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County House of Correction.
Oct. 1823. No alterations have taken place since last year, but several important improvements are understood to be contemplated, as the prison is on a very defective plan, and wholly incompetent to accommodate the large numbers committed to it in a proper manner. It contains three wards or divisions; there are five work-rooms, and four day-rooms, with the same number of yards; there are only nineteen night-cells, and four solitarycells. The greatest number of prisoners at one time last year was 196; and the number committed in the year 700.
Divine service is performed by the chaplain every Sunday; prayers are read daily, by a person selected for that purpose; a female reads to the women.
The dieting consists of two pounds of bread daily, and clothing is provided when necessary. No tread-mill has as yet been introduced; but the usual manufactures continue to be followed up, as wire-drawing, pin-heading, &c. and a corn-mill worked by shafts, has been long in use. The prisoners receive a certain portion of their earnings, and the surplus is paid to the county.
County Gaol and House of Correction.
Sept. 1823. This small county prison has not recently received any
alteration. The male prisoners occupy one wing or ward; the females another; no further classification is reported to be observed: there is no employment. Except for heinous offences, irons are not always used, especially if there be no appearance of a refractory disposition. At present all the criminals are in irons, in consequence of one man trying to escape. ' The chaplain attends once a week.
The number of criminal commitments are very small; in the year ending Sept. 1822, there were six; and in 1823, there were eight. There has been a greater number of criminals in this prison during the last two or three years, than can be remembered for the same length of time. About twelve per
cent. is estimated to be the ratio of re-commitments, as an average for the last three years..
It is a subject worthy of serious consideration, whether there must not be a great liability of an increase of offences, both of a heavy and light degree, in districts maintaining prisons deficient in good discipline, or in good construction. Several instances of this kind have forced themselves into notice, in which it has appeared, that desperate characters have committed burglaries or other heavy offences in borough towns, for example, and being committed to the small prisons of such jurisdictions, have been very successful in making their escape.
The County Gaol, Fisherton Auger.
May 1823. This new prison, which was completed only last autumn, is built to receive one hundred prisoners. The governor's house, which is large, is placed in the centre; on both sides of it there are two wings, containing the prisoners' wards and cells, -the whole plan representing an outline very similar to that of the letter placed sideways. Two airing yards are laid out on both sides of the centre building, which alone are under inspection from the governor's windows. Behind the centre building is placed the chapel, with two small yards for the female prisoners. This arrangement provides the following very limited extent of classification; two classes for the females, and four classes only for all descriptions of male prisoners to be met with in a county gaol; viz. debtors, felons and misdemeanants for trial, transports, capital felons, and juvenile prisoners. This error in the plan of a prison erected so recently, is exceedingly to be regretted; the consequence of which is, that the tried and the untried felons are confounded together, and no distinction made with the juvenile prisoners'; the females also must be subject to very imperfect classification.
The four airing yards for the male prisoners are very large; they are bounded next the centre by an iron pallisade, but at their further extremity the boundary consists of a very lofty brick wall, about thirty feet or more in height, which extends
across from wing to wing.* The area between the centre building and the yards exposes the governor's movements, who observed that he was in consequence completely overlooked by his prisoners.
The interior of the prison appeared to be of excellent construction; the day-rooms are well floored with stone, and they are light and airy; their ceilings are neatly turned in arches, supported by cast-iron rafters on columns of the same metal. The night-cells are also very well contrived ; each has a small vent-hole in the cieling ; the windows are glazed, and are high enough to be inaccessible to the prisoner. The bedsteads are made of cast-iron trellice, fixed on low supports to the floor; each cell has also two doors, one of strong iron trellice, the other of wood closely fitting into the frame.t The bedding allowed is three blankets in winter, and a straw mattress ; also a flannel night-cap. From each cell-gallery, sound-pipes pass into the bed-room of the governor: they are made of copper, terminating with a wide funnel, which is fixed up under the arched cieling at the end of each cell-gallery : by means of which sounds may be conveyed from every gallery to the governor's lodging room. But it happens, from the faulty arrangement of the prison buildings, that the access from the governor's house and bed-room is so inconveniently distant from all the galleries, that it is feared the useful object of this contrivance must be greatly lost.
One attempt at an escape has already occurred, by endeavouring to pierce one of the walls with a piece of tin which had been in use as a bread knife. Irons are used on transports and capital felons; the irons weigh about ten pounds.
In the yard for bridewell prisoners there is a pumping machine turned by a windlass, for the employment of prisoners sentenced to hard labour from the city of Salisbury : all others appeared to be entirely unemployed. There are three turnkeys and a matron. The allowance of food is one pound and three quarters of the best white bread per day.
The number of prisoners in this gaol has not hitherto amounted to 100, the average number in confinement being about 60.
The infirmary, which consists of two rooms, has not yet been used: the prisoners are very healthy. The chapel, which is in the same building, is very neat and plain; the prisoners are seated in partitions, by which the classes are secluded. One insane prisoner is now in confinement; he was committed on charge of a robbery, and proved to be insane. The prison occupies about three acres of ground.
* As the prison is completely surrounded by an excellent boundary wall, it would have been far preferable to have had the usual iron pallisade mounted with chevaux-de-frise, as the outer boundary of the yards, in the place of this lofty brick screen, which must interfere with the airiness of the prison.
† These cells may be recommended as complete models for the construction of this part of a prison. Nothing however can compensate for the present very erroneous design of this new prison, exhibiting such a lamentable deficiency in respect of classification.
The outer wall deserves the particular. notice of those concerned in building gaols ; it is about twenty feet high; its abutments are carefully rounded off, so as to present no edge or angle; the upper part of it is made to taper off to the thickness of a single brick, and the summit of the wall is mounted with three tiers of detached bricks, by which no support can be obtained for scaling it. The porter's lodge is remarkable for its perfect simplicity and neatness; no superfluity, no expensive or useless ornament is to be seen upon this part of the prison, upon which it has been so common to allow county architects to indulge their taste, and in some few instances in the most lavish manner. The front gate requires a small grated wicket, to allow the porter to see strangers before he unlocks the door to admit them.
By virtue of an Act" for rebuilding the Council Chamber of New Sarum," 25 Geo. 3, the city of Salisbury are enabled to commit their prisoners to the county gaol; the city is charged for the clothing and feeding, &c. of their own prisoners, and it pays a small salary to the gaoler, independent of the county. In the recent act for rebuilding this county gaol, some further enactments occur relative to this excellent arrangement. During: the last half year about twenty-six prisoners have been received from the city of Salisbury.
County House of Correction.
Oct. 1823. A TREAD-MILL for the employment of seventy-five prisoners is now in progress towards completion. No regulations for its management have at present been laid down; the subject will come before the ensuing quarter sessions, as well as the general regulations of the prison, the dietary, &c.
The airing yards of the prisoners all radiate from the governor's. house in the centre; the inspection is therefore so far excellent. The prison is very airy, and its situation is a very favourable one. WORCESTERSHIRE.
County Gaol and House of Correction.
Sept. 1823, Tax number of prisoners in confinement at the period of this visst is 60 men and 25 women; the highest number the prison has had to contain at one time, in 1822, was 125, and the total number committed in the same year was 516. The tread-mill has not yet been introduced into this prison. Six machines for beating hemp are in use; each block employs three men. There are two hand-mills for grinding corn, which will work twelve men at a time. The labour is severe: the hand crank in its revolution approaches within a foot and a half of the ground on which the labourer stands; this necessarily obliges him to exert his strength with a considerable inflexion of the body, a disadvantage entirely avoided with the tread-wheel. There are also looms for the manufacture of the woollen and linen articles of clothing used by the prisoners. Tailors and shoemakers are met with among the prisoners, who are well employed in the service of the establishment. Sacking is also manufaetured. Prisoners before trial are allowed half their earnings, after trial one sixth. They receive half their earnings in money weekly; tobacco and snuff, but no beer, are allowed to be purchased.
Irons continue to be made use of in this gaol, although somewhat less so than last year. As the new Prison Act declares that no keeper of any prison shall put a prisoner in irons, except in a case of urgent and absolute necessity, it is not likely that the use of these instruments of personal restraint will continue to be tolerated much longer. The pallisades which formed the outer boundary of the prison yards have been removed, and lofty iron pallisades substituted. There are now as many as five turnkeys; a matron has also been appointed, who has the entire care of the females.* There are seven cells for solitary confinement, two of which are dark; these are frequently used for the punishment of refractory prisoners, and the governor is required to report such cases in his book, for the inspection of the visiting justices. Four prisoners were at the period of this visit shut up in these cells for attempting to escape, two of whom had been in
* The screens alluded to in the last Report have been put up, by which the male and female prisoners, as well as those of different classes, are prevented from seeing each other.