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Prison

near, air, confinement, criminals, built, gaol and walls

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PRISON, an edifice erected for the confinement of debtors and criminals, until they be discharged or convicted. The principal properties in the construction of a prison, are those of strength and convenience. Strength is of the utmost consequence, in order to prevent the escape of the prisoners ; and convenience, to promote their health ; to have the apart ments of their due size and arrangement, according to the different species of criminals, and to be handy in respect of the keeper.

Before the philanthropic labours of the celebrated Howard had made known to the world the dreadful condition of the public prisons of that day, such places were hardly fitted for the habitations even of the lowest animals, much less for the confinement of human beings. But his exertions having called public attention to the subject, a gradual amelioration has taken place, not only in the construction but in the whole system of prison discipline ; until it may be doubted whether modern philanthropy is nut running into the opposite extreme, and rendering abodes intended tor the punislunent of the vicious, superior to those attainable by the unfortunate and the poor.

It would be impossible to point out with any degree of minuteness the successive steps in prison improvement ; nor is it, perhaps, strictly within the objects of this work to do so ; it will be sufficient to describe one or two modern buildings adapted for the confinement of criminals, as specimens of the great advance made within the last few years.

Before doing so, however, it may not be uninteresting to give Mr. lIoward's recommendations relative to the situation and arrangements of a prison, by way of showing the ideas entertained at that time on the subject.

"A county gaol," he says, "and indeed every prison, should be built on a spot that is airy, and, if possible, near a river, or brook. I have commonly found prisons situate near a river, the cleanest and most healthy. They generally have not (and, indeed, could not \veil have) subterraneous dun geons, which have been so fatal to thousands: and, by their nearness to running water, another evil, ahnost as noxious, is prevented, that is, the stench of sewers.

I said, a gaol should be near a stream ; but I must annex this caution, that it be not so near as that either the house or yard shall be within the reach of floods. This was so little thought of at Appleby, in Westmoreland, when their new gaol was first building, that I saw the walls marked from nine inches to three feet high by floods, " If it be not practicable to build near a stream, then an eminence should be chosen : for as the wall round a prison should be so high as greatly to obstruct a free circulation of air, this inconvenience should be lessened by rising ground, and the prison should not be surrounded by other buildings, nor built in the middle of a town or city.

"That part of the building which is detached from the walls, and contains the men-felons' ward, may be square, or rectangular, raised on arcades, that it may be more airy, and leave under it a dry walk in wet weather. These wards over arcades are also best for safety ; for I have found that escapes have been most commonly effected by undermining cells and dungeons. if felons should find any other means to break out of this raised ward, they will still be stopped by the wall of the court, which is the principal security ; and the walls • of the wards need not then be of that great thickness they are generally built, whereby the access of light and air is impeded.

" I wish to have so many small rooms, or cabins, that each criminal may sleep alone. These rooms to be ten feet high to the crown of the arch, and have double doors, one of them iron-latticed, for the circulation of air. If it be difficult to prevent their being together in the day-time, they should, by all means, be separated at night. Solitude and silence are fiivourable to reflection ; and may, possibly, lead them to repentance. Privacy and hours of thoughtfulness are neces sary for those who must soon leave the world ; (yet how contrary to this is our practice ! Keepers have assured me, that they have made „E5 a day after the condemnation of their prisoners.)—In the Old Newgate there were fifteen cells for persons in this situation, which are still left stand ing, and are annexed to the new building.

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