Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century the combat with the great army of depredators was unceasingly waged by the champions of law and order in France, to whom in the long run victory chiefly inclined. As yet none of the new views held by prison reformers in other countries had made any progress in France. No ideas of combining coercion with persuasion, of going beyond deterrence by attempting reformation by exhortation; of curing the wrong-doer and weaning him from his evil practices, when once more sent out into the world, obtained in French penology. At that earlier date all the old methods, worked by the same machinery, still prevailed and were, as ever, ineffective in checking crime. An active, and for the most part intelligent police was indefatigable in the pursuit of offenders, who, when caught and sentenced travelled the old beaten track, passing from prison to prison, making long halts at the bagnes and concluding their persistent trespasses upon the guillotine, but that was all.
French prisons long lagged behind advanced practices abroad, not only in respect of their structural fitness and physical condition, but also in the measure in which the method of conducting them effected the morals of those who passed through them. When the question was at last presented, it was considered with the logical thoroughness and carried out with the administrative efficiency characteristic of the French government, when impressed with the necessity for action in any given line.
The question for the French prison authorities—as indeed it is the question of questions for the prison government of all nations—is now: “What can be and shall be done for the reform of the convict rather than for his mere repression and punishment?” The material aspects of the French prison system have attained almost to perfection. These, as well as the moral aspects of the subject, which that very physical perfection inevitably presents, it is the purpose of this volume to consider.
The conflict of opinions as to prison treatment has raged continuously and as yet no uniform plan has been adopted for the whole German Empire. Each of the constituent states of the great aggregate body has maintained its independence in penal matters and the right to determine for itself the best method of punishing crime. At one time, after 1846, the theory of complete isolation was accepted in all German states, although the means to carry it into effect were not universally adopted. Reports from the United States had deeply impressed the authorities with the merits of solitary confinement, among others the well known Professor Mittermaier, one of the most notable judicial authorities of his time. But reaction came with another no less eminent expert, Von Holtzendorff, whose works on prison administration are still held in great esteem. After visiting Ireland, he was won over to the seeming advantages of the progressive system, the gradual change from complete isolation to comparative freedom, and he strongly favoured the policy of cellular imprisonment. His proposals laid hold of the practical German mind, and to-day the scheme of continuous isolation finds little support; it left its mark, however, in several prisons which will be referred to in the following pages.
No doubt different methods are employed in the great Empire of India; but they also are the outcome of experience, and follow lines most suited to the climate and character of the people for whom they are intended. Cellular imprisonment would be impossible in India. Association is inevitable in the Indian prison system. Again, it is the failure to find suitable European subordinate officers that has brought about the employment of the best-behaved prisoners in the discipline of their comrades: a system, as I have been at some pains to point out, quite abhorrent to modern ideas of prison management. As for the retention of transportation by the Indian government, when so clearly condemned at home, it is defensible on the grounds that the penalty of crossing the sea, the "Black Water," possesses peculiar terrors to the Oriental mind; and the Andaman Islands are, moreover, within such easy distance as to ensure their effective supervision and control.
Nearer home, we may see Austria adopting an English method,Ñthe "movable" or temporary prison, by the use of which such works as changing the courses of rivers have been rendered possible and the prison edifices of Lepoglava, Aszod and Kolosvar erected, in imitation of Chattenden, Borstal and Wormwood Scrubs. France has also constructed in the outskirts of Paris a new prison for the department of the Seine, and she may yet find that the British progressive system is more effective for controlling habitual crime than transportation to New Caledonia. In a country where every individual is ticketed and labelled from birth, where police methods are quite despotic, and the law claims the right, in the interests of the larger number, to override the liberty of the subject, the professional criminal might be held at a tremendous disadvantage. It is true that the same result might be expected from the Belgian plan of prolonged cellular confinement; but, as I shall point out, this system is more costly, and can only be enforced with greater or less, but always possible, risks to health and reason.
At this distant time it is indeed interesting to observe how thoroughly John Howard understood the subject to which he had devoted his life. In his prepared plan for the erection of the prison he anticipates exactly the method we are pursuing to-day, after more than a century of experience. ÒThe Penitentiary Houses,Ó he says, ÒI would have built in a great measure by the convicts. I will suppose that a power is obtained from Parliament to employ such of them as are now at work on the Thames, or some of those who are in the county gaols, under sentence of transportation, as may be thought most expedient. In the first place, let the surrounding wall, intended for full security against escapes, be completed, and proper lodges for the gatekeepers. Let temporary buildings of the nature of barracks be erected in some part of this enclosure which will be wanted the least, till the whole is finished. Let one or two hundred men, with their proper keepers, and under the direction of the builder, be employed in levelling the ground, digging out the foundation, serving the masons, sawing the timber and stone; and as I have found several convicts who were carpenters, masons, and smiths, these may be employed in their own branches of trade, since such work is as necessary and proper as any other in which they can be engaged. Let the people thus employed chiefly consist of those whose term is nearly expired, or who are committed for a short term; and as the ground is suitably prepared for the builders, the garden made, the wells dug, and the building finished, let those who are to be dismissed go off gradually, as it would be very improper to send them back to the hulks or gaols again.Ó
This, however, was only the beginning of the action. Heavy columns of the enemy now appeared in sight, cavalry and infantry, with numerous artillery crowning the eastern hills. A portion occupied the redoubts abandoned by the Turks, and the attitude of the Russians was so menacing that it seemed unlikely we could stay their onward progress.
For the moment no troops could be interposed but the British cavalryÑthe two brigades, Light and HeavyÑwhich had their encampment in the plain, and had been under arms, commanded by Lord Lucan, since daybreak.
"We must have up the First and Fourth Divisions," Lord Raglan had said, when he arrived on the battle-field soon after eight in the morning; at first he had treated the news of the Russian advance lightly. Many such moves had been reported on previous days, and all had ended in nothing. "Let the Duke of Cambridge and Sir George Cathcart have their orders at once. We must trust to the cavalry till the infantry come up. Tell Scarlett to support the Turks."
But the Turks had given way before General Scarlett could stiffen their courage, and as his brigade, that of heavy cavalry, trotted towards the redoubts, other and more stirring work offered itself. The head of a great column of Russian horse, three thousand sabres, came over the crest of the hill and invited attack.
As she faced me, looking straight at me, she conveyed the impression of a determined unyielding character, a woman who would do much, dare much, who would go her own road if so resolved, undismayed and undeterred by any difficulties that might beset her.
Then, to my surprise, although I might have expected it, she came and seated herself at a table close to my elbow. She had told her companion that she wanted to know more about me, that she would like to enlist me in her service, questionable though it might be, and here she was evidently about to make the attempt. It was a little barefaced, but I admit that I was amused by it, and not at all unwilling to measure swords with her. She was presumably an adventuress, clever, designing, desirous of turning me round her finger, but she was also a pretty woman.
"I beg your pardon," she began almost at once in English, when the waiter had brought her a plate of soup, and she was toying with the first spoonful, speaking in a low constrained, almost sullen voice, as though it cost her much to break through the convenances in thus addressing a stranger.
"You will think it strange of me," she went on, "but I am rather awkwardly situated, in fact in a position of difficulty, even of danger, and I venture to appeal to you as a countryman, an English officer."
The train was travelling the last stage, between Laroche and Paris, a run of a hundred miles without a stop. It had halted at Laroche for early breakfast, and many, if not all the passengers, had turned out. Of those in the sleeping-car, seven in number, six had been seen in the restaurant, or about the platform; the seventh, a lady, had not stirred. All had re‘ntered their berths to sleep or doze when the train went on, but several were on the move as it neared Paris, taking their turn at the lavatory, calling for water, towels, making the usual stir of preparation as the end of a journey was at hand.
There were many calls for the porter, yet no porter appeared. At last the attendant was foundÑlazy villain!--asleep, snoring loudly, stertorously, in his little bunk at the end of the car. He was roused with difficulty, and set about his work in a dull, unwilling, lethargic way, which promised badly for his tips from those he was supposed to serve.
By degrees all the passengers got dressed, all but two,Ñthe lady in 9 and 10, who had made no sign as yet; and the man who occupied alone a double berth next her, numbered 7 and 8.
As it was the porter's duty to call every one, and as he was anxious, like the rest of his class, to get rid of his travellers as soon as possible after arrival, he rapped at each of the two closed doors behind which people presumably still slept.Ê
Criminals are manufactured both by social cross-purposes and by the domestic neglect which fosters the first fatal predisposition. ÒAssuredly external factors and circumstances count for much in the causation of crime,Ó says Maudsley. The preventive agencies are all the more necessary where heredity emphasises the universal natural tendency. The taint of crime is all the more potent in those whose parentage is evil. The germ is far more likely to flourish into baleful vitality if planted by congenital depravity. This is constantly seen with the offspring of criminals. But it is equally certain that the poison may be eradicated, the evil stamped out, if better influences supervene betimes. Even the most ardent supporters of the theory of the Òborn criminalÓ admit that this, as some think, imaginary monster, although possessing all the fatal characteristics, does not necessarily commit crime. The bias may be checked; it may lie latent through life unless called into activity by certain unexpected conditions of time and chance. An ingenious refinement of the old adage, ÒOpportunity makes the thief,Ó has been invented by an Italian scientist, Baron Garofalo, who declares that Òopportunity only reveals the thiefÓ; it does not create the predisposition, the latent thievish spirit.
The Fleet prison took its name from the little stream long stigmatised as the ÒFleet Ditch,Ó the open sewer or water-way which rose in the eastern ridge of Hampstead Hill, flowed by ÒOldbourneÓ or Holborn under four bridges to discharge into the Thames on the west side of Blackfriars bridge. As time passed this ditch, after being deepened once or twice to allow for water traffic, became more and more pestilential and was at length filled up and arched over, becoming then the site of Fleet Market in what is now known as Farringdon Street, on which the main gates of the prison opened. The building was of great antiquity and is first mentioned in authentic records about A. D. 1197. A deed of that date granted it to the safe keeping of one Nathaniel de Leveland and his son Robert, in conjunction with the KingÕs Houses at Westminster. It is stated that the Fleet prison had been the inheritance of the Levelands since the time of the Norman Conquest. Four years later this same Robert de Leveland petitioned King John for leave to hand over the wardenship of the Fleet to Simon Fitz-Robert, archdeacon of Wells, while he, Leveland, proceeded with the crusaders to the Holy Land. He returned very shortly afterward, as appears from a grant of moneys made him by the City of London in 1205, his salary for guardianship of the prison. His wife Margaret was also granted an allowance as keeper of the Westminster Royal Houses.