« 前へ次へ »
when he wrote perhaps a hundred or more weekly, but as a convict, and he is not sure as to whether the figures are twenty or twenty-one, or even nineteen. How strange to receive a letter which is unopened by any one, or without erasions made by the prison officials. When he reaches home, will he find the habit of ringing his communicator still with him when he wishes to leave his room, and will he wonder and pause, as he leaves his front door, at his free egress? To-morrow he will be able to answer these queries and solve his doubts. A sudden thought strikes him as he thinks of the large and frequented railway station at which he had so often met his City friends, and eagerly scanned the evening posters, and hovered over the book-stall. Would any one recognise him? would perchance some stranger stop to look at him and note the wandering, hesitating step of the licensee, as he roams about the platform, free yet mentally bound, chained to his old surroundings by force of habit, and marvelling that he cannot feel at home, amidst the laughter and din of the buffet, so near? He will enter and play the free man, and he turns towards the folding doors, hesitates, and hurriedly walks out of the station towards the Grosvenor Hotel, leaving the importunate cries of “Cab, sir?” behind him. He must return, however, and re-learn his old habits, and, full of a gathered strength, which he now knows he must foster, again passes through on to the platform, when a L. B. & S. C. R. guard greets him with the following salutation: “How are you, sir? lost sight of you for many a year; been abroad, sir? looking well, though; going with my train, I suppose; ten minutes yet, sir!” Here we leave him.
A few words now as to escapes, adding a few introductory remarks on escapes as a whole. It may be stated as a maxim, that a man sentenced to penal servitude will, in 9,999 cases out of every 10,000, complete his term, which is equivalent to the postulate that an evasion of a sentence is almost impossible. It is true that one or two have been consummated, and this in recent years ; but it is an incident of extreme rarity for a prisoner to get clear away out of the country. Some years back a convict confined at Millbank managed to break out of his cell, get up a chimney, carefully covering himself with soot so as to resemble a chimney-sweep, and finally scale the walls, though he seriously hurt his hand in the process. He sauntered up Whitehall, past Scotland Yard, in a very cool manner, and looked up some friends who provided him with clothes suitable to his newly-acquired dignity. But he was captured near Euston Station, after a sharp struggle, by detectives who were waiting for him, and handed over to the prison officials, who provided him with a yellow and drab dress and some exhilarating leg-irons as a memento
of his day out, the said leg-irons being affectionately fastened so that he was unable to part with them even at night, for which act of official solicitude he was doubtless extremely grateful. Let us now return to the buildings of Millbank, and consider them comparatively. The first thing that strikes an observer accustomed to viewing prisons is the extreme attention-we may almost say exaggerated attentionpaid to architectural strength, so much so that the idea of a fortress is conveyed to the casual spectator, and to the experienced a feeling of irritation, aroused by the cumbrous and dark passages, miles in length and shut off one from another. Surely, if you want to closely watch prisoners, the more open the passages and corridors the better will be the observation. Of late years the attempts at improvement have been in the direction of opening up these gloomy avenues, and in a reduction of prison staff as a result. In the best modern prisons you can view hundreds of cells almost at a glance, so that every convict is visible to the observer or observers, if placed at suitable stations, as he marches in from labour or chapel. It is true that the system of supervision was in its infancy at the period at which Millbank was first erected, and the searching of prisoners was imperfectly carried out, if attempted at all ; consequently a succession of gates and strong passages was necessary as a security. In these days, however, the rigour of discipline and the science of prevention have been so developed, that the more a prisoner is under rapid and systematic observation, the fewer the chances of any irregularities, such as conversation, combination, &c. The Millbank system seems to have been formulated somewhat thus : “The less we see the men, the better.” The modern practice, on the contrary, demands that they should be out of sight as little as possible. Viewing the matter in its reformatory aspects, it is evident that the less men are allowed to converse the greater the chances of reformation ; and silence cannot be obtained when there are long dark passages and frequent corners to be daily traversed to and from the cells. Again, the facilities offered for combination are great, and the chances of mutinies very imminent, when a large number of prisoners are allowed free intercourse and their faces cannot be visible (affording indices to the nature of the conversation carried on) when overshadowed by turret passages and staircases. Referring to possible mutinies, it is evident that the mere fact of the existence of six separate pentagons greatly adds to the difficulties in combating the same, if occasion required, and several murders might have taken place in one pentagon, absolutely unknown to the staff in an adjacent pentagon, so that each block ought to be a complete prison in itself, if efficient. Consider
the arrangement at Wormwocd Scrubbs Prison. Here there are four large halls, each provided with iron gates, giving free access to light and air, but impassable unless unlocked. If a mutiny occurred in one of these halls, a whistle would be audible in the other halls and at the gate lodge, whereas at Millbank the entire staff of one pentagon could be murdered unknown to the other blocks, that is to say, if existing circumstances were favourable. Strategically, Millbank cannot fail to receive condemnation, as affording every possible inducement for criminal intercourse, combined with the least possible supervision and an expensively great prison staff. Look again at the mileage that existed in this prison, to be reckoned as a daily average.
An electric railway would have been useful as an economiser of time and labour, the distances traversed by the officials, whose duties required that the whole prison should be inspected daily, being enormous. Our late esteemed friend, a former Governor of Millbank and Wormwood Scrubbs, used to think the inspection of even two pentagons somewhat trying. Many years ago the Governor's house was inside the prison walls, a state of affairs which would not be tolerated now. A little reflection will show the undesirability of female servants within prison gates, and the impossibility of strict discipline being maintained under these circumstances, warders and convicts being equally exposed to unstable influences, such as the carrying in of letters to prisoners, and “general trafficking." We recollect noticing at more than one prison that pipe-boxes were provided in which warders were to leave their pipes and tobacco. We are writing of facts observed some twelve (or more) years ago, when “trafficking” was more commonly met with than at present, and the general system less scrutinising. It is a speaking fact that we have never yet seen a prison official, from the highest to the lowest rank, who had a good word to say for Millbank, the general consensus of opinion being that it was a dreadful place. On one occasion, some thirteen years ago, we visited Millbank on an afternoon in January, the day being very foggy, and we found the whole prison enveloped in a dense yellow garment, penetrating even to the cells, the passages being obscured by the mist and suspended soot, aggravated by the close proximity of the river. We could not help thinking of the possible bloodshed, if several desperate prisoners were to get loose in one of these labyrinths, in this great penal catacomb.
There were a number of insane prisoners at Millbank, who were allowed to wander round and round a special yard provided for the purpose. We remember noticing one man in particular, whose sole NO. 1949.
airn and end of existence was to wander round and round a tub, and deprived of his tub, he knew not happiness. This yard was a sad picture, as the life-history of many a man there could demonstrate, alcohol being the chief agent in qualifying these convicts for their tenancy at Millbank, and this yard as a finale. We have seen all classes of life here represented, from the gentleman by birth and education, to the sons of Bethnal Green, the latter predominating. Look at these men, walking, limping, crawling, round and round, this man engaged in counting on his fingers, over and over again, in monotonous regularity, some imaginary sum that he has acquired, and of which he is the happy owner; that smiling face over there benignly tolerating the presence of what he calls “inferior society," for he is a great potentate, and has many honours and favours to bestow. Notice that melancholy-looking creature now passing you, as he slowly drags along, almost fearful of walking, lest he should break his fragile bones, which are made of glass, as he thinks. Do not look too closely at the man about to pass, as he is scowling malignantly at you, and wishes you no good. This man suspects everybody in the yard as plotting his ruin, and he must be carefully watched amidst this motley throng, lest he commit some assault, as his hand is against the hand of everyone. He hears voices calling him at certain times to mistrust all round him, and he is troubled by currents of electricity which pass through him, as he thinks, and telephones are connected with his hearing ; such is the hopeless, helpless case, the outcome of uncontrolled passions which have whirled him with a rapidity absolutely frightful into the lunatic yard of Millbank. One more face, and we leave the unhappy men. This thin, feeble-looking, careworn man, now on a level with your point of vantage, wishes to starve himself, if permitted. All his food is poisoned, or may be tampered with by the addition of some slow poison which he is certain the warders put in his food. And so on he goes, day after day, with the same image always in front-poison. We said “unhappy men,” but this is not to be taken as a sweeping qualification, for many of these lunatics are supremely happy and contented, living in the dreamland of their own delusions, and in all probability dying therein, quiet, inoffensive specimens of blighted hopes and unfulfilled promises. It remains for us now to meditate upon this fallen prison, as down, and down for ever. Could not these bricks, doors, and pieces of masonry cry out their varied tales of bygone sufferings, and the lights and shadows of many a renewed life, strong once more through chastening, and tell us of the faces so frequently seen again and again, growing old in crime, shadows
of Hades. If these bits of hardened clay could be endowed with consciousness, with what importance would they not feel themselves invested, what potentiality of might to restrain the strong man, to humble his pride, to cage him in his cell, to say to him as he touches the walls, Thus far shalt thou go and no further, to part for many years husband and wife, father and child, to cause bitter tears of sorrow and the prostration of abject humiliation ! Yet they are but bricks after all !
A series of sales have been recently held at the old prison; the buildings are now demolished, the bricks swept away, the doors and gates carried off, and before many months have elapsed the rise and fall of Millbank will be an apt illustration of the march of civilisation, sweeping all before its triumphal campaign as it journeys ever onwards.
G. RAYLEIGH VICARS.