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County Gaol and House of Correction.
Sept. 1823. This prison (formerly a gaol only) has been recently extended to include the house of correction within one establishment; four new buildings are added, two of which contain the machinery of the tread-mill, the remaining buildings afford an increase of accommodation, and of classification to the extent of twelve separate departments: the number of classes are as follows:
Vagrants. The males and females being distinct. The plan of the prison has been described in the Appendix of the Society's Third Report; it provides good inspection from the governor's apartments into the yards; and the general airiness of the prison is very satisfactory. The cells are good; the bedding is laid on slabs of Yorkshire stone firmly fixed in supports from the floor; a thick straw mat is laid upon the stone.
No escapes are stated to have occurred for a very long period. The commitments were, in 1920, Felons, male, 79—misdemeanants, vagrants, &c. male, 34
female, 4-ditto..... ditto.. female, 1 1821, Felons, male, 66_misdemeanants, &c. male, 43 female,7-ditto.
female, 5 1822, Felons, male, 71-misdemeanants, &c. ....... male, 204 female, 5—ditto.....
female,13 The great increase of commitments in 1822 is accounted for by the circumstance above stated, the establishment of the house of correction within the gaol.
Sept. 1823. The old gaol has been shut up since the Report of 1821,
and the small house of correction which belonged to the county has been converted into a common gaol for the borough. It is built upon the radiating plan, and provides five classes. There were 20 prisoners in at this time, of which three were females ; two of the prisoners were ironed, being known as London pickpockets.
There is no employment at present, but it is intended to set up a small mill. There are 22 cells, in which good iron bedsteads are provided: sometimes two prisoners occupy one cell. The females are not classed; the male misdemeanants and felons are separated, but the tried and untried are occasionally together.
The dietary consists of a pound and a half of bread per day, and three-quarters of a pound of cheese per week, or, in lieu thereof, sixpence each prisoner.
The keeper's sitting-room is in the central building, and it is surrounded by the prisoners' day-rooms, which open into it with very slight common house-doors; the consequence is, that the prisoners can very readily overhear what is passing in the keeper's apartment: this inconvenience requires particular attention; it is evident that there is consequently a greater risk of danger.
Sept. 1823. This small bridewell continues unaltered. There is no work provided. The lower floor, containing a row of four or five cells, is damp. There is a good yard, enclosed by high walls, which might be used as an airing-court, but it is converted into a garden, and is inaccessible to the prisoners.
The prison was empty at the time of this visit.
County House of Correction.
Sept. 1823. Tuis prison has recently undergone considerable improvement. It provides classification to the extent of four separate departments for males, and one for females; besides which, there are three or four spare rooms, for vagrants or other prisoners. There are twenty-four night-cells, which appeared in good order, as
did the interior of the prison generally. There were at this time fifteen prisoners in custody.
The keeper's room commands a good view into the mill-yard; and the day-rooms are capable of being inspected from the central passage. The yards are very airy, and each is well supplied with water.
A tread-wheel machine has been recently erected; it will employ nine men at one time upon it; the power is applied to pumping water: the velocity of the wheel is to be regulated by a small fly, and it is proposed to connect an index with the machinery, by which the amount of labour performed by the prisoners may be at any time known with accuracy; a contrivance which will render the machine very complete.
The front lodge contains a bath, an oven, a copper for the cleansing of prisoners and their clothing on their first reception, the whole of which is very well arranged. The prison is enclosed by an excellent boundary wall.
The dietary consists of one pound and a half of the best wheaten bread, one quart of oatmeal gruel for breakfast per day, with four pounds of potatoes per week, and on two days the addition of a quart of gruel.
The register of the prison affords a good example in regard to the heads or details required to be recorded:-they are as follows:
By whom discharged. The book is regularly produced at the committee of visiting magistrates, and a copy of the entries is laid before the quarter sessions.
Oct, 1823. Since last year the general use of irons on the prisoners has been abolished in this gaol; the number of inferior officers has been increased to five turnkeys and two watchmen; and it is intended to prevent the close intercourse, or rather immediate contact, which takes place between
the prisoners and strangers at the railings of the airing-yards. This object will be accomplished by an additional railing in front of the yards, placed at a distance of five or six feet from the present palisade : this must conduce materially to security against the introduction of improper articles, from which at present there is much risk, notwithstanding a personal search of the visitors at the front lodge. Some of the party-walls of the radiating-yards are too low; these might with advantage be raised. The prisoners' dayrooms, which are situated in the crescent-shaped building bounding the yard, are inconveniently distant from the quarters of the governor and his officers; they are also incapable of inspection, except by personal visits, in performing which, the officer necessarily gives early notice of his approach by his appearance at the gate of the airing-yard, through which he has to pass to get at any day-room.*
The allowance of food is a pound and a half of bread per day. A matron has lately been appointed to superintend the female department. The classification continues the same as last year.
The commitments for trial for the last seven years were as
207. . 1327
1269 The number of debtors in 1822 were 246 males, 12 femalestotal 258.
At this gaol, the prisoners, when discharged by proclamation, &c. are suffered quietly to depart at the prison door; they receive no money on their discharge. The mode of conveying persons to and from Union Hall to the house of correction at Brixton, &c. is performed (as stated in the Appendix of last year's Report) by a covered cart or caravan. The cart has a division in it separating the men from the women, and is drawn by one horse; it carries as many as twelve persons at once.
* This is the prominent defect, which the Committee have had occasion so repeatedly to point out, in prisons erected on the circular plan. In this gaol a general passage of communication to all the day-rooms in succession would, in some degree, remedy the present very awkward access into them: whether such an object could be accomplished in the story above, or by the addition of a gallery behind the present building, are questions worthy of consideration. Some measure of the kind, by providing the means of inspection without previous notice, would tend most materially to increase the control of the officers over their prisoners, which at present is very greatly lost, to the prejudice, in some degree, even of their safe custody.