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THE last Prison Blue Book (the Report of the 
Commissioners of Prisons and the Directors 
of Convict Prisons for 1903-4), while it shows an 
appreciable advance and improvement in the 
management of our penal establishments, reveals 
also how very much there is still waiting to be 
done. Officialism, as we know, is sadly slow to 
move ; and we are yet a long way from getting at 
the root of all this matter, namely, the trans- 
formation of the Criminal into a useful citizen, 
and the extinction of Recidivism. Penology, 
though made much of as a science on the Con- 
tinent and in the United States, is little studied 
in Britain ; and there is little doubt that in some 
respects even Russian and Siberian prisons are 
more humanely conducted than ours. 

The following chapters are a small contribution 
to the subject. It is easy to see, for any one who 
looks into the heart of the people to-day in our 
islands, that deliberate criminality and perversely 

» anti-social instinct, though of course present, are 
not so very widespread. The immense majority 
of cases that pass through our courts are cases 
arising out of sheer need, or wretched education 
and surroundings, and would disappear with the 
establishment of decent social conditions. But 
at present, as the worker, whether in town or 
country, is unable to secure employment and the 
means of honest hving except by favour of another 
man — as society gives him no rigfU to employment 
I and to work for a living — what wonder that he 
endeavours to secure a living by means 
in the eye of society he has no right ~ 

Changes no doubt are coming, and better 
conditions. Meanwhile, however, it is necessary 
that our treatment of the Criminal should be an 
aid to progress, and not an obstruction — as it so 
often is to-day. Mr. Charlton T. Lewis, President 
of the National Prison Association of the United 
States, has said that " to consign a man to prison 
is commonly to enrol him in the criminal class " 
{see Appendix C). But surely, if we are to have 
prisons at all, their action and result ought to be 
just the opposite. 

I have ventured to indicate in the first few 
chapters of this little book some of the reforms in 
Prison management and Criminal procedure which 
are most needed, and which might at once be 
pressed forward ; and in the Note at the end of 
Chapter IV I have made a list of these. Coincident 
changes must no doubt also take place in our 
Police-system, and to these I have alluded in 
Chapter V. Finally, since there is a growing 
feeling on aU hands, especially among advanced 
officials and criminologists, that prisons and pun- 
ishment are in their present form outworn, and 
productive of as much hajra els good, I have 
endeavoured (in Chapter VI) to sketch a state of 
affairs in which the whole system of government 
by violence will lapse and become antiquated, 
leaving society free to shape itself by voluntary 
methods according to its own good sense : feeling 
assured that if society has good sense it will be able 
to shape itself in this way, and if it has not there 
does not appear much likelihood at present of its 
rulers being able to supply the deficiency, 


January, 1905. 

I Penal Systems, Past and Present 
II Law and Punishment 

III The Sources of Crime 

IV Prison Reform 

V The Police System 

VI Non-Governmental Society 

Appendix — 

A The Solitary System . 

B The Indeterminate Sentence 

C The Probation System 

D Corporal Punishment . 

£ Capital Punishment 

F The Treatment of Unconvicted Prisoners 

G A Court of Criminal Appeal 

know not whether Laws be right. 

Or whether Laws be wrong ; 
All that we know who lie in gaol 

Is that the wall is strong. 
And that each day is like a year, 

A year whose days are long, 

Bui this I know, that every Law 

That men have made for Man, 
Since first Man took his brother^s life. 

And the sad world began. 
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff 

With a most evil fan. 

This too I know — and wise it were 

If each could know the same — 
That every prison that men build 

Is built with bricks of shame. 
And bound with bars lest Christ should see 

How men their brothers maim. 

— Ballad of Reading Gaol, 




"^HE penal systems of ail countries probably 
pass through much the same stages of evolu- 
tion. They begin with Revenge — " an eye for an 
eye, and a tooth for a tooth " ; they pass on to the 
idea of Punishment — a semi-theological conception, 
a sort of sacrifice to the goddess of Justice ; then 
they adopt the method of Deterrence or Terrorism — 
society itself stricken with fear, trjnng to stamp out 
criminality by fear ; and only at the last, if at all, 
do they become human. Only at the last does the 
majesty of society, forgetting its own little fears, 
descend to the work of Reclamation, and to make 
the criminal once more into a fellow-citizen and a 

Our pubKc opinion happily is rapidly passing into 
this last stage ; but our penal system itself lingers 
in the stages of Terrorism and Punishment. It may 
be necessary to say a few words on these stages. 

' Given originally as an address. 


And first on the subject of Punishment. We need 
not discuss the theory or abstract meaning of this 
term. It is sufficient to point out that pubHc opin- 
ion is rapidly coming to see the incongruity and even 
absurdity of its actual apphcation in the courts. 
The country squire or J. P. who, in his own person 
or in that of his forbears, has filched a common from 
the villagers, punishes with lofty sense of justice the 
farm-labourer who appropriates a goose ; 

The law condemDS the man or woman 
Who steals the goose from off the c 
But leaves the greater felon loose 
Who steals the common from the goose. 

The judge whose moral relations are notoriously 
unsatisfactory is virtuously severe over some youth 
who has been carried away by his passions, and sen- 
tences him to a year or two of hard labour. Such 
situations are common enough. It is clear indeed 
that human nature renders them unavoidable as 
long as our present legal system continues ; but their 
incongruity is becoming every day more patent. 

Of course it may be said, and is said, that the ad- 
ministrator of the law does not punish in his own 
name, but in that of society. He acts not as an err- 
ing individual, but as the arm of the corporate body. 
That is why he wears the scarlet and ermine. But 
then, what is society that it should punish a man ? 
What does the great Institution of Law, for all its 
rules and precedents and agelong experience, know 
of the temptations, the struggles, the exasperations, 
of the individual criminal — of the human soul within 
him — that it should sentence and condemn ? What 

is the Institution that it should clothe itself in the 
garment of Righteousness and Judgment ? 

Here is a man who murdered his wife the other 
day. What a generous, affectionate fellow he was, 
dark, and with a brow just for the moment like 
thunder when vexed, but so really gentle ; and de- 
voted to his children. His wife a perfect shrew, her 
digestion all wrong. She tore at him with her 
tongue, aiming always at galled and weak places. 
One day, transported with anger, he struck her a 
heavy blow. She reeled and fell, and never spoke 
again. He, transfixed with grief, also hardly spoke 
again. The judge put on the black cap. {It was 
the idea of Righteousness and Punishment that the 
judge had in his mind.) The neighbours remon- 
strated — a petition was got up — a hundred signa- 
tures — quite a number for a working man's friends ; 
but it was so much waste paper — the man weis 
hanged without mercy.* 

• Take, for instance, the following case from the daily 
papers of August lO, 1897: "Thomas Lloyd, who has 
been lying in Walton Gaol, Liverpool, under sentence of 
death for the murder of his wife, was executed yesterday 
morning. Reporters were not admitted to the execution, 
but an eye-witness of the execution stated that Lloyd 
walked calmly and firmly towards the scafiold. When 
he came in sight of it, however, he turned ashy pale, and 
for a mornent seemed to be paralyzed with grief. He 
stopped and gave a great sob, but in a moment recovered 
and said, ' I am ready,' and resumed his walk to the 
scaffold. Billington, the executioner, gave Lloyd a drop 
of six feet, and death, it is stated, was instantaneous. 
Application for a reprieve had been made to the Home 
Secretary on the ground of the great provocation whicli 
Lloyd received, but Sir Matthew White Ridley declined 
to interfere with the sentence. It transpired at the trial 

It is this idea of Punishment, and the obvious im- 
possibility of awarding punishment in any rational 
way, which makes judges and magistrates so hope- 
lessly at sea over their sentences. What is the 
proper punishment for murdering your wife ? or what 
is the proper punishment for forging a cheque of 
£ioo ? Say, what is it ? One judge tries long sen- 
tences, another tries short sentences ; another gives 
a heavy sentence on one occasion, and a light sentence 
for the same offence on another occasion — just to 
make things equal in that way. But no one has any 
reasonable system ; for obviously there is no such 
thing, nor can be. 

Does it follow from all this that society must leave 
offenders alone ? Not at all. It is clear that society 
will, and indeed must protect itself, against those 
whom it considers injurious to itself. Nor is it easy 
to give a reason why it should not do so, since self- 
preservation is the first law of nature. But there is 
a great difference between society protecting itself, 
and society punishing the criminal. The whole 
attitude is different. 

Thus we come to the next stage — that of Deter- 
rence, Criminals must be deterred. They must be 
terrorized, so that those who have come to prison 
once, won't come again, and others will not come at 
all — and society will thus be safe from its own wild . 

that Lloyd's married life was most unhappy, the murdered 
woman being of very bad temper and aggravating dis- 
position. Among those most anxious to obtain Lloyd's 
reprieve was a stepson, who in a statement said that the 
condemned mao was a good husband, and was, in fact, as 
good as gold." 

children ! This is a less theological and more positive 

It would not do to say that Deterrence is of no use. 
That would be too strong a statement. It is pro- 
bable that Fear — the fear of the gallows, fear of the 
lash, fear of the prison, or of the social stigma it 
brings with it — keeps a certain number of people 
back from crime. But not so very many. In most 
cases, it only makes thera more careful about being 
found out. 

It is remarkable indeed to find how little effect 
is attributed to Severity by some who have studied 
this subject. The Rev. W. D. Morrison, who as 
Prison Chaplain has had a large experience, says :■ — 
" John Bright once said — Force is no remedy, and 
as far as the criminal population is concerned, this 
remark is hterally true. Force, in the shape of 
punishment, no matter how severe you make it, will 
not keep down crime. If the penal laws of the past 
teach us anything, they teach us that crime cannot 
be put down by mere severity." ' 

Allowing however that a certain percentage are 
actually deterred from breaking the laws by fear — 
we have to remember what an unworthy motive this 
is. Fear may make a man conform to the respecta- 
bilities, but it never yet made a good citizen. It 
may be necessary to make use of fear sometimes, 
but it must be remembered that it is the lowest and 
least desirable motive that can be set in operation. 
The causes of crime go deeper even than Fear can 
touch, and till we reach them we are not very far on 

our way. 

^^L * Humane Science Lectures (George Bell), p. 87.

Every one has read of the Vagabondage in Eliza- 
bethan times, and the frightful penalties, the brand- 
ings, floggings, hangings that were vainly put in 
force against it. We are amazed now to think that 
authorities could have believed that these things 
would have any effect — when the economic causes 
that produced those tribes of houseless tramps — the 
alterations in the tenure of land,the dissolution of the 
Monasteries, and of the Towns' Guilds, etc., are 
so clear to us. Yet to-day we still believe in the 
hocus-pocus of floggings, hangings, and imprison- 
ments — though the economic causes of nine-tenths 
of our crime are equally patent to anyone who will 
take the trouble to look into them. " Crime," says 
Mr. Morrison again, " springs from disorders in our 
social system, and until these disorders are healed 
or alleviated, crime will continue to flourish in our 
midst, no matter how severe and strong you may 
make the penal law. Some of these disorders consist 
of physical or mental infirmities ; some of economic 
hardships and vicissitudes ; and some in the low 
standards of life and conduct which prevail in our 
midst. The true method of diminishing crime is to 
pluck it up by the roots. And the only way to pluck 
it up by the roots is to alleviate the social disorders 
by which it is produced," 

With regard to our own system, into which Deter- 
rence enters so largely, we are beginning to recognize 
its failure. If the fear of penalties deters a certain 
number who have never been in prison, how does it 
act on those who have been there ? Recidivism is the 
answer — they come back again. The Report of 1895 
quotes figures which show conclusively that the 


more often a man has been in prison, the more likely 
he is to return there. Of every hundred who go to 
prison a first time, thirty return again ; but of every 
hundred who have been to prison five times, seventy- 
nine return again.' This does not look as if existing 
prison methods were largely curative. In fact, our 
system does not create citizens, but rather habitual 
criminals. It lays itself out to terrorize rather than 
to reclaim, and this is the result. 

For habit robs even prisons of their terror. How- 
ever severe a system may be it at last breeds its own 
type of prisoner who is adapted to his environment. 
If you live seven years without speaking or using 
your brain and heart to any appreciable degree, you 
at last lose the need for speech and thought and 
affection. The privation is no longer a punishment. 
Not long ago there was in Sheffield a man who had 
been forty-two years in prison. He had been con- 
victed of some violence in the early days of Trade- 
unions. He was now sixty-three — a tall, gaunt, and 
still powerful man, with the broad arrow marked on 
the back of his hands (a practice forty years ago). 
He had come back to the world, but he had no in- 
terest in it. He seemed utterly callous. Though he 
had been a trade-union enthusiast in his time, he 
took no interest whatever in the labour struggles of 
to-day, or in anything else that was going on. Yet 
he openly said that if anyone wanted a " rough job " 
doing, he would do it. Then he would get back to 
prison — and he would as soon be there as anywhere 
else. That man was completely adapted to his 

 He was the perfected result 
of prison influences during the last forty or fifty 

Things are improving doubtless ; but it is obvious 
that a system which is merely or mainly one of 
Deterrence must turn out such types. " Will a pro- 
longed course of severities and degradations," says 
Morrison " confer the virtues of industrious and 
orderly citizens on these unhappy men ? On the con- 
trary, the more harshly you punish them, the more 
yon reduce the human element which still lives 
in their hearts. The more you punish them, the 
more certainly you doom them to the awful exist- 
ence of a habitual criminal." 

It is the habitual criminal who is the bugbear of our 
modem civihsation, and notwithstanding our sys- 
tematic starvation of both his body and his mind 
his proportions remain as alarming as ever ! Michael 
Davitt, in an excellent letter to the Daily Chronicle 
at the time of the shooting of the escaping convict 
Carter, said : " All such reasoning and arguments 
[in the direction of Reclamation and humanity], are 
I know, thrown away upon those who believe only 
in the efficacy of the stem and undeviating practice 
of intimidation towards those criminals who have 
forfeited to the law for a time the ordinary claims 
and considerations of citizenship. Advocates of 
more humanizing methods of prison discipline are but 
the votaries of a misplaced sentimentality with such 
critics, and this closes the case in favour of the ex- 
isting system of punishing malefactors. But the 
case is by no means closed in this off-hand way. 
There are other sides to the question, the most serious 

side being the steady growth of recidivists under 
the fostering influence of a purely intimidatory 
and non-reformative prison law and administration. 
All the sneers in the armoury of ofi&cial criticism at 
meddlesome reformers cannot dispose of this damni- 
fying evidence against the failure of the existing 
system to reform the criminal, 

"The reason of this failure is not far to seek. All 
individuality is mercilessly suppressed in the pri- 
soner. No prisoner is allowed to do anything except 
with the permission and in sight of a warder. He 
is the object of constant and ceaseless vigilance from 
sentence to Uberation. He is closely watched when 
at prayers in chapel. He is under the warder's eye 
while in his cell, and is never for a second lost sight 
of while at work. He is made to feel in every parti- 
cular of his routine life of silence and labour that he 
is treated, not as a man, but as a mere disciplined 
human automaton. To possess a will or to attempt 
to exercise it even in some praiseworthy or harmless 
manner — as, for instance, to share a piece of bread 
with a more hungry fellow-unfortimate — is to com- 
mit a breach of the prison rules. The human will 
must be left outside of the prison gates, where it is 
to be picked up again five, seven or fifteen years 
afterwards, and refitted to the mental conditions 
which penal servitude has created in the animalized 
machine which is discharged from custody. All 
initiative has been enervated under a remorseless 
discipline, and a man weak in mental and moral 
balance at best is turned out into a cold, repelling 
and pitiless world, crippled in all those qualities 

! self-reliance which are the essential needs of a 

creature destitute of friends, and liable to be a prey 
to the ticket-of-leave hunters of the law. The 
system which reduces a man to a condition of moral 
helplessness of this kind may be scientific, ' just,' 
punitive, and all the rest ; but it is not, and cannot 
possibly be, reformative, any more than it can be 
merciful, Christian, or considerate. 

" It is not in the nature of things human to expect 
sentient, reflective beings, no matter how degraded 
by crime, to be cured of their moral maladies through 
the media of inhuman submission, or to be deeply 
impressed with respect for a law which penalizes 
almost every natural faculty in a prisoner in re- 
taliation for his offence against society. Working 
on such lines, on the lines of greatest resistance, it is 
no wonder that penal servitude is a fruitful nursery 
of recidivism and a patent instance of expensive 

Sir Godfrey Lushington lends the weight of his 
authority to the same views. He says (as quoted by 
the Report of 1895), " I regard as unfavourable to 
reformation the status of a prisoner throughout his 
whole career ; the crushing of self-respect, the starv- 
ing of all moral instinct he may possess, the absence 
of all opportimity to do or receive a kindness, the 
continual association with none but criminals, and 
that only as a separate item amongst other items 
also separate ; the forced labour, and the denial of 
all liberty, I beUeve the true mode of reforming a 
man or restoring him to society is exactly in the 
opposite direction of all these ; but of course this " 
a mere idea." 

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