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The Punishment of Criminals.
The Million of June gives an interview with the Rev. J. W. Horsley who for ten years was chaplain of Clerkenwell Prison. The following extract from the talk of the newspaper man and the ex-prison chaplain is interesting:
"I should like to know something of your views on penal servitude, Mr Horsley-whether you would not favour shorter terms, and whether on the whole the effect of penal servitude is reclamalory or
" In itself penal servitude is a bad thing. It means slavery, and is good only for those who are
habitual criminals. The association which it in- volves is so terrible. Association under penal servitude is inevitable. You see you cannot give a man seven years' separate confinement-two years'
"But surely, Mr. Horsely, separate confinement absolute solitude-for two years is enough to drive a man crazy ? Do yon recollect Dickens' account of its nameless terrors in his ' American Notes* ?"
"Dickens was entirely mistaken, and was one of the humanitarians who went mad on this question. It has, however, been ascertained that a prisoner cannot stand more than eighteen months or two years of separation. He goes what is called barmy. Of late years the difficulty with respect to asso- ciation with the worst types of criminals under penal servitude has been minimised by the intro- duction of the star system, that is classification. The system should be adopted more widely than it is. I have known short terms of imprisonment have very beneficial results in many cases, but it is rarely found that people are better for penal servitude. To ask whether penal servitude tends to reduce crime is like going to a hospital for incurables and demanding to know how many cures they have effected. Both in regard to penal servitude and imprisonment we have a good deal to
learn from other countries."
" In what particular, Mr. Horsley ?"
" We want light-more external light-let into our prisons. We want authorised voluntary visitors, lecturers, new teachers, instead of year in and year out the same chaplain. The official mind conceives that discipline and all reformatory agencies are opposed, as calculated to interfere with rigorous obedience to the prison rules. I quite recognise that it is necessary discipline should be strict, but there is too much devotion to discipline in our prisons. I remember once I got together some boys whom I wished to teach arithmetic, and it was considered essential that I should have a warder present the whole time. Every Christmas I brought carol singers into Clerkenwell. The prison, in my opinion, should not be a place where men and women see, hear, and think of nothing but crime."
" Did you not, in your capacity of chaplain, find the prisoners great humbugs ?"
"Yes, but the protection against their humbug was their want of inventiveness. One heard the same story often in a dozen cells, and it has some- times happened that when a man has begun to give me the grounds on which he would establish his innocence, I have startled him by telling him to stop and finishing the story for him. Criminals are not the inventive creatures they are commonly supposed to be. They are generally people of one aim and one idea. Thus, one man will steal nothing but watches, another nothing but pipes. One old woman I knew went for washtubs exclusively. A pickpocket will not be a burglar. If he begins to tell you anything, you can, with a little practice, say almost immediately whether it is true or false. They do romance, of course, but the women are most given to it. A man will make up a story when there is some end to be gained, but a woman will do so for the mere fun of romancing."
" Can you give me some idea of the criminal as you know him, Mr. Horseley ?"
" A very typical criminal was the writer of the thief's autobiography, with which I open 'Jottings from Jail.' He capped his career with penal servitude after writing it, but is now doing very well in America. His autobiography is worth quoting as a specimen of thieves' English. Take this passage, in which he describes what he did when funds began to get low, and stock was dear- he was a costermonger:-'I went on all straight until things got very dear at the market. I had been down three or four days running, and could not buy anything to earn a deaner (shilling) out of. So one morning I found I had no more than a caser (five shillings) for stock pieces (stock money). So I thought to myself, ' What shall I do ?' I said, 'I know what I will do. I will go to London Bridge rattler (railway), and take a deaner ride and go a wedge hunting (stealing plate).' So I took a ducat (ticket) for Sutton, in Surrey, and went a wedge hunting. I had not been at Sutton very long before I piped (saw) a slavey come out of a chat (house) ; so when she had got a little way up the double (turning) I pratted (went) in the house. When inside, I could not see any wedge lying about in the kitchen, so I screwed my nut into the washhouse, and I piped three or four pairs of daisy roots (boots). So I claimed (stole) them, and
took off the lid of my kipsy (basket) and put them inside, put a cloth over them, put the kipsy on my back as though 'twas empty, and g.... to the rattler and took a brief (ticket) to London Square and took the daisies to a sheeny (Jew) by the Gaff and done them for thirty blow (shillings). The next day I took the rattler to Forest Hill and touched for (succeeded in getting) some wedge and a kipsy full of clobber (clothes). You may be sure this gave me a little pluck, so I kept at the old
game, only with this difference, that I got more pieces (money) for the wedge. I [? used to get] a sprat (3s 6d) an ounce. But afterwards I got 3s 9d, and then four blow.' "
" I suppose there is no doubt there is an habitual criminal closs which is practically beyond the reach
of reform ?"
"No doubt whatever. Some criminals could only have been mode honest men and women by being caught when very young and placed beyond the criminal pale, so that experience should have given them no opportunity of knowing of anything but the honest and the upright."
" Is the idea that the criminal bean- h ii« crimi- nality in his face one founded on scient ilk f >ct ?"
"There are certain characteristics of tit ciimmal head which are beyond dispute. The n h»ir> science of the criminal anthropology, as it if. ca'iud, has been shamefully neglected in England, we know much less on the subject than France, Belgium, or Italy knows. This reproach has bo°n to Home ex.. tent removed by Mr. Havelock Eilt", wno, when he was preparing his book on 'The Criminal,'for Mr Walter Scott's Science Series, found that all the prison surgeons to whom he wrote were almost inconceivably ignorant on the matter. The work," Mr. Horsley goes on, as he takes the volume from
his shelves, "proves what I say regarding criminal ., characteristics to be correct. Look at these heads/» and he points to some sketches of criminal craniums, four of which the Million reproduces.