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the full pressure of the undiluted solitary' or 'separate system,' as distinguished from the system of silent association'-for so they were called when first introduced. I rejected the very few opportunities that brought me within speaking range of fellow-prisoners, and was entirely dependent for conversation on the warders and the three chaplains, two Church and one 'Quaker.' The occasional visits of the chaplains amounted in the aggregate to fifteen or twenty minutes in the week; and the warders, though, for various purposes, they mechanically unlocked my cell door nine or ten times in the 24 hours, were as a rule either unwilling or too busy to listen to one's remarks or to say anything beyond the different formulas of the day, 'All right?' 'Exercise,' 'Empty slops,' 'More bags or thread wanted?' etc. At first, indeed, I used to treasure up remarks on some rare point of interest which I might fire off, so to speak, as a means of relief, when the warder next faced me; but the opportunity even for this seldom occurred, and failures so depressed me that, as the weeks passed by and mental stagnation increased, I almost ceased to make the effort to address my keeper. I had a Greek Testament and other good books from the prison library, but my tasks of sewing, cell-cleaning, etc., left me little time. to read; and, in any case, the isolation weakened the power of mental attention, so that I seemed to have no capacity for reading beyond about an hour daily.

Thus cut off from new impressions, and having no outlet for the expression of the obvious and the casual, my mind tended to become choked with trivialities and the somewhat sordid details of one's cell life. Besides, I was in a poor state of health, and my ailments were increased by the overpowering temptation to dwell upon them. A foolish rhyme or jingle would form itself in my brain, and go on repeating itself endlessly in the most wearisome fashion. And it may be imagined that there was a weakening of one's power of resistance to more positive temptations of evil, to complaint and bitterness, to ill-will and despair. More, however, than the restless dwelling on trivialities and the battling with temptations, I dreaded the occasional appearance of a spell of dazed vacancy of mind, of indifference to everything; for this seemed to be the prelude to the decay Vol. 230.-No. 456,

of mind and will, which, as I had been told by a prison chaplain, is a not uncommon result of long imprisonments. And in my case I felt that a complete physical breakdown also could only be avoided by a maintenance of my will-power unbroken; for, in the confinement of my small and often very cold cell, the measure of health that I had was dependent upon a daily régime of physical exercises and other devices undertaken often very much against the grain and with the sacrifice of much of my leisure time.

That no permanent mental damage made its appearance during this last and hardest phase of my imprisonment, I attribute entirely to the spiritual equipment with which I was providentially, thanks to my past life, endowed. My principal means of salvation during this period were these: my faith in a personal God revealed in a human Christ; the practice of prayer, especially prayer for others; the habit of talking aloud to God and to my wife; the sense of the love of friends outside; the sense of the justice and holiness of the cause for which I was suffering; and the sight of the courage of my companions in that cause. I am mentioning these facts in order to emphasise the point that I had means of resistance to the deadliness of prison conditions, which very few, if any, of the ordinary offenders for whom prisons are intended could be expected to possess. I entered prison with all the advantages of a robust philosophy of life, buoyed up by the belief that I was fighting in a good cause, and without any sense of guilt other than that which is inseparable from the Christian outlook upon the world. Yet, with all these advantages, I seem only to have just managed to preserve my mental balance up to the time of my release. I ask myself how I could possibly have survived, if I had possessed little or no faith in a spiritual world, if I had been the victim of unregulated and violent passions, if I had done things for which my conscience smote me and over which my solitude forced me to brood unceasingly, if I had felt myself friendless, unloved, and, unloving, cast out by the society to whose sins against me I imputed my own misery.

It is not difficult to conceive the tortures of soul to

which the complete isolation of prison must drive an individual to whom this description might apply. And in a greater or less degree it probably applies to a large proportion of the occupants of our prisons. Some men, I suppose, are so hardened that the sensitiveness to mental torture is almost absent. But, if so, prison life does nothing to bring about the revolution which would be their only salvation, and only confirms them in their desperate condition. For other men, where penitence or the capacity for it is present, the possibility of amendment is almost removed. Man is essentially a social being; and to take away altogether the healing power of human intercourse, the opportunities for self-expression, and the possibility of doing a good turn to others, is a crime against nature, a deliberate assault upon the citadel of mental and moral life. The human brain is not proof against more than a very limited amount of mental suffering; and both common sense and the actual results of the discipline indicate that, where prison does not simply confirm a man in his hardened state of vice, it ends by breaking down his mind and will-power, so as at least to render him a useless member of society and, in the worst cases, to drive him to insanity.

To sum up, the wickedness of the régime of enforced silence lies herein: if observed, it inevitably tends to produce mental as well as moral decay; if surreptitiously disregarded, it promotes a special form of demoralisation, an undermining of the standard of truthfulness and sincerity. The present method is a mixture of the two systems which competed with one another for favour in the minds of the 19th-century reformers, viz. the 'solitary' or 'separate system,' and the 'silent associated system. My own experience of some months of associated labour and opportunities for stealthy intercourse, followed by four months of solitary confinement, enabled me to isolate the effects of each method. In the experience of most prisoners, the two systems, with their characteristic features, are intermingled in varying proportions, but without, I think, much loss of the evil effects of each. The labours of John Howard and Elizabeth Fry revealed a festering mass of evil, of which the most prominent feature was the indiscriminate intercourse of every type of prisoner, herded together in what


might be called schools of vice. In their justifiable horror at this state of things, the men who carried on the work of these pioneers swung to the opposite extreme and attempted to prevent every kind of intercourse, instead of carefully grouping the prisoners, discouraging vicious talk, and, through the companionship of good persons, permeating the various divisions of the prison with uplifting and educational influences.

The following criticisms of the two systems in vogue were written at a time when they had only recently succeeded in establishing themselves in our English prisons. The first quotation refers to the silent associated system.'

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'The mind of the prisoner is kept perpetually on the fret by the prohibition of speech, and is drawn . . . to the invention of devices for defeating his overseers, or for carrying on a clandestine communication with his fellow-prisoners, deriving no benefit meanwhile from the offices of religion, but rather converting such offices into an opportunity for eluding the vigilance of the warders, and being still further depraved by frequent punishment for offences of a purely arbitrary character; for, surely, to place a number of social beings in association, and then not only interdict all intercourse between them, but punish such as yield to that most powerful of human impulses the desire of communing with those with whom we are thrown into connexion-is an act of refined tyranny, that is at once unjust and impossible of being thoroughly carried out."

The mid-Victorian objection to the solitary system' is formulated thus:

'The separate or cellular system breaks down the mental and bodily health of the prisoners; it forces the mind to be continually brooding over its own guilt, constantly urging the prisoner to contemplate the degradation of his position, and seeking to impress upon him that his crimes have caused him to be excluded from all society. With the better class of criminals. . . it produces not only such a continued sorrow at being cut off from. . . every one but prison officers but such an insatiate yearning to get back to all that is held dear, that the punishment becomes more than natures which are not

Neither Howard nor Mrs Fry approved of the attempts to enforce continual silence or separation upon prisoners.

utterly callous are able to withstand; so that, instead of reforming, it utterly overwhelms and destroys. With more vacant intellects and hardened hearts, it serves to make the prisoners even more unfeeling and unthinking; for sympathy alone develops sympathy, and thought in others is required to bring forth thought in us. . . . This mode of penal discipline cages a man up as if he were some dangerous beast, allowing his den to be entered only by his keeper; and it ends in his becoming as irrational and furious as a beast. . . . The system violates the great social law instituted by the Almighty, and, so working contrary to nature, it is idle to expect any good of it.'*

These criticisms are as sound and true to-day as they doubtless were in regard to the prison discipline of the sixties. The tragedy lies in the fact that they awakened but slight response in the minds of the generation to whom they were addressed; and that, for over fifty years since then, the same intolerable features have persisted, and have doubtless resulted in maiming and wrecking thousands of human lives, whose wounds and sores might have been healed by humane treatment. In the upbuilding of a new world out of the ruins of to-day, which is the hope and desire of every patriot, the reform of our prisons will be not the least important part. If the evidence of some of those, who are passing through prisons now, may serve to establish true principles by which these institutions may become schools of reformation instead of places of demoralisation and torture, their imprisonment, whatever its other results, will not have been in vain.

This and the preceding passage are quoted from the section on Prison Discipline in Mayhew's 'Criminal Prisons of London,' a most interesting and elaborate work published in 1862, when the existing prisons at Pentonville, Wandsworth, and Holloway were already built.


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