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July 1823. The situation of this prison, which is capable of accommodating 120 prisoners, is airy; it stands upon ground which must have been raised at a considerable expense of labour. There is about an acre of land outside the prison-wall, cultivated as a nurseryground by some of the prisoners, under the care of the governor; from the produce of which the county derives a small annual profit.
The outer-wall enclosing this prison is badly constructed; it is too low, and the ground within is made to rise so suddenly, and so near the wall itself, that several feet of its height are sacrificed; the piers also, and stone coping outside, project so considerably, that the security of this boundary-wall must in consequence be materially impaired.
The plan of this prison is deficient in point of inspection, notwithstanding the central situation of the governor's house, distant but a few feet from the four buildings, with 'eight intermediate airing yards.*
There are nine classes of prisoners: several of them have, besides their day-rooms, free access during the day to such of the night-cells as open into the airing yards, which is objectionable in several respects. These yards are principally laid out in kitchen garden-beds; a small part only is therefore left for the air and exercise of the prisoners; there is consequently a damp surface of vegetable mould (affording a ready means of concealment of improper articles) instead of a well-flagged pavement.
* The general arrangement, however, of these buildings would probably admit of improvement in this respect, by a few slight alterations, by which the yards, and probably the day-rooms, might be inspected, either from the governor's windows or from the passages in which the officers must be continually passing and repassing.
The introduction of the tread-mill has taken the place of various manufactories, which have been for more than thirty years carried on to a considerable extent in this prison; great difficulty was experienced from time to time in disposing of the accumulated stock; the manufactured articles were at length exported to the Cape, Surinam, Honduras, &c. &c. From these adventures a heavy loss was ultimately incurred; and last year, an amount (as stated in the printed accounts) of £3,514, 9s. 10d. was written off, to close the account.
The proceeds of the prisoners' labour last year amounted to £555. No earnings are allowed to convicted felons sentenced to hard-labour; but to those not sentenced to labour, one sixth part of their earnings is given. The female prisoners are under the care of a matron. The infirmary consists of four wards for male and two for female prisoners. Of 593 prisoners committed in the year ending Midsummer 1822, 160 were on the sick list, and four died. There were at this time two males and one female in this prison who were insane; one was in the infirmary.
The chapel is not well contrived: the classes are in sight of each other, but the females are not seen by the men. The condemned cells open upon the gallery of the chapel.
The prison throughout was clean.
Irons are used on convicted felons for transportation as well as on capital felons before trial; the clothes of these prisoners are also removed at night. Escapes, however, are not unfrequent: one man, an untried felon, effected his escape, with his irons on, but was recovered twenty miles from the prison : two years ago, four men escaped: they made use of a scaffolding-pole found in the garden, with which they ascended the outer wall; and last year, a prisoner escaped by means of one of the tread-wheel boards, which he unscrewed, and made use of as before to scale the outer-wall: the board was twenty-five feet long, of one piece: he was recaptured. The security of the prison might be improved by some few alterations in its internal constiuction, by extending the means of inspection, by substituting good iron pallisading to the yards, for the present clumsy, low, wooden fence, and by raising and trimming off the projectments of the outer-wall, &c.*
* The boundary-wall of the new County Gaol at Fisherton, Salisbury, presents an admirable model for the construction of this part of a prison.
The numbers of prisoners committed for the last four years, are as follows:
1819. ..... 394..... Average number in custody .. 136
138 1821. 457.
122 1822. .471.
133 The reduction last year in the county charge for vagrants is remarkable:
In 1819, it amounted to £ 673
278 The accounts of this prison are kept by double entry, in a complete and satisfactory manner.
DU RH A M.
Aug. 1823. No alteration has taken place in the construction of the gaol since it was first occupied in 1819; but an addition to the female side has been under consideration, for the purpose of further classification.
The major part of the male prisoners are employed at the tread-mill: six are occupied at weaving cloth for shirting, blanketing, &c. for the prison, two employed as joiners, one as mason, in jobs about the prison, one in dressing flax for spinning. The female prisoners sentenced to hard labour, break flax with the patent machines invented by Mr. Salisbury: they are also employed in washing, making, and mending the prisoners' clothes. The number of prisoners committed :In 1820, for felony, was 86; for misdemeanours 174 1821, ditto
ditto...... 199 1822,
ditto 63; . ditto...... 303 Crimes have been on the increase, particularly during the last winter, owing to the severity of the weather, when many of the lower class were prevented from following their usual occupations. Many instances have occurred of the effectiveness of the tread-mill in cases of bastardy, several individuals having paid
the penalties after being confined a day or two, rather than be compelled to continue on the mill.
But little can be said in addition to the account of this prison, inserted in the Appendix of the last Report. Several applications have been made by discharged prisoners, with regular certificates of good conduct, for rewards from the fund supported by the Dean and Chapter, and other benevolent individuals, the particulars of which have been stated in the Report of last year.
The juvenile offenders, and those under sentence, attend school every day in the prison, under a schoolmaster, superintended by the chaplain.
County Gaol. A NEw prison for the county is now building, on the most approved principles, which may be expected to be completed in the course of two years.
Nov. 1823. The prison has been considerably enlarged and improved within the last twelve months. A new chapel, eight new wards, two day-rooms, four airing-yards, and other accommodations for classification, have been lately added to the prison. The yards not being completed, the prisoners at present are only divided into two classes. Bibles and other religious books are supplied; and divine service is performed every Sunday by the chaplain. The prisoners have hitherto been employed in untwisting and picking oakum, but a tread-mill is now erecting. Irons are used occasionally for felons and other refractory prisoners. In 1822, the number of criminals committed was 174 1823.
Nov. 1823. This small prison was erected about thirty-three years ago ; it contains two classes for males, and one for females. For the first class of male convicts there are six cells, one of which has a fire-place. These cells form part of the basement of the keeper's house; they are about 18 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 10 high ; the walls are very thick, and the floors are at least six feet under ground. In each cell is a small privy-seat; beneath these passes à drain, which in consequence of the want of a good descent, is often out of order; and so much dampness prevails in these cells, that the health of the prisoners must be endangered. In these unwholesome places they are obliged to sleep. In the day they have access to a small yard, into which the six cells open; the level of this yard is at the same depth below the surrounding ground as the cells. A strong iron grating is placed horizontally over this yard, into which the keeper may at any time look down from his windows. Water is in good supply; the bedding is laid on wooden bedsteads—the usual quantity is allowed. In one of the cells was an insane prisoner : he had been three weeks in custody-committed “as dangerous to be at large;" he has'occasionally been subject to paroxysms, and on one recent occasion, he made a dangerous attack upon a prisoner with an iron fender, which obliged the keeper to seclude him from the other prisoners. Insane prisoners are very frequently to be met with in this bridewell : there is no county lunatic asylum, and it is in most cases very difficult to discover to what parishes they belong.
The class of misdemeanants occupy a room and a small yard; and the same may be said of the female department. The prison appeared to be well attended to by the keeper, who has no officer or assistant under him. The number of commitments, in the year ending Michaelmas last, was 262; and the highest number of prisoners in confinement at one time, during the same period, was 35; there have been as many as 155 persons at one time confined in this very incommodious prison. There has not been an escape for many years past. No other employment is provided but picking oakum, which is now nearly relinquished, in consequence of the difficulty of procuring the work. The chaplain attends twice on Sunday; and Bibles, with other books, are supplied to the prisoners. The dietary consists of one pound and a half of best white bread, and a quantity of table beer, daily.