« PoprzedniaDalej »
“ During the past year, the deportment of a great majority of the prisoners has been good. Few cases have occurred in which punishment has been necessary; and, when resorted to, the most severe inflicted has been confinement on bread and water, without work, and for a period not in any case exceeding a week."
EVILS IN PENITENTIARIES REMAINING TO BE CORRECTED.
In the Maine State Prison, at Thomaston, the warden says, in his last report, pages 8 and 9,
“For several years past, the attention of the legislature has been called to the bad construction of the cells of this Prison; and I trust that the subject will, at this time, receive your particular notice. I would state that these cells were originally designed to test the efficacy of solitary confinement without labor. They seem to have been formed exclusively with a view to inflict a great degree of punishment in a short time, and at the least expense. A few months' experience, however, fully satisfied its most sanguine advocates, that this mode should be totally abandoned. There are real and unavoidable evils imposed upon the convicts, by their confinement in these cells, which claim consideration. No light can be reflected into the cells, so that the prisoners may be enabled to read, or engage in any study to improve their minds or morals. Neither can their cells be warmed; therefore they are obliged to remain constantly in their beds, in cold weather, from sunset until near sunrise, which has a tendency to weaken and debilitate both mind and body. Besides, a large sum is annually expended for the purchase of bed-clothes, which, from dampness or other causes, soon go to destruction. A thorough inspection cannot be had; therefore that degree of cleanliness which should be rigidly enforced, can never be maintained in this Prison. Have we any right thus to inflict unnecessary sufferings on our fellow-creatures ?
Is it creditable to our state to have an institution so constructed as to render such evils unavoidable? I trust that the liberal and enlightened policy of other states in the Union, as exercised in the construction of convenient and comfortable Prisons for the confinement of that unfortunate class who may from time to time require the restraints of the Penitentiary, will not be disregarded by the legislature of Maine. Other states, as well as our own, were unsuccessful in their first structures; but they have long since corrected their error by the erection of suitable ones, which in every instance has produced its desired effects, both in a moral and pecuniary point of view."
INSUFFICIENT AND IMPERFECT WORK-SHOPS.
In the Massachusetts State Prison, at Charlestown, the inspectors, Messrs. Minot, Greele, and Sumner, say, in their last report,
“ The enlargement of some of the work-shops is practicable, and very desirable for the health and comfort of the prisoners. Several of the shops are much crowded, and do not afford sufficient room for the work performed in them, or for preventing communication between the prisoners.”
IMPRISONMENT OF LUNATICS.
The inspectors of the State Prison in Massachusetts presented a memorial to the last legislature to have the lunatics, of whom there were several, removed to the State Hospital at Worcester; but without success.
The physician of the State Prison in New Hampshire say's,
“I would beg leave to state the fact to the board, that several persons are confined in this Prison who are so unequivocally insane, as to be rendered more fit subjects for the moral training of a Lunatic Asylum than the penal discipline of a Penitentiary. One in particular is at this time confined to his cell, laboring under a severe paroxysm of the disease. Through the kindness and attention of the officers, he is rendered as comfortable as the circumstances of the case will admit, but cannot, of course, have the advantages of an institution expressly adapted to the wants of the insane."
The physician of the Ohio Penitentiary says, in his last report, page 27,
“ There is, at present, one individual laboring under mental derangement; but, such is the situation of the hospital, that he cannot receive that treatment that would be necessary to restore him to reason.
" It is well known to all who have charge of the insane, that the most mild and gentle means should be made use of toward persons laboring under mental derangement; and any thing like severity or coercion only tends to aggravate, rather than alleviate, their sufferings.
“It therefore appears to me indispensably necessary that some place should be provided, for the treatment of those who may become insane in this institution."
CHARACTER OF OFFICERS.
A committee of the legislature of Mississippi summoned witnesses before them, last winter, in regard to the character and habits of the officers of the Prison, when the following testimony was given :
P. Duzelt's T'estimony. " Philemon Duzett, being sworn, says, that he acted as guard, from May 1 to December 31, and that he saw No. 10 hung up to a post by one arm, without a cap, for four or more hours, in the hot sun, and frequently in the stocks by head and hands, for half a day at a time. Saw Hart pull him down by the hair, and push him about, and curse him, (when he complained of being sick, and was then under the care of the doctor.) Saw Hart step behind him, and heard No. 10 say frequently, • Don't kick me;' and Hart pushed him along before him. Has seen prisoners kept in the pillory on Sunday, ten hours, or all day, and not allowed to go to church; make them always turn up the side of the head shaved, and cap pulled off when in the stocks. Says 28 has been kept in the dark cell seven days, on bread and water. Says No. 12 has been kept also six or seven days, and in the pillory all day. Says Hart is generally very severe; that he is partial ; treats No. 15 with more kindness than others; that he treats No. 27 very severe, who is unable to undergo hard labor; that the stocks spoken of is really a pillory, so fixed as to compel the convict to stand on a small pole, with the hands and head confined ; that the pole can be moved up or down, so as to suit the length of the man confined. And further this deponent saith not.”
H. J. White's Testimony. * H. J. White, being sworn, says, that he commenced working as a master workman, (wheelwright,) September, 1840, and continues yet. That he saw Hart, on a cold morning, pull off the shirt of No. 17, who was sickly; left convict with nothing on but a roundabout. 27 was then faithfully at work; witness directed convict to place his bench near the fire to work, but Hart came and made him remove again. Saw No. 10 fastened with one arm to the post extended on his feet, so as hardly to be able to stand. Says he has seen Major Hart frequently intoxicated, but seldom comes out among the convicts when in that situation; says, when sober, and in a good humor, he is very kind, but when angry with a prisoner, is very severe, and uses partiality among the convicts.” James Duncan's Testimony, to whom Men were reported, and who kept a Record
of Punishments. “Question. Have you ever seen Major Hart, the keeper, intoxicated; and if so, what was his conduct towards the prisoners and others connected with the Penitentiary?
“ Answer. I have seen him in a drinking way, but I cannot say that he was much intoxicated. I have never seen him troublesome at such times. It appears to have the effect more of making him good-humored. I believe he seldom or ever keeps spirits about the Penitentiary, and does not come about it if he is in that way.”
President of the Board of Inspectors, C. D. Learned's Testimony. “ State what are the habits of the keeper and inferior officers, in regard to the use of ardent spirits. Have you seen him or them, on duty, under the influence of ardent spirits ?
“ Answer. The use of ardent spirits, within the institution, is prohibited. I have seen the superintendent and the clerk under the influence of spirituous liquors, out of the Penitentiary, but not, as I recollect, when upon duty."
DIMINISHING THE LENGTH OF SENTENCES FOR CRIME, IN
MASSACHUSETTS, CONNECTICUT, AND VIRGINIA.
The average length of sentence in the State Prisons is about two or three times as long, in the states just mentioned, as in Pennsylvania. The following statements sustain this general fact:
LENGTH OF SENTENCES IN PENITENTIARIES. Average sentence of 322, the whole number
in the Massachusetts State Prison, Sept. 30, 1840,
5 yrs. 9 mos. Average sentence of 189, in the Connecticut State Prison, March 31, 1841,
3 mos. Average sentence of 152, in the New Jersey State Prison, Sept. 30, 1840,
4 yrs. 7 mos. Average sentence of 129, in the New Peniten
tiary in Philadelphia, received during the year 1840, . .
2 yrs. 5 mos. Average sentence of 104, in the Baltimore
Penitentiary, received during the year ending Nov. 30, 1840,
Average sentence of 79, in the Penitentiary
in the District of Columbia, during the year 1840,. ...
3 yrs. 8 mos. Average sentence of 181, in the Virginia Penitentiary, Sept. 30, 1839, .
6 yrs. 10 mos. Average sentence of 162, in the Kentucky
Penitentiary, Nov. 30, 1840,
isiana Penitentiary, during the year 1839, . 5 yrs. 1 mo. The joint standing committee on Prisons, in the legislature of Massachusetts, submitted a report to the legislature, March 16, 18101 length of sentences for certain crimes, and give the following reasons in its favor. They quote from the report of the inspectors of the Prison at Charlestown, as follows:
“ The time is not very distant, when, from the increasing population of the commonwealth, an addition to the accommodations of the Prison will be required. The new Prison contains only 304 cells, and there have been, at one time during the past year, 330 convicts within the walls. The old Prison contains only 28 cells which are safe and convenient places of confinement; the residue of the building being required for the hospital, and as a place of deposit of the public property."
The committee go on to say, * It is alleged, that it ought not to be the policy of the state to multiply Prisons beyond the most absolute wants of society; that the objects of the Prison are twofold — to protect society, and reform the offenders. One class of offenders, who have forfeited all their claims to personal freedom, and the enormity of whose offences can only be expiated by a life of incarceration and toil, within walls of stone and iron, are sentenced during natural life. This class is small, and it is not thought that the safety of the community would admit of any change in relation to them. But, with regard to the other class, who are sentenced for a term of years, for the double purpose of expiation and reformation, it is believed that a beneficial change may be made. The term of imprisonment allowed by law is much longer in this, than in most of the other states, for the same offence, and is thought, by those wlio have investigated the subject, to be much longer than serves any useful purpose, as a reformative measure. Besides, in most cases, now, there is a strong hope of pardon, and the applications for the exercise of executive clemency have become numerous and incessant. Let the period for which they are sentenced be shortened, according to the provisions of the accompanying bill, and, at the same time, let it be understood that the punishment will be certain, and not terminated or cut short by a pardon, and its effect in deterring from the commission of crime, it is believed, will be quite as great as it now is. This measure will greatly relieve the Prison, by lessening the number of its inmates, and thus it will do away the necessity of building another for many years. It will also reduce the labors of the executive, by abolishing the hope of pardon; it will consequently diminish the applications for it. It is understood that the labors of the committee of the executive council on pardons, are exceedingly onerous, from the multiplicity of applications. Were the term of imprisonment shortened, the cases really demanding an exercise of the power would be so infrequent as not to hold out an inducement for frequent and repeated petitions for it by the friends of convicts. By this statement, however, the committee would not be understood as expressing an opinion, even by implication, that the pardoning power has been, heretofore, too freely or too frequently exercised, so as to invite applications for it; for they entertain no such opinion. They only say, that the circumstances calling for its exercise will be so changed by the proposed measure, that the necessity of resorting to it will, to a great extent, be abolished. With these views, the committee report the annexed bill.
“ All which is respectfully submitted.
order. “ March 16, 1840." “ An Act to reduce the Term of Time for the Punishment of certain
Crimes. “ Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
“ That the Revised Statutes, chapters one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and thirty-three, inclusive, be so amended as to read, five years, for “twenty years ; ' four years, for • ten years ;' three and a half years, for seven years, and three years, for five years,' wherever the terms of years above quoted occur in said chapters."
The chaplain of the State Prison at Charlestown, in his last report, makes the following remarks, founded on the experience and observations of years, on this subject :
“The undersigned hopes he may not be thought to be going out of his appropriate limits, if he ventures to make a few suggestions in relation to a subject which he is aware belongs more directly to the consideration and action of those who enact our laws. He refers to the length of sentences to hard labor in the State Prison, where such sentences are for a term of years, and not for life. This is a subject to which he has given much thought, and in regard to which he has studied to come to a correct result. He has carefully watched the operation of confinement and wholesome discipline on the minds and hearts of those subjected to their influence, as the term of their sentences has progressed, and he is free to say, that the conviction has been strengthening in his mind, from year to year, that many of the sentences are unnecessarily and injuriously severe. These sentences were originally fixed when a system of confinement and discipline was in operation in our State Prison altogether different from that which at present exists. And, furthermore, when our statutes, a few years since, were revised, this fact, it is presumed, did not strike the minds of those to whom this revision was intrusted, nor of our legislators, to whom this revision was submitted, and by whom it was approved. It is believed that the cause of humanity would be subserved, and the authority of the laws at the same time maintained, by a very material change in most, or even all, the longer sentences, for a term of years, as at present established by our criminal statutes.
“ Correct principles of Prison discipline aim to reform as well as to punish the offender. When discharged from his confinement, they would send him back into society with a renovated character, prepared to bless his friends, and the community of which he may be a member; and, whilst our laws should be so framed as to be a “terror to evil-doers,' they should never lose sight of ultimate benefit, and the best practical results, to all those whom they may subject to Penitentiary discipline. The undersigned cherishes a confident belief, that it is neither the duration nor the severity of punishment, to which we are to look for those results which are designed to be produced by