« 前へ次へ »
of every person ringing the gate bell, noting the nature and purport of the call in a book or on a slate ; you will be inspected through an inspection grating in most cases, and then admitted through a small door, so that you are now locked in the prison, for the present, while your order is being read, subsequently being handed on to an official who emerges from the interior of the prison, for the visitor is not yet inside the building, there being two more carefully locked doors to get through before reaching the interior. You then are asked to follow the official, who is usually of a very military exterior, and for a good reason too, from his previous career, in nearly all cases; and, after walking a small distance, you will enter through the first door leading directly into the passage containing the offices, waiting-rooms, &c., where you are asked to be seated, whilst the order is taken to the governor's office for inspection. If the visitor is inexperienced to such places, a feeling of impending doom may steal over him for a short time, but the recollection of his own inherent merits may soothe him, so much so, that he may act upon the polite request of the warder and take a seat. Most persons in our experience, and we have accompanied not a sew, fidget about the room and stare at the walls, or look out of inaccessible windows at nothing in particular, and exhibit an ill-defined restlessness in ill-accordance with the monotonous silence not far off, and the distant roar of the traffic in the busy thoroughfare outside. After a few minutes the official will return, either alone or with a superior officer, who, after salutation, will conduct you through another door, also carefully locked (in case the governor is not visible, and therefore you do not see him), straight into the interior of the prison. The visitor now has the whole of the large building before him, with one or two exceptions. The halls, for so they are called, stretch away in a branching fashion, each hall having its various tiers of landings, all open from below, the ceil doors being visible from the point of sight of the spectator, to the extent of many hundreds. Here and there will be seen a prisoner accompanied by a warder, either entering or leaving a cell, or possibly a number of men just returning from exercise in the yards. Observe the prison dress, a sort of drab costume, with badges on the arm, and a cap matching the dress. Each man enters his cell, and the sound of clanking of doors echoes throughout the building ; voices are seldom heard, all talking, unless on matters concerning labour, being strictly forbidden, and a prison crime. After taking a general look round, the spirits of the inexperienced visitor will begin to improve, as the shadows fade away from a mind unaccustomed to doors and locks, and he will then wish to enter a cell. He will probably be shown a
model one, kept empty for the inspecting gaze of chance visitors, with everything in it ready for use. There is the plank bed, the tin pot or mug, the blunt knife, the washing apparatus, three walls, very clean and white, and a door with a trap to take in food by, also a little hole in the door, through which inspection of a prisoner takes place, as from time to time necessary, according to circumstances. This place of observation has been classically termed the “Judas hole.”
Passing out of the cell he visits the cook-house, the bakehouse, the laundry, and other offices of like functions, and then comes to the prison infirmary, in which are to be found the sick, and, perhaps, the dying ; those under observation for malingering, or suspected insanity, of which there are not a few, the “insane condition” being a common feature of prison malingering. A man in said to be “doing the balmy" when feigning insanity, and to "fetch the farm ” when he gets into the hospital. Malingerers are more usually met with in our large convict prisons than in short sentence prisons, owing to the temptation to avoid labour being so much the greater in proportion to the length of the sentence. The visitor will notice the padded-room for violent cases, and the weighing and measuring apparatus (anthropometrical) for the prison schedules. He then passes on to see the chapel, which is a large roomy building, and contains a piece of art work, executed by a certain prisoner formerly well known in the domains of sculpture, and for some months a prisoner in this establishment. The yards are next inspected, and round the paved circles may be seen many prisoners on exercise, all walking with a certain air of nonchalance, which usually results from the visits of a stranger. All sorts and conditions of men may be seen here in great variety—the regular criminal, who is proud of being one ; and the fallen gentleman, who is ashamed of being thought one; and the prisoner here on a second conviction, now apprehensive of being recognised by detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department, and thus relegated to the rank and file of the professional law-breaker. It is in the yards of a convict prison that the greatest diversities of the criminal population are met with, and we shall soon describe the appearance of one of such exercise yards and the motley crowd.
The visitor is now getting tired of Pentonville, so let us describe the scenes of varied interest to be found in a modern convict prison.
Our description will be applicable to any large firstclass prison, though, in point of general architectural display and finish, Wormwood Scrubbs certainly holds the laurel, but it is not now a convict prison entirely, but only partially so.
building, or rather series of buildings, has been entirely constructed by convict labour, and it is a monument of the skill and profitable labour which can be obtained from enforced employment. The whole prison was designed by the Surveyor-General of Prisons, General Sir Edmund Ducane, K.C.B., R.E., and will afford to future generations a type of what a penal establishment should represent. The chapel is constructed of white stone, and is very handsome, worthy of a better congregation than assemble therein day by day, and learn the seasons as they come and go, and yet know nothing of the outer world, beyond the varying hour of evening parade and the church festivals in the Prayer-book. It is morning, and the convicts having cleaned out their cells, breakfasted, and prayers being over, morning parade commences. Each man joins his party in the various yards, and the process of what is called “rubbing down" on morning parade commences. The prisoners all stand in a line, some hundreds perhaps, and taking off their caps, hold them out for inspection; their handkerchiefs are shaken out and the body, from the highest to the lowest portions, carefully felt downwards, the warder using both hands in this practice. The dress is of a drab colour, with knickerbockers or short breeches, and long stockings, visible as high as the knee, and on the arm is the sentence “P. S. 7 or 10," as the case may be ; or, perhaps, “P. S. Tr. (life),” the letter of the year in which he was convicted, so that a glance will tell a good deal about the prisoner and his antecedents. The cap somewhat resembles an ordinary Scotch cap, minus the tail. Here and there will be noticed men wearing a blue dress; these are in their last year of confinement, and have attained the highest grade of convict life by good conduct. Possibly a convict with a parti-coloured yellow and drab dress will be observed. This man has attempted to escape, and if he has leg-irons fastened to the waist, it is not his first attempt. You notice a sullen looking prisoner with a black and drab costume and leg-irons, and you find that this is an “assault man," who may have been flogged, presumably for an attack on an official or a fellow convict. Observe the dead silence, the orderly behaviour of these men, many of whom are, most dangerous criminals, and notice how they are handled by a few warders, immeasurably inferior numerically, though physically their superiors in many instances, for the average convict is not a fine looking man, being usually short, though squarely built, and, in some cases, very powerful. The order is now given to fall in, and the various parties proceed to labour on the public works, some digging others bricklaying, carving stone, and so on. To each
party is assigned a titular number, and as the principal warders periodically visit the parties under their care, the warder in charge announces to his superior official somewhat as follows, with the usual military salute: "Eighteen party, forty-eight in number, all correct;" or, “one report,” in which case the reported convict is marched off to the cells to await his appearance before the governor the next morning for punishment. It may here be asked, how are the officials armed. The principal warders wear swords of military type, and the warders cutlasses, when engaged on outdoor supervision, though these weapons are rarely required, practically, prevention and stern repression being the secret of prison discipline. Thus the morning passes on, and the bell rings to recall from labour, and each man falls into his appointed place in the various parties, and a further parade takes place to insure that nothing is secreted in the shape of chisels, stones, or anything undesirable. Then dinner is served out, the prisoners being employed as “orderlies,” and then afternoon parade commences and work proceeds as in the morning, when the evening “recall from labour bell” rings, and the men again fall in ; and as each party passes, the chief warder and principal warder check in their books the numbers, &c. as they pass, the warders in charge announce the number and strength of their parties, and rubbing down ended, the cells are reached and supper is served out. Before this last meal is actually served, a bell rings in each hall, and at the sound of the warning, every man turns his indicator, thus showing that he is in his cell. It is astonishing how simultaneously the click of the indicators occurs, almost synchronously, so that in one second some three hundred men have indicated that they are safely lodged. Then various small duties are performed, such as ihe visit of the schoolmaster, or a surprise search may be made in various quarters, usually unpremeditated very long beforehand by the minor officials, and consequently unknown to them prior to orders. Then comes " turning in ” and sleep, possibly to all, but not probably. So the days and months pass on in the same monotonous routine, broken by a very occasional visit from friends or a periodical letter, for the number of visits and letters permitted to be written are strictly limited, and in accordance with the good conduct, or the reverse, of the prisoner, who may be deprived of these privileges for violation of prison rules.
That the life must be one of intense monotony is evinced beyond all doubt by the eagerness with which a prisoner will grasp at invitations to give evidence in public courts, and in many cases to say things which irretrievably prove his guilt, or add to
the same. It is supposed that a day or two of relaxation from the unvarying monotony of their lives is everything, though, like everything pertaining to human bliss, it lasts but a span, and that a very brief one. Why a convict should be willing (for he cannot be compelled) to give evidence in matters referring to his own financial affairs when silence would be the wisest course to pursue can only be explained in this way : penitence is not very commonly a virtue cherished by most convicted prisoners, so the explanation must have its origin in the hope thus afforded to the prisoner of seeing the outside world once more, though handcuffed, and taken to various railway stations the observed of all. Another curious fact deserves notice with reference to the average convict, and it is that he is never guilty. The usual explanation is, that there has been a miscarriage of justice, and that the Home Secretary ought to be compelled to listen to his appeal, and so on ; though this same man has been convicted, not once, but many times. If convicted on a second occasion, it is due to a police plot, “They won't let him live ;” if a third time, then “They all know I have been in prison, and that is enough for them.” We believe that many convicts admit their guilt, and the justice of their sentence, but such men are not in the majority, but the reverse, and it may thus be stated as an axiom, that a large percentage of men undergoing penal servitude do not admit their guilt. We remember well the case of the notorious burglar Wright, who fired at his pursuers at Hoxton, and was sentenced to life. This man was at Wormwood Scrubbs undergoing his nine months' probation in solitary confinement (as is the rule with all persons sentenced to penal servitude), and one of his complaints with reference to the life sentence was to this effect : “I had no business to have been sentenced to life; the burglary was all I did, the shooting was part of my regular trade, and came in with the business.” One afternoon, when walking round the yards with my late friend the Governor (Capt. W. T. Harvey), I inquired as to how Wright was behaving. The answer was, “Look at that window," which showed on inspection signs of violence having been used to the same. Breaking of windows was not Wright's solitary pastime, as he assaulted a fellow prisoner on exercise one day, and just escaped the cat, though, on removal to Portsmouth, he assaulted the medical officer and received three dozen. Men of this ferocity, fortunately, are the exception, though for determination and violence a prisoner bearing the honoured name of Charles Dickens might well have been bracketed equal with Wright in the Criminal Tripos, both being skilful burglars and defying all authority, short of "figures of eight," and other means