Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

this latter kind prevent a prisoner from stepping out more than a short step at a time. Notwithstanding this array of means for the safe custody of the prisoners in this gaol, escapes are not rare, and instances have occurred of these fetters being worked off.

A county storehouse, it is understood, is about to be erected; which is exceedingly wanted, in order that the military stores at present within the walls of this prison may be removed to a more suitable depositary.

1

READING,

Borough Gaol and Bridewell.

May 1823. Tais prison is composed of the shell of the ancient abbey chapel, dismantled in the time of Henry VIIIth. The walls of the chapel, about 35 feet in height, are entire : at the west end, a handsome marigold window still remains, and on each side a row of lofty gothic arches, which formed the aisles of the chapel, extend the whole length of the prison. The floor or body of the chapel is laid out into three small yards, and the vaulted aisles have been fitted up as cells, but they are unaccountably small and low, the ceilings being scarcely six feet high. These cells, of which there are seven on the ground floor, are very badly ventilated; having only one small aperture, about nine inches square, to admit the air : one of these cells appeared about seven feet square, others about 12 feet ; but in consequence of their having no other vent-hole to afford a circulation of the air, they are offensively close, particularly on unlocking them in the morning. The walls have not been whitewashed for nearly two years. No bedding is allowed; straw only, with a ragged coverlet, is laid on the floor; the straw was, at the period of this visit, in an offensive state ; it is changed once a month, or less often, but without any fixed regulation. These cells, which are used day and night, appeared altogether in a very bad state. No firing is allowed, except in the most severe weather; in two cells only were fire-places observed.

The allowance for food is now threepence per day to each prisoner; reduced within the last six months from sixpence: toexpend this money allowance for the prisoners' various wants, occasions the keeper a great deal of trouble. Water is not accessible to the prisoners, but is brought to them when wanted by the keeper : a trifling expense would remedy this grievous evil, as water is laid on, from the town water-works, within a few feet from

the prisoners' quarters. The yards, with the exception of one, require paving; in wet weather they are generally in a muddy state.

The whole of the interior of the prison is out of the keeper's view, not a window of his house looks into it; and the prisoners pass their time in idleness, having nothing apparently to do but to survey the interior of their grotesque prison, and contrive some means to escape. This, the gaoler stated, they very frequently effect : only a few days before this visit, two or more of the prisoners made the attempt, by climbing up one of the fluted columns which support the gothic arches of the aisles; by these means they reached the roof of the aisle, but were discovered from the adjoining premises of a visiting magistrate, as they were on the point of descending into his garden! Escapes frequently occur, notwithstanding that most of the prisoners are ironed, There were at the time of this visit nine men and one woman in the prison; there have been as many as 24 in confinement at once, and dangerously thronged together.

On being asked whether the men and women could not talk to each other, the keeper replied, “Oh yes, Sir, they can talk all over the prison.” There is but one privy, which is in the men's yard: of this shameful inconvenience, the keeper urgently complained. No infirmary or sick room is set apart, but in case of illness the debtors' apartment is used. There is no chapel, nor divine service, nor any religious attendance on the prisoners in this gaol. Capital felons are sent to the county gaol: the borough has power to try all other prisoners, at their quarter sessions; so that three months is the longest period of confinement before trial. Boys are frequently brought in: these, the keeper confidently declared, were made in general worse for being confined in this place. Although it is a bridewell, no employment is provided : the gaoler has no officer under him; his wife attends to the prison during his absence.

It is understood that an arrangement is likely to take place, for the removal of the convicted prisoners, to the county prison, for the purpose of being employed at the tread-mill: the number of convicts in the latter prison, necessary to keep the mill at work, has been of late on the decrease, and it is hoped that the arrangement in contemplation will speedily be carried into effect.

NEWBURY.

Borough Gaol and Bridewell.

Oct. 1823. The corporation of this borough claim the right of committing to their own gaol for all offences within their jurisdiction, under grand larceny, as well as debtors, whose debts arise within the borough, and which do not exceed twenty marks; but no debtors have been confined within the recollection of any person.

The gaol is situate in the middle of the market-place, adjoining the Guildhall; it is composed of the first floor of a publichouse, of which it is an integral part, having no connexion by passages or stairs, however, with the rest of the house. It consists of three rooms; the largest is 17 feet by 13, with a fireplace, and two windows communicating with the street, and from which the prisoners have communication with their friends outside: the privy is in the corner. The second room is 13 feet by 9, separated from the one just described by inch-and-half slabs, which are so warped, and rent and cut by the prisoners, that conversation is readily carried on from one room to the other: it has one window, affording, like the others, the opportunity of external communication, and a privy in one corner. The third room is within the larger, 6 feet by 6 feet 4 inches, and lighted only by a borrowed light. All.the rooms are 8 feet 4 inches in height. There is no airing-yard, nor separate dayapartments; no labour is supplied—no rules affixed-no religious instruction appointed—nor any gaoler resident. Bibles and testaments are generally afforded by the parish officers, or some humane persons. The number of prisoners passing through the prison is considerable ; though perhaps, on an average, there are not more than two or three permanent; but when it is used by the county magistrates for safe custody, previously to examination-and when the sessions are held in the town, which has been once a year, the prison is sometimes overflowing. At that time more than thirty prisoners have been confined in the space above described, when the gaoler is obliged to rely more upon his irons than upon his walls.

Such is the state of this gaol, that the county have come to the resolution, that it is not safe to entrust their prisoners for trial within it, and have directed the sessions to be removed from the town. The corporation have it in contemplation to erect a new gaol, more creditable to the respectability of the town.

CAMBRIDGESHIRE.

CAMBRIDGE.

County Gaol.

Aug. 1823. This prison continues much in the same state as when formerly reported. The tread-mill has been regularly at work; the proceeds from which have amounted to £123 for the last year. The number of prisoners has considerably decreased since the introduction of the tread-mill, to the effect of which the governor solely attributes the reduction. The female prisoners are employed in washing and mending the prison clothing, &c. also in picking feathers for the upholsterers.

It was reported last year, that the appropriation of the earnings was not then settled. The regulations now are, that neither male nor female prisoners shall be allowed any share of their earnings: after conviction they are not permitted to purchase any thing for themselves, or to receive any food from their friends, but are rigidly confined to the prison dict. The use of tobacco is prohibited in this gaol, a rule deserving general attention in every prison.

This county gaol appeared in excellent order :-the number in confinement at this time was fifty-four.

CAMBRIDGE.

Town Gaol.

Aug. 1823. THERE are only three wards, viz, one for male felons and misdemeanants, one for male debtors, and one for females of all classes. The prison is sometimes lamentably crowded, when the prisoners are under the necessity of sleeping on the floor. The day-room of the men was observed to be in a dirty state. The mill is not worked regularly, owing, it is said, to there being no employment for it, from the want of corn to be ground. This mill is not upon the common tread-wheel plan, but is in fact a large cylinder, about 21 feet in diameter, and seven feet broad. Prisoners committed for misdemeanors work in the inside, and have no communication with the felons, who work on the outer side of the wheel. It revolved, at the period of this visit, four times in a minute: the labour is very severe to those outside, the height of their steps being about three feet!

This prison, having been recently presented by the grand jury, is about to be rebuilt: previous to such an expensive measure, it seems a matter of great importance to ascertain the practicability of an arrangement between the town and county, by which the prisoners under the jurisdiction of the former might be sent to the county gaol. This was some time since effected at Salisbury with great public advantage. The object of a few trifling privileges and appointments should be disregarded, in a question of so much importance, and which is recognised so pointedly in the eighth section of the new Prison Act, as regards prisoners confined in Houses of Correction.

ELY.

County House of Correction.

Aug. 1823. This new prison is calculated to receive thirty-two prisoners in separate cells; there are four yards and six day-rooms, which are in a very clean state, well ventilated, and are warmed by commen stoves in severe weather. The night-cells are 6 feet by 9, and about 10 feet high; the prisoners sleep on iron bedsteads, with straw mattresses, and the necessary bedding. The prison is healthy, and as yet no deaths have occurred. The allowance of food is half a quartern loaf, of 21b. 2oz. weight, per day. There is no work but that of picking oakum, which is a losing concern, there being so little demand for it: as an employment for prisoners, it is almost worthless, and might with much advantage be superseded by the erection of a forcing pump for supplying the prison with water. Irons are not used, and no escape has occurred. The chaplain attends frequently; he has supplied the prisoners with Tracts, and Bibles are to be found in each day

The governor has no turnkey; his wife attends to the women. There were twelve prisoners in confinement at this time; but as many as twenty-five have been in at one time. The drainage of the prison appeared to be badly contrived.

room.

« PoprzedniaDalej »