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County House of Correction.
Nov. 1823. This prison exhibits the same appearance of strictness of discipline as heretofore. The number of prisoners in confinement at the period of this visit was 144, nearly all of whom were at work with the tread-mill. There are ten wheels, one in each of the ten airing-yards; two of them are capable of holding six persons each; two, nine persons each; four, fifteen; and two, eighteen persons each-in all, 126 prisoners.
For particulars respecting the rate of labour, see the Table, &c.
The day-rooms are but little used, and many of the rooms originally intended for work are unoccupied. These day-rooms are provided with good iron benches, which are fixed into the granite* floors in front of the fire-places:—the windows have been recently glazed, which is an improvement. The night-cells are well fitted up; the doors and bedsteads are of cast-iron; the bedding consists of two good blankets and a rug, with a straw palliasse on a 'straw mat. The airing-yards are rather spacious, their surface is very well flagged, but they have the disadvantage of being situated on the north side of an extensive circular range of building, three stories in height, which lessens the beneficial effect of the sun's rays upon them; this circumstance renders it very necessary that the surface of these airingyards should be washed as sparingly as possible, excepting in summer; it is evident that they are little used by the prisoners, exercised as they are throughout the day at the tread-wheels.
A matron constantly attends the females, and directs the laundry and inending department; the services of the female prisoners are, however, at this house of correction, almost wholly directed to the tread-mill. The prisoners are allowed clothing during a confinement of any duration.
The chaplain performs duty twice a week, besides Sundays: the chapel is well arranged; the classes are seated in separate compartments, in view of the officers only.
* This stone is very objectionable for floors in a prison.
The Borough Compter.
Oct. 1823. By an Act passed in the last sessions of Parliament, this prison now receives for confinement those debtors from the Court of Requests, who are arrested in the five neighbouring parishes only; before which, debtors were committed from a very extensive district, extending as far as Tooting; who are now committed to the county gaol at Horsemonger-lane. This circumstance has the effect of reducing the number of prisoners for debt, in this small prison, about two-thirds. In other respects, the arrangements are the same as heretofore. The windows of the wards occupied by prisoners committed for assaults, which look into the debtors' yard, have been very properly provided with shade-screens. For this class--the assaults-a visiting place is much wanted, in order to dispense with the very improper practice of admitting their friends (female as well as male) into their ward. This room is also very inconvenient of access for the governor and his officer's; an evil always to be regretted in prisons, as lessening the probability of frequent inspection, and increasing the liability of schemes for escape.
The prison is still a very insecure building, and has been recently reported as such, by a grand jury: several escapes have occurred within this year or two: one of which is extraordinary, being that of a female, who got out upon the roof of the prison, through the window of a garret-room, and as the outer wall (about twenty-five feet high) is connected with the prison building, it is supposed, that she descended by the aid of the gutter-pipe, and that, assisted by accomplices without, she managed to clear the boundary walls.
The allowance of food continues as formerly, viz. fourteen ounces only of the best white bread per day: as most, if not all, are untried prisoners, those who have friends may fare well, those who have not must trust to the compassion of their fellow prisoners, or limit themselves to the very restricted daily fare thus provided: the visitors are allowed to enter from eight o'clock till five in the afternoon.
The prisoners are conveyed to the sessions, for trial or for discharge by proclamation, in the same manner as described at Tothill-fields prison; they are handcuffed and marched through the streets in a party of ten or twelve at a time, a chain connecting them together.
* It is probable that a more direct entrance into this ward might be contrived (instead of the present circuitous one,) by continuing the passage of the ground-floor cells at once into the ward.
There are two turnkeys under the governor; also a matron: the number of females is generally very small. The commitments were as under :
fines and Total.
1834. 1822...709. 17.. 453.
fines and misdemeanants.
Sept. 1823. The total number of prisoners committed last year was sixtyseven, and the highest number in confinement at one time during the same period was twenty-one. A warm and cold bath, and an oven to purify the prisoners' clothes have been introduced since last year. A boundary-wall encloses the gaol: the keeper, from the windows of his house, can inspect the men's yard; the women cannot communicate with the men.
There are but two day-rooms, one for each sex, with a yard to each, and the number of night-cells is six. The chaplain attends on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The prisoners have the same allowance of food as those at Brixton; the magistrates also allow what clothing they think necessary. Prisoners for hard labour are committed to Guildford or Brixton.
County House of Correction. The number of commitments for the year ending Epiphany sessions 1822, were 143; in 1823, 134.
The ratio of recommitments is now found to be four per cent. two years ago it was estimated at six per cent.
The tread-mill has been at pretty full work; the labour is maintained for nine hours in the summer months, and in winter seven hours, and with evident benefit to the health of the pri
October 1823. The gaol at Hastings was rebuilt in the year 1820, and no alteration has taken place in it during the last year. It is a very small building in the middle of the town: from its situation, surrounded by buildings, it cannot be very airy; but I should think it was as healthy as any of the adjoining houses.
The men are kept separate from the women, which is the only separation of prisoners practicable in this prison. There are but two day-rooms, and four night-cells; the cells are made to receive but two prisoners, and are amply large enough for such a purpose: they appear convenient and airy, considering the very narrow scale of the building: in case of necessity there is another room, which may be made a night-cell.
There is a very small yard surrounded by a low wall, the only place in which the prisoners can possibly take air and exercise; nor could this be allowed without the presence of the gaoler, for it would require inclination only to escape.
There is no work-room, and no employment for the prisoners, save what may be merely accidental, and of their own seeking. They are allowed sixpence per day; there does not seem to be any precise regulation as to fuel, but there are fires in both the day-rooms, not at the expense of the prisoners.
Sufficient bedding is allowed: there is no regular allowance of clothing; but prisoners are provided therewith when it is absolutely necessary:
There is no chapel, chaplain, nor performance of divine service.
Irons are used for prisoners after sentence of transportation, but not before. The whole number of prisoners committed to this gaol within the year were thirty; the greatest number confined at any one time, nine. There were at the period of this visit six prisoners, viz. one woman for obtaining money under false pretences; she was alone in the day-room, and her confinement is at present necessarily solitary, as there is no other female prisoner; and five men, one in irons, under sentence of transportation, the others 'confined for minor offences: they are all locked up in the day-room.
The jurisdiction of the borough of Hastings includes all offences, and even murder might be tried by the recorder; but it is not customary to try prisoners where offences are capital. When such cases occur, they are sent to the county gaol, at the expense of the corporation. The population of Hastings is about seven thousand, and the number of prisoners is certainly small for so large a population, especially considering that the town is often a thoroughfare for seamen from other ports.
It must be obvious that this prison is radically defective in the most essential points, and which no good management can counteract or remedy; but there is reason to think that it is carefully attended to, and that no evils exist, which do not almost necessarily arise from its inherent defects. It is so very small, that it could not accommodate any accidental influx of prisoners.
Oct. 1823. The classification has been extended since last year by the division of the larger courts, which now increases the number of classes to seven : they are thus appropriated :No. 1. Men and boys for trial at assizes and sessions.
2. Untried misdemeanants.
7. Females untried. There are seven day-rooms, two work-rooms, a tread-mill, and eighty-four sleeping-cells. The greatest number of prisoners at one time last year was 190.
The chaplain performs divine service twice a week; morning and evening prayers are read daily with the men, the women and the boys. A schoolmaster continues to instruct the boys, under the admirable superintendence of the wife of the governor, and much good is reported to have arisen from the system of regular instruction and labour among that class of prisoners which has been described in former Reports.
Each prisoner is allowed ten pounds and a half of good bread per week, equal to 14 lb. per day, half a pound of meat twice a week, and a quart of soup twice a week.
No escapes have occurred for the last five or six years; no irons are used.