbers, been subjected to what is known 
as the "Modified Borstal System." In the Prison Commissioners" 
report for 1907-8 its object is described as being "to adopt, as far as 
length of sentence would permit, the principle of the Borstal System 
for all offenders, 16-21, committed to prison.'" These methods 
are officially summarised in the following way : — 

1. Segregation from the adult prisoner. 

2. Close individual attention and observation with a view to 
arresting the criminal habit, by — 

(a) discipline ; 

(b) sustained work; 

(c) physical and mental training; 

(d) careful disposal on discharge. 

« Op cit. p. 12. 


'Suitable cases"* with sentences of three months and over are trans- 
"erred to a Collecting Depot (an unpromising name) at the prisons 
it Bedford, Bristol, Durham or Liverpool, and (for girls) at 
Manchester, where a number of modifications of the ordinary prison 
'^gime are made. It is necessary to emphasise, however, that only 
ibout one-eighth of the juvenile adult prisoners enjoy these 
idvantages. In 1920-21, for instance, only 524 of the 4,217 male 
)risoners under 21 years of age went to one of the four special 

On arriving at the Collecting Depot, the J. A. enters the "Ordinary 
jrade, " which is little different from ordinary imprisonment, except 
hat he has drill before breakfast daily, associated labour from the 
Cutset, educational classes, and a weekly lecture. After he has 
parned 150 merit marks, obtainable in six weeks by "good conduct 
ind industry" on the award of the Borstal Committee, ^° he enters 
^he special stage. In this stage the rules allow: — 

j 1. Conversational exercise on Sundays. 

I 2. Meals in association (if practicable). 

3. Recreation, if practicable, on Saturday afternoons and evenings. 

I 4. Monthly letters and visits. 

j 5. A good conduct stripe of red to be worn by the J. A. on the left 
arm after he has passed a month in the special grade with 
exemplary conduct, entitling him to a special gratuity of 6d. 
for each completed month, so long as he is allowed to retain 
the good conduct stripe. This special gratuity may be sent 
home, or he may reserve it to be expended for his benefit on 
his discharge. (The total must not exceed £2.) 

A juvenile adult in the special stage is also permitted to have an 
fon bedstead, a strip of carpet, and a looking-glass in his cell, as 
K'ell as photographs and other little ornaments received from home. 
\Ieals have so far been given in association at only two of the 
-I ollecting Depots — Bedford and Durham. "At the other two, 
iBristol and Liverpool, this has not hitherto been done," says the 
Home Secretary, "owing to the want of suitable accommodation, a 
jlifl&culty which it is hoped will be overcome."" 
. "When a prisoner between 16 and 21 sentenced to less than three 
inonths happens, owing to the locality of his ofience, to be com- 

itted to one of the Collecting Dep6ts, he is treated under the 

' ' S.O. 1065 (21 reads: "It will be for the discretion of the governor and chaplain, having 
egard to age and character, to decide as to treatment, under juvenile adult, or ordinary 
dnlt, rules, of prisoners known to have been subject to the juvenile adult system under a 
ormer sentence. Prima facie, where good influences brought to bear under a former sentence 
lave had no result, it would hardly seem worth while again to allow such a case to benefit 
y snch preferential treatment as the scheme admits; but there may be circumstances which 
'oald justify another chance being given, and, as to this, the authorities on the spot 
iiust be the judges." 
'" Consisting of the governor, the chaplain, and "voluntary workers, either members of 
he visiting committee or local residents co-opted for the purpose." The committee makes 
ts award on a report by the officer in charge of the working party to which the prisoner 

'^ Reply to Mr. T. Myers, M.P., November 10th, 1921. 


Modified Borstal Eules. Otherwise, he is subject to the ordinary 
prison routine, except that, if practicable, he receives daily drill ind 
two exercises on Saturdays and Sundays, and is allowed visits and 
letters every six weeks. A juvenile adult with a sentence of three 
months or more who is not transferred to a Collecting Depot is 
treated similarly, but, after serving three months, is permitted 
letters and visits every four weeks. 

A further "privilege" which juvenile adults enjoy is exemption 
from clothing marked with the broad arrow. The boys wear 
corduroy knickerbockers and brown tunics, with black collars and 
cuffs for the ordinary stage and red collars and cuffs for the special 
stage. The girls are distinguished by aprons : check in the ordinary 
stage and white in the special. 

The Statutory Eules mention "instruction in useful industries" 
and "education" as two matters of special treatment in the case of 
juvenile adults. For those with very short sentences, instruction in 
any trade is, of course, impossible, and it is not attempted; and, 
even in the case of those with longer sentences, the time is too short 
to learn a trade adequately, whilst the instructors rarely are trained i 
men, and the conditions of the work and the equipment are often 
very unsatisfactory." To some extent, however, gardening, car' 
pentry, blacksmithing, cobbling, building, and cooking are taught j 
Indeed, so far as this last is concerned, the governor of Bristol prisor; 
reports in 1912 that "one juvenile adult on discharge successfulhj 
passed a cooking examination with honours, and another passeci 
very satisfactorily." j 

Many, if not most, J.A.'s attend school for five hours a week, buj 
the teaching, as we have shown in an earlier chapter, is of a verj 
elementary standard.'" Trained teachers from outside are stated t(: 
be employed now at the four Collecting Dep6ts to conduct continual 
tion classes in the evenings ; otherwise "School-master warders" giv^ 
the instruction. j 

At each prison there is supposed to be a Borstal Committee '* fo 
the special care and supervision of all prisoners coming within th 
Modified Borstal system. The committee, in addition to the dut 
of awarding "merit marks" (generally a mere formality), has th 
responsibility of arranging the weekly lectures and addresses and c 
making provision for each juvenile adult prisoner on discharge. 
How far the work of these committees succeeds in this latter respeci 
depends largely upon their 'personnel. At Bristol the committee ij 
apparently very successful owing to the enthusiasm of its honorari 
agent, who is constantly visiting the boys. This particular conj 
mittee claims that it almost invariably finds work for its charges. 

" See pp. 110-112 and 115-117. 
" See pp. 153 and 154. 
>* See footnote 10 on previous page. 
"See p. 471. 


The Contamination of Juvenile Adults. 
The first prescription laid down for the treatment of juvenile 
,dults is separation from the adult prisoners. Opinion is practically 
inanimous, however, that segregation is not effected. The Indian 
ails Committee, after an investigation in England, says that 
egregation "in practice may not amount to much more than the 
loUection of the adolescents into a separate gang, working on a 
■eparate patch of the garden, or to their employment at the further 
^nd of the workroom in which adult prisoners are employed, and 

their sleeping in a separate wing of the prison or at least on a 
iiSerent storey from the rest."" We know that more than one 
governor takes the view that Borstal treatment cannot be properly 
riven in prison owing to the presence of adult criminals. An ex- 
;haplain in the course of his evidence says "the boys cannot be 
;hut away from the older men; they work in close proximity to 
jhem." "Some communication cannot fail to pass between the 
r.A.'s and the ordinary prisoners," says a warder. 

' Ex-prisoners give numerous instances of contact between J.A.'s 
md adult criminals. One says, "The boys were in a wing with 
she other prisoners and worked in a factory with them." "The 
separation was lax," says another. "The J.A.'s were kept apart 
by a canvas screen in the workshop, but they talked through it 
;reely." "You can always hear the boys talking to the men through 
iheir windows," states a third. "The boys were kept on one land- 
ng, the men above them." A fourth reports overhearing a 
Conversation between an "old lag" and a boy in some such terms 
is these : — 

"Say, kid, whafre you in for?" 

"Pinchin' a bike." 

"When do you get out?" 

1 "Tuesday week." 

"I shall be out two days later. You're just the kind of boy I want for 
j a job. Meet me at such and such a place and time." 

•■this evidence is in keeping with that of a high official who states 
^hat "the old hands often try to get hold of the young prisoners on 
lischarge." In consequence of this danger, the governors of some 
prisons release juvenile adults at different times from other prisoners 
And send them home on different trains. 

I In this connection we venture to quote a passage from what one 
|)f the writers of this book has written elsewhere." It has reference 
o the bugler boy mentioned before : — 

Whilst I was in Lincoln prison a boy of fifteen was placed in the next 

cell. He was a bugler in the army, a smart bright boy, and generous. 

He was sentenced to one month's hard labour for stealing a bicycle. 
I asked him why he did it. "I don't know," he replied. "I saw a 

bike standing outside a shop, I had a sudden desire to jump on it, and 

'•Report of the Indian Jails Committee, 1921 (Cmd. 1303), p. 495. One o! the 
nembers of the committee responsible tor this statement was Mr. Mitchell-Innes, aa 
inspector of English prisons. 

" A Fenner Brockway, "Prisons as Crime Factories" (International Bookshops, Ltd., 2d.). 


before I knew what I was doing I was riding off full speed. I was 
caught almost at once." Obviously the boyish impulse of a lad bubbling 
over with the love of adventure, and, if you will, the spirit of mischief, 
but assuredly not a vicious or criminal type. 

I quickly taught this lad the Morse Code, and we rapped out long 
conversations through the wall. I found that he was a great reader, 
that he was anxious to learn, that he was really ambitious to get on. It 
became indisputably clear to me that in sympathetic surroundings and 
with proper training he could become both an able craftsman and a 
good citizen. 

There was another prisoner with whom I came into close contact in 
Lincoln gaol. He was found guilty of a crime which I will not par- 
ticularise. He was a vicious, demoralised wretch, whose whole thought ; 
seemed limited to what was filthy and foul. ' 

The lad finished his month and went out, vowing to me that he would 
never enter such a place again. The other prisoner went out the same 
day. Three weeks later he was back. And only a week more had gone i 
by when the bugler returned. ... j 

Will it be the boy's fate to come back again and again, to spend his ! 
life in prison ? One hopes not, but I soon found that he had caught I 
"the prison habit." He was deteriorating visibly from day to day. 
Already he was behaving like an old hand. And a scene I witnessed j 
one evening from my cell window showed that the contamination had 
gone far. | 

The supper bell had tolled and the prisoners were coming out of the! 
wood-shed, single file. There were only twenty of them, 14 of the "old j 
crocks" followed by six boys. The figures and faces of the old men; 
seemed to be a denial of all that is divine in man. There was insanity; 
there, there was inebriety, there was sexual viciousness. These outrages j 
upon the image of God were the finished articles made by personal weak- 1 
ness, bad social conditions, and, not least, our crime-making prisons. | 

Behind them came the boys, with figures and faces marred, yet notj 
hopeless. There was weakmindedness there, there was hot temper, 
there was dare-devilry. But there was no wickedness so deeply rooted 
that right surroundings and right influence might not have eradicated 

I looked again more closely. The last of the old men was the| 
degraded wretch. The first of the boys was my bugler. And they' 
were conversing familiarly together in a way that made me shudder. 

The beginning and the end of the tragedy." j 

The higher prison officials often claim that juvenile adult prisoners! 
generally benefit physically, mentally, and morally by a long ternij 
under the Modified Borstal system. That those who have previously] 
been the victims of under-nourishment and overcrowding sometimeej 
benefit to some degree physically we do not doubt, but the evidence j 
from other quarters leads us to the definite view that the majority, 
of juvenile adult prisoners suffer far more mentally and morally than 


IS Evidence of this nature must not be accepted as implying the necessity lor a stricteij 
enlorcement of the Silence Rule. Under existing conditions, contamination would occur: 
however rigorously the authorities attempted to apply it. The remedy lies in othe. 
directions. See pp. 569-70. 


they gain. "I would rather see my boy dead than in prison," re- 
marks a warder. "Having come once," says another, "most of them 
come again and again for the rest of their lives." "This is 
an age," says the Indian Jails Committee, referring to the adoles- 
cence of juvenile adults, "at which development, both physical and 
mental, is still rapidly proceeding in the normal individual and at 
which the character is still plastic and peculiarly open to extraneous 
influence, whether good or bad." After reading what we have 
written, can anyone doubt that, despite all the earnest endeavours 
of Borstal Committees and prison chaplains, "the extraneous in- 
fluence" of prisons upon adolescent youths and girls is overwhelm- 
ingly bad? 

Note on Special Treatment of Prisoners under Twenty-Five 
Years of Age. 

Following the year 1909 an attempt was made to deal specially with a 
certain number of such male offenders between the ages of 21 and 25 as 
might be expected to profit by it. The Modified Borstal system was not 
applied, but strict discipline and hard work were accompanied by individual 
attention on the part of the governor and chaplain and special aid on 

Selected prisoners were transferred from Liverpool, Manchester, and 
Preston prisons to Lancaster, where "the orders were that they should be 
kept in strict discipline, employed at hard and continuous labour, and that 
they should be the subject of special individual interest of the governor 
and chaplain, as well as of any unofficial person connected with the visiting 
committee or otherwise." " Special attention was also given to their aid 
on discharge. The governor was satisfied that the success of the experiment 
justified its extension. "He was able to furnish instances of young pro- 
fessional burglars and thieves, who, as a result of the individual effort made, 
have now abandoned a criminal career."*" 

The Prison Commissioners commented : "It is nearly certain that under 
the existing prison system these lads, without exception, condemned to suc- 
cessive short sentences of imprisonment, especially in great prisons like 
Manchester and Liverpool, where from necessity the same individual 
attention cannot be given as in smaller prisons and in selected classes, would 
have drifted irretrievably down the incline to a professional criminal 
career."'' Yet the experiment at Lancaster was dropped the following 
year and has not been recommenced. 

The Prison Commissioners state in their annual report for 1919-20 that 
56 young women up to the age of 25 years had during that year been brought 
within the scope of the Modified Borstal system. 

" P.C. Report, 1912-13, p. 13. 
" Ibid, p. 13. 
"Ibid, p. 13. 



1. — Juvenile and juvenile adult prisoners suffer from the same repressive 
regime, in its general aspects, as other prboners. The relaxations are 

2. — The provision of recreation and meals in association for juvenile adults 
in the special stage, is optional. 

3. — Juvenile adults receive inadequate industrial education and training. 
(See summary of defects following chapters 7 and 9). 

4. — The segregation of juvenile adult offenders is incomplete. 

5. — It is impossible to give proper treatment on Borstal lines inside prisons. 



The Number of Unconvicted Prisoners 

Unconvicted prisoners are of two classes — those who have been 
refused bail or who have been unable to secure the necessary securi- 
ties on the adjournment of a trial, and those who are awaiting trial 
by a higher court/ The refusal of bail is a judicial question, but it 
is important to emphasise that a very large percentage of those who 
are sent to prison on remand are afterwards either discharged as 
not guilty, or are fined, placed on probation, or given some minor 
sentence which does not bring them back to prison. The figures 
given in the Table on page 37 reveal that 55 per cent, of those who 
are sent to prison on remand do not return to prison. In 1920-21, 
10,300 unconvicted prisoners were not received again into prison. 
There are no returns to show what happened to them generally, but 
the Prison Commissioners give particulars of 142 such prisoners 
committed to one prison, which show that 46 were under 21 years 
of age and 44 between 21 and 30. On returning to Court, 89 were 
bound over, 34 were discharged, 8 fined, and 7 sent to homes, 
asylums, etc.^ It is deplorable that any of these persons ever entered 
prison, since it was subsequently adjudged to be the wrong place 
for them. 

' Often the period spent in prison on remand is considerable. There 
are no recent statistics available, but in 1913, of the unconvicted 
prisoners afterwards acquitted, no less than 382 spent four weeks 
or more in prison, and no less than 165 eight weeks or more. In 
1912, 1,659 unconvicted prisoners were subsequently acquitted. Of 
these : — 

575 were detained in prison under 4 weeks. 
154 were detained in prison from 4 to 8 weeks. 
77 were detained in prison from 8 to 12 weeks. 
40 were detained in prison from 12 to 16 weeks. 

L9 were detained in prison for more than 16 weeks, 
y one accused person in five is granted baU, yet of those who 
are granted it only one in 1,000 absconds.* 

j * Sometimes, under exceptional legislation, political prisoners hare been confined in 
priaon lor an indefinite period without baring teen connoted. 

»P.C. Report, 1920-21, p. 11. 

I • In France imprisonment undergone before or during trial is deducted in full from the 
Pwiod to which the prisoner is sentenced. In the Philippines, except in the case of 
recidirists, every day on remand counts as half a day of the subsequent sentence. In 
England the period spent on remand does not in any way count as part of the subsequent 
{Sentence. The Indian Jails Committee, 1921, recommends the adoption of the Philippines' 
jiystem (Report, p. 247). 


The majority of persons imprisoned "on remand" are probably 
sent to prison because magistrates generally concur unquestioningly 
in police opposition to the granting of bail. But other reasons some- 
times actuate the Bench. In chapter twenty-two special attention 
is given to the practice of some magistrates in placing prosti- 
tutes on remand for medical reasons. Whatever may be thought 
of the motive expressed in this course, we think that the dangerous 
confusion of principle involved in such a use of the power to remand 
persons in custody will be generally recognised. In addition to this, 
a practice has grown up of remanding prisoners, about whose guilt 
there is no reasonable doubt, as a punishment milder in form than 
that of imprisonment, in that it is free from the stigma of a con- 
viction. In a considerable number of cases these prisoners must 
really be regarded as people who, though by a mild subterfuge they 
are still innocent of crime in the eye of the law, are in fact adjudged 
guilty of the offence with which they are charged, and are practically, 
though not technically, being punished for it.* 

A very large number of prisoners are placed on remand in order 
that their mental condition may be observed. In 1901, Dr. Smalley 
said, in his annual report : "It is, I think, an open question whether 
prison should be made the receiving house of lunatics or quasi- 
lunatics, or whether the prison staff should be called upon to perform 
this public duty." By the year 1909, Dr. Smalley had apparently 
become converted to the use of prisons for this purpose, for he points 
out that "it is undoubtedly a result of the care taken in investigating 
the medical state of individuals charged with such offences (graver 
homicidal offences) that the number of prisoners certified insane 
after sentence is much lower in crimes of violence against the person 
than in any other category of indictable crime." It is undoubtedly 
an advantage to have the mental conditions of prisoners investigated 
before sentence, but more than one of our witnesses urges that 
prisons are not the right places for such investigation, and that the 
services of experts should be secured for this purpose. Except at j 
Birmingham prison, mental experts are apparently nowhere 
employed in these duties.' If a prisoner be mentally unsound, or i 
even if there be a suspicion that he is, he ought never to enter prison, j 

Whatever be the reason for sending a person to prison on remand, j 
the bad effect is undoubted. The stigma attaching to the prisoner { 
in the popular mind is in actual fact little less because of the absence ! 
of a formal conviction.' All the other evils of the short sentence — j 

* Thus one witness instances a case where a boj and girl were accnsed of stealing some | 
milk together. Both were remanded for a week, the girl being sent to a remand home. On j 
the way thither she tried to esnape irom her escort. When they came before the Court 
the second time, the boy was discharged and the girl was told that if she had not tried ! 
to run away she would hare been discharged, too; as it waa, she must be remanded to ; 
Holloway prison for a week. I 

^ We belieTe that the Bradford magistrates now also employ a mental specialist to report . 
upon remanded cases. For an account of the Birmingham mental inrestigations, see pp. I 
52 and 53. 

« "The great harm of sending nnconyicted persons to prison," says a witness who has had j 
experience of the police serrice as well as of prison conditions, "is that, eren if acquitted, 
they hare the prison taint upon them, and they also lose the fear of prison." 


the familiarity with prison, the loss of situation, the possible shock 
to the ner\'ous system or the damage to health in other ways, the 
inevitable contact with a degraded type of person, and the repressive, 
inhuman regime — all of these are present. 

The Conditions of Imprisonment. 

Unconvicted prisoners are not supposed to be confined under penal 
conditions. The Prison Act of 1877 (39th Section) declares ex- 
plicitly that they are persons "in law presumably innocent" who 
are detained "for safe custody only," and directs the drawing-up 
of special rules framed so as to make their confinement "as little 
as possible oppressive." The Departmental Committee of 1895 
made the comment, "We cannot think that this provision has been 
carried out adequately," ' and, despite the improvements which have 
resulted from the recommendations of that committee, we are com- 
pelled to reach the same conclusion. More than one witness who 
has experienced prison conditions, both on remand and when under- 
going hard labour, declares that, after the first month of separate 
confinement is passed, he prefers the latter. Eemand prisoners, 
with a few exceptions, are kept permanently in separate confine- 
ment, and sometimes the period on remand is as long as three, four, 
or even six months.* 

The "privileges" which unconvicted prisoners may enjoy are 
facihties for (1) daily visits ; (2) correspondence ; (3) receiving books 
and newspapers; (4) obtamlng food from outside; (5) wearing their 
own clothes ; (6) using their private bedding ; (7) earning a small 
wage by their labour; (8) two exercises daily (in the case of those 
who are on remand for a month or more) ; and (9) shaving and hair- 
cutting. If desired, an unconvicted prisoner may also have, with 
the permission of the visiting magistrates (who must, however, 
"have regard to his ordinary habits and conditions of life"), "a 
private room" ' with bed, washing-stand, rug, and commode, on the 
payment of 2/6 per week, and the service of a prisoner to clean 
and tidy it at the additional charge of 3/6 (of which the prisoner 
may get 1/2)." The governor of the prison is instructed by Standing 
Orders to call the attention of the visiting magistrates to cases where 
any further modification of the prison routine would be desirable, 
but apparently the governors exercise the right very rarely." In 
any case there is the objection that the limitation of these "privi- 
leges" to a few — those in whose case they are consistent with their 

" Report of Departmental Committee, 1895. p. 33. 

• The daily Press ol June 14th, 1921, reported an inquest on the body of a boy o! 16 
who had hanged himself in his cell at Winchester prison whilst on remand. Ha had been 
in prison since April 2nd. In a message to his mother left on his slate he wrote: "I 
wn sorry it has come to this, bat I cannot stand prison life any longer." Tlie goTernor 
of the prison said that the long interral often left between commitment and trial is very 
bad, and stated that he knew of one young man who had to wait six months for trial. 

' The "priTate room" is an ordinary prison cell with the additional articles of furniture 

' See Rules 185-212 for Ixical prisons, 1899. 
Op. p. 393. 


"ordinary habits and conditions of life" — serves to retain within the 
prison walls the class differences which exist outside. 

Apart from the strain occasioned by the separate confinement, the 
most frequent complaint by unconvicted prisoners is the hampering 
effect of the conditions of custody upon the preparation of their 
defence. The Eules and Standing Orders suggest that everything 
possible" is done to enable unconvicted prisoners to secure legal advice 
and the attendance of witnesses, and to prepare their defence gener- 
ally. On the wall of the cell a card hangs giving particulars as to 
how legal aid can be obtained at the public expense by poor persons. 
Prisoners not receiving legal aid are informed that they will be 
afforded every facility in writing to friends to procure the attend- 
ance of witnesses, and that, if they desire it, the police will do their 
best to the same end. Unconvicted prisoners are permitted to write 
confidential letters to their solicitors and to receive confidential letters 
from them, and "for purposes of defence" they may be examined 
by a private doctor. In addition, if an unconvicted prisoner "out 
of health" desire the attendance of his "usual medical attendant'' 
the visiting magistrates may permit it, the prisoner, of course, 
bearing the expense. 

Despite these opportunities, however, the conditions of confine- 
ment necessarily prevent prisoners on remand from preparing their 
cases with the thoroughness and detail possible to a person on bail. 
Mr. Arthur Paterson " says of remand prisoners that "most are there 
[in prison] because it would be highly undesirable in the interests 
of justice that they should be at large and able to fake evidence or 
destroy it." Eegarded in this suspicious light, it is inevitable that 
prisoners on remand should be somewhat restricted in their efforts 
to clear themselves. Mr. Paterson adds, for instance, that the 
interviews and identity of "legal advisers" have to be closely 
watched." The conversation between solicitor and prisoner is 
supposed not to be overheard, but a warder is stationed beyond a 
glass door so that he may observe the proceedings. 

All correspondence other than that with the solicitor is read by 
the prison authorities, and one witness asserts that any incriminat- 
ing statements made in it are communicated to the prosecution. 
So far as the Standing Orders are concerned the governor of the 
prison is only authorised to communicate the contents of letters in 
the case of a person awaiting trial on a charge of murder. In these 
cases he is authorised carefully to examine all letters written or 
received and to forward any to the Commissioners which, in his 
opinion, "throw any light on the circumstances of the case." '* 

Visits of 15 minutes' duration are permitted to take place every 

>* "Onr Prisons," p. 43. 
" Ibid, p. 43. 

J* S.O. 964. A solicitor informs ns that even in the case of letters to solicitors they are 
frequently read and inscribed with the initials of the governor. 


afternoon, except on Saturdays and Sundays." They may take 
place, like the visits of the solicitor, "within sight but not in the 
hearing of the officer." The visitors are not allowed to approach 
the prisoners," and, except with the permission of the visiting 
magistrates, must not number more than two. The postage of 
letters is debited to the prisoners. If they have no money, letters 
are sent unstamped, but the governor is permitted, where advisable, 
to pay postage. 

No restriction is placed upon the receiving of newspapers and 
books, so long as they are not of "immoral or of objectionable 
character." Unconvicted prisoners not receiving books and news- 
papers from outside are entitled to two library books a week from 
the prison store, as well as religious and educational books. 

The only limitation regarding food is that intoxicating liquors 
shall be restricted to one pint of "malt liquor, fermented liquor, or 
cider," or half-a-pint of wine in 24 hours and that meals must not 
be luxurious or wasteful. Unconvicted prisoners are permitted to 
wear their own clothing if it is not "insufficient or unfit for use." 
Many of them do so. 

Prisoners awaiting trial for a month or upwards are allowed to 
work either at their own trade "when this is practicable" or at 
prison industries. All unconvicted prisoners who elect to work are 
credited with payment, after deductions have been made at the rate 
of 6d. per diem for maintenance, and of id. per diem for tools, 
when such are used. It is very rare that unconvicted prisoners are 
able to work at anything else than a prison industry, and, since they 
do not, as a rule, work in association, almost all are employed at 
mail-bag making or other sewing work which can be performed in 
the cell. When employed on prison industries they are not per- 
mitted to earn more than 5/- per week after deductions, unless, in 
any special case, the Prison Commissioners agree, on the recom- 
mendation of the governor, to a larger payment. These earnings 
may be expended by the prisoner for the benefit of his family, ou 
legal expenses, or in the purchase of books and newspapers. If a 
prisoner be found guilty, any unexpended balance of his earnings 
is retained for payment to him as a gratuity on discharge, or, at 
the discretion of the Aid Society and with the consent of 
the prisoner, is expended for the benefit of his family. Work is 
not compulsory for unconvicted prisoners, but most of them prefer 
to do something rather than remain idle. 

Unconvicted prisoners found guilty of breaking prison regulations 
in any way (e.g., smoking) are liable to dietary punishment in the 
same way as ordinary prisoners. They are not permitted to speak, 
although the Departmental Committee of 1895 recommended that 
they should be allowed to communicate with one another in the 

" In "any special case lor special reasons," the Tisiting magistrates may "prolong the 
period ot the visit." Rule 207 (3). 

'* A governor's explanation of this is that poison might be passed from one to the other. 
What of the food sent in? 


presence of warders." The cells occupied by unconvicted prisoners 
are ordinary prison cells. Brixton prison, which, except for debtors, 
is exclusively for unconvicted prisoners, is of the usual type. 
"Why," asks one of our witnesses "if these prisoners are confined 
for safe custody only, and if their confinement is to be as little as 
possible oppressive, should not accommodation be provided for such 
prisoners entirely unlike and unassociated with prison?"" Un- 
convicted prisoners in the great majority of cases sleep on the 
ordinary bed-boards, although in one hall at Brixton bedsteads have 
been introduced. 

When all the "privileges" which unconvicted prisoners enjoy 
have been taken into account, it will be seen that they undergo much 
the same treatment as the convicted. In many other respects the 
treatment is identical ; the penal discipline, the imposition of silence 
and the degradation of personality are the same. Indeed, the 
regime is so similar that most prison officers show no difference in 
their attitude towards the two classes of prisoners. In one import- 
ant respect conditions are definitely worse, namely, the enforcement 
of separate confinement. In a further respect, also, unconvicted 
prisoners frequently suffer compared with convicted prisoners; the 
chaplains and the lady visitors have not the same standing in the 
case of a prisoner on remand as in the case of a convicted prisoner. 
His or her "welfare" is still technically the concern of the Police 
Court Missionary, who can hardly be expected to add to his 
arduous duties by becoming a prison visitor. Thus it often happens 
that less steps can be taken to help a prisoner on leaving prison after 
remand than after imprisonment. 

It seems to us outrageous that prisoners who are unconvicted of 
crime and who, as the book of "Instructions for Prison Officers" 
points out, are "in law presumably innocent" should be treated in 
the severe way which is now the rule. "His detention is only 
justifiable on the ground that he might fail to appear at Court for 
trial," says Dr. Devon. ^' "That being so, he ought not to require 
permission from any committee or official before he is allowed to 
feed, clothe, and amuse himself; and he should only be prevented 
from doing so if his act is detrimental to his own health or that of 
the other inmates of the prison. . . . On no account is he per- 
mitted to smoke. This is a curious restriction, and there is not thel 
faintest show of reason for its exercise. The proper attitude towards 
the untried prisoner is not that implied in the question, 'Why should 
he be allowed to do this?' The question ought always to be, 'Why 
should he not be allowed to do what he wishes?' and this would be 

"Report of the Departmental Committee, 1895, Sections 88 and 125, X (7). The Prison 
Commissioners objected; and this recommendation was never put into force. 

>* Some years ago the authorities introduced a much better window, with a large opening 
pane, in one of the halls at Brixton, but when, six or seven years later, another block wm 
built, they reverted to the old pattern. The reason given was that some attempts at escape 
had been made, but one of our witnesses points out that the danger could have been avoided 
by dividing the large window into two rianes. 

" "The Criminal and the Community," p. 253. 


the question if the theory that presumes an untried prisoner's 
innocence were put into practice." 

The Effect Upon Young Prisoners. 
The worst feature of the practice of sending unconvicted persons 
:o prison is the effect upon the young. Mr. Clarke Hall, the 
aiagistrate, has laid special stress on the folly, and worse, of com- 
mitting girls charged with small offences such as "insulting 
Deha\iour" to prison on remand. The difficulty is that in many 
3f these cases the girl has run away from home and is living among 
Dad companions, with the consequence that at the time she is 
:harged there is no opportunity to get into touch with her parents. 
\s a rule "homes" will not take these girls without several days' 
ix>tice and without a medical examination. Two have been fouiid 
[n London, however, willing to accept girls straight from the Courts, 
md the practice now is at one Court, at least, to give suitable girls 
ihe option to go to one of these places instead of to Holloway. In 
^very case, we believe, the offer of the "home" has been accepted.'" 
' The following statement embodying particulars given by A. P., 
Ivho spent seven days on remand in an observation ward of a prison 
bospital, illustrates the dangers in the case of girls: — 

A. P. was only 17 years of age and was charged with breaking her 
conditions of probation, following a sentence for stealing a bicycle. She 
was afterwards again placed on probation. She was placed in a ward 
in the hospital for observation. 

The cases in the ward where she was placed included women charged 
with child-murder, manslaughter, bigamy, soliciting, stealing and 
neglect of children. She was the youngest, and all the other women 
were more than 20 years of age. The wardresses (except one) permitted 
conversation freely. The conversation of some of the women was very 
bad, and one described to A. P. how she used to steal from men with 
whom she "got off" every day. One of these women asked A.P. to go 
and live with her when she got out of prison, and another impressed on 
her how easy it was to get a good living by stealing, and how rarely 
one got caught. The wardresses conversed with the women prisoners, 
but A.P. did not hear any of them endeavouring to get them to lead 
I " better lives."' 

I The danger of sending young persons to prison on remand is 
further illustrated in the following statement made by a witness who 
ppent three months in a hall occupied by unconvicted prisoners : — 

The most noticeable difference between the remand hall and other 
' halls was the laxity of discipline in the former. During every meal- 
time the remand prisoners talked freely to each other through the 

-"It is clear that the success of this plan depends entirely upon the management of the 
'home." In the case of one of them, not only has no girl erer attempted to abscond, 
;>lthoagh complete freedom oJ egress is given, but many girls sent to it hare, on returning 
o Court_, begged to be allowed to go back. One of our witnesses urges that such a home 
Is not only of immense help to the girl, but of great assistance to the Court, since intimate 
istociation with the girl enables those in charge to make Taluable suggestions as to the 
pest course for her future. At present the cost of these homes depends upon yoluntary 
POTtribntions. One witness, a woman magistrate, who has paid particular attention to this 
!ioe of the penal problem, urges that the Government should at least contribute a sura 
|3qnal to the •ost of the girl's detention in Holloway. 

As we point out elsewhere, an attempt to impose silence is no safeguard against 
contamination. See pp. 562-70 for a discussion of this question. 


windows, and rarely did we have a visit from the warder or were they i 
stopped talking. The remand prisoners included boys between 16 and ' 
20 years of age, petty offenders, bigamists and murderers. ' 

The most serious criticism I would make is that the boys were obliged 
to listen to the most foul and vicious conversation. A man charged 
with manslaughter, who occupied a cell near mine, described in horrible 
language how he had killed with the butt end of his rifle (he was a 
soldier) a policeman who had come to arrest him for bigamy. His 
conversation expressed the beastliest view of women and utter callous- 
ness about human life. He discussed quite calmly what his sentence 
would be, prophesying five years, which proved right. Filthy talk 
about women was common, and I felt wretched about a young drummer 
boy who was in the next cell to me and who used to stand at hia 
window listening to it all. 

A fellow prisoner on the other side of the hall told me that similar i 
conversation occurred there, and this was particularly bad because the 
remand hall was at right angles to one of the women's halls, and women 
prisoners used to stand at their windows and join in. One of the men 
prisoners of a particularly bad type made an appointment with one of 
the women to meet him outside. | 

A Statutory Rule " insists that unconvicted prisoners should be ! 
kept apart from convicted prisoners and that they should be kept 
out of their view. It is practically impossible to carry out tlus 
instruction in any English prison. So long as prisoners awaiting ; 
trial are sent to prison, they will suffer, in some degree at least, ! 
from the deteriorating physical, mental, and moral influences and ! 
effects of the prison system. 

Appellants. \ 

A prisoner who appeals against his sentence to the Court of ' 
Criminal Appeal, established under the 1907 Act, is treated with ' 
exceptional severity pending the hearing of the appeal. He spends ; 
the whole period in separate confinement, that is, he is confined to ! 
his cell for nearly 23 out of 24 hours; and he does not enjoy the ; 
privileges relating to clothes, books, newspapers, food, and visits \ 
which prisoners on remand enjoy. His treatment, in fact, is, except 
in two respects, identical with the first and severest month of a 
hard labour prisoner; the modifications are, first that he is entitled 
to have access to his legal adviser, and second, that if the appeal be , 
successful, he is paid for his work. If the appeal be unsuccessful, i 
the period spent awaiting the hearing is not counted as part of the 
sentence imposed, unless the Court specially directs that it shall be i 
so; but in the case of a prisoner sentenced to penal servitude, "the j 
period passed as an appellant will count as part of the period of | 
separate confinement." We do not understand on what ground 
appellants are treated with this severity, since it is still an open ■ 
question whether they will be found innocent or guilty, and since, 
even if they be found guilty, the time spent in prison pending the 
hearing is not calculated in whatever sentence is imposed. 

2» Rule 189. 



j 1. — The conditions of imprisonment for those on remand, although "in 
law presumably innocent" and detained "for safe custody only," are 
in most respects similar to those for convicted prisoners. Many of the 
"privileges" are not within the reach of the poor. The same warders apply 
the same repressive routine to convicted and unconvicted alike. 

2. — Prisoners on remand are kept in separate confinement, sometimes for 
long periods. 

! 3. — They are considerably hampered in preparing their defence as compared 
jwith those admitted to bail. 

I 4. — The injustice is much increased by the fact that about half of those 
remanded to prison are subsequently either acquitted or adjudged suited 
for some other treatment than imprisonment. 


5. — A prisoner who appeals against his sentence to the Court of Criminal 
Appeal is kept in separate confinement and does not enjoy eren the 
'privileges" extended to remand prisoners. 


Appendix to Chapter Twenty. 


Miss X was arrested at Marylebone without a warrant on September 3rd, 
1919. Taken in a ta.xi to Walton Street Police Station. There had read 
out to her the charge of stealing goods by means of a trick. Finger prints 
taken. Was left for an hour in a cell with a woman who searched her and 
took away her bag. No woman on spot at first ; man took finger prints. 

Had a cup of tea — sent out for; wardress told her to give policeman 1/- 
for fetching it, which she did. She had ordered some bovril and given 
money (1/-) for it. It did not come before she left; 1/- not returned. Taken 
in a taxi to Westminster Police Station. Kept for some time in a cell ; 
no complaint of treatment, but no woman there again at first. 

Remanded for a week on request of prosecuting counsel. She had no 
lawyer. Taken in prison van (wardress very nice and sympathetic to all 
the prisoners) to Holloway. 

Got to Holloway. Met by a wardress. Asked "how long she was there 
for"; replied "just for the night." Wardress looked at paper and said, 
"That's not true, you are here for a week." Answered quite nicely that 
she was going to be bailed out to-morrow. Wardress said she had heard 
that tale before, and told X not to answer back. Put in a cell till called 
out into the receiving office, and told to undress. There were a lot of people 
in the room. Had to undress there — sheet not given till X was stripped. 

Nurse said she must examine Miss X's head, and said it was not clean, j 
X said she knew it was. Nurse said she must have her head washed. X i 
insisted that this should not be done, and was sent to her bath. Prison i 
clothes sent in ; she protested, but they insisted on the ground that her : 
head was not clean. Stockings, one with no toes, one with no heel ; clothes 
fairly clean. j 

Another woman, a wardress, examined head, could see nothing. First i 
said, "Oh, it's probably run away, there aren't many." Other said, "You 
want good eyesight for nitty heads." X explained that she went weekly' 
to a good hairdresser, and they desisted. 

X was shut up in a cell. She said, "Will you order a special room; 1 
have money to pay for it." (Police had told her that this was possible)! 
Wardress said, "You cannot have it now, you can have it to-morrow night.' j 
She then explained that she had had no food all day, and would like U\ 
order dinner, as the police had told her she might. Wardress (another! 
said it was impossible to have in a meal that night. One of the prisoner; ^ 
said if X wanted breakfast she must order it that night. X asked ;' 
wardress about it, who said, "Well, order it when you get up in the mom 
ing." She was brought her ordinary prison supper, which she was quit 
unable to eat, in the ordinary prison tin ; cocoa, a lump of bread with lumi 
of margarine in middle, no knife or plate. 

Doctor (a man) then examined her in another room, chest sounded, aske 
about V.D. She was then taken to a larger building and put in a cell up, 
stairs. Ordinary plank bed, prison mattress and bed-clothes, no nightdree' 



given. X was allowed to visit w.c. before going to bed, bat wardress kept 
on calling to her to hurry all the time. 

Next morning was awake when bell rang, got up and dressed ; wardress 
showed her how to roll up sheets round a slate, etc. Cell was clean, with 
exception of chamber, which smelt badly. The first thing she did was to 
order a breakfast from outside. Wardress (not the same as previous night) 
eaid she could not have it as she had not ordered it the night before. Break- 
fast given consisted of greasy porridge, tea highly sweetened. She took 

Told to scrub out cell, floor, table, bed-board and chair. When X asked 
wardress how the brickdust was to be used, the wardress first seen passed, 
and said, "She knows well enough how to do it, only she won't." Second 
wardress said, in a very unpleasant way, "At least, if you don't know how 
to do it yourself, you've got servants and you've seen how they do it." 

X was then taken up to a room labelled "dirty heads/' where was a very 
inice nurse. She talked kindly and looked at head quite inoffensively, and 
without directly contradicting other officials, made it clear that nothing 
was amiss. 

After dinner, X's father arrived to bail her out. She was pat into another 
cell, made to undress entirely, and then given back her own clothing and 




The Convict Population "f^ 


The minimum sentence for prisoners confined in the Convict 
prisons (at Maidstone, Dartmoor, Liverpool and Parkhurst') 
is three years penal servitude.* Penal servitude is imposed for the 
most serious offences or for repeated crime, but it must not, there- 
fore, be assumed that the prison population at Convict prisons is of 
a more degraded and depressed type than that at Local prisons. 
Indeed, our evidence suggests that the opposite is the case. "Penal 
servitude men tend to be the artists in crime now," says one high 
official. "They are of a much better type in many ways than Local 
prisoners — in large part they are clever artisans." 

The great majority of penal servitude sentences are for not more 
than five years. In 1920-21, of the 492 prisoners sentenced, 444 
were for five years or less. About two-thirds (314) received the 
minimum sentence of three years. Eleven prisoners were sentenced 
for life, one for 20 years, two for 15 years, eleven for 10 years, six 
for 8 years, fourteen for 7 years, and three for 6 years. 

The proportions are fairly constant, but since 1913-14 the daily 
average of penal servitude prisoners has, like that of Local prisoners, 
decreased nearly one half; from 2704 to 1435. Compared with the 
fall in the number of convictions to simple imprisonment, the drop 
in convictions to Convict prisons has, however, been comparatively 
small; whilst sentences to simple imprisonment have fallen from 
150,308 to 48,588, the fall in penal servitude sentences has only 
been from 797 to 492. One cause of the difference is the fact that 
the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, has not affected 
the population of Convict prisons. 

The number of women convicts is small. In 1913-14 the daily 
average was 95, in 1920-21 it was 76. The number of convictions , 
was 45 in 1913-14, and 20 in 1920-21. | 

The last returns enabling us to judge the nature of the offences } 
for which convicts are sentenced refer to 1913-14. The proportion I 

> The prison for "Star" conricts is attached to the Local prison at Maidstone. Portland 
prison has recently been converted into a Borstal institution for boys. Women conTicts occupy ^ 
a part of Lirerpool Local prison. Conyicts not fit to perform hard labour are sent te j 

' This is reduced by good conduct to two years and three months, followed by nine monthi 
of liberty under the restrictions of the "licence." See pp. 472-474. 


Df crimes against property was 73 per cent., 35 per cent were 
iccompanied by violence. Of the 740 males convicted, 146 were 
'ound guilty of simple larceny, 226 of burglary and shop and house- 
)reaking, 98 of forgery and obtaining property by false pretences, 
md 128 of crimes against the person. Among women 31 were for 
;rimes against property, and 14 for crimes against the person. 

; Dr. Goring found that the age when the criminal careers of 
•-onvicts begin is, on an average, 19 years.' The 1913-14 returns 
;ive the following particulars of the ages of penal servitude prisoners 
vhen convicted of the offences for which they were then undergoing 
mprisonment : — 

I Under 21. From 21 to 30. 30-40. 40-50. 50-60. 60 & over. 
' 52 837 887 501 232 157 

2 p.c. 31 p.c. 33 p.c. 19 p.c. 9 p.c. 6 p.c. 

It will be seen from these figures that no less than 33 per 
ent. were under 30 years of age when sentenced to penal servitude. 
\.n ex-convict who served a sentence at Maidstone, remarks that 
fthe youthfulness of most murderers and assaulters was striking, 
;ut forgers and defrauders, etc., were not normally young." 

Recidivism is the outstanding feature of the population of Convict 
risons, as the following analysis of the careers of the men under- 
bing penal servitude on March 31st, 1914, reveals. Of the total 
',568, no less than 1,124, or 44 per cent, had previously been 
entenced to penal servitude; 544 once, 327 twice, 131 thrice, 84 
3ur times, 34 five times, and 4 six times and over. If we include 
pnviction to Local prisons, we find that only 415, or 16 per cent. 
ad never been previously convicted, and that 743 had been con- 
icted from 6 to 10 times, 568 from 11 to 20 times, and 235 above 
[) times. 


Conviets are classified into three groups, the Star, the Inter- 
lediate, and the Eecidivist. Until 1903-4 there were only the two 
asses, the Star and the Recidivist, — but in that year the Com- 
iissioners, responding to suggestions which had been made for some 
Bars in the reports of the Prison Inspectors, created the Inter- 
lediate class for the "large body on the borderland between those 
iot previously convicted of crime (i.e. the Stars) and those who have 
jade crime a profession (i.e., the Recidivists.)" 

I In 1913-14 the convict population was divided into 1636 recidi- 
■sts, 515 intermediates, and 288 stars. Prisoners who have served 
revious sentences for trivial offences may be included in the Star 
ass, but the regulations exclude men guilty of receiving stolen 
xxis and of certain sexual offences. The exclusion does not appear 

' In 1911 the chaplain at Parkhnrst prison tabled particulars of the ages of 1,000 
lOTicts when first sentenced; 44 per cent, were 20 years or under, and 73 per cent, were 
p years or under. (P.C. Eeport, 1911-12, Part 2, p. 191.) 


to be strictly carried out." "The whole possible catalogue of sexual 
offences," says an ex-convict, "seem to be represented at Maid- 
stone Convict prison, which is reserved for Stars." 

It has been the custom to send the male intermediates and 
recidivists who are fit for hard labour, to Dartmoor or Portland.' 
When the intermediate class was first introduced, separation from 
the recidivists was, we are assured by a warder, "practically com- 
plete," but in recent years the two classes seem to have been freely 
mixed. "There have not been sufficient men to make effective 
separation possible," says a responsible official. "Certain work 
has had to be done, and there have not been sufficient men of one 
class to do it alone." 

The Prison Commissioners claimed in 1905-6 that experience had 
shown "the value of instituting the intermediate class," but many 
of our witnesses are sceptical as to its worth. "Many of the 
recidivists are better than the intermediates," says an officer. "The 
officials who make the selection are not at all accurate as judges of 
character." On the other hand, it is generally agreed that there is 
a marked distinction between recidivists and the "accidental" 
criminals, who form the bulk of the Star class. "The latter," 
says a prison officer, "are more reformable, but the former make 
the best prisoners, taking the life philosophically as part of the 

The only big difference in the treatment of the three classes is the 
longer period of initial "separate confinement" to which recidivists i 
are liable. The discipline at Maidstone is, we believe, less strict I 
than has usually been the case at Dartmoor and Portland, and the i 
intermediates are trusted a little more than the recidivists and given 
rather less supervision. But the treatment after the first three 
months is practically identical, and although promotion is obtainable ; 
from one class to another (and degradation enforceable), the men I 
are said to be usually indifferent to any change. j 

Promotions from the Intermediate to the Star class are occasionally i 
made, and degradations rarely occur. One ex-convict states that ; 
during the three years he was at Maidstone "there were two or i 
three degradations for violent behaviour and one merely for repeated , 
infraction of the silence rule." The classes are distinguished in; 
outward appearance by particular marks upon the uniforms; the 
stars, like the same class in the Local prisons, wear red stars on 
their caps and sleeves, and the intermediates red chevrons. 

» "In the case of prisoners sentenced to penal gerTitude," says Mr. N. G. Mitchell-Innes, I 
Inspector of English Prisons, in a memorandum prepared for the Indian Jails Committee. 
1919-1920, "the governor of the 'Local' prison in which he is lodged on reception sends | 
out printed forms of enquiry to the police and to any respectable friends. These, wheo 
completed, are forwarded to headquarters with the conTict's 'dossier,' which contains a '.*''?"'; 
of his age, a newspaper cutting of his trial, and a statement of any previous convictiorj 
incurred by him, etc., etc. From a study of these a decision is come to, as to whether tW; 
eonvict shall be placed in the 'Star,' the 'Intermediate,' or the 'Recidivist' class." 

' Portland prison having been transformed into a Borstal institution, most of thi 
Recidivists and Intermediates are now congregated at Dartmoor. 



Distinctive Features of the Convict Regime. 
The principles upon which the regime in penal servitude prisons is 
ased are the same as those underlying the Local prison system, and 
lost of the Standing Orders issued for the regulation of the routine 
re identical for both. As in Local prisons, the system is founded 
n silence, separation, slave labour, and slave morality. We shall 
nly describe here the features of the routine which are different 
-om those which have already been detailed. 

A man sentenced to penal servitude is sent, in the first instance, 
i) the nearest Local prison to serve a preliminary period of solitary 
Dnfinement. Before 1899 the length of this period was nine 
months; in that year it was reduced to six months; in 1905, on the 
^classification of convicts, the period was varied with the class of 
he prisoner, the stars being required to serve three months' 
iseparate," the intermediat^es six months', and the recidivists nine 
jonths; finally, in 1911, Mr. Churchill reduced the period to three 
lonths for recidivists and one month for stars and intermediates. 

Instructions issued in 1911 made the periods of separate 
Dnfinement "subject to such exceptions as administrative necessity 
r convenience may demand," and in actual practice the periods 
^ largely determined by considerations of convenient transference. 
Ihus if a star convict has served a month's separate confinement 
nd there are other convicts in the same prison, they are all removed 
i>gether, irrespective of the time they have been there.' A warder 
t one of the penal servitude prisons informs us that some of the 
pnvicts come "aft^r only having done a few days in Local prisons" 
?en though they be recidivists. They begin work in association 
nmediately on arriving at the Convict prison. 

The period of separate confinement was originally adopted 
[entirely with regard to its reformative value," but in recent years 
s penal and deterrent aspect has been most stressed. The fact 
lat the regulation period is now frequently ignored suggests that 
lis justification is in turn being abandoned. A superior officer at 
he of the Convict prisons urges that a few days separate confine- 
jent is advisable "to enable the man to face the blow of the 
^ntence just like when you've lost a relative and want to be alone" ; 
therwise he disapproves of it entirely. The trend of opinion is 
tearly in this direction. 

: Convicts, especially star convicts, are supposed to be kept 
sparate from other prisoners whilst in Local prisons, but this rule 
: often disregarded. We are informed, for instance, that the con- 
vcts at two of the largest prisons exercise with the local prisoners, 
pd that in one prison at least, they work together. The life of the 
pnvict in the Local prison is identical with that of a hard labour 
jfisoner, except that he is not required to sleep without a mattress, 

I' The conyicts are transferred in prison dress and are strongly chained together with 
rist^nlfs and chains. Not more than ten njen may be transferred at once. 


is permitted a visit of 20 minutes and to write and receive a letter 
during the first week, has an exercise on Sunday from the first, and 
an additional exercise on Saturday, and sometimes is allowed a 
second educational book. The regulations require that special 
attention shall be paid by the chaplain during this period to educa- 
tional and religious instruction, but we have no evidence that the 
overworked chaplain has, as a rule, time for anything but a brief 
visit or two. Unlike the local prisoner the convict is permitted to 
send to a friend any money or property which he may have on his 
person on reception. His hair is cropped close before he is trans- 
ferred to the Convict prison. 

It is a common remark among prisoners who have undergone the 
regime of both Local and Convict prisons, that they would rather 
do three years in a Convict prison than two in a Local, but the rules 
are very similar and the ameliorations few. The early months of 
the sentence are particularly hard to bear. Convict prisons are cut 
off from the outside world to a greater extent even than Local 
prisons — incomings and outgoings are less frequent, and the prisons 
are situated in more isolated places — whilst the long sentences to be 
served make the prospect of release seem far distant. Except at 
Maidstone, the discipline within the prison buildings is strict, and 
the newcomer takes some time to learn in what directions relief may 
safely be sought from the rigid routine. "The first three months 
which I spent at Dartmoor," says a "lifer," "seemed as long as any j 
year which followed." ; 

The silence rule is enforceable in Convict as in Local prisons and | 
its effects (which we shall discuss later) are equally demoralising, 
but the nature of much of the work done makes observance 
impossible, and in the farming parties at Dartmoor, conversation 
about the work, at least, occurs with little restriction. It is probably 
the chance of open-air work, with its interest, variety and reality, 
which makes prisoners prefer Convict to Local prisons. "The men 
about the farm might have been farm labourers, except for their 
clothes," say a visitor to Dartmoor. "They were all cheerful." 
Another visitor remarks that it was interesting to see how the warders' i 
children, coming for milk, ran among the convicts at Dartmoor. , 
Compared with the monotonous labour of Local prisons such em- - 
ployment must be of almost exhilarating interest. 

Convict Laboue and Industrial Training. 

In the past most convicts were employed in quarrying, building, i 
or other heavy open-air labour. Now, a very large proportion of| 
the men are employed in workshops. The work at Maidstone is 
mostly of a light, industrial nature, printing being an important j 
factor; at Parkhurst the employment is mostly farming and market j 
gardening, suitable for the less strong prisoners ; 40 per cent, of the 
convicts at Dartmoor were employed before the war, in manufactures! 

^ ^~ T 

S ^ 


To Jacc p. 321 



'>r prison use, such as basket making, carpentering, knitting, mail- 
ig making, shoe making, tailoring, smithing, or twine and rope 
laking; and at Portland the tailoring, moulding, smithing and 
sting shops gave work for about 30 per cent, of the prisoners, 
carrying was done at Dartmoor as well as Portland before the war 
-the New Scotland Yard is built of Dartmoor stone — but in recent 
2ars all the attention of the open-air workers has been given to 
tending cattle, cropping, and reclaiming land. 

"Men go out in working parties to distances of two miles," states a 
witneas. "Large areas of moorland are being reclaimed. The site is 
high for wheat and the summer short for root crops, but oats are largely 
grown. The principal business is stock raising and dairy farming for 
the prison and the officers. No produce is sold except at the yearly 
sale of stock, which last year realised £4,000. The stock, both cattle 
and horses, is very carefully bred. All the warders' houses, as well as 
the prison itself, are repaired by the convicts, and the roads for a 
considerable distance from the prison are also kept up by convict 
, labour." 

I The stock reared at Dartmoor and Parkhurst is of a high standard, 

hd the cattle have won several prizes at agricultural shows. Sir 

'asil Thomson, who is an ex-governor of Dartmoor prison, says: — 

'Generally, convicts are always kind to animals, and I cannot recall 

a single instance of cruelty. The care of animals on the farm seems 

to bring with it a sense of responsibility and self-respect quite out of 

proportion with the effect that such duties have on free men. The 

convict will devote himself heart and soul to nursing and grooming an 

animal for the show ring, and will swell with pride when he learns that 

his charge has carried off the first prize.' 

I The prisoners at Dartmoor are not allowed to work on the farm 
fitil the last period of their sentences; otherwise some choice is 
prmitted, subject to the proviso that "the interests of the prison 
pive to be considered before the desires of the prisoners."' To 
ive the men a voice in choosing their employment keeps them, 
fcntented, says an official, and helps to get tolerably good work from 

"Personally, I would like to see them having still more choice," he 

proceeds, "If they cannot get the work they want, they 'go sick' or 

malinger, and they usually get their way in the end. Sometimes men 

will get up a fight between one another in order to force the governor 

to shift them. For instance, one man in a shop was refused a 

change of work. He got up a row with another man and threatened to 

'bash him.' The governor punished him by putting him on bread and 

j water — but he got shifted ! Another man, a farm labourer, could not 

get the governor to shift him from the kitchen. He refused to work, 

j got punished and was sent back again to the kitchen. But again he 

' refused to work and this time he got shifted. You cannot make a man 

work if he doesn't mind punishment, and it would be better to consider 

his wishes in the first instance." 

[•"The Story of Dartmoor Prison" (1907), p. 265-6. 

I* Mr. MitchelMnnes, Inspector o* English Prisons, in memorandum to Indian JaUa 
pmmittee Report, p. 525, para. 13. 



The labour advantages of Convict prisons have been considerably 
reduced since 1919 owing to the introduction of cellular labour. 
Before this, no cellular work was done in Convict prisons, the men 
being employed for a full eight hours either in the workshops or on 
the land. As a result of the introduction of the eight- hour day for 
officers, however, work in association has been reduced in order to 
lessen the amount of supervision required, and convicts are now 
employed making mail-bags in their cells in the evening. 

The practice of selecting trusted men to do work without 
supervision was adopted in Convict prisons before Local prisons, 
and at Dartmoor there are from 30 to 40 "red-collar" men 
employed in farming, as well as others, who work about the prison 
as gas-fitters, carpenters, etc. The "red-collar" men are supposed 
to be chosen because of their good character, but as we have befwe 
observed, a man with a good prison character is not necessarily a 
trustworthy person, and a warder of experience tells us that soma 
of these privileged prisoners are of a very "artful" type, accustomed 
not so much to keep prison rules as to avoid discovery in breaking 

The longer terms served in Convict prisons make trade instruction 
more possible, and theoretically, at any rate, the prison authorities 
recognise this. The Commissioners instruct the governors to make 
arrangements for the technical instruction of all classes of prisoner8, 
the time spent thereon to be proportionate to the length of the 
sentence. It is particularly provided that men in the Special Grade 
(the last before release) shall have every opportunity to make 
themselves proficient so as to give them the chance of employment 
on discharge, and as far as possible they are to be employed at theii 
trade or at any trade of which they have some knowledge and which 
they declare to be their wish and intention to follow on release] 
"The object," say the Commissioners, " is, that all convicts shal; 
have special regard bestowed upon them so that we may fee.l 
satisfied that no prisoner is discharged from our Convict priso' 
without some definite care and thought being given to afford th 
[sic] opportunities for leading an honest life." 

Our evidence makes it clear, however, that, whilst the absenc>' 
industrial training is not so marked as in the case of Local priso 
little advantage is taken of the opportunity to teach trades, and : 
Commissioners' instructions are flagrantly ignored. The sevei' 
criticisms in this respect come from Maidstone prison. I 
prisoners who were employed at shoemaking, tailoring, and print: 
respectively agree that it would be impossible to learn any of th' 
trades at Maidstone. An ex-convict who is a printer by tr: 
states that the instructors in the printing room were incompetei 
and that the work was not taken seriously either by officers 
prisoners. "It is generally believed by the men," he adds, "V- 
the work done is destined to be burned. They will often t 
advantage of foolish instructions to spoil a lot of material, o: 


filing attention to the mistake towards the end of the job — not 
use they are a particularly bad lot, but because they despise the 
i over them and the useless work they do. " The only trade which 
ar evidence suggests can be learned at Maidstone is bookbinding. 
An ex-convict who served a term of three years at Portland says 
as a rule the warder instructors, with the exception of the 
makers, are not skilled enough to teach a trade. "The only 
to learn a trade," he says, "is to pick it up from an efficient 
aciesman among the prisoners, if you are lucky enough to get in 
ouch with one. Then, if you stick to him, you can learn a trade." 
- witness himself learned plumbing by this means. A 
:er" gives similar evidence about Dartmoor, but complains 
lat "when working with a man who knows the trade better than 
neself, it is punishable to ask him advice." Both these witnesses 
that the warders themselves often learn from skilled prisoners. 
. jents of Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies inform us that they 
known convicts w^ho have learned shoemaking, tailoring, and 
innwork sufficiently to earn a livelihood outside. This is in keeping 
Hth further evidence from ex-prisoners, who agree that skill in these 
-3 and callings can be acquired at Dartmoor and Portland. One 
ess stat-es, for instance, that he can now earn his living as a 
iilled shoemaker as a result of his experience at Portland. He 
ad a good instructor, learned to do really good work, was able to 
i3 many up-to-date trade manuals as he wanted to study in his 
... and, although not allowed a pencil, he was able to trace out 
16 patterns in the shop. He expresses the view that any man who 
■ies to learn either shoemaking or tailoring can do so, and adds 
lat he knows a man who served ten years penal servitude and is 
earning his living as a tailor's cutter, owing to his prison 
-ience in making warders' uniforms. 
We do not understand why the skilled training which has been 
;ven in shoe making and tailoring at Portland and Dartmoor should 
ot be given in all the trades carried on in all the Convict prisons. 

The Routixe at Convict Prisons. 
The daily routine of the Convict prisons is in almost every respect 
fentical with that of Local prisons, except that only one chapel 
ervice is held during the week in addition to the Sunday services, 
bd two "exercises" take place daily. At Maidstone both the 
ionvict and Local sides of the prison are worked, broadly speak- 
Ig, to one time, and are managed by one staff. At the other 
Ionvict prisons there used to be some variation, owing largely to 
lie longer time spent by convicts in the workshops and in open-air 
lork, but the introduction of cellular labour in the evenings has 
liused the time-tables to be revised on the lines of the Local 
risons." Under present arrangements the prisoners are locked 

"•The daily time-table at Dartmoor is (or was recently) as follows: — 6-30 a.m. rising bell; 
a.m. breaklast; 8-15 a.m. exercise for half-an-honr for closeting; 9-0 a.m.-ll-40 a.m. 
bonr; 12-15 p.m. dinner; 1-50 p.m.-2 p.m. exercise: 2-0 p.m.-4-20 p.m. labour: 4-30 p.m.- 
p.m. supper; 5-0 p.m. work and reading in cells; 9-0 p.m. lights out. 


in their cells at 4.30 p.m. and the door is not opened again 
until 7 o'clock the following morning — a period of 14^ hours. This 
continuous confinement is bad in the case of local prisoners, but its 
dangers and cruelty are greatly increased in the case of prisoners 
who are serving sentences of from three to fifteen years. Convicts 
now pass at least 17^ hours out of the 24 hours of the day 
in solitary confinement. It is important to emphasise this, as an 
impression has been created that convicts spend a large proportion of 
their time in the open-air. The introduction of outside labour in 
the evenings would be possible if the staff were increased. 

It is officially admitted that the repressive regime is responsible 
for a great loss of time and labour. "The men," wrote an Inspector 
of Prisons in 1918-19, "are supposed to work nine hours a day [this 
has since been reduced], but in a 'Convict' prison the constant 
parading, searching, marching to and from work, distribution and 
collection of tools, etc., take up an unfortunately large portion of 
the working day." " 

liie cell in which the convict is condemned to pass about 18 outj 
of every 24 hours does not differ in any essential respects from the| 
Local prison cell, with the important exception that it is, as a rule,: 
rather smaller. The equipment only differs in the bed. At onei 
time convicts slept on mattresses in hammocks, but these have! 
now disappeared. Iron bedsteads have been provided at Parkj 
hurst, and at Maidstone and Dartmoor the men sleep on planlj 
beds with coir mattresses. A little more freedom from the strict! 
minimum of contents catalogued in the regulations is apparentlji 
given. The provision of technical books adds to the prisoners! 
library; the number of photographs kept in the cell is only limitec! 
by the governor's discretion; and cases are actually on record when 
flowers have been permitted in the cell. At one time it was th<i 
custom of the governor at Maidstone to present bunches of primroseii 
and lavender to every prisoner twice a year, whilst at Parkhursj 
flowers are now to be seen decorating the cells of the sick. 

A stricter watch is kept on convicts to prevent them secro 
prohibited articles. About once a month they are subjected to . 
"dry-bath" search, the indignity of which is bitterly complained cj 
by ex-convicts. They are made to stand, one at a time, in a disusej 
bath, wearing only a shirt, while two officers feel down their bodiej 
and examine their clothing. "When the prisoner is stripped to th 
shirt, which is to be quite open in the front," reads the Standin| 
Order, "he will be required to hold his arms up and to stand wit| 
his legs apart."" One ex-prisoner describes this proceeding as th 
most humiliating and degrading of his prison experiences. 

Much more elaborate precautions are taken in the Convict prisori 
(other than Maidstone) to prevent the escape of prisoners. This '.\ 

11 Mr. Mitchell-Innes, Inspector of English Prisons, in memorandum to Report of Indiij 
Jails Committee, p. 525, para. 13. 

"S.O. 8 (4). 


partly due, no doubt, to the greater likelihood of attempts at escape 
being made among "confirmed" criminals who have long sentences 
to serve, but the principal reason is the greater opportunities of escape 
given by the employment of convicts in scattered parties outside the 
prison walls. A witness, speaking of Dartmoor, says that attempts 
at escape are frequent. "A man will suddenly drop his tools and 
run," he says. "It is as though something took possession of him. 
The warders shout to him, he comes to his senses, and walks back. 
There is very rarely need to fire." A similar view is expressed by 
Mr. A. Paterson. "They seldom do it by dehberat« plan," he 
writes, "in most cases it is the result of a sudden uncontrollable 
impulse to cut and run. One man did this though he had only six 
weeks to serve to finish his sentence. ' ' " 

To succeed in escaping is practically impossible. Only one con- 
vict, we are assured, has ever got away from Dartmoor without being 
captured, and he is thought to have perished in the bogs. Every 
working squad carries a small portable telephone like the army field 
telephone. Two mounted patrols accompany the working parties 
across the moor, and a guard armed with a rifle remains constantly 
with each party. At Parkhurst there are no mounted patrols, but 
armed guards, bearing staff cutlasses and loaded revolvers, are 
stationed at points outside the prison night and day.'* 

Until recently it was the custom of the officers at Dartmoor and 
Portland to carry truncheons loose in the hand as a protection against 
assault, but this is no longer done; they are carried inside the dress 
as in Local prisons. "The practice of habitually carrying the 
truncheon in the hand." says an officer at Dartmoor." was introduced 
in 1002 by Governor Basil Thomson owing to an assault on a warder 
in the chapel. It has been abandoned since the re-opening of the 
prison in 1919. I consider the practice was a kind of terrorism," 
this witness adds, "and that its effects were bad; it provoked 
assaults." Prison breakers and violent prisoners may have chains 
put on them, but the occasions for this are rare." 

The System of Progressive Stages. 

I There is a system of progressive stages in Convict prisons based 
upon the same principles as the corresponding Local prison system.'* 
A year's full marks must be gained before a convict can pass from 
one stage to another. The one meagre privilege attached to the 
second stage is the choice of a pint of tea and two ounces of bread 
in lieu of the gruel or porridge provided for breakfast. Letters and 
visits are only permitted once every 120 days in the first and second 

" "Onr Prisons." p. 22. 

'*The law only allows escaping "felcns" fnot "misdemeanants") to be fired npon at 
the risk of killing, if there be no other means cl captare. The consaqnence is that "mia- 
oemeaaants" are not employed ontfide the prison wall&. 

I "See p. 244. 

i " See pp. 105-5. 


stages; in the third stage the intervals for letters and visits are re 
duced to 90 days, and in the fourth stage to 60 days. As a rule 
visits are of 20 minutes duration, but when a convict enters th( 
fourth stage they may be of 30 minutes. The most noteworthy 
prison privilege to be gained under this system is "talking exercise,' 
which is permitted once a week to convicts in the fourth stage 
Good prison conduct and the gaining of full marks secures a remit 
tance of one-quarter of the sentence in the case of men, and of one 
third in the case of women. If he secure this or any lesse: 
remittance he is released "on licence," but remains until the actua 
conclusion of his sentence under the supervision either of the polic( 
or of the Central Association for Discharged Convicts or of some othe: 
Prisoners' Aid Society." In the case of any breach of the condition! 
of the licence, it is revoked, and the convict returns to serve the res 
of his sentence in prison. 

The advantages provided by the progressive stage system will n( 
doubt seem to our readers to be so small as to be practically \^(orth 
less, and they are, in fact, niggardly to the degree of cruelty. Tha 
they are effective at all in stimulating to "industry and good conduct' 
is the severest comment upon the narrow and monotonous existent 
to which convicts are condemned. We are glad to see from thi 
1920-21 report of the Prison Commissioners that it is intended t< 
give much fuller "privileges" after the second year has been comi 
pleted. We reproduce the new Standing Orders at the end of thii 

In addition to the four ordinary stages of the Progressive Systerl 
there is a special stage which can be entered by three-year stars at tb' 
end of two years, by four-year stars at the end of two years and nic; 
months, by five-year stars and by intermediates at the end of thrc 
years and six months, and by six-year convicts of all classes at the enj 
of four years. Convicts serving more than six years may enter tl' 
special stage 12 months before the date of their discharge. 

The special stage gives the benefits of the ordinary fourth stag- 
together with some further privileges. A special remission of or 
week (!) is given to men who are in the stage for six months or mar: 
and of three days for those in it for less than six months. Specii 
stage convicts wear a distinct uniform, their hair is allowed to gro, 
when they are within three months of their discharge, and th<i 
are eligible for "special employments of trust" — that is "red collar' 
duty. Letters and visits are permitted at intervals of 60 da 
in the case of special stage convicts who are serving sentences 
less than six years, and at intervals of 30 days in the case of the 
serving six years or more. I 

Our ex-convict witnesses all speak of the relief afforded f 
the talking exercise. "We looked forward to it all the week," sa.i 
one. The prison officials agree that this relaxation of the silen^ 

»' See pp. 472-474. 


rule has had good results. "It seems to work well," says a superior 
officer at one of the Convict prisons, "and it might be extended." 
Language of an obscene, blasphemous, and objectionable character is 
liable to be reported, and the governor has a right to withhold the 
privilege from any prisoner guilty of abusing it, but such action is 
rarely necessary. At Maidstone and Dartmoor the convicts are 
allowed to select their partners, but at Portland this was not 
permitted. "Criminals would become pals, and would plan crime 
together if we allowed that," remarks an official, "it would never 
do"; but an ex-convict who served his sentence at Portland t-ells 
us that, although selection was not officially authorised, it took place. 
"If a man wanted to walk with another," he says, "he gave him the 
tip during the week and they fell in together on exercise parade." '* 
Outside all these stages are the convicts whose licences have been 
revoked or forfeited and who return to prison to serve what is termed 
the "remanet." They are kept apart in a special class, are allowed 
a visit and letter during the first week, and thereafter at intervals of 
120 days. They become eligible for a fresh licence at the end of 
three-fourths of the uncompleted term of imprisonment. 

The Long Sentence Division." 

So far we have been dealing with convicts in the ordinary 
division. In 1905 a Long Sentence Division was created for selected 
convicts sentenced for ten years or more ; ten years later the division 
was extended to include men sentenced for eight years or more. 
Such convicts are eligible when they have served a term of five 
years, but something more than good prison conduct and industry 
are necessary to secure admission. The directors of Convict 
prisons consider each case, and take into account the offence, 
character, and history of the prisoner. The number of prisoners 
belonging to the division is small; in 1913, it was 80; in 1914, 84. 
They comprise about 80 per cent, of those whose sentences qualify 
them to ent«r. 

Until 1905, long sentence convicts marked time between the 
fourth year and a year before their discharge on licence. The Com- 
missioners discovered that some greater stimulus to industry and 
good conduct was required "than can be derived from the fear oi 
losing privileges earned in the earlier stages," and stated that it 

was "the opinion of those most able to judge that the full 

deterrent effect of a sentence of penal servitude is exhausted when 
a man has been about seven years in prison. " " For this reason they 
established the long sentence division where the treatment would 
be "sensibly ameliorated." 

Convicts in this division are separated from the rest, wear a 
special uniform of light grey, have a talking exercise daily, and are 

*• For a farther consideration ol this "talking exercise" see pp. 566-69 

>»8ee the Rules for the GoTernment of Local and ConTict Prisons (1921), includin* 

I Knies dated May, 1915, and January, 1905. 

I *• P.O. Report. 1903-4, p. 16. 


allowed to earn a small gratuity of Id. per day, which can be ex- 
pended on certain "comforts" such as biscuits, pickles, jams, sugar, 
fruits, and potted meats. Should the gratuities not be expended in 
full, they are handed to the officials of the Central Association for 
the benefit of the prisoner aft^er discharge, but this rarely occurs, 
the convicts preferring to spend the full amount themselves. Our 
evidence contains frequent reference to the generosity of long 
sentence division convicts towards their fellow prisoners who are 
outside the scope of these privileges. We have been told of one 
convict who made it his practice to distribute, at his own risk, to 
other prisoners, five pennies' worth of food made up in little packets, 
out of every half-a-crown's worth of "comforts" he purchased. 
The following statement from an ex-convict is worth quoting: — 

A convict in the long sentence division receiving little extras had a 

friend, B , who was in the lower division. The long sentence man 

shared all his extras with B , and would have been quite miserable 

if his friend hadn't got his half. "I don't care if they take them from 

me altogether," he said, "but so long as I've got anything, B shall' 

have his bit." This "passing" meant some risk, of course; an orange 

for instance, might pass through a dozen hands before it reached B , 

but it would get there. I myself have carried an orange for B all' 

round the prison before finding a chance of passing it any further. Had 
the practice been discovered all those who took part would have been 
punished, and the extras would have been stopped. i 

There is much complaint among long sentence prisoners that thej 
increase in prices has greatly reduced the value of their smaL 
gratuity. In April, 1919, nine of the long sentence men at Maid; 
stone petitioned the Home Secretary for an increase in the allowanc(i 
to meet the greater cost of "comforts," but the request was refused 
The Home Secretary at the same time declined to include tobacw 
among the purchasable articles, afterwards defending his refusal iij 
the House of Commons on the ground of "the impossibility o; 
separating a small group of convicts from the rest."" But, as wil 
be seen from page 334, it is now proposed to allow convicts in thi 
new "special" stage to have tobacco. 

According to the rules of 1905, the long sentence prisoners ma- 
te given their meals in association, but nowhere is this done. Prisoi: 
officers, both of the superior and subordinate staffs, tell us that thii 
men do not want to have the rule applied. "When this rule wa! 
first introduced," says one officer, "there were about 20 loni 
sentence men in Dartmoor, but hardly any of these wanted meals iij 

2' An oflBcer at a convict prison says that convicts find the unsatisfied craving ff| 
tobacco one of the hardest things to bear. Another officer says that the want of tobacc; 
keeps the men in a constant state of discontent and leads to much "trafficking." A 
ex-convict describes "twist" tobacco as the coinage of convict prison life. "One ma 
wanting something from another will be heard to remark, 'I'll give you two inches.' Ti 
man who can command tobacco can command anything except liberty. You want goo 
fitting clothes ? A man in the tailor's shop will fit you up for a 'couple of inches.' Yo 
want clean laundry? There's a man in the wash-house will see you right 'for a chew; 
You fancy an orange? There's a man in the long-sentence division who will sell yo 
oranges or other comforts at the rate of 'seven inches' for 3d. worth of goods." 


association when consulted." An ex-convict at Maidstone, on the 
other hand, states that long sentence men at that prison frequently 
petitioned to be allowed meals in association and that the majority 
to whom he spoke would have welcomed it. One superior ofl&cer 
declares that the warders would not be prepared to supervise meals 
in association owing to the danger of attack from the men whilst in 
possession of knives and forks. Another superior officer ridicules 

The opinion is unanimous that such privileges as are enjoyed by 
the long sentence convicts have a salutary eiiect from the point of 
view of prison discipline. These prisoners, say the Commissioners 
in their report for 1933-14, "are convicts who could be trusted not 
to abuse any relaxation of discipline when removed from direct 
'supervision."^' Somewhat later, the Commissioners stated that 
'the relaxed discipline had "no doubt gone far to relieve the 
oppression and discontent which were formerly noticeable as the 
result of a long and monotonous sentence, unrelieved by change of 
treatment and uninspired by the prospect of rising to a higher 
grade." "' 

There can be no doubt that the long sentence division has been 
appreciated. Few convicts forfeit its privileges by breach of rules. 
The slender resources of the convict's life make him very anxious 
to avail himself, even at some cost, of every slight amelioration that 
ican be gained. The restricted comforts of the canteen, the privilege 
of talking, and the more frequent letters and visits, are trifling 
modifications of the regime of harsh servitude, but they are too 
j valuable to the convict to be thrown away." 

I The Life-Sentence Men. — A large number of the long-sentence 
I convicts are men undergoing life sentences for murder. Their 
treatment is precisely that of the other convicts, with whom they 
ilive and work side by side. At the commencement of their sentences 
these men are warned not to entertain any expectation of release 
until they have completed 20 years, but in actual practice most 
"lifers" are released when they have completed 12 to 15 years. 
'"Lifers" are generally agreed to be among the better types of men 
iin Convict prisons. "The best prisoners I have known," remarks 
an officer, "have been murderers." A witness with close personal 
knowledge of some of these men regards it as urgent that the con- 
ditions should be altered under which men sentenced to death have 
to wait two or three weeks before the reprieve comes. To spend 
daj's in the expectation of probable execution, watched by two warders 
day and night in every act, is, he says, "an ordeal which tends to 
reduce them to pitiful wrecks of humanity for the remainder of their 
.days. ' ' 

j **V.C. Report, 1913-14, p. 13. 

I »»P.C. Report, 1916-17, p. 16. 

!PrI^essi^°s\a^e S^^tem"* °' ^'^ Chapter on important proposed modifications in the 

'i M2 


Juvenile Adult Convicts. 

Prisoners who are under 21 years of age when sentenced to penal 
servitude are placed in a special juvenile adult class, and they 
remain in this class for the duration of the sentence, however long 
it may be. Some members of the class are over 30 years of age. 
Juvenile adult convicts serve their sentences at Dartmoor, and have 
special privileges of association and recreation besides the elemen- 
tary education, which they may receive, for five hours a week, 
provided they are sufl&ciently ill-educated to be unable to pass 
out of Standard III. The assistant chaplain then at Dartmoor ob- 
tained permission from the Commissioners in 1910 to conduct an 
extension school in the evenings, at first twice a week, and later four 
times. Trade manuals were studied, drawing and designing were 
taught, lessons in first-aid were conducted by the deputy medical 
officer, and talks were given on moral questions. The boys, so the 
chaplain responsible for the scheme informs us, showed great im- 
provement in knowledge and mental capacity, were less morbid, 
and revealed a greater sense of moral responsibility. "Free talk was 
always encouraged," he says, "and it was this that helped the lads 
so much. "We gave them healthy interests to think and talk about 
and so avoided the whisperings of crime and sex. "We put their 
more or less on their honour not to use the privilege granted in j| 
way likely to deteriorate them, and usually they rose to thtj 
occasion." j 

The chaplain responsible for this scheme left Dartmoor in 1911 
and it was not fully continued, but the juvenile adults still enjoy 9, 
any rate some of the privileges begun during the experiment 
They are permitted pencils and paper in their cells for the purpo8e<| 
of study, and even water colours. 

The Invalid Convict Prison. 
Convicts certified by a prison medical officer as unfit for har 
labour are sent to Parkhurst prison in the Isle of "Wight. Many c 
these men are by no means invalids, but the Parkhurst populatio 
includes all the diseased, mentally deficient, imbecUe, and age; 
convicts. It is the infirmary of the convict establishments. j 

The fall in the general convict population has not been reflecte' 
by a fall in the numbers at Parkhurst. There were 780 prisoneij 
there in 1920, and the full complement is only 20 more. Tbj 
explanation probably lies in the fact that the army did not draw oi 
the Parkhurst population to the same degree as it did the more abl*,- 
bodied convicts. 

All classes of convicts go to Parkhurst — stars, intermediates ar 
recidivists, — but the separation is not strict. The stars work at ori 
end of the workshop partitioned from the rest, but the intermediat4; 
and recidivists mingle fairly freely. Prison discipline is maintaim 


— indeed, the discipline is strict, but it is relieved by certain amelior- 
ations which make the existence somewhat less oppressive than at 
the other Convict prisons. 

By a recent and not-e worthy innovation, for instance, after 
the stars have served a year, and after the prisoners of the other 
classes have served two years, they enjoy recreation in association 
on certain evenings. During the summer they are permitted to 
walk, sit, or read, in the garden. During the winter they play chess 
and other indoor games and hold debates, over which a convict 
presides. "We understand that it is the intention of the governor 
to convert a storehouse into a kind of club, where it will be possible 
for the prisoners to have their games and debates, and to hear 
j lectures, both from men in their own ranks, and from visitors." 
j There are three medical officers at Parkhurst; this number seems 
to us inadequate. These officers not only have to attend to the 
needs of the 700-800 convicts in the prison, including a large pro- 
portion of physically and mentally diseased; they are responsible, 
in addition, for the health of the population of the neighbouring 
Preventive Detention Institution at Camp Hill, and for that of the 
members of the staff of both establishments and of their families. 
The necessary individual attention must be absolutely impossible 
: in view of the detailed duties which prison medical officers are asked 
jto perform. 

1 Our evidence indicates that many of the shortcomings in the 
general medical care of prisoners are evident at Parkhurst. An 
experienced witness thus describes the prison hospital: — 

An old-fashioned gloomy block, ill-adapted to its use, neither better 
nor worse than most prison hospitals. There are two wards, each con- 
taining ten or twelve beds. The cells are ordinary prison cells, with 
observation doors. One part of the hospital has a good exercise ground, 
j in which the men walk or sit about as they please. It is a cheerful 
I garden and grass place. The other wing, however, is served by a large, 
dismal, asphalted space, in which the men wander or sit disconsolately. 
This wing is just an ordinary prison block of the old type, with only 
the poorest kind of window, two rows of tiny panes. 

All convicts suspected of being weak-minded are sent to Park- 
hurst. They are kept under observation and, if found insane, are 
sent to Broadmoor criminal lunatic asylum ; if mentally deficient or 
feeble-minded only, they are retained at Parkhurst. They are 
segregated and are given special treatment, described as follows by 
Dr. Smalley in his report for 1912-13. 

Their dietary, employment, and general supervision are the subject 
of special consideration, the aim generally being, whilst maintaining 
order, to attain this with a minimum of rigid discipline and without 
the strait waistcoat. 

: More than one-third of the mentally deficient convicts at Park- 
hurst are unfit for ordinary labour. They are provided with Hght 

j "^t seems probable that these relaxations are intended to correspond with the new 
lettadlng Orders reproduced in a Note at the end of this Chapter. 


outdoor employment, such as market gardening, road sweeping, and 
coir picking. Quiet conversation is permitted at work, but punish- 
ment may be given for loud talking, laughing, or gossipping. Tliose 
who are not fit for outdoor employment are said to be confined to 
their cells all day, except for two periods of exercise. If this be 
80, a great cruelty is being practised upon the most unfortunate of 
this unfortunate class. 

Special emphasis must be laid upon the fact that, despite the 
concentration of the mentally defective convicts at Parkhurst, none 
of the medical officers of that prison is a mental specialist. When 
mental examinations are required, the honorary medical member of 
the Board of Directors of Convict prisons pays a special visit to 
the prison. The Prison Commissioners have appointed a mental 
specialist to deal individually with the remand cases at Birmingham 
prison. It ought not to be necessary to urge that at least one 
specialist is required to treat the mental cases at Parkhurst. 

A special class of aged convicts was established at Parkhurst in 

1910-1911 "with a view of suppressing unnecessary and purposeless 

suffering. "'° All convicts over 67 years of age, together with those 

who have not reached that age but who by reason of premature 

senility are unfit for prison discipline, are placed in this class. They, 

are given light work, and as the following description by one of ouri 

witnesses makes clear, enjoy many relaxations from the usual 

regime. i 

The aged convicts have a large, light, association room, with tables! 

and chairs. No daily newspapers are allowed, but ntagazines like th.; 

"Strand," the "Grand," and journals like the "Church Family Newsi 

paper" are permitted. A door of this room leads out into a little garden} 

brilliant with flowers, where the old men sit in the sun. They ma}; 

talk, and although they have mail-bags to sew, no work is insisted upon; 

They quarrel occasionally, but not much. j 

These prison veterans are pathetic figures. Many of them havij 
nowhere to go when they leave prison; some of them have n(| 
relatives, the relatives of others are ashamed of them. It is not 
to be wondered at, therefore, that they are often reluctant to leave 
and that some of them deliberately commit crimes in order to return 

As we have indicated, the conditions of convict life are ameliorate*! 
in certain respects for the sick and the aged, for the young, for th; 
long-sentence prisoners in their later years. Nevertheless, if w, 
were to describe the regime at the Convict prisons as punitive slaverl 
rather than as penal servitude, a more accurate impression of itj 
character would be given. "The real atmosphere of Dartmoor, si 
far as the men responsible for its well-being and discipline are cor, 
cerned," says Mr. A. Paterson, in a graphic if exaggerated phrasf' 
"is that of a handful of v,-hites on the American frontier among tej 
times their number of Apache Indians. 'We stand on a volcano' a{ 

2« P.C. Report, 1910-11, p. 43. 


officer said to the writer in a matter of fact tone. 'If our convicts 
here had opportunity to combine and would trust one another, the 
place would be wrecked in an hour.' " '' That may be one side 
of the picture. The real atmosphere of Dartmoor, so far as 
the prisoners are concerned, is that of slaves denied the most 
elementary rights of human nature, working without wages, under 
the supervision of task-masters, for one quarter of the day, and con- 
fined in narrow comfortless cells for the rest of the twenty-four hours, 
with the oppressive sense of an iron discipline always present, and 
with the threat of still severer punishment always lurking in the back- 
ground. Such is the lot of many human beings for three, for five, 
for ten, for fifteen years, and in some cases twenty years. Have 
we the right to expect that they should come through it better fitted 
to lead the life of an honourable citizen"? 

A Note on the New Recreation Scheme for Convicts. 

In their report for 1920-21, the Prison Commissioners give new Standing 
I Orders "relating to certain proposed modifications in the treatment of made 
j prisoners undergoing penal servitude." They say that they "have come to 
i the opinion, as a result of careful observation, and of certain experiments 
' which have been made, that much of the rigour incidental to penal servitude 
j can, without danger, be modified," and they declare that "experience has 
clearly shown that, with the hearty cc-operation of the governor and all 
; members of the staff, greater latitude may safely be conceded to convicts 
: as a body." These statements may be held to justify the hope that the 
j Commissioners intend to transform penal servitude on the lines of the 
! preventive detention system, although the modifications which the new 
i Standing Orders inaugurate are much less ambitious than that. 

I The new Standing Orders are as follow : — 

There will be four stages of Penal Servitude for male convicts, viz. 
"Ordinary," "Probation," "Sup«rior," and "Special." 

When a convict has earned 4,380 marks, representing two years of 
his sentence, with good conduct and industry, he may, at the discretion 
of the governor, pass into the "Probation" stage, when, if the governor 
so decides, he may be brought out of the cells in the evening on certain 
days in the week, and may be admitted to take part in readings, recita- 
tions, lectures, etc., as organised for the "Superior" stage. 

After one year (2,920 marks) in the "Probation" stage, he may be 
admitted to the full privileges of the "Superior" stage, namely, dress 
and trousers of different pattern, shaving and hair cutting, looking- 
glass, and wash-stand. These privileges may, however, be accorded to 
the "Star" class after six months (1,460 marks) in the "Probation" 

Recreation classes may be formed on two or three evenings a week. 
Readings, recitations, lectures, discussions, music may be arranged. 
Games such as chess, draughts, and dominoes may be allowed. During 
the summer months advantage may be taken of the fine weather to walk 
or sit in the grounds of the prison gardens. 

*' "Onr Prisons," p. 21. 


Prisoners in the "Superior" stage will be encouraged to contribute, 
by their own efforts, to the formation of clubs, or otherwise, for the 
organisation of debates and discussions on prescribed subjects ; or they 
may co-operate with the officers of the prison in organising musical 
entertainments. If such clubs are instituted, careful rules, will be drawn 
up and records kept. 

A convict admitted to the "Superior" stage may, with exemplary 
conduct, earn a special remission of three days if in the stage for any 
period less than six months, and of seven days if in the stage for any 
period of six months or over. 

When a convict has served four years of his sentence (11,680 marks) 
with exemplary conduct, he will pass into the "Special" stage. When 
in that stage he will be subject to the rules laid down for the "Long 
Sentence" Division, and Standing Orders 178 to 181. 

In addition, a convict in the "Special" stage may be allowed to pur- 
chase a weekly journal or newspaper, and pipes and tobacco. A small 
bag will be provided in which each convict will keep his smoking 
materials. Smoking will be allowed during the dinner hour, and for 
those entitled to association in the evening after supper. Any convict 
who abuses this privilege will forfeit permission to purchase tobacco i 
and to smoke for such time as the governor considers necessary. Chewing 
will not be allowed. j 

A convict will be allowed to receive a visit of 30 minutes* duration, j 
and to write and receive a letter as follows during sentence : — ! 

(a) During the first week of his sentence. 

(b) After earning