The Pennsylvania Journal of Prison Discipline and Philanthropy, April 1853
Transcribers’ notes are placed after the text.
TERMS:—ONE DOLLAR A YEAR IN ADVANCE.
“The separation of one prisoner from another is the only sound basis on which a reformatory (prison) discipline can be established with any reasonable hope of success.”—Fifth Report of Inspectors of English Prisons.
E. C. AND J. BIDDLE,
SOUTHWEST CORNER OF FIFTH AND MINOR STREETS.
LONDON: CHARLES GILPIN.
Isaac Ashmead, Printer.
CONTENTS OF NO. II.
- —Moral and Religious Instruction of Convicts, 53
- —Report of the Discipline and Management of the Convict-Prisons, and Disposal of Convicts, (England,) 61
- —Sources and Checks of Juvenile Delinquency, 70
- —Pennsylvania Penitentiaries, 78
- —Should Convicts be Received into the State Lunatic Hospital at Harrisburg? 82
- —Report of the Condition of the New Jersey State Prison, 89
- —An Extraordinary Document, 93
- —A Philanthropic Perplexity, 96
- Vagrant Children of New York,98-99
- Street Begging in New York,99
- New York Prison Association,100
- New York State Prisons,100
- Be beforehand with the Tempter,101
- New Penitentiary in Massachusetts,101
- State Prison at Charlestown (Mass.,)101
- Illinois Penitentiary,102
- New State Reform School,102
- Juvenile Offenders,102
- Singular Avocation and Mode of Life in London,103
- Death from Separation,103
- Murders in Philadelphia,104
- Missouri Insane Asylum,104
- Missouri Penitentiary,104
- Items of general Information,105-107
- Premium for an Essay on Juvenile Delinquency,108
NOTICE OF THIS JOURNAL.
“It embodies more information on the subject of prisons, arranged and expressed in the spirit of literature and science, than any other publication of our country and will compare with any Journal devoted to this department of knowledge in Europe.”—Hon. Charles Sumner’s Speech, in debate on prison question in Boston, May, 1847.
From the North American and United States’ Gazette.
We have received from Messrs. E. C. & J. Biddle the last number of the Pennsylvania Journal of Prison Discipline, which is published quarterly, under the direction of the Philadelphia Society for alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons. A glance through its pages shows what is well understood—that it is a
Vol. VIII.—APRIL, 1853—No. 2.
Art. I.—MORAL AND RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION OF CONVICTS.
The readers of this Journal need not be told that we are not very sanguine in our expectations of the permanent reformation of the mass of convicts. There are doubtless instances enough of success in such efforts to warrant and encourage them, and we are not to suppose that they are ever wholly useless. The true position for us to take is this. The earlier we address ourselves to the cultivation of right principles and habits in a human being, the more hopeful is the prospect of success; but there is a power in truth and love, which has not seldom overcome the most sturdy depravity; and while we have the precept and example of Him who “came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,” to prompt and stimulate our efforts in that direction, we have His promise too, that whatever is done in His name, and out of love to Him, shall in no wise lose its reward.
It is under the influence of these views that we have looked with interest and anxiety to the religious and moral influences which enter into the discipline of our penitentiaries. To no section of their annual reports, do we turn with more eagerness than to that from the chaplain or moral instructor; and though now and then a well-digested and satisfactory account is furnished,Page 54 we are often compelled to be content with very vague generalities. A specimen of the religious discourses addressed to these unhappy congregations; a true sketch of a dialogue on some religious or moral topic held with one of them in his cell; a synopsis of a month’s labors, showing the various methods employed, direct and incidental, to reach the sympathies, and awaken better motives and desires of the heart, or a brief analysis of those obstacles to moral and religious influences, which may be properly regarded as peculiar to prison life,—all these, or any of them would greatly relieve the monotony of the reports of chaplains and moral instructors, and would add materially to our means of judging of the fitness of their labors to the character and circumstances of those on whom they are bestowed. We are often favored with such specimens of the various methods in which instruction in secular knowledge is conveyed to the ignorant, and enabled to choose between them according to their apparent appropriateness. Why should not the like opportunity be afforded in respect to the more difficult and perplexing task of enlightening adult ignorance, counteracting deeply-depraved tendencies, and up-rooting established habits of evil?
It was with the hope of bringing this important department of our penitentiary discipline more distinctly to view, and of making its principles more practical and definite, that the Prison Society recently took the subject up, and referred it to a committee for consideration and report.
At the meeting in January last a full report was submitted, from which we make the following extracts:
It will be conceded on all hands, we presume, that moral instruction is an important element of every system of Prison Discipline. We are aware that in some of the largest prisons of Europe little, if any, importance is attached to it; but whenever there is any hope of reforming the character of a convict, or of establishing a permanent restraining principle, it must be founded on some improvement in his moral feelings and habits.
That peculiar difficulties and embarrassments should attend any approach to this unhappy class of our fellow beings, with a view to mould moral character, would seem very natural; but is it not possible that we exaggerate the difference between themPage 55 and the mass of the world, in respect to their susceptibilities of good impressions? May we not easily forget that between a score of men in our prison cells, and twenty score of men that may be selected from society at large, the only difference is that the former are detected rogues, and the latter are (perhaps greater) rogues undetected? The ins and the outs are equally open to moral influences, and yet we should be very likely to think of the ins as almost hopelessly beyond their reach, while the outs might be esteemed fair subjects of them.
It is moreover surprising how much farther a conviction of crime goes to exclude men from the pale of sympathy and the offer of assistance, than crime itself. The guilt of hundreds of men at large is as fully established in the public mind, as that of any convict in our penitentiary; yet we do not regard it as at all impracticable to reach them with appropriate moral influences. We should not hesitate to commend books to their attention, to invite and urge them to attend some place of worship, nor to counsel them to abandon all evil courses. Why should we have less faith in the like means when employed upon no worse men, after their character has been defined by a judicial sentence? For though true it is that the presumption of innocence is only taken away by the proof of guilt, yet when looking at men as the subjects of moral influences and sympathies, the fact that one is in prison and another at large really makes much less difference than is generally supposed.
Thus much it seemed needful to say, by way of answer to those who distrust all efforts for the reformation of convicts, regarding them as visionary, if not Quixotic. It is to be regretted that such incredulity sometimes possesses the minds of those who have the chief oversight and direction of the discipline