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soner; he has largely displayed the errors in principle, and the cruelties in practice, of the criminal laws of most countries in Europe ; and having laboured with uncommon zeal to alleviate the evils which they have produced, died in the prosecution of this important service; but a system founded upon the clear and unquestionable rights and duties of citizens of a mild and well ordered government, has not yet met the public eye: Pennsylvania has gone the farthest in the formation of such a system, of any government that has come to my knowledge, and from the exertions of the present legislature, we have reason to hope that she will be the first to place the fair " key-stone to the arch of this benevolent work.”
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE ALTERATION OF THE Penal Laws
OF PENNSYLVANIA. The distresses of the prisoners, and disorders in the prison, in this city, had long engaged the sympathetic attention of many of the inhabitants.
Occasional relief was often afforded; but the first attempt, essentially to remove these evils, was made a few years before the revolution; when a society was formed for that purpose. The war put an end to the society.
In the year 1776, the convention of Pennsylvania directed a reform of the penal laws, and the introduction of public hard labour, as a punishment for offences. This was attended to by the Legislature ; and an essay was made in the year 1786, by a law which directed, that the convicts should be employed in cleaning the streets, repairing the roads, &c. have their heads shaved, and be distinguished by an infamous habit. This was literally complied with, but however well meant, was soon found to be productive of the greatest evils: and bad a very opposite effect from what was contemplated by the framers of the law. The disorders in society, the robberies, burglaries, breaches of prison, alarms in town and country; the drunkenness, profanity and indecencies of the prisoners in the streets, must be in the memory of most.
With these disorders, the numbers of the criminals encreased to such a degree as to alarm the community with fears, that it would be impossible to find a place either large or strong enough to hold them. The severity of the law, and disgraceful manner of executing it, led to a proportionate degree of depravity and insensibility, and every spark of morality appeared to be destroyed. The keepers were armed with swords, blunderbusses, and other weapons of destruction. The prisoners, secured by cumberous iron collars and chains, fixed to bomb-shells. Their dress was -formed with every mark of disgrace. The old and hardened offender daily in the practice of begging and insulting the inhabitants, collecting crouds of idle boys, and holding with them the most indecent and improper conversation. Thus disgracefully treated, and heated with liquor, they meditated, and executed, plans of escape-and when at liberty, their distress, disgrace, and fears, prompted them to violent acts, to satisfy the immediate demands of nature. Their attacks upon society were well known to be desperate, and to some they proved fatal !
In this situation of things, the minds of the citizens were variously affected ; some were concerned for the condition to which the laws had doomed them indiscriminately ; others were affected with the scenes which the streets of the city exhibited—Scenes which were a disgrace to any people! Whatever were the motives, exertions were used to alleviate the sufferings of the prisoners, and, if possible, to apply a remedy for these great and growing evils.
The magnitude of these sufferings and disorders, at length induced the attempt of forming a society for that purpose, which was effected under the title of “ The Philadelphia Society for alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons.”-It soon became large and respectable, and from subscriptions and donations early possessed funds equal to its object.
They appointed a committee of six members to visit the prisons ; furnish bread when necessary; clothe the naked ; accommodate differences; discharge those confined for small debts; and generally to mitigate the sufferings inseparable
from such places of confinementi : At the time they visited, the disorders out of prison equally attracted their attention, and excited a more particular enquiry into the causes of these complicated evils. They were well assured that the funds of the society would be distributed to little effect, unless some means were used to discover the cause and to remedy the evil. A firm conviction was soon produced, that the severity of the laws, with the disgraceful mode of carrying them into effect, joined to a want of government in the prison; the admission of all kinds of characters to a free communication with the prisoners; the unlimited use of spirituous liquors; the indiscriminate mixture of all descriptions of prisoners, without regard to character, sex, or condition, and idleness in the house, were among the principal causes of the evils complained of: to remedy which, the society, in conjunction with the corporation, made an application to the legislature for an alteration in the penal system, to place the prison under the inspection of some of the citizens; to erect solitary cells; and to form a plan for its government. This was complied with, and inspectors were directed to be chosen; who were empowered, with the approbation of the mayor, two aldermen, and two judges of the supreme court, or two of the judges of the common pleas' of Philadelphia county, to make rules and regulations for the government of all convicts confined in the said prison, &c.” The first eare of the inspectors was to remove the debtors into another house, entirely distinct from the convicts' prison ; to put a stop to all improper out-door.communications ; to separate the sexes ; to suppress the use of spirituous liquors of all kinds; to introduce a system of labour, suited to their situation, trades, and strength; to frame a plan of government for the house, and directions for the officers; and generally to introduce order, decency, economy, and industry.
The business before them was laborious, but the necessity and importance of the work encouraged them to exestions, which, for a time, were arduous, and attended with many unpleasant circumstances; but a steady perseverance overcame many long-established injurious customs, and pro. duced the present agreeable change, an account of which I shall now, as briefly as possible, proceed to state.
One of the oldest, and not least of the evils, was: ? * 016 11.9 ??! Dt93)
1. This injurious custom attended with such a variety of evil consequences, was discontinued, and the Keeperi compensated in a more eligible and permanent ' manner, by. a yearly salary of 4001. per ann, for himself and clerk; and as a stimulus to a proper attention to the employment of the prisoners, allowed five per cent. on the proceeds of their labour. 1
his toploto !, at boss GARNISH.
o', ': This cruel and disgraceful practice, so well known to the unhappy objects, who have had the misfortune to be committed to these places of confinement, whether felon or debtor; guilty or innocent; able or unable ; strip or pay was the first salutation ; this practice was instantly suppressed, and is now unknown.
BREACH OF PRISON. This disorder, formerly so frequent and alarming, is now effectually remedied. There were a few attempts soon after the present plan was introduced ; but the present government of the place, with the vigilance of the keepers, have prevented any escapes by this mode.
PLAN, CONSTRUCTION, &c. OF THE PRISON.
This place of confinement occupies a lot of 400 feet by 200; on which is erected a large stone building, 184 feet long the north side, two stories high, divided into rooms of equal dimensions, viz. 20 by 18 feet; an entry in the middle of 7 feet wide, which leads to a hall or passage, extending the length of the building 114 feet wide, with stairs and windows at each end; the upper story is exactly on
the same plan as the lower ; the cellars are also on the same plan: there are eight rooms on each floor, all arched, for the two-fold purpose of securing against fire and escapes, with two windows in each room. On the east and west end are two wings extending 90 feet south, two stories high, containing five rooms on the floors of each wing, nearly the size of those in front, but with one window, all arched in the same manner also : the ground floors of these were formerly occupied as places of greater security, upon the general principle of dungeons, but have not been used for some time. On the south-side is a large stone building, designed for a work-house, where the debtors are now confined. Threehundred feet of the north part of the lot is appropriated to the use of the convict prison, and one hundred feet of the south part to the debtors. The first is divided into portions for the accommodation of the different classes of prisoners. The women have a court-yard of 90 feet by 32; the vagrants, &c. one of the same dimensions.'. The penitentiary house, or solitary cells, about 160 feet by 80. Each yard is furnished with pumps, baths, sewers, and necessaries: under, the debtors’ yard, on the north side, runs a natural watercourse, which is arched, and is a great accommodation,
DISTRIBUTION OF PRISONERS, AND APPROPRIA
TION OF THE BUILDING, &c.
THE MEN CONVICTS,
For security and air, are lodged on the second floor of the east wing ; one room is occupied by the shoe-makers for a shop ; one for the taylors and barber; the rest for lodging
THE WOMEN CONVICTS Are lodged and employed on the first floor, in the west, wing, and have the use of the court-yard, already described,