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FORTUNATELY for mankind, in the year 1773, a gentleman was appointed Sheriff of Bedfordshire, who conceived that his duties were not confined to attendance upon, and a hospitable reception of the Judges, or to the entertainment of the Grand Jury. The gentleman of whom we speak, visited and examined the Prison of Bedford; he saw the wretched condition of the prisoners, his sympathies were awakened on behalf of the most forlorn of his kind, and he resolved to attempt to redress the wrongs and abuses which he then discovered and condemned; and from that day we date the commencement of the reform of our prison discipline. This great man was John Howard.

During that year and a part of the ensuing one, Mr. Howard visited numerous prisons, and he laid before Parliament the result of his arduous labours, which were then only beginning. From this time until the day of his glorious death at Cherson, he devoted himself incessantly to change the old system of treating criminals, and we are mainly indebted to the exertions of this illustrious person, for those improvements which have already been effected, and for much of that ardent enthusiasm which is now directed to the same object. Well would it be for us if all men charged with the office of Sheriff, or with any office, the duties of which gives them authority to inspect our Prisons, would imitate the example of the Sheriff of Bedford. Reform, however, proceeds slowly; and the progress of those reforms which involve only the interests of the wretched, is more tardy than any other. Few persons have the energetic humanity which leads them into cells and places of punishment; still fewer are there who have the courage to attempt to redress that wrong which they may chance to discover in their casual visits to the receptacles for the outcasts of society.

We have lately, however, thanks to Lord John Russell and the Whigs, obtained an assurance that the Gaols of England shall no longer be a scandal and a reproach to the Government, however much their condition may affect the reputation of the magistracy and the local authorities. The Prisons are now accurately and frequently inspected, and the reports of the Commissioners are printed and laid before Parliament. Thus far the Government does its duty; but to examine and report upon the state of Prisons is not to reform them. Another and a higher duty remains to be performed. If local authorities,

if great counties, will not carry out such measures as are essential to the well-being of the criminal population, and to the character of the country, they must be compelled to do that which is right. The Government has hitherto proceeded in a wise and a cautious manner. Local authorities have been instructed in the management of prisons and in the proper discipline of the criminal; the errors of existing establishments have been carefully examined and described, the necessary remedies have been suggested, and the inspectors of prisons have pointed out those alterations, without which punishment fails to produce any beneficial result. Acts have been passed giving the power to local authorities to build new prisons by means of money raised by a rate of so moderate an amount, as to distribute the costs attending the erection of new prisons over thirty years. With some honourable exceptions, we are, however, sorry to say, that these enabling powers have not been so extensively used as the state of our prisons requires; and we are still more sorry to say that there is a manifest reluctance in many districts to provide any effectual means for reforming the criminal. It is difficult to convince persons that the present system is both costly to the districts, and inefficacious as to the reform of the culprit. The object of punishment is not understood. It is not merely to punish that we incarcerate-it is likewise to reform, to instruct, and to restore erring creatures to society, to restrain until we reform, and no longer,-to provide the means by which criminals shall not be hardened in vice, but by which they shall see the error and the folly of their ways, and return instructed to the society whose laws they have violated. All criminal restraint which does not attempt this, is useless and expensive, nay more, it is cruel and unjust. On this subject we are glad to say that the Government is in advance of the people, and unless the people adopt the right system, and fairly and honestly carry out, in the management and discipline of their gaols, the enlightened views entertained by the Government, it will become the duty of the Government, as guardians of the national morals, to take the business into their own hands, and to enforce by statute such regulations as may be necessary to protect society from the wrong inflicted by the criminal, and at the same time to make adequate provision for the due punishment and reform of offenders. We are not advocates for depriving the people of a real control over the expenditure of the money which they pay, nor are we insensible of the advantages of local government; but there are subjects of great importance to the nation, which it is the duty of the Government to en

force, and unless the local jurisdictions are prepared fully to carry out the necessary measures for criminal reform, the Government ought to relieve all such bodies from their functions, and enforce those regulations which experience has shown to be requisite and necessary to effect the end which all desire to attain. The end and object of all punishment ought to be, not vengeance, but to inspire a wholesome terror to evil doers, and to reform. To prove that it may be the duty of Government to take the course to which we have adverted, we shall select a case from the Seventh Report of the Inspectors of Prisons now before us. We take this case because it is a striking instance of the negligence and wrong often found among bodies having small local jurisdiction, the more striking is this case, because it does not occur among country squires or justices of the peace, who entertain ancient notions of the treatment of criminals, nor among wealthy burghers, who look to the clean floors, abundant diet, and the regular attendance of the chaplain of their Borough Prisons, and rest satisfied that they then do all which can be reasonably required of them, but because it occurs at Cambridge, and because it is not the Town but the University Prison.

In an University governed by some of the most enlightened among mankind, and in a Prison under the immediate control of their own officers, if anywhere, we ought to seek for an example which might be advantageously followed by the rest of the community, and it is therefore that we have read with mingled feelings of astonishment, regret and indignation, the following account of the Spinning House at Cambridge. We fear this is but a sample of what may be found among the prisons of small local jurisdictions, and it affords ample evidence of the necessity of directing the attention of Government to some such measure as that to which we have already referred. The Charters granted to places in which systematic neglect, such as that we record, ought to be withdrawn, and the whole of these small jurisdictions should be at once placed under statutary regulations, or, what would be much better, the power of committal to any gaol should be prohibited, unless the Secretary of State shall previously have certified, that the prison itself is properly constructed, and until he shall also have given his sanction to the regulations by which it is proposed to manage and direct the unfortunate inmates of such places.

On the 29th day of October in the year 1835, the Spinning House was first visited by Captain Williams, one of the Inspectors of Prisons, a gentleman who appears to have discharged the very arduous duties assigned to him in a manner which

reflects the highest honour on himself, and on those by whom he was appointed. We invite the serious attention of our readers to the following cautious and guarded account of this place, which we copy from the first report of the Inspectors of Prisons, Northern District, p. 15.


Spinning House, Cambridge.-House of Correction.

"This establishment, situate in St. Andrew's Street, was founded by Thomas Hobson, in 1628, for the purpose, as expressed by him, in the endowment,' of setting the poor people of the University, and Town of Cambridge, to work, and for a House of Correction, for correcting unruly and stubborn rogues, beggars, and other poor people which shall refuse work, and to provide wool and flax for their occupation.'


The Spinning House, as fronting the street, presents a modern brick elevation, pierced by a gate in the centre, on each side of which are the keepers' apartments. The interior buildings form a parallelogram, of which the central area is divided into four compartments, or airing yards, intended for as many classes of prisoners.

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'No. 1 Yard is of a triangular shape, 42 ft. by 24; the apartments allotted to it, on the ground floor, are a day room, 12 ft. by 12, and 10 ft. high five sleeping cells, each 6 ft. by 9, and 8 ft. 6 in height. On the second floor are a set of rooms of the same size and number.


"No. 2 Yard.—Ground floor, day room, 13 ft. by 8 ft., 10 ft. high; two sleeping cells, 6 ft. by 9 ft., 8 ft. 10 inches high; second floor, three sleeping cells, 6 ft. by 9 ft., but no day room.

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No. 3 Yard.-Ground floor, day room, 13 ft. by 8 ft., 10 ft. high; three sleeping cells, 6 ft. by 9 ft., 8 ft. 10 inches high; second floor, three sleeping cells, 6 ft. by 9 ft., but no day room.

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No. 4.-Precisely, as to number, apartments, and size, as No. 1. In all, six day rooms, thirty-one sleeping cells.

The infirmary is detached, and consists of two rooms, 14 ft. square, 10 ft. high, and a yard, 36 ft. by 24.

The cells have no fire-places, but are light, and look into the yards; the floors are of oak, the doors of deal, and the roofs of the cells are planked with wood of the same description.

'There are no privies in the upper stories, and those in the lower story are most improperly placed at the extremity of the passages which lead to the cells; there is an utter want of ventilation, and the effluvia is most offensive and nauseous.

The premises are not detached, and are by no means secure from accidents by fire.


The chapel is on the second story, neatly fitted up, but without divisions, and is not made use of.

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The property is vested in trustees, who pay for the repairs of the building, and the keepers' salary.


The University and the Town of Cambridge being both named in the endowment as participators in Hobson's Benefaction, the trustees have appropriated it between them; retaining to themselves the ap

pointment of the keeper, and paying his salary and the repairs of the buildings. In the year 1822, the sum of £1,660 was laid out in alterations. The proceeds of the property now remaining for its maintenance, are about £280 a-year.

"The University make use of their allotted portion of the Spinning House, for the inclusion of prostitutes, who are apprehended by the Proctors; they are taken there generally at night. The Vice-Chancellor attends in the morning, and the prisoners are brought before him. A proctor is present, and the information is taken without the formality of an oath, and the offenders dealt with by sentences of imprisonment for periods not exceeding two months, or discharged upon admonition. The warrant for their detention to the keeper is in the annexed form. "To the Keeper of the Spinning House, or House of Correction, in the town of Cambridge.

hath been apprehended by

"WHEREAS one of the Proctors of the said University, within the limits and jurisdiction thereof, and has this day been brought before me, and charged with being an idle and disorderly person, suspected of incontinence, and a common street walker; which charge, as well upon the information of the said Proctor, as upon the examination of the said culprit, and after having heard what the said culprit had to allege in her defence, I do adjudge to be true.

"These are therefore to require and command you to receive into your custody the said culprit, and her safely to keep in your said Spinning House for

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Given under my hand and seal, at Cambridge, this in the Year of our Lord 183

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day of

College, and Vice-Chancellor of the

These unfortunate females are only sent to the Spinning House during term time.

"Diet.-The University allow sixpence, and a pint of beer, daily, to each, and coals and candles as required.

"Observations: The prisoners are permitted to have what provisions they please, and generally four of them put their sixpences together, and the articles desired by them are furnished by the keeper, who admits that he makes a profit thereon: his emoluments thus obtained amount, according to his own estimation, to five or six pounds per annum. The prisoners likewise have permission to receive articles of

food from their friends.

Bedding.-Flock mattress, two blankets, and cotton coverlid. "Observation :-The prisoners generally sleep in pairs. 66 Labour.-None.

"Punishments.-Observations: Refractory and unmanageable prisoners are sent to the County Gaol, upon representation by the keeper to the Vice-Chancellor; there are two cells termed Solitary, but the keeper declares that he is afraid to confine them for a longer period than eight or ten hours, lest they should commit suicide; two having attempted to strangle themselves.

VOL. V. No. 19.-New Series.


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