صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

convict, by exposure to additional moisture until they become dry, from the cold and frosty air with which they are surrounded, but we trust that this gross injustice to the convict will, before another winter, be completely remedied by having the remodeling of the cells, which was commenced by Resolve of the last Legislature, carried into full effect.

It is believed that the personal examination, by the members of the Prison committee of the last Legislature, of the defective construction of the cells, satisfied them beyond a doubt, of the necessity of an alteration, and that the information by them communicated, convinced the Legislature and the public, that in making the necessary appropriation for carrying this alteration into effect, they were only obeying the common laws of humanity and justice.

Discipline. The discipline in this Prison is perhaps as perfect as in any other in the country. The punishments are alınost universally mild and merciful; and the calendar of punishments for the past year, shows them to be fewer in number and milder in degree, than in most any former year. Corporal punishment seems to be almost obsolete; it has not been inflicted for several years past, in this Prison. The mode of punishment almost invariably adopted, is solitary confinement in a cell for a few days, which is always found sufficient to subdue even the most stubborn. Experience has fully shown that the old mode of inflicting corporal punishment, although it may subdue, will never reform the criminal, but will enkindle and keep alive the blighting spirit of revenge. The right spirit now seems to prevail upon this subject. The convict is now treated as a reasoning being, and he sees that justice and mercy may be united even in punishments; and that the officer under whose care he is placed, is governed by the laws of kindness and humanity.

It is sufficient punishment for the convict to know that he is deprived of his liberty as a punishment for his crimes, without being subjected to corporal punishment, or any unnecessary suffering.

Reformation of Criminals.—An important object in punishing criminals, is to improve their characters and reform their habits. This result should never be lost sight of, and no measure calculated

to produce it, should be left untried. The time has gone by when a Prison was regarded as a place of torture, and the keeper and his assistants were required to be morose, cruel and tyrannical, in order to increase the punishment of the criminal and to render his abode more terribly repulsive. In order to reform the criminal, it has been found that kindness from his officers, sympathy and good wholesome food during health, with careful treatment in sickness, with the privilege of religious instruction upon the sabbath, and a supply of moral and religious books during the solitary confinement of his cell, will call into action the finer and more noble feelings of his nature, while the former course of tyranny and oppression had the direct tendency to stifle and bury the better qualities under the dark and blighting cover of revenge.

A powerful means of reforming vicious persons when confined in Prison, is to furnish them with books of a character to engage their attention, convey instruction, and at the same time inculcate moral and religious sentiments. In the solitude of the cell the mind needs relief from the burden of self, and the inward work of self-examination should be softened and guided by the aid of the many excellent works which can be furnished at so trifling expense.

In addition to the Bible, with which every prisoner is furnished, the Prison Library contains quite a number of books well calculated to teach the convict that although he has been criminal, and by confinement is suffering the just punishment of his crimes-yet that his case is not hopeless, but by a determined and steady course of perseverance in the path of rectitude, he may again enjoy the pleasures of society, and the privileges of a citizen. It is believed that convicts frequently, from the kindness and sympathy of their officers, from the moral and religious instruction they receive while in confinement, leave the Prison with a full determination to employ themselves in some honest and honorable business, and if possible, again to merit and enjoy the confidence of the community- but how are they generally met by those to whom they apply for work or assistance, often stating honestly and frankly that they have been inmates of a Prison? It is generally by a cold, unfeeling repulse, which at once chills forever the better feelings of their nature, and

rouses within them a spirit of revenge. It is undoubtedly true that this course of treatment towards discharged convicts, is one great reason why they are so often recommitted, having been once confined in Prison, as it is very probable, even in our country, that the convict is occasionally almost driven to the commission of crime for want of any means to furnish himself with the necessaries of life.

Pardons.-We feel that we should be remiss in our duty should we pass over this subject in silence. It was, without doubt, a wise and benevolent spirit that induced the framers of our Constitution to invest the pardoning powers in the Executive, but like many other good objects, it is liable to abuse; and that this has been the case, that unworthy convicts have frequently been the objects of this clemency, we have only to listen to the frequent complaints in the reports from our Prisons, and to the notices of it in the papers throughout the country. If the object for which criminals are sentenced to Prison is the protection of the community, the example to others, and particularly the reformation of the convict, it is believed that the too frequent exercise of this power has the direct tendency to prostrate and prevent these intentions and objects.

It is now, we believe, an established axiom that the certainty, rather than the severity of punishment, exerts the most powerful influence in preventing men from committing crime, and effecting reformation of the convicted. When an individual is about to commit a premeditated offence, and studies his chances of escape from detection and from punishment, if detected he undoubtedly takes the probability of being able to procure a pardon into consideration, and assuredly he is justified in so doing, while it appears by the records of the Prison, that more than sixteen per cent. of all who have been committed, have been discharged by pardon.

While the convict flatters himself with the pleasing hope of being the subject of Executive clemency, his mind can hardly be brought to think seriously of his situation and his crimes, his attention is constantly abstracted from the work at which he is employed, thus very much retarding him in acquiring a knowledge of a trade, which might be useful to him when liberated; his mind is ever restless, and he is constant in his importunities with his friends for assistance

to obtain his liberty, and this he does not on the score of merit, but almost as a matter of right, because others no more worthy than himself have been pardoned.

The facts are too well known by officers of the Prison, to be for a moment doubted-and we fully concur in the opinion so frequently expressed by Prison disciplinarians, that there is no safety for society from the great criminals, but in the certainty of their punishments.

He

It is believed that to give a convict a claim for pardon, there should be very strong mitigating circumstances in his favor. may have been convicted on false testimony-his health may be so much impaired that there can be no hope of his recovery, or perhaps having been sentenced for a long time, his conduct may have been so universally good and exemplary that a short portion of his sentence might not be required to be served out.

In the former case there could be no doubt on the subject, and the latter it is believed might merit the serious consideration of the Executive.

The course generally pursued by those wishing to obtain a pardon, is to get a petition in their favor from their friends, backed up by an advocate, to press it upon the consideration of the Executive, and this too, frequently without an inquiry of the officers of the Prison in regard to their conduct while under sentence; the first knowledge of the proceedings at the Prison being the receipt of a pardon. On several occasions these subjects of Executive clemency, have been recommitted, and again had a like favor extended to them. This being the case, it is no matter of surprise that others should be constantly importuning for like favors.

In making these few remarks, it is not intended to reflect on the course pursued by the Executive on this subject. The frequent exertion of this power certainly shows that the better feelings, the feelings of humanity and sympathy, are called into action in favor of the unfortunate, although it may be not unfrequently for the benefit of the unworthy.

Moral and religious instruction.—It is believed that the Chaplain has faithfully attended to all the duties of his office for the past year, and we would refer to his report for information as to the success which has attended his labors.

Health of convicts.-We find by examination of the record of daily reports, that during the last year the time spent in the Hospital on account of sickness, has been seven hundred and forty-eight days, which is equal to about twelve days to each convict; two deaths have occurred during the year-for the particulars of this department we would refer to the Physician's report, which is annexed.

New Prison.-Acting under a resolve of the last Legislature, the Warden has caused to be erected during the past season, a building on the Auburn plan, of sufficient capacity to contain one hundred and eight cells. Before entering upon the duties required by this resolve, it was found necessary to procure and make plans for the building, and to do this it was thought advisable to examine some buildings of this kind. For this purpose, we, with the Warden, visited the Massachusetts Prison, then under the charge of the late Mr. Lincoln, and the House of Corrrection at South Boston, under the care of Capt. Robbins. At both of these institutions every facility was offered for a thorough examination; many defects in their construction were pointed out, and several valuable improvements recommended.

To the Rev. Mr. Dwight, Secretary of the Prison Discipline Society, many obligations are due for the readiness with which he communicated much valuable information in regard to the construction and arrangements of Prisons—and for his constant attentions to us during an examination of the House of Correction.

The new Prison building was commenced early in the spring, and carried forward with as much expedition as was believed to be for the best interest of the State. A large part of the work on the building, such as getting the rock from the quarry and fitting it, has been done by the convicts, and a large portion of the materials furnished for the building has been paid for by manufactured articles from the different workshops of the Prison. As the Warden, in his report will go into a particular description of the building, we will only add that we have had an opportunity in our very frequent visits during the progress of the work, to give it a thorough inspection, and are free to express the opinion that in its construction the

« السابقةمتابعة »