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comfortable than prisons, and that the latter are preferred as places of abode by the lower classes. Magistrates and chaplains, and visitors to prisons, acknowledge this to be the case.
The preference is openly avowed by men and women, especially the latter. What does it matter to them if the degradation of the prison is greater than the workhouse, if, indeed, there is much difference between the two in this respect ?* The prison offers a clean and
In fact, the difference is rather the other way. Persons going to prison, and confessing that it was for the sake of obtaining relief, have been asked why they did not apply for it at the workhouse? They have actually replied, “They did not like the disgrace of doing so. Yet they could commit an offence against the laws, and enter a prison, without feeling that they had contracted any degradation ! We are strongly inclined to believe that it is the general management of prisons being felt to be so superior to that of workhouses, that raises them in the estimation of the lower classes, who, even the worst among them, are keenly alive to justice and fair treatment. One of the most refractory female prisoners in a large prison told the magistrates, “She knew she should receive justice from them.”
The following are the salaries given respectively in prisons and workhouses :
Prison for 900 Prisoners.
And 45 paid officials beside.
Per annum. £600
125 250 180
comfortable lodging, food far superior to the usual fare of the criminal, and to that of workhouses ; * kind and attentive officers of a grade above those provided for the noncriminal poor.
Such treatment as is too commonly received, even from the porter at the workhouse gate, would not be suffered in prison establishments, which are governed by a bench of magistrates, gentlemen by character and position, who regularly visit and inspect the buildings. With them rests the appointment of a governor, a gentleman of education and intelligence, who has the supreme command over the establishment, and, generally speaking, this important office is filled with discretion and zeal. The chaplain's is an important and conspicuous post, and lady visitors have long since been permitted to visit the female inmates.
The report of the Visiting Justices of the Westminster
Workhouse for 500 or 600 Inmates.
25 (No other paid official.) The salaries in workhouses vary considerably; sometimes it is £80 for master and matron together. We believe the highest salary given is £150 for a master. A chaplain receives in some cases as little as £30.
* Whether the dietary is actually better or not, there is no doubt that the cooking is far superior, owing to the better class of officers, and the more careful supervision of prisons.
House of Correction shows that the number of commitments to that prison from workhouses in the year 1856 was 273, and to the Coldbath Fields Prison 221. With regard especially to the boys and girls thus committed, the magistrates speak as follows :
“ Your committee cannot but believe, more attention were paid in workhouses to classification, and other inportant arrangements of a reformatory character, there would be much less necessity for sending so many of the inmates to prison ; and the Visiting Justices are strengthened in this belief from the fact of the very great difference in the numbers that are sent from some of the workhouses in comparison with others.” They believe
an increase in the criminal population must arise from familiarizing so many destitute persons with the interior of the prison ;” and they further suggest," that offences against workhouse rules should be punished by other means than imprisonment in a criminal prison ; and that greater facilities should be offered to the poor and destitute, as well as to discharged prisoners, to prevent their committing offences in order to obtain an asylum.”
Surely, if there is no other argument in favour of an amended administration of our workhouses, this alone would be sufficient. Either our prisons for criminals must be made less comfortable and attractive, or our workhouses for the non-criminal poor more so. gress from the workhouse to the prison is a very easy and natural one. A girl who has lost her place and has no home, enters the union, and is placed with many other women, old as well as young, some of whom are far worse than herself, and is put to the usual employment of oakumpicking. There is no to give kindly advice or
counsel to her; the matron is far too busy with her various household occupations; the chaplain confesses that she and her companions are beyond his reach. Such elements thrown together can hardly do otherwise than ferment, and ultimately explode. The“ taskmaster” is appointed to be superintendent over this department of labour, and is virtually the only person who exercises any sort of supervision there. The treatment received from him, as may be imagined, not unfrequently leads to rebellion and abusive language ; then comes the “black hole,” this being the authorized means of punishment committed to masters of workhouses. If during the confinement there is riotous conduct indulged in (even singing or making noises are sometimes sufficient causes of offence) an increase of punishment is resorted to by a removal to prison, which, being found to be a more comfortable abode than the workhouse (for the reasons above stated), it is no longer an object of terror and dread, but rather of desire, to those members of our youthful population who have thus made trial of it. A more mischievous result than this, either from our misplaced philanthropy or impolitic harshness, can hardly be imagined, yet it is one that is of constant, almost weekly,
One of the most important branches of this subject is undoubtedly the education of the children.* The separation of the young from all possible contamination from those who are already trained in vice is one of the im
* In March, 1856, there were 51,586 children in the workhouses of England and Wales ; of these 12,083 were orphans.
perative duties of all who have the management of the poor in their hands; and this seems to be a point on which some additional legislation is called for. The question has its difficulties, but they are not such as should prevent the enforcing of some compulsory regulations with regard to it. The chief difficulty in the case of the entire separation of schools from the workhouses, seems to lie in providing for the education of the children who may enter the house with their parents for a short time. Yet it is as important to separate those children who are undergoing a course of systematic training in the schools from the children of the workhouse, as from the adults. The children of low and vicious parents who may enter for a temporary refuge, would be a source of the greatest mischief, and undo much of the influence which had in the course of time been gained over the others. If there must be a choice between the two, it would be better to leave the few children without the regular instruction of a school, than to subject numbers to the evils of an education within the workhouse walls, and the many injurious influences which must arise from such a position. There is abundant evidence at all events as to the necessity of a separation in the case of unions in large towns. In Mrs. Austin's “Two Letters on Girls' Schools,” and on the “ Training of Working Women," a very strong · opinion is expressed on this point, and an interesting account given of the successful working of an attempt which has been carried on for some years in connection with the Norwich Workhouse. The advocates of these schools or “homes ” as they are called, have had a great struggle both in establishing and maintaining them, and an alteration in the law which would make such separate