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PENAL CODE AND PENITENTIARY SYSTEM.
little and little, will solitude become less intolerable to into the best method of providing for the reformation, the convict; until, as the history of some European pri- as well as the safe custody and punishment of offenders.” sons inform us, if the imprisonment be greatly protract. This committee, having called before them a large numed, the mind adapts itself with wonderful ease to its situ- ber of persons, who were considered most competent to ation, and becomes almost reconciled to its new posi- give testimony, on the operation of prison discipline, tion. Under such circumstances, sources of amusement made a voluminous report, which we have procured and interest are found, of which it is not easy for those, from England. Appended to the report, are the mito whom the world is open, to form an idea. We be- nutes of evidence, taken by the committee from which lieve it has never been intended to exclude books we extract the following passages, in corroboration of from the solitary cells, where the convict is able to the sentiments we have expressed. read. He will find a sufficient source of amusement and Mr. John Orridge, governor of Bury jail, gave it as his occupation for his mind, in this literary food, to prevent opinion, that "solitary confinement operates in different the monotony of the life being felt so severely. We ways; on an idle, sluggish mind, it has no effect; on a know it will be said, that none but books inculcating man of an active mind it operates very differently." In moral or religious duties will be permitted, and there answer to an inquiry, whether it would be prudent to fore the moral effect of their introduction will be good. continue a system of solitary confinement, without emWe admit the benefit of them, where the convict is ployment, for a length of time, he replied, “No, I able to read; but we shall argue, hereafter, that all this should not, for after a certain period, I think it becomes benefit of moral instruction may be obtained, on another familiar, and has not the same effect; but for seven, foursystem, without perpetual solitude. Habit, therefore, teen or twenty-one days, I think it has a good effect."* we conceive, will familiarize the mind with the monoto Mr. William Bridle, governor of the gaol at Ilchester ny of solitude, and teach it to value and be interested in for eleven years, having been asked whether a short pesubjects of comparatively small moment.
riod of solitary confinement was not sufficient to subdue In the second place, the hope of pardon, where the the most refractory, prisoners, replied, "It may in many power exists, and the approach of the period of dis- cases; but I think if a short period of solitude will not be charge, where the confinement is limited by the sen. sufficient, a longer one will not. I think, after a certain tence to a terın of years, will probably operate to reduce time, a person in solitude gets hardened, he gets callous the quantuin of suffering. Where the law sentences and does not care what becomes of him.” He added the criminal to solitude for life, and no hope of pardon that he spoke of solitary confinement without labour. is permitted, there is reason to believe that despair soon Mr. Thomas Brutton, governor of the gaol at Deviser, terminate the career of the victim. Upon this point, testifies, (among other important matters to which we we have been favoured with the opinion of the direc. shall recur hereafter,) that solitary confinement had rators of the Virginia penitentiary, at Richmond, as ex- ther an ill effect upon the spirit and disposition of the pressed in their report to the legislature, in December, prisoners; and being asked in what respect, he answer 1825, in which it is stated, that since the pardoning pow. ed "dullness and constant heaviness; the prisoners have er had been taken away from the executive, no instance appeared dull and heavy in consequence of their solitary had occurred of a convict, sentenced for life, surviving confinement.” an attack of sickness. In every case the attack proved Sir G. :0. Paul, an acting magistrate of the county of fatal. In the comparatively short period, however, now Gloucester for seventeen years, expressed an opinion, allotted in this state for penitentiary punishments, and that solitude with occupation or employment would rethe still shorter term which the advocates of solitary form the most hardened criminal; but he admitted that confinement propose to affix in future, the prisoner will “the effect of solitude depends on the character of the have before his eyes, in no remote prospective, the ter- patient," and generally, he thought, solitude ought not mination of his solitude, rendered still more brief by the to be continued more than a month, without some occuhope of pardon. Under such circumstances, the mind, pation of mind or body. if not interested in some industrious and profitable pur We might multiply extracts from the testimony laid suit, such as a well conducted prison labour ought to be, before the British committee, to the same effect; but will, we conceive, be frequently engaged in planning these will probably be sufficient to show the sentiments schemes for future occupation, of which it is to be fear-entertained in England at that time. A very recent reed that honest labour will form only a small part. We port of a select committee, appointed at the last session are told, by Lafayette, that in his solitary dungeon at Ol- of the British house of commons, “to inquire into the mutz;-"During the whole time of my imprisonment, cause of the increase in the number of criminal commitall my thoughts were directed to one single object, and ments and convictions in England and Wales," and which my head full of plans for revolutionizing Europe. bears date June 22, 1827, furnishes equally strong eviAnd he adds, speaking with reference to the system of dence of the opinions entertained there at the present solitary confinement, proposed to be put in execution at time. We make the following extract, as sufficient for the new prison near Philadelphia;"So, I think it will the purpose: “As for solitary confinement, it operates on be with the thief; and when he shall be restored to so different individuals very differently. A sluggard would ciety, it will be with his head full of plans, concerted and sleep the greater part of the time; whereas it would drive devised during this singularly favourable opportunity.” an active person nearly to madness." Thus engaged in speculation for the future, and animat In our own country, the experience and observations of ed with the hope of an early discharge, it does not strike persons best qualified to judge of the operation of solius, that either the reflection on the past, or the monoto- tary confinement as a punishment, is not less conclusive. ny of confinement, will operate with the severity and Captain Lynds, the very intelligent agent of the New effect attributed to them, upon the great mass of con. York state prison at Sing Sing, and who was for several victs. In order to ascertain how far our opinion and con- years superintendant of that at Auburn, agrecs with the jectures were supported by facts, we have taken some English committee in considering solitary confinement pains to collect all the information that is extant in point as extremely unequal in its effects. He also satisfied upon this subject, and to make the necessary inquiries of himself by the experience of two years infliction of it; persons conversant with prison discipline, and shall pro- the particulars of which will be given hereafter, that the ceed to lay before the legislature such testimony as we continuance of solitude, for any considerable period, have obtained. We begin with foreign countries. hardened the disposition of the offender, in a great ma
In the year 1819, the British house of commons ap- jority of cases, and rendered him either reckless or stu. pointed a committee "to inquire into the state and de. pid. According to his observation, a convict left to himscription of gaols, and other places of confinement, and self in a solitary cell, would in most cases pass his time in
• Letter before referred to.
Report on Gaols. p. 330.
PENAL CODE AND PENITENTIARY SYSTEM.
utter inactivity both of body and mind, and, unless large proportion of convicts are persons of neglected roused by external application, finally settle down into education, and habitual vice, in whose hearts the prea condition of brutal torpor and listlessness.
vailing and rooted sentiment is one of disregard for moThe enlightened and humane persons, who constitute ral obligation, and contempt or hatred for the law of the the Prison Discipline Society of Boston, bear the same land. To such persons, of what avail would be solitary testimony. In the first report for 1826, page 26, reflection in a moral point of view! It might induce rethey have enumerated among the objections to solitary gret for the commission of the offence, since its result imprisonment, the inequality of its operation, consider-) was disastrous; or mortification at the triumph of the ing it as a terrible punishment to the man of cultivated law; but it is hardly to be expected, that the foundation intellect, and acute sensibility; but as a comparatively upon which, alone, true repentance and a determined light infiction upon the ignorant, the dull, and the tor- purpose of amendment can be erected, can be prepared pid.
by unassisted reflection; or that we can reasonably hope In the state of Maine, the experiment of solitary im- to gather a barvest of good out of the barren waste of a prisonment without labour, has been tried to a conside- convict's heart, in which probably the seed of a single rable extent.
virtue has never been sown. We fear that those who The result in respect to the point we are now consi- look for this voluntary reformation, from the internal dering, corresponds with the ideas we have advanced, fountain of the heart, will, in most cases, be disappointand the experience of other places. The following ex. ed, and that, instead of a lively and sincere penitence, tract from the report of the superintendant of the prison we shall witness a result, similar to what has already tais taken from the second report of the Boston Prison ken place in some of our penitentiaries, namely, a sullen Discipline Society, p. 64
dogged indifference, which is content to sleep through “The great diversity of character, as respects habits the period of probation, or an affected and hypocritical and temperament of body and mind, renders solitary im- conversion, assumed for the purpose of exciting sympaprisonment a very unequal punishment. Some persons thy, and obtaining an early pardon. We are told, howwill endure solitary confinement, without appearing to ever, that reflection is not to be left to itself, but will be be much debilitated, either in body or mind, while aided hy religious and moral instruction. Now, instrucothers will sink under much less, and if the punishment tion may be administered in two ways; by. lectures or were unremittingly continued, would die or become in- verbal discourse and by means of works. The first would curably insane. Several cases are adduced to prove so materially impair the solitude of confinement, that we that long periods of solitary imprisonment may be en- should suppose it out of the question, to say nothing of dured by some, without sensible suffering, while in the expensiveness and inconvenience of employing so others both mental and bodily diseases have been pro- many religious teachers as would be necessary for induced.
struction of detached pupils. If the proposed instrucWe shall not augment the volume of this report tion is to be by means of books conveyed to the cells, it with further testimony and reasoning on this point. Suf- is to be considered how few convicts are able to read ficient we think has been produced to show that solita- with advantage; and we presume that it is not intended ry imprisonment, without labour, is not deserving of to break either the stillness or monotony of solitude, by commendation as a regular, and equitable, and certain the establishment of a school inside of the prison for the punishment. In the examination of the question we purpose of teaching the illiterate to read." Again, suphave taken it for granted that complete seclusion was posing any considerable number able to read the bible, practicable, and have been content to discuss the sub- it may be questionable whether without due explanaject on that basis. We shall probably, hereafter, be led tion and assistance the awful denunciations, perused in to inquire whether it be practicable to cut off the con- the gloom and stillness of perpetual solitude, may not vict from all intercourse with society, consistently with produce a state of feeling greatly to be deprecated. If some essential provisions of every humane system of then, there be a sensibility to the operations of con-, prison discipline. If it shall appear that entire separa- science in the heart of a convict, it seems to us, that the tion from all intercourse with other persons is not prac. abandonment of it to perpetual solitary reflection, would ticable, then, of course, the degree of punishment in- be most likely to produce an intense excitement and Aicted by solitary confinement, without labour, is pro- over action of the moral sense, ending in nothing short portionably lessened, if not rendered altogether abor- of mental disease. If, on the other hand, the moral tive.
sense is wanting or has become callous by frequent ex3d. The next argument, in favour of solitary confine posure to vice, we cannot perceive how reflection in soment without labour, is derived from its supposed ten- litude can improve the individual. dency to produce serious and valuable reflections, in the In the second place, we believe that all the good that mind; whereby the heart and disposition of the offender is anticipated for perpetual solitary reflection, may be may be reformed.
obtained, at a less expense, both to the convict and the The advocates of this system, it is to be observed, public, by solitary confinement, for a portion of his would devote the whole time of a convict to solitary me time, viz: during the hours of evening and night. In ditation upon past crimes, and future prospects. No the quiet, and stillness, and composure, of the night system, which would devote a suitable portion of time season, the mind is naturally disposed for reflection, and to this purpose, nothing, in fact, short of this perpetual in those hours, a sense of religious awe and responsibiliunmixed meditation, from the hour of waking to the ty is more apt to awake than at any other period. Abunhour of sleep, appears, in the minds of the friends of this dant time, too, is afforded for such meditation, on this theory, sufficient to accomplish the object. We reply, subject; since, even at the season of the longest day lahowever, to the arguments by which their views are sus- bour, the convicts would be nine or ten hours out of the tained, that in the first place, it is not clear to our ap: twenty-four, in their cells, besides one entire day out of prehension, that amendment of the purpose or heart will seven, which might be devoted to this purpose. We always, or to any considerable degree be the result of believe it to be in accordance with philosophical expeabandoning convicts to their own reflection. That the rience to suggest, that the mind is not so constituted, as natural disposition of man is prone to evil
, is a truth to be able to dwell incessantly on any given subject taught by holy writ, and confirmed by all experience. without injury, and that, probably, as much would be of the crimes and offences, for the commission of which gained for any valuable purpose by devoting one half of the civil magistrate is called upon to impose the penal- the 24 hours to reflection, as by leaving the whole to it. ties of the law, it is well known, that very few are com- We cannot, therefore, agree with the advocates of conmitted by persons, who have had the benefit of a reli- tinued solitary confinement without labour, in the belief gious or moral education, by which men are taught to of the paramount efficacy and value in reforming the keep down the natural propensities to sin. A very heart and disposition of offenders.
PENAL CODB AND PENITENTIARY SYSTEM.
4th. It is argued, in the fourth place, that, inasmuch that crimes will cease; and as we believe that all that as the term of imprisonment will be shortened, by the can be hoped for, from any human system, is the dimiadoption of the system of solitary imprisonment without nution of the number of offenders for the time, or the labour,' therefore, the public will be the gainers by its amelioration in the character and shade of crimes, the introduction.
question becomes a mixed one, involving considerations It is evident, that this argument pre-supposes the of the capacity to produce a certain result
, and of the soundness of all the other reasons urged in support of this expensiveness of the machinery employed in the opesystem, viz. the superior and conclusive efficacy of the ration. And, in this view of the subject, it becomes mapunishment of solitary confinement, both in the mind terial to inquire how far legislators may justly go, in imand body of the convict, and its tendency to produce his posing taxes upon the honest and industrious, for the moral reformation. If we have succeeded in showing support of criminals in idleness, and for their attempted that in neither of these respects is there reason to sup- reformation. If a comfortable dwelling house, and an pose it will operate so beneficially as its friends suppose, annual salary, sufficient for the purchase of fuel, provithen we destroy the foundation upon which this last ar- sions and clothing, were to be presented by the comgument rests. It seems to us indeed, that a reduction of monwealth to every person convicted of larceny, it is the present period of confinement will tend in a great probable that the convicts so provided for, would steal measure to defeat the object of the law, and to destroy no more, but it will hardly be contended, that the result whatever hope might be entertained of the efficacy of would justify the expenditure. In comparing, therefore, the punishment; since, if a period of only six or eight one mode of punishment with another, the question of years be thought sufficient, even for the very highest the greater or less expensiveness of the several plans becrimes, the prospect of an early emancipation, especially comes material and impurtant. in the case of lighter offences, will serve to counteract Let us consider, then, the system of solitary confine. any impression, which the prison would otherwise make. ment with reference to its annual cost. To enable us to On the score of economy too, whatever saving might be give a full and proper view of this part of our subject, it effected by shortening the term of imprisonment, will is necessary to enter somewhat into detail respecting be more than balanced by the expense which solitude the two great penitentiaries now built or building at with or without labour, will entail upon the public. We Pittsburg and Philadelphia. think this point may be dismissed without further com First of the penitentiary at Pittsburg.
The official report of the commissioners appointed by We have now gone through the examination of the the Governor, in pursuance of the Act of April 1, 1826, several reasons urged in favour of the adoption of soli- which report was made to the last session of the legislatary imprisonment without labour, and have endeavour ture, states the whole cost of the Pittsburg penitentiary ed to show, that those arguments are either unsound in at $165,846. Which has provided 190 cells, calculated themselves, or inconclusive in the present controversy, exclusively for solitary confinement, without labour. because equally applicable to other, and less expensive, How far it answers the intended purpose, we shall see and inconvenient modes of punishment. We proceed, hereafter. The annual interest upon the sum thus ex. now, to point out to the legislature, certain positive ob pended, is $9,950. jections to, and arguments against, this system, which The prison affords accommodation as we have stated, we had not occasion before to notice.
for 190 convicts. At the date of our last report, howAnd, first, it is no small objection to the system of so- ever, there were only 30 persons in confinement; the litary imprisonment without labour, that it imposes upon prison having been finished only a short time. The the community a great annual amount of expense. We number that are probably become inmates of this prison are aware, that it may be said, as it often has been urged, can be ascertained, with sufficient precision, by taking that in a question of subduing vice and protecting the the returns from those counties, which have heretofore innocent, expense ought not to be considered; and, that sent their convicts to Philadelphia; but which are now inasmuch, as the great number of offences affect pro- by the act of assembly, to send them to Pittsburg. Acperty, it is the truest economy to adopt the most effec. cording to the returns which we have received from the tual, however expensive, means of guarding it from in inspectors of the prison in Philadelphia, the average vasion. Notwithstanding this argument, we cannot but number of convicts in that prison from those counties think, that the question of cost is an essential ingredient was as follows: in all discussions of penal discipline. In every commu
85 nity the honest and virtuous suffer more or less in their
94 property from the dishonest and vicious. A large por
92 tion of what is paid from the hard earnings of the indus Making the average of the three years amount to 90; trious, or from the savings of the prudent, for municipal which, we have reason to supposé, will be about the taxes, is appropriated to the prevention or punishment number to be confined in future in the Pittsburg peni. of crimes. Under any system of penal discipline, whe. tentiary. Now, according to an estimate with which we ther offenders are hung or imprisoned, the expenses of have been furnished by the inspectors of that prison, arresting and convicting them, must be borne by the vir- the present annual expense of maintaining convicts tuous part of the community. All these, it must be re- there, (exclusive of the salaries of officers,) amounts to membered, are over and beyond the annual loss of pro- $77,57 for each prisoner. Taking the future average perty occasioned by the crimes of robbery, arson, coun- number of convicts at ninety, and calculating the annual terfeiting, &c. the amount of which it is not easy to esti- expense of each at $77, the whole cost of support will mate, but which must certainly average a very conside- be 6,930 dolls. per annum. The amount now paid for rable sum.
Such being the fact, it appears to us, that salaries is 2,000 per annum; but this amount must be inthe system of punishment ought to be one, in which the creased with the increasing number of convicts. The least expense is incurred to arrive at a good result. The annual expense of the Pittsburg penitentiary, therefore, honest part of the community being already so heavily will be taxed by the depredation of offenders, it ought not to be Not less than additionally burthened by great annual expense in main- Which we think, for reasons that will be stated taining them. We wish however to be fully understood. hereafter, must be defrayed out of the state If it can be shown, that the system of solitary imprisonment without labour, is able to work the almost miracu * It is believed that this expense will be somewhat lous effect of extirpating crime; if criminals are to be reduced with the increase in the number of convicts; reformed or banished by the dread of the punishment, but in the same proportion must the number of officers from our land, then indeed the past cost will have been be increased, and the consequent expenses of the estawell expended. But, as we have seen no reason to think I blishment.
PENAL CODE AND PENITENTIARY SYSTEM.
by the re
all that treasury. If we add to this amount of in
Years. Number of Convicts. Total Expense. the dim terest on the first cost of the prison, already
470 ee, or the stated at 9,950
466 Fimes, the
1822 Ederation It will be seen that the annual cost to the pub.
552 nd of
46,503 lic of the Pittsburg penitentiary with 90 con
560 victs supported without labour, will be not
582 less than
The annual expense for clothing, provisions, fuel,
lights, medicine, &c. including the estimated value of 2d. The state penitentiary at Philadelphia not being convict labour employed in the prison for these purattemps
yet completed, we cannot pronounce with exactness poses, during the same years, was in upon its cost.
From the last report of the commissionfuel, f ers to the legislature, it appears, that the expenses al
26,389 ready incurred, and which have been contracted, to
1822 scene, finish the wall, the front building, the centre house and
32,690 woulds three out of the seven blocks of cells, amount to
33,848 at them
The difference between these sums, and the total al plas Which will furnish accommodations for 114
amount of expense above stated, consists of the salaries convicts.
of the officers, repairs of prison, furniture, &c. The 19. And the whole cost of the penitentiary, up
average annual cost, therefore, of each convict during enable : on the original scale, is estimated at $430,627 00 these six years, calculated on the total annual amount of
expense, is $82 90. Calculated, however, on the anresten We may safely add to this estimate five
nual amount of expenditures for clothing, support, &c. bule per cent. inasmuch as the actual expense
the average is $60 26; which agrees remarkably with the of all such undertakings largely exceeds
cost in the New York city prison for the year 1823, the estimates; which would make $452,127 00
expense of each convict, including the materials, &c. furnished within the establishment, average
$60 28. The subsequent reports from that institution We will suppose, however, $450,000, as the probable are incomplete, in not furnishing estimates of the value of peritto cost of the whole penitentiary; which will contain 266 the materials and labour provided within the prison. cake cells, making the total cost for each cell 1,691 dolls. It appears, then, that the annual cost of maintaining a cott Labe The annual interest on this first cost of this
convict in the Philadelphia penitentiary, may safely be prison estimated at 450,000 dollars will
estimated, from the most accurate data, at not less than be
$27,000 00 sixty dollars. Taking the probable future number of
convicts to average 500, as we have before shown, it
will be seen that the annual expense for maintenance, The prison, when completed, will afford room as we fuel, &c. will be
$30,000 have stated for only 266 convicts. The actual number The average of the annual salaries of the officers of prisoners, however, in the Walnut street penitentia of the present prison, for the last three years, ry, from the counties which, by law, are, hereafter, to
10,500 send their convicts to Philadelphia, was for the last three years as follows:
Making the actual annual expense for the future
Which, as in the case of the Pittsburg peniten1824
tiary, must, it is believed, be paid out of the 1825
If we add to this amount the annual interest on Making an average of 498, which we must suppose the first cost of the new penitentiary, as will be about the future number.
27,000 In order to ascertain the probable annual expense of supporting the number of convicts, in solitary confine- It will be seen that the annual cost to the pubment without labour, we caused returns to be made from lic, of the state penitentiary at Philadelphia, the Philadelphia prison, of the actual expenses of that with 500 convicts supported without labour, institution for support, clothing, &c. for the last five would not be less than
67,500 years. We have also obtained returns from the peni- Add to this the annual cost of the state penitententiaries of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York tiary at Pittsburg
18,880 city, Auburn, and New Jersey, from which the annual expense of maintaining their respective convicts may be And the whole annual expense to the state ascertained. It is to be observed, however, that in will be
86,380 most of these the actual cost is not stated; because the labour of the convicts in the prison, in preparing food, If, however, we confine ourselves to the mere annual making the materials of clothing, making up the gar- expenditure for support and government, and omit the ments and other clothing, and performing the menial charge of interest on the first cost, it will be seen that services of the household is not charged; which items the annual charge will be, will form a material part of the expenditure of a prison
$40,500 without labouring convicts. The details of the expendi
8,930 tures of the prisons, we have spoken of, will be given hereafter. At present, it is only necessary to state, that
49,430 the returns from the Philadelphia prison enable us to or little less than $50,000 a year, to be paid out of the ascertain very nearly the actual annual expense of each treasury of the state, for the support of convicts
, if the convict, because they furnish estimates of the whole va- system of solitary confinement without labour should be lue of the convict labour employed about the establish- adopted. It has doubtless been observed that we have ment. From these returns it appears that the total an- supposed accommodations to have been provided for nual expense of the institution, for the six years ending the whole number of 500 convicts; whereas, in point of with 1825, was as follows:
fact, the new penitentiary will admit only 266, leaving No, 14,
PENAL CODE AND PENITENTIARY SYSTEM.
234 unprovided for; the expense of cells for whom, It appears," that the state prison of Maine has been in somewhere, must be furnished by the state, and will form operation about three years. A large number of the an additional item in the expense. We shall show hero convicts have been sentenced to six months solitary conafter, what proportion of the annual charge above stated, finement, day and night, and to a period, afterwards of may be defrayed by the convicts themselves, under a solitary confinement by night, and hard labour by day. judicious system of labour. We have not included in this Others have been sentenced to solitary confinement, by estimate the cost of transporting convicts from the dif- day and night, for the whole term of their imprisonferent counties to the penitentiaries, which in the three ment. The result of the experiment has been stated in years previous to 1821, averaged $8,681 per annum. a report to the legislature, by the superintendant, who
We are justified then, we think, in calling the atten- is represented to be a physician by profession, and a pertion of the legislature to the greater comparative expense son of general ability and intelligence. Eleven cases are of the system of solitary confinement, without labour, particularly mentioned; of whom five were necessarily as an important consideration in determining upon its re- removed to the hospital, after short periods of confinelative merits.
ment; two committed suicide in their cells; three endur. 2. The next objection that we feel called upon to make ed each three months, and one six months solitary conto solitary confinement without labour, is its tendency to finement without any visible effect on their health, bodiproduce bodily infirmity, and perhaps mental disease or ly or mental. The general result however may be statimbecility.
ed in the words of the superintendant. It has never been distinctly stated, by the friends of “In general, nearly as much time is necessary in the this system, so far as we recollect, whether it is their in. hospital, to fulfil long solitary sentences, as in the cells.” tention to propose that the solitary convict should be fed “Some persons will endure solitary confinement with. upon the diet of bread and water, most frequently used out appearing to be much debilitated, either in body or in cells, or receive the ordinary prison allowance of the mind, while others sink under much less, and if the pupresent penitentiary. If the first be contemplated, then nishment was unremittedly continued would die or bewe have no hesitation in averring our conviction, that come incurably insane. However persons of strong the confinement cannot be continued for any conside-minds who suffer in what they deem a righteous cause rable period without materially and sensibly affecting the may be able to endure confinement, and retain their bohealth and strength of the prisoner. A slight know- dily and mental vigour, yet it is not to be expected of ledge of the human constitution, especially of the consti- criminals with minds discouraged by conviction and distutions of that class of persons who are found in our pri- grace.” “Long periods of solitary imprisonment, insons, is sufficient to support this belief, which is fully #icted on convicts sentenced to be confined at hard lasustained by the experience of all the superintendants of bour, are in my opinion worse than useless, as a means prisons to whom we have applied for information. Capt. of reformation; and are very expensive to the state.Lynd, to whose testimony we have already referred, By debilitating the body and mind, it renders the constated to us, that in his opinion, health could not be sus vict both indisposed and unable to perform profitable tained in solitude, upon a diet of bread and water, be- labour. They will therefore be maintained for a consiyond a very short period. At Auburn, the experiment derable part of their time of imprisonment as invalids, at of solitary confinement was tried in 1823, by direction of an increased expense for medicines and hospitable the legislature. Where the system of low diet was con- food.” tinued beyond 60 or 70 days the inspectors were under In consequence of this report the legislature of Maine, the necessity in most instances of transferring the convict in February last, passed an act abolishing solitary imfrom his cell to the hospital, where tonics and nourishing prisonment, except as an instrument of prison discifood were necessary to restore his strength.
pline, and substituting the punishment of hard labour. Mr. Gibson, the keeper of the state prison in the city In Massachusetts, the experiment of solitary confineof New York, informed us that he had known men kept ment has also been tried, but without any valuable reseventy days in the cells on a bread and water diet. At sults. We were informed; on a recent visit to the state the expiration of that period, they were found so emaci- prison in Charlestown, near Boston, that one prisoner ated as to be unable to walk; and in many cases were had been in solitude without the possibility of communi. with difficulty recovered. He thinks, that a confine cation with any other for nearly five years, but without ment of more than thirty or forty days on bread and wa- any visible advantage. Another had been in the same ter is injurious to the health.
kind of seclusion for two years without any benefit. Mr. Labaw, the keeper of the New Jersey state pri We come now to the state prisons of New York. We son, expressed to us similar sentiments. He'stated, that have already quoted the opinion of Captain Lynd, the he had known cases in which a confinement upon bread former superintendant of the Auburn prison, in wbich and water, for so short a period as twenty days, had ren- place the experiment of solitary confinement was fully dered it necessary to transfer the convict to the hospi- tried as to the effect of the punishment with a diet of tal. We avoid citing any other testimonies to the same bread and water. A valuable record of the experience purpose, because we are satisfied that the scheme of at- of that prison, and an useful document for our own state, tempting to support convicts in solitary confinement on is to be found in the report of Messrs. Allen, Hopkins, a very low diet can find but few advocates.
and Tibbits, the commissioners appointed by the legisWhat will be the effect upon the bodily condition of lature of New York, in 1824, to visit the state prisons solitary confinement without labour, where the convict and report upon their discipline and comparative effiis furnished with the usual prison allowance of food, is ciency. Their examination of the question of solitary a question of, perhaps, more difficult solution. That confinement appears to have been conducted with great bodily infirmity will be created, appears to us probable, minuteness and impartiality, and the report goes into when we consider that the air of the narrow and much detail. We are anxious to illustrate and strengthclose cell, in which the convict must be confined, will en our own opinions by their valuable labours; but we in all likelihood be unwholesome; that he will be de- are restrained from making many extracts by the fear of prived of the advantage of exercise, or at all events ex- increasing too much the bulk of this report. The fol ceedingly limited in the use of it, and that wherever the lowing passages, however, are too important to be omitmind or spirits of the convict become affected by his ted. It will be seen that they bear upon all the objecconfinement, the body will suffer in proportion. We tions to solitary confinemet. proceed, now, to ascertain whether we are borne out in “The convicts doomed to solitude, amounting to 36, our suppositions respecting the influence of solitary con- have been separately examined in the cells, and a mifinement, on the minds and bodies of convicts, by the experience of those prisons in which the experiment has * 2d Report of the Boston Prison Discipling Society, been tried. We begin with the state of Maine.