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detention with so many of their friends did not like being under orders to be silent while at work.' 'If,' she continues, 'my political friends had consented to the order of silence in the sporting spirit of other offenders they would have found more opportunities for talking together.' 'When visitors or inspectors are not about a prison is quite a homely place.' Messrs Hobhouse and Brockway, who lay great stress on the silence rule, say that it is 'probably less severely enforced in female prisons than in male,' though this is not always the case. But they find non-enforcement even more objectionable than enforcement, so difficult are they to please. It must be admitted as a general proposition that a rule which is not, and cannot be, enforced is a bad rule; but, on the other hand, rules and their application are two different things, and there are many sound precedents for having a rule to which full recourse may be had if necessary but allowing a certain latitude in its application according to discretion. Winking at the evasion of a rule is not the best solution of what Messrs Hobhouse and Brockway admit to be a dilemma, but the practice removes the gravamen of a charge which rests on an assumed rigid enforcement.
As to the suppression of individuality Miss Gordon has some acute observations, which go to show that among ordinary women prisoners at least imprisonment may have the effect of accentuating their individuality. It is, she says,
'by no means a levelling circumstance. The attempt at self-justification is a common reason which leads a prisoner to keep silence and not associate with her fellows. Over and over again I have heard: "No, she's no friend of mine; she's a low woman and I wouldn't have nothing to do with her." "I may be a drunkard but I ain't a thief." "I may be a thief but I ain't a drunkard."
It is intelligible that on persons who are by temperament abnormally self-conscious, self-centred, and selfpitying, the prison discipline should have the opposite effect and should tend to flatten out their habitual sense of superiority. It is from this class that most of the witnesses examined for the Enquiry Committee were drawn, and the fact accounts for much of the evidence and for the general manner of the Report.
It may be safely concluded that no railing accusation can be sustained against the existing system of prison administration and that there are no grounds for believing I that what the public would consider gross abuses, such as used to abound, and to-day characterise Russian prisons under the Bolshevists, any longer occur. But this does not mean that perfection has been reached and that the present system is wholly satisfactory. There is no such state in any human institution-or any human being for that matter. In every progressive society a process of change goes on continually. It begins in the subjective sphere, in ideas and mental standards. These march ahead while institutions necessarily lag behind; if they stay too far behind or even deteriorate, as sometimes happens, then we get 'shocking disclosures' when the awakening comes. But the new ideas are rarely, if ever, wholly good. They are generally carried too far, and they have their own defects which presently begin to show and entail further change. Advance is zig-zag, so to speak. This has been the case with prison reform, the story of which is told by Mr and Mrs Webb. We can see that each step was to the good when it was taken, but had subsequently to be corrected in some respect. One by one the principal abuses and defects were removed or mitigated by the means that seemed best suited at the time. It was a slow and gradual process, but it went on until the whole system had been completely transformed.
The removal of gross defects, however, is only a negative form of progress; nor is it enough to raise conditions to the level of an advancing standard. There are deeper forms of change which make themselves felt from time to time, changes of spirit involving a new way of looking at things. Existing institutions are scrutinised in a fresh light, and not only their working but their object is examined. The question does the system fulfil the purpose for which it is intended? is followed by-what is its purpose? The prison system has been the subject of these questions at different times and they are now being actively revived. The three books here under consideration are merely the latest contributions to the discussion. What is to be learnt from them? They all come together on the failure of
the system. And, oddly enough, Miss Gordon is the most emphatic.
'It may appear that, so far, I have no good word to say for our prison system in any of its forms. I have not. I think it creates a criminal class and directly fosters recidivism, that our method is dead and done with and in need of decent cremation.'
It is not easy to reconcile this sweeping and absolute condemnation with the passages quoted above and with many others not quoted, which make light of the supposed severities of penal discipline. Nor, indeed, can they be wholly reconciled. If the prison system is not going to affect the prisoner very much one way or the other' (p. 35), how can it 'create a criminal class' (p. 206)? But perhaps she is speaking of two different things, and is referring in the first quotation to physical, and in the second to mental, effects. It appears from an introductory and autobiographical chapter that her real interest is neither in medicine nor in prisons but in pyscho-analysis, and that she took up the two first in pursuit of material for the third. She says more than once that her (official) work did not interest her in the least; but evidently the study of prisoners did. It is, therefore, as a psycho-analyst that she pronounces condemnation, and her remedy is to sweep away the whole thing and apply 'scientific treatment,' based on psychical principles.
The position arrived at by Messrs Hobhouse and Brockway is virtually the same, though less definitely stated. They contend that physical pain has been replaced by mental suffering, and the effects on which they lay most stress are the mental and moral deterioration, which tend to increase criminality. They would not exactly sweep away the whole thing, but suggest, without defining, 'various kinds of curative treatment for mind and body,' together with 'a thorough and probably arduous training for ordinary life and resumed liberty,' to be carried out by 'men and women of proved aptitude and sympathy.' The 'small residuum' of incorrigibles should be regarded as abnormal, and if segregated for the protection of society should be ensured as much wholesome happiness as possible. That is to say, they are
held to be irresponsible, like incurable lunatics, and should be treated accordingly.
Mr and Mrs Webb, who are primarily concerned with prisons as illustrating the respective features of local and central government, refrain from pronouncing judgment on the system, but refer readers to the Prison Enquiry Report, and criticise the present centralised administration for its secrecy and failure to make more use of voluntary agencies. They suggest the regular provision by volunteers of religious services, lectures, literary and handicraft classes, concerts and conversational cell visits (all condemned by Miss Gordon); and they propound the bold experiment of handing over a prison to be administered by some religious agency. They also urge the classification of criminals and their re-distribution in specialised establishments. These are measures of a practical character which are at least open to discussion.
But what all these critics really object to at bottom is the penal element in imprisonment, which means the punitive treatment of crime. For imprisonment has become the general form of punishment adopted by modern society, or at any rate by the law, for what are considered the graver kinds of offence. They would either abolish it altogether or take the penal character out of it; and since they do not propose reversion to older forms, which assume an increasingly severe character the farther we go back in history, or the substitution of other forms, they would in effect abolish punishment and replace it by some form of educational treatment for certain classes of offenders and comfortable restraint for those, if any, not amenable to such influences. Is this a practicable aim?
Most people will probably go so far as to agree that imprisonment is a highly unsatisfactory form of punishment. It is very expensive and on large classes of offenders it has no effect at all; on others, as at present administered, it has the effect of confirming them in criminality instead of rescuing them from it. The influence on juveniles and first offenders, the futility of short sentences on the in-and-out class, and other bad features, have long been recognised and summed up in the dictum that offenders may be divided into two
categories: (1) those who ought never to go to prison, and (2) those who ought never to come out. During the last thirty or forty years very considerable progress has, in fact, been made in the direction of keeping persons out of prison by successive Acts and by improved administration of the law. It appears from some useful statistical tables given in the Prison Enquiry Report that the number of persons committed to prison (the area is not stated) in 1905 was 197,941; in 1914 it had fallen by degrees to 135,937, and in 1921 to 43,267. The prison population last year was less than one-third of what it was forty years ago, before the passing of the First Offenders Act, which initiated the new departure in keeping persons out of prison. And advance is still proceeding on these lines here and in other countries with undeniable success. Sir R. Wallace, chairman of the London Sessions, recently stated that his experience of the Probation Act passed in 1907 was that out of 100 probationers 95 never came before the Court again. 'Preventive detention' and the reformatory treatment of young delinquents known as the Borstal system, both dating from 1908, are other measures tending to the same end by means of reclamation.
All this is to the good, and much more may be done on similar lines; but the abolition of punishment is quite a different proposition. Much futile argument has been expended on the object of punishing offenders against the law. There is only one object, which is the prevention of offences. The law forbids acts which are regarded as injurious to the members of the community concerned, and consequently as anti-social. That is what the law is for, and its necessity is denied only by anarchists; for anarchism is the alternative. But to be effective a law must be enforced; and for enforcement it is necessary to impose a penalty for infringement. A law which is broken with impunity is inoperative, for every one who has a mind to will break it. The penalty, therefore, is an essential part of the apparatus. And there is no real difference between the retributive and the deterrent principles embodied in the penalty. The one is the instinctive, the other the reasoned means to the same end. The earliest penalty was probably the lex talionis, or law of retribution, which required the