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1 correction by doug.butler - Show corrections

CURTAILING THE SENTENCES OF PRISONERS. . ? ? . - . ^ - ? ?? ?

Here as elsewhere the eccentricities of prison management torm a tempting field.for criticism. In alluding to the subject now we hare, however, no intention of examining into

ihegeneral question of the treatment of crimi nals. The advisability of making the refor- 1 mation of the offender ;the nc phis/uUrc^ of ! penal discipline, the propriety of insisting where practicable upon restitution to the person wronged, the necessity of bringing the ' utmost severity to bear upon certain classes of ' malefactors, such as the perpetrators of crimes ] accompanied with violence, and many other ' considerations of a kindred character belong j to an order of social problems which at the present time we shall hot enter upon. : Our immediate business .is . with a sub sidiary branch of the subject, the exercise of - that royal prerogative of mercy which, with all its Bacredness, constitutes fair ground for candid and impartial comment. The public, . for whose protection and benefit the institu tions of justice in all their varied forms exist, have a right to see that ,the -clemency of the Executive is kept within safe and reasonable bounds. ; Nothing can tend more to derange the ^ machinery of the Criminal Courts, bring the 'terrbrs'of the law'' into contempt in the eyes of evil-doers, promote ! the general demoralization of that section of the community amongst whom the gaol cradle is rocked, and in many other ways1 encourage crime, than the frequent and undiscrimicating use of this 'royal prero- gative,' . Ever and anon the public are startled at hearing that some* 'prisoner,; charged, with a peculiarly heinous offence, found guilty of the same with few or no extenuating circumstances, and sentenced to; undergo a punishment commensorate-with5 his misdeeds, has been released after1 serving only a fraction of his time. The fact that only in a comparatively few instances does the information become, common property intensifies the evil, for what is hidden from the community at large reaches the- ear of ;the: criminal classes,1 and tends to incite them to farther wrong doing. Is it to be wondered at that Judges, knowing that the seritenpes they pass are sure to be overruled, either through the operation of a good-time system, or through the promiscuous ^intervention of the Execu tive, should grow a i trifle careless in the discharge- of their duties, and -apportion punishment after a somewhat haphazard fashion? Is ii to be wondered at that houest men rather submit to be victimized than put in motion machinery for the punishment of criminals which works so erratically ? Recently there has been issued from the Yatala .Labour Prison and Her Majesty's G«ol in Adelaide, a paper called for towards the close of last, session, which is a perfect gem in its way. It purports to be a return ?? of the names of prisoners of the Crown who have been., liberated frotn custody, . under ^htrrttir'of -His Excellency- the Governor, countersigned fay Ae ';Chief j^cre'Sa^, from tte:-lafc ; J«uAry,'' i873,i *ogetit£r ; with *-^pie» of auy recommendations in their favour, by whom made, ,aud reasons

fb£. {complying f»th the iwmej also V stat«ment^ as'^to -whether any of; the prisoners .. so discharged have -since been found guilty of any offence. *'Frpm this we find that up to thelGth December of last year there had been dght special discharges from the Stockade and one from Her Majesty's Gaol — the latter bang the notorious Alien Brady, M«e Lindsay, Hvho, shortly after her release, gave., conclusive j evidence of the .ephemeral nature of her repentance by com mitting an -.offence for which Bhe now lie» under sentence of seven years' incarceration. None of the Stockade- men appear to have fallen away «in«»Vtheir/IibeT»ti6n, but two -hare died 'arid ft; third has gone to japan. Looking -oVeif the ^retitrn ::t6 ascertain the reasons Uu* have led to 'the issne of 'His ? Excellency's warrant, -with tie counter signa inre of the Chief Secretary, the only 'entry we can discover is 'jurrecord in'this office?1 This. .brief note haa 1 to; do duty as; an answer to the request for information as to the recominendationVin the. prisoners1' .favour, the names of. those making the re. commendationB and the grounds 'for comply ing v/ith the same. - Whether- Mr. Watts, who moved for, the pap*er, will be satisfied with the reply or* nob jthei public1 hayc » right to complain. So far as wet can judge,* there is hot the slightest reason Jrhy the whole of thefacts should) Aot be slated. They cannot prejudice the prisoners, for their release implies that they have* done something which entitles them to excep tionally lenient treatment, and we are'at.a loss to Bee how it can prejudice the Govern ment, for they have weighed the evidence and arrived at a final conclusion upon it. If the statement that there is'no record in the Yatala Labour Prison Office-npon the subject is to be taken as signifying that no 'such record exists, a scate of things is disclosed which is discreditable to the sen-ice,, but we cannot believe that such is the fact. We look upon the entry -as a mere evasive answer, and take it for ^granted that the Government will be called upon to explain why a reasonable demand for infor mation quietly acquiesced in by themselves should have been treated in so off-hand; a manner. * ; There is one other point upon, which explanation is necessary. The list furnished by the Superintendent of the Yatala Labour Prison ^does not include the' name of John JoEes aftayTait, whose case affords a flagraQt illustration of the way in^which'the preroga tive of mercy is at times abused. This man, who is i now at least sixty years of age, seems to belong to the inveterately criminal class. He* first figured in the Supreme Court in 1852, when he was. sentenced to penal servitude for life on a charge of highway robbery with violence. ; Seven years later ho was found guilty of larceny from a, dwelling- honse/and was ordered to be imprisoned for five, years. When asked to plead to his former conviction the prisoner stated that he had been released after four years' servitude, rn the ground; of his being innocent of the offence of which he had been convicted. Failing to obtain official con6rmation of - 'his, owing to the fact that no record had been kept,* the presiding Judge sharply reprimanded the prison authorities for their neglect-^a' reproof which has evidently not hid all the effect it should have had. The Keeper of the Gtol stated that sentence of 'death recorded', had, been passed upon Jones, and that after his liberation .'four years later he bad undergone six months' hard labour in prison. The police, inti mated, that the prisoner had a Tud 'repu tation, and His ' Honor, ih sentencing Iriin, spoke of hiB being a desperate,1 character. With all bis faults he aeems- to have ?been tnought r worthy [ of ; a v*'f dither exercise of the Crown's clemency '5 ' fpr m 1S63, four years after the datft . of his former sentence, he ' was ajrrafgne^l for housebreaking, and had a sentence of ten years' penal servitude with hard labour passed upon him. One would have supposed that such a persistent course of crime/fflust hava disheartened Jones's ' well-wishers, at : head ? quarters, but,, it evidently had . t no such, effect. In 1872 this oft ? coqvitffce'd felon was once s more ' aV large '^re'ying -ujon an ill-used public. How* long 3ie i.inay at. ibis time have enjoyed the sweets -of liberty we know riot, but in November, of that year he was once more tried for larceny -fromadwelling-hou8e, and once more rele gated to the Stockade for a period of tea. years. Soon: afterwards he met with an accident, which had the effect of depriving him of one of his legs, and in November 'of 1873 lie was again at large, a nuisance to society, and , a thorn in the flesh to the Ministry that ordered his release. He lias evidently got the notion into hie heal that the fact of his having been maimed in the service entitles him to a retiring. allowance in the shape of a wooden leg and other per quisites, and, in season and out of season he has been Urging his chum.,1 This last is about* the -only circumstance^ in/ con nection - with his career jf during tbe past ? twenty --one years .that 'we. can look ' upon with complacency; It- if » serious blot upon our prison system ^that a man so utterly irreclaimable as Jjbries manifestly is should be released time after time long before the expiry of his' sentence as if for the express object of facilitating, his nefarious operations. . . / . 6 _j-\.. We have no wish to limit in anyway the prerogative of mercy, which when prudently exercised manifestly is one of the moBt effec tual safeguards for the liberty of the subject, and one of the. most valuable pledges.for^he maintenance pt equity as between :j man and man that our system of jurisprudence admits of. . Neither are we unmindful of the fact that in some cases, such as that of the younger Kerney, who was originally recommended to mercy, and has, according to all accounts, behaved in a most exemplary way during the. period of his incarceration, the right of the Executive   to remit sentences has been wisely availed of. All We contend for ia that greater care should be taken to confine the exercise of this right .Mi

irHhin proper bounds— ta make it, in conaec-! tion with the treatment of criminals, prolific «jf good instead of fruitful of evil.

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