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from following in their course. Under such aspects the subject of Prison Discipline assumes great importance; it is closely connected with the welfare of society, and is never to be overlooked as one of the means of raising the criminal, from his degradation, to a true sense of duty.
The great object of punishment has been sadly misunderstood; more enlightened views are now beginning to prevail. Punishment is more and more considered as a means, rather than an end. One of its objects is to prevent crime. But how is this to be brought about? Not simply by punishing the offender, and sending him again into society as bad as before. Not simply by awakening such terror as to appal, and thus restrain, those who are inclined to offend. Effectually to prevent crime, we must go beyond this, and while we punish the offender, strive to reclaim him. The true way to relieve the poor, is so to relieve, as to prevent further need of relief; and the true way to punish vice, is so to punish, as to prevent further need of punishment. To extirpate crime we must awaken virtue. Branding with irons, and lashing with whips, have not, in past times, been found to awaken a love of God or goodness. To do this we must implant new principles in the heart, and call out feelings of self-respect and love of duty.
Unfortunately, Criminal Jurisprudence has not awakened that attention and anxiety which its importance has demanded. “ The Criminal Law," says Blackstone, “in every country of Europe is more rude and imperfect than the civil.” son for this probably is, that offenders have generally been considered as outcasts, as enemies of society, - abandoned to vice and beyond hope. Few have thought of parental neglect, early temptations, and degrading influences, over which they had no control. Few have weighed the criminality of society in suffering them from infancy to remain thus exposed; and in this way, the very laws have been suffered to operate with little discrimination, and the punishments which have followed have rarely, until a recent date, contemplated the reformation of the offender.
The horrors and abuses, which have taken place in Europe, till within half a century, have been an outrage to humanity. Indeed, until a late day, in England about two hundred offences have, by law, been punishable with death. But a brighter day has dawned; and he who has read of the labors of Sir Samuel Romilly, William Roscoe, and Sir James Mack
intosh, who thinks of the unexampled efforts of a Howard and a Fry, must have faith, that the work which has been so nobly begun, will come to a noble end.
From the earliest period of our own history, the attention of great and good minds has been more or less turned to this subject. William Penn was probably the first in this country who took any decided step towards reforming penal jurisprudence. Being opposed to the arbitrary injunction of the royal charter relating to the punishment of crimes, he drew up an independent criminal code, which was transmitted to England. This was rejected by Queen Anne and her council, but the colonial
government saw fit still to retain it until 1718. During the time of Penn, murder was the only crime punishable with death, and every prison for convicts was made a workhouse. Under George the First, after much oppressive interference, the mild system of Penn was changed for one which rendered sixteen species of crime punishable with death. Thus things remained till the Revolution. In the constitution of Pennsylvania, framed in 1776, the legislature was ordered to reform the penal laws, to make punishments less sanguinary, and, in some cases, more proportionate to the offence." In 1786 a new criminal code was created, and capital punishment retained in but four cases ; but severe corporeal punishments, as whipping and the like, were still allowed. This called forth the strong censure of such men as Franklin and Rush; until
, much through their exertion, in 1790, a change was effected in the laws. A prison was erected at Philadelphia, and the penitentiary system was commenced in the United States. This example, in 1796, led to the erection of a penitentiary in New York. A bill also, “ for making alterations in the criminal law of the state,” was brought forward, and became a law on the 26th of March, the same year. Previous to this time no less than sixteen species of crime were punishable with death. This law left but two, out of the sixteen, to be thus punished. After this, prisons were erected in various parts of the Union : at Richmond, in 1800; at Charlestown, in 1804; at Baltimore, in 1811; at Concord, N. H., in 1812; at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1816. Thus things went on, prison after prison going up, while the bad construction of the buildings, the bad management of the officers, and the almost criminal indifference of the public to the whole matter, rendered the prisons little else than hot-beds of vice, where not a weed was plucked up, and where every bad
passion grew with wildest luxuriance.* Old and young were thrown together, fifteen and thirty in a room, where they passed their time in card playing and profanity.
During this melancholy state of things, at Boston, on the 30th June, 1825, the Prison Discipline Society was organized, the object of which was to improve the public prisons. Accurate knowledge from personal observation was obtained. Prisons in thirteen of the States were visited, and the most judicious measures taken to ascertain the actual state of things. The abuses were indeed enormous. In Massachusetts from four to sixteen were confined in a room; in Connecticut, fifteen to thirty-two; in Pennsylvania, twenty to thirty-five. The young lad and the hardened villain were thrown together. Even men and women in some cases were locked in the same apartments; while obscene songs and licentious tales were heard at all hours. In many of the prisons, not the slightest provision was made by the state for religious instruction. The Scriptures were not read, and, at times, months passed without a single religious service. Governor Lincoln, in his message for 1826, in speaking of the prison, said, “the vilest schemes of profligacy are here devised, and the grossest acts of depravity are perpetrated. “ Nature and Humanity,” he adds, “cry aloud for redemption from this dreadful degradation.”
The indefatigable Secretary and Agent of the Society has, by his unwearied labors, accomplished a work, encouraging to the heart of every philanthropist. By visiting prisons, collecting facts, exposing faults, suggesting improvements, he has probably done as much to reform prisons as any man living. His Reports, as has been well remarked, have been received as text-books throughout Europe. For it is an interesting fact,
* There is something very singular in the following account. It seems, indeed, almost incredible. “When the first attempt was made to preach to the convicts, the keeper reluctantly admitted the clergyman, though in the discharge of official duty, through the iron gate to a platform at the top of the steps leading to the yard, where a loaded cannon was placed, and a man beside it with a lighted match. The convicts were arranged in a solid column in front of the engine prepared for their destruction, in the event of the least commotion, while the first sermon ever delivered in the prison was pronounced.” — See Vaux's “ Notices of the original and successive Efforts to Improve the Discipline of the Prison at Philadelphia,” &c., and Christian Examiner, 1826, p. 208. VOL. XXVI. 3D . VOL. VIII, NO. 1.
that the improvement of our prisons has been such, as to attract the notice, and call forth the commendation, of the most enlightened countries of the old world. France, in addition to the mission of Messrs. De Beaumont and De Tocqueville, who published a volume of four hundred and forty pages, has sent another commission of three, to gather practical details, and make measurements and drawings, that they may put in operation a penitentiary on the American system. Dr. Julius has also been sent from the Prussian, and Mr. William Crawford from the British government.
The question now naturally arises, What has the Prison Discipline Society done?
1. We have alluded to the singular manner in which old and young, condemned and uncondemned, male and female, were thrown together. The operations of this Society have aided in bringing about a systematic classification. In 1827 it was found from investigation, that, in five states, one seventh part of all in prison were under twenty-one years of age, and some were even under twelve, and these were confined in the same cells with the most abandoned. Now, the old and young are not only separated, but different buildings are set apart for them. We not only have our Prisons, but Houses for Juvenile Offenders, our Farm Schools, Places of Refuge, and Asylums for the needy and exposed. Males and females are not only separated, but they are, in most cases, in separate buildings, and each have persons of their own sex to superintend their doings. Those also, who are waiting their trial, are now generally in apartments by themselves, and, in some cases, in buildings erected for the purpose. In the city of New York there has been an immense building erected, at an expense
of three hundred thousand dollars, called “The Halls of Justice," or“ Place of Detention," a portion of which is set apart for this purpose. This building contains two hundred separate cells, and is so constructed, that those who are committed on suspicion of crime, and for trial, may not only have separate confinement, but be committed, brought to trial, within the same building, and discharged, without public notoriety. It must be perfectly obvious, to every thoughtful mind, that those, who are only accused or suspected, should not be treated as if condemned; and not only so, but that they should not be thrown in together.
2. It has done much to prevent imprisonment for debt. By exposing the cruelties which existed, by eliciting the opinion of philanthropists and statesmen, and by bringing the matter, in all its real deformity, before the public mind, this society has tended to open the eyes of men to one of the most barbarous usages of a former day. It has aided in abolishing those laws, which were
stain upon our statute books, and which too often brought upon the innocent the punishment of the vicious, and seemed to stamp misfortune as a crime. Fraud, wherever it is committed, should meet with its due, but inability to pay a debt, does not necessarily imply fraud; though the laws, as they have been, and, to some extent, still are, do not recognise this important distinction. Thus the unfortunate, who should have met with sympathy and aid, have been imprisoned and disgraced.
In 1829, the Prison Discipline Society, in their Annual Report, dwelt at some length upon this subject
. During the next year, they sent circulars to a large number of distinguished individuals, to obtain their opinions; and these, together with many startling statistical facts, were laid before the community. At this time there were at least seventy-five thousand persons annually imprisoned for debt. About two thirds of the whole number were imprisoned for less than twenty dollars, and about the same proportion on mesne process; that is, without judge, jury, or witness, at the will of the creditor.
În 1831 a law was passed, by the legislature of Massachusetts, exempting females from imprisonment for all sums, and others, for less than ten dollars. This probably saved from imprisonment five hundred persons annually. The same year laws were passed in Rhode Island exempting all females from imprisonment for debts under fifty dollars. A law was also passed in New York, which probably saved from imprisonment at least ten thousand annually. In July, 1834, this was followed by an abolishing act in Massachusetts, which probably prevented the imprisonment of seventeen hundred or eighteen hundred, in a single year. The committee appointed to prepare a draft of the constitution of Michigan reported, that imprisonment for debt should in no case be allowed. In 1837 the laws, which authorized imprisonment in the State of Connecticut, were abolished by a vote of one hundred and sixtyfour to sixteen. In Kentucky and Tennessee there have been similar abolishing acts. The laws in New York and Massachusetts have been of great benefit in the interior counties, but.