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the first crime has been committed, and, overwhelmed with penitence and remorse, the offender, who is not yet a criminal, since his heart is not with his criminal act, would retrace his steps at any sacrifice, could he do so unrecognised, and without encountering the scorn of the world as one who has ranked himself among its outcasts. For his case the privacy of modern prison arrangements has done something. But the great destiny of his life has too often been decided before he crossed the portal. And surely, when an advanced age looks back with compassion on the present administration of criminal justice, there will seem nothing in it more anomalous and cruel than this, that when an old offender is brought up to be punished for the thirtieth or fortieth time, he has to pass through a grand jury or the investigation of a state prosecutor, and undergo a patient trial conducted by learned lawyers, in the majestic presence of the supreme bench; while the momentous question, whether a youth heretofore deemed innocent shall be brought within the arena of the criminal classes, is left to some prædial Bubulcus saturated with notions of the badness of the poor, or to some successful tradesman who diversifies his well-earned leisure with occasional feats of justices'justice. But this branch of the subject-the consideration of the juncture in the criminal's career at which justice should begin to chastise-is one from which every inquirer flinches, so painful are the considerations with which it is surrounded.
When we have got on to the old offender, matters, if not more satisfactory, are less painful. Without prejudging what shall be done by other means, it may be laid down that the kind of imprisonment which is to reform the confirmed predatory offender, has not yet been discovered. The thief is a thief to the end, as unchangeable in his mental character as the leper and the Ethiopian in their physical. The world would have admitted this long ago, but it is the function and peculiar quality of the creature to deceive; and he has not only been successful in individual cases, but has kept up
a general impression that he is reformable. In the old prisons, where the transgressor of prison rules could implicate others, he was tricky and tormenting, the curse of the prisonofficer's existence. Under the separate system, where everything done within his cell by human hands proclaims himself the doer of it, he is a model of regularity, docility, and every external virtue. While his next-door neighbour the poacher, in for an assault on gamekeepers, is still turbulent and sulky, the thief keeps his hours, performs his task, is gentle and respectful in his deportment, grateful for any little favour, but not exasperated by hardship or privation. He assents to all that is told him, and especially to every representation of his wasted opportunities and misspent life. He edifies the chaplain by his pious zeal, learns the art of being caught at unexpected moments in the attitude of prayer, and perhaps requires a pair of green spectacles to preserve his eyesight, suffering from the zealous and continued perusal of the Bible. A glance at the prison records will reveal the contrast between his outdoor and his indoor life. long list of thefts, robberies, and burglaries, applicable to the former, will perhaps be followed by the conclusion, "Conduct exemplary," and "General character excellent." The prison warder, whose thoughts do not penetrate much beyond the airing-yard, looks on him as a good sort of man, whose lot in life it is frequently to inhabit the large dwelling of which he keeps the key. The indolent chaplain, like some respectable fashionable preacher, compounds with appearances, and shrinks from looking at realities too closely. The zealous chaplain (and many of these men are zealous) shudders over the unfathomable depth of those still waters of human deceitfulness, down through which it has been his unenviable lot to see farther than other men.
And yet the philosopher who should seek for the elements of such a social phenomenon in a bold depravity of purpose, would probably be wrong. It is not a settled determination to do ill, but a facile pliability-a susceptibility to the influence of surrounding conditions-that
makes the thief what he is. Partly he yields to the influence of the discipline, and partly he feels a zest in the exercise of his powers of dissimulation. The two things act on each other, and make the old depredator in a well-regulated prison the model of external rectitude.
Any one desirous of rummaging within the interior recesses of such a character, might to some extent accomplish his object by perusing the Memoirs of the First Thirty-Two Years of the Life of James Hardy Vaux, a Swindler and Thief, written by himself. He was a clever man, well educated, and fond of literature. He wrote a very amusing, well-composed book, and might have succeeded in any walk he chose to select; but the nature of the thief was in him, and carried him through a marvellous course of diversified plunder. Having been a second time transported, he wrote his book to serve the cause of virtue, and earn a second pardon. Whoever closely attended to this man's memorial in his own behoof, would have seen in it only reason to congratulate the world that the author was safe in bondage. It is true that he every now and then stops, heaves a sigh as it were, and wonders at the folly and wickedness that could have led him to do such things. But throughout there is an under-current of chuckling self-exultation as he narrates each act of successful roguery, showing how deeply the relish of deception was implanted in him. He speaks as we might suppose a paralysed fox-hunter or a gouty angler to do in describing the departed joys of his sporting triumphs. His first brilliant achievement was a begging letter-natural, pathetic, and tersein which he inculcated and illustrated the text that "to a noble mind the pleasure of doing a good action is its own reward." All shapes of deception came alike to him; and it is ever his boast that he did not permit follies, eccentricities, or vices to cloud his intellect or impede him in the skilful pursuit of his craft. He was successful to the last. On the publication of his book, he was again pardoned, and, after a few months of activity, was a third time, as we have been informed, on his way to Sydney.
To know how the thief is raised
what moral soil and training are best suited for his development, and how far he is a hereditary monster-will yet afford work to the laborious and the thoughtful. The craniologist, it is true, is able to solve the question at once; the shape of the head makes the thief; and by this infallible test the adept will drag him out of the very bosom of respectability and honest exertion before he has committed any crime. It will be in vain to protest perfect innocence, entire regularity of life, and honesty of behaviour in every dealing a certain prominence of acquisitiveness and secretiveness, in conjunction with a low development of conscientiousness, proclaim his true condition, and he must be dealt with as a thief. The public will require more information before it puts itself entirely into these hands, and will probably, in the mean time, concur in the view that the question is one of difficulty; that we must carefully grope our way to its solution; and that we shall probably find this not so clear and short a task as men with one idea would make it. However far the mental phenomenon may be found to connect itself with physical conformation, there is little doubt that training and association, an infancy and youth reared in crime, and in total ignorance of religion or virtue, will tend to the making of the thief. Probably, too, hereditary influence has its action, in the perfection of the breed after certain generations have been well trained in depravity. But we know also that many of the most accomplished and wonderful depredators have, like Hardy Vaux, been led by their tastes and propensities from respectability to crime, without the influence of any external temptation. Mr Chesterton, in his Revelations of Prison Life, mentions the instance of an old lady of fortune committed for shoplifting, who was found to be dressed in an inner robe of leather, perforated with furtive pockets and other receptacles for the ready concealment of small parcels snatched from counters. Being by nature a thief, her abundance no more sufficed to check her appetite for her neighbour's goods than the capital of the stockjobber will induce him to
abandon further speculation. Had she been the child of hereditary poverty and infamy, her outward fortunes would have assimilated better to her disposition, and in the exercise of plundering capacities, whetted by necessity and a ceaseless contest with the law, she might have lived, on the whole, a happier life than she found.
The detective officer knows the thief, not only individually, but generically. On a moment's inspection, though he has never seen the specimen before, he will at once distinguish him from the decent workman, and even from the half-honest vagabond, as certainly as Linnæus could recognise a cryptogamic plant, or Cuvier separate the organic remains of vertebrate and crustaceous animals. After hearing a cursory description in the "hue and cry" of some depredator from Liverpool or Glasgow, the accomplished detective will mark his man among the thousands of faces in a full night in Covent Garden, with such precision
that he does not hesitate to run the risk of immediately apprehending him without a warrant. When we remember the serious consequences to an officer of thus seizing an innocent person, the frequency of such captures and the rarity of mistakes are a singular testimony to the generic character of criminality. The person seized is very often not the actual offender; but he is always a member of the great criminal corporation, and, as such, will have so many little secrets from which it is desirable to avert attention, that he is glad to get out of immediate trouble, and reluctant to raise actions of damages, or to be in any shape very clamorous about his legal rights.
These officers, who know the whole body of the thieves so well, are of course prepared to deal with them off-hand, and are lost in amazement at the folly of the public which does not place the cleansing of the Augean stable at their disposal. This matter has become of some importance, since, in quarters to which the public look with deserved deference, there have been proposals for dealing with the dishonest part of the population, not according to the crimes proved against them, but according to their
character and repute. We can express but one hope as to every such proposal, that it may be met in the face, and at once put down by acclamation. There are instances, now fortunately decreasing, where in courts of justice the testimony of officers of the law about the character and habits of the accused has been available, not separately as a ground of punishment, but as an element heightening or diminishing its extent when a specific crime has been proved. Those who have observed the manner in which testimony of this kind has been given, have had reason to shudder at any, even the smallest, influence in the awarding of punishment being placed in such hands. It is not in human nature to help abusing such a power. man can be made responsible for entertaining a bad opinion of another, and the policeman is no more than the captain of a merchant vessel, or the Emperor of Russia, capable of judiciously wielding irresponsible power. Encourage, if you like, the
officer of the law to hunt his victim into the court of justice; permit him there to tell all that, as a witness, he knows; but give him no influence, not the smallest, in the finding of guilt or the awarding of punishment. If our institutions are not strong enough to maintain a fair stand-up fight with crime, then strengthen them. Let the thing called Police Surveillance continue to be so strange to us that we require to use a foreign word when we speak of it. It seems the more necessary to remember this caution at a time when there are well-founded demands for the increase of the police force of the country. Kept in its proper place, an increased force will be an eminent boon to the honest portion of the community. But were there any doubts of their being kept to their legitimate functions, we would follow those who count the existence of such a force a greater calamity than the crimes they are appointed to suppress.
As we cannot anticipate that the country shall so far forget the spirit of its traditional policy as to countenance any of the plans for "a clean sweep" of the dishonest classes, apart from the punishment of their crimes, we must continue to deal with that
great enemy, the thief, as our existing institutions admit. And it must be conceded that the great improvements which the half-century has seen in prison discipline, have had little more distinct influence on him than in having deprived him, through the separate system, of the academy in which he used to teach a class of diligent and admiring pupils, and a convenient office in which future depredations could be arranged with his partners in business. He conforms for his year or eighteen months with the discipline; is for the time a changed man; and when he feels at liberty, is at his old tricks again before he turns the corner. He is of some use in the mean time as a practical refutation of every plan to accomplish the objects of penal discipline with one idea. He is the "proof-charge" with which these explode one after another. Take, for example, productive labour. There is, no doubt, much to be gained, and nothing to be lost, in practically inculcating the excellence of industry, and doing something towards the conversion of a destructive and mischievous being into a productive self-supporter. The thief, so long as he is in bondage, is the happiest illustration of the efficacy of the principle. While free, he was idle, mischievous, and vicious; in prison he takes kindly to the work set before him; it is not only his occupation, but his enjoyment. If this appears to be an incomprehensible anomaly, we have but to remember that there are tribes and nations naturally listless and idle when left to themselves, who yet become patterns of industry in the hands of taskmasters. The thief can adjust his nimble fingers to almost any mechanical occupation attainable to human hands. If he has risen in his profession to the rank of housebreaker, he is probably a brilliant mechanician. There is a principle, sound enough within the proper limits of its application, that the criminal, having injured society to a certain extent, should be set to work out his punishment in valuable labour. He is a debtor who, in this manner, should be permitted to pay his creditor. If we apply this doctrine to the accomplished thief, we will find that in a day he
has worked as much as his sulky heart-broken neighbour the poacher, who loathes industry, and is irretrievably clumsy-handed, can accomplish in a week. Take again "the mark system," which is a register of the general conduct of prisoners, either by crediting them with the good that they do, or debiting them with the evil they commit while in bondage. In this, too, there are doubtless elements of usefulness; but there are at the same time elements for the exercise of the thief's plausibility and powers of dissimulation; and, indeed, it would be difficult to invent any criterion of merit which his tact, subtlety, good temper, and real desire to give satisfaction, would not enable him to achieve without any dissimulation at all, unless it be called dissimulation to retain a corrupted heart under the external covering of goodness, of contentedness under inevitable misfortune, and of untiring attention to the duties of his position.
Since, then, prison discipline has been unable to influence so large an integral portion of crime as the habitual depredator fills, it may naturally be asked, Has it done anything? We defer the consideration whether it may possibly have shown us the way for dealing more successfully than we have yet dealt with the thief. In the mean time we answer, that as yet the triumphs of prison discipline have consisted chiefly in the undoing of misdeeds. All punishment is an evil, endured by society on account of its deterring influence; and it is the boast of the improved practices in our prisons, that without diminishing this deterring influenceprobably while considerably increas ing it-they have greatly diminished the corrupting influences. Hence it is that the balance of gain is not to be looked for in the class of confirmed offenders, but rather in the restriction of the sources whence this class was supplied. It is fortunately now only in a few of the prisons of Britain that we shall find any vestige of that old promiscuous intercourse which rendered the jail an academy where the freshman took a degree in crime, and probably worked for honours- where the mere idle scamp was, in the course of a few months' tui
tion by able professors, converted into the accomplished and hardy criminal. The leading spirit of every principle of penal discipline adopted or suggested in modern times, is that it shall not deteriorate the prisoner in morality, in intellect, or in physical condition. If there were no other and higher ground why man should not deteriorate God's image in his fellow, there would remain the narrower technical reason, that a deteriorating punishment is uncertain in its dimensions. About moral deterioration, since it tends to increase instead of diminishing criminality, there can be no question; but by the deterioration which causes death or insanity, the amount of infliction on the victim is beyond all human estimation.
When the deteriorating influence of promiscuous intercourse in jails was universally admitted, two systems were invented to counteract it -the solitary system, by which the prisoner was, as far as it could practically be brought about, prohibited from seeing or speaking to a human being during the period of his punishment; and the silent system, by which he was permitted to see his kind, but was prohibited, under vigilant superintendence, from holding intercourse with them by word or sign. It was found that the intellect broke down under the weight of either system, and that it was followed by idiocy or insanity. In America, a solitary voice was held up in commendation of this result, since, like extracting the venom of a serpent, or paring the claws of a panther, it promised as a result that "the most accomplished rogue will lose his capacity of depredating with success upon the community.' But the honest instincts of the world at once repudiated this Machiavelian doctrine, and the solitary and silent systems were everywhere modified. The more ordinary form of the modification is in that separation which keeps the prisoner apart from his fellowcriminals, but leaves him to some extent in intercourse with those whose duty and inclination it is to improve his character. Even this modified separation cannot be continued for a long period without danger. It was an opinion prevalent at the time of
its adoption, that it was of moment to prevent every one who entered within a prison from being there seen by a fellow-prisoner. Undoubtedly, there was no slavery more dreadful than that which fell, under the old promiscuous system, on the youth not entirely corrupted, who had been seen in prison by an old offender. Like the victims in the romances, who by some mere accident had been sold to Satan, it was his doom, wherever he went, to find that a sort of social telegraph had propagated throughout the corporation of criminals that he was free of their order, and that they were empowered to command his services. It is thus essential that the fresh offender should not be seen in prison by old criminals. But beyond this, the prohibition against criminals seeing each other's faces within the prison, provided they be not permitted to hold confidential intercourse with each other, is no longer held of vital moment. In such a scene of quietness, of orderly habits, of industry, and cleanliness, with opportunities for obtaining instruction and the means of religious consolation and admonition, as a well-regulated prison now affords-if there be any seeds of good within the reprobate's mind, they will have opportunity to grow. And though it has not yet sensibly affected the hardened thief, there is no doubt that the sense of absolute subjection to the laws, conveyed by the firm yet gentle discipline, is calculated to impress on minds open to persuasion the utter feebleness and folly of crime--the hopelessness of their conflict with the institutions of society. Few social changes ever achieved are more remarkable than the victory which discipline has gained over the natural petulance and violence of the jail-bird. There are many who can remember how liable every visitor to a prison was to insult and outrage. In the hulks, when the convicts were sent under hatches, a prison officer no more dared to descend into the abyss occupied by the fiends in his custody, than into a tiger's cave. One may now see a single warder exercising forty or fifty convicts-consummate ruffians all of them--and yet the slightest rebuke from him controls the offensive word or the insolent glance. This subjugation is so com