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exercise himself on any musical instrument that he either knows, or may be ambitious to learn. The discord that ensues, if ungrateful to the musical ear, is alleged to be instrumental towards securing a desire for repose when the bell for 'cease music' is sounded," and Mr. Ruggles-Brise assures us that when he visited the prison at 10 p.m., "you could hear a pin drop, though there were over 1200 convicts in one long range of cells."
Conscientious, able, and experienced wardens of State Reformatories in America regard these and similar indul. gences as a means of discipline and a reasonable recreation at the close of a hard day's work. On the other hand, Mr. Ruggles-Brise maintains that such indulgences “must obviously tend to a weakening of the effect of punishment, and consequently of the power and majesty of the law.” For my own part, I believe that the path of safety lies in the golden mean between these two extremes. I think that in America they have driven what is essentially a wise and sound policy too fast and too far. But at the same time I am sure that, if we in England desire to redeem our prison system from the stigma of inhumanity and unnatural conditions conducing to imbccility of mind, we must grant to long-term prisoners, at all events, a reasonable measure of associative recreation. Public opinion will, I believe, very heartily endorse the instalment of reform in this direction introduced by the new Rule respecting intercourse between prisoners, which provides as follows: "The privilege of talking may be given after a certain period, as a reward for good conduct, on certain days for a limited time, and under reasonable supervision, to such long-sentence prisoners as have conducted themselves well, and who desire the privilege and are not deemed unsuitable for it."
Mr. Ruggles-Brise very properly points out that it is a mistake to suppose that the prisoners in the State Reformatories at Elmira and Concord go to enjoy themselves and
have an easy time. The contrary is nearer the truth. At both institutions it is a common thing for the inmates to express a preference for prison, assigning various reasons, such as lighter labour, less strict discipline, shorter hours, and the privilege of using tobacco. A few years ago a strong protest was made in the Press against the severity of the discipline administered by Mr. Brockway at Elmira. A Commission of Inquiry was appointed, and although the majority of the Commissioners acquitted Mr. Brockway of the charges brought against him of inflicting "inhuman, degrading, and cruel punishments," and found, upon the other hand, that the Reformatory had been "extraordinarily successful in the reclamation of criminals,” still the inquiry undoubtedly showed that Elmira has, or had, its “scamy side." It was found, even by the Report of the majority of the Commissioners, that corporal punishment had been inflicted in the proportion of 46 “ spankings" (as they were called) per annum to an average daily number of prisoners of 100. (For the purpose of comparison it may be stated that the average daily number of male prisoners in English convict prisons last year was 2660, while the whole number of cases of corporal punishment was only seven.) The “spankings” were administered by Mr. Brockway in person, with a strap moistened in water so as to make it soft and pliable, invariably applied to the bare buttocks. The Commissioners also reported that Mr. Brockway "occasionally inflicted slaps with the strap across the face or over the head because of the refusal of a prisoner to keep his head turned in a certain direction. In some instances these blows were of sufficient force to cause discoloured faces, bloody noses, and swollen eyes.” But this was not all. The commissioners further found that after "spanking ” was discontinued, another punishment was employed, which is thus described : “The prisoners are handcuffed in a standing position to the door of the cell during the hours when the other convicts
are employed in their regular duties, to wit, from seven o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock in the evening, being released once in the middle of the day for a necessary purpose. A chain connecting the handcuffs is passed round one of the upright bars of the cell-door above a cross-bar, which is four feet nine inches from the floor. The chain is of sufficient length to permit the convict's hands to be brought down several inches below the cross-bar.”
I might make other quotations from the Report, and especially from the “minority” Report, but I do not care to pursue the subject further. It is a painful illustration of a truth almost as old as the world—that despotic power, whether exercised on a throne or in a Reformatory, always produces a baneful effect even upon the best of men.
In the case of an offender sent to a State Reformatory no specific sentence is named in the commitment, but the criminal having "graduated" through certain stages of instruction is released on parole after a detention which need not exceed twelve months. Of recent years the legislatures of several States, notably Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts, have applied a similar system of indeterminate sentences and parole to convicts in State prisons. Parole may take place when there is "reasonable possibility that the prisoner will live and remain at liberty without violating the law.” The power of parole is vested in a Board of managers, appointed by the governor of the State, who hold regular meetings and are guided by the advice and recommendation of the Warden. Mr. Ruggles-Brise suggests the obvious danger that the Board of Parole may be subjected to political pressure by interested parties in favour of particular prisoners, although he admits that, as far as he could ascertain, they discharged their duties with a full sense of responsibility. But, apart from this incidental danger, Mr. Ruggles-Brise is utterly opposed to the system itself. It violates, he says, the fundamental principle that punishment to be effective shall be
certain and definite, and he adds that “this uncertainty must have the bad disciplinary effect of unsettling the prisoner.” With great respect I think that this is to regard the matter too much from the mere gaoler's point of view; and, further, the objection is obviously met by the reply that the prospect of release would be an enormous stimulus to good conduct and industry. Indeed, it is just here that the danger of the system arises; for, even under present conditions, it is a notorious fact that the worst criminals make, as a rule, the most exemplary prisoners. Upon the whole, I agree that public opinion in England would not tolerate the Indeterminate Sentence. But I think that Mr. Ruggles-Brise is too absolute when he says that the "essential basis ” of the State Reformatory system lies in the indeterminate sentence. · The recent committee on English prisons did not hold that opinion. They suggested that State reformatories should be established in England, and they made the following recommendation : "The Court should have power to commit to these establishments offenders under the age of twenty-three, for periods of not less than one year and up to three years, with a system of licences graduated according to sentence, which should be freely exercised.”
As regards the actual results of the reformatory system in America, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at any definite conclusion. The Commission of Inquiry into the discipline of Elmira, to which reference has already been made, reported that, according to the estimate of the managers, probably 819 per cent of the convicts paroled up to 30th September, 1893, had been reformed. Upon this subject Mr. Ruggles-Brise remarks : “It is not surprising that a paroled man for whom good employment is found, and with a sum of dollars in his pocket, should keep straight at least during the term of surveillance-six or twelve months." But, on the other hand, it is only fair to remember that, according to the testimony of all competent authorities, it is
precisely during the period immediately following his discharge that the ex-convict in England has most difficulty in “keeping straight.” All honour, I say, to the American institutions, that they do give their paroled men a "chance" by finding employment for them!
With a view to avoid altogether, in suitable cases, the commitment of offenders either to prison or reformatory, the State of Massachusetts has adopted, since 1891, a system of probation, by the appointment of officers, whose duty is both to inquire into the character and antecedents of accused persons before trial and to report thereupon to the judge, and after trial to take charge of persons whom the judge shall place on probation and commit to their care. Upon this system Mr. Ruggles-Brise reports that “the tutelage exercised by the officers during probation is salutary and beneficial, and calculated to check at its outset a criminal career.” At the same time he expresses a fear that the system is likely to become "inquisitorial,” and doubts whether it would be tolerated by public opinion in England.
It only remains for me now to sum up the leading features of the American prison system as contrasted with our own. Upon one point, I think public opinion is to some extent sounder here than in the States. There the notion somewhat prevails that profit may fairly be made out of a prison, or at all events that a prison may be made self-supporting. Hence, in spite of the Labour Laws, promoted by Trade Unions, American prisons are still for the most part vast factories. Mr. Ruggles-Brise says that "machinery of the most expensive and modern kind is everywhere in use, and indeed to such an extent is trade pursued that at one prison-Columbus—the trade profits more than paid for the whole cost of the institution, some £ 56,000 a year.” This sweeping generalization requires to be qualified by a statement that in at least one great State prison—that of Philadelphia—no steam-power is used. Mr. Cassidy, the Governor, considers that manual