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not want, and will not accept! These are the pamphlets which Goodies and Noodles are dispersing with unwearied diligence. It would be a great blessing if some genius would arise who had a talent of writing for the poor.
He would be of more value than many poets living upon the banks of lakes—or even though we think highly of ourselves) of greater value than many reviewing men living in the garrets of the north.
The Society offer some comments upon the prison bill now pending, and which, unfortunately* for the cause of prison improvement, has been so long pending in the legislature. In the copy of this bill, as it stands at present, nothing is said of the limitation of numbers in any particular class. We have seen forty felons of one class in one yard before trial. If this be to continue, all prison improvement is a mere mockery. Separate sleeping cells should be enacted positively, and not in words which leave this improvement optional. If any visiting justice dissent from the majority t, it should be lawful for him to give in a separate report upon the state of the prison and prisoners to the Judge or the Quarter-sessions. All such reports of any visiting magistrate or magistrates, not exceeding a certain length, should be published in the county papers. The chairman's report to the Secretary of State should be published in the same manner. The great panacea is publicity : it is this which secures compliance with wise and just laws, more than all the penalties they contain for their own preservation.
We object to the reading and writing clause. A poor man, who is lucky enough to have his son committed for a felony, educates him, under such a system, for nothing; while the virtuous simpleton on the other side of the wall is paying by the quarter for these attainments. He sees clergymen and ladies busy with the larcenous pupil;
* The county of York, with a prison under presentment, has been waiting nearly three years for this bill, in order to proceed upon the improvement of their county gaol.
It would be an entertaining change in human affairs to determine every thing by minorities. They are almost always in the right.
while the poor lad, who respects the eighth commandment, is consigned, in some dark alley, to the frowns and blows of a ragged pedagogue. It would be the safest way, where a prisoner is kept upon bread and water alone, to enact that the allowance of bread should not be less than a pound and a half for men, and a pound for women and boys. We strongly recommend, as mentioned in a previous Number, that four sorts of diet should be enacted for every prison : 1st, Bread and water; 2d, Better prison diet; 3d, Best prison diet ; 4th, Free diet—the second and third to be defined by the visiting magistrates. All sentences of imprisonment should state to which of these diets the prisoner is to be confined ; and all deviation from it on the part of the prison officers should be punished with very severe penalties. The regulation of diet in a prison is a point of the very highest importance; and to ask of visiting magistrates that they should doom to bread and water a prisoner, whom the law has left at liberty to purchase whatever he has money to procure, is a degree of severity which it is hardly fair to expect from country gentlemen, and, if expected, those expectations will not be fulfilled. The whole system of diet, one of the mainsprings of all prison discipline, will get out of order, if its arrangement be left to the interference of magistrates, and not to the sentence of the judge. Free diet and bread diet need no interpretation ; and the jailer will take care to furnish the judge with the definitions of better prison diet and best prison diet. A knowledge of the diet prescribed in a jail is absolutely necessary for the justice of the case. Diet differs so much in different prisons, that six weeks in one prison is as severe a punishment as three months in another. If
If any country gentleman, engaged in legislation for prisons, is inclined to undervalue the importance of these regulations, let him appeal to his own experience, and remember, in the vacuity of the country, how often he thinks of dinner, and of what there will be for dinner; and how much his amenity and courtesy for the evening depend upon the successful execution of this meal. But there is nobody so gluttonous and sensual
as a thief; and he will feel much more bitterly fetters on his mouth than his heels. It sometimes happens that a gentleman is sentenced to imprisonment, for manslaughter in a duel, or for a libel. Are visiting justices to doom such a prisoner to bread and water, or are they to make an invidious distinction between him and the other prisoners ? The diet should be ordered by the judge, or it never will be well ordered—or ordered at all.
The most extraordinary clause in the bill is the following:
• And be it further enacted, that in case any criminal prisoner shall be guilty of any repeated offence against the rules of the prison, or shall be guilty of any greater offence which the jailer or keeper is not by this act empowered to punish, the said jailer or keeper shall report the same to the visiting justices, or one of them, for the time being; and such justices, or one of them, shall have power to inquire upon oath, and determine concerning any such offence so reported to him or them, and shall order the offender to be punished, either by moderate whipping, repeated whippings, or by close confinement, for any term not exceeding
:- Act, p. 21. Upon this clause, any one justice may order repeated whippings for any offence greater than that which the jailer may punish. Our respect for the committee will only allow us to say, that we hope this clause will be reconsidered. We beg leave to add, that there should be a return to the principal Secretary of State of recommitments as well as commitments.
It is no mean pleasure to see this attention to jaildiscipline travelling from England to the detestable and despotic governments of the Continent,—to see the health and life of captives admitted to be of any importance, — to perceive that human creatures in dungeons are of more consequence than rats and black beetles. All this is new -is some little gained upon tyranny; and for it we are indebted to the labours of the Prison Society. Still the state of prisons, on many parts of the Continent, is shocking beyond all description.
It is a most inconceivable piece of cruelty and absurdity in the English law, that the prisoner's counsel, when he is tried for any capital felony, is not allowed to speak for him; and this we hope the new prison bill will correct. Nothing can be more ridiculous in point of reasoning, or more atrociously cruel and unjust in point of fact. Any number of counsel may be employed to take away the poor man's life. They are at full liberty to talk as long as they like ; but not a syllable is to be uttered in his defence—not a sentence to show why the prisoner is not to be hung. This practice is so utterly ridiculous to any body but lawyers (to whom nothing that is customary is ridiculous), that men not versant with courts of justice will not believe it. It is, indeed, so utterly inconsistent with the common cant of the humanity of the English law, that it is often considered to be the mistake of the narrator, rather than the imperfection of the system. We must take this opportunity, therefore, of making a few observations on this very strange and anomalous practice.
The common argument used in its defence is that the judge is counsel for the prisoner. But the defenders of this piece of cruel and barbarous nonsense must first make their election, whether they consider the prisoner to be, by this arrangement, in a better, a worse, or an equally good situation as if his counsel were allowed to plead for him. If he be in a worse situation, why is he so placed? Why is a man, in a solemn issue of life and death, deprived of any fair advantage which any suitor in
any court of justice possesses ? This is a plea of guilty to the charge we make against the practice; and its advocates, by such concession, are put out of court. But, if it be an advantage, or no disadvantage, whence comes it that the choice of this advantage, in the greatest of all human concerns, is not left to the party, or to his friends ? If the question concern a footpath—or a fat ox—every man may tell his own story, or employ a barrister to tell it for him. The law leaves the litigant to decide on the method most conducive to his own interest. But, when the question is whether he is to live or die, it is at once decided for him that his counsel are to be dumb! And yet, so ignorant are men of their own interests, that there is not a single man tried who would not think it a great privilege if counsel were allowed to speak in his favour, and who would not be supremely happy to lay aside the fancied advantage of their silence. And this is true not merely of ignorant men; but there is not an Old Bailey barrister who would not rather employ another Old Bailey barrister to speak for him, than enjoy the ad. vantage (as the phrase is) of having the judge for his counsel. But in what sense, after all, is the judge counsel for the prisoner? He states, in his summing up, facts as they have been delivered in evidence; and he tells the jury upon what points they are to decide : he mentions what facts are in favour of the prisoner, and what bear against him; and he leaves the decision to the jury. Does he do more than this in favour of the prisoner ? Does he misstate ? does he mislead ? does he bring forward arguments on one side of the question, and omit equally important arguments on the other? If so, he is indeed counsel for the prisoner; but then who is judge ? who takes care of the interests of the public ? But the truth is, he does no such thing; he does merely what we have stated him to do; and would he do less, could he do less, if the prisoner's counsel spoke for him ? If an argument were just, or an inference legitimate, he would not omit the one, or refute the other, because they had been put or drawn in the speech of the prisoner's counsel. He would be no more prejudiced against the defendant in a criminal than in a civil suit. He would select from the speeches of both counsel all that could be fairly urged for or against the defendant, and he would reply to their fallacious reasonings. The pure administration of justice requires of him, in either case, the same conduct. Whether the whole bar spoke for the prisoner, or whether he was left to defend himself, what can the judge do, or what ought he to do, but to state to the jury the facts as they are given in evidence, and the impression these facts have made upon his own mind ? In the mean time, while the prisoner's counsel have been compelled to be silent, the accuser's, the opposite party, have