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past, for a class of young convicts, in the common branches of knowledge, in a room carefully fitted up for that purpose, and great good has resulted from it.
The governor of the state of New York, in his last message, says,
“I would have the school-room, in the Prison, fitted as carefully as the solitary cell and the workshop; and although attendance there cannot be so frequent, I would have it quite as regular.”
The chaplain of the Prison at Wethersfield, in his last report to the legislature, urges the importance of this mode of instruction in Prison.
MODES OF PUNISHMENT FOR MISDEMEANOR IN PENITENTIARIES.
The keeper of the State Prison at Charlestown, Charles Lincoln, Esq., says, –
“ There has been no relaxation of effort, on the part of the officers, to keep the convicts under strict discipline, and to promote habits of order and industry among them. But with a view to comply with the wishes of the board of inspectors, and also of the public generally, some change has been made with respect to the means used of enforcing an observance of the rules and regulations of the institution.
“The old method of punishment, by solitary confinement, on a diet of bread and water, has again been tested, and found to answer no better purpose in subduing stubborn offenders, than was accomplished by it in the earlier years of this establishment. Some other and more effectual means became necessary to maintain order and to secure prompt obedience. To avoid, therefore, if possible, the necessity of again resorting to corporal punishment, the shower bath' has been introduced, and is now in a course of experiment. At present, it seems to answer, to a good degree, our wishes and anticipations; but it is, at least, doubtful if it proves sufficiently effective to restrain the bold and hardened offender; and it is most probable that cases will arise which will render it necessary to inflict a inoderate amount of corporal chastisement - a mode of punishment which seldom fails of producing the most decisive and salutary results.”
The inspectors of the Auburn Prison say, — “So far as our own investigations and frequent observations have enabled us to judge of the state and condition of the discipline of the Prison, we feel warranted in saying, that the police has seldom, if ever, been excelled at any period since its establishment. The present keeper combines with his other, or constitutional fitness, the advantages of several years' experience as an assistant-keeper in this Prison. Under his administration of the police and discipline, we have not the remotest apprehension of any unnecessary severities being either practised or allowed. We are also much gratified at witnessing the unusual degree of harmony and good feeling existing among the officers and guards, so essential to the reputation, as well as the best interests, of the institution."
;"> The inspectors of the Prison at Sing Sing say, — “In carrying out the views of the legislature, and in accordance with public feeling, it was resolved by the board, at an early period of its labors, that the assistant keepers report to the principal keeper, in every case of breach of discipline of the convicts, previous to inflicting punishment; and that the principal keeper determine the amount of punishment, and report the name of the convict, the offence, and by whoin inflicted, at every monthly meeting of the board. This duty has been performed, and with most gratifying results; the extreme severity of punishment is essentially done away with, and no greater rigor is used than is deemed necessary for the safe-keeping of the convicts, and the enforcement of the rules of the Prison. While the condition of the convicts is thus ameliorated, the labor performed is equal in amount, if not superior, to what it has hitherto been; it is done with apparent cheerfulness and good feeling, unaccompanied by complaints for want of food; and under this relaxation no attempt at insurrection has ever been made, no escape, and but one attempt at escape. The firm and persevering efforts in carrying out the views of the board, have mainly contributed to this desirable state of police; and the acknowledgment of intelligent convicts discharged, and otherwise, strengthen the belief that a most salutary change in the police department of the Prison has been effected for the benefit of the convicts in every respect.”
The chaplain confirms the statement of the inspectors, as follows:
“I cannot forbear to mention here another thing, which has tended greatly to facilitate our operations in this (i. e., the moral) department. It is the effect upon the spirit and conduct of the prisoners of the resolution passed by your honorable board, requiring the assistant keepers to report to the principal keeper every case of the breach of discipline or insubordination in the convicts, previous to inflicting punishment, and referring to the principal keeper the determination of the amount of punishment and the time when it shall be inflicted. cedure brings every offender directly before the chief officer, and exposes his delinquency to one whose good opinion he is naturally desirous to retain, it is a more powerful restraint against disorderly conduct by the convicts, than the severest castigation inflicted under other circumstances would be, while, at the same time, it is far less injurious to their moral feelings. It affords, too, the advantage to this responsible officer, to administer such admonition and impart such counsel to offenders as the nature of the case may require, and as will convince them that he is not influenced by malice or ill-will in causing them to be punished, but does it in discharge of his duty, for the purpose of preserving order.
“The effect of this mode of discipline upon the convicts is, that it disarms them of all that virulence of feeling, which a less paternal mode is calculated to produce, and thus prepares them to receive the
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benefits of moral and religious instruction with the same docility from the officers of the Prison as children do from their parents or teachers, who govern at the same time that they teach and admonish them. A neighboring clergyman, a short time ago, after having spent some time assisting me in giving instructions to the convicts, remarked, that he was not surprised at the amount of moral and religious feeling he had witnessed while thus employed, after hearing, as he had, the unanimous expressions of affectionate regard among the prisoners for the officers of the institution; and then, addressing himself to the agent and principal keeper, he added, 'Your property and lives would, I believe, be perfectly safe in the hands of the vilest of them.' The same favorable opinion, as to the state of moral feeling among the prisoners, has been expressed by the different clergymen of various denominations who have visited us, and occasionally preached in the chapel. These remarks apply as well to the convicts in the female as in the male Prison."
Does The AUBURN SYSTEM OF PRISON DISCIPLINE DEPEND ON
Preliminary Remarks. The discussion of this question demands candor, patience, and frankness, without fear or favor.
The officers and prisoners have both sacred and inviolable rights.
The officers have the right to govern with humanity, firmness, and authority.
The prisoners have a right to live, (if they do not attempt to kill,) to breathe, to eat, to be clothed, to be taken care of when they are sick.
The government of a Prison, however, is delegated and committed, by higher powers, to elected officers, who have no right to transcend the powers committed to them; and the prisoners have no right to resist the authority of the officers, when exercised according to law.
Absolute power, unlimited power, despotic power, are entirely inadmissible in the American Penitentiary system.
All the Prisons are, or should be, regulated by law, and nothing is more important, than that it should be seen and known by competent, unprejudiced, and disinterested inspectors, that the laws are faithfully executed, and no more.
The very beginning of assumption in regard to powers not delegated, should be crushed on the threshold. When an elected officer of a Prison begins to say, "I shall do as I please ; I care not for the law, or the inspectors; if they know it, and like it, well; if not, well; my will shall govern, and no question
shall be asked or answered;" — you have despotism and tyranny, which the legislative and appointing powers should crush
It is the government of a tyrant over men, which the prisoners hate, which the laws do not sanction, which the ignorance of the inspectors cannot excuse, and which sets the hearts of the prisoners at enmity against society, because they are not treated according to law.
So important was this matter, in the view of the immortal Howard, that he always contended, that there should not only be laws for the government of a Prison, but they should be printed and published, and suspended upon the interior walls of the Prison, that every inmate might understand the laws by which he was to be governed, and that every officer and inspector might frequently be reminded of the laws by which alone the Prison could be governed, without trampling upon the rights of the prisoners or neglecting his own duties.
The fundamental principles laid down in these preliminary remarks, it is believed, are so obvious and self-evident, as to require neither proof nor illustration.
We proceed, therefore, to discuss a question of fundamental importance, which may need discussion and illustration.
It has been said that terror, and not moral improvement, is the great end of the Auburn system ; that the lash, and not moral means, will keep men out of Prison. It has been said, and a pamphlet has been written to prove it, that the Auburn system depends for its existence on the lash, and cannot be carried on without it.
If this were true, it would be a deadly blow against the system.
But it is not true, in the sense here intended. That the lash has generally been used at Auburn and Sing Sing is true. But to what extent the system depends for its existence and success upon the lash, is a question of vast importance, and deserving most grave and impartial consideration. We think it can be proved that it does not depend for its success upon the lash.
What, then, is the Auburn system of Prison discipline ? It is not one thing; it is many things. It is a great improvement of the nineteenth century in a very important science.
In the first place, it is solitary confinement at night.
The importance and effect of this one feature of the system cannot readily be conceived by those who have not been familiar with the dreadful evils of the crowded night-rooms of the old Prisons.
Where old thieves taught young thieves, in companies of fifteen or twenty, how to pick pockets and pick locks; how to
burn houses and break stores ; how to make and set the matches; how to make the false keys; where were the most exposed places, and the richest plunder; who kept money in their houses; in what part of the house it was kept; when the men of the house were away from home; whether the houses were guarded by dogs, and in what manner the doors were fastened ; and, moreover, bow the old corrupted the young, by practising the sin of Sodom; it was well said, “ Better that the laws were written in blood, than thus erecuted in sin."
Pickpockets had a language of their own, which was taught in these rooms. Picklocks had moulds and models of false keys, which would go through all the locks of the city, and would furnish a key to unlock the door, by having the impression of a key-hole on a piece of wax. A key, furnished many years ago, by one of the old teachers, in an old Prison, has been preserved, which would probably unlock 5000 locks in the city of Boston ; and another false key, with six or eight variations, which would probably unlock half the stocklocks in the commonwealth. Instruction in these arts was the business of the old night-rooms. They were committee-rooms of mischief.” “ Nature and humanity cried aloud for redemption from this dreadful degradation."
It was done, and done effectually, by the first great feature of the Auburn system of Prison discipline, viz., solitary confinement at night.
The second great feature of the system is silence by day and by night.
This is scarcely less important than the other; for, although men might be removed from personal contact with each other, and from the dreadful degradation of the old night-rooms, still, if they were permitted, by word of mouth, to teach the arts of mischief, but half the evil was prevented. Hence the importance of the second great law of the system - silence by day and by night. Persons, who did not know why the law was made, might think it severe ; but those who have stood, night after night, unperceived by the prisoners, alongside of the old night-rooms, and heard the conversation of the old and experienced convict with the novice in crime, would almost choose that the tongue should cleave to the roof of the mouth, rather than that it should not cease to make such communications. Silence by day and by night, therefore, became the second great feature of the Auburn system.
How completely this object has been effected, is illustrated by the anecdote of a prisoner who requested a sheriff, when conducting him from Wethersfield to New Haven, to put him at