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THE (Extract from the Fifth Report of the Society for the Improvement of Prhon bhcqjUne, Sfe.) THE merits of the tread-wheel, as an instru- ment of prison-labour, have, during the past year, excited considerable interest. Objections of a very serious nature have been urged against it by a Magistrate, whose labours for the im- provement of prison discipline, during a long and honourable life, entitles his sentiments to great attention. Highly as the Committee appreciate the motives which animate the benevolent author, they do not concur with the reason contained in a recent work on prison labour he object of which publication is to show that the ordinary discipline of the tread-wheel is an unsafe, unhealthy, and degrading punishment. The Committee believe that they were the first to recognise the excel- lence. and advocate the introduction, of thb tip- scription of prison labour and, after mature con- sideration. they can discover nothing in the pro- per w$v and moderate application of this punish- merit, that is irreconcileahle with the feeling' of hutua: i. y.and those principles of prison discipline which it is the object of this society to recom- mend. From documents which have been laid before Parliament, the healthiness of the tread-wheel exerc'se is satisfactorily proved. The opinions of the medical officers in attendance at the various prisons, concur in declaring that the general health ofthe prisoners has in no degree suffered injury by the exercise but that, on the contrary, the labour has in this respect been productive of con- sideiable benefit. Recent inquiries which the Committee have instituted, commit these testi- lIIonies; and asrainst evidence so conclusive, a judgment, formed principally from abstract rea- soning, and unsupported by that peculiar expe- rience which the daily observations of a prison- surgeon affords, can have but little weight. The mischievous consequences of which it is stated that the tread-wheel is the source, attach not so much to the nature of the labour, as to the degree in which it may be enforced. There is nothing painful in the simple position of the body on the wheel; and the machinery may be made to revolve so slowly, as scarcely to form a punish- ment while, on the other hand, it cannot be de- nied, that by excessive application it may be ren- dered an instrument of unjustifiable rigour. -The main question, then, on which the safety and expediency ofthe tread-wheel depends,is simply this—can the degree of labour be so regulated as to be ascertained" without difficulty,and restrained, at alt times within safe limits. This consider- ation has occupied the particular attention ot the Committee: and they have the pleasure to state that these very desirable objects can be accom- ir plished. it occurred to the Committee, on pursuing their inquiries upon this subject, that as the se- veral details in the management ofthe tread-wheel afe proportionate in their variations, they might conveniently be laid down upon a slicing Scale. The idea has been carried into execution in a very ingenious maimer by Mr. Bate, mathematical in- strument maker to the Board of Excise, who has constructed an instrument, by the simple inspec- tion of which the rate of labour can at ail times be asci rtained. The utility of this invention is ob- vious it at once enables the Magistrate, or the governor of a prison at which the tread-wheel is in operation, to secure precision of management, and by affording an accurate measure, applicable in all cases, may prevent the inadvertent excess, or intentional abuse, of this species of punish- ment. It is perfectly true that the labour of the tread- wheel, unless it be regulated with great care, may, to use the language of an able and experienced governor of a prison (in a recent communication t,o with the Committee,) become, in the fautfta ot' some, d pnghie of terrible oppression." In or- der to show the importance of further attention to this subject, and the great confusion that at pre- sent prevails in the manner of enforcing the la- bour. the Committee refer to the table in the Ap- pendix, founded on returns recently received, showing the great varieties of punishment inflicted: a bare reference to which will prove the necessity for adopting some uniformity of practice, m or- der to equalize the administration of prison (lIs- cipline. The present inequality, it will be per- ceived, arises not only from the varied degrees of velocity, and the fluctuating- proportions ot work- ing and re, ring prisoners at each wheel, but also from the difference in the working hours ot sum- mer and winter: a (iiiyerelice wliit-lv amounts in the daily rate of labour at some prisons to at least 50 per cent. By an adherence, however, to the allowing regulations, and with the aid of the scale to which the Committee have referred, the tread-mills in various prisons, even those ou the most diversified principles of construction, may be conducted upon one uniform and certain system of operation throughout the kingdom. "1. Every tread-wheel should be provided with a regulator,' bv which its rate of revolution may at all times be restrained within sate limits. 2. To the tread-wheel should also be affixed a 'dial-register,' on reference to which the rate of labour may at any time be ascertained. 14 3. The (taily rate of labour should in no case exceed 12,000 feet in ascent. 4. Care should be taken to apportion the diet to the degree of labour enforced. The Committee are aware that the observance of these rules will not remove the objections whicn many respectable persons entertain against tne use of the tread-wheel: they regard the punish- ment, under any circumstances, as too rigoious.- In the opinion, however, of the Committee, the primary feature in the character of hard labour' should be severity not equal, indeed, to every description of criminals not irreconcileahle with the feelings of humanity, nor one degree beyond that which the public interests justify, and the criminal demands yet a severity I hat shall make those who have violated justice feel the penalties of law, and the consequences Of The Com- mittee believe that for a certain class of offenders the tread-wheel is, under proper regulation, a punishment of this description, and that no House of Correction should be without it. The great proportion of offenders committed to such places of confinement are sentenced to hard labour,' and but for short periods ofiinprisonment, during which the tread-wheel is an appropr ate punishment.— But in bearing this testimony in its favour, they feel no hesitation in declaring their opinion that its value may be over-rated, and its discipline misapplied. Notwithstanding the acknowledged excellcneies of the tread-wheel, it, ought not to form the punishment of those whom the law sen- tences to imprisonment only. To infiict it on thiv description of prisoners would be to change the character of their sentence. To subject, also, convicts committed for long peiiods of imprison- ment, day after day, to this discipline, is incon- sistent with the views of the best writers on the penitentiary system, and at variance with those principles of prison management which Howard never ceased to inculcate, and to realize which the enlightened exertions of Sir George Paul and other eminent Magistrates have been zealously directed. The practice of employing females at the tread-wheel is, in the opinion of many benevolent persons, in no case justifiable. In this sentiment the Committee do not concur. Upon hardened offenders committed to Houses of Correction- such as the law has truly designated' idle and dis- orderly'-the labour is productive of excellent effects, and, if superintended by a careful matron may he safely administered but the general em- ployment of females at the tread-wheel is liable to serious obj ections and as there are, even in the absence of prison trades, other kinds of labour for, women, in a gaol that are congenial to the habits of their sex, the practice of thus employing this class of offenders is not justified by necessity. But let the punishment of tread wheel labour be ever so carefully regulated, there is one con- sideration which ought not to be forgotten, and to which the Committee cannot too earnestly en- treat attention. Punishments, however salutary, cannot alone be expected to reclaim nor do they, under any form, diminish the necessity for those moral and religious services, without which all plans of prison discipline will prove inefficient, and the formation and recovery of good charac- ter become alike utterly hopeless. The Com- mittee have been led to offer these remarks, be- cause it has appeared to them that in spme prisons by far too much dependence has been placed on the deterring influence of tread-wheel labour, while but little earnestness has beea evinced to t advantage of that subjection of mind which the punishment has a tendency to produce, and which might be available for the purposes of re- ligious impressions and permanent improvement. Tiieie i; nothing in the character of tread-wheel labour that may not be made to strengthen the power of religion, and extend the influence of her Ministers over the mind and feelings of a prisoner; and it would be indeed to be deplored, were the introduction of hard labour to be con- sidered as superseding or weakening the necessity for their labours, without which the great objects of prison discipline can never be attained."


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