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REGISTER OF PENNSYLVANIA.
DEVOTED TO THE PRESERVATION OF EVERY KIND OF USEFUL IXFORMATION RESPECTING TAE STATE.
EDITED BY SAMUEL HAZARD, NO. 51, FILBERT STREET.
PHILADELPHIA, APRIL 5, 1828.
reformation. No remedy it is alleged can be found for ON PUNISHMENTS & PRISON DISCIPLINE. the radical evils existing, other than close, strict, solitaTo the honourable the Senate and House of Representatives ry confinement by day and night, during the whole of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
term of imprisonment.
2. Solitary confinement, without labour, will operate
it is said, as the severest kind of punishment upon the (Continued from page 208.]
individual convict; and, more than any other will pro
duce a beneficial impression upon the public mind, and 8. Solitary Confinement, without labour of any kind.
serve as a terror and warning to all evilly disposed. This species of punishment has been advocated by The advocates of this punishment derive their argusome respectable persons, in our commonwealth, and ments in support of this position from the well establishelsewhere, with great earnestness and animation, under ed truth of the universal attachment of man to social inthe conviction, that no other project promises so favour- tercourse. Association is one of the first impulses of ably for attaining the great ends of penal infliction. It human beings in all conditions and characters, as it is is alleged, that the suggestion of solitary confinement found to be one of the strongest motives of action in as a judicial punishment for crime is entirely new, and every age. Whatever, therefore, counteracts or mortideserving at least of a trial; that no objections can be fies the ruling passion, must be felt with a sensibility prourged against it arising from the experience of other pri- portioned to the intensity of the impulse. Even the sons, while our own knowledge of its operation as a narrowing the circle by compulsion is a severe punishmeans of prison discipline, authorises us to entertain the ment. How severe then, it is argued, must be the sufmost favourable expectations of its efficacy on a broader fering of total and absolute seclusion from all mankind; scale and under suitable auspices.
how subduing the misery of confinement within a narrow To exhibit as fully and fairly as possible the views of cell, without the possibility of beholding a human form, those who would recommend to the adoption of this or hearing a human voice, without the least relief to the commonwealth the system of solitary confinement with monotonous round of existence, or the slightest variety out labour, we shall lay before the legislature the argu- in the contemplation of the same gloomy objects. Pain, ments and reasoning by which they are enforced, toge- even of the most excruciating character, may be inflictther with such obse, vations as have occurred to us in ro ed on a criminal, but in any event it must be of short dulation to them.
ration, and its cessation or suspension produces sensa1st. It is alleged by the advocates of solitary confine- tions, more agreeable than existed previous to the inment, in the first place, that it possesses the important Aiction. But the unbroken tenor of solitary confineand unique advantage of separating the criminals from ment knows of no degrees of suffering, and no compaeach other; thereby rendering each convict for the time, rison of feeling. It is all, one uniform unbroken inflican insulated being; and both sheltering him from the tion of the kind least easy to be borne by human contagion of evil company, and rendering harmless what- feelings; and as such must be felt and acknowledged by ever stock of vicious propensities he himself might pos- the criminal as the severest of punishments; while it
must be admitted to be a just retribution for his violation The prevailing evils of penitentiaries have arisen, it of the duties of social life, to withdraw him from society is said, from society. The association of individuals has and leave him to drink of the bitter waters of perpetual been at all times and under all circumstances, powerful solitude. both for good and for evil. It produces some of the best In proportion to the theoretical weight of this punishresults for society when good men unite; and in the same ment it is supposed will be its influence on society:-proportion in the society of a person it lends to vice and the spectacle of offended law consigning the culprit to crime, a moral support of incalculable strength. The a living tomb; the ideas attached to unmitigated solitude; mere aggregation of individuals is well known to inspire the impression produced on those who enter the walls of sentiments of confidence and hardihood. When this the prison by the sight of the cells, and the inscriptions association, however, ripens into intercourse, the conse- which it has been proposed to place upon them, cannot quences become positively and widely mischievous. A fail, it is said, to engender feelings of awe and terror, single irreclaimable convict is sufficient to taint the whole which will prevent the commission of crime.. If the era mass, to keep down any springing wish for amendment, perience of criminals is to have any weight with their to sear the conscience, and to excite the fagging or associates, surely those, who return to society after the doubting spirits. The relation of former exploits, the expiration of their
term of imprisonment in solitary cells, expectation of new scenes of a similar character, but will have arguments enough, arising from their own remore fortunate result, the communication of lessons of collections, to deter their companions from evil courses. skill and experience in the business of villainy, and the As a punishment and warning, therefore, solitary concombination of new schemes to be executed in the event finement is supported. of enlargement, are all the ordinary routine of the inter 3. Solitary confinement is beneficial for a third reason, course of convicts. Whether the association occur by say it advocates, because it operates directly and forciday or night, the result is pretty much the same. No bly upon the mind. When the sources of external exsystem of inspection or discipline can prevent an under- citement are removed; when the mind is no longer supstanding between convicts when they are allowed to be plied with images and consolations from abroad, it must in each others company. The principle or feeling of turn back upon itself for employment, and thus, will reassociation still continues
, however strict the watch kept fiection be generated, and made active. Now, reflecover them, and stands in the way of every attempt at tion in the mind of a criminal, must be beneficial, be
PENAL CODE AND PENITENTIARY SYSTEM.
cause it will convince him of the error of his ways, and penitentiaries the theatres of ease and profligacy, instead lead him to resolve upon thorough reformation. The of the abodes of sorrow and repentance. Deeply im. passions will be subdued by solitude, the suggestions pressed as we are with the sins and dangers which inand excitements of evil counsellors will no longer pre- fest these hospitals of crime, we should be among the occupy the mind; and the seeds of good, which may last men in this community to suggest a doubt of the ne. have been originally sown, but which unfavourable cir- cessity and practicability of separating convicts from all cumstances have checked, may spring up under auspi- intercourse with each other. We are anxious, indeed, to ces propitious to their development. The bible, or some urge their separation by every argument in our power. other suitable book will always be at hand to assist and But, while sincerely desirous to prevent the pernicious enlighten; and thus in the retirement of the cell, the communication between convicts, we prefer the adopfoundation may be laid of a virtuous and useful after life. tion of such measures for the purpose, as will comport Complete reformation, therefore, it is said, may confi- with the general system of penitentiary punishment dently be looked for from a system of solitary confine It is not, we think, the dictate of a sound philosophy
to proscribe all assemblages of convicts, because there 4th. In the fourth place, it is argued, that the public are times and circumstances in and under which such will gain by the adoption of this system, because the assemblages might be dangerous; any more than it term of imprisonment will necessarily be shortened. would be wise in men, not convicts, to condemn them. The severity of the punishment of close solitary confine- selves to all the rigors of solitude, because there are ment, is said by its advocates, to be so great, that a much evils and dangers in general intercourse with mankind. lighter" term of sentence will be found necessary. The practice of abjuring society on account of the Where a sentence of seven or fourteen years imprison. crimes and follies that exist in it, which prevailed in the ment is now inflicted, three or six years in solitude, will earlier ages of christianity, has, in most countries, given be founà amply sufficient for the purpose of punish- way to a sounder and safer system, founded on a more ment. Thus, the public will save as much as the differ- enlarged view of the capacity and duties of our nature. ence between the periods of imprisonment; and more. It is more prudent, we conceive, and consistent with the over, will probably be benefitted by receiving back a spirit of the age, to examine into those points in which the repentant and reformed prodigal, instead of the confirm- structure of society is defective, or dangerous; to avoid ed and pestilent profligates, whom our prisons are now social intercourse in whatever quarter it is prejuclicial, daily discharging upon the community.
and to keep a strict guard and watch over ourselves in Such are the principal advantages, which, a number of all permitted relations of society. The principle is the our worthy fellow citizens believe, will arise from the same, we respectfully suggest, with regard to the little adoption of the system of rigid solitude by day and night, community of convicts. It is more philosophical, perwithout labour. Labour of any description, or to any haps more humane, to investigate the origin and causes extent, is earnestly deprecated by them, as interfering of the corruption in penitentiaries; to inquire whether with the symmetry and hopes of their plan. It has been the evils attending the intercourse of criminals may not objected to by them, because impracticable (except un- have arisen from particular, rather than general causes. der peculiar circumstances) within the walls of the cell, whether they are not attributable to some particular and otherwise inconsistent with strict solitary confine seasons of their intercourse, rather than others; and ment; and because it would be considered as a relaxa- whether it is not practicable to modify and govern that tion and an amusement, and therefore at variance with intercourse, so as to prevent the recurrence of the evils the main object of solitude, namely, severe punishment. complained of, rather than to embrace the sweeping and These objections, however, will be fully stated and con- expensive experiment of total solitude. Those, who gidered hereafter.
would proscribe all assembling of convicts, no matter for We propose, now, to examine the several arguments what good purpose, lest evils might collaterally arise, we have stated, in support of the advantages, which have have, it seems to us, overlooked or neglected, an interbeen assumed for solitary confinement without labour; mediate process by which perhaps the same end may be and shall proceed to express, as briefly as possible, the obtained, at less hazard, and under more favourable cirview which we ourselves have been induced to take of cumstances for the public. the subject. We shall consider the several points in the We shall, therefore, proceed to consider, under what order we have already stated.
circumstances the intercourse between convicts is most 1. In the first place, then, it is argued for the system, prejudicial to themselves, and inconvenient for the pubthat it puts an effectual period to all intercourse be- lic, and, how far the prevailing evils and vices of penitween convicts, and thereby the great evils of the exist- tentiaries can be obviated, without the total destruction ing penitentiaries are removed. This argument, it will of all association. be seen, applies to solitary confinement of every charac It may be assumed as demonstrable, that the night ter, with, or without labour. We shall therefore consi- season is that, in wbich the communication between conder it in reference to both.
victs, who are in the same apartment, can take place We are prepared to admit, in the fullest extent, that with the greatest facility, and to the most dangerous ex. the intercourse between convicts is an evil of the great tent. According to the prevailing and indeed necessaest magnitude; one, which as it taints and poisons the ry system pursued in the prison at Philadelphia, Boston, whole system of penal discipline, and, by its conse. New York, Baltimore, and some other places, the priquences, infects even the population outside of the pri- soners, after having finished their labour for the day, are son, no effort or sacrifice would be too great to destroy, locked up in rooms in size of from twenty to thirty feet and, which any remedy, however severe, must be adopt- square, to the number, on some occasions, of thirty in ed to cure. Our own rescarches and personal inspec. each room; where they remain, without inspection, until tion of prisons, made under the direction of the legisla- the hour for breakfast next morning. During the sumture, have given us ample reason to be satisfied, thắt the mer season, this period amounts to eleven hours, and in evils of a communication between convicts, have not the winter to fifteen, and, on the average of the whole been exaggerated by those writers, who have so earn- year, is equal to the period passed outside of the sleepestly invoked public attention to the subject. We have ing rooms. One half, then, of the allotted time, for witnessed, in more than one penitentiary, a confident which criminals are sentenced to confinement in these and hardened assurance in the looks and inanners of the prisons, and, which the law considers as passed in peniconvicts, which argued, what indeed was abundantly tentiary discipline, is in point of fact, either spent withevident to the observation, the almost total want of re-out any discipline, or control at ail, and as we shall prestraint over their intercourse with each other. Every sently see, in unbounded license, or else utterly forgotwhere, re-conviction was in proportion to the looseness ten in sleep. We might add to this period of exempof prison discipline, which has rendered most of our oldtion, the Sundays, and those days, in which, in consc
PENAL CODE AND PENITENTIARY SYSTEM.
quence of unfavourable weather, or other circumstances, Governor Plummer, of New Hampshire, Lincoln, of the convicts are prevented from performing their usual Massachusetts, Wolcott, of Connecticut, and Clinton of labour, and, necessarily, locked up in their rooms, but New York. We might cite many passages from the we are willing to confine ourselves to the period be writings of capable observers in corroboration of the tween the cessation of labour at night, and the resump- facts above stated, but we forbear to press them on the tion of it the next morning. It might easily be conceiv; legislature. ed, were there no existing proof, how this interval There is one feature in the miserable picture of evils would be spent by a company of criminals, where no produced by crowded night rooms, of a character so control or inspection could conveniently be maintained frightful and revolting that we would gladly pass it by over them. But, we are not left to conjecture on this without comment, did it not appear to us necessary to subject. All accounts agree in representing these night impress deeply on the minds of the legislature, the parooms as the means of the most corrupting communica- ramount importance of separate dormitories. We allude tion, and the scenes of the most hideous depravity; as to the nameless and unnatural crimes, which concurrent the asylum of free and unrestrained conversation, where testimony proves to have been freqnently perpetrated the opportunity is eagerly seized to relate former ex- in those chambers of guilt and misery. We arc spared ploits, to plan new adventures of villainy, to elevate the the task of entering into any particulars upon this subcharacter of crime, and to dissipate the suggestion of ject by the nature of the offence. It is sufficient to reconscience. We shall quote a few passages from docu- mark, that the prisons of Massachusetts, Connnecticut, ments of authority which support this position. New York and Philadelphia, have been defiled and out
In a memorial of the “Philadelphia society for allevi- raged by the commissions of sins, which alone require ating the miseries of public prisons," and of the inspec. of the legislature in imperious language, an immediate tors of the prison of the city and county of Philadelphia, and radical change of system. In the eloquent language presented to the legislature of 1803," it is stated that of the governor of Massachusetts "nature and humanity
the convicts are for want of room, obliged to be kept cry aloud for redemption from this dreadful degradation. in too large numbers, in one apartment, by which the Better even that the laws were written in blood, than amelioration of their morals is either prevented, or great that they should be executed in sin.”. ly impeded, the kecping of them attended with greater appears then, from this authoritative testimony, that hazard; and they have more opportunity of laying plans the great evils of intercourse between prisoners arise of escape; their labour is rendered less productive than from their association at night. It would seem to follow it might be, and the idea of solitude is nearly obliterat- that a sufficient remedy would be found for these evils ed.". In the valuable reports of the Boston “ Prison in abolishing all intercourse at night, by providing sepaDiscipline Society," we find the evils of intercourse at rate rooms for the prisoners. night among convicts, so fully and emphatically stated, Let us consider, now, whether association together that we shall we trust, be excused by the legislature for in the day time be necessarily productive of evils, of a copying their language.
nature imperiously to require the separation of criminals. * Another cause of the increase of crime is the crowd. If we are able to show, that convicts may be brought ed state of the night rooms in the penitentiaries. In the together in the day time, without necessarily producing New Hampshire and Vermont penitentiarics, from two the evils so justly deprecated, then we shall have gained to six are lodged in each room; in Massachusetts from another, and a very important step in the discussion of four to sixteen; in Connecticut from fifteen to thirty- this important subject. two; in New York city twelve; in New Jersey ten or We defer, for the present, an examination of the questwelve; in Pennsylvania twenty-nine, thirty and thirty- tion whether the employment of convicts at hard and one; in Maryland from seven to ten; in Virginia from productive labour jointly, or severally, is or is not desitwo to four. In Philadelphia the rooms are eighteen rable, with reference to the public, and to themselves, feet by twenty; and it is a common rule to allow to each and assume it for the argument's sake as settled, that convict a space on the floor six feet by two; as large as a labour in some shape is preferable to idleness. If labour coffin. If a convict is not already lost to virtue, it is dif- be not imposed by law, and the discipline of the prison, ficult to conceive in what manner his ruin can be consum as a duty and punishment, then we agree, at once, that inated more speedily, than by thrusting him into such a solitary confinement is the only thing left, and that it place."
must be adopted and inflicted to any extent, and at any Several opinions of competent persons are cited in hazard, rather than that the spectacle should exist for a support of this conclusion. Mr. Pittsbury, the superin moment, of the unchecked communication of an idle tendant (at that time) of the New Hampshire peniten- and profligate horde of convicts. But if labour, strictly tiary, states that the plots which have been designed and laboriously pursued, be an essential part of the sysduring his term of service, have been conceived and tem of discipline, and, if the convicts be brought togepromoted in the night-rooms. He has spent much time ther in the day time for this and no other purpose, then, in listening to the conversation of the convicts at night, we believe and maintain, that perfect silence, submission and thus has detected plots, and learned whole histories and order to the full extent, excluding all communicaof villainy: Judge Cotton, superintendant of the Ver- tion between them, during the period of labour, may be mont penitentiary, declares that great evils might be enforced by the employment of a reasonable number of avoided, could the state prison be so constructed, that keepers, or superintendants, of common firmness and the convicts might lodge separately from each other. The ability. The first and essential points, in this view of commissioners of the Connecticut legislature, state, that the question, undoubtedly are the employment of a comtheir principle objection to the existing prison, in that petent number of persons, to direct and enforce the lastate, is the manner in which the prisoners are confined bour of the convicts in their workshops, and the enactat night; turned in large numbers into their cells, and ment and rigid enforcement of severe penalties for the allowed an intercourse of the most dangerous and de- transgression of the rules, requiring, strict silence and basing character. “It is here, they add, that every right abstinence from all intercourse by looks or gestures. principle is eradicated and every base one instilled. It The first of these is surely not difficult, nor does it apis a nursery of crime, where the convict is furnished with pear to us a priori, that a large body of superintendants the expedients and shifts of guilt; and with his inven- would
be requisite. If the natural bent of a convict's tion sharpened he is let loose upon society, in a tenfold mind can be so far constrained, as to compel him to ladegree a more daring, desperate and effective villain.” bour, and not only that, but by the force of discipline he
Similar opinions have been expressed by the superin- can be brought to execute the most difficult and delicate tendants of the penitentiaries of New York, New
Jersey workmanship, as every penitentiary in this country has and Virginia; and the expediency of applying the pro- witnessed, is it unreasonable to suppose, that the same per remedies has been urged in emphatic language by class of persons may be trained and enforced to habits
PENAL CODE AND PENITENTIARY SYSTEM.
of silence and order? The same authority which compels pay with his life the penalty of his transgressions, is by them to work against their will, is surely competent to our merciful code simply confined within a well-warmed, prevent any communication between them while work well-aired, and in all respects comfortable dwelling, cal. ing. Should, however, a larger number of superin- led a penitentiary, with sufficient food and abundant tendants be required for the purpose, than are generally clothing, it is not, we think, bearing too hard upon him used, at present, in the old penitentiaries, the expense, to require, that he shall conform to the regulations of we think, would be effectually counterbalanced by the the prison, by performing his allotted share of labour, increased amount and value of the products of their la- (which in almost all cases is less in amount than most bour, consequent upon a more fixed and constant atten. honest labourers outside of penitentiaries perform) and tion to their work. We have said also that severe pu- by abstaining from all conversation or other intercourse nishments, rigidly and instantly applied, will compel the with his fellow convicts, if he refuses to adhere to these observance of the prison discipline. The word is used regulations, it is not, we think, cruel or tyrannical to inhere, and in other passages to signify, that painful and flict immediate punishment upon him. And yet there rigorous suffering which we think justice and policy re are, on this, as well as on the other side of the Atlantic, quire to be endured by the violators of the laws. We worthy and respectable men, whose sympathy for critake the occasion to remark, that the course of our in- minals seems to increase in exact proportion with the quiries and observations has not tended to impress us growth or heniousness of their offences. If they violate with the belief that any great benefit is to be expected the laws of the land, they are objects of interest and from appeals to the reason or the moral sense of con- feeling; but if, after having been condemned to prison, victs in general. Many humane persons, we are well they violate the laws of the institution, and thus become aware, conceive that persuasion and gentle treatment doubly criminals, and manifest their ingratitude to the will be found sufficient to reform offenders, and to up- community, which has spared their lives, the sympathy hold the laws of the land and the discipline of prisons. and feeling for them increases in due proportion. We Governed by these amiable sentiments, they are apt to confess that we are not moved by sentiments of this naregard with aversion all painful punishments, and to con- ture. We have thought it to be our duty to recommend sider those who would compel obedience to the laws, such measures as appeared to us most effectual for mainas unnecessarily severe, and unjustifiably vindictive. taining the due observance of the laws, both in prisons Led too far by their theory, their sympathies seem to be and out of them; and we have ventured to suggest the all on the side of convicts; and the comforts and conve. adoption and enforcement of such punishments, as we niences which they would place in the way of a criminal, thought would most completely reach the assailable to induce him to reform, are so great, as to render his points of criminals. We shall hereafter take occasion situation incomparably more pleasurable and gratifying, to state particularly the kind of punishment which we than that of many honest persons in the community who think will prove sufficient to deter criminals from violathave never violated the laws. Our view of the character ing the prison regulations; among which we include of convicts in general is, however unfortunately, a dif- those enacted to prevent any communication between ferent one. We think that the impressions most likely the convicts while in their work shops. What we have to be effectual with them, are those which are addressed here advanced with respect to the practicability of to their bodily wants or feelings. It may be that in some bringing convicts together for the purpose of labour, foreign countries, an arbitrary exercise of power has im- without danger of corrupting intercourse, is, as the lemured in prisons, the good, and wise, and virtuous, for gislature will have observed, founded on reasoning and whose sufferings a just sympathy ought to be felt; but, opinion only. We shall hereafter, advert to those priin our own country, wbere the means of obtaining an sons in which the experiment has been tried, and as we honest livelihood are abundant, and where no one can believe, with decided success. be subjected to punishment, except for a wilful violation It is said, however, by the advocates of solitary conof known laws, proved against him in open courts, be finement that any association of convicts is prejudicial, fore a jury of his fellow citizens, and where the heaviest no matter how rigid the discipline maintained among punishment that can be inflicted for the worst offences, them; and that the mere sight of each other, or the amounts to no more than restraint of the person for a few knowledge of each other's presence is sufficient to keep years, with an ample provision of food, and clothing and alive a spirit, at variance with the design of punishfuel, and comforts of all kinds, we really think, that ments. We cannot agree with this proposition. We there is little danger of convicting any number of virtu- cannot understand how the mere knowledge of each ous persons, and still less occasion for sympathy with the others presence, without conversation, or any other melot of those condemned. The great mass of the tenantry dium for the exchange of ideas, can operate to produce of our penitentiaries appeared to us, from personal ob- a corrupting and deleterious effect on the habits of conservation of their manners and habits, to be persons of victs. Example is supposed to be of powerful influence coarse, brutal temperament, of stupid ignorance, and over all conditions of mankind. We should suppose, low cunning, or of sufficient intellectual capacity, and therefore, that the spectacle of an orderly, industrious, some cultivation, but an entire aversion to the inconve- and submissive community, would produce a happy efnient restraints of the law, and of a spirit to obtain a liv- fect rather than otherwise, and, that convicts who enter. ing in any other way, than by the pursuit of honest la- ed the walls with their usual aversion to regular labour, bour. To such persons, we have always thought, and and disposition to license, might by the force of examour opinion has been confirmed by all the superintend-ple be brought to acquire habits of sobriety and indusants of prisons with whom we have conversed, that there try. Every thing, therefore, seems to us, as we have al. could be but one kind of argument addressed with any ready intimated to depend upon the degree of discipline hope of success, one, namely, that came home to their maintained. If the prisoners in the workshops are alsense of bodily suffering. Appeals to the reason or lowed the free use of their tongues, and hands, and eyes, consciences of such persons must, from the nature of we admit, most readily, that these apartments may bethings, be utterly ineffectual, more especially do we come the scenes of as much corrupting conversation and think, that severe personal punishments ought to be in- profligate intercourse as the night rooms.
But, on the ficted for the violation of prison discipline. We believe other hand, if strict discipline be maintained, if converthat we possess a just sense of the frailty and impurity of sation be totally and effectually prohibited; if the hands our common nature, and of the degree of forbearance of the prisoners be kept steadily employed upon their that ought to be shown by erring men towards the sins work, so that signs cannot pass between them, and if of their fellow creatures; yet we think, that there must their eyes be likewise fixed on their labour, as must, nebe a limit to the exercise of this charity, otherwise the cessarily, be the case, in most instances, then, we cannot distinction of right and wrong will lose its value and think, that the assemblage of convicts in common workefficacy. Now, when a criminal, who in Europe would shops, classed as they may be, can possibly be prejudi
PENAL CODE AND PENITENTIARY SYSTEM
cial to the objects of penitentiary punishments. Those restore the cruel code of the most barbarous and unenwho aver their belief to the contrary have not, as far as lightened age.” we have been able to ascertain, supported their aver Notwithstanding, however, that such high authorities ments by any specification of the manner in which the unite in representing solitary confinement as an unitercontagion may be communicated, or by any evidence of sally severe and oppressive punishment, it may be alfacts derived from existing prisons. It may be remark- lowed to us to suggest that the expressions used by both ed in addition, that if the mere consciousness of the parties, are too broad and general; and, we may be perneighbouring presence of other convicts be criminating mitted to enquire, whether a distinction does not exist in and injurious, then, the knowledge that convicts are in human nature, which renders solitude as a punishment adjoining cells
, must also excite a feeling of companion- grossly unequal. It will be remembered, that the opiship, equally prejudicial; and for that reason even this nions of the writers first quoted refer to the operation of kind of confinement should be avoided; and the cells solitary confinement on the mind or feelings of the conought to be built, no matter with what expense, at a con- vict; in which light also it is chiefly viewed by Roscoe siderable distance from each other. We do not believe, and La Fayette; and it is to this point that we propose however, that either in one case or the other, mere vici- now to confine ourselves. We shall have occasion herenity would produce any evil effect on the prison or the after to treat of its effect upon the body and senses. prisoner. We shall in another part of this report advert It seems to us, therefore, that in its effect upon the to the testimony in corroboration of our views with which feelings or sensibilities, compulsory solitude may proan examination of some of the prisons in the U. States duce very different results. If we suppose the case of a has furnished us.
person of delicate moral organization, whom a course of We submit, therefore, that it is sufficiently manifest, education and training may have rendered acutely sensithat convicts may be employed together, in common ble to the stings of shame and remorse; we can conceive workshops, without necessarily incurring the evils de- that, for a time at least, the weight of solitude upon such precated, and the existence of which is urged as suffi- a person would be almost intolerable. The unintercient to justify their total separation. We have already rupted reflection on the past, which would present only shown, that these evils are to be attributed to the assem- scenes of horror and guilt
, the upbraidings of conscience, blage of convicts in common night rooms, and we have and the prospect of the unhappy future, would combine suggested that the most rational mode of removing the to torture the mind of such a convict, into a condition to complaint is the obvious one of separating the prisoners which bodily pain would undoubtedly be preferable.at night.
Whether a total overthrow of the intellect would not be We answer then to the first argument urged in favour the consequence, in the case of such an individual, is a of total solitary confinement, that to obtain the desired question into which we do not at present enter. Sup. result, it is not necessary that convicts should be sepa- posing the mind still to remain unshaken, it may still be rated from each other's presence on all occasions; and a question, whether the all-powerful force of habit may therefore, that infiction of solitary confinement would not, even in such a case, render solitude familiar and enbe an exercise of power unphilosophical in principle, durable. However this may be, the effect of solitude and uncalled for by circumstances.
upon the educated and refined, is not to be considered 2. The next argument in favour of solitary imprison-, as the measure of its operation upon the great mass of ment without labour is derived from its supposed effi- convicts, who certainly are not persons of very lively cacy as a positive punishment upon the offender. sensibility, or active consciences. It will be borne in
The punishment of solitary confinement consists, as mind, that it is of solitary confinement in idleness that has been already stated, in the compulsory disruption of we are now speaking, and that, in general, it must be the connection between the individual and society, and, inflicted upon persons, whose moral sense has become especially in the case of solitude without labour, in the blunted by long familiarity with vice, to whose rememmonotony of the convict's life. The character of this brance there seldom arise the endearing thoughts of species of punishment has been described in strong lan- home and domestic relations, and by whom laborious inguage, both by its advocates and opponents. In the let- dustry, in any shape, is felt as one of the most onerous ter of the Inspectors of the Philadelphia Prison to the and mortifying inflictions. To such men, it seems difficommittee of the genate, in 1821, to which we have be- cult to believe, that mere idleness, though in solitude, fore referred, we find the following description of its can appear as a punishment of a very grievous nature. supposed practical operation: “To be shut up in a cell It is true, that they are cut off from their ordinary amusefor days, weeks, months, and years alone, to be depriv- ments, and profligate exciternents; but this is the consced of converse with a fellow being, to have no friendly quence of every restraint in a well regulated prison, voice to minister consolation, no friendly bosom on which and is not peculiarly the merit or the grievance of solitato lean, or into which to pour our sorrows and com- ry confinement. It is contended that the mere sameplaints, but, on the contrary, to count the tedious hours ness and monotony of life, produced by idle solitude is, as they pass, a prey to corrodings of conscience, and the of itself, a punishment of the harshest kind, to all classes pangs of guilt is almost to become the victim of des- of convicts; that the slow progress of time, and the ab
On the other hand, William Roscoe of Liver- sence of any thing to occupy or divert attention, must pool, an earnest opponent of the system, makes use of be felt with a degree of intensity, in comparison with the following expressions, in relation to solitary confine which hard labour would appear as a luxury and amusement. “This mode of punishment, the most inhuman, ment. Now, we have two remarks to make upon this and unnatural, that the cruelty of a tyrant ever invented, argument. In the first place, no allowance is made for is no less derogatory to the character of human nature, the working of an agent, which as we have already rethan it is in direct violation of the leading principles of marked, is all-powerful for good or evil. We mean hachristianity" and, afterwards, says of the convict in soli- bit. It is a true, though very common remark, that there tude, that he will pass “through every variety of mise are few things to which human nature will not accustom ry, and terminate his days by an accumulation of suffer- itself. The first days or weeks of solitude will, doubt. ing which human nature can no longer bear.”+ And less, be irksome to all descriptions of convicts; and it is, we have the opinion of the great and virtuous La Fay- perhaps, because heretofore it has not been the practice ette that, to adopt this system would be, "to revive, and to confine convicts in solitude for more than a very few
weeks in Philadelphia and some other places, that such exaggerated ideas of the influence of solitary imprison
ment have been entertained. • Journal of the Senate 1820-1, page 337.
Gradually, however, by † Roscoe on Penitentiary discipline, London 1827, p. # Letter of Gen. La Fayette, quoted in Roscoe on 24, 26.
Penitentiary discipline, page 31.