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The Dark Side of -Convict…

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The Dark Side of Convict Life. I [Being the Account of the Career of HARRY WILLIAMS, a Merthyr Man.] CHAPTER X. In this chapter I wish to deal with the search- ing system. A great deal has been said con. earning this, but the practice is still carried on. What is more degrading than for a man to be forced against his will to undress, as naked as he was born, and then submit to be examined. I can well remember a case some years ago. We were marched to the bath- room to go through the form of search. One man absolutely refused to take anything off beyond his over-clothing and boots, and when ordered to take his shirt off by one of the officers, he replied, No, I have too much I respect for myself to expose myself in that manner." Take them off," said the officer, or I will take them off for you." Still he refused, whereupon other officers were summoned I and they took him by force, and tore them clean from off his back. They then dragged him to the 'cells. The following day ho was brought before the Governor, and sent to be tried before the Director on a charge of incitement to mutiny; and finally he was awarded fifteen days' bread and water, together with a forfeiture I of ten weeks' remission. It matters not whether it is a shovel, chisel, wheel-barrow or a ladder! that is missing, this system of searching is carried out, and in full view of officers and prisoners. The same thing goes on once a fortnight, in the convicts' cells, where everything j is overhauled from a piece of soap to a single sheet of paper. Should a convict happen to have more than one piece of soap, or more than I his quantity of paper, or even a small loaf of bread over his day's rations, he is at once reported and punished with bread and water, and other forfeitures. For instance, a needle, found in a convict's cell or possession, is at once reported and the man punished. Sometimes convicts are obliged to place a button on one of their garments, and the way they do it is by making two small holes with a slate pencil, then tying the button on with a piece of string. Evdji this is considered a punishable offence, yet they are denied a needle to sew buttons on with. I was once reported for having a small piece of soap in my pocket, when searched on parade, and for this I forfeited three days of my ticket. of-leave. Another convict was awarded three days' bread and water, merely for feeding the sparrows through the ventilator of his cell window. For having a single spot of dirt or dust on any of his utensils, or to disarrange them or his bedclothes, or to neglect polishing up his shoes to perfection, a man is punished: An offence which is considered rather serious in convict prisons, but which, in the majority of cases, cannot always be avoided, is to be caught sleeping with the head covered up. Of course, it is considered unhealthy, but this is not the reason why this habit is prohibited. The night-watchinan has to look through each observation glass into the cell once every fifteen minutes during the whole of the night- watch, in order to see that the convict is safely within the cell. I can well remember one night a convict escaped through his cell window, and he so artfully arranged his mattress and pillow that when the officer looked into his cell the dummy appeared for all the world like the head of the convict, and he got clear away, in spite of the civil guards who were patrolling to and fro outside the prison walls. I remember being in the next cell to an old man who was nicknamed Snorer" owing to the noise he made during sleep. One night he was watched by an officer, and when he was seon to have his head covered, the officer kicked his door and ordered him to remove the bedclothes from his head, remarking that if he caught him again he would report him to the Governor. He got three days' bread and water. The man tried to defend himself by saying that he never knew that he was breaking the rules, neither was he aware that he had covered his head but all the Governor said was, A man of your age ought to know better." The Director visits convict prisons once a month, for the purpose of listening to complaints, and to try convicts for serious offences. In recent years, instead of a Director, a Visiting Commit,tee have done this. During my sentence of cine years, I have known over thirty officers who have been dismissed from the service for sleeping during night duty, and they often report a man every time they axe on night duty, in order to throw off suspicion from themselves. One officer used to give tobacco to a convict for watching for him while he stretched himself on a mattress outside the convict's cell door. When the convict heard the senior night officer coming through the doora he would just put his hand underneath the door, and give the officer a good shake to wake him. He would then quickly jump on his feet, when, like a flash of lightning, the mattress would disappear into the cell, and when the senior officer put his head into the hall doorway the officer would be ready with a salute and All correct, sir." (To be continued.)

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