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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

From the gaol to the community


reformation, again, is now the great object, the following[20] system is adopted. No intercourse is allowed between the males and the females, nor any between the untried and the convicted prisoners. While they are engaged in their labour, they are allowed to talk only upon the subject, which immediately relates to their work. All unnecessary conversation is forbidden. Profane swearing is never overlooked. A strict watch is kept, that no spirituous liquors may be introduced. Care is taken that all the prisoners have the benefit of religious instruction. The prison is accordingly open, at stated times, to the pastors of the different religious denominations of the place. And as the mind of man may be worked upon by rewards as well as by punishments, a hope is held out to the prisoners, that the time of their confinement may be shortened by their good behaviour. For the inspectors, if they have reason to believe that a solid reformation has taken place in any individual, have a power of interceding for his enlargement, and the executive government of granting it, if they think it proper. In the case, where the prisoners are refractory, they are usually put into solitary confinement, and deprived of the opportunity of working. During this time the expences of their board and washing are going on, so that they are glad to get into employment again, that they may liquidate the debt, which, since the suspension of their labour, has been accruing to the gaol.

justify;">[Footnote 20: As cleanliness is connected with health, and health with morals, the prisoner are obliged to wash and clean themselves every morning before their work, and to bathe in the summer-season, in a large reservoir of water, which is provided in the court yard of the prison for this purpose.]

In consequence of these regulations, those who visit the criminals in Philadelphia in the hours of their labour, have more the idea of a large manufactory, than of a prison. They see nail-makers, sawyers, carpenters, joiners, weavers, and others, all busily employed. They see regularity and order among these. And as no chains are to be seen in the prison, they seem to forget their situation as criminals, and to look upon them as the free and honest labourers of a community following their respective trades.

In consequence of these regulations, great advantages have arisen both to the criminals, and to the state. The state has experienced a diminution of crimes to the amount of one half since the change of the penal system, and the criminals have been restored, in a great proportion, from the gaol to the community, as reformed persons. For few have been known to stay the whole term of their confinement. But no person could have had any of his time remitted him, except he had been considered both by the inspectors and the executive government as deserving it. This circumstance of permission to leave the prison before the time expressed in the sentence, is of great importance to the prisoners. For it operates as a certificate for them of their amendment to the world at large. Hence no stigma is attached to them for having been the inhabitants of a prison. It may be observed also, that some of the most orderly and industrious, and such as have worked at the most profitable trades, have had sums of money to take on their discharge, by which they have been able to maintain themselves honestly, till they could get into employ.

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