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Mr. Howard was examined before the House of Commons, and received its Thanks in 1774; and he had the further satisfaction, in the course of that year, to see an Act of Parliament' passed for the remedy of the evil which had originally attracted his notice, enabling the Justices of the Peace, at their quarter sessions to grant salaries out of the county-rate, in lieu of the fees alluded to above; followed by another Act by which the Justices were empowered to make various orders for the perservation of cleanliness in the prisons within their respective counties, and to provide for the ́separation of such prisoners as might be sick, from the rest; and were also authorised to appoint an experienced surgeon or apothecary, who was to attend each prison, and to make a report on the state of the prisoners' health at every quarter sessions; the expenses of all such orders and such salary being charged by the Act on the county-rate.
The Justices of the Peace do not appear to have possessed any power previous to the passing of these Acts, to interfere in the management of the county gaols, otherwise than by making orders under the 19th Car. II. cap. 4, for furnishing employment and relief to poor and needy persons committed to them for trial, and by the appointment of a chaplain to officiate in them, under the 13th Geo. III. cap. 58; but they were soon further empowered by the 24th Geo. III. cap. 54, to grant such salaries and allowances as they should think fit, to gaolers, in lieu of the profits which those officers were in the habit of deriving from the sale of liquor to the prisoners; a practice which had been much complained of by Mr. Howard, as productive of drunkenness and disorder in the gaols, and which was positively prohibited in future by the 22d section of this Act.
To this Act of Parliament, together with the Act for preserving the health of prisoners, mentioned above, and the powers subsequently given by the 31st Geo. III. cap. 46, to the Justices of the Peace, to appoint two of their body visitors of the gaols, and to make rules and orders for their better regulation, with the concurrence of the Judges of assize, may be attributed the great improvement which has taken place of late years, in the state and condition
114 Geo. III. cap. 20, entitled " An Act for the relief of Prisoners charged with felony or other crimes, who shall be acquitted or discharged by proclamation, respecting the payment of fees to Gaolers, and giving a recompense for such fees out of the county-rates."
214 Geo. III. cap, 59, entitled " An Act for preserving the health of prisoners in gaol, and preventing the gaol distemper."
3 They might build or repair the gaol at the expense of the county, by 11 and 19. Wil. III. cap. 19.
of the gaols of this country. That such improvement has taken place in them must be evident to any person, who has read the accounts given by Mr. Howard, of the result of his first inquiries on this head, and in particular his statement of the offensive condition in which he frequently found the air in places in which prisoners were confined. Speaking upon this subject, in his first Book, he assures his readers, that "his clothes were in his first journeys so offensive, that in a post-chaise he could not bear the windows drawn up, and was therefore obliged to travel commonly on horseback; " and that "the leaves of his memorandum book were often so tainted, that he could not use it till after spreading it an hour or two before the fire ;" and " that even his antidote, a vial of vinegar, has, after being used in a few prisons, become intolerably disagreeable ;" and he adds, " that he did not wonder that many gaolers made excuses, and did not go with him into the felons' wards." In another part of the same publication he represents it as a common artifice practised by gaolers, when they wished to prevent a stranger from examining their prisons, to hint an apprehension that the gaol fever had made its appearance among the prisoners.
In these days no such inconveniences as those here described, are experienced in visiting the prisons of this country, nor is a gaoler likely to attempt to keep out any persons who might be desirous of seeing the inside of his prison, by such a suggestion as that mentioned above; since, if he were to succeed in driving away those to whom the hint should be addressed, the supposed existence of the gaol fever, among the prisoners, would probably soon reach the ear of the visiting Magistrates, and would be likely to lead to a much more minute investigation of the prison, than that from which the gaoler was endeavouring to escape, as well as to a just reproof of that officer, for not having made known the circumstance, in the first instance, to the proper visitors.
The class of gaolers is indeed much changed for the better, since the time of Mr. Howard. The description given of them by Sir W. Blackstone, as “ a merciless race of men, and by being conversant in scenes of misery, steeled against any tender sensation," however just it may have been at the time his book was written, is now by no means applicable to that class of persons: on the contrary, I believe that most of those who have been in the habit of visiting prisons of late years, will bear testimony to the humanity of their keepers, and will support the assertion, that
'Thank God! we cannot now say as was said by Mr. Howard, that more prisoners are destroyed by the gaol fever than by executions, which however were pretty numerous in his days.
a hard and unfeeling gaoler is not now to be taken as a fair specimen of the class, but may rather be considered as an exception to the general rule.
The alteration, which has taken place in the character and disposition of these officers, is probably owing in a great degree to the circumstance of their being in constant communication with gentlemen of the first respectability, under whose immediate direction and control they act, and whose approbation and favorable report to the quarter sessions they are naturally anxious to secure, by conforming to their views and principles.
It would, however, increase the respectability of this class of men, and operate as an additional inducement to persons who are not of the lowest order, to become keepers of prisons, if some prospect were held out to them of being allowed to retire with a decent provision towards the close of life, in case of ill health, age, or infirmity.
There is no description of public servants, which has a better claim to a retiring pension, after long and faithful service, than gaolers, nor any, whom it is more decidedly a measure of good policy to superannuate at a fit season. Gaolers, like other men, must be expected to become less active, both in mind and body, as they advance in years; and there will probably be a period of time in the life of an officer of this description, who shall grow old in his vocation, during which the Magistrates who act as visitors in the goal, must see that he is unequal to the trust reposed in him, without having any such instance of misconduct to allege against him, as would form a satisfactory ground for recommending it to the Justices in sessions to remove him, if the effect of his removal must be to deprive him entirely of his livelihood. It is evidently inexpedient that a prison should, in such case, be left in the charge of an incompetent person, until proof of his incompetency shall be furnished by some instance of indiscretion or neglect, which will probably be no less injurious to the public than discreditable to the individual; and it would therefore, I conceive, be proper for the Legislature to allow the Justices in quarter sessions to grant out of the county-rates to a keeper of a prison, who should have served the county in that situation for a certain number of years, a pension not exceeding a proportion of his salary to be limited in the Act, on a certificate by the visiting Justices of the prison, of his having in their opinion become incompetent to perform the duties of his office, from ill health, age, or infirmity; provided no such grant should be made without previous notification of its being intended to bring the subject under the consideration of the quarter sessions, or without the concurrence of a certain proportion of the Justices who should attend upon that question. In
the local Act for the regulation of the prisons in the county of Gloucester, the Justices are empowered to grant to the keeper of the gaol, who shall have become incompetent to the personal discharge of his duties, from sickness, age, or infirmity, an annuity not exceeding 50l. per annum; and may either deduct the amount from the salary allowed to the officiating gaoler, or order the payment of it out of the county-rate.
The 31st Geo. III. cap. 46, sect. 6, enacts that rules and regulations shall be made for the government of the gaols within England and Wales, and of the prisoners to be therein confined, in the same manner as is appointed by an Act passed for the relief of debtors in the preceding reign, (32 Geo. II. cap. 28.) under which Act rules (relating I apprehend to debtors only,) were to be framed by the Justices of the Peace at their quarter sessions, in the first instance, but were afterwards to be reviewed and might be altered, if necessary, by the Judges of assize.
The rules and orders for houses of correction, laid down in the 22d Geo. III. cap. 64, with the powers given to the Justices to make additions thereto by their own authority, were not affected by this statute, except with reference to such prisoners as were confined in those houses considered in the light of Penitentiary Houses, for the treatment of which prisoners the Justices were required, by the second section of the 31st Geo. III., to make rules at some quarter sessions, at which five Justices at least were to be present; but they were to have regard, in making such rules, to the discipline and directions contained in the 19th Geo. III.: and it was moreover provided, that such rules should not begin to have force until they had been submitted to the Justices of assize, and until such Justices should have subscribed a declaration, that they did not see in them any thing contrary to law. I mention this provision here, (although, as I shall have occasion to observe hereafter, there are now no prisoners to whom it applies,) because these words, which were taken originally from the 19th Geo. III. and which have since been used in the Act, (25th Geo. III. cap. 10,) for building and regulating the prisons in the county of Gloucester, with respect to the rules to be made for the Local Penitentiary to be established under that Act, and also in the Acts under which the National Penitentiary has been lately established at Millbank, appear to me to place the sanction of the Judges to
'I presume that the directions given in 32 Geo. II. cap. 28, had reference to such parts only of the gaols as were occupied by debtors, the Act itself purporting in its title and preamble to be made for the relief of debtors, and not adverting to other prisoners: but the words "gaols and prisons" are there used without any limitation.
the rules of a prison upon a better footing than either the 32d Geo. II. cap. 28, under which rules are made for county gaols, or the words now proposed in the Bill on the Table of the House of Commons.
By this provision, (31st Geo. III. sect. 2,) the Judges were not, I apprehend, to have any share in making the rules, nor were they called upon to approve of them, or to give any opinion in regard to their fitness or expediency: the duty imposed upon the Judges, in regard to these rules, was only to see that they contained nothing contrary to law-to take care, that the arrangements made by the Justices of the Peace did not subject the prisoners, for whom they were intended, to any hardships which the law did not warrant, or withhold from them any privilege or advantage, to which they were legally intitled; whereas, under the 32d Geo. II. respecting gaols, the Judges are to review, and may alter, the rules submitted to them.
In the Bill now proposed, all distinction between gaols and houses of correction, in regard to the manner in which rules shall be made, is done away; and it is provided, that the Judges shall revise and approve" (it is not said that they may alter,) the rules and regulations for every description of gaol or prison. Under this provision, unless the Judges shall concur in the wisdom and expediency of the rules and regulations proposed by the Justices of the Peace, for the houses of correction (the propriety of which may often depend upon local circumstances, or upon the peculiar construction of the prison, which the Judges may have had no opportunity of seeing), it will be impossible that any rules should be made, and the Justices may be left under great difficulties, as to the manner in which their prisons are to be managed, the general rules and directions given for that purpose by the 22d Geo. III. cap. 64, being by the present Bill repealed. The same inconvenience would not be felt in the gaols, where the gaoler, acting under the sheriff, would govern his prisoners by the powers derived from that authority, without any written rules, as is, I suspect, now done in many gaols, and was the case, till very lately, in Newgate. But such government is in itself a great inconvenience; and I am strongly inclined to think, that instead of making it necessary that the Judges should concur in the expediency of the rules to be made by the County Magistrates, for the houses of correction, it would be advisable to take away the necessity of such concurrence in regard to the rules made for the common gaols, and to adopt the provision made on this head in the Acts relative to penitentiaries for both descriptions of prisons; directing the Justices of the Peace to frame rules and regulations for each, and limiting the duty of the