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CallNo.345-9 kl./ F 7? Accession No. 3 *( \ 1J. 



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Founded by : Dr. Karl Mannheim 
Editor : W. J. H. Sprott 

Advisory Board: SIR ALEXANDER CARR-SAUNDERS, M.A., Director of the London School of 

Economics; SIR FRED CLARKE, M.A. (Oxon), formerly Chairman of the Central Advisory Council 

for Education; LORD LINDSAY of Birker, C.B.E. 




An account of the prison and Borstal systems in England 
and Wales after the Criminal Justice Act 1948, with a 
historical introduction and an examination of the 
principles of imprisonment as a legal punishment 



Chairman of the Prison Commission for England and Wales 


Broadway House, 68-74 Carter Lane 


First published in 1952 
by Routledge & Kegan Paul Limited 
Broadway House, 68-74 Carter Lane 

London E.C.4 

Printed in Great Britain by 

William Clowes and Sons, Limited 

London and Beccles 


MY first aim in preparing this book was to describe and explaim 
our prison and Borstal systems as they face the tasks laid oa 
them by the Criminal Justice Act, 1948. But since the pur- 
poses of this Act, and the methods followed to further them, can be 
understood only against their historical and philosophical background 
I have ventured to add, as Part I of the book, a brief history of thought 
and practice in the application of legal punishment and in the develop- 
ment of the idea of imprisonment as a form of punishment. 

The systems described are those under the administration of the 
Prison Commissioners for England and Wales. The systems of Scotland 
and Northern Ireland have, however, developed along -parallel lines 
under their separate administrations, and making due allowance for 
differences in scale it may be said that principles and practice are in 
general similar throughout the United Kingdom. 

I am indebted to the Permanent Under Secretary of State for the 
Home Department for permission to publish this book, but it should 
be understood that while the facts and figures, so far as they relate to 
the English systems, are derived almost entirely from published official 
documents, the responsibility for their accurate presentation and for 
any inferences drawn from them rests solely with myself. 

My grateful thanks are due to the many colleagues and friends who 
have kindly helped me with correction and advice. The text itself, 
particularly in Part I, speaks on nearly every page of my debt to many 
workers and thinkers in this wide field whose valuable publications 
have enabled me to extend the scope of this book much beyond my 
own experience. The Bibliographical Notes contain more specific 

May I in conclusion warn readers that while the text represents the 
situation as it appeared at the beginning of 1951, it is a fluid and 
developing situation. Information received after the completion of the 
text to the latest possible date will be included in Appendix K. 

L. W. F. 
June 1951 


The following notes refer only to the principal works quoted or used in 
the text, and are not intended to constitute a bibliography of the subject. 
Where the name of the author is used alone for short reference in the text, 
it is shown in brackets at the end of the note. 

The State of the Prisons, John Howard, 1777. 

An Inquiry whether Crime and Misery are Produced or Prevented by our 
Present System of Prison Discipline, T. Fowell Buxton, 1818. 

The Prison Chaplain, Rev. W. Clay (Macmillan), 1861. 
A memoir of the work of the Rev. John Clay, Chaplain of Preston Prison. 
A valuable source-book of information on early nineteenth-century opinion 
and historical development. [Clay.] 

Elizabeth Fry, Janet Whitney (Guild Books, Harrap), 1937. [Whitney.] 

The Punishment and Prevention of Crime, Sir E. du Cane (Macmillan), 1885. 
The first Chairman of the Prison Commission here describes and explains 
the system for which he was responsible for over twenty years, [du Cane.] 

The English Prison System, Sir E. Ruggles-Brise (Macmillan), 1921. 
Sir E. du Cane's successor takes the story up to 1921. [Ruggles-Brise.] 

English Prisons under Local Government, Sidney and Beatrice Webb (Long- 
mans), 1922. 

The standard history of our prison system up to 1898, of which any 
subsequent historical work must be to some extent a summary. A stimu- 
lating preface by George Bernard Shaw on crime, punishment, and prisons 
in general. [Webb.] 

English Prisons Today, edited by S. Hobhouse and A. Fenner Brockway 
(Longmans), 1922. 

The Report of the Prison System Enquiry Committee established in 1919 
by the Labour Research Department. 

The Modern English Prison, L. W. Fox (Routledge), 1934. 
An account by the present writer, then Secretary of the Prison Commission, 
of the English prisons and Borstals in 1933. 

The Home Office, Sir E. Troup (Putnam), 1925. 

A short account of the Home Office, its functions, and the way it works 
with a history of the development of the office of Secretary of State. 
Sir E. Troup was Permanent Under-Secretary of State in the Home Office, 
1908-1922. [Troup.] 

English Social History, G. M. Trevelyan (Longmans, Green), 1944. 



A History of English Criminal Law from 1750, Vol. I, L. Radzinowicz 
(Stevens), 1948. 

A detailed and definitive history, by the Asst. Director of the Department 
of Criminal Science of Cambridge University, which sets the development 
of English criminal law and its administration, and of penal thought, 
against a wide social and political background. [Radzinowicz.] 
The Dilemma of Penal Reform, H. Mannheim (Geo. Allen & Unwin), 1939 
Dr. Mannheim, Lecturer in Criminology at the London School of Econ- 
omics and Political Science, makes a searching study of the social and 
economic aspects of penal reform. [Mannheim.] 

Penal Reform, M. Griinhut (Oxford University Press), 1948. 

A comparative study of the history, purposes and developments of penal 
reform in Europe and America by the Reader in Criminology in the Uni- 
versity of Oxford. [Griinhut.] 

Crime and the Community, Sir Leo Page (Faber and Faber), 1937. 
Sir Leo Page was a magistrate of long experience on the Bench and as 
Chairman of the Visiting Committee of one of H.M. Prisons. His book is 
a valuable contribution to contemporary thought on the problems of 
legal punishment, its principles, and its application in practice. [Page.] 

Meet the Prisoner, John A. F. Watson (Cape), 1939. 
Mr. Watson is a London Juvenile Court magistrate, and a former Chair- 
man of the National Association of Prison Visitors. From his intimate 
knowledge of prisons and prisoners he gives a vivid account of English 
prisons and their problems at the time, with particular reference to educa- 
tion, religion, welfare, and the work of Prison Visitors. [Watson.] 

Society and the Criminal, Sir Norwood East (Stationery Office), 1949. 

Sir Norwood East, a former Medical Commissioner of Prisons, is Lecturer 
on Forensic Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital (London University). 
These collected essays deal authoritatively with the nature of criminals, 
criminal responsibility, psychopathic personalities, and the medico-legal 
aspects of crime. [East.] 

Should Prisoners Work, L. N. Robinson (Winston, Philadelphia), 1931. 
A study of the prison labour problem in the United States, with some 
discussion of principles of general application. [Robinson.] 

The Clarke Hall Lectures, published annually by the Clarke Hall Fellowship, 

The Ethics of Penal Action, (First Lecture) by the late Archbishop Temple. 


Is the Criminal to Blame, or Society, (Fourth Lecture) by Lord Samuel 


Mental Health and the Offender, (Seventh Lecture) by Dr. J. R. Rees. 


Criminal Justice; Problems of Punishment, (Eighth Lecture) by Lord 

Justice Birkett. [Birkett.] 

The Institutional Treatment of Offenders, (Ninth Lecture) by Sir A. Maxwell. 

f Maxwell .1 


The following books would have been included above had they beem 
received before my text was complete: 

Arms of the Law, Margery Fry (Gollancz), 1951. 

Pater son on Prisons, ed. S. K. Ruck (F. Muller), 1951. (The collected 
papers of the late Sir Alexander Paterson.) 


Making Citizens (1945). A review of the aims, methods and achievements of 

the Approved Schools in England and Wales. Price Is. Orf. 
Prisons and Borstals (1950). Price 2s. 6d. 

A short account of policy and practice in the administration of prisons 

and Borstal Institutions in England and Wales, issued under the authority 

of the Home Office. Illustrated by photographs. 
Reports of the Commissioners of Prisons and Directors of Convict Prisons. 

Published annually. Price 4s. 

Criminal Statistics, England and Wales. Published annually. Price usually 3s. 
Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Present State 

of Discipline in Gaols and Houses of Correction, 1863. 
Report from the Departmental Committee on Prisons, 1895. 
Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Debtors 

(Imprisonment), 1908. 
Report from the Departmental Committee on the Treatment of Young Offenders, 

1927. Price 2s. 6d. 
Report from the Departmental Committee on Persistent Offenders, 1932. 

Price Is. 6d. 
Report from the Departmental Committee on the Employment of Prisoners. 

Parti. 1933. Price Is. 6d. 

Do. Part II. 1935. Price Is. 3d. 
Report from the Departmental Committee on Imprisonment by Courts of 

Summary Jurisdiction in Default of Payment of Fines, etc., 1934. Price 
/ Is. 6d. 
Report on the Psychological Treatment of Crime, by W. Norwood East and 

W. H. de B. Hubert, 1939. Price 2s. 6d. 
Report of a Committee to Review Punishments in Prisons, Borstal Institutions, 

Approved Schools and Remand Homes. Parts I and II, Prisons and Borstal 

Institutions. Price 3s. 6d. (H.M. Stationery Office). 











(1) The Home Secretary, p. 77; (2) The Prison Commission, 
p. 79 


(1) Visiting Committees and Boards of Visitors, p. 85; 

(2) Governors, Chaplains, and Medical Officers, p. 87; 

(3) Other Staff, p. 91; (4) Whitley Councils and Conditions 
of Service, p. 95 


(1) Nature and Distribution of Prison Buildings, p. 98; 

(2) Planning and accommodation, p. 101 ; (3) Cells and their 
equipment, p. 104 



(1) Composition, p. Ill; (2) Characteristics, p. 115; (3) 
Size and Distribution, p. 1 18 


(1) Principles and their application, p. 128 ; (2) Classification, 
p. 140; (3) Training, p. 148 




(1) General, p. 158; (2) Security, p. 161; (3) Mechanical 
Restraints and Removal, p. 164; (4) Remission, p. 165; 
(5) Offences and Punishments, p. 166; (6) Information and 
Complaints, p. Ill 

11. WORK 176 

(1) Principles and Problems, p. 176; (2) Provision and 
Organisation of Work, p. 187; (3) Vocational Training, 
p. 195; (4) Incentives to Work, p. 196 


(1) Religion, p. 201 ; (2) Prison Visitors, p. 205; (3) Educa- 
tion and Recreation, p. 208; (4) Social Relations and 
Welfare,?. 218 


(1) Personal hygiene, p. 221 ; (2) Exercise, p. 229; (3) Food, 
p. 231; (4) Clothing, p. 236 


(1) The Body, p. 238; (2) The Mind, p. 242 

15. AFTER-CARE 253 

(1) Principles and Problems, p. 253; (2) Discharged Pris- 
oners' Aid Societies, p. 257; (3) The Central After-Care 
Association, p. 265 

16. RESULTS 273 

(1) General Observations, p. 273; (2) Results of training, 
p. 275; (3) Recidivism, p. 279 



(1) Untried Prisoners, p. 285; (2) Appellants, p. 287; 

(3) Convicted Prisoners awaiting sentence, etc., p. 288; 

(4) Prisoners Convicted of Sedition, etc., p. 288; (5) Civil 
Prisoners, p. 293; (6) Prisoners under Sentence of Death, 
p. 296 


(1) The Problem, p. 297; (2) Corrective Training, p. 307; 
(3) Preventive Detention, p. 315 




(1) Before 1908, p. 327; (2) 1908 to 1938, p. 334; (3) The 
Criminal Justice Act 1948, p. 338 


(1) Their Numbers and Characteristics, p. 344; (2) Treat- 
ment and Training of Young Prisoners, p. 346 


(1) The Law^352; (2) The Principles, p. 355; (3) The 
Reception Centres and Classification, p. 359; (4) The 
Institutions, p. 360; (5) The Staff, p. 363; (6) The Borstal 
Population, p. 365 


(1) Character training, p. 368; (2) Work, p. 373; (3) Educa- 
tion and recreation, p. 378; (4) Discipline, p. 381; (5) 
General, p. 390 


(1) Release, p. 392; (2) After-care and supervision, p. 393; 
(3) Recall, p. 397; (4) Results of the Borstal system, p. 398 


A. Extracts from Sir T. Powell Buxtorfs Inquiry, 1818 . . 402 

B. Extracts from the Reports of the Inspectors of Prisons, 1836 412 

C. Extracts from the Report of the Select Committee of the House 

of Lords on Prison Discipline, 1863 .... 425 

D. Particulars of the Staff of the English Prisons Service. . 431 

E. Particulars of the Establishments in Use .... 433 

F. Proceedings of the XII International Penal and Penitentiary 

Congress at The Hague, 1950 437 

G. Extracts illustrating Contemporary International Opinion 

on the Principles of Punishment and their Application . 444 

H. Summary of Stage System and Privileges .... 452 

I. Summary of the Recommendations of Departmental Com- 
mittee on Punishments in Prisons and Borstals, 1951 . 455 

J. Diet Card Issued to Prisoners ...... 457 

K. Addenda 459 

Index 469 



Career ad terrorem aedificatur. Livy, i. 33. 

Career ad conlinendos homines, non ad puniendos haberi 
debet. Justinian, Digest. 

Parum est coercere improbos poena nisi probos efficias 
disciplina. Inscription in House of Correction of St. 
Michael, Rome. (cit. John Howard, Stqje of the Prisons, 

May God preserve the City of London, and make this pjace 
a terror to evil doers. Commemorative inscription on 
foundation stone deposit of Holloway Prison, 1849. 

We do not consider that the moral reformation of the offender 
holds the primary place in the prison system. House of Lords 
Committee of 1863. 

(The primary object) is deterrence, through suffering, inflicted 
as a punishment for crime, and the fear of a repetition of it. 
Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, in evidence to that Committee. 

Prison treatment should have as its primary and concurrent 
objects deterrence and reformation. Gladstone Committee 
of 1895. 

You cannot train men for freedom in a condition of captivity. 
Sir Alexander Paterson, 1932. 

The purposes of training and treatment of convicted prisoners 
shall be to establish in them the will to lead a good and useful 
life on discharge, and to fit them to do so. Prison Rules, 
1949, Rule 6. 


BETWEEN the Criminal Justice Act of 1948 and the Prisons Act 
of 1898, which was the last previous statute affecting the adminis- 
tration of our prison system, lie fifty years. Through these years 
the system has steadily followed a course which it will be the purpose 
of this book to explain and define, with a particular description of the 
methods by which it is being and will be pursued in the light of the 
Act of 1948. 

But in this first part we shall be concerned less with means than with 
ends. What is done in a prison can make sense only in the light of 
some answer to the question what is prison for? And if one can 
hope today to find that answer with more certainty than was possible 
before 1948, it still has to be found: it is nowhere given to us ready- 
made, authoritative, and of general acceptance. 

For this one may offer explanations, the first particular to this 
country, the second of general validity. 

The first, then, lies in the nature of English tradition and the structure 
of English law. 'It is characteristic of the English genius for practical 
affairs that we are suspicious of system . . . the English tend rather to 
deal with the situation confronting them and afterwards discover on 
what principles they have done so, and what precedent for future action 
they have established.' 1 Thus our law is not disposed to arrange 
itself in consistent, comprehensive, and logical codes: certainly neither 
our prison system nor the penal system of which it forms part derives 
from such a code. Indeed it is not until the Act of 1948 that one can 
hope to learn from the law and then largely by inference what place 
Parliament has assigned to the prison in its general order of battle for 
the attack on crime. 

To the modern development of our prison system this situation has 
been of great advantage has indeed permitted it to acquire such merit 
as it may possess. In particular, flexibility and freedom of experiment 

i Temple, p. 1 . 


were assufed by the decision, in the Prison Act of 1898, to discard 
the detailed regulation of the prison regime embodied in earlier Acts, 
and to leave this to the subordinate legislation of Statutory Rules 
made by the Secretary of State. Desirable change could thus be made 
without the need for fresh legislation on each occasion, and legislation 
has harvested the fruit of administrative development. Sir Evelyn 
Ruggles-Brise had developed the Borstal system for some years before 
it received statutory recognition : the conception of 'training' prisoners 
was well established before the word made its statutory debut in 1948: 
and when in one historic handful of words the Act of 1948 abolished 
penal servitude, hard labour and the triple division of imprisonment, 
and so established, almost by inadvertence, the single sentence of un- 
differentiated imprisonment the 'peine unique' of classic crimino- 
logical controversy it did no more than recognise de lege a situation 
already existing de facto through the normal and logical development 
of the principles of 1898. 

We may therefore be grateful on the whole that, as Dr. Griinhut 
points out, 'England, with her traditional system of non-codified law, 
has been spared the cumbersome way of total reform' l even though 
one effect be the inevitability of cumbersome explanation. Another 
effect will be that when we come to view our prison system at work, 
and perhaps find much to call in question, it can only explain itself 
as Topsy did 'I never was born, I just growed.' We shall not see a 
machine running to blueprint specifications, but the contemporary 
phase of a long historical process, a vital organism claiming to be 
judged not only by what it now is but by what it has been and what it 
is becoming. 

The second explanation of our uncertainties will take longer. It 
derives from the fact that since a prison system is part of a penal 
system it cannot to put it no higher at this stage of the argument 
be dissociated from the idea of punishment. And as to the ends, the 
means, or the values of punishment it does not appear either that 
philosophers or psychologists are yet agreed among themselves, or 
that such conclusions as some of them may have reached necessarily 
commend themselves to the general sense of the man in the street. 
With the general ethics of punishment we cannot concern ourselves 
here: it is not the easiest branch of metaphysics. But when it is brought 
into relation with the particular field of penal action by society against 
criminal offenders, particular difficulties arise, and these we cannot 
ignore even if in the end we cannot resolve them. Some conclusions 
on them, if only as a working hypothesis, are essential if an answer is 
to be given to our question: yet it would not be easy to formulate any 
which could with certainty be said to be of general acceptance among 
those concerned with these matters, be they jurists or judges, penologists 

i Griinhut, p. 106. 


or politicians, 1 prison administrators, police, or just plain members of 
the public the actual or potential victims of crime. And though the 
views of these last may rarely become articulate, they are of central 
importance; for the prevention of crime, which is here our concern 
as a matter of abstract speculation, is for every member of the com- 
munity a matter of serious actuality. 

First, then, let us consider what crime is. 

'It is plain that in every community professing to be civilised there 
must be rules and regulations which the citizens must obey, and 
standards of behaviour to which they must conform; and those rules 
and regulations, designed for the benefit of all, and made by the 
Parliament the citizens themselves have chosen, must be enforced.' 2 
Crime, in its broadest sense, is the breach of such of these rules as the 
community decides to enforce through its penal system. But these may 
range from playing football in the street to being drunk while driving 
a motor-car; from hawking without a licence to publishing a false 
balance-sheet; from stealing an apple to embezzling millions; from a 
minor assault to a homicide or rape. In neither popular nor technical 
thought are all these offences 'criminal' ; yet our concern is with all, 
since, as we shall see, all may in the end be the concern of the prison. 

Apart from these distinctions of degree, opinion as to what kind of 
conduct should be deemed criminal has varied widely from time to 
time and from place to place: few indeed are those classes of offence of 
which it can be said 'quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus . . .' 
'Even from the point of view of legal policy there is hardly any uni- 
formity of opinion as to whether to give only a few examples- 
attempted suicide, homosexual activities, adultery, euthanasia, and 
certain types of abortion should or should not be generally treated as 
criminal offences' 3 ; and where conduct of one of these types is treated 
as an offence, there is often a strong body of opinion against con- 
victions, with no disposition on the part of those who hold that opinion 
to consider the offenders as criminals. 

While therefore we cannot forget that 'there are in the world a 
considerable number of extremely wicked people, disposed when 
opportunity offers to get what they want by force or fraud, with com- 
plete indifference to the rights of others, and in ways that are incon- 
sistent with the existence of civilised society', 4 we must also remember 
that it is not with those alone, nor mainly, that the penal system and 
therefore the prisons are concerned. And in particular we must avoid 
the pitfall of treating crime and sin as synonymous terms, and con- 
fusing the criminal law with a code of ethics. It is not through its 

1 "It cannot be said that the theories of criminal punishment current among 
either our judges or our legislators have assumed . . . either a coherent or even a 
stable form." Kenny, Outlines of Criminal Law, 15th edition, 1947, p. 38. 

2 Birkett, pp. 18, 19. 3 Mannheim, p. 23. * Stephen J. cit Birkett, p. 24. 


penal system that society seeks to vindicate its moral basis. That 
system has in view a much more limited and practical end, which we 
may see more clearly, so far as concerns our own system, by the 
inductive process of asking what in fact are the actions which in this 
country, at this time, are treated as criminal offences. 

Of those more serious offences, known to the law as indictable 
offences, which are usually referred to as crime, the Criminal Statistics 
list 70, of which in one form or another 35 are offences of dishonesty 
in relation to property, and 25 of violence, including sexual offences, 
against the person: the remaining few include such comparatively 
rare offences as perjury, libel, attempted suicide, and certain offences 
against the State. Of the persons guilty of these crimes who come to 
prison, some 88 per cent will have committed offences against property 
and 9 per cent offences against the person. From these facts the effective 
purpose of our penal system in relation to serious crime might seem 
to be the protection of our property and persons against dishonesty 
and violence. 

But of every 100 offenders convicted in 1947, no less than 81 had 
committed non-indictable offences, and ten years earlier the percentage 
was 90. These non-indictable offences, though for the most part they 
are rather of the order of 'breaches of regulations', do include certain 
offences, such as assaults and offences against property of a minor 
nature and cruelty to or neglect of children, which are more akin to 
crime than to such social nuisances as immoderate drunkenness, tact- 
less begging, and parking cars in the wrong place. There has also 
been, since the late war, a range of offences, which unfortunately can- 
not be isolated statistically, deriving from economic controls and 
restrictions. These are, in one sense, more clearly offences against 
society than many which excite greater public resentment, yet the 
amount of odium attaching to them has tended to vary with the 
individual social conscience. 

These considerations having suggested the need for care in making 
generalisations about criminals and crime, whether in relation to pre- 
vention or to treatment, we now approach what Lord Justice Birkett 
has described as 'the central problem . . . what is to be done when it is 
proved that these rules and regulations have been broken?' l 

The prevention of crime in the widest sense calls for action in many 
fields outside that of the penal system. To expect from a penal system 
that it should by itself create law-abiding citizens can only be regarded 
as a grotesque over-estimation of its powers.' 2 Lord Samuel has 
isolated three causal factors of crime heredity, environment, and 
individual choice. 3 Society may seek to influence all these through 
education and the work of the Churches, as well as by such remedial 
measures as the care of deprived or maladjusted children and mentally 
i Birkett, p. 19. 2 Mannheim, p. 19. 3 Samuel, p. 17. 


subnormal or abnormal persons, eugenics, and improved housing 
conditions. But the concern of penal law is with the last factor only, 
and its operation is twofold directly, against those persons whose 
reactions to influences pre-disposing to crime produce a wrong choice 
of action; indirectly, against every one subject to those influences 
for, as Lord Samuel puts it, 'the penal law is itself one of the elements 
that help to determine the choice.' In the more technical language of 
penology, the preventive effect of the penal system is said to be both 
'individual' and 'general'. Lord Justice Birkett's 'central problem' is 
that of individual prevention, in that it is concerned with the treatment 
of the individual against whom an offence has been proved, but it is 
impossible to treat this question apart from the considerations arising 
from general prevention. 

The theory of general prevention is that potential offenders will be 
deterred from offence by the fear of what will happen to them if they 
are found out. If this theory is to be effective in practice it must rest 
on a general assumption that offenders will, on the whole, be detected, 
brought to justice, and in proper cases suitably punished. 'Something 
must be done to assert the power of the law and to make it plain that 
the law must be observed; and any weakness here is the greatest possible 
disservice to the life of the whole community. The punishment of the 
offender, ordained by the law itself, must not only be a just punish- 
ment but it must be recognised to be just, and will vary with the proved 
facts of each particular case; but whatever is done it is important 
that the law itself shall be vindicated, and disobedience to it never 
merely condoned.' l 

Thus the action of the courts in relation to each individual offender 
has a certain ambivalence: it looks to the effect on that individual, 
who has not been deterred from offence by general prevention 
but may be prevented from offending again; but it looks also to the 
effect on all who may be tempted to commit that sort of offence. It is 
this ambivalence which has led to some, though not all, of the diffi- 
culties that have arisen in relation to the punishment by society of 
individual offenders. 

Punishment is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as 'to cause 
an offender to suffer for an offence', and legal punishment is defined 
by Dr. Griinhut as 'a legal sanction against unlawful acts committed 
with a guilty mind'. Given that to cause suffering is an evil, unless it 
can be justified as the means to a good end, the problem posed has 
been the justification of the use of evil as a legal sanction. 

'Punishment,' said George Bernard Shaw (speaking of legal punish- 
ment), 'is a mistake and a sin.' 2 That Mr. Justice Stephen meant to 
express the same view when he said 'the object of criminal law is to 
overcome evil with evil' should not perhaps be assumed, since he also 
i Birkett, p. 19. 2 Preface to Webb, p. lii. 


said, 'The criminal law thus proceeds upon the principle that it is 
morally right to hate criminals, and ... I think that the punishments 
inflicted on them should be so contrived as to give expression to that 
hate and to justify it.' l It may be that Dr. Grunhut had this view in 
mind when he wrote, 'Legal punishment is inseparably linked with the 
idea of justice. . . . A just punishment is more than the overcoming of 
evil with force. It is also a spiritual power which may make an appeal 
to the moral personality of man.' 2 

For two centuries or more this argument has ranged 'about it and 
about', bjjt it must suffice here to give an impression of the contem- 
porary climate of opinion, within which those concerned with the ad- 
ministration of the penal system must carry out their work. The 
different standpoints adopted at different stages of development in this 
country, and their effects in practice, will be noticed in the following 

It is first necessary to consider the present view of those classic 
justifications of punishment as an end in itself, the doctrines of Expia- 
tion and Retribution. The former suggests that it is morally good and 
necessary that an offender should expiate his offence by a punishment 
which adjusts his suffering to his sin. This view finds little support today. 
In so far as it equates crime with sin, it invites the reply even if it be 
so, why select those sins which happen to have been brought within 
the scope of penal law for public vindication of this moral need? And 
Archbishop Temple expressly deprecated, for himself, 'the intuition . . . 
that it is good that the wicked should suffer'. 3 Most discussions of the 
theory now conclude that the judgment of moral guilt is a function of 
religion rather than of law. Sir Leo Page and Dr. Grunhut both 
emphasise the difficulties of a judge in face of this confusion of law and 
morality. 'Be it once accepted that expiation is a necessary constituent 
of the punishment of an offender, then, whenever the courts of law 
found a defendant guilty of a legal offence, they would be bound to 
impose such a penalty as would cause him pain and suffering . . . (and) 
... to require a judge to determine precisely the degree of pain adequate 
to expiate moral guilt is patently impossible. No human judge, but 
God alone, can read the secrets of the heart.' 4 'The infliction of punish- 
ment by human judges with their limited insight into character and 
motives is acceptable only in so far as it is necessary for the protection 
of the community.' 5 

The doctrine of Retribution calls for closer consideration, for it lies 
closer to the roots of common feeling. It has been described by Arch- 
bishop Temple and Dr. Grunhut in almost identical terms 'It is 
concerned that the evil-doer should get what he deserves', 6 and '(Retri- 
bution) implies the notion that the offender has deserved his punish- 

1 Cit. Birkett, p. 20. 3 Temple, p. 28. 5 Grunhut, p. 3. 

2 Grunhut, p. 3. 4 p age> p . 68. Temple, pp. 27, 28. 


ment, that it is "his due".' l This feeling is, as Professor Sidgwick 
put it, 2 'universalised in criminal justice', and emphasis is added to this 
view by Lord Justice Birkett, out of his wide experience as both advo- 
cate and judge in the criminal courts, when he says The element of 
retribution is always present, I think, in the sentences imposed for the 
more serious offences. The advocates of retribution insist that in any 
well-ordered state, the citizens feel that when the laws are broken it is 
just and proper that punishment shall overtake the wrong-doer. And 
the sense of satisfaction that this arouses, it is urged, is by no means 
an unimportant consideration.' 3 The sting of this last statement lies 
in the tail, for the assumption of a certain public sentiment to be satis- 
fied has had no small influence on the action of the penal system in all 
its phases. The present Lord Chief Justice, in an address to the Magi- 
strates Association, said The public conscience will not be satisfied if 
gross, violent, savage, and sometimes bestial crimes are not punished 
in a way that will satisfy it . . .' 4 

This dictum of the Lord Chief Justice was however in terms of 
limited application, and the doctrine of Retribution in the sense of 
'what the offender deserves' must be stated in wider terms for com- 
plete reconciliation with current thought and practice. What is due to 
the offender can be no more and no less than a sentence which is just 
in the terms predicated by Lord Justice Birkett (p. 7) and Dr. Griinhut 
(p. 8), that is to say a sentence which keeps in balance the interests of 
the community as a whole and those of the offender as a member of the 
community. If such a sentence leads to the infliction of pain and 
suffering as punishment, then in so far as that is calculated, no more 
and no less, both to demonstrate that the law cannot be broken with 
impunity and to prevent the offender from repeating the offence, 
it is justified as a means to a good end in that it will promote his 
moral welfare, whereby the community benefits equally with the 

Discussions of the doctrine of punishment do not always distinguish 
in this sense between Expiation and Retribution, and condemnation of 
Retribution as a principle may often appear on analysis to be rather 
a condemnation of that 'adjustment of suffering to sin' which has here 
been brought under the heading of Expiation as when Lord Justice 
Asquith described Retribution as 'a theory . . . now so discredited that 
to attack it is to flog a dead horse.' 5 It is however sufficiently clear 
that the reaction against the most extreme statements of the doctrine 
of Retribution has now gone so far that some would eliminate it, or 
convert it into terms which at least suggest that it 'may be more accur- 
ately described as restorative than retributive, since its function is to 

i Grunhut, pp. 3, 4. * Cit. Kenny, p. 35. 3 p. 23. 
* Reported in The Magistrate (July 1948). 
5 The Listener: May 11, 1950: p. 821. 


repair the damaged order of society, and since it does not necessarily 
carry with it the wish to inflict pain . . . The nature of the punishment 
(the State) imposes is determined not by the intrinsic guilt of the offence 
but by the need to prevent its repetition. The motive for the punishment 
which the State inflicts in a Christian society is not the demand for 
retribution, that the guilty should be made to pay, but the positive 
impulse to restore the broken order of society.' l 

This position appears to find support at one point from the Law 
This hope of preventing a repetition of an offence is not only a main 
object, but the sole permissible object, of inflicting a criminal punish- 
ment' 2 ; and at another from the Church, in Archbishop Temple's 
reference to 'the essential element in so-called retributive punishment 
. . . the assertion of the good-will of the community against his (the 
offender's) evil will.' 3 To state the position in these terms implies 
further that the 'restoration of the broken order of society', or 'the 
assertion of the good-will of the community against the offender's evil 
will', or even the plain 'vindication of the law' does not necessarily 
require that the action taken against the offender should include punish- 
ment in the sense of pain and suffering, so that the tendency today is 
to speak rather of the 'treatment' than of the 'punishment' of offenders, 
it being always and clearly understood that treatment may include 
punishment, and severe punishment, in a proper case. 'We nowadays 
realise that the basic vindication of the law is that the offender is put 
within the power of the court. And the court has the choice of punish- 
ment, that is of treatment . . .' 4 

It would at least appear to be in the light of such considerations that 
legal punishment can today be defined as 'the action which the court 
sees wise to take towards a person on conviction' 5 or 'the totality of 
the legal consequences of a conviction for crime.' 6 Certainly there is 
support for them in the actual practice of the courts in recent years. 
In 1947, 633,459 persons were dealt with by the criminal courts in 
England and Wales. Of these 78-9 per cent were fined; 15 per cent 
were bound over, dismissed, or placed under supervision under the 
Probation of Offenders Act; and only 4-7 per cent were sentenced to 

It is now necessary to consider how far this view of the principles of 
punishment in relation to individual prevention is affected by considera- 
tions arising from general prevention and from the need which has 
been expressed to satisfy a demand of the public conscience for severe 

1 The Times Literary Supplement: April 21, 1950: leading article on 'Retribution'. 

2 Kenny, Outlines of Criminal Law, 15th edition, p. 32. 

3 Temple, p. 31. 

* The Courts and Punishment, Dr. F. J. O. Coddington : The Magistrate, May-June, 

5 Page, p. 76. 

<5 B. A. Wortley, in The Modern Approach to Criminal Law (Macmillan), p. 50. 


retributive punishment for certain offences or 9lasses of offence. And 
here we are not concerned with the special and quite separate problem 
of the persistent offender. 

The principle of general prevention is that the penal system should 
have the effect of deterring potential offenders by fear of what will 
happen to them if they are found out. Therefore the court in dealing 
with each individual offender should consider the effect of its sentence 
not only on him but on all who may be tempted to commit a like 
offence. In considering the practical effects of this principle, it seems 
necessary first to answer the question what is it that the potential 
offender fears? 

It was the assumption that the only answer to this question was 
'severity of punishment' that be-devilled the penal systems of the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, since it led to the complete sub- 
ordination of the interests of the individual to a conception of the 
interests of the community which was based not on reason and experi- 
ence but on ignorance and fear. It was this sentiment which was epito- 
mised in the pronouncement of ' the eighteenth-century judge, 'You 
are to be hanged not because you have stolen a sheep but in order that 
others may not steel sheep.' Since severity was the only acceptable 
criterion of deterrence, it followed that when it failed in its effect as 
it invariably did the only remedy was to call for further severity; and 
any attempt to break the vicious circle in which the system thus en- 
meshed and stultified itself met with the state of mind exemplified in 
Lord Ellenborough's now classic reply to Romilly's attempt to remove 
the death penalty for stealing 5s. or more from a shop, 'Your Lordships 
will pause before you assent to a measure so pregnant with danger 
for the security of property. The learned judges are unanimously 
agreed that the expediency of justice and public security require that 
there should not be a remission of capital punishment in this part of 
the criminal law.' 

What most contributed to defeat this system was that it did not 
satisfy the public conscience. 'It must never be forgotten that the law 
is enforced by ordinary people. . . . Drastic punishment arouses in 
many minds such a sympathy for the accused that they will have no 
part or lot in inflicting it.' l Sir Leo Page, in illustration of this point, 
tells us that in 1830 a petition signed by 725 bankers was presented in 
Parliament 'praying that Parliament would not withhold from them 
that protection to their property which they would derive from a more 
lenient law', 2 and that in fifteen years to 1833 it was said that 555 
perjured verdicts were returned at the Old Bailey alone for the single 
offence of stealing from a dwelling-house. 

Indeed, whether or no there be scientific and statistical support for 
the view that 'crime decreases in every country as the pain inflicted for 
i Birkett, p. 22. 2 Page, p. 54. 


it is diminished', 1 the plain lesson which students of criminal science 
draw from the history of penal law is that a policy of uniform deterrent 
severity has never been effective for either individual or general pre- 

On the principle of punishment with general deterrence in view as 
a primary aim, Archbishop Temple had this to say: 'In the infliction 
of a deterrent sentence the State is treating the offender as a means to 
the good of others rather than as an end in himself; and if this is all 
that the State has in view it will be acting immorally, for it will be 
contravening the fundamental principle of morality as expressed in the 
Kantian maxim: "Treat humanity, whether in your own person or in 
others, always as an end withal and never only as a means" ... the 
moral relationship of the State towards the offending member cannot 
be exhausted by what has so little of moral quality about it as mere 
deterrence.' 2 

Attention has also been drawn to an effect of undue emphasis on 
severity of punishment in aid of general prevention which is more than 
a mere debating point. If the principle is of general validity and logically 
applied, it would follow that the commonest offences should attract 
the greatest deterrence. Traffic offences, for example, should be more 
seriously treated than offences that are, comparatively, rare. Indeed 
Mr. Alan Paton has pointed out that in Sweden, where ordinary crime 
is not a serious problem but traffic offences are, "the same community 
that tolerates a humane and dispassionate approach to ordinary crime 
asks for sterner measures against dangerous traffic offenders.' 3 The 
practical difficulties of pursuing this line of thought to its logical 
conclusion are apparent. 

Contemporary opinion, therefore, while accepting that the action 
of the penal system should be strong enough to vindicate the law, and 
that this action must therefore lead to punishment, and even severe 
punishment, in proper cases, rejects both in principle and for the 
practical reason that it does not work a conception of general pre- 
vention which wholly subordinates the interests of the individual 

It remains still to answer the question, what then is it that the 
potential offender fears? 4 

An answer of general acceptance could perhaps be best expressed, 
by adapting Mr. Wortley's definition of legal punishment (p. 10), as 
'the totality of the consequences of being found out'. First in order 

1 Margaret Wilson: The Crime of Punishment, (Cape) p. 25. 

2 Temple, pp. 25, 27. 

3 Freedom as a Reformatory Instrument (Penal Reform League of S. Africa), p. 8. 

4 On the whole question of the adequacy of the sanction of fear as a safeguard 
against law-breaking, see Arms of the Law by Margery Fry, Part II, 'A Digression 
on Fear.' 


comes the fear of being found out in itself. As Lord Samuel puts it, 
'If every offence were certain of detection it would not be worth while 
for anyone to commit offences'; 1 and clearly the first line of penal 
defence is an adequate and efficient police. The second is the swift and 
certain administration of justice, a point which in this country at this 
time does not require elaboration, though as we shall see the lesson had 
to be learned. Then, for the offender who has been detected and brought 
to justice, unless he be already an habitue, there is enough pain and 
suffering in the shame, hardship, and stigma which must attend his 
arrest, his public trial, and his conviction to carry in itself considerable 
deterrent force, even if the chances of any severe punishment be slight. 
And none can feel sure that he will not be punished, or how he will be 
punished: the mental agony of fearing a sentence of imprisonment may 
be greater than that of serving it. While therefore the expectation of 
punishment must remain, 'the essence of deterrence is found rather in 
the threat of the penalty than in the execution', 2 and the conclusion 
would seem to be that deterrence, for purposes of general prevention, 
is inherent in the whole action of the penal system and is not required 
to assume a primary place in the treatment of the individual. 

Notable confirmation of this change in the attitude of informed 
opinion towards the deterrent function of the penal system is found 
in the House of Lords debate of 23 November 1948, on the motion of 
the Archbishop of York, about the serious increase in crime during 
1947 and 1948. Rightly anxious as Their Lordships showed themselves 
in face of the grave facts before them, it is remarkable that, throughout 
the debate in that repository of a robust and conservative tradition in 
penal affairs, the sole reference to deterrence was made by the Arch- 
bishop himself and that for repudiation. It was to the strengthening 
of the police, and to remedial measures outside the penal system, that 
every speaker directed his attention. 

We are left therefore, for modification of the principle of the just 
sentence predicated by the argument, with one more factor the need, 
in particular cases, to 'satisfy the public conscience' by retributive 
punishment of a severity beyond what is necessary, so far as concerns 
the individual offender, to vindicate the law and prevent repetition of 
the offence. To establish what these cases are, it is necessary to look 
rather to practice than to penological principle, which offers no clear 
guide. Recent discussion has dealt with three categories. 

The first is that which Sir Leo Page would appear to have had in 
mind when he said The interests of the individual are ruthlessly and 
necessarily sacrificed by reason of the peculiar danger to the community 
of such crimes. Salus populi suprema lex.' 3 Such would be treason, or 
breaches of trust by policemen or public servants; and it may be also 
crimes against property outstanding in scale so as to bring widespread 
IP. 25. 2 Temple, p. 23. ' 3 p. 245. 


ruin or threaten public confidence in financial institutions, as major 
depredations by bank officials or the operations of such historic 
swindlers as Jabez Balfour and Horatio Bottomley. In such cases the 
argument can still proceed from the principle of 'balance', but the 
scale is weighted more strongly in favour of the general interest. It is 
a question rather of degree than of kind. 

The second category was dealt with by Lord Justice Asquith as 
follows : 

'Everyone has heard of an "exemplary" sentence: and nearly every- 
one agrees that at times such sentences are justified. But it is not always 
observed that an exemplary sentence is unjust; and unjust to the precise 
extent that it is exemplary. Assume a particular crime is becoming 
dangerously frequent. In normal times the appropriate sentence would 
be, say, two years. The judge awards three: he awards the third year 
entirely to deter others. This may be expedient; it may even be impera- 
tive. But one thing it is not: it is not just. The guilt of the man who 
commits a crime when it happens to be on the increase is no greater 
than that of another man who commits the same crime when it is on 
the wane. The truth is that in such cases the Judge is not administering 
strict justice but choosing the lesser of two practical evils. He decides 
that a moderate injustice to the criminal is a lesser evil than the conse- 
quences to the public of a further rise in the crime- wave.' 1 

The third category, which includes those cases which the Lord 
Chief Justice would appear to have had in mind (p. 9), comprises those 
crimes, usually associated with gross cruelty or violence, which are 
likely to excite, at any rate in the minds of many, peculiar repugnance 
and disgust likely, in short, to make one 'see red'. 

With this category the argument from principle is difficult. Many of 
us, no doubt, looking within ourselves, recognise both the repugnance 
and, when 'exemplary punishment' is meted out, the satisfaction 
whether of conscience or of something more elemental. But no doubt 
also these effects are excited in different sorts of people by different 
sorts of offences: and experience suggests that among such offences 
are at least some of those on which opinion is divided as to whether 
they be truly criminal or no. 

The path of justice therefore may here be beset with difficulty. 
The figure of Justice is blindfold, and may not 'see red'. And there is 
no index or measure of the movement of public conscience in these 
matters. One called to sit in judgment may well, in these circumstances, 
be in danger either of reading his own conscience for that of the public, 
or of finding it opposed to what he believes to be that of the public. 

The conclusion must be that in these cases, as finally in all, justice 

1 Asquith, L, J., op. cit., p. 821. 


can only confide in the knowledge, wisdom, and humanity of those 
who are called to the hard duty of making these decisions. 

Such, then, are the considerations in the light of which an answer 
must be given today to the question why punishment? The next 
question is what punishment? 

The kinds of punishment which are, or have been, at the disposal 
of English courts fall into six main categories, (1) death, (2) banish- 
ment, (3) public shame, (4) physical punishments (5) forfeiture of pro- 
perty, (6) deprivation of liberty. Of these the first, at the time of writing, 
remains, though its scope and indeed its retention at all come under 
more or less continuous public inquiry and debate. The second ceased 
with the abolition of transportation in the nineteenth century. The 
third, in which was included such devices as the pillory and the stocks, 
went rather earlier. The fourth, since the abolition of flogging in 1948, 
has also gone. We are left therefore, for offences not subject to capital 
punishment, with the last two categories only. Forfeitures are now 
limited to monetary penalties such as fines, damages, costs, and com- 
pensation: but the significance of 'deprivation of liberty' must be 
extended to include a range of greater or less limitations of self- 
determination such as are implied in "binding over' and the conditions 
of a probation order (which may include a condition of residence in a 
home or hostel or mental hospital), as well as imprisonment, corrective 
training for incipient persistent offenders, and preventive detention 
for those persistent offenders who must be interned for long periods 
for the protection of society. 1 

Having thus placed the prison against its background, we may now 
knock on the gate and directly put the question what is prison for? 

Let us begin by asking what classes of person are in fact sent to 
prison. The statistics for 1947 2 show that only about half the people 
received in prison in that year had been sentenced to imprisonment 
in the first instance as a punishment for an offence, and of these a bare 
majority were 'criminals' in the narrower sense of the word. Of the 
remainder, many were there because they could not or would not pay 
sums of money adjudged by the courts to be due, whether as fines or 
otherwise in connection with offences, or as civil debts. The remainder 
had been sent for safe-custody while on remand or awaiting trial or 
sentence, or under certain of the Aliens Orders. From time to time, also, 
there would be some awaiting execution of the death sentence, while 
others sentenced to corporal punishment under the law as it then stood 
would there be flogged. 

Clearly, then, whatever prison is for it is not for one clear and single 
purpose. Indeed, three main purposes can be distinguished, which may 

* For young offenders there is still another range of graduated limitations of 
2 Annual Report of the Prison Commissioners for 1948. 


conveniently be defined as (1) custodial, for the unconvicted, (2) co- 
ercive, for those who can secure release by paying what they owe, and 
(3) correctional, for the convicted. 

The duties of the prison as maid-of-all-work to the penal system 
will be dealt with elsewhere. Our present concern is only with the 
'central problem', the treatment of convicted offenders : leaving aside 
the persistent offenders, these fall into two categories those who have 
been sentenced to imprisonment in the first instance, and those who, 
having in the first instance been ordered to pay a fine or comply with 
conditions, have failed to do so and have in consequence been sent to 

From these facts, and from those given on p. 10 as to the recent 
practice of the courts, and from the principles of legal punishment, 
two preliminary statements can be made. First, that imprisonment is 
one of the methods at the disposal of the courts for the punishment of 
convicted offenders, though rarely used except for the more serious 
offences : it is also used as a sanction against the failure of more usual 
methods. Second, that the purpose of this as of other punishments is 
to prevent the offender from offending again. And if these statements 
seem to be mere glimpses of the obvious, they are nevertheless necessary 
because they condition the answer to the question, the root question 
implicit from the beginning in the words 'prison reform' how is the 
prison to effect that purpose? 

The answers that have been given to that question will, in effect, 
be the subject of this book, and at this stage we shall approach it only 
so far as to see what it implies, and to outline certain preliminary 
considerations which will later be established in their historical develop- 

The first of these is that the use of imprisonment as a form of punish- 
ment in itself is, in historical perspective, a comparatively recent idea, 
and that in England it had hardly gained acceptance before it was over- 
taken by the doubt whether after all it was a very good idea, so that 
subsequent legislation was devoted rather to abating than developing 
its use. It is not therefore surprising that in this matter thought should 
still be tentative, and practice empiric. 

The second consideration concerns the nature and meaning of 
imprisonment. To sentence a person to imprisonment means, in itself 
and at Common Law, no more than to order him for the period stated 
to be deprived of his liberty by confinement in a lawful prison. Whether 
the prisoner, while so confined, should be treated in this way or in that, 
and why, depends solely on such directions as may from time to time 
be given to the keepers of the prison by statute or by statutory rule. 
In so far as the court may be deemed to be acting in knowledge of those 
directions, the treatment the prisoner will receive may be said to be 
implicit in the sentence, but all that is explicit is deprivation of liberty 


in the manner stated. By way of illustration, consider the condition 
of a convicted prisoner, serving a sentence, as recently observed by the 
present writer in a continental prison. In an adequately furnished room, 
over what looked like an adequate meal, he was reading a newspaper 
at ease in his own shirtsleeves. If he cared to do some work in the 
garden, it was welcome, but not expected. His sole obligations were 
to stay there and obey the rules. That is simple imprisonment in essence 
though perhaps the provision of food and bedding might be regarded 
as a special modification: they have not always been held to be of the 

In the light of these considerations, our question now appears in 
this form in what ways should this deprivation of liberty be modified 
so that as a punishment it may best serve its purpose of preventing 
the offender from offending again? 

We shall find that, in the long-drawn thread of this still lively 
argument, three strands recur by way of answer, constant and inter- 

The first is the simplest, and perfect if carried to its logical conclusion 
prolong the deprivation of liberty sine die, since for so long as the 
offender is 'taken out of circulation' he clearly cannot offend again. 
This principle, which may be called Prevention, is seen in its fullest 
action in the 'indeterminate sentence', or the sentence for 99 years or 
the like, known to American law; to a lesser degree in the 'preventive 
detention' for up to 14 years of persistent offenders under English law; 
and indeed in any sentence of any length for so long as it lasts. However, 
expressed in this way it is for our present purpose a mere abstraction: 
in the first place it does not, in principle, require any modification of 
the custodial function: in the second place, in the present state of penal 
law and public conscience in this country, sentences are not in practice 
excepting always the special case of the persistent offender based 
on this conception. The treatment of the offender in prison, save in 
exceptional cases, must therefore be based on the assumption that he 
will in a few months, or years, be returned to the community. 

The second answer, which has been called Deterrence, suggests 
that the treatment in prison should be such that on his return to the 
community the offender will refrain from further offence through fear 
of having to repeat such an experience. 

The third, which has been called Reform, suggests that the protection 
of society will be not less effectively secured if the offender returns to 
it with his mind set against further offence not from fear, which may 
or may not be an abiding restraint, but from an inner conviction which 
will remain with him. The treatment should therefore be designed to 
this end. 

A more recent variation on these themes suggests that, whether the 
offender on discharge has been deterred or whether he has been 

E.P.B.S. 2 


reformed, in any event the protection of society will not be served unless 
he returns to it not only willing but able to take a normal and useful 
place : it therefore emphasises the need of Training. 

Such then are the three classic principles Prevention, Deterrence, 
and Reform. Under which of these, or under what combination of them, 
could or should we seek to regulate the treatment of persons punished 
by deprivation of liberty in a prison? Or is it possible, by an extension 
of the conception of Training, to effect a viable synthesis? 

That is the question as it faces us today. 



IMPRISONMENT as a punishment of first instance has developed, 
as a complete conception, almost within the time of men now 
living, but legal punishment, in the sense of formal action by society 
against the law-breaker, goes to the primitive roots of social history. 
Banishment and vengeance were the earliest reactions to offence, and 
they have never wholly ceased to work in penal systems. The first goes 
back very far: an offender against tribal tabu became a danger to the 
safety of the tribe, which could be assured only by his complete ex- 
pulsion. This thread will run through the story as far at least as Devil's 
Island and Botany Bay. The second has undergone many mutations: 
social utility enforced some limitation of the right of private vengeance 
'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' ; then substituted compensation 
for physical vengeance; and finally required society to take into its 
own hands the responsibility of securing justice for private wrongs. 
So came in England the conception of 'the King's Peace', under which 
any offences against private persons likely to lead to reprisals, and 
therefore disorder, were deemed to be 'against the Peace of our 
Sovereign Lord the King'. It is a matter of continuing significance that 
legal punishment for a crime against a private person is in origin a 
substitute for that private vengeance which society forbids the victim. 
The first principle of justice enforced by the community was com- 
pensation, the lex talionis. Even banishment came to be redeemable by 
the forfeiture of property instead of life. The later medieval system 
of corporal and defamatory penalties was largely of economic origin 
'because almost the only worldly goods that had been left to the great 
masses were their bodies and, perhaps, their citizenship'. 1 Where there 
were prisons, their part was only to hold offenders till the proper 
punishments could be inflicted, and imprisonment was not a proper 
punishment. Indeed, for a thousand years after Justinian had enunciated 

1 Mannheim, p. 40. 


this principle (p. 2), the penal law of Europe was dominated by the 
idea of the illegality of imprisonment as a punishment. 

The English, however, must have their heresy, and in 1275 the 
Statute of Westminster provided two years imprisonment as a legal 
punishment for rape also their illogicality, for Bracton had little 
earlier 'referred to prisons as places where men waited to be liberated 
or sentenced by judicial decision' 1 and stated that ''fetters and all such 
things are forbidden by law, because a prison is a place of detention 
and not of punishment'. 2 Certainly when the judges of the King's 
High Court went on circuit their commission was one of 'gaol delivery' ; 
they went to clear the gaols, not to fill them. It is interesting, however, 
to note that at a very early stage the prison assumed the coercive as 
well as the custodial function. When forfeitures came to be made to 
the Crown, prisons were found helpful in persuading the offender or 
his family to pay. 'The word fine is still reminiscent of this form of 
"finishing" a prison term.' 3 

In English legal theory the gaols, as well as the Peace, were the King's, 
and though private prisons were kept by corporations, nobles, or 
bishops under franchise, it was only in the common or county gaol that 
the Sheriff as King's officer for the county had his authority. And 
today it is still the Sheriff who is charged with the execution in prisons 
of sentence of death. In 1403 we find what is perhaps the first statutory 
regulation of imprisonment, providing that Justices should commit 
only to the Common Gaol. 4 

These gaols were not specially provided buildings. Dr. Griinhut, 
speaking of prisons in Europe generally, says, Towers, gate-houses, 
dungeons, cellars of town-halls and market-houses were used as 
prisons.' 5 In England the position was no better, and could hardly 
have been worse. Anything might serve, from the cellar of an inn to 
the gate-house of an abbey, and neither the Sheriff nor the local Justices 
were effectively responsible either for the upkeep of the buildings or for 
the treatment of the prisoners or even indeed for their maintenance, 
saving a small allowance of bread for convicted felons. The public or 
private authorities or persons owning the gaols farmed them out to 
private keepers on a purely profit-making basis. 

Since this mediaeval system continued, with little significant change, 
right through the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth, it will be 
convenient to give an impression of these establishments now, and 
finish with them. We will look at them as Howard found them the 
gaols of Dr. Johnson's England the England of Adam Smith and 
Blackstone, of Fielding and Smollett, of Hogarth and 'The Beggars' 
Opera', of the Gordon Riots and cheap gin. 
To the common gaol, be it first remembered, all were committed 

* Griinhut, p. 12. 2 Buxton, p. 10. 3 Griinhut, p. 12. 

4 5 H. IV, cap. 10. 5 p. 13. 


alike felons and misdemeanants, convicted or unconvicted; civil 
debtors (except where there were separate Debtors Prisons); men, 
women, and children. In the smaller gaols there was no provision 
whatever for separation of different classes of prisoners, and usually 
little or none for segregation of the sexes nor, where that existed, 
would the v keeper require or expect it to be observed. A night room and 
a day room or yard would serve for everybody. Larger gaols built for 
the purpose were not essentially better, they only held more; and 
possibly by providing two or more yards and wards enabled some 
rudimentary separation. All were usually unheated, unfurnished except 
for straw, and unprovided with any but the most primitive sanitary 

The only duty of the gaoler to the prisoners was to hold them, his 
only interest to make what he could from his duty. The economic basis 
of the business was the fee legal or illegal. A fee was charged for 
admission, and happy the gaoler who received a prisoner on several 
commitments, for he could charge a separate fee on each: another 
was payable before the prisoner could obtain his discharge. Irons were 
a fruitful source of fees. Their use was illegal in theory, but they were 
much cheaper than secure buildings: useless then for Lord Chief 
Justice King to 'reply to those who urged that irons were necessary for 
safe-custody that they might build their walls higher'. 1 So fees were 
charged both for the hammering on and knocking off of irons, and 
fastidious gentlemen like Captain MacHeath could select lighter or 
better fitting irons for a higher fee. 

On this basis it was good business to make everything as pleasant 
as possible for those who would pay, and equally unpleasant for those 
who would not. So, at a price, special rooms might be hired, and special 
meals provided, and of such amenities the tap and the brothel were 
not the least lucrative. 

Such were the gaols of which it was written fc that disease, cold, 
famine, nakedness, a contagious and polluted air, are not lawful 
punishments in the hands of a civil magistrate, nor has he a right to 
poison or starve his fellow creature'. 2 Poison indeed, for they were 
forcing houses not only of lechery, debauchery and moral corruption, 
but of a contagious pestilence. The gaol-fever had been known at least 
since 1414: at Oxford, in the Black Assizes of 1577, 'within five weeks 
500 persons died, among them the Lord Chief Baron and many jury- 
men and witnesses. ... In 1750 a Lord Mayor of London, an Alderman, 
and two Judges were among the victims.' 3 At this time it was computed 
that every year one quarter of the prisoners were thus destroyed, and 
none who has read contemporary accounts of the conditions need 
doubt it. 

1 Buxton, p. 12. 

2 State of Jails by W. Smith, 1776, cit, Buxton. 3 Grunhut, p. 28. 


The age which fostered these conditions was one, as Dr. Trevelyan 
tells us, 'of the growth of humanitarian and philanthropic feeling and 
endeavour ... a keener sensitiveness to the needs and sufferings of 
others (which) melted the hard prudence of statesmen' ; an age which 
saw 'the foundation first of Charity Schools, then of Hospitals . . . and 
of Sunday Schools'. 1 Yet it is not unfair to say that before Howard 
began his work in 1773, no effective protest against this national dis- 
grace was heard in public life beyond the parliamentary inquiry of 1729 
under General Oglethorpe, which was forced by public scandal when 
several debtors died in the Fleet and Marshalsea prisons of sheer 
brutality and negligence: Dr. Griinhut records no more than a report 
of 1702 by the S.P.C.K. into the conditions of certain London prisons, 
some sharp observations in the works of Henry Fielding, and a sermon 
of 1740 by Bishop Butler. It is a suggestive field for the student of social 

Fortunately the history of the common gaol is not all that the period 
under review has to offer us; but before we turn to a more hopeful 
field let us look first at the contemporary system of criminal justice. 
This, until at least 1823, was so chaotic as to be almost beyond descrip- 
tion or understanding. By the time of the Tudors the mediaeval system 
of penalties was giving way, for felonies, to the domination of the 
penalty of death. For misdemeanours there were fines and various 
corporal and defamatory punishments. This tendency continued 
through the seventeenth century, and by 1688 some fifty offences were 
punishable by death. Then, in the eighteenth century, came such a 
pouring panic of capital statutes that by the end of the century they 
were literally beyond number: Dr. Radzinowicz concludes that they 
probably exceeded two hundred, and quotes Romilly as saying, in 1810, 
that 'there is probably no other country in the world in which so many 
and so great a variety of human actions are punishable with loss of 
life as in England.' 2 

This was the ferocity of fear. As any new offence gained prominence, 
it was countered by a new capital statute: and when there was no 
diminution of offence it must in the nature of that sentiment, since 
death was not a sufficient deterrent, be required to aggravate death by 
torture and degradation. For some offences the victim was dragged to 
the scaffold at a horse's tail, strangled, mutilated, and disembowelled; 
women for others might be burned alive. Even more ingenious measures 
were publicly propounded for diminishing the rise in crime by pro- 
longing the agony of death. Nor was the horror mitigated for children 
of tender years. On the other hand, Blackstone was able to illustrate 
the increased humanity of his time by pointing to the provision that 
the victim might be drawn to the scaffold on a hurdle and not along 
the ground. 

* G. M. Trevelyan, English Social History, pp. 336, 347. 2 Radzinowicz, p. 3. 


The social psychology of these conditions is of great interest, but 
less relevant for our purpose than those causes of them which derived 
from the preventive deficiencies of the penal system. These, as summed 
up by Dr. Trevelyan, strikingly illustrate the point made in the previous 
chapter that the first lines of defence in a penal system must be an 
adequate and efficient police and the swift and certain administration 
of justice: The effect of increased legal severity in an age that was 
becoming more humane, was that juries often refused to convict men 
for minor offences that would lead them to the scaffold. Moreover it 
was easy for a criminal, by the help of a clever lawyer, to escape on 
purely technical grounds from the meshes of an antiquated and over 
elaborate procedure. Out of six thieves brought to trial, five might in 
one way or another get off, while the unlucky one was hanged. It would 
have been more deterrent if they had all six been sure of a term of 
imprisonment. To make matters worse, the chances of arrest were 
small, for there was no effective police in the island, except the 'runners' 
of the office which the Fielding brothers, about the middle of the 
century, set up in their house in Bow Street.' 1 A second factor was the 
absence of any adequate alternative to the system, for the gaols were 
incapable of development into an effective penal instrument as they 
were then conceived. 

Fortunately not all of those convicted on capital charges were exe- 
cuted. Dr. Radzinowicz, examining the figures for London and Middle- 
sex for the last half of the eighteenth century, finds that out of 3680 
capitally convicted 1696 were executed: he also points out that in one 
of those years, out of 97 executions, only one was for murder and 
96 were for offences against property. The curious complications of 
'benefit of clergy', with its division of felonies into the clergyable and 
the non-clergyable, saved those who could read the 'neck verse', at 
the cost of a branding, and the Prerogative of Mercy was available for 
others. This is not the place to discuss either Clergy or Prerogative: 
the former stayed till 1827, when the (death penalty was limited to 
treason and the felonies which had been non-clergyable: the relevance 
of the Prerogative is its use as the instrument for bringing banishment 
back to the penal system. Following the acquisition of territory in 
America, the practice developed during the seventeenth century of 
granting Crown Pardons to condemned felons on condition of their 
agreeing to be 'transported beyond the seas', where they provided 
valuable labour in the plantations. The practice was placed on a 
statutory basis in 1679, 2 and in 1717 3 was more precisely regulated, 
7 years in the American plantations being prescribed for clergyable 
felonies and 14 years for non-clergyable. In 1767 4 the Judges were 

i Trevelyan, pp. 348, 349. 

2 31 Car. 2, cap. 2. 3 4 Geo. 1, cap. 11. 

48 Geo. 3, cap. 15. 


empowered to order transportation as a sentence, such order having 
the effect of a conditional pardon. 

So we leave our gaols, for a time, in the condition in which they 
were described by a contemporary wit 'An ante-room, to the New 
World or the next.' It was through another channel, outside the 
penal system, that the function of correction was to be introduced into 
the prisons. 

The social and economic conditions of the Tudor age, with its in- 
crease of unemployed and unemployable, vagrants and 'sturdy beggars', 
led to the institution of 'a proper system of Poor Relief, based upon 
compulsory rates and discriminating between the various classes of 
the indigent'. 1 Moreover, the strong central government of the Tudor 
monarchy saw to it that this was effectively enforced through the local 
Justices of the Peace, who were given increasing powers not only of 
justice but of local government administration. The system aimed to 
provide not only relief for the poor but work for the unemployed, and 
for the latter purpose Working Houses or Houses of Correction were 
set up for those classes who required a measure of compulsion to get 
them to work especially such as vagabonds, beggars, prostitutes, idle 
apprentices and others who required fc to be corrected in their habits by 
laborious discipline'. This situation has a parallel today in the law of 
some Swiss cantons, where both idleness and prostitution rate high 
enough as social disorders to bring commital to a penal establishment. 
The first of these Houses was founded in the former royal palace of 
Bridewell, given by Edward VI in 1553, and thence came the popular 
name of these institutions which lingers here and there to this day. 
In 1 576 2 the Justices were required to provide a House of Correction 
in every county. 

The idea of reform was implicit in these institutions, and at first it 
seems to have been effective. 'Coke stated, that unlike those suffering 
from the bad and even deteriorating effects of the common gaol, people 
commited to the Working House come out better.' 3 Certainly they 
tried to live up to their name, and the essence of the discipline was 
hard and useful industrial work, from the proceeds of which the 
inmates were paid wages for their maintenance. But the idea of deter- 
rence was also implicit, and quickly rose to parity and then predomin- 
ance. Bridewells soon came to be more an arm of the penal than of the 
poor law, and the practice grew of committing to them all sorts of 
minor offenders. Industry as a training gave way to hard work as a 
deterrent, and in 1609 Justices were authorised by statute 4 to institute 
'hard labour' in the Bridewells as a purely penal measure. 

The similarity of the continental trend is of interest. The first House 
of Correction was the Rasp Huis at Amsterdam of 1595, and the idea 

1 Trevelyan, p. 113. 3 Griinhut, p. 16. 

2 18 Eliz., cap. 3. 4 7 J. \ t ca p. 4. 


spread across Europe. It was, as in England, an idea at first of reform by 
hard work, with wages, education, and religious instruction. The whole 
tendency of the new foundation was fundamentally opposed to con- 
temporary criminal law. It did not involve an exclusion from society 
by death, mutilation, and branding with permanent degradation. The 
ultimate aim was to lead the prisoner back into society. As to the 
results, contemporary writers are full of praise.' 1 But in Europe too 
committal to the Rasp House became a purely penal measure, and 
during the eighteenth century developed all the characteristics not only 
of deterrence but of defamation. Some eighteenth-century prints 2 of 
the Amsterdam Rasphuis show groups of half-naked prisoners rasping 
huge logs with desperate energy; close by, bound to an elegant Ionic 
column, is one who undergoes violent chastisement. Groups of ladies 
and gentlemen watch with a detached air. 3 

Yet fresh ideas developed which had a continuing life. In the House 
of Correction at Ghent, before the end of the eighteenth century, were 
to be found the elements of a modern prison system. And in 1703, in 
the House of Correction of St. Michael in Rome, there was founded 
the first separate reformatory for young delinquents and for what today 
we should call 'beyond control' or 'care and protection' cases. It was 
here that Howard found the famous inscription 'Parum est coercere 
improbos poena nisi probos efficias disciplina.' 

In England the remaining history of the Bridewell is unhappy and 
short. Early in the seventeenth century it became the practice to establish 
them alongside the gaols: in 1719 the practice of committing to them 
minor offenders was given statutory sanction: 4 during the eighteenth 
century the two classes of institution became almost completely 
assimilated, being commonly under the same roof and the same keeper, 
and in 1823 5 this position was recognised by law, and the Justices were 
given a definite responsibility for the whole of the 'united or contiguous 
buildings': in 1865 the distinction between gaol and Bridewell, long 
lost in practice, was finally abolished in law. 6 


Although it was the peculiar merit of John Howard to focus atten- 
tion on the scandal of the prisons, his work was but one aspect 
though for our purpose the most important of a European movement 
for the reform of penal systems which was characteristic of the Age of 
Enlightenment. A few philosophers isolated principles of enduring 
value; a few more men of good will, under their inspiration, fought for 

1 Griinhut, p. 18. 

2 Formerly in the office of the Penal and Penitentiary Commission at Bern. 

3 See Appendix K. 540. iv, cap. 64. 

4 6 G. i, cap. 19. 6 See Appendix K. 


improvement; but effective action was blanketed by administrative 
inadequacy and legal and political reaction. 

In France the movement of thought had started with Voltaire and 
Montesquieu, but it was the publication in Italy in 1764 of Beccaria's 
essay 'On Crimes and Punishments' which stirred the penal systems of 
Europe and laid the foundations of criminal science. This potent work 
stated most of the principles that have come to be accepted as the 
basis of thought on legal punishment that the sole justifiable purpose 
of such punishment was the protection of society by the prevention of 
crime; that for this purpose the principle of uniform maximum severity, 
particularly by capital punishment, was not only wrong but ineffective; 
and that milder punishments proportioned to the offences, but inflicted 
with promptness and certainty, would be more effective in preventing 
crime than haphazard severity. 

In England, under the influence of Beccaria and the leadership of 
Eden, Romilly, and Blackstone, the attack was pressed incessantly but 
fruitlessly for half a century. But the main battleground was the legal 
system itself, and the main issue the rationalisation of the use of capital 
punishment. Howard, in association with this group, fought mainly 
on what seemed then the secondary issue of the state of the prisons, 
though we may now see that neglect of the question of "secondary 
punishments' was a strong reason for failure in the main field. 

John Howard was a very English character. A nonconformist land- 
owner of humane and progressive views, with a developed social 
conscience, he was led into his life work simply by doing his public 
duty as he saw it with conscience and a single mind. When in*1773 he 
became High Sheriff of Bedfordshire 'he did what none of his prede- 
cessors had tried before; he inspected the prisons of his county'. 1 
What he saw struck him so forcibly that he thought it well to see some 
other prisons, and before his sense of duty was satisfied he had visited 
most English prisons and many in Europe. In 1777 he published his 
conclusions in The State of the Prisons in England and Wales with some 
Preliminary Observations, and an Account of some foreign Prisons'. A 
second volume followed in 1789, and in 1790 he died of the plague 
in the Ukraine while investigating hospital conditions in the Middle 
East. As Bentham said later, 'he died a martyr after living an apostle'. 

Howard's work and abiding influence were not limited to the ascer- 
tainment and exposure of evil : he proposed remedies, and influenced 
others to work for them. He was concerned not only with the elementary 
material decencies and necessities, but with spiritual values: he wished 
to bring back the forgotten notion that Houses of Correction should 
correct 'parum est coercere improbos poena nisi probos efficias 
disciplina'. Prisons should be sanitary and secure; the sexes should be 
effectively separated; the keeper should be a paid and responsible servant 

i Griinhut, p. 32. 


of the Justices; and the Justices themselves should exercise effective 
supervision. But above all physical and moral corruption should be 
prevented by the provision of separate cells for sleeping; moral im- 
provement should be sought through the influence of religion by the 
appointment of Chaplains; and last, but by no means least, prisoners 
should be provided with useful work by day in proper workshops. 
Between 1774 and 1791, largely through the efforts of Eden and Black- 
stone and the personal prestige of Howard with Parliament, a well- 
intentioned group of Acts was passed in which most of these ideas 
were embodied. 

But though informed opinion had moved, the machinery of ad- 
ministration was powerless to enforce it against the inertia of general 
opinion. The Acts were permissive, not mandatory, and their enforce- 
ment rested with the local Justices: the central government had no 
means even of knowing whether recommendations of Parliament were 
being followed or not. Some of the better Magistrates, personally 
influenced by Howard, were able to get some improvement in their 
counties, but local authorities were not generally disposed to increase 
the rates for the benefit of prisoners: in the year of Waterloo the 
Aldermen of the City of London, in whose prisons a debtor had 
recently died of starvation, and two women prisoners were shortly 
to be found with only a rug to hide their joint nakedness, declared that 
'their prisoners had all they ought to have, unless gentlemen thought 
they should be indulged with Turkey carpets' ! perhaps the first public 
protest of common sense against the fc pampering of prisoners '. And so, 
although the increasing menace of the gaol-fever forced some improve- 
ment of sanitation, the prisons in general, twenty years after Howard's 
death, were very much as he found them when he first began his tour 
in 1773. 

Let us see how they looked to another inquiring missionary, Thomas 
Powell Buxton, in the years after Waterloo the age of an England, 
after the victories of Nelson and Wellington, at her brilliant best the 
England of Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, of Cobbett, Jane Austen, 
and Sir Walter Scott, of the flower of English architecture and English 
art. In Appendix A are given extracts from Buxton's An Inquiry whether 
Crime and Misery are produced or prevented by our present System of 
Prison Discipline, illustrated by Descriptions of (ten prisons at home and 
abroad) and the Proceedings of the Ladies Committee at Newgate. 
It is dreadful reading. Its effect cannot be better summarised than by 
Buxton himself in his Preliminary Observations (p. 19): 'In short, by 
the greatest possible degree of misery, you produce the greatest possible 
degree of wickedness; . . . receiving (the prisoner) because he is too 
bad for society, you return him to the world impaired in health, 
debased in intellect, and corrupted in principles.' 

i Clay, p. 91. 


Yet we should remember that, after the long years of the Napoleonic 
Wars, England had no more than in our own day 'saved herself by her 
exertions' without paying the price. It was moreover an age of serious 
economic disorder and rapid social change. Increasing population and 
growing industrialisation brought with them slum-towns, unemploy- 
ment, and serious distress. The growing demands of the new proletariat 
were at odds with the natural anti- Jacobin sentiment of the time. 
Crime was increasing and the prisons were overfull. The age of the 
Luddites and Peterloo was not propitious for reform of the penal 
system. Twice in our own time we have seen that prisons after a war 
have low priority as a charge on public purse and conscience; their 
consequent condition lays them open to attack, and their reaction 
may carry them a long bound forward. So, in degree, it fell out after 

Those who now took up the work of Howard were a remarkable 
group. Centred on the great Quaker banking families Gurneys, Bar- 
clays, Frys, and Hoares they had the urge of their religion to do 
practical good, the wealth to furnish it, and the social standing to make 
themselves felt in high places. Among these Elizabeth Fry, nee Gurney, 
was not only pre-eminent in her time Jbut still keeps her place, com- 
parable with that of Florence Nightingale, among the greatest English- 

Mrs. Fry's first visits to the women's side of Newgate then a new 
prison, and so providing a separate side for women were made at 
the suggestion of her brothers-in-law, Samuel Hoare and Thomas 
Powell Buxton, the founders, in 1816, of the Society for the Reforma- 
tion of Prison Discipline. 1 She found it, says Buxton, fc in a situation 
which no language can describe' 2 ; she visited the sick, and helped 
the mothers with their children, but it was not till 1816 that she was 
moved to grapple in earnest with the problems of a place of which a 
contemporary wrote that 'of all the seats of woe on this side Hell, few, 
I suppose, exceed or equal Newgate'. 3 Now that she saw that some- 
thing must be done, she did not, being a woman and Elizabeth Fry, 
write a book about it, but went into the prison and did it. Sheriffs, 
Governor, and prisoners alike were brought under the spell of her 
simple goodness and practical single-minded determination, and with 
the help of a Ladies Committee of her Quaker friends she had, within 
a few months, brought into this bedlam of harridans the calm and 
industrious order of a cloister. As the fame of her miracle spread, she 
visited other prisons to set up Ladies Committees, and in 1818 was 

1 It is remarkable that the Howard League, virtually the lineal descendant of this 
Society, still numbers among its officers a Fry, a Powell Buxton, and a Samuel 
Hoare (Lord Templewood). 

2 For the language in which he nevertheless attempted to describe it, see extracts 
in Appendix A. 

3 Whitney, p. 142. 


called as an expert witness before a Committee of Parliament, 'the 
first woman other than a queen to be called into the councils of the 
government in an official manner to advise on matters of public 
concern'. 1 Her fame preceded her visits to the prisons of Europe, and 
before her death in 1845 she was a regular correspondent of kings and 
princes in matters of prison reform. 

What was her secret? It is worth while to know it, for Mrs. Fry was 
more than an historical episode she was the prophet, a hundred 
years before her time, of our present system. All that she asked of 
Parliament for her women in 1818 was granted by Parliament in 
1948. It may be found in the Statutory Rules made under the Criminal. 
Justice Act. She started from the principle that 'punishment is not for 
revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal'. For accommoda- 
tion she required a separate building for women, under the care of 
women, providing separate cells by night with proper workshops and 
common rooms by day. For training, plenty of useful work, careful 
religious instruction, a library, and attention to education. So far, 
perhaps, as principles, nothing very striking or fresh: but her special 
contribution was to show conclusively that they worked, and this 
carried conviction even in her own time. In 1818 the Grand Jury of 
the City of London said 'that if the principles which govern her regula- 
tions were adopted towards the males, as well as the females, it would 
be the means of converting a prison into a school of reform: and instead 
of sending criminals back into the world hardened in vice and depravity, 
they would be restored to it repentant, and probably become useful 
members of society'. 2 But the question remained, what made her 
principles work? Here the report of the Parliamentary committee went 
to the root of the matter. 'The benevolent exertions of Mrs. Fry and 
her friends have indeed etc., etc. But much must be ascribed to un- 
remitting personal attention and influence.' 3 

Unremitting personal attention and influence there lay her secret. 
This was a method not easily transmitted in her time and the years to 
come, and it was not until, more than a hundred years after, it was 
again both preached and practised that her work took root in our 
prison system. How did she exercise that influence? Her simple rules 
may be seen in Appendix A. First, she believed that 'prisoners should 
be treated as human beings with human feelings'; second, that their 
willing co-operation should be sought; and third, that they should 
learn responsibility through a measure of self-government. And the 
result? 'I have never/ she told the Committee, 'punished a woman 
during the whole time, or even proposed a punishment to them; and 
yet I think it is impossible, in a well-regulated house, to have rules 
more strictly attended to.' 4 Each element of this method also finds 

1 Whitney, p. 164. 3 Whitney, p. 168. 

2 Whitney, p. 160. * Whitney, p. 166. 


its place in the new Statutory Rules, and the Governor of a women's 
prison, in her Annual Report for 1948, repeated in similar words the 
exact sense of Mrs. Fry's statement of the result. Eppur si muove. 

But these 'benevolent exertions' were concerned with the lot of 
people in prison, not with the function of the prison in the penal sys- 
tem, though this question was already being canvassed in other con- 
nections which we shall consider in the next section. Mrs. Fry's 
Newgate was still fc no more than an ante-room', and her women for all 
her care would pass to the transports or the scaffold. Indeed much of 
the Ladies' time was spent in calming and comforting unhappy girls 
about to be hanged for stealing a floor-cloth or a few shillings, and in 
dealing with the 'transports'. With these they first took charge of the 
removal from the prison to the docks. This had been a horrible business ; 
first a hysterical struggle as the turnkeys fought to iron the crazed and 
half-drunken women, then a popular procession in closely guarded 
open wagons. Now it took place quietly, in closed hackney coaches, 
with Quaker ladies instead of chains for control. Then they organised 
the ships, and brought to them also the order, decency, and industry of 
Newgate. And in time Mrs. Fry's influence reached out to New South 
Wales itself but that is another story. 1 


During the period covered by the preceding section, the parliamentary 
battle for reform of the whole penal system had been joined. The great 
increase in crimes of violence, and the ineffectiveness of the system in 
face of it, forced the House of Commons to appoint Committees in 
1750 and 1770: on each occasion a rationalisation and reduction of 
the capital statutes was recommended by the Commons but defeated 
by the Lords. The Committee of 1750 went further, and made a series 
of far-sighted suggestions covering the improvement of social conditions 
predisposing to crime, a more efficient police system, a better admini- 
stration of criminal justice, and the removal of defects in the Houses of 
Correction. But nothing could be done, and there the matter rested 
until, under the leadership of Sir Samuel Romilly, the ten year battle 
was joined which ended, soon after his death, with the appointment of 
another Committee in 1819. The leadership had now passed to Powell 
Buxton and James Mackintosh, and although they were again checked 
by the Lords, they did succeed in changing the climate of opinion and 
preparing the way for the radical changes effected by Peel when he 
became Home Secretary in 1821. 

Simultaneously, the problem of 'secondary punishments' was being 
forced on the reluctant attention of Parliament through the 'divers 

1 For the story of Sarah Martin, a humble follower of the methods of Mrs. Fry 
at Yarmouth, see Appendix B. 


difficulties and inconveniences' to which the system of transportation 
had become subject during the War of Independence in America. Bills 
were passed to meet the situation in 1775 and 1779, but general opinion 
still inclined to the simple view that the best thing to do with convicted 
felons was to get rid of them, one way or another, and forget about 
them. It was therefore with relief that the Government was able, in 
1787, to resume transportation to the new continent conveniently dis- 
covered by Captain Cook. But though the Acts of 1775 and 1779 had 
little or no immediate effect, they gave a fresh turn to thought and 
practice on the function of correction, as distinct from custody, in 
prisons, and deserve to be noticed in some detail. 

The first Act provided for convicted felons not transported to be set 
to hard labour for various terms, in dredging the river Thames or 
"other such laborious services'. They might be confined in the hulks 
transports, as it were, in suspense ! or in 'any proper place of con- 
finement', and Justices were required to prepare their Houses of Cor- 
rection for the setting of convicts to hard labour. These were temporary 
arrangements, and the permanent scheme appeared in the Act of 1779. 2 
This 'Hard Labour Bill' provided for the building of two Penitentiaries 
in which convicts were to be imprisoned and set to hard labour, viz. 
"Labour of the hardest and most servile kind, in which drudgery is 
chiefly required . . . such as treading in a wheel or drawing in a cap- 
stern for turning a mill or other machine, sawing stone, etc., etc., or 
any other hard and laborious service', with "other less laborious em- 
ployment' according to age and sex for those unfitted for the heavier 
work. The penitentiary buildings were to provide for the separation of 
the sexes, separate cells, an infirmary and a Chapel : but in fact, Captain 
Cook intervening, they were never built. 

Meanwhile there had been another influential intervention. Jeremy 
Bentham, under the influence of Beccaria, had led the Utilitarians into 
the battle for penal reform, and was now moved by the Hard Labour 
Bill to devote to the question of prisons the gifts of his brilliant mind. 
On themes of the school of Howard he elaborated endless variations, 
many extremely sensible, many less so : but above all he fought for the 
principle of useful work as against sterile hard labour. It was un- 
fortunate that his fertility in over-ingenious notions and curious 
mechanical contrivances led him to canalise his "efforts towards his 
novel plan for a penitentiary, which he called a panopticon. He 
developed this to a point at which Parliament actually agreed, in 1794, 
to take it up under his direction, and a site for it was bought on Mill- 
bank. But again time passed; nothing was done; Parliament thought 
again perhaps wisely; and when in 1812 another Act was passed for 
the building of a penitentiary it was not to be Bentham's. The new 
building was started in 1816 on the site bought for the panopticon, and 
1 See Appendix K. 2 19 Geo. Ill cap. 74. 


by two curious exchanges on Thames side between the fine arts and 
crime, Scotland Yard now rises from the foundations of an opera 
house, while the Tate Gallery replaces our first penitentiary. Some 
structural remains of Millbank penitentiary may still be seen, and the 
gravestone of one of its governors is still legible in St. John's church- 
yard nearby. 

Bentham's brilliant irruption into the field of secondary punishments 
left little of practical effect behind. Indeed the whole period is one of 
false starts and fumbling uncertainty. But there were three new ideas in 
the field punitive hard labour, the hulks, and (in posse) the peni- 
tentiary, of which the important feature was that it was a Government 
and not a local affair. The idea of hard labour made little impact on 
the local prisons. An Act of 1791 required Justices to make Rules for 
Hard Labour on the lines of the Hard Labour Act of 1779, but their 
prisons were quite unfit for the prolonged detention of large numbers 
of convicts, and they were not prepared to go to the trouble and expense 
of making them so. Since the Government could not shelve on to the 
local authorities its responsibility for convicts, these until they could 
be transported were kept in the hulks down the Thames or wherever 
else they could be employed in dredging or public works. 

The time, in short, was not yet ripe in England for serious considera- 
tion of imprisonment as a method of legal punishment, and it was not 
until 1823, as one part of Peel's reforms, that an effective start was 
made. It was in that year also that Parliament learned of the New 
World having been brought in to redress the balance of the Old, and 
since the effects of this beneficent process were nowhere more marked 
than in our prison system, it is across the Atlantic that we must look 
for the opening of the next act. 


Long before the Declaration of Independence the Quaker state of 
Pennsylvania, anticipating the course of penal reform by over 100 
years, had abolished both whipping and (except for murder) hanging, 
and had substituted as the punishment for felony as well as mis- 
demeanour imprisonment on the model of the best Houses of Correc- 
tion. But this experiment did not survive the death of William Penn in 
1718, and it was not till after 1776 that the Quakers, under the influ- 
ence of Howard, again took up the cause of penal reform. Once again 
murder alone was made capital, and the prison was made the prime 
instrument of legal punishment. 

This time, however, the system was different. Taking perhaps too 
much account of the value Howard placed on the separate cell, and too 
little of the rest of his doctrine, it was based on solitary confinement 
in its most absolute form. This practice was intended to promote 


"that calm contemplation which brings repentance", and reminded the 
visitors of fasting and abstinence among certain religious sects. Appar- 
ently this group were not allowed either to work or to receive visitors. 
Prisoners convicted of minor offences, and felons after the expiration 
of the solitary stage of their confinement, worked in association .... 
Disciplinary punishment consisted in transferring the prisoner to 
solitary confinement.' l A variation of this Solitary System, under 
which prisoners might be removed from their cells, provided they were 
kept strictly separate, was known as the Separate System: this in its 
perfection provided rows of enclosures like large pig-sties, but with 
high walls, in which each prisoner took separate exercise, turned the 
Chapel into a honeycomb of separate cubicles from which only the 
chaplain and the altar were visible, and even provided the prisoners 
with masks. 

But the fertility of thought and experiment which has in different 
periods distinguished the penal systems of the United States was 
already active. The beneficent effects of the Pennsylvania System were 
not everywhere taken for granted, and Boston was soon in the field 
with a school of thought different from that of Philadelphia, and closer 
to the views of Bentham and Howard. This was based on the Separate 
System for sleeping, but provided workshops for useful employment 
by day, and starting from New England and New York spread con- 
siderably. Many prisons were built on this model, including the historic 
Sing-Sing and Auburn (1819), and from the strict rule of silence enforced 
at the latter this system was known sometimes as the Silent System 
and sometimes as the Auburn System. 

This rapid building of great new prisons gave the United States a 
lead in prison construction which they have never lost, and in the early 
years of the nineteenth century, as today, there was a regular flow 
of European visitors to inspect and report on new systems and new 
model prisons among which, to the comfort and encouragement of 
Bentham, there was even a version of his Panopticon. 2 The impact on 
European thought and practice was considerable, and may still be 
traced: within recent years the writer has visited continental prisons 
which still retain the apparatus of the Separate System, (including the 
'preaux' or separate exercise pens and the chapel cubicles), and others 
which were introduced as representing 'le systme Auburn'. The 
monthly Bulletin of the Belgian prison service for February 1949 
reported that, during 1948, 'furent ordonnees progressivement la 
suppression des stalles individuelles dans les chapelles et la demolition 
des preaux cellulaires, autres vestiges des temps oil la discipline rigide 
des Quakers etait en honneur'. 

In England, effective progress in penal reform began with the 

1 Griinhut, p. 46. 

2 Another version of the Panopticon still exists at Breda, Holland. 
E.P.B.S. 3 


historic tenure (1821-27) of the office of Secretary of State for the 
Home Department by Sir Robert Peel, 'who of all Home Secretaries has 
left the deepest impress on the laws and institutions of the country'. 1 
Peel was neither a missionary nor an innovator, but an able and 
energetic administrator with a strong sense of the politically practicable. 
Having taken stock of those ideas concerning penal reform which 
seemed to him right and practicable, from the Committee of 1750 
through Howard and Bentham to Romilly and Mackintosh, he pro- 
ceeded systematically to put them into effect, with all the authority of 
the government, in a series of statutes which cleared broad avenues 
through the mediaeval chaos of the penal system. The capital statutes 
were consolidated and reduced in number; benefit of clergy was 
abolished (1827) and transportation or imprisonment up to two 
years prescribed as penalties for the felonies which, broadly, 
had been clergyable; the scale of punishments for many minor 
offences was reduced; the administration of justice was overhauled 
to make for greater certainty and speed; and in 1829 the Metro- 
politan Police was established on substantially its present basis, 
to become a model shortly followed by all the county and borough 

It was a necessary part of this comprehensive plan that the prisons 
should be put in a state to become an effective instrument of secondary 
punishment, and the Gaol Act of 1823, 2 'the first measure of general 
prison reform to be framed and enacted on the responsibility of the 
national executive' 3 made a well-concerted attack on most of the 
major evils of the system as Peel found it. It consolidated the twenty- 
three pre-existing statutes on the subject of gaols and houses of cor- 
rection, took the first step towards assimilating these institutions, and 
'for the first time it made it peremptorily the duty of Justices to organise 
their prisons on a prescribed plan, and to furnish quarterly reports to 
the Home Secretary upon every department of their prison administra- 
tion. They were expressly required to adopt, as the basis, Howard's 
four principles of the adoption of sufficient secure and sanitary accom- 
modation for all prisoners, the transformation of the gaoler or master 
from an independent profit-maker into the salaried servant of the local 
authority, the subjection of all criminals to a reformatory regimen, and 
the systematic inspection of every part of the prison by visiting 
justices.' 4 The nature of the reformatory regimen, however, was some- 
thing of a compromise between the religious and the utilitarian schools, 
for while provision was made both for religious and for educational 
instruction, the principle of separate confinement was specifically 
rejected and its place was taken by the Benthamite idea of classified 
association in five groups, viz. debtors (or, in the bridewells, vagrants), 

1 Troup, p. 22. 3 Troup, p. 115. 

2 4 Geo. IV, cap. 64. 4 Webb, p. 74. 


unconvicted felons, unconvicted misdemeanants, convicted felons, and 
convicted misdemeanants. Each group was to be associated in pro- 
ductive employment, from the profits of which the prisoners were to 
be maintained. All the worst abuses of the old system were now swept 
away, including irons and chains, fees, taps, unauthorised punishments, 
and the supervision of women by men, and the Act prescribed a Code 
of Rules of which many survive, in whole or in part, to this day. 

ft was no fault of this admirable statute or its sponsors that the 
constitution lacked the machinery to secure its enforcement: indeed, 
the major problem throughout this period was not so much to decide 
what should be done as to bring the various Benches and Corporations 
to do what was decided, or, indeed, to do anything at all. Nevertheless, 
although in a large number of counties and most of the small-town 
and franchise gaols the Act was only enforced partially, or not at all, 
it did act as a tremendous stimulus to the more progressive, and a 
considerable number of the more important prisons were rebuilt under 
its influence. 

But though the Gaol Act laid the foundations of the elementary 
physical and moral decencies for which Howard had fought, as a solu- 
tion of the question of how the prisons were to carry out their new 
functions it was a dead end. Three years later Peel himself felt deep 
anxiety about the state of secondary punishments. In a remarkable 
letter of March 24, 1826, to Sydney Smith of the Edinburgh Review, 
he wrote : 

'I admit the inefficiency of transportation to Botany Bay, but the 
whole subject of what is called secondary punishment is full of diffi- 
culty; ... I can hardly devise anything as secondary punishment in 
addition to what we have at present. We have the convict ships. . . . 
There is a limit to this, for without regular employment found for the 
convicts, it is worse even than transportation Solitary imprison- 
ment sounds well in theory, but it has in a peculiar degree the evil that 
is common to all punishment, it varies in its severity according to the 
disposition of the culprit. ... To some intellects its consequences are 
indifferent, to others they are fatal. . . . Public exposure by labour 
on the highways, with badges of disgrace, and chains, and all the 
necessary precautions against escape, would revolt, and very naturally, 
I think, public opinion in this country. ... As for long terms of im- 
prisonment without hard labour, we have them at present, for we have 
the Penitentiary with room for 800 penitents. When they lived well, 
their lot in the winter season was thought by people outside to be 
rather an enviable one. . . . We reduced their food . . . there arose a 
malignant and contagious disorder which at the time emptied the 
prison, either through the death or removal of its inmates. The present 
occupants are therefore again living too comfortably, I fear, for 


penance. ... I despair of any remedy but that which I wish I could hope 
for a great reduction in the amount of crime.' l 

Well might Peel cry for a decrease in crime, for in the period of his 
Home Secretaryship 'commitments in England and Wales (excluding 
London and Middlesex) showed an increase of 86 per cent over the 
period 1811-1817.' 2 So it happened that, as news of Pennsylvania and 
Auburn began to cross the Atlantic and the Battle of the Systems was 
joined, the issues were to some extent obscured by a growing reaction 
against the mitigations of the penal system, and the question about 
prisons the 'reformed prisons', as they were called, was more often 
whether they were sufficiently deterrent than whether they were 
sufficiently reformative. 

The condition of the county prisons in the 'Thirties was confused. 
A few had been rebuilt, from the time of Howard, on the separate cell 
system, following the lead set in 1792 by Sir George Onesiphorous 
Paul at Gloucester, which 'appears to have been the fountain-head of 
information on silence and solitude'. 3 But to most Justices this seemed 
an expensive concession to cranky reformist ideas, and the Benthamite 
idea of 'reform by industry' had proved more attractive. The prisons 
in these counties had become busy workshops, profitable not only to 
the county but to the prisoners, who were often able to repay the cost 
of their maintenance and have something over for themselves. But 
many prisons were still in the old state of idle and corrupt disorder. 
Into this confusion had infiltrated first the idea of punitive hard labour 
by treadwheel or crank, and later that of the Silent System: this gained 
some popularity, since it suited the construction of prisons rebuilt on 
the classification system of 1823 and permitted the continuance of 
industry. Even the treadwheel, since it could be made to 'turn a mill 
or other engine', might be adapted to profitable use by letting out the 
man-power to the local miller for grinding corn, while at the same time 
the prisoners could be kept in separate compartments as they toiled at 
their dreary task. 

Meanwhile those who saw that the basic evils of the prisons could 
only be removed by the separate cell system continued to press their 
view, while those who called for greater deterrence in the face of the 
crime wave pressed for the enforcement of strict hard labour, meaning 
the use of the treadwheel or crank not only in silence and separation, 
but for no useful purpose, since in this view labour, to be fully deter- 
rent, should be not only monotonous and severe but quite useless, this 
being more likely to 'plague the prisoner'. Employment in useful and 
interesting work, on the other hand, seemed to be positively encouraging 

i Radzinowicz, p. 572. 2 Radzinowicz, p. 588. 

3 Report of the Inspector for the S.W. District, 1836 (see p. 37). 


The only hope of clearing this confusion of both principles and prac- 
tice was a strong lead from the central government backed by adequate 
powers to enforce its views on the local authorities; and the Home 
Office as Peel had left it was gradually putting itself into a position to 
give that lead and secure those powers. The Act of 1823, in addition to 
prescribing Rules, had required Justices to make quarterly reports to 
the Home Secretary on their enforcement, though he had no power to 
do anything but receive them. In the general agitation of the Thirties 
about the state of the penal system this aspect of the problem received 
special attention, and as the matter fell to be dealt with by the Reformed 
Parliament, and a Whig ministry 'dominated by two leading assump- 
tions . . . namely . . . uniformity of administration . . . and the im- 
possibility of attaining that uniformity without a large increase in the 
activity of the central government', 1 it was dealt with at once by a 
method that was to have immediate and continuing effect. The Home 
Secretary was, by an Act of 1835, empowered to appoint persons to 
inspect prisons on his behalf and to report to him, and by the same 
Act Justices were required to make Rules for the government of their 
prisons and to submit them to the Home Secretary. By a later Act of 
1844 the Home Secretary was also empowered to appoint a Surveyor- 
General of prisons, to advise the Home Office and the local authorities 
on all matters concerning the construction of prisons. 

The inspectors appointed under the Act included some able, active, 
and zealous men, whose reports 2 were not only factual accounts of 
what they saw, but reasoned analyses of the problems presented with 
suggestions for their solution. They acted and thought independently, 
each reporting to the Secretary of State on his own District, but the 
most influential seem to have been the Rev. Whitworth Russell and 
William Crawford, the Inspectors of the Home District. These two, 
with the later collaboration of Col. Jebb, R.E., the first Surveyor- 
General of prisons, were convinced by their study and experience of 
the Separate System both in the United States and in England that it 
must be wholly and quickly adopted if the prisons were to be effective 
for any purpose at all, and by their recognised expertise and the publica- 
tion of their reports they played a considerable part in influencing 
official and parliamentary opinion. 

Meanwhile the Home Office had been forced by circumstances to 
become constructively active. It was in fact developing a prison system 
of its own, in which the Separate System was positively demonstrated. 
The Home Secretary was already responsible for the General Peniten- 
tiary at Millbank, which had been completed in 1821, and was used 
for convicts who were awaiting transportation or were not to be 
transported, though most of these were still in the hulks. This building 
was based on the separate cell system, with a curious plan, akin to that 
1 Webb, p. 110. 2 Extracts in Appendix B. 


of the admired Maison de Force at Ghent, of six pentagonal blocks 
radiating from a central space. Further development of central prisons 
followed a general attack on the whole of the government's arrange- 
ments for dealing with convicts, not only because they were alleged to 
fail in deterrent effect, but because of revelations of the revolting 
conditions which prevailed in the hulks, and of alarming reports from 
the penal settlements. The general dissatisfaction was strongly ex- 
pressed in the report of the Parliamentary Committee of 1837, which 
condemned the whole system. The government made a considerable 
effort to put it on a proper basis: the period spent abroad was divided 
into the Probation Period, during which the convicts were employed 
in gangs on public works; the Probation Pass Period, during which 
they might be assigned to private employment ; then the Ticket-of- Leave. 
For selected convicts believed to be susceptible to reform a preliminary 
period was added, not exceeding 18 months, of separate confinement 
in a penitentiary, according to their conduct in which was decided the 
stage into which they would pass in Australia. Millbank being inade- 
quate, the government, in 1842, built a large prison at Pentonville, not 
only to serve as a penitentiary for convicts, but to provide local 
authorities with a "model prison' in which they could see how the 
Separate System ought to work in proper conditions. 1 It served this 
latter purpose so well that 'in six years after Pentonville was built 54 
new prisons were built after its model, affording 11,000 separate cells'. 2 
The architect of Pentonville was Major J. Jebb, R.E., 3 whose achieve- 
ment in practice as in precept was so enduring that of him if of any it 
may still be said 'si monumentum requiris, circumspice' : Pentonville, 
after being closed for some years and badly damaged by bombs in the 
late war, was reopened shortly after its centenary and is again one of 
the principal prisons of London, while its immediate successors are 
still, with few exceptions, the only walled prisons available to fulfil 
the purposes of the Act of 1948. 

The success of the Pentonville experiment enabled the Government, 
when (in 1846) it became necessary for the time being to suspend 
transportation, to formulate a definite system for the treatment of 
convicts without transportation to penal settlements. The first 15-18 
months of the sentence were to be spent in separate confinement, with 
hard labour, in Millbank or Pentonville, or in cells rented by the 
Government in the county gaols: then followed a period of employment 
in association on public works, for which the convict was removed to a 
'Public Works Prison' at such harbours as Portland or Chatham, or 
(in the earlier stages) Gibraltar or Bermuda: some of these prisons 
were, in fact, the old hulks, 4 but large prisons of the cellular type were 

1 See Appendix K. 2 Du Cane, p. 56. 

3 Later, as Colonel Jebb, C.B., Surveyor-General of Prisons. 

4 The last hulk in this country was destroyed in 1857. 


built at Portland (1848), Dartmoor (1850), and Chatham (1856), while 
in 1853 Brixton Prison was taken over for the reception of the female 

As one consequence of this central activity the 'beginning of the end' 
of the Battle of the Systems on the local prison front was signalled by 
the Act of 1839, 1 which repealed so much of the Act of 1823 as related 
to classification, and substituted permission for the Justices to adopt 
the Separate System. But for some years to come the adoption of 
separate confinement and the purely penal conception of hard labour 
was neither complete nor undisputed. Different authorities continued 
to take their own line, and the dispute boiled up again in the late 
'Forties with a violent press campaign against the separate system and 
'reformatory discipline' generally: this resulted in 1850 in another 
Parliamentary Committee, which, while supporting the separate sys- 
tem, gave general satisfaction by coming out strongly in favour of hard 
labour in individual separation, with crank or treadwheel, instead of 
"useful industry'. The day of the Silent System was now nearly over: a 
return made to Parliament in 1856 showed that fc in about one-third of 
the prisons in England the (separate) system was fully carried out; in 
another third partially ; while the rest were either on the Silent System 
or in the old disorderly state'. 2 

So by ntid-century the outlines of the situation to be faced were 
sufficiently clear. Governments could no longer rely on the gallows and 
the transports to remove its responsibility for convicted felons. Im- 
prisonment had ceased to be a 'secondary punishment' : it was the one 
potentially effective instrument at the disposal of the penal system. 
The adhesions of the moribund transportation system must be cut 
away, and in the prisons under central control there must be created an 
actually effective system of imprisonment based on self-supporting 
principles: within such a system must be incorporated the local prisons, 
and administrative machinery devised adequate to pursue and sustain 
these purposes. The new system would be based on the prison with 
separate cells that was already clear. What was not yet clear was 
what answer should be given to the question what is the prison for? 
Deterrence? Reform? Both? And whatever it expressed ends, by what 
means should it seek them? 

1 2 and 3 Vic., cap. 56. 2 Clay, p. 264. 


(1) THE FIRST ANSWER (1865) 

THE first stage of the new dispensation was the Act of 1850, 1 
which enabled the Secretary of State to appoint Directors of 
Convict Prisons in whom would vest the powers and duties of 
the Superintendent of the Hulks, and of the various bodies which had 
been created to manage Millbank, Pentonville, and Parkhurst 2 prisons. 
So, with the now well-established Inspectors, there was at the Home 
Office a permanent body of administrators who directly controlled a 
vital part of the prison system and indirectly exercised a considerable 
influence over the rest. Their first Chairman was the Surveyor-General, 
soon to be Sir Joshua Jebb. The establishments for which they assumed 
responsibility were: 3 

Prisons for separate confinement Millbank and Pentonville. 

Cells for separate confinement rented in eight local prisons. 

Prisons for public works Portland and Dartmoor. 4 

Prison for Juveniles Parkhurst. 

Hulks two at Woolwich, two at Portsmouth. 

Invalid Depots one hulk and Shornclif Barracks. 

The system in force consisted of 'three probationary periods of 
discipline, viz. : 

1st. Twelve months separate confinement. 
2nd. Labour in association on public works. 
3rd. A ticket-of-leave in one of the colonies.' 

1 13 and 14 Vic. cap. 39. 

2 Established 1839 as a prison for juvenile convicts: see Chapter 19. 

3 Report on the Discipline and Management of the Convict Prisons, 1850, p. 2. 

4 The 'old war prisons on Dartmoor* were appointed to be a prison for male 
offenders under sentence of transportation by the Secretary of State's warrant of 
24 Oct. 1850, and their conversion by convict labour from Millbank was started 
at once. 



Colonel Jebb set about his work with the practical spirit and con- 
structive energy to be expected of an engineer. 'It has been well re- 
marked/ he said, 'that whatever is found to be practically right is 
not theoretically wrong.' The first thing was* to get rid of the hulks: 
among other good reasons, he evidently disliked hearing from brother 
officers of his convicts 'dragging their chains about the ordnance depots 
and dockyards seeing how little they could do'. His report for 1850 
advises new prisons to replace the hulks at Portsmouth and Woolwich: 
in 1851 he reported that the new convict prison at Portsmouth was 
nearly completed, and urged a start at Woolwich. One is lost, in these 
lean years, in admiration and envy of the formidable energy and 
resources which could thus produce great new prisons at the rate of 
one every year or so. Portland was first envisaged in the summer of 
1847, and by 1849 accommodated 840 prisoners and the necessary 
staff. The conversion of Dartmoor, started in October 1850, had pro- 
vided for 1017 prisoners by November 1851. And in this uprush there 
was no instability: indeed these prisons show all too well the qualities 
of 'rocky solidity and indeterminate duration' observed by Dr. Johnson 
in Durham Cathedral, and the persistence of the latter quality in such 
buildings as Dartmoor gives rise to mixed feelings in those who have 
to use them today. 

In building a system of treatment for their prisoners the Directors 
were less assured. They had to take over the stock of ideas current at 
the time, and do their best with them within the limits imposed by close 
political control and persisting confusion of public opinion on basic 
principles. From the practice of imprisonment at home they inherited 
only the sterile ideas of separate confinement and punitive hard labour. 
From the transportation system however, scandalous and ineffective 
as it had proved itself, they were able to take certain seminal ideas 
which were to have a potent influence on the future. These were, the 
release before the expiration of sentence of well-conducted convicts 
on ticket-of-leave; the valuable use of prison labour on public works; 
and the system of 'progressive stages', which gave to prisoners the 
stimulus of hope and interest by allowing them, through good conduct 
and industry, to make quicker progress towards the goal of ticket-of- 

Though these ideas had been much developed at home in the course 
of adapting the transportation system to domestic use, they owed much 
also to pioneers in the penal settlements abroad, and particularly to 
Captain Alexander Maconochie, who in 1840 became Superintendent 
of the punitive settlement on Norfolk Island. This remarkable man 
not only developed the 'marks system' of registering progress in conduct 
and industry, but showed in his general attitude to a painful and difficult 
task much of the spirit of Elizabeth Fry. 'I sought generally,' he said, 
'by every means to recover the men's self-respect, to gain his own 


goodwill towards his reform, to visit moral offences severely, but to 
reduce the number of those that were purely contraventional, to miti- 
gate the penalties attached to these, and then gradually to awaken 
better and more enlightened feelings among both officers and men.' 1 

It is a little saddening to follow the early attempts of the Directors 
to come to terms with these quite different sets of ideas. In spite of 
grave doubts as to whether it was theoretically deterrent, they could 
feel no doubt that their public works system was practically right. 
Their enthusiasm for useful employment on valuable work, and for 
progressive 'classes' with good-conduct badges and increasing monetary 
gratuities, shines through their early reports. Portland represents 'a 
new era in the moral and industrial training of convicts', and watching 
the cheerful energy of the gangs hauling blocks of Portland stone to 
build the great new harbour, they "have seldom seen a greater amount 
of willingness and industry displayed by men whose livelihood depended 
on their exertions' sentiments which in the years since the late war 
have been repeated by many employers of prison labour in most of the 
counties of England. 

Their views on t\e selection and conduct of staff were also singularly 
just, and were expressed 2 in words which could hardly be bettered 
today and may still be found in use both at home and overseas. 3 
'In a system of discipline in which the reformation of the offender is a 
leading principle, it would on all accounts be desirable to employ an 
officer who was under the influence of religious principle, and of strictly 
moral character.' 'It is the duty of all officers to treat the prisoners with 
kindness and humanity, and to listen patiently to, and report, their 
complaints or grievances, being firm, at the same time, in maintaining 
order and discipline, and enforcing complete observance of the rules 
and regulations of the establishment. The great object of reclaiming 
the criminal should always be kept in view by every officer in the prison, 
and they should strive to acquire a moral influence over the prisoners, 
by performing their duties conscientiously, but without harshness. 
They should especially try to raise the prisoners' mind to a proper 
feeling of moral obligation by the example of their own uniform regard 
to truth and integrity even in the smallest matters. Such conduct will, in 
most cases, excite the respect and confidence of prisoners, and will 
make the duties of the officers more satisfactory to themselves, and 
more useful to the Public.' 

It will be noted that in these expressions, it may be in an unguarded 

1 Maconochie, Norfolk Island, p. 6, cit. Grunhut, p. 79. 

2 In their Report dated 16/3/50, pp. 27 and 49. 

3 Cf. New Zealand Prison Regulation 25, which reads: 

"The great object of reclaiming the criminal should always be kept in view by all 
officers, and they should strive to acquire a moral influence over the prisoners. . . . 
They should especially try to raise the prisoners' minds to a proper feeling of moral 


moment, Col. Jebb and his colleagues left no doubt as to what in their 
minds was the 'great object' and 'leading principle' of the system they 
were required to administer. 

It is therefore right to assume that they were sincere in their belief 
that the 'high moral tone and good discipline' among the prisoners on 
public works would have been unattainable without the preliminary 
period of separate confinement and hard labour in the penitentiaries or 
county gaols, and one must simply accept the fact that Col. Jebb could 
return from Portland harbour to devote himself to calculating the 
number of revolutions per hour that a prisoner might reasonably be 
expected to perform on a crank, to the practical perfection of that 
machine, and to expressing the view that 'my own impression is that 
the generality of prisoners would have a greater distaste for the labour 
if it were not applied to any useful purpose'. 1 

The system of separate confinement they accepted without question 
in principle, but they were earnestly concerned with its application in 
practice. In the light of medical evidence as to the increasing incidence of 
insanity and tuberculosis, they advised that the normal maximum of 
18 months was too long, and that it should be suitably varied to indi- 
vidual needs so as to give an average of not more than 12 months. 
They also applied a practical mitigation: the separate exercise pens or 
"airing yards' at Pentonville were cleared away, and to allow of "brisk 
exercise' there were laid down in their place a series of concentric 
circular paths, such as may still be seen as a principal feature of the 
grounds of all our prisons. The use of caps with visors to 'prevent 
recognition' was still thought desirable, and the view of the Chaplain 
of Pentonville was accepted that the use of separate cubicles in Chapel 
was 'not oppressive to the mind to any perceptible degree', though the 
prevalence of punishments for defacing or knocking holes in these 
might have seemed to raise a question. 

During their Pentonville stage the education of the convicts was 
treated very seriously: perhaps too seriously, for while the Chaplain 
felt that 'to confer the advantages of a superior education on convicts 
was wrong in principle', he was convinced that every convict should 
be taught to read so that they might acquaint themselves with the 
truths of religion. Yet if that were done, it would certainly be necessary, 
he felt, to do something 'to meet the most pernicious efforts continually 
being put forth by authors and publishers ... to the detestable purpose 
of mere money gain, neutralising the benefits of education to the lower 
classes, and poisoning the sources of their temporal as well as their 
eternal happiness'. These doubts, as appears from the Addenda to his 
Report, 2 were particularly occasioned by 'professed works of fiction 
... of the "Jack Sheppard" school . . . issued from the London press 
to be continued in weekly numbers at a penny and three-halfpence 
i Report for 1850, p. 59. 2 For the year 1852, p. 30. 


each*. The 'evil tendency of those writings' is strikingly illustrated by 
the case of J. A., aged 18, who 'first began to read these bad books; 
and from them to the beer-shop; from these to the concert-room; and 
from these to the dancing school, which finally brought me within these 

While the new Directors were acquiring this valuable experience, 
the government was fighting a stubborn rear-guard action in defence 
of the moribund transportation system. In Australia the 'Eastern 
Colonies' after 1846 refused absolutely to receive any more convicts 
in any shape or form; a project for a penal settlement in North Australia 
broke down, and the Cape of Good Hope forcibly resisted an attempt 
to plant convicts on its shores ; there remained therefore only the small 
settlement in Western Australia, a struggling colony which welcomed 
labour of any sort. In these difficulties it became necessary to devise a 
system under which not only would the whole of the sentence be served 
in England, but the convicts would be released in England. This was the 
origin of the sentence of Penal Servitude, which by the Apt of 1853 1 
was substituted for sentences of transportation of less than 14 years. 
The sentences legalised were related to, but shorter than, those of 
transportation, with a minimum of three years and no remission; but 
this caused considerable resentment among the convicts, and in 1857 
a second Penal Servitude Act 2 restored the correspondence with the 
lengths of transportation sentences together with remission on a 
'ticket', though this was now called a 'licence to be at large'. By this 
Act also penal servitude was legalised for any crime punishable by 
transportation. It is interesting to note that until the end of the system 
in 1948 the lengths of penal servitude sentences passed by the Courts 
were still conditioned by the transportation tradition, tending to be of 
3, 5, 7, 10, or 14 years. Interesting, too, that no sooner was the system 
well established than the then Chairman of Directors pointed out that 
it was unnecessary to distinguish between penal servitude an4 imprison- 
ment 'now that they are both carried out in the United Kingdom, and it 
is misleading, for both classes of prisoner are undergoing "imprison- 
ment", and are equally in a condition of "penal servitude".' 3 

The system as it stood after the Act of 1857 consisted of three 
distinct parts: (1) separate confinement for 9 months in Pentonville or 
one of the local prisons; (2) associated labour in a Public Works prison: 
this part of the sentence was divided into three equal 'progressive 
stages', carrying increasing privileges and gratuities, so that the convict 
might have a definite stimulus to work hard and behave well; (3) 
release on * licence * to be at large for the remainder of the sentence, 
the period of licence varying with the length of the sentence. For some 

i 16 and 17 Vic. cap. 99. 2 20 and 21 Vic. cap. 3. 

3 An Account of Penal Servitude', Sir E. du Cane; printed at H.M, Convict Prison 
Millbank, 1882. 


years small numbers of convicts continued to be removed overseas 
after their period of separate confinement, either to Bermuda or Gib- 
raltar or the still receptive colony of W. Australia. But eventually, 'in 
deference mainly to the repeated and urgent wishes of the eastern 
colonies', this last line of defence was abandoned and transportation 
finally ceased in 1867. 

It is of more than historical interest to note here the concurrent 
development of penal servitude in Ireland, under the influence of Sir 
Walter Crofton, Chairman of the Irish Directors of Convict Prisons, 
who appears to have applied the lessons to be drawn from the trans- 
portation system not only with greater completeness but with greater 
faith and imagination than his English contemporaries. In the Irish 
system there was equally an initial 9 months of separate confinement, 
followed by a period on public works with progressive stages. The 
interesting feature was the interpolation, between 'public works' and 
'licence', of an 'intermediate stage' corresponding to some extent 
with the Probation Pass stage of a transportation sentence. This is 
described by Dr. Griinhut (p. 84) as follows 'This "filter between 
prison and the community" was the main characteristic of the Irish 
system. The idea was that employment of convicts "under circum- 
stances of exposure to the ordinary temptations and trials of the world 
where the reality and sincerity of their reformation may be fairly and 
publicly tested, will present the most favourable chances for their 
gradual absorption into the body of the community". Therefore pris- 
oners worked without supervision or went to work unattended. There 
were no disciplinary measures, but the possibility of recommitment to 
a former stage. The work was similar to what the prisoner would 
probably do at large; agricultural work, carpentry, etc. There was a 
special technical education.' Special attention was also paid to the 
supervision and after-care of convicts on release, and the whole system 
was evidently based on a belief that imprisonment not only could be 
'reformatory' but should be so. 1 Dr. Griinhut traces the considerable 
influence of 'the Irish system' on the continent, 2 but our more immediate 
interest is to note the resemblances, particularly in the 'intermediate 
stage', between this system and the new system of Preventive Detention 
for persistent offenders introduced in England by the Rules made 
under the Criminal Justice Act, 1948 (see Chapter 18). 

Having progressed so far with its central system for convicts, the 

1 But it must also be noted that even Sir W. Crofton attached great importance 
to the preliminary period of 'stringent punishment' for the sake of simple deterrence, 
irrespective of what he agreed were its 'degrading effects': cf. his evidence before the 
Committee of 1863 quoted in Appendix C. See also Appendix K. 

2 Ruggles-Brise however rightly points out (p. 29) that 'the idea of progressive 
reformatory discipline' in itself was of English origin, and was introduced into 
Ireland by Jebb himself. 


government still had to face the problem of the uncoordinated locaj 
prisons, and, being no longer able to rid itself of responsibility for its 
prisoners by getting rid of them, to settle some principles on which 
imprisonment as a system should operate. This function fell to a 
Committee of the House of Lords of 1863, which met, as Sir E. du 
Cane recalls (p. 155) under the influence of fc an increase of crime, 
marked by an outbreak of a practice of garrotting', which was attributed 
by public opinion inter alia to the release of *a flood of criminals' in 
this country under the new penal servitude system. Thus this historic 
Committee, whose views are summarised in Appendix C as a landmark 
in the movement of opinion on penal questions, took within its scope 
both the penal servitude system and the condition of the ordinary 
prisons. The answers it gave to the questions it asked itself were clear, 
and their effects were conclusive for a generation. 

In the view of the Committee the object of imprisonment was deter- 
rence 'hard labour, hard fare, and a hard bed' were the proper 
elements of a prison regime, and the foundations of such a system 
must be separate confinement and the crank. In this view they had the 
undoubted support of a considerable body of public opinion, including, 
it would seem, the Church, since Archbishop Whately had pronounced 
that 'we cannot admit that the reformation of the convict is an essential 
part of the punishment; it may be joined incidentally, but cannot 
necessarily belong to a penal system' ; and including certainly the Bench, 
which in 1847 had definitely declared "reform and imprisonment to be 
a contradiction in terms and utterly irreconcilable. They expressed a 
doubt as to the possibility of such a system of imprisonment as would 
reform the offender, and yet leave the dread of imprisonment un- 
impaired.' 1 Similar views on behalf of the Judges were again placed 
before the Committee through the redoubtable Lord Chief Justice 
Cockburn, and are printed in Appendix C. Under such influences as 
these, and in the face of public alarm over the increase of violent crime, 
it would have required a committee of very different constitution to 
reach any other conclusions. 

They also handled the penal servitude system rather roughly, calling 
for an increase in the minimum sentence from 3 to 5 years, a severe 
supervision of convicts released on licence, and a tightening up of the 
disciplinary system. To this end they advocated a considerable remission 
of the sentence to be earned by industry, with the introduction of Cap- 
tain Maconochie's 'marks system' for its measurement, a reduction in 
the rate of gratuities, and arrangements for greater speed and certainty 
in the infliction of flogging for serious offences. Effect was given to these 
proposals by the Act of 1864, 2 and by subsequent administrative 

To the principles advocated by the Committee for the conduct of the 
1 Ruggles-Brise, p. 89. 2 27 and 28 Vic. cap. 47. 


ordinary prisons Parliament gave approval by the important Prison 
Act of 1865, 1 which revised and consolidated previous Acts, amal- 
gamated the Gaols and Houses of Correction into what were hence- 
forth to be known as 'Local Prisons' as distinct from 'Convict Prisons', 
and took the first definite and peremptory steps to secure uniform com- 
pliance by all the Justices. The provisions of this Act were not permissive 
but mandatory, and effect was given to them by a detailed code of 
regulations which were enacted as a schedule to the Act and given the 
force of law. Every prison was henceforth to provide separate cells for 
the confinement of all its prisoners, and for the first time precise 
definition was given to the term 'imprisonment with hard labour'. For 
at least 3 months of his sentence the offender serving a sentence 'with 
hard labour' was to be kept to First-Class Hard Labour, which included 
the heavier forms of exercise (treadwheel, crank, shot drill, etc.) duly 
set out in detail; but thereafter he might, at the discretion of the Justices, 
be employed on Second-Class Hard Labour, which was defined as 
'such other description of bodily labour as might e appointed by the 
Justices". It is interesting to note that the liability of the County to 
maintain all criminal prisoners having been established, prisoners not 
sentenced to hard labour were now required to work without pay, 2 
but there was still so much delicacy about forcing them to work, that 
they might not be punished for neglect of work save by alteration of 

The foundations of a coherent and uniform system of imprisonment 
had now been laid. Principles and practice had been firmly settled and 
prescribed in detail: what still lacked was the means of enforcing them 
in the local prisons. The Act of 1865 had stripped the local authorities 
of almost the last vestige of discretion in the management of their 
prisons, and gave the Secretary of State power to enforce compliance 
by withholding the Grant in Aid from recalcitrant prison authorities. 
But even this was not enough. Although it had one desirable result in 
securing the closing of a large number of the smaller prisons, there 
were still too many local prisons : they were already expensive, and to 
put them all into a state to comply with the law and satisfy the Inspectors 
was not only in many cases a waste of money, but would have imposed an 
intolerable burden on the county rates. Further, there was still a 
lamentable lack of uniformity in the methods of enforcing the statutory 

It was at this stage that k the General Election of 1874 brought into 
power a government pledged not to increase but actually to relieve the 
burden of rates upon the rural districts' ; 3 the opportunity seemed a 

1 28 and 29 Vic. cap. 126. 

2 The Act of 1782 had provided that they should on discharge receive half the 
profits of their labour. 

3 Webb, p. 198. 


fitting one to revive a proposal already made by the Committee of 
1850, but never seriously entertained, to transfer the whole administra- 
tion of local prisons to a central Board; and in 1877 Parliament took 
the plunge. 

By the Prison Act of that year x the ownership and control of all 
local prisons, with all the powers and duties of the Justices relative 
thereto, were vested in the Secretary of State, and the cost of their 
maintenance was transferred to public funds. Their general super- 
intendence, subject to the control of the Home Secretary, was vested 
in a board of Prison Commissioners, assisted by Inspectors appointed 
by the Home Secretary, and a departmental staff. The rule-making 
power of Justices having passed to the Secretary of State, a new code 
of rules was issued in 1878, and as from the 1st April of that year all 
the local prisons came for the first time under one central control and 
a single code of rules. The first Chairman of the Commissioners was 
Sir Edmund du Cane, R.E., who had succeeded Sir Joshua Jebb as 
Surveyor-General and Chairman of Directors of Convict Prisons: in 
effect therefore the whole of the prisons, convict and local, were now 
brought under one administration. 

So by 1878 ,when the new Prison Act came into force, the nineteenth 
century had given its first answer to our question: it was the answer of 
Lord Chief Justice Cockburn the primary object is deterrence, both 
general and individual, to be realised through 'suffering, inflicted as a 
punishment for crime, and the fear of a repetition of it'. If as a by- 
product of this process the reformation of the offender is achieved, so 
much the better; if not, no matter it is hardly to be expected. The 
government had its directive, its detailed operation orders, and, for 
the first time, full power and resources. And for nearly twenty years 
the new machine was allowed to run without further parliamentary 


Colonel Sir Edmund F. du Cane, K.C.B., R.E., Chairman of the 
Prison Commissioners, Chairman of the Directors of Convict Prisons, 
Surveyor-General of Prisons, and Inspector-General of Military 
Prisons, was without doubt, in 1878, the right man in the right place. 
As a soldier, he would wish his orders to be clear, and he found them 
so: The objects which the Prisons Act 1877, was intended to secure 
were two, viz. the application to all prisoners, wherever confined, of a 
uniform system of punishment, devised to effect in the best method 
that which is the great object of punishment, viz. the repression of crime; 
and economy in the expenses of prisons.' 2 He would wish them to be 
firm, and they were. Under the Act of 1877 the Secretary of State 
i 40 and 41 Vic. cap. 21. 2 DU Cane, p. 99. 


could make rules for the governance of prisons in detail, but the 
essentials were immutably fixed by the Statutory Code of the Act of 
1865. He would prefer to find himself in agreement with them, and he 
did so. In the first chapter of The Punishment and Prevention of Crime' 
he fully argues the view that while penal methods 'must be founded on 
a combination of penal and reformatory elements in their due pro- 
portions', the penal element (except with younger criminals) 'should 
have the first place both on account of its effect on themselves and its 
influence in deterring others', and that while sight should never be lost 
of the desirability of 'reformatory elements' these could only be intro- 
duced so far as they were compatible with the needs of deterrence. 
And the penal element must, as the Lord Chief Justice had said, be 
one of evident severity: 'if you are going to punish, you must find 
something that does punish, and is disagreeable'. 1 

In this strong position, he was able with an undivided mind to 
devote his great abilities as an administrator and an engineer to what 
he rightly saw as the first necessity of his task the production of order 
out of chaos. Ruling both his Boards, as Sir Edward Troup tells us, 
'with a rod of iron', he set himself to secure strict economy, sound 
administration, and rigid uniformity, and his success here was a rock 
on which his successors could confidently build as they would. Of 113 
local prisons taken over, 38 were closed forthwith, and by 1894 only 
56 were still open. 

In the system of treatment of prisoners in local prisons which the 
Commissioners proceeded to develop, they relied for deterrent effect 
mainly on 'the punishment of hard, dull, useless, uninteresting, mono- 
tonous labour' 2 with rigid enforcement of separate confinement and 
the rule of silence these latter being still regarded as the necessary 
basis of the 'reformatory influences'. The theory was that the more 
deterrent part of the sentence should come first, and accordingly 
prisoners sentenced to Hard Labour were placed on 'penal labour' 
(standardised as so many revolutions per diem on the treadwheel) for 
at least the first 3 month of the sentence. Thereafter a prisoner by good 
conduct might, as a reward, earn the 'privilege' of being placed on 
'useful' labour, which the Commissioners regarded as 'one of the 
principal reformatory influences in the prison system'. 4 This 'useful 
labour' (the Second-Class Hard Labour of the Act of 1865) was, how- 
ever, limited to such processes as could be carried out in cellular con- 
finement, and it would seem that, except for prisoners in the later 
stages of long sentences who might be brought out to work in the 

1 Evidence before Departmental Committee on Prisons, 1895, Q. 10832. 

2 Du Cane, p. 175. 

3 The minimum period of three 'months on First-Class Hard Labour had been 
reduced to one month by the Act of 1877. 

4 Evidence before Departmental Committee on Prisons, 1895, p. 617. 



domestic services about the prison, separate confinement (except at 
exercise and chapel) was rigidly enforced throughout the sentence. 
Prisoners not sentenced to hard labour were placed on 'useful labour' 
from the beginning. 

This advancement from 'penal labour' to 'useful labour' formed the 
initial stage of the contribution of this period to the development of 
the Progressive Stage System of 'managing the prisoners by appealing 
to their better qualities' instead of 'governing by mere fear of punish- 
ment', which had for some time been in use in the convict prisons. This 
is described by Sir E. du Cane as follows : 

The principle on which this system is founded is that of setting 
before prisoners the advantages of good conduct and industry by 
enabling them to gain certain privileges or modifications of the penal 
character of the sentence by the exertion of these qualities. Com- 
mencing with severe penal labour hard fare and a hard bed he can 
gradually advance to more interesting employment, somewhat more 
material comfort, full use of library books, privilege of communication 
by letter and word with his friends, finally the advantage of a moderate 
sum of money to start again on his discharge, so that he may not have 
the temptation or the excuse that want of means might afford for falling 
again into crime. His daily progress towards these objects is recorded 
by the award of marks, and any failure in industry or conduct is in the 
same way visited on him by forfeiture of marks and consequent post- 
ponement or diminution of the prescribed privileges.' 

It is, however, sufficiently clear that this progress was achieved by 
emphasising rather the rigours of the earlier stages than the comfort 
of the later stages. In the first stage no mattress was allowed, and no 
books of any sort; in the second and third stages school books were 
allowed and a mattress on certain nights ; it was not till the fourth and 
last stage that the full 'material comfort' of a mattress every night was 
achieved, with the 'full use of library books and privilege of com- 
munication with friends'. In retrospect, the value of this system as a 
'reformatory influence', replacing the 'mere fear of punishment', seems 
open to question. 

Apart from separation and such habits of industry as a prisoner 
with a long enough sentence might form from employment on useful 
labour, the only other reformatory influences to which any importance 
was attached were 'religious instruction' the value of which Sir 
Godfrey Lushington l put down as 'very little indeed' and 'literary 
education', which Sir E. du Cane confessed had 'not the reformatory 
influence on prisoners which was once expected of it'. 2 Nevertheless it 

1 Permanent Under Secretary of State of the Home Office; in his evidence before 
the Departmental Committee on Prisons, 1895, Q. 11480. 

2 Du Cane, p. 79. 


is clear that devoted work was done by many Chaplains, and there was 
a useful educational organisation: if its efforts were limited to element- 
ary instruction in the 'three RY it must be remembered that such 
instruction, at a time when public elementary education was in its 
infancy, was the only form of education possible for the large majority 
of the prison population and it was perhaps too much to expect any 
'reformatory influence' from even Standard III of the National Society's 
Reading Book. 

And so, in the English prison system, the lights that had been lit in 
Newgate by Elizabeth Fry, on Norfolk Island by Captain Maconochie, 
and at Portland by Colonel Jebb, went out: for twenty years our prisons 
presented the pattern of deterrence by severity of punishment, uni- 
formly, rigidly, and efficiently applied. For death itself the system had 
substituted a living death. It became legendary, as Sir Evelyn Ruggles- 
Brise tells us, even in Russia. When, in the course of time, this view 
prevailed, criticism centred on the Chairman of the Prison Commission. 
This was unjust. Sir E. du Cane was a public servant, and with less 
freedom of action than his successors. Parliament, the Judges, and the 
public had called for such a system, and he provided it: he was even 
required, so hard was it so satisfy the more convinced exponents of 
deterrence, to defend it against the charge of 'exaggerated senti- 
mentality'. That he was able to do his duty as he saw it without com- 
punction might merit the question of posterity, but not of his own 

Fortunately the lights had not gone out all over Europe. The ideas 
of 'reformatory discipline' and 'progressive stages', developed in 
England and transmitted through Ireland, had aroused great interest 
and fertile experiment in several continental systems, and were now 
to form the basis of a fresh impulse in the United States, then in the 
flush of social reconstruction after the Civil War. The two great names 
in this American movement were E. C. Wines and Z. R. Brockway. 
To Dr. Wines is due not only much of the strong impulse in his own 
country, but the foundation of the international movement repre- 
sented by the International Penal and Penitentiary Commission at 
Berne. 1 Sir E. Ruggles-Brise, for many years President of the Com- 
mission, describes how 'in 1870, a joint resolution of both Houses of 
Congress, that a conference on prison questions might usefully be held, 
and that London would be the most suitable place for holding it, led 
the President of the United States to appoint a special committee to 
organise the proceedings. Dr. Wines was selected for the duty.' 2 
The first International Prison Congress was accordingly held in London 
in 1872, as a result of which a permanent organisation was established 

1 Appendix K. 

2 Prison Reform At Home and Abroad, Sir E. Ruggles-Brise; Macmillan, 1924; 
p. 18. 


at Geneva, and a system of Quinquennial Congresses inaugurated, to 
be held in the capitals of the different states-members, which with 
interruptions by two World Wars has continued ever since. 1 

The difference between the spirit of the London Congress of 1872 
and that of the system of their English hosts is shown by 'what they 
described as the leading principles which should lie at the root of a 
sound prison system: 

1. That though fundamentally the protection of society is the object 
for which penal codes exist, such protection is not only consistent 
with, but absolutely demands that the moral regeneration of the prisoner 
should be the primary aim of prison discipline, and that for this purpose 
Hope must always be a more powerful agent than Fear. 

2. That in the treatment of criminals, anything that inflicts un- 
necessary pain or humiliation should be abolished; that the true prin- 
ciple is to make a prisoner depend on his own exertions, and to gain 
the will of the convict by showing that he will profit by such exertion. 

3. That unsuitable indulgence is as pernicious as undue severity. 

4. That religion, education, labour, must be the basis of any good 
system, to the working of which a capable, highly trained, and well-paid 
staff is essential. 

5. Lastly, that it is in preventive work, ragged schools, and all the 
institutions for saving young life, th^t the battle against crime is to be 
won, and that the influence of women devoted to such work is of the 
highest importance.' 2 

In this spirit may be traced the influence of the first American 
National Prison Congress held at Cincinnati in 1870, from which 
emerged the celebrated 'Declaration of Principles' which still holds a 
reverend place in the literature of penal reform, together with the 
novel idea of the Reformatory. This type of institution was to provide, 
on the basis of the 'indeterminate sentence', for the purely reformatory 
treatment of young persons between the ages of 16 and 30, and its first 
example was the famous New York State Reformatory at Elmira 
opened under the charge of Z. R. Brockway in 1877. The spirit of 
Cincinnati', Dr. Griinhut tells us, 'died with the first generation of 
humanitarian reformers.' But not altogether; as the torch had passed 
to America from England, so it was to pass from Elmira back again, 
for it was here that Sir E. Ruggles-Brise learned much that encouraged 
him to found his Borstal system in England. 

But the published evidence does not suggest that the coming up- 
heaval of the English system resulted from any wide uprising of re- 
formers inspired by liberal ideas from abroad: it is rather more sug- 
gestive of a 'palace revolution.' In 1892 Sir E. du Cane, old and in 
failing health, had come after over twenty years of undisputed sway 

1 The last Congress was held at The Hague, in August 1950. 

2 Prison Reform At Home and Abroad; Sir E. Ruggles-Brise; p. 32. 


to be 'regarded as the embodiment of bureaucratic despotism and 
arrogance . . . absorbing all matters great and small into his own hands. 
His word was law/ l In that year the Home Secretary, Mr. Matthews, 
'wished on to him' as a Prison Commissioner Mr. (later Sir Evelyn) 
Ruggles-Brise, a civil servant who had for the past ten years been the 
valued and influential Private Secretary to a succession of Home 
Secretaries. Sir Evelyn made it clear in his autobiography 2 that his 
new position was difficult: he was required to take a nominal respon- 
sibility for a system of which he did not approve under a chief who, the 
first time he tried to assert himself, 'as far as I remember never spoke 
to me again'. In this position Sir E. du Cane, doing what he must do, 
brought down his whole system. A certain Dr. Morrison, after ten 
years' experience as a prison Chaplain, was no longer able to contain 
himself: he wrote an article in the press criticising the prison system, 
and Sir Edmund at once dismissed him. Dr. Morrison then opened a 
press campaign which elicited so much latent dislike of the system and 
its administration that a point was reached when 'in magazines and in 
the newspapers, a sweeping indictment had been laid against the whole 
of the prison administration. In brief, not only were the principles of 
prison treatment as prescribed by the Prison Acts criticised, but the 
prison authority itself, and the constitution of that authority, were held 
to be responsible for many grave evils which were alleged to exist.' 3 
In 1894 the Home Secretary, Mr. Asquith, for this or other reasons, set 
up a Departmental Committee with limited terms of reference under 
the chairmanship of his Under Secretary of State, Mr. H. J. Gladstone 
(later Lord Gladstone), and in 1895 this Committee presented the 
Report which remains the foundation stone of the contemporary prison 

The Gladstone Committee was both courageous and radical: its 
terms of reference had been carefully drawn so as to exclude from its 
consideration both the principles of 1865 and the methods of administra- 
tion of the Commissioners. This limitation,' they said, 'we found it 
impossible to make.' Certainly they acquitted the administration of 
many of the charges brought against it; they emphasised the success 
with which it had achieved the objects for which it was set up; and 
pointed out a truth of permanent validity that while 'it is easy to 
find fault, to form ideal views, and to enunciate lofty speculations as 
if they were principles arrived at by experience', yet 'nothing is more 
common than to find persons whose attention has been attracted only 
to some disadvantage in the system finally decided on discussing it 
without being aware that any alternative would produce still greater 

1 Private autobiography of Sir E. Ruggles-Brise quoted in Sir Evelyn Ruggles- 
Brise, Shane Leslie (John Murray 1938), pp. 85 and 86. 

2 Quoted in Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, op. cit. 

3 Report of the Gladstone Committee, para. 5. 


evils'; but on the central questions their findings amounted to an 
indictment of the whole ideology of the du Cane regime. 

Their fundamental conclusion was that 'the prisoners have been 
treated too much as a hopeless or worthless element of the community, 
and the moral as well as the legal responsibility of the prison authorities 
has been held to cease when they pass outside the prison gates'. In 
the Committee's view it was the duty of the administration to emphasise 
all those elements of prison life which -might make for the reclamation 
of the prisoner, and mitigate whatever elements made for degradation 
and deterioration. 

They condemned the one unquestionable achievement of the ad- 
ministration so far as it had concerned itself with prisoners and not 
with prisons uniformity of treatment. To Sir Edmund du Cane a 
prisoner was a prisoner, and practically nothing else' ; x but 'we think,' 
said the Committee, 'that the system should be made more elastic, 
more capable of being adapted to the special cases of individual 
prisoners; that prison discipline and treatment should be more effectu- 
ally designed to maintain, stimulate, or awaken the higher suscepti- 
bilities of prisoners, to develop their moral instincts, to train them in 
orderly and industrial habits, and, whenever possible, to turn them out 
of prison better men and women physically and morally than when 
they came in." 

This emphasis on reclamation, they believed, was not incompatible 
with the maintenance of the deterrent aspect of imprisonment, and 
they were at pains to shatter the belief that the pursuit of deterrence as 
an end in itself had even achieved its own ends. The diminution in the 
average prison population which had been so triumphantly adduced 
as a proof of the success of the du Cane regime was shown to be almost 
entirely accounted for by a reduction in the average length of sentence 
awarded. . . . The recidivism 2 was as great as ever.' 3 

It is a feature of this Report that many of its most pregnant observa- 
tions are scattered obiter, e.g. : 

'Since 1865 the main principles of prison treatment have not been 
altered, except in detail and in so far as they may have been affected 
by the radical change in the administration effected by the Act of 1877. 
Indeed, it may be said generally that neither those principles, nor the 
administrative system laid down by the Acts of 1865 and 1877, have 
been brought into question until the present inquiry was instituted.' 

'We do not consider that it is right to lay the burden of all the short- 
comings of the prison system on the central prison authorities who 
have carried into effect under successive Secretaries of State the Acts 
approved by Parliament; who have loyally and substantially carried 

1 Webb, p. 204. 

2 The habit of relapsing into crime (O.E.D.). 3 Webb, p. 222. 


out the various recommendations made from time to time by Com- 
missions and Committees; and who, as administrators, have achieved 
in point of organization, discipline, order, and economy, a striking 
administrative success.' 

'The difficulty of laying down principles of treatment is greatly en- 
hanced by the fact that while sentences may roughly speaking be the 
measure of particular offences, they are not the measure of the charac- 
ters of the offenders ; and it is this fact which makes a system of prison 
classification, which shall be at once just, convenient, and workable, so 
difficult to arrive at/ 

'While scientific and more particularly medical observation and 
experience are of the most essential value in guiding opinion on the 
whole subject, it would be a loss of time to search for a perfect system 
in learned but conflicting theories, when so much can be done by the 
recognition of the plain fact that the great majority of prisoners are 
ordinary men and women amenable, more or less, to all those influences 
which affect persons outside.' 

w But under this orderly equality there exist the most striking in- 
equalities. The hardened criminal bears the discipline without much 
trouble. Others are brutalised by it. Others suffer acutely and perhaps 
are permanently weakened by it in mind and body. What is a temporary 
inconvenience to the grown criminal, may be to lads and younger men 
a bitter disgrace from which they never recover to their dying day. It 
is impossible to administer to each man a relatively exact amount of 
punishment. But yet it is these very inequalities which often must 
produce that bitterness and recklessness which lead on to habitual 

'It is certain that the ages when the majority of habitual criminals 
are made lies between 16 and 21. It appears to us that the most deter- 
mined effort should be made to lay hold of these incipient criminals 
and to prevent them by strong restraint and rational treatment from 
recruiting the habitual class. It is remarkable that previous inquiries 
have almost altogether overlooked this all important matter. The 
habitual criminals can only be effectually put down in one way, and 
that is by cutting off the supply.' 

And last, but by no means least, 'we start from the principle that 
prison treatment should have as its primary and concurrent objects 
deterrence and reformation'. 

To these ends they condemned unproductive penal labour abso- 
lutely, and recommended the employment of all prisoners on useful 
industrial work. They even laid hands on the separate system, 's 
aside the old-fashioned idea that separate confinement was 


the ground that it enables a prisoner to meditate on his misdeeds' and 
'held that association for industrial labour under proper conditions 
could be productive of no harm, and this view was supported by the 
fact that association for work on a large scale had always been the 
practice at Convict Prisons'. 1 In short, they held that separate confine- 
ment (except, of course, by night) was simply a deterrent instrument 
which they clearly viewed with grave mistrust, in the light of the known 
facts as to its effect on the physical and mental condition of prisoners ; 
but they did not feel able to condemn it absolutely, contenting them- 
selves with the hope that it would prove possible to reduce the periods. 
The 'Rule of Silence' received equal condemnation. 

In one sense, this second answer of the Nineteenth Century to our 
question can be thought of as final. Within the classical line of thought 
running from Beccaria through Howard, Bentham, and Elizabeth Fry 
it leaves little more to be said as to principles and ends. For fifty years 
it has held its place, comparable with that of the Cincinatti Principles 
in America, as the scriptural sanction of the English prison system. 
Like other scriptures, it is a mine where each may find what he will: 
but though its principles may call for reinterpretation, its methods 
for re-adaptation, the basis of its gospel has not been put to question. 
Much that has been done in the last twenty-five years, novel as it 
seemed at the time, is no more than a late working out of suggestions 
in this Report. Indeed, to the task of making 'better men and women' 
there can be no finality, and the story of the next fifty years will be one 
of means rather than ends. Even the entirely new thought and method 
latterly introduced by the development of psychiatric medicine can 
but be another means to the same end, unless by a full turn of the 
Erewhonian wheel it removes this problem altogether from the purview 
of the penal system. 

i Ruggles-Brise, p. 137. 



SHORTLY after the publication of the Gladstone Report Sir Edmund 
du Cane, having reached the age of superannuation, retired, and 
for twenty-seven years Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise ruled in his 
place. In this long course of time the $ew Chairman, an Amurath to 
Amurath succeeding, established a personal position which makes it 
as natural to speak of the 'Ruggles-Brise regime' as of the 'du Cane 
regime' which preceded it. His mandate from Mr. Asquith was 'that 
the views of the Committee should, as far as practicable, be carried 
into execution', 1 and that mandate has descended, implicitly or ex- 
plicitly, through successive Home Secretaries to successive Chairmen 
to this day. The words deserve a moment's study: the Home Secretary 
spoke not of the 'recommendations' of the Committee but of its 
'views', and these, as we have seen, were diverse and radical; and in 
'as far as practicable' is implicit the whole slow process of development 
over fifty years. The action possible to each generation is conditioned 
by the climate of opinion of its time and by the physical and financial 
resources at its disposal, as well as by the courage and faith of those 
called to 'carry into execution' views that could lead us still further 
than we have yet thought to go. 

Meanwhile the new administration, still cumbered about with 'the 
stage-properties of the Victorian melodrama', 2 set to work with the 
instruments to its hands. These were the Prison Act 1898 3 and the 
Statutory Rules of 1899, which, with the unrepealed portions of the 
acts of 1865 and 1877, formed the substantial legal basis of the adminis- 
tration (other than for young offenders and habitual criminals) until 
the Criminal Justice Act 1948. 

Not the least important provisions of the Act of 1898 were those 
which repealed the statutory regulations of 1865, and left the whole of 

1 Ruggles-Brise, p. 77. 

2 Sir Samuel Hoare, in the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill, 1938. 

3 61 and 62 Vic. cap. 41. 



the detailed regulation of the system to the Secretary of State, who 
was given power to make all rules necessary for the government of 
both local and convict prisons. The code of rules made in 1899, with 
such amendments as from time to time proved necessary, remained in 
force until 1933, when a consolidated and simplified code was sub- 
stituted with certain revisions of detail to bring it into line with more 
recent developments. This code, with occasional amendments, remained 
in force until 1949. 1 The value of this more elastic procedure, which 
made it possible for changes to be effected without fresh legislation on 
each occasion, is indicated by the fact that under it the natural develop- 
ment of fifty years was able to proceed without further intervention by 

This removal of detailed control from the parliamentary sphere was 
also facilitated by the adoption as a normal instrument of the Depart- 
mental Committee appointed by the Home Secretary, following the 
model of the Gladstone Committee, in place of the Parliamentary 
Committees which had so often sat during the eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries. These Committees have been appointed as occasion required 
to examine and report on specific problems (as the treatment of young 
offenders or persistent offenders, the employment of prisoners, and 
punishments in prisons and Borstals), and may have the advantage of 
including experts in the matters under consideration, with M.Ps., 
officials, and members of the general public. Subsequent legislation, 
or changes in administrative practice, have commonly been based on 
the Reports of these Committees, which form a valuable part of the 
literature of our penal system. 

The more important changes of principle introduced by the Act 
into the prison system, and their subsequent history, were as follows: 

Classification The Gladstone Committee had pointed out that 
'no adequate attempt had yet been made to secure a sound system of 
classification in local prisons', and the Commissioners had responded 
by introducing into the Local Prisons the Star Class system started in 
the Convict Prisons in 1879, thus providing for 'the complete separation 
of first offenders from habitual criminals'. 2 Later, they placed young 
prisoners between 16 and 21 in a separate Juvenile Adult Class. For 
the purposes of classification alone, therefore, the provision by the Act 
of 1898 of the Triple Division of Offenders, under which the Court 
might order a sentence of imprisonment without hard labour to be 
served in the First, Second, or Third Division, was scarcely necessary. 
As the Commissioners said, 'The principle here given expression to is 
very far-reaching, and, as far as we are aware, is in advance of the 

1 Rules for the government of prisons are now made under the Act of 1948, the 
Rules now in force dating from 1949. Rules must lie in draft on the Table of the 
House of Commons for forty days before they are made. 

2 Annual Report 1899-1900, paras. 3 and 34. 


penal systems in force on the Continent of Europe. By it is destroyed, 
in emphatic language, the theory that had prevailed largely hitherto, 
and had found expression in divers reports, viz., that the duty of 
classification is a matter for prison officials, and not for the Court of 
Law having the individual offender and all the circumstances of his 
case fully detailed before it. It is obvious what an enormous responsi- 
bility is thus thrown upon Courts of Law, and, as we stated in our last 
year's report, the degree of success which this new departure may attain 
must depend on the extent and manner in which Courts of Law realise 
and act upon this responsibility.' l 

It appears from the Commissioners' Reports that this system was 
doomed to failure from the outset, largely because the Courts found it 
difficult to refrain from passing sentences 'with hard labour' even when 
in later years this form of sentence had ceased to have any significance. 
In 1910 the Commissioners reported that 'the exercise of this power is 
becoming rarer still, until we are almost forced to realise that the 
classification aimed at by the prison reformer will not be attained by 
relying on the discretionary power of the Courts of Law'. 2 This position 
remained virtually unchanged, and by the Act of 1948 the Triple Divi- 
sion was abolished. All measures for classification and for the individ- 
ualisation of punishment are thus left to the prison administration. 

Hard Labour First-Class Hard Labour was abolished, and all 
prisoners were from the beginning of their sentences to be employed 
on 'useful industrial labour'. The unfortunate hedging of the Gladstone 
Committee on this question was, however, reflected in the curious 
provision of the Rules that a prisoner sentenced to hard labour 'shall 
for 28 days be employed in strict separation on hard bodily or hard 
manual labour . . . after that period he shall, provided his conduct 
and industry are good, be employed on labour of a less hard description, 
in association if practicable'. 

This clinging to the shadow of 'hard labour' and 'separate confine- 
ment' long after the substance had escaped them led the Commissioners 
into a somewhat illogical position, later set out by their successors as 

'The practical difficulties raised by the requirements (1) that work 
shall be productive, (2) that for the first month the work shall be "hard 
bodily or hard manual labour", and (3) that subsequently it shall be 
labour of "a less hard description" are obvious. To find various useful 
employments suitable for various types of prisoners is a standing 
difficulty of prison administration, and it was a baffling problem to 
find for every prisoner sentenced to hard labour two kinds of work 
one harder than the other but nevertheless of such a character that it 
could be carried on for a month by a prisoner confined to a cell. 

i Annual Report 1899-1900, para. 4. 2 Annual Report 1909-1910, para. 42. 


'Moreover, the conception that a prisoner who behaves and works 
well shall be rewarded by being allowed to work less hard is irrecon- 
cilable with the conception that the period of imprisonment is to be 
utilised as a period of training. If training is effective, a prisoner 
should in the second month of his sentence be working harder, i.e. 
with more aptitude and more concentration, than in the first month. 

'Oakum picking was originally the task for the first month of a 
man's hard labour sentence, but when this work was given up, little 
could be done to render effective the distinction in the Rule between 
"hard bodily or hard manual labour," and "labour of a less hard 
description," and the distinctive character of a hard labour sentence 
lay not in the nature of the prisoner's work but in the fact that for 
the preliminary part of his sentence he was liable to be kept in separate 
confinement, i.e. to be employed in his cell and not in an associated 
working party.' l 

In fact, what this provision did was to ensure that for 28 days a 
hard-labour prisoner worked less hard than an ordinary prisoner, and 
the restriction to prisoners so sentenced of the vestige of separate 
confinement that was retained was presumably intended simply to 
preserve in another way the aspect of greater deterrence implied in 
sentences to hard labour. 

Except for these hard labour prisoners during the first 28 days of 
their sentences, all work during the day was hencefortli done in associa- 
tion in workshops or outdoor parties. The Separate System from now 
onwards meant only separate cells for sleeping and meals, all other 
activities being in associated parties under strict supervision and the 
Rule of Silence: in effect, the Silent System had again come into favour, 
though with the modification that absolute silence was less rigidly 
required, and 'the privilege of talking' recommended by the Gladstone 
Committee might be earned by long-sentence prisoners in their later 

The construction of sufficient and suitable workshops for this new 
obligation was a long task, which after the First World War had scarcely 
been brought to completion for the much smaller numbers of prisoners 
for whom work had then to be found. Today, when the numbers 
are again comparable with those of the Ruggles-Brise regime, the 
shortage is again noticeable and many additional shops have been and 
are being erected. 

To complete the story of hard labour, separate confinement was 
abolished when, in the course of the First World War, it became 
necessary in the public interest for hard labour prisoners to work as 
hard as others; in 1945 the last vestige of special treatment deprivation 
of mattress for the first fourteen days was removed by an amendment 

i Annual Report 1930, p. 23. 


of the Rules; and by the Act of 1948 this form of sentence was finally 

Remission of Sentence A further important change authorised by 
the Act was that provision might be made by the Rules for enabling a 
local prisoner to earn by special industry and good conduct a remission 
of a portion of his imprisonment, and that on his discharge his sentence 
should be deemed to have expired. The Rules fixed the maximum 
period of remission to be earned at one-sixth of the sentence, and the 
system of awarding daily marks for industry, already operating in 
connection with the Progressive Stage System, was applied also to the 
earning of remission. The Commissioners were immediately impressed 
by the beneficial effects on conduct and industry of this measure, which 
remains to the present time one of the basic sanctions of prison 

Corporal Punishment The use of corporal punishment for offences 
against prison discipline was limited to the offences of mutiny, incite- 
ment to mutiny, and gross personal violence to an officer of the prison. 
Its award was subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State. This is 
substantially the position today (see Chapter 10). 

The legislative way was now wide open to the realisation of a prison 
system in which deterrence and reform should be primary and con- 
current objects. Yet when in 1921 Sir E. Ruggles-Brise retired, having 
reached the age of superannuation, there was a discouraging repetition 
of the story of 1895: the end of his long rule, like that of Sir E. du 
Cane, was marked by the publication of a Report which condemned it 
unsparingly, and on strikingly similar grounds. The administration was 
criticised as autocratic and irresponsible, rigid, and remote; the treat- 
ment of prisoners as founded on 'retributory and deterrent factors, to 
the exclusion of truly preventive and educational principles'. l 

On this occasion, however, the enquiry was neither parliamentary 
nor official, but a reversion to the tradition of Howard and Powell 
Buxton. A general dissatisfaction with the conditions of the prisons 
among those interested in their reform, among whom the Howard 
Association 2 had been prominent, was intensified by the first-hand 
experience of imprisonment gained during the First World War by 
some hundreds of conscientious objectors and others drawn from 
social groups outside the normal catchment area of the prisons. In 
these circumstances, since 'there had been no systematic enquiry since 
the Departmental Committee of 1894-5, and . . . there seemed to be 
at the time no prospect of any Government enquiry', 3 in January 1919 
the Labour Research Department set up a Prison System Enquiry 

1 English Prisons Today, chapters III and IV. 

2 Shortly, by marriage with the Penal Reform League, to become the Howard 

3 English Prisons Today, Foreword. 


Committee. Naturally the Committee received no official support, but 
making all reservations that must be made in respect of an enquiry 
conducted in these circumstances, with no direct official evidence or 
information and no direct access to the prisons, their Report is an 
important document in our knowledge of the system with which it 

The broad conclusions of this Committee were that, making every 
allowance for the slow and cautious development by the Commissioners 
of certain of the recommendations of the Gladstone Committee, the 
principles and effects of their regime were scarcely distinguishable from 
those of the du Cane regime. In its detailed practice the treatment of 
the prisoners was held to be 'humiliating and dehumanising', and 
'the effects of imprisonment are of the nature of a progressive weakening 
of the mental powers and of a deterioration of character in a way which 
renders the prisoner less fit for useful social life, more predisposed to 
crime, and in consequence more liable to reconviction' (p. 561). This, 
so far as it may have been justified, was lamentably far from 'stimulating 
the higher susceptibilities of the prisoners' and sending them out of 
prison 'better men and women, physically and morally, than when they 
came in'. 

It is evidently important, if this sweeping indictment of 25 years' 
untrammelled implementation of the Gladstone Report was justified, to 
establish why this was so. And that there was substantial justification 
for the broad conclusions reached may be deduced not only from the 
Commissioners' own Reports but from the actions of their immediate 
successors. We have already noted that the system in the local prisons 
was still dominated by nineteenth-century conceptions of the value of 
'separate confinement' and the 'rule of silence', and much else remained 
unchanged, including the personal humiliation of cropped heads and 
drab and shapeless dress besprinkled with broad arrows. It is difficult 
to find evidence of any positive elements making for reform or rehabili- 
tation. Much stress is laid on the work of the Chaplains and the 
influences of religion, but those influences had long been active in our 
prisons. The methods of education appear to have been very little in 
advance of those of the du Cane regime, and the privileges to be earned 
under the stage system were still little more than a slow increase in the 
number of letters and visits permitted and in the quality and quantity 
of library books. Nor was there any notable change of principle or 
practice in the convict prisons. 

Yet Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise was a humane and high-minded 
administrator, well versed in the literature of penology, and as President 
of the International Penal and Penitentiary Commission for many years 
he well knew what could be done and what was done in the penal 
systems of the world. He brought to life many of the major recom- 
mendations of the Gladstone Report : in particular, his foundation of 


the Borstal system l of treating young offenders on the lines sug- 
gested by the Committee has passed into honourable history. He also, 
after the Prevention of Crime Act 1908, started the novel system of 
preventive detention for habitual criminals ; 2 and he was active in 
forwarding many of the measures for keeping offenders out of prison 
altogether which are discussed in the following section. Why, then, did 
such a man so far fail to realise the spirit of the principles handed 
to him as terms of reference on his appointment? 

The answer is sufficiently clear from his own pronouncements, 
which suggest that he never really accepted the possibility of a system 
of treatment in which reform would hold a primary and concurrent 
place with deterrence. Indeed at the International Congress of Washing- 
ton in 1910 he was reported to have 'shelled and shattered' the American 
delegates for having 'swung too violently away from the classical 
traditions of punishment', and to have pronounced that 'In Europe 
we place the constituent elements of punishment in the following 
order: Retributory, deterrent, and reformatory. Possibly in the United 
States this last named method is placed first in importance.' 3 Nor was 
this thunder-bolt discharged only for the occasion. He repeats it with 
equal emphasis in his Annual Reports, and indeed in one statement 
of the theme goes back almost to the position of 1865: 'Our constant 
effort is to hold the balance between what is necessary as punishment 
. . . from a penal and deterrent point of view, and what can be conceded, 
consistently with this, in the way of humanising and reforming 
influences.' 4 

And this is to say no more than that Sir Evelyn was not in advance 
of the norm of penological thought on these questions in his time, at 
least in Europe. It would have been more than difficult for him, at 
any rate prior to 1910, to follow the heretic Americans so far from the 
'classical tradition' as to put reformation first, though his own order 
does appear to depart a little in emphasis from his terms of reference. 
In the England of his time the doctrine of general deterrence was still 
too deeply engrained in the texture of penal thought and prison tradi- 
tion for it to be possible to envisage a treatment of prisoners not 
definitely directed to deterrence by fear, and the Gladstone Committee 
itself was constrained here and there to rather obvious hedging in the 
need to accommodate its wish to 'turn out better men and women' with 
the necessities of deterrence. All official authority, Parliament, Church, 
and Bench, denied the compatibility of deterrence with reform, 
and none in more memorable and disturbing words than Sir Godfrey 
Lushington, who said in his evidence before the Committee 'I regard 
as unfavourable to reformation the status of a prisoner throughout his 
whole career; the crushing of self-respect, the starving of all moral 

1 See Chapter 21. 3 Shane-Leslie, op. cit., p. 163. 

2 See Chapter 18. * Annual Report 1911-12, p. 27. 


instinct he may possess, the absence of all opportunity to do and receive 
a kindness, the continual association with none but criminals, and that 
only as a separate item among other items also separate; the forced 
labour and the denial of liberty. I believe the true mode of reforming a 
man or restoring him to society is exactly in the opposite direction of 
all these. But of course this is a mere idea; it is quite impracticable in a 
prison. In fact the unfavourable features I have mentioned are insepar- 
able from prison life.' 

On any view of the functions of a prison which it would have been 
possible for Sir E. Ruggles-Brise at that time to carry into effect, we 
may now see that Sir Godfrey's 'mere idea' was quite impracticable. 
In order to justify the innate confidence of the Committee that the 
reconciliation of deterrence and reform in the treatment of prisoners 
was possible, a re-interpretation of the deterrent function of a prison 
was necessary which the Committee itself was not ready to make. And 
Sir Godfrey's uncomfortable words have remained and must remain 
in the minds of all concerned with prison administration. Nearly 
thirty years later Sidney and Beatrice Webb said, 'We suspect that it 
passes the wit of man to contrive a prison which shall not be gravely 
injurious to the minds of the vast majority of the prisoners, if not also 
to their bodies. So far as can be seen at present the most practical and 
the most hopeful of prison reforms is to keep people out of prison 
altogether.' 1 And in our own time the problem has been well stated 
by James V. Bennett, Director of the Federal Prisons of the U.S.A. 
'Our basic problem is how to use imprisonment, which is inherently 
a symbol of punishment, to achieve a purpose almost completely 
antithetical to punishment rehabilitation.' 2 

Yet we may wonder whether the prison administration, at any rate 
after 1910, might not have been encouraged to go further and faster 
along the road if a young and ardent Home Secretary had been less 
transient in that office. In the year in which Sir Evelyn was shattering 
the surprised penologists of Washington, Mr. Winston Churchill said 
in the House of Commons, 'The mood and temper of the public 
with regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most 
unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm, dispassionate 
recognition of the rights of the accused, and even of the convicted, 
criminal against the State a constant heart-searching by all charged 
with the duty of punishment a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in 
the world of industry those who have paid their due in the hard coinage 
of punishment : tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and 
regenerative processes: unfailing faith that there is a treasure, if you 
can only find it, in the heart of every man. These are the symbols, 
which, in the treatment of crime and criminal, mark and measure the 
stored-up strength of a nation, and are sign and proof of the living 
1 Webb, p. 248. 2 Federal Prisons Report 1947, p. 4. 


virtue in it.' 1 That 'constant heart-searching', that 'unfailing faith', 
were to come into our prison administration, but it required the up- 
heaval of the First World War to release the fresh climate of opinion 
in which they could do their work. 


It may be that in the early years of this century a pessimistic view of 
the social value of imprisonment, derived from long experience of the 
du Cane regime, tended to act as a brake on progress in prison treat- 
ment; but it certainly brought a long way towards realisation the 
Webbs' 'most practical of all prison reforms, to keep people out of 
prison altogether'. Nor has the passage of time changed that view. In 
1947 Sir Alexander Maxwell, recently retired from the office of Perma- 
nent Under Secretary of State in the Home Office, said, The first of 
the Home Office functions in relation to prisons is to keep as many 
people as possible out of them', 2 and in 1948 Mr. Claud Mullins, 
recently retired after fifteen years' service as a Metropolitan Magistrate, 
said, 4 A tradition is growing up that nobody should receive a sentence 
to prison unless all other sentences are impracticable." 3 

The legislative course followed before the First World War to make 
that tradition possible may seem, in retrospect, to have been the most 
significant contribution of those years to practical penology. They were 
marked by a remarkable series of statutes seeking to keep out of prison 
large classes of offenders for whom imprisonment is neither suitable 
nor necessary, and to provide better ways of dealing with them. First 
came the Probation of Offenders Act 1907, followed in 1908 by the 
Children Act and the Prevention of Crime Act. Of these two the first 
established juvenile courts for offenders under 16 (later 17) and pro- 
vided better methods both for dealing with child offenders and for 
preventing them from becoming offenders: the second sought to 
remove from the normal prison system on the one hand young people 
under 21 who ought not to be subject to it, and on the other habitual 
criminals who were neither reformed nor deterred by it. The Mental 
Deficiency Act 1913 kept out of, or removed from, the prisons a large 
number of unfortunates for whom imprisonment was indefensible. 
And finally, a provision of the Criminal Justice Act 1914 required 
magistrates to allow time for the payment of fines unless there were 
good reasons for not doing so. 'As a consequence partly of this change 
in the law and partly of a decrease in drunkenness, the number of 
persons sent to prison in default of payment of fines fell from 85,000 in 

1 Cit. Ruggles-Brise, p. 4. 

2 Second Annual Lecture in Criminal Science delivered to the Department of 
.Criminal Science, Cambridge University, Stevens, p. 17. 

3 Fifteen Years Hard Labour, Claud Mullins (Gollancz), p. 100. 
E.P.B.S. 5 


1910 to 15,000 in 1921.' * The numbers of committals in default of 
payments of fines were further reduced by the Money Payments Act 
1935, which required magistrates to make enquiries as to means before 
committing to prison an offender who had not paid his fine. In the 
five years 1937-41 the average number of committals in default was 
6054, and in 1947 it had fallen to 2952. 

The effect of all these measures, and of the resulting 'tradition', has 
been shown on p. 10. The Criminal Justice Act 1948 is, in its broad 
effect, a summing up of all these tendencies : in so far as it could be 
described at all as a 'prison reform Act', it would be in the sense in 
which the Webbs would have had us use those words. It supplements 
and improves the existing powers and methods of dealing with con- 
victed offenders by fine or by one of the procedures under the Probation 
Acts; it makes further provision for dealing with offenders of unsound 
mind other than by imprisonment; it still further restricts the imprison- 
ment of young people under 21 and provides alternative methods 
of dealing with them outside the prison system; and it facilitates the 
use of Borstal training for young people. Except in its provisions for 
the treatment of persistent offenders, it is above all an Act for keeping 
people out of prison. 


The history of English prison administration from the inception of 
the Prison Commission in 1878 seems to fall almost too neatly into 
three periods of similar length divided by years of war, each, under 
the influence of one dominating personality, offering its answer to our 
question through the reinterpretation of one dominating principle. 
Historical analogies may be as misleading as historical periods, but 
it is tempting to see the growth of our English way of treating prisoners 
as we see that of our English style of Gothic architecture: Leyhill 
prison is as little like Dartmoor as Lincoln cathedral is like Durham, 
but each later building derives from the continuous organic develop- 
ment of a principle already latent in the earlier, and through similar 
periods of 'style'. First, the old style, the powerful and perdurable 
Norman of du Cane, ending with the South African War; second the 
Transitional style of Ruggles-Brise, with the structural features modify- 
ing though the feeling of the older style tends to persist; and the third, 
after the First World War, the 'Early English' of Alexander Paterson, 
releasing the true spirit of the structure in a 'first fine careless rapture' 
of seminal ideas which his successors may not hope to recapture, but 
can strive to bring to full fruition, working out all their implications in a 
manner which may come, in the course of history, to be regarded as a 
'Second English' style in its own right. Nor will the visitor informed 
with the spirit of this analogy be surprised, in looking at a building 
1 Sir A. Maxwell, op. tit., p. 8. 


which the guide-book tells him is Second English, to find here and there 
a feature of earlier style, or even what he suspects to be an original 
Norman wall. He may reflect, too, on the similarity of the problem 
which each system, penal and architectural, was engaged in working 
out a problem essentially of balance, of reconciling in one harmonious 
structure two principles apparently opposed deterrence and reform, 
stability and light. 

And now to return to historical fact. Sir E. Ruggles-Brise retired in 
1921, though at the special request of the Secretary of State he remained 
as British delegate to the International Penal and Penitentiary Com- 
mission, of which body he had become President in 1910, so that he 
might preside over the forthcoming London Congress of 1925. His 
successor was Mr. M. L. Waller, afterwards Sir Maurice Waller, C.B. 
Here again history repeated itself, since Mr. Waller, like his predecessor, 
had been Private Secretary to the Home Secretary before becoming a 
Prison Commissioner in 1910. At about the same time, Mr. Alexander 
Paterson, M.C. (later Sir Alexander Paterson) was appointed to be a 
Prison Commissioner. This appointment was remarkable in that it was 
the first from outside the Prison Service or the Home Office, and it was 
destined to have remarkable results results such as might have followed, 
had there been Prison Commissioners in her time, the appointment of 
Elizabeth Fry. To say that for the next twenty-five years Paterson was 
the mainspring and inspiration of the changes that revitalised our 
prison and Borstal systems, and breathed life into the honoured 
formulae of the Gladstone Report, is in no way to derogate from the 
contributions of the distinguished Chairmen under whom he served 
between the two wars, particularly that of Sir Maurice Waller, under 
whose leadership till his untimely retirement in 1928 most of the major 
steps had been taken or projected. Paterson himself neither became 
nor sought to become Chairman : in his own words, he was 'a missionary, 
not an administrator'. 

The first Annual Report over the signatures of Waller and Paterson, 
for the year 1921, showed that they had not wasted time. Gusts of 
fresh air begin to blow through the pages. The convict crop and the 
broad arrows had gone; a substantial breach had been made in the Rule 
of Silence; new cell furniture and new clothing were being planned; 
arrangements were being made for suitable prisoners to receive visits 
from their friends at tables in a room; and 'prison visitors' were being 
introduced for men, as had long been done for women, to visit them 
regularly in their cells in the evenings. The activities of voluntary 
workers from the outside world, long valued for their help in providing 
lectures and concerts, were also being extended in other directions, 
particularly in the teaching of handicrafts and gymnastics. 

And already the Commissioners were finding it necessary to reply 
to the criticism that the prisoners were being 'pampered'. Tampering' 


they said 'is not the object, nor is it the result. It is our duty, as custo- 
dians of those who are for a time forcibly separated from life in the 
civic community, to restore them to it at least as fit as when we received 
them. To this end we should feed and exercise their minds as well as 
their bodies; else we shall return them to the stern competition outside 
torpid in mind and nerve, and quite unfit to take their part. It is there- 
fore reasonable that we should make it our aim to balance the hour of 
physical exercise each day with an hour of mental exercise each evening; 
to provide brain food in the form of books and social intercourse as 
regularly as we issue wholesome food for the body.' 

In the 1922 Report further important changes were recorded. 'Last 
summer we received authority from the Secretary of State to suspend, 
as an experiment, the period of separate confinement which had hitherto 
been in force at the beginning of every convict's sentence. This separate 
confinement used to be carried out partly in the local prison at the 
place of conviction before transfer, and partly in the convict prison 
after transfer. The old idea with regard to separate confinement was 
(a) to prevent contamination, and (b) to give the man a quiet period 
in which to review his past life and his present position, and make 
better resolutions for the future. Our opinion was, on the contrary, 
that a man brooding alone in his cell became morose and vindictive. 
Abolition was, therefore, tried, the Governors of local prisons being 
merely authorised to keep a man working in his cell for the first day or 
two, if he should be received in so violent a frame of mind as to make 
it necessary in the interests of discipline. The reports which were 
received after six months' trial were satisfactory. Governors reported 
that they were in favour of this step, and that discipline was equally 
maintained; while Medical Officers gave definite opinions that the men 
were better in physical and mental health. The Secretary of State has 
authorised us to continue this plan pending the necessary revision of 
the statutory rules. At the same time, the Boards of Visitors at Convict 
Prisons were requested not to impose separate confinement as part of 
a punishment. Separate confinement is now being regarded as in the 
nature of a restraint, only to be used when necessary for the mainten- 
ance of discipline.' 

4 We are aiming at a minimum of eight hours' associated work for 
all prisoners. This has so far been attained only at some of the local 
prisons, but at the others the period is, at any rate, seven to seven and 
a half hours per day. Compared with the veiy short periods which 
were being worked by the associated parties only a year or two ago, 
this does represent a satisfactory advance.' 

In that year also, in co-operation with the Adult Education Com- 
mittee of the Board of Education, a start was made with organising 
an adult education system throughout the local prisons. This scheme 
was based on voluntary teachers, and at each prison there was 


appointed an Educational Adviser to the Governor to help both in 
procuring the teachers and framing the schemes: the Adviser himself 
was also a volunteer, the list for 1922 including Professors from the 
Universities, Headmasters, and Directors of Education. Under these 
arrangements it became possible at last to view the education of 
prisoners in a more liberal spirit than that of the Chaplain of Penton- 
ville (see p. 43), and we read in the 1922 Report that 'while more simple 
elementary teaching was still required, the need for education on a 
broader basis, suitable for backward adults, was even more urgent. 
The teaching in simple subjects which is given to normal children is 
not wholly suitable for adults, whatever their degree of ignorance. 
They find it difficult to concentrate their attention upon it, and, while 
it remains necessary that their reading, writing, and arithmetic should 
be brought up to a certain minimum standard, even these ends can be 
better attained through the medium of subjects of general interest.' 
And again in 1924 that 'the great point is to arouse mental activity, 
and to give some kind of healthy mental outlook; and to this end the 
personality of the teacher is more important than the choice of subject. 
Subjects requiring real mental effort are to be preferred to those which 
merely impart information.' This enlightened scheme soon spread to all 
prisons, regular annual meetings of Educational Advisers and teachers 
were held at the Prison Commission, and it remained a vital part of 
the system until the late war. A little later the Prison Visitors also 
organised a National Association of Prison Visitors, which held 
annual meetings in the same way. 

Other significant changes recorded in 1922 were the introduction of 
regular shaving; arrangements for Star Class and Second Division 
prisoners to dine together in association; 'honour parties' of prisoners 
trusted to work together without continuous supervision; and, in the 
Chapels, the removal of the officers from raised seats facing the con- 
gregation to the back and sides where 'they take part in the service as 
ordinary members of the congregation'. 

In the following years was initiated the idea of 'classification of 
prisons' as a necessary step in the use of classification to secure the 
positive results of better training rather than the mere negative of 
mitigating 'contamination'. The first steps in establishing what has 
become known as the Wakefield System were recorded in 1923, and 
were followed by the setting apart of Wormwood Scrubs as a prison 
for Star Class prisoners only. 

The two further developments of major significance between the 
wars were the establishment of 'open' institutions, first for Borstal 
boys at Lowdham Grange in 1930, then for selected prisoners from 
Wakefield at New Hall Camp in 1936; and the institution from 1929 
of 'earnings schemes' of small cash payments related to effort in order 
to stimulate industry among the prisoners. 


These details are here briefly recorded simply to show the scope and 
speed of the attack: their practical significance will be considered as 
we come to consider the structure and working of the system as it stands 
today, since the elements of that system are all implicit in the work of 
these few years. Our present purpose is rather to assess their total 
effect in relation to the question, 'What is prison for?' 

The Commissioners for their part saw quite clearly what they meant 
to do and why, and in their Reports for 1924 and 1925 set it out equally 
clearly in these words: 

'The Object in View We are dealing with persons who have to return 
to the life of a free community after a period which is seldom very 
long, and, in most cases, is only a few weeks ahead. Our object, there- 
fore, must be to restore them to ordinary standards of citizenship, so 
far as this can be achieved in the time at our disposal. If this is not 
done, society will only have been protected during the brief period of 
their sojourn in prison, and on leaving its doors they will again become 
nuisances, and some of them dangers. The means to be employed are 
reasonably long hours of hard and steady work, which, in the case of 
the longer sentences, should if possible give some useful industrial 
training; and, after the day's work is over, education of a kind suitable 
for backward adults. Self-respect has to be promoted; the influence, 
both spiritual and secular, of people of strong character and personality, 
prison officials and voluntary workers, must be brought to bear; and 
also, so far as prison conditions admit, such measures of trust as will 
arouse a sense of personal responsibility. The prisoner's daily round 
should make as much demand as possible on the activities of both mind 
and body; the whole being a coherent scheme of training. Every 
development of prison methods forms part of this scheme, and is 
directed to this end.' 

'It is the policy of the administration to carry out its duty of protecting 
society by training offenders, as far as possible, for citizenship; and 
every change in the prison system is directed to that end. Prisons exist 
to protect society, and they can only give efficient protection in one of 
two ways, either (a) by removing the anti-social person from the com- 
munity altogether or for a very long period; or (b) by bringing about 
some change in him. Any general application of the first method would 
not be supported by public opinion. The prison administration must 
therefore do its utmost to apply the second; that is to say, to restore 
the man who has been imprisoned to ordinary standards of citizenship, 
so far as this can be done within the limits of his sentence. Unless some 
use can be made of the period of imprisonment to change the anti- 
social outlook of the offender and to bring him into a more healthy 
frame of mind towards his fellow citizens, he will, on leaving the prison 
gates after a few weeks or months, again become a danger, or at any 
rate a nuisance. He may, indeed, be worse than before, if the only 


result has been to add a vindictive desire for revenge on society to the 
selfish carelessness of the rights of others which he brought into prison 
with him. The change can be, and is, effected in a good many cases by 
vigorous industrial, mental, and moral training, pursued on considered 
lines by officers, teachers, and prison visitors of character and person- 
ality. The effect of such training, properly conducted, is to induce self- 
respect, to lessen self-conceit (characteristic of many prisoners on first 
reception) and to arouse some sense of personal responsibility. Failures 
there are, and always will be, but the records of successes justify the 
system and the efforts of those who work to carry it out,' 

Perhaps the most notable feature of these statements, in the light of 
what had gone before, was not so much what was said as what was not 
said. For the first time, we find no anxious balancing of how much, 
without undue derogation from deterrence, can safely be conceded to 
reform: in fact we find no mention whatever of either. What we do find 
is that 'every development of prison methods' is directed towards 'a 
coherent scheme of training'. 

It is not to be assumed from these statements that, in the minds of 
those who formed them, neither deterrence nor reform was henceforth 
an object of prison treatment, but rather that a more realistic approach 
to the problem of reconciling them within a system intended to 'turn 
out better men and women' would suggest that, if less attention were 
paid to words and more to facts, more might in practice be achieved. 
This approach calls for a somewhat radical revaluation, in the light of 
practical experience, of these two well-worn coins of penological 

To take deterrence first, we have already seen l that for general 
deterrence, viz. the preventive effect of the penal system on the potential 
offender at large, contemporary thought relies not on the punitive 
treatment of the individual offender but on 'the totality of the conse- 
quences of being found out' general prevention is inherent in the whole 
action of the penal system. Equally, individual deterrence is not to be 
sought by devising deliberately punitive measures as part of the treat- 
ment of the individual in prison, and that for two reasons. It is unlikely 
that men or women will become better, either physically, mentally, or 
morally, if the regime to which they are subjected is seeking simul- 
taneously to punish, humiliate, and hurt them. And even for those 
prisoners who are in any event unlikely to become better, there is 
sufficient evidence that such methods are most likely to make them 
worse. The deterrent effect of imprisonment on the individual is there- 
fore held to rest not on any specific features of his treatment in prison 
but on the fact of being in prison, and all that is inevitably inherent in 
that condition the subjection of the prisoner to forced labour and 
disciplinary control, separation from home and the normal human 

1 Chapter 1, pp. 10-13. 


associations of life, deprivation of most of its amenities and comforts, 
and absolute loss of personal liberty. In short, the offender comes to 
prison 'as a punishment, not for punishment.' l 

The concept ofj 'reform' is less easy to evaluate. If reform can be 
defined as the substitution of a will to do right for a will to do wrong, 
we have to face the fact that for many prisoners the problem does not 
arise in that form at all: there never was for them a settled will to do 
wrong all too often there was no will at all, just social inadequacy in 
one form or another, physical or mental. Some again, who could not 
be classed as socially inadequate, may well have reached at least that 
necessary condition precedent to reform, the humility of repentance, 
before ever their sentence begins. Others, and today they are many, 
have no personal standards by which they can measure right and 

It is in fact no more practical to seek a prison system which will 
'reform' all those subjected to it than one which will 'deter' them. 
Reform is not some specific which can be prescribed either from the 
prayer-book or the pharmacopoeia. It must come from something 
inside the man. All the prison can do is to provide the sort of conditions 
in which that something can be reached by the right personal influences, 
for this is of all things one for a rather delicate and practised personal 
approach. Some will be reached by the message of the Gospel, others 
by a friendly hint, a sympathetic touch. For one it may be necessary to 
prick a bladder of self-conceit, for another carefully and patiently to 
build or rebuild his self-respect. For some the mere withdrawal for a 
time from the circumstances leading to the offence will serve, for others 
complete re-education is required. There are many whose rehabilitation 
can be effected by the removal of some mental disability by psychiatric 
treatment, or of some physical defect by surgery. Indeed the subtlety 
of variety may almost equal the number of individuals concerned. 

The conception of 'training' therefore seeks to provide a background 
of conditions favourable to reform, and where necessary and possible 
to foster this delicate and very personal growth by personal influences 
rather than by specific features of treatment labelled 'reformative'. 
Then, leaving deterrence to speak for itself, it concentrates on the 
social rehabilitation of the prisoner, so as to remove as many obstacles 
as possible to the maintenance, after discharge from prison, of such 
will to do right as may have become established or incipient therein. 
Whether a prisoner has been reformed or whether he has been deterred 
by his experience, or even if the effect has been quite negative, the pro- 
tection of society is not well served if he comes back to it unfitted rather 
than fitted to lead a normal life and earn an honest living, or as an 
embittered man with a score against society that he means to pay off. 
It has been said, and well said, that it is easy to imprison a man 

1 Alexander Paterson. 


the difficulty is to release him; and again, that the true test of a prison 
system is what happens to the prisoner when he comes out; and yet 
again, that it is on release that the prisoner faces the hardest part of his 
punishment. All this means that whatever is done in prison may be 
wasted unless the hard transition to normal life is eased and guided by 
a humane and efficient system of after-care: this subject will be dealt 
with in a separate chapter, but it must be said here that it forms an 
essential part of the whole system. 

Such then are the principles underlying the contemporary system of 
prison treatment, as they were conceived by Sir Maurice Waller and 
Sir Alexander Paterson, and as they have a quarter of a century later 
been recognised and established by Parliament in the Criminal Justice 
Act 1948, which provides that rules shall be made for 'the training of 
prisoners', and sets in the forefront of those rules the statement that 
The purposes of training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall be 
to establish in them the will to lead a good and useful life on discharge, 
and to fit them to do so'. 

It is fitting that, before passing to examination of the present system, 
something should be said of Alexander Paterson, to whom especially it 
owes what merit it may have. After his death in 1947 Sir Alexander 
Maxwell wrote: 

'Alexander Paterson will be affectionately remembered in the Home 
Office and the Prison Service as an honoured leader who won loyalty 
and devotion not only by his intellectual gifts, his zest and driving 
energy, his humanity and sympathetic understanding of men and 
women of all types, his wisdom, wit and humour, but by his ever-present 
sense of life's high ends. The many activities of his crowded official 
career were lifted above the common level by the intensity of his faith 
and vision. A practical idealist, whose grasp of reality was as firm as his 
aspirations were lofty, he was as fertile of constructive ideas as he was 
powerful to kindle enthusiasm. To his imagination and inventive force 
we owe almost all the schemes of penal reform which have been devel- 
oped in this country in the last twenty-five years.' 

Nor was his influence confined to England 

'His labours in the international field were untiring. He had known 
and made himself known in the penal systems of most of the countries 
of Europe and North America, and carried out many missions of 
inspection and advice in the prisons of Africa and Asia on behalf of our 
Colonial Office. During the late war, he also visited and advised on 
internment camps for aliens in Great Britain and in Canada. One may 
well ask whether any one man has had a knowledge at once so deep 
and so wide of the condition of man in captivity. As British delegate 
to the International Penal and Penitentiary Commission for over 


twenty years, he was always in the van of the fight for humane values 
in our penal systems, whether in the preparation of the Standard 
Minimum Rules for the League of Nations, in the fight against Nazi 
ideology at the Congress of Berlin in 1935, or in the last resolution 
which he placed before us in 1946, condemning the outrage of the 
concentration camps.' x 

, Out of all his rich contribution to the revolution in the spirit of our 
prison and Borstal systems, perhaps that part which above all bore the 
stamp of Paterson's personality was his insistence that it is through 
men and not through buildings or regulations that this work must be 
done; his flair for finding the right men to do it; and his ability to 
inspire them with his own faith. 

1 Obituary notice in the Bulletin of the I.P.P.C. 




IN other countries it is usual to find the 'penitentiary administration' 
in the Ministry of Justice. Since England has no such Minister, 
it is natural that our administration should come under the Home 
Secretary, who 'takes a part in the administration of criminal justice, 
so great that for some of its purposes he might be described as the 
Minister of Justice'. 1 If that were not enough, he is also the King's 
adviser on the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy, and is especially 
responsible for the keeping of the King's Peace, which brings into the 
Home Office all matters concerning police and public order; and finally, 
'he is charged with all the home affairs of England and Wales except 
those . . . which are assigned to other and newer departments'. 2 It 
would therefore have been difficult, one way and another, for the 
administration of prisons and kindred institutions to have fallen any- 
where but the Home Office, where it keeps company with the depart- 
ments responsible for the probation service and for the approved 
schools for children and young persons who come before the Courts. 
But while the Home Secretary is the Minister responsible to Parlia- 
ment for the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders in 
general, his powers and duties in relation to prisons and any other 
institutions to which by statute the Prisons Acts or parts of them apply 
(e.g. Borstals, Remand Centres, and Detention Centres) do not depend 
on the Prerogative or inherent powers of his office. They are statutory 
powers and duties under the Prisons Acts 1865-98 or the Criminal 
Justice Act 1948. All such institutions are vested in the Secretary of 
State, and he makes the Statutory Rules for their governance, appoints 
their Boards of Visitors, 3 and appoints all those officers of prisons and 
Borstals who are described by statute as 'superior officers', viz. Gover- 
nors, Chaplains, and Medical Officers: the dismissal or reduction in 

1 Troup, p. 73. 2 Troup, p. 1. 

3 Where applicable: see p. 85. 



rank of a prison officer on disciplinary grounds also requires his 

In carrying out these statutory duties the Home Secretary receives 
the advice of the Prison Commissioners, in whom is vested, subject to 
his general control, the superintendence, control, and inspection of 
institutions to which the Prisons Acts apply. The nature, composition, 
and organisation of the Prison Commission are described in the follow- 
ing section of this chapter. It is sufficient to say here that, subject to 
submission to the Secretary of State of questions of policy of major 
interest, or of particular cases which have aroused or may arouse public 
or political interest, or of such matters as by statute are reserved to 
the Secretary of State (e.g. those aforementioned, or the confirmation 
of awards of corporal punishment on prisoners) the work of the Prison 
Commission is self-contained, and they are primarily responsible for 
both the formulation and the application of policy. Their work is 
however necessarily carried out in close co-operation with other 
departments of the Home Office concerned with the prevention of 
crime and the treatment of offenders, and with the Principal Establish- 
ment Officer, the Legal Adviser, the Statistical Adviser, and the Public 
Relations Officer. 

Since 1944, the Home Secretary has had the assistance of an Advisory 
Council on the Treatment of Offenders. The membership includes 
magistrates and others with special knowledge or experience in the 
work of the Courts, the police, and the treatment of offenders, together 
with men and women of various experience outside the specialised 
field. The Chairman since its inception has been Mr. Justice Birkett, 1 
and the Vice-Chairman the Permanent Under Secretary of State for 
the Home Department. The Council meets several times a year, and 
considers and reports on questions referred to it by the Home Secretary 
or raised by its own members, a considerable amount of work being 
done by sub-committees between the meetings of the Council. The 
Council also acts as the National Working Group in this field for the 
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and as the 
National Committee of the International Penal and Penitentiary 
Commission : 2 for these purposes it may appoint sub-committees 
on such questions as are referred to it, with power to co-opt members 
from outside the Council, e.g. appropriate members of the Home 
Office or Prison Commission staff, academic experts, or representatives 
of the Magistrates Association. The meetings of the Council are held 
in private, and its proceedings are normally not published. 

1 Mr. Justice Birkett retired in December 1950, on becoming a Lord Justice of 
Appeal, and was succeeded by Sir Granville Ram, Chairman of the Hertfordshire 
Quarter Sessions. 

2 See Appendix K. 



The constitution of the Prison Commission is, in the Civil Service 
of today, something of a curiosity, and its organisation and relations 
with the Home Office may more easily be appreciated by experience 
than by explanation. Prior to the Prisons Act 1877, local prisons were a 
local service administered on much the same principles as today still 
govern the administration of other such public services, e.g. the Police, 
the convict prisons being in a special relation to the Home Office akin 
to that of the Metropolitan Police. When Parliament decided to adopt 
for this service the principle of centralised ownership and control, 
there was no Civil Service such as we know today to take over its 
management, and the establishment of statutory Commissioners em- 
ploying their own staff was still the normal expedient of the time as it 
had been when the Metropolitan Police was set up in 1829. 

The Prisons Board as thus established is a body corporate, with a 
common seal and power to hold land, and with the consent of the 
Secretary of State it may under the Criminal Justice Act 1948 exercise 
powers of compulsory purchase. The Commissioners, whose numbers 
may not exceed five, are appointed by the Crown under the Sign 
Manual and are full-time pensionable civil servants. 

The Chairman of the Board is appointed by the Home Secretary. 
Since the time of Sir E. Ruggles-Brise, Chairmen have been drawn from 
experienced administrators of the Home Office staff: Maurice Waller 
and his successor Alexander Maxwell had both been Private Secretaries 
to the Home Secretary, and Harold Scott and C. D. Carew Robinson, 
who followed, had each been in charge of the Criminal Division of 
the Home Office, which dealt inter alia with prisoners and prisons. 
The present Chairman was transferred from an administrative post in 
that Division to be Secretary of the Prison Commission (1925-34), 
and served at New Scotland Yard before receiving his present 
appointment in 1942. The composition of the Board has varied through 
the years in both numbers and qualifications, including at different 
times administrators of the Home Office staff, men with experience as 
Governors of prisons or Borstals, medical men from the Prison Medical 
Service and in the one case of Sir A. Paterson a man whose experience 
lay in social and educational work outside the service. 

Following the passage of the Criminal Justice Act, there was a 
considerable change in the responsibilities, status and composition of 
the Board. In the preparation of the Bill, it had been contemplated 
that the arrangements of 1877 should be revised, and that the Prison 
Commission should be abolished so as to allow of a reorganisation on 
different lines of all the departments of the Home Office concerned 
with the treatment of offenders. Parliament however preferred to retain 
the Prison Commission, and the Secretary of State decided to place 


under their control the new types of establishment, known as Remand 
Centres and Detention Centres, to be set up under the Act for the 
treatment of young offenders. 

In consequence of this enlargement of the responsibilities of the 
Commissioners, it was further decided that their organisation should be 
strengthened on the administrative side and that they should in future 
be responsible direct to the Secretary of State through the Permanent 
Under Secretary of State, and not as hitherto through the Criminal 
Division of the Home Office. One of the steps taken to this end was 
the enlargement of the Board to include the Establishment Officer and 
the Woman Director in addition to the five Commissioners, who are at 
present the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman, the Secretary, and two 
Commissioners who respectively direct the Prisons and the Borstals 
(including Remand and Detention Centres). The collective responsi- 
bility of the Prisons Board to the Secretary of State is, under this 
arrangement, shared by its seven de facto members and not only by 
the five Commissioners who constitute the Board de lege. 

The Board is assisted by four specialist Directors, with the necessary 
professional or technical qualifications, for Education and Welfare, 1 
Medical Services, 2 Industries, and Works; and the Directors of Prisons 
and Borstals are assisted by five Assistant Commissioners who are also 
Inspectors under the Prisons Acts and as such appointed by the Home 
Secretary, on the recommendation of the Commissioners, from among 
the best qualified Governors. 

Each of the three Assistant Commissioners on the prisons side is 
responsible for the general control and regular inspection of the group 
of prisons allotted to him: it is his duty to interpret the policy and 
views of the Commissioners to the Governors, to see that they are 
carried out, and to keep the Commissioners in touch with the views 
and difficulties of the Governors and their staffs. After each visit to a 
prison an Assistant Commissioner makes a written report which is seen 
by all the Commissioners and any other officers of the Department 
concerned. The duties on the Borstal side are similar, but also include 
the planning and development of Remand and Detention Centres. 

The women's prisons and girls' Borstals are inspected and controlled 
by the woman Director. 

The Head Office staff also includes the Chaplain Inspector, who 
assists and advises the Commissioners in all matters relating to the 
Chaplains and their spiritual work, the chapels and their equipment, 
and questions concerning religion in general. He spends much of his 
time visiting the Chaplains to help and advise them. 

The two Commissioners known as the Director of Prisons Admin- 
istration and the Director of Borstals Administration visit all their 

1 Appendix K. 

2 There are also an Assistant Director of Medical Services and a Chief Psychologist. 


prisons or Borstals at least once a year and more frequently where 
necessary, while the Chairman and other members of the Board visit 
as often as their closer concern with office administration permits. 
Thus the Board as a whole is in reasonably close and constant touch, 
directly or indirectly, with the actual work in the field, and great im- 
portance is attached to the maintenance of this personal contact 
between the centre and the periphery. These contacts by visit are most 
valuably supplemented by annual conferences, at which prison Gover- 
nors and their Assistant Governors, Borstal Governors and their 
Assistant Governors, Chaplains, and Medical Officers meet (in their 
respective groups at separate times) to discuss questions of general 
professional interest among themselves and with the Commissioners, 
who also keep in touch with the work of the Visiting Committees and 
Boards of Visitors, and of the National Association of Prison Visitors, 
by attending the annual meetings organised in London by these bodies. 1 
Consultation with the subordinate staff is maintained through the 
Whitley Council (see p. 95), and occasionally ad hoc meetings are 
arranged for the discussion of particular topics at which all grades 
may be represented. Other methods used to bring the staff at the prisons 
and Borstals into consultation in the formulation of policy are the 
'working party' to prepare proposals on particular subjects, or the 
method of consultation through representative panels. This interesting 
device, which is capable of further development, has been used as 
follows : the questions on which the views of the staff are desired are 
put to the Governor of each establishment, who is asked to arrange 
meetings of all grades at his establishment to discuss them and submit 
their views. Panels of five representatives of each of the grades of 
Governor, Chaplain, Medical Officer, and Chief Officer then meet 
and receive the reports of their grades, synthesise them, and submit a 
report to the Commissioners: for the staff below the rank of Chief 
Officer the report is prepared by the Executive Committee of the Prison 
Officers' Association (see p. 95). 

Within the Prison Commission there is a regular Monthly Conference 
of the Board with all the Directors and Assistant Commissioners and 
such other senior officers as may be required for particular topics. 

While therefore it is unlikely that the charges of 'remoteness' and 
'autocracy' levelled against earlier administrations would again be 
raised, the system of uniform and centralised administration initiated 
by Sir E. du Cane still remains the basis of management today. Structur- 
ally, so to speak, the system is the same in all establishments, and is 
based on a volume of Standing Orders of formidable size and remark- 
able scope. But different types of establishment develop their own 
variations, and especially in the Borstals and Training Prisons Governors 

1 The former meetings are now organised by the Prisons and Borstals Committee 
of the Magistrates Association. 


have a good deal of latitude, except in matters of business manage- 
ment, to develop their establishments along their own lines. Even in 
the local prisons, though in general these are, save for size, 'much of a 
muchness', there is scope for initiative and experiment within the 
general framework of the Statutory Rules and the policy laid down by 
the Commissioners. 

To return to the Commissioners' office, this is organised as a separate 
and self-sufficient Department; its funds are provided by a separate 
Parliamentary Vote for which the Chairman accounts to the Public 
Accounts Committee of Parliament, and it deals direct with the Treasury 
on matters of finance, establishments, and supply. Formerly located in 
the main Home Office building in Whitehall, it is now, after some years 
of peregrination, settled l within a stone's-throw of the vestiges of 
Millbank Penitentiary. Apart from the higher direction already 
described, it employs at its Head Office some 270 persons of the 
administrative, professional, executive, clerical, technical, and minor 
grades. These are organised as follows. 

The Secretary of the Department (an Assistant Secretary of the 
Administrative Class) is responsible for presenting material for the 
consideration of the Board, for carrying into effect its decisions and 
for what may be called its external relations legal, public and parlia- 
mentary. He is directly assisted by a group of administrative and 
executive officers known as the Secretariat. 

The Establishment Officer (also an Assistant Secretary of the Ad- 
ministrative Class) controls the Establishment Branch, which is 
responsible for the organisation and staffing of the Head Office and 
the prisons and Borstals : the departmental Registry is also under his 

The Finance Officer controls the Finance Branch, whose functions 
are implied in its name. 

The Director of Industries is assisted by a small staff of technical 
officers at the Head Office, and controls the work in the prisons and 
-Borstals through travelling area Supervisors and resident Industrial 
Managers. In close relation with him is the Controller of Stores and 
Manufactures, whose branch is responsible for the placing of contracts 
for supply of raw materials, etc., and generally for all stores, clothing, 
furnishing and victualling. Specialists included in this organisation 
include a Supervisor of Farms and Gardens, Vocational Training 
Officers and a full-time Catering Adviser who deals with dietary 
questions, meal service, kitchen equipment and the training of cooks. 

The Director of Works, with his Deputy Director, controls all the 
architectural, engineering, estate management and other technical and 
specialist staffs required for the management and maintenance of the 

1 At Horseferry House, Dean Ryle St., Westminster, S.W.I. 


considerable lands and buildings vested in the Commissioners, and for 
the design and erection of new buildings. 1 

Such is the organisation charged not only with the safe-custody of 
over 20,000 men and women of all ages and from every level of society, 
but with their housing, feeding, clothing and doctoring; their industrial 
employment; their education and religious and moral training; their 
social welfare during and after their sentences; the legal questions 
arising from their various states as prisoners; and the grievances and 
complaints, reasonable or unreasonable, which may be expected to 
arise from men and women in their condition and from their relatives, 
friends, and legal advisers. To this is to be added the responsibility 
for recruiting, training, managing, clothing and housing the staff 
required to these ends in the prisons and Borstals, which number some 
6,000 men and women in about 100 different grades. And since it is by 
the quality of its staff that the system stands, this last task is not the 

The scope of this work is a world in little, and the motto of the 
Prison Commissioners must be 'humani nihil a me alienum', for there 
are few aspects of life and conduct on which they may not be required 
to form a view in the course of a day's work. Nor is their view bounded 
by the establishments in England and Wales for which they are legally 
responsible. They act in close co-operation with the Scottish admin- 
istration in Edinburgh, and their woman Director and Director of 
Industries respectively visit, once a year, the women's establishments 
and industrial arrangements in Scotland and report to the Scottish 
Home Department. They are represented on the Treatment of Offenders 
Sub-Committee of the Colonial Office, and in this way, and by furnish- 
ing officers of various grades to the Colonial Prison Service and 
providing courses of instruction in the Home Service for Colonial 
officers, they help to create and maintain standards in prisons and 
Borstals throughout the Empire. In the wider international field they 
provide the first delegate of H.M. Government to the International 
Penal and Penitentiary Commission and assist in collaboration with 
the Social Defence Section of the United Nations Secretariat. 2 

A word, in conclusion, on publicity. Whether or not there was 
justification for the Webbs, in 1922, to have described the prisons of 
this country as 'a silent world, shrouded, so far as the public is con- 
cerned, in almost complete darkness', 3 or for the Labour Research 
Department Enquiry to have levelled against the administration of the 
day the charge of 'undue secrecy', it must be said flatly that when such 
assertions are made today they are made without reference to the 

1 Major new building schemes are undertaken by the Ministry of Works from 
preliminary plans prepared by the Director. 

2 Appendix K. 3 Webb, p. 235, 


As publicity in this sense official publications can be said to have a 
limited value, but for those who wish to read them there are two: 
the Commissioners are required by statute to present an annual report 1 
to the Secretary of State which is laid before Parliament, and this 
provides in addition to complete statistics of the prison and Borstal 
populations and their characteristics a reasonably full account of the 
major activities of the administration in the preceding year: in addition 
the Stationery Office publishes, for public sale, an illustrated pamphlet 
issued on the authority of the Home Secretary giving a short account 
for the general reader of what is being done in the prisons and Borstals, 
and why. 2 

What is said or not said in official publications is open to check not 
only by the hundreds of voluntary workers who co-operate in the work 
of the staff, by the Boards of Visitors and Visiting Committees and the 
magistrates who visit the prisons privately, but by a great number of 
non-official visitors from at home and abroad research workers, 
social science and other students, 3 penologists, indeed anyone with a 
serious and responsible interest in the work or in related fields. 

As regards newspaper publicity, it may be doubted whether an 
editor of a responsible newspaper or journal could be found to say 
that access to prisons or Borstals for this purpose had been unreason- 
ably refused to his representative on proper application to the Press 
Officer at the Home Office: the number of newspaper articles, including 
illustrated articles, which have been published in the last few years as 
a result of facilities granted in this way is certainly considerable. 
Moreover, Governors have standing instructions to report at once to 
the Press Officer any incident likely to be of public interest, so that a 
notice may be sent to the Press Association, and when the terms of the 
notice are settled, Governors are authorised to communicate it to the 
local Press. 

Nor have other methods been neglected: film companies have been 
allowed to acquire correct local colour for commercial films, and an 
official film of prison life (Tour Men in Prison') has been prepared by 
the Central Office of Information for private showing to audiences of 
magistrates and others concerned with the administration of criminal 
justice. From time to time members of the staff have spoken of their 
work in radio programmes, and the B.B.C. have made in one of the 
prisons a feature for broadcasting. 

1 Published by H.M. Stationery Office, Kingsway, W.C.2, from whom, or through 
any bookseller, it may be obtained at a charge of (at present) 4y. 

2 Prisons and Borstals (1950). Price 2s. 6d. 

3 Research workers and selected students have not only visited establishments but 
lived and worked in them. 



BEFORE the local prisons were transferred to the Secretary of State 
by the Act of 1877, they were administered by the Justices 
in Quarter Sessions, acting through the Visiting Justices whom 
they appointed, and the Act reserved certain of the powers of these 
Visiting Justices to new bodies called Visiting Committees. The Com- 
mittees were to be appointed annually by the Benches committing to 
the prisons, their composition, method of appointment, powers and 
duties being prescribed by the Secretary of State in the Statutory Rules. 
For convict prisons, and later for Borstal institutions, which were 
under central control and to which the courts did not commit direct, 
similar bodies were appointed by the Secretary of State from among 
suitable local people, including a proportion of magistrates. 

However this experiment in dual control may have appealed in 1877 
to Sir E. du Cane, it has come to be accepted as a necessary and 
advantageous part of the administrative system of today, and was re- 
enacted by the Act of 1948 and the Rules of 1949 with very little change. 
The bodies appointed for local prisons to which the courts commit 
direct are still called Visiting Committees, while those appointed by 
the Secretary of State for other prisons, and for Borstals, are called 
Boards of Visitors. For simplicity, 'Visiting Committee' will hereafter 
be used to refer to both bodies, except where the context otherwise 

The powers and duties prescribed by the Rules for Visiting Com- 
mittees fall into three main groups. First, they are an independent 
and non-official body with a right to enter the prison or Borstal at 
any time and to see any prisoner or inmate. Any prisoner or inmate 
may apply to see them, or any of their number who may be visiting, 
to make a complaint or application. This is a valuable safeguard for the 
prisoner against harshness or oppression by authority. 

The Rules require that 'A Committee shall meet at the prison once a 



month to discharge its functions under these Rules or, if the Committee 
resolves that, for reasons specified in the resolution, less frequent 
meetings are sufficient, not less than eight times in twelve months', 
and that 'Members of a Visiting Committee and of a Board of Visitors 
shall pay frequent visits to the prisons for which they are appointed, 
and (a) at least one member of a Visiting Committee shall visit the 
prison once in each week; (b) at least one member of a Board of Visitors 
shall visit the prison once between each meeting of the Board and the 
next meeting'. 

Second, the Visiting Committee is the superior authority for the 
maintenance of discipline in the establishment. The Governor can deal 
only with minor offences against the rules : more serious offences must 
come before the Visiting Committee. In particular, any offence in a 
prison for which corporal punishment may be imposed must be dealt 
with by the Visiting Committee. 

Third, they are charged with a general oversight of the management 
of the prisons and Borstals, and report to the Secretary of State on the 
way in which the statutes and Statutory Rules are applied by the Gover- 
nors and their staffs. This is done by means of a formal Annual Report, 
though this does not preclude interim representations on particular 
matters where necessary. 

In Borstal Institutions and for Preventive Detention prisoners the 
Boards of Visitors have the further function of advising the Commis- 
sioners as to the date of release of the inmates or prisoners. 

The Magistrates Association has established a Prisons and Borstals 
Committee composed of members of Visiting Committees. This Com- 
mittee arranges an annual conference in London of all members of 
Visiting Committees who are able to attend. The conference is usually 
opened by the Secretary of State and attended by representatives of the 
Prison Commissioners, who are invited to take part in discussion of 
the resolutions placed before the Conference. 

In their Annual Report for 1947, p. 11, the Commissioners said of 
this system: 

'It makes for public confidence in the administration of discipline; 
it creates local sympathy and interest in the work going on inside the 
walls; it spreads necessary knowledge among magistrates of what is 
the actual result of the sentences they pass in court; and it places at 
the disposal of the Home Secretary and the Prison Commissioners 
knowledge and ideas about the working of the system from experienced 
public men and women who see it with a fresher eye than those who 
are immersed in its daily work. These ideas may be conveyed either in 
informal talks at the prisons, where the Commissioners are always 
happy to meet Visiting Magistrates, or through the discussions at the 
Annual Conferences, or in their Annual Reports/ 



These three grades are, by a provision of the Act of 1877, known as 
'superior officers', the remainder of the staff as 'subordinate officers'. 
Apart from hierarchical and functional differences, the statutory 
significance of this not very happy nomenclature is that the former 
are appointed by the Secretary of State, the latter by the Prison Com- 
missioners. With the growth of years in variety of work in the prisons 
and Borstals, this distinction has come at times to be rather blurred 
at the edges, though the appointment of these three superior grades by 
the Secretary of State remains clear-cut. 

If the English prison and Borstal systems of today have any merits, 
they derive above all from the belief that what counts for most in them 
is not buildings or systems, but men. 'A school is a teacher with a 
building round him, not a building with a teacher inside.' So for some 
thirty years past the first care of the administration has been the 
selection and training of staff, and though with the increasing complica- 
tion of the work much remains to be done for training, this care has 
provided a staff with a tone and tradition, and a professional compet- 
ence, that are constantly remarked with admiration by experienced 
administrators from abroad. 


In any type of penal establishment the Governor is the keystone of 
the arch. Within his own prison, he is in much the same position as the 
captain of a ship supreme in an isolated community, responsible for 
the efficiency and welfare of his crew as well as for the safe arrival of 
his passengers at their journey's end. The time is long past when the 
post of prison Governor was a suitable niche for the retired officer with 
the reputation of 'a good disciplinarian'. The command of a large 
prison today calls not only for a vocation for such work but for special 
personal qualities and adequate educational and administrative 
qualifications. Quite apart from the control and training of his prisoners, 
and the leadership of his staff, the Governor is responsible for extensive 
and various buildings and machinery; for large industrial and, maybe, 
agricultural activities; for close co-operation with the courts and the 
police and the machinery of justice in general; for enlisting voluntary 
workers in different fields and seeing that they work harmoniously 
with his administration and with each other; for keeping on good terms 
with the local authorities who run the prison library and evening 
education; and often enough too often for those who do not enjoy 
hearing themselves talk for 'selling' his job in private to the more 
important visitors to the prison and in public at a variety of local 
meetings and functions. 

The duties of the Governor, as the responsible head of each 


establishment, are defined by the Rules, and supplemented by more 
detailed instructions in Standing Orders. Governors are divided into three 
classes, according to the size and responsibility of their establishments, 
and are assisted in all Borstals and the larger prisons by Assistant 
Governors, who are deemed to be Governors for the purposes of the 
Prisons Act 1877 and are appointed by the Secretary of State. Assistant 
Governors are divided into two classes: those in Class I act as Deputy 
Governors or in junior posts of special responsibility, such as the 
charge of an outlying camp : those in Class II act as Housemasters in 
Borstals, or in similar posts in Training Prisons, or as assistants to the 
Principal of the staff Training School, and generally as required. The 
grades and titles for women follow exactly those for men. 

Appointments are no longer made to governorships direct: all 
candidates start as Assistant Governors II, except that Chief Officers 
who are promoted may pass direct to the grade of Assistant Governor I. 
Thus all governors will have learned the elements of the work in the 
junior grades before succeeding to the command of prisons or Borstals. 
Since the late war the Commissioners, with the approval of the 
Secretary of State, have followed the principle that vacancies in the 
ranks of Assistant Governors should be filled by promotion from within 
the service to the extent that suitably qualified candidates are forth- 
coming. There are two channels for this purpose, the first being the 
promotion of selected Chief Officers already mentioned. The second is 
through a special machinery devised to bring forward young officers 
with the necessary personal qualifications early in their careers. Each 
year the Civil Service Commissioners hold a qualifying examination, 
which is a simple test of literacy and intelligence, for which any estab- 
lished officer with over two years service may apply. A given number 
of those who qualify are then seen by a selection board of representa- 
tives of the Civil Service and Prison Commissions, which has before it 
the reports of a 'week-end test' l as well as reports from Governors 
and Assistant Commissioners who know the candidates. The board 
selects up to twelve candidates for a six-month Staff Course at the 
Imperial Training School at Wakefield, which in conjunction with 
Leeds University provides a general educational course with a slant 
towards the future work of a potential governor its purpose however 
is not so much to give a professional training as to test the capacity of 
minds and personalities to develop and respond to such a training. It 
is rewarding to find how men whose social and educational oppor- 
tunities may have been narrow will broaden and burgeon under these 
influences. At the end of the course the selection board again sees the 
candidates, with the reports of the Wakefield staff before it, and marks 
them as either qualified or not qualified for the rank of Assistant 
Governor. The 'Qs' receive promotion as vacancies occur; for the 
1 Held at the Imperial Training School, Wakefield. 


'NQs' it is 'as you were', so far at least as concerns immediate 

The results of the four Staff Courses held since the war have been, 
for reason^ which it may be hoped are transitory, disappointing, only 
14 men and 2 women having been selected through this channel. It is no 
part of the intention that the high standards required for a Governor 
should be relaxed. But it remains true that any young man who enters 
the service as a prison officer, if he can reach those standards, can 
become a Governor. 

Thus in recent years the majority of vacancies for Assistant Governor 
have been filled by direct entry through open competition, which is 
equally open to any member of the service. 1 Since Governors, like all 
established members of the prison service, are permanent pensionable 
civil servants, the competition is held by the Civil Service Com- 
missioners. After public advertisement a selection board of representa- 
tives of the Civil Service and Prison Commissions sees the 'short list' 
and the selected candidates are recommended to the Secretary of State 
for appointment. No special qualifications are required as a sine qua 
non, but an adequate educational background, some vocation for the 
work, a knowledge of the lives and background of those sections of 
the community from which delinquents mainly derive, a promise of 
some administrative capacity all these will help, if the candidate is the 
right sort of person in himself, a person of sincerity, integrity, humanity 
and goodwill, with at any rate one foot firmly on the ground. 

Assistant Governors are appointed on probation for two years, the 
first few months being spent in a prison or Borstal on a syllabus of 
training before joining for duty: at some time during his first year he 
also attends a short 'background' course at the Imperial Training 
School. Owing to the higher proportion of Borstal housemaster posts, 
the chances are that an Assistant Governor will start in this way, as 
did the majority of the Assistant Commissioners now serving and one 
of the Commissioners. There is a complete fluidity of promotion be- 
tween prisons and Borstals, though those who show a decided vocation 
for one side rather than the other will usually stay where they are best 


The Chaplain must by statute be a priest of the Established Church, 
but by the Prison Ministers Act 1863, provision is made for spiritual 
ministration to prisoners who are not members of that Church by 
Prisoij Ministers, who are appointed by the Prison Commissioners on 
the recommendation of the Bishop of the Diocese in the case of the 
Roman Catholic Church, or of the governing body in the case of one 
of the Protestant Free Churches. There are at every establishment a 

1 Some prison officers have in fact become Assistant Governors in this way 


Roman Catholic Priest and a Nonconformist Minister, and Ministers 
of other denominations are appointed or specially called in as occasion 
arises. Prison Ministers are appointed on a part-time basis and may be 
remunerated either by fixed salaries or by fees fixed on a capitation 
basis, according to the numbers of their congregations. 

The duties of the Chaplain in the majority of establishments are 
performed by local clergymen appointed on a part-time basis at a 
remuneration appropriate to the size of the prison. At the larger 
establishments where a full-time post is necessary the Chaplains are 
appointed for seven years in the first instance, and are not usually 
retained for longer, this being the period at the end of which they 
become entitled to a small superannuation gratuity. The reason for 
this is that the Commissioners attach great importance to the work of 
Chaplains: they believe therefore that a Chaplain should always be 
at his best, and that a man who spends too many years in the highly 
specialised, difficult, and often discouraging work of a penal establish- 
ment tends to lose that spiritual zest, that freshness of touch, which is 
essential in what must always be uphill work, however rewarding. 
They have therefore reached an agreement with the Bishops, through 
the good offices and with the cordial approval of the Archbishop of 
Canterbury, under which the Bishop of a candidate's diocese is con- 
sulted as to and approves his appointment to prison work, and agrees 
to take him back into the diocese in due course. The arrangement also 
provides for the Chaplains to keep in touch with their Deanery and 

In the appointment of Chaplains selections are made by a Board 
on which the Prison Commissioners are assisted by a Bishop. 

Medical Officers 

Although the Prisons Medical Service is a separate service, under the 
control of the Director of Medical Services in the Prison Commission, 
its full-time Medical Officers form part of the general class of Govern- 
ment Medical Officers, their conditions of service being the same and 
their recruitment being through the competitions for this class held by 
the Civil Service Commissioners. When there are vacancies for Prison 
Medical Officers, the Director of Medical Services attends the selection 
board. Experienced practitioners are required, preferably with know- 
ledge of and experience in psychological medicine. A proportion of 
these officers "have the rank of Principal Medical Officer: they are 
employed at the prisons with the heaviest medical responsibilities, and 
have certain advisory and supervisory functions over the medical work 
of other prisons and Borstals in their 'group'. Establishments where the 
numbers are not high enough to justify a full-time officer are served by 
local practitioners on a part-time basis. At the largest prisons there 
may be two or even three full-time doctors, though unfortunately the 


shortage of doctors since the late war has been such that many of these 
posts have remained unfilled. 

The duties of the medical officers, and the arrangements for consulta- 
tive and specialist services, and co-operation with the National Health 
Service and civil hospitals and clinics, are dealt with in Chapter 14. 


The 'subordinate' officers engaged in the control and supervision 
of prisoners, and to a considerable extent in their instruction, have for 
over thirty years been officially styled Prison Officers, though the Press 
and the public are still disposed to call them Warders or Wardresses. 
The change of name in 1919 coincided with and symbolised a change of 
spirit warder suggests the turnkey and the guard, officer the leader. 
However, to the prisoner he remains the 'screw'. 

They are divided, men and women, into three grades, Chief Officer, 
Principal Officer, and Officer. The Chief Officer is the head of the 
subordinate staff, and where there is no Assistant Governor he takes 
charge in the absence of the Governor: taking account of annual leave, 
sick leave and absence at Assizes and Sessions, this may be for a sub- 
stantial portion of the year. These officers are therefore carefully 
selected men of high responsibilities and corresponding qualities. At 
the larger establishments they are Class I, with second Chief Officers 
of Class II in the largest; at the smaller establishments they are Class II. 
The position of women Chief Officers corresponds with that of men in 
the two large separate establishments for women, but in the small 
women's wings of mixed prisons it is rather different: there the woman 
in charge is a Chief Officer under the male Governor of the whole 
establishment, and her rank derives rather from her special responsi- 
bility under the Rules than from the size of her charge, which is often 
quite small. In the largest of these women's wings, at Manchester, the 
woman in charge is a Deputy Governor with a Chief Officer under her. 

Principal Officers in prisons are in charge of wings of the prison, or 
in specially responsible posts. They also take charge of the dock and 
arrangements for the custody of prisoners at Assizes and Sessions. 
In many prisons too a senior Principal Officer is required to act as 
Chief Officer while the Chief is away or acting for the Governor. Many 
of the more responsible specialist posts, such as Instructors or Cooks, 
are also graded as Principals. In Borstals these supervisory functions 
are not required to the same extent, and the role of the Principal Officer 
is rather to act as assistant to the Housemaster in the general running 
of the House. 

The basic grade of Prison Officer covers a wide variety of work. In 
an ordinary local prison much of this is of necessity of a routine nature ; 
prisoners must be unlocked in their cells and locked up again at the 


regular times; meals served; workshops, exercises and associations 
supervised; applications collected; numbers checked; cells and kits 
examined all this forms the framework of the daily round. But there 
is also a variety of specialised work, such as librarian, gymnastic instruc- 
tor, cooking, instructing in trades, and hospital work all of which carry 
additional pay for which officers who acquire the necessary qualifica- 
tions are eligible. There are also 'staff' jobs such as charge of the gate 
or stores, or Chief Officer's clerk, which are coveted for a change of 
work, and escorts to courts or to other prisons give a change of air, 
as does the charge of parties working away from the prison on farms 
or elsewhere. 

In the regional training prisons, as will be seen when we come to 
describe them, the work of the officer tends to be less of a routine and 
purely supervisory kind, in the open prisons still less, and in the 
Borstals scarcely at all. In the central prisons for 'long-timers' it has a 
special character of its own. There is also all the difference in the world 
between life in a big London prison and life in a small country prison. 
One way and another, therefore, in the course of ten years service, a 
prison officer may see more change than the nature of the job might 

The established prison officials do not do night duty, except that 
one of them remains on duty as Orderly Officer till the prison is finally 
locked up, and then sleeps in the prison so as to be available in case of 
emergency, while another 'sleeps in' at the gate. The night-patrols are 
specially recruited for their duty. Stoking and other such industrial 
work is done by regular workmen under normal Trade Union rates 
and conditions for the job. 

The Works Staff, who are responsible under the Director of Works 
and his staff for all constructional, engineering and maintenance work 
in the prisons, the officers' quarters, farm buildings and other adjuncts, 
form a separate branch of the subordinate staff. They are recruited on 
the basis of their trade experience as 'Trade Assistants', and after the 
normal training of a prison officer since they must take charge of 
prisoners pass straight to their work. They may later pass by examina- 
tion into the ranks of the Engineers II, and by a further examination 
to Engineer I or Foreman of Works. This is a highly skilled and quali- 
fied technical service, which must be prepared to face a wider variety 
of constructional, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering problems 
than falls to the lot of most who call themselves in any sense engineers. 
They carry out practically all their work with prison or Borstal labour 
which they must train themselves, though for special jobs skilled local 
workmen may also be engaged as necessary. 

In addition to these main bodies, there are other specialist officers 
in control of prisoners, mainly on the industrial side. For a number of 
trades however Civilian Instructors skilled in that trade are recruited, 


as also for the Vocational Training Classes: for these posts Prison Officers 
with the necessary qualifications may apply. The farms and gardens are 
under the control of Farm Bailiffs and Farm Instructors, with a 
sufficient number of skilled agricultural workers to supplement and 
instruct the prison or Borstal labour. 

On a somewhat separate basis is the 'business' staff of the establish- 
ment, under the Steward, who is responsible to the Governor for the 
cash and accounts, the stores and manufactures, victualling and the 
general office work of the establishment. These responsible posts 
are filled by members of the Executive Class of the Civil Service 
Senior Executive Officers in the largest, Higher Executive Officers in 
the majority, and Executive Officers with an allowance in the remainder. 
The Stewards are assisted by Executive and Clerical Officers of appro- 
priate ranks and numbers. These two classes are interchangeable with 
their colleagues at the Head Office, the whole service being treated as 
one for promotion purposes. 

Since the basic grade of prison officer forms the foundation of the 
service, great care has for long been taken with their selection and 
training. At the time of writing, however, conditions are very different 
from those of the days before the war. Then it was necessary only to 
replace the normal wastage of something more than 100 a year, and 
there was usually a long waiting list of applicants of whom a high 
proportion were ex-N.C.Os. of the Regular Forces. After preliminary 
sifting formalities the final selection was made by a Commissioner or 
Assistant Commissioner by personal interview, and the chosen went to 
the Imperial Training School at Wakefield for an 8 weeks' course: this 
served two purposes, a general grounding in the work, and a testing of 
suitability for the service, concluding with a final examination by a 
Commissioner. The successful were posted to prisons as probationers 
for 2 months' further training in practical routine, and if still found 
satisfactory after 12 months' probation were then posted for duty. 

After six years suspension of recruiting during the war, the prison 
service was faced in 1946 with a formidable staff deficit at a time when 
recruiting was limited by Government direction of man-power: indeed 
in 1945 and 1946 the pressure of an increasing prison population on the 
seriously diminished and over-taxed staff had strained the machine 
almost to breaking point. The steps taken to meet this situation were 
described by the Commissioners in their Annual Report for 1946 as 

'It was provisionally estimated that, in order to bring the numbers 
of staff up to the level necessary to put all establishments on to a shift- 
system covering the full day, as before the war, it would be necessary, 
in relation to the increased population and larger number of establish- 
ments, to recruit some 1700 additional men officers and 170 additional 


women officers. This was a formidable undertaking, which required 
as a first step the building up of an adequate staff in the Establishment 
Branch to deal with the volume of work entailed. It was further compli- 
cated by the housing situation, which made it virtually impossible to 
post the majority of recruits to any station except one close to any 
home they might have. 

It was clear that, if anything like these numbers were to be recruited 
and trained in any reasonable time, the pre-war system of posting 
selected candidates direct to the Imperial Training School at Wakefield 
for two months' training would have to be suspended. 

'In place of this system it was decided to continue to enlist recruits in 
the first instance as Auxiliary Officers at the establishment nearest 
their homes, and to give them three months' practical training at the 
place of joining. This training was to follow a prescribed syllabus at 
the end of which a recommendation would be made by a board of 
senior officers of the establishment as to whether the candidate was 
suitable for permanent employment as a Prison or Borstal Officer. 
Candidates so recommended and approved by the Commissioners were 
then to be sent for a two weeks' course of special training and testing 
at the Imperial Training School at Wakefield, at the end of which 
successful candidates would be posted to their prisons as established 
officers on 12 months' probation. 

The function of the Training School in this scheme was to provide 
a short period more of testing than of training, and a study was there- 
fore made of the novel methods introduced during the war by the War 
Office Selection Boards and subsequently adopted in the 'country- 
house test* by the Civil Service Commissioners. Some of these methods 
were applied, and in addition, the candidates were given instruction in 
the background and principles of their work. For the first time also 
women were included with men at Wakefield, an innovation which has 
been entirely successful and much appreciated by the women's staff. 

'It is interesting to record here that with the opening of this system 
the present buildings of the Imperial Training School, which were not 
completed till the end of 1939, were used for the first time for the pur- 
pose for which they were built. Accordingly, on 5th April 1946, a 
formal opening ceremony was held, at which a large and representative 
gathering was addressed by the Home Secretary, the Rt. Hon. J. 
Chuter Ede, M.P. The buildings were erected by prison labour to the 
plans and under the direction of the present Director of Works.' 

This system still continues, though the Wakefield period was later 
extended to 3 weeks and may shortly be increased to 5 weeks. 

Although recruiting proceeded at a gratifying rate, the numbers in 
the basic grade for men increasing from 1610 on 1st January 1947 to 
2784 on 31st December 1950, the prison and Borstal populations 


increased ever more steeply, and it became necessary to open many 
more establishments. At the time of writing, therefore, the staff is still 
no more than adequate to man the prisons properly on a single-shift 
system, and the possibility constantly recedes of returning generally to a 
two-shift system, which would make possible a full working day for the 
prisoners and a full scale of evening activities. If recruiting remains 
satisfactory during 1951, however, it will be possible to effect improve- 
ments at some of the special training prisons. 

This long-standing condition of staff shortage has also restricted the 
possibilities of improving the professional training of officers : as soon 
as 'circumstances permit, the Commissioners would wish both to 
lengthen the preliminary training and to introduce courses of more 
advanced training for senior officers of the basic grade. 

The Executive and Clerical Classes receive the training provided 
under the normal Civil Service training programmes, which are 
controlled by a Training Officer at the Head Office. 


Members of the staffs of all grades partake, through the appropriate 
representative staff Associations, in the Whitley Council 1 machinery 
which was set up for the Civil Service in 1919. 

For the subordinate staff there is a separate Departmental Whitley 
Council for the Prison Service, on which all grades are represented 
through the Prison Officers' Association. The constitution follows the 
model constitution prescribed by the National Whitley Council, and 
meetings are held once or twice a year. 

The Prison Officers' Association is a registered Trade Union with a 
full time General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary, who are 
not members of the service. It also has the services as Advisers of 
Mr. W. J. Brown and Mr. L. C. White, the former and present General 
Secretaries of the Civil Service Clerical Association. These gentlemen, 
by an extra-constitutional arrangement personal to themselves, attend 
meetings of the Council, where their expert knowledge of Civil Service 
affairs has often been advantageous to its working. The Prison Officers' 
Association has a branch in each local establishment, with a Chairman, 
Secretary and Committee, with whom Governors are empowered to 
consult on questions affecting the local conditions of service of the 
staff, and who may submit to the Governor resolutions concerning 
those conditions. These local matters ought to be and usually are settled 
locally, but failing agreement may be referred to the Commissioners, 

i The Whitley Council is an adaptation to the needs of the Civil Service of Joint 
Industrial Councils, with Official Side and Staff Side representing employers and 
employees. It is named after Mr. Speaker J. H. Whitley, from whose proposals it 


and if the staff are still not satisfied they may ask their central Executive 
Committee to pursue the matter. The Association owns and publishes 
an organ called The Prison Officers' Magazine." 

The Whitley Council has in general worked to the advantage of the 
service as a harmonious and effective instrument of negotiation, both 
centrally and locally. On occasion Joint Sub-committees have dealt 
with special subjects, such as housing and uniform, and produced 
agreed recommendations. A great deal of business is also carried out by 
correspondence or discussion between the Establishment Officer and 
the General Secretary. 

Failing agreement on the Whitley Council, all the representative 
associations have access to the Civil Service Arbitration Tribunal on 
such matters and for such grades as come within the Civil Service 
Arbitration Agreement. The Prison Officers' Association have fre- 
quently succeeded in improving their pay or conditions of service 
through this medium. 

These conditions of service are designed to compensate for some of the 
disadvantages of prison life. To those who may find confinement in 
the somewhat unnatural atmosphere of a prison, with its need for 
constant alertness, a mental or physical strain, the reasonable working 
hours (84 in the fortnight) and long leave (18 working days rising after 
10 years to 21, plus 9 days for public holidays) 1 will be of advantage, 
as will the special superannuation arrangements which allow retirement 
on pension at 55 instead of 60, with full pension after 30 years' service 
instead of after 40 years. 

The cash value of the emoluments must be taken as a whole to 
obtain its real comparative value with other employments: it includes 
free unfurnished quarters or an allowance in lieu, and free uniform and 
boots or an allowance in lieu: both these emoluments are pensionable. 
Taking the value of these emoluments together with the weekly pay, 
the minimum earnings of a man in the basic grade are approximately 
147s. per week at entry, 178s. 6d. after 7 years, 183s. after 15 years, and 
187s. 6d. after 20 years; of a woman 133s. 5d. 9 159s. 8rf., 163s. 5d. 9 and 
167s. 2d. 

To be added to this minimum, apart from overtime earnings which 
are substantial in total, is a number of special allowances of various 
incidence: apart from special duty allowances (trade instructors, cooks, 
hospital, etc.) these include an allowance of 4s. 6d. a week for all 
officers employed in Borstals, and allowances payable at certain remote 
establishments for 'inconvenience of locality' which range from 2s. 6d. 
to 15s. 

Promotion tends to be slow: in 1950 the average length of service of 
officers promoted to Principal Officers was 17 years and 8 months, and 
of Principal Officers to Chief, 8 years. 

1 For women 21 days, rising after 10 years to 24. 


All grades of the subordinate staff in the prisons from Chief Officer 
downwards wear uniform, excepting women Chief Officers and the 
Foremen of Works, All Borstal staffs wear plain clothes, and receive 
an allowance of 24 a year in lieu of uniform. The uniform is of navy 
blue, not unlike the police except that the buttons are gilt and a gilt 
HMP is worn on the shoulder straps: and like the police, it is in process 
of changing over from a high closed collar to an open-necked jacket 
with collar and tie. Men wear a flat peaked cap with a gilt metal badge. 
Principal Officers wear a black cord epaulette, and Chief Officers a gilt 
one. Women wear a navy blue jacket and skirt with shoulder-badges, 
and a blue felt hat and badge. 

Prison Officers are civil servants, and as such their recruitment is 
under Civil Service Commission control and subject to the issue by 
the Civil Service Commissioners of a Certificate of Qualification, 
which requires preliminary medical and educational tests. Their con- 
ditions of service also follow Civil Service practice. But in some respects 
they are more closely comparable with two other services outside the 
Civil Service which come under Home Office control the Police and 
Fire Services: not only do they wear uniform but they are subject to 
a statutory Code of Discipline. The Prison Rules require the Prison 
Commissioners to formulate such a code with the approval of the 
Secretary of State. The present code, which was drafted by the Com- 
missioners in consultation with the Staff Side of the Whitley Council, 
is analogous to those in force for the Police and Fire Services, and sets 
out clearly not only what acts constitute an offence against discipline, 
and what awards may be made in respect of them and by what author- 
ity, but also the procedure for dealing with such offences and the rights 
and safeguards of an accused officer. The dismissal of an Officer or his 
reduction in rank requires the approval of the Secretary of State. 

Details of the grades, numbers and pay of all ranks of the service 
are given in Appendix D. 

E.P.B.S. 7 



A least it may be said for the subject-matter of this chapter that 
it is more fluid, novel and various than it could ever have been 
before or will, in all probability, ever be again. There have been 
in the history of the Prison Commission two periods of contraction, 
the first after 1877 when du Cane reduced from 113 to 56 the local 
prisons handed over to him under the Act; the second after the First 
World War, when 29 more were closed as local prisons, though 3 of 
these were turned by the Commissioners to other uses. Of the remainder, 
18 were discontinued and disposed of, the others were kept in reserve. 

So there was never, before the present time, any shortage of cellular 
accommodation: never therefore any necessity for new building such 
as, before the First World War, might have been occasioned by new 
ideas of prison treatment, or after it might have prevailed against the 
recurrent drives for economy in public expenditure. Between the wars, 
the economic shadow of the first war hung over all such possibilities; 
when this began to lift, and at long last a 'new Holloway' was actually 
on the drawing-board, it was lost in the deepening shadow of the 
second. So it comes that in England there is only one prison building 
of the twentieth century, the former preventive detention prison built 
at Camp Hill in the Isle of Wight after the Act of 1908. Equally there is 
only one Borstal which was built as such Lowdham Grange: and this 
was made possible only because it was built over a long period of years 
almost entirely by Borstal labour in fact the last house was opened 
in 1949, and there are more buildings to come. To see a modern prison 
in Great Britain, one must cross the Border to Edinburgh. 

The years immediately following the Second World War provided 
for the first time a period of expansion, and again in conditions which, 
though they called for immediate action on a wide scale, ruled out all 
possibility of new building for some years ahead. 

In the autumn of 1945, after the close of hostilities, the Commis- 



sioners, with all their spare prisons in other hands and several cell- 
blocks destroyed by bombing, found that to meet their immediate 
requirements they needed 'at least six more Borstals and five more 
prisons more or less simultaneously'. 1 In the course of 1946 they 
acquired in new premises one Reception Centre and four Borstals for 
boys, one Borstal for girls, one prison for men, and one for women: 
the closed prisons at Pentonville, Northallerton, Reading, and Canter- 
bury were also recovered and taken into use, and the two remaining 
prisons at Portsmouth and Preston followed later this exhausted the 
cellular accommodation available in the country. 2 In 1947 and 1948 
two 'satellite camps' and an additional prison were opened. In 1949, 
as the population continued to grow, another satellite camp and two more 
prisons were opened, and the small portion of Hull prison which had 
not been damaged was taken into use for a working party of prisoners. 
In 1950 the population was still higher, and two new Borstals were 
opened to release cellular buildings for prison purposes : at the end of 
the year one more open prison was taken into use. 

So in the space of five years the number of prisons and Borstals 
in use had grown from 39 to 59 (plus four satellite camps), and one 
more is in course of adaptation. Of this swift accretion only seven 
were in prison buildings : the 'modern English prison' or Borstal may 
be found in an American army hospital, an Elizabethan house, a 
Land Army hostel, a nobleman's country seat, a R.A.F. airfield, a 
Victorian fort or across the Border in a mediaeval castle. 

As 1951 opens, history repeats itself. Notwithstanding the economic 
conditions, the Commissioners had in 1950 secured agreement in prin- 
ciple to initiate a substantial new building programme, to include three 
prisons for men, two boys' Borstals, and two small Borstals for girls 
to replace Aylesbury. Sites were being sought, and with eager anticipa- 
tion preliminary plans had been prepared, at last, for a prison to meet 
the needs of the contemporary prison system. The present international 
situation, with the diversion of the nation's resources once more to 
re-armament, is scarcely favourable to any early fruition of such plans. 

So it is that the structural basis of our system is still the local prison 
of the post-Pentonville era and the convict prison of Sir Joshua Jebb. 
The brutally limited space within the twenty-foot walls of these ancient 
buildings, except where occasionally a little land could be bought 
outside, must still confine and cramp the multifarious activities of 
today. For one thing however thanks are due to our predecessors and 
to the conditions in which our prison system grew: we are not cum- 
bered with the very large prison. In only three prisons does the accom- 
modation approach or exceed 1 ,000, and it is only in the London prisons, 

1 Annual Report for 1945, p. 5. 

2 Excepting one very small prison in use as a military prison, and the war-damaged 
ruins at Hull. 


and at times of exceptional pressure, that a population of 1,000 or more 
is likely to be reached. Even in the peak population pressure of 1949, 
when additional huts were in use for sleeping and in most prisons some 
prisoners were sleeping three in a cell, only twelve prisons exceeded a 
population of 500. 

Such is the general situation as to buildings in use. To turn now to 
their numbers and distribution, it should first be noted that the con- 
centration of local prisons after the First World War put an end to the 
traditional idea of the 'county gaol', to which were committed all 
prisoners from the Assizes and Quarter Sessions for the county and 
from its Petty Sessional Courts. A prisoner sentenced to imprisonment, 
or committed to prison on remand or to await trial, may be lawfully 
confined in any prison to which the Prisons Acts apply, and must be 
committed by the Courts to such prisons as the Secretary of State may 
from time to time direct. So all prisoners, convicted or unconvicted, 
are received in the first instance into the nearest of twenty-five local 
prisons : there is nothing in the English system corresponding with the 
wide distribution of small 'gaols' of American practice or 'district 
prisons' of continental European practice. While this might seem to 
have disadvantages for visitors to untried prisoners, little or nothing 
is heard of these in practice, and the prisoner certainly has the ad- 
vantage of the better conditions of the larger prisons under central 
control: on the other hand, with such large 'committal areas' the 
cost of escorting prisoners and the drain on man-power are unduly 
high. This is particularly marked in the case of women, since the very 
small numbers call for only six local women's prisons : one of these is 
no more than a small depot for untried women, while Holloway prison 
in London, on the other hand, collects from all the south-eastern 
counties of England from the Solent to the Wash. 

In addition to the twenty-five local prisons which receive direct 
confmittals there are five others used for special purposes, mainly for 
th^ segregation of local prisoners of the Star Class l and civil prisoners. 

In the next tier above the local prisons come the regional prisons: 
their functions and characteristics will be described in Chapter 9, but 
it may be said here that they include four regional training prisons for 
men at Wakefield (part), Maidstone, Sudbury, and the Verne (Port- 
land); one for women, at Askham Grange (Yorks) in the north and 
one in preparation at Hill Hall (Essex) in the south; a separate prison 
for young prisoners at Lewes; and an allocation centre at Reading for 
corrective training. 

The central prisons for long-term prisoners (over 3 years) are as 
follows: for men of the Ordinary Class, 1 Parkhurst and Dartmoor, 2 of 
the Star Class, Wakefield (part) and Ley hill: for women of the Ordinary 
Class, Holloway, of the Star Class, Aytesbury. Long-term young 

i These classifications are explained on p. 1 16. 2 See Appendix K. 


prisoners are in a separate block at Wakefield. Of these establishments 
Parkhurst and Dartmoor are former convict prisons : the first, situated 
in the Isle of Wight, originated as a convict prison for young 'transports' 
in 1838, while the second needs no further introduction. Both have 
considerable areas of land outside the walls, affording healthy out-door 
work in agriculture, forestry or land reclamation. Wakefield has long 
had a famous name in prison history, first as the House of Correction 
for the West Riding, then for many advanced experiments in the early 
part of the nineteenth century, and a hundred years later, reopened 
after a long rest, as the starting place of the new methods of Waller 
and Paterson in prison training. It is also known to every officer in 
the English service and to many in prisons and Borstals overseas as the 
home of the Imperial Training School for prison officers. It is a large 
walled prison, with plenty of intra-mural space, containing what are 
really three establishments in one a central prison in two wings for 
long-term Stars, a regional training prison in two other wings, and the 
long-term young prisoners in a separate block. 

Some miles out of Wakefield, on a high space cleared from the woods, 
stands a curious little cabin: it is built of the discarded doors of prison 
cells. This, the first building of New Hall Camp, symbolises the start of 
the open prison system in England. The camp still takes up to 100 men 
from the 'training side' of Wakefield. Its direct descendant at Leyhill, 
in Gloucestershire, was opened some ten years later in an ex-American 
Army hospital in the grounds of Tortworth Court. The adjoining 
mansion has been adapted for use as a regional training prison. 

The handful of long-term Star women are in a wing of the walled 
prison at Aylesbury, which gives them space in a pleasantly rural air 
with gardens. The Ordinaries are less well placed at Holloway, a large 
London prison of the classic nineteenth-century castellated style, said to 
be inspired by Warwick Castle, which has of unhappy necessity become 
an 'omnium gatherum' of women prisoners of any and every kind: 
the dissolution of this anachronism has for too long been regarded as a 
first priority. 

The prisons for corrective training are, for men, Chelmsford, Camp 
Hill, Nottingham, two wings of Liverpool, a wing of Durham, and two 
wings of Wormwood Scrubs : for women, inevitably, a wing of Holloway. 
For preventive detention, a part of Parkhurst for men, and for women 
a part of Holloway. 

Such is the outline of the pattern: details of planning and equipment 
will be filled in in the following section; of function in the appropriate 
chapters. A detailed list of all establishments is given in Appendix E. 


Excepting the former convict prisons, all English cellular prisons, 
including those now serving other than local purposes, are the county 


gaols of mid-nineteenth century built under the influence of Pentonville. 
They follow, with minor variations, some form of the radial plan by 
which two or more wings, according to size, radiate from a centre like 
spokes from the hub of a wheel : in some there is a separate block which 
was formerly the 'female prison', in others this was or is one of the 
spokes. This plan had the advantages of economy of supervision, since 
all could be controlled from the centre, and elasticity, since spokes 
could be added or lengthened : on the other hand the space in the angles 
cannot be well used, and for modern requirements in classification the 
inevitable mixing at the centre prevents complete segregation. The con- 
vict prisons were built in separate blocks, with or without a connecting 

The cell blocks or halls are from two to five storeys high according to 
the size and general planning of the prison. On the ground floor the 
cell-doors give on to a central corridor usually 16 ft. in width, which 
reaches to and is lighted from the roof. On the upper floors, or landings, 
the cells open on to railed galleries about 3 ft. wide, supported on wall 
brackets. The well between the galleries is bridged at intervals, and the 
bridges serve also as landings for open stair-flights from floor to floor. 
At the gallery-level above the ground floor wire netting is stretched 
across the well, to check the fall of anyone who by accident or design 
drops over the gallery railings. The interior walls are lime- washed to 
within four feet of ground level, where a line of green paint borders a 
cream-painted dado, giving a clean and light interior effect. 
. To this nucleus of cell-blocks the administrative and auxiliary 
buildings are attached in various ways. The offices and stores commonly 
form a 'spoke' through which lies the entrance to the prison proper. 
For convenience of service and administration the kitchen and bakery 
and the chapel will be close to the centre: the laundry will usually be 
attached to the hall that is (or was) set aside for women. The hospital 
arrangements are described in Chapter Fourteen. In a separate building 
towards the Gate is the 'Reception', where prisoners on arrival are 
received, examined, bathed, fitted out with prison clothing and detained 
till they have been passed medically fit for admission to the main 
prison. The stores for prison clothing and for prisoners' private clothing 
will usually be connected with this block. The general bath-house may 
be here or elsewhere. 

Although it would seem that the local prisons were usually built 
outside the county towns, the towns have long since caught up with 
most of them and have closed around the prison walls. In the exceptions, 
it has been possible to buy some adjoining land which serves as a lung, 
with market gardens and perhaps a football pitch. Otherwise, the 
activities of the prison of today must all be worked somehow into the 
limited space within the walls, much of which since 1898 has increas- 
ingly been taken up by the provision of workshops, which had not been 


required for prisons built to enforce the separate system. Since the late 
war alone, to provide for the higher prison population and new in- 
dustries requiring more space, 38 industrial workshops have been 
provided, and a number of shops for vocational training. More space 
too is required today for exercise; grounds must be provided where 
possible for physical training, as well as for the concentric exercise 
rings, which since the war have been increased in width to allow 
prisoners to walk t\Vo or three abreast instead of in silent single file. 
In some prisons there is still sufficient space for small vegetable gardens, 
and everywhere any cultivable patch is brightened with flowers. 

It is evident that these buildings, meant to serve a system of punitive 
repression, strict separation, silence and the discipline of the tread- 
mill, will be ill adapted to the different purposes of today. Mr. Herbert 
Morrison, when he was Home Secretary, emulated the elder Cato's 
'delenda est Carthago' in his constantly expressed wish that all English 
prisons could be blown up. And there were times during his term of 
office when it seemed that his wish might be gratified. In the light of the 
post-war economic situation it now seems well that it was not: for a 
long time to come Pentonville and its whole grim brood will still have 
to serve. 

But one need not therefore despair. If the prison population fell so 
as to give a little elbow room, and funds could be made available not 
indeed to replace but to remodel these buildings, something worth 
while might yet be done. Experiment has already shown that it is poss- 
ible to convert a standard cell into a not displeasing little room, and the 
provision of up-to-date sanitary annexes of adequate size on each 
remodelled landing would remove one of the most distressing features 
of the cell-blocks as they are. Priority should then be given to the 
building of new blocks for visiting rooms, with pleasant waiting rooms 
for the visitors, for these arrangements rank only after the sanitation 
among the major eyesores of a prison. 

The next need would be to gut a cell-block to provide on one floor 
dining and common rooms, and on the floor above a large assembly 
room and some class-rooms. It would not then be necessary for eating 
and every associated activity to take place on the narrow floors of the 
cell-blocks, as also classes except where two or three cells can be 
knocked together to make one small room, nor would a screen need 
to be drawn across the altar while the Chapel served for a concert or 
a film-show. 

Of the standard local prison there are of course many variations, 
both of planning and of atmosphere from Armley Gaol in Leeds, 
where all an imprisoned Yorkshireman can see below the sky is the 
surrounding wall black with a century's soot, to Lewes in Sussex, where 
the young prisoners at exercise can lose sight of the wall and see for 
miles the sweep of the South Downs. There are many interesting 


structural links with early prison history: Gloucester keeps its con- 
nection with Sir Onesiphorus Paul, while Oxford, on the site of the 
ancient castle, has in good preservation not only a row of eighteenth- 
century dungeons but a Norman crypt and the tower from which 
Queen Matilda in her mantle of white escaped across the snow. 

As to the prisons of recent acquisition, there can be no generalisation. 
Such premises were taken as were quickly available and could easily be 
made serviceable. The central prison at Leyhill and the regional prison 
at Sudbury are in the well-built brick structures of American Army 
hospital camps;, the regional prison at The Verne, Portland, is within 
the high earthwork and moat of the island fortress; one is in the 
one-time country seat of a noble family, another on a war-time 
airfield. For women the northern training prison is in a country 
house in a park some miles from York, while that for the south is being 
prepared in the historic beauty of Hill Hall, Essex. It is a curious 
comment on the times that it should be the Prison Commissioners 
who, in these great houses of the past, find themselves the custodians 
not only of their precious heritage of art and natural beauty but of their 
long tradition of service to the local community. 


The abandonment of the Separate System in England implied no 
weakening of belief in the separate cell for sleeping. In principle, strict 
separation by night remains fundamental to the system. In practice, 
in more recent years, circumstances have forced more than one breach 
in the principle. The first followed the introduction of 'minimum 
security' establishments : these had to be hutted camps or nothing, and 
camps imply dormitories. It remains an open question, whether, if 
funds were available to build an 'open prison', it should be based on 
dormitories or on separate rooms : the argument is well balanced. The 
second breach is due simply to overcrowding: before the late war there 
had always been cells enough for all comers, but post-war pressure 
on the available accommodation has led first, to the creation inside the 
prisons of small dormitories in whatever rooms could be made avail- 
able, and next to the regrettable necessity, in the majority of local 
prisons, of sleeping a proportion of the prisoners three in a cell 
three being the maximum allowed by Rule, while for other reasons two 
men are not allowed to sleep in a cell. Where this must be done, three- 
tier bunks are used. Although the practice has many undesirable conse- 
quences, it is certainly not unpopular among the prisoners, provided 
that reasonable care is taken in the selection of cell-mates and suitable 
adjustments are made when necessary. And the Medical Officers have 
found no evidence of adverse effects on health. 

Normally however the prisoner, for all his sleeping time and in 
present conditions at least for far too many of his waking hours as 


well, is in his cell, locked in, and alone. What this cell, and what is in 
it, may come in the course of months or long years to seem to him, 
only a prisoner can tell. This account must be objective and impersonal. 

There is no prescribed specification of a standard cell, but the Rules 
provide that every cell in which a prisoner sleeps must be certified by 
the Prison Commissioners as reaching a proper standard of size, 
construction, heating, lighting, ventilation and equipment. 

The majority of cells in local prisons are 13 ft. X? ft.x9 ft. high, 
giving 819 cubic feet of air space: this was the size adopted, after careful 
inquiry, at Pentonville, which as we have seen was the model for most 
of the prisons built after 1842. It was intended to provide an adequate 
size for strictly separate confinement with cellular* labour. The size of 
cell subsequently adopted by the Directors for Convict Prisons was 
10 ft. x7 ft. x9 ft. high, giving only 630 cubic feet of air space, since 
the convicts worked outside and not in their cells. 

The stone or brick wall surfaces and the ceiling are lime- washed, with 
a dado painted like that in the halls: the outer- wall surface only is 
plastered, and this is done for security so that any attempt to tamper 
with the brickwork would show up. The floors vary, concrete, stone 
flags, tiles, slate and wood planks or blocks all being found. 

Cell doors are of solid construction, both doors and frames often 
being lined with sheet-iron to prevent tampering by ingenious prisoners. 
A small glass peep-hole, covered by a movable shutter, gives observation 
of the cell to the patrolling officer. The lock is strong and heavy, and 
inaccessible from the inside of the cell. 

There are many patterns of cell- window: the majority are of the old 
Pentonville type, with 14 small panes in two rows; a later pattern was 
of 21 panes in three rows; during the present century the pattern used 
has been of 35 panes in five rows, each pane being 4J in. x 6 in. The 
panes are glazed with clear glass, and two sliding panes give direct 
access to the outer air. With older types of window the sash was of cast 
iron, and this necessitated strong guard-bars outside the window: the 
later type has a manganese-steel sash, which renders guard-bars un- 
necessary. With the old 14-pane window the sill was approximately 
6 ft. 9 in. above floor-level, but with the later type the height from 
floor to sill is about 5 ft. Today it would not be thought necessary to 
construct windows on these principles: those of the new Edinburgh 
prison are of more normal pattern, and in English prisons experiments 
have been made on similar lines against the day when reconstruction 
can be started. Security must be retained, but it is no longer thought 
wrong that a prisoner should be able to look out of his window. 

For artificial lighting electricity has now replaced gas in all establish- 
ments, and since the late war a start has been made on increasing the 
wattage of cell lights from 20 to 40. 

The old system of heating and ventilation provided for fresh air, 


warmed in winter by low pressure hot-water pipes, to be passed into 
the cell by an intake flue near the ceiling and out by an extraction flue 
in the opposite corner near the floor. This system, originated at Penton- 
ville, is with little modification still used with satisfactory results in 
many prisons. In systems of more modern installation heating is by 
direct radiation from low pressure hot-water pipes carried through the 
cells themselves, and ventilation is not by ventilating flues but by 
circulation from the outer air secured by the sliding panes in the win- 
dows and ventilators. A daily record is kept of the temperatures of 
different parts of the prison, which must be maintained in conformity 
with a prescribed standard. 

Prisoners are required to open the ventilators on leaving their cells, 
and it is the landing officer's duty to see that at least once a day doors 
and sliding sashes are open for long enough to give the cells a thorough 
airing. The general intention is that all temperatures should be kept at 
about 60 F. in winter, and that both in summer and winter there 
should be a regular current of fresh air through the cells. Equal care is 
devoted to the heating and ventilation of halls, workshops and other 
parts of the building. 

The above relates to ordinary cells, but there are many special types 
of cell: the hospital cell is larger and lighter, and its plastered walls are 
painted ivory white : the observation cell, for certain medical and mental 
cases, has an iron gate as well as a door, the latter being left open to 
allow full observation into the cell at all times: cells for tubercular cases 
are similar to hospital cells, with a larger portion of the window made 
to open, rounded angles, and impervious floors : there are matted cells 
for epileptics, with observation gates, coir floor mats, and coir matting 
round the walls to a height of 5 feet, and padded cells for insane 
prisoners who may endanger their lives without this protection: the 
'special' cells are fitted with a minimum amount of immovable equip- 
ment that cannot be 'smashed up', and windows and lights high out of 
reach for the same reason a certain number of such cells are specially 
isolated and fitted with double doors, for the discouragement of those 
who disturb the prison by outbursts of shouting and offensive noise. 
In accordance with the Rules every cell is fitted with a bell and out- 
side indicator so that the duty officer may be summoned in case of 
need. At the times when prisoners are locked up there is a minimum 
staff on duty, and after 10 p.m. only one with a cell-key: it may be 
inferred that, particularly in large prisons where several flights of steps 
may have to be climbed and considerable lengths of stone landing 
traversed to reach a distant cell, the prisoners come to understand 
that the unnecessary ringing of bells is unwelcome. 

These considerations, to anyone familiar with prison life, at once 
carry the mind's eye in the cell to the chamber-pot (enamel, with lid) 
which symbolises one of the major difficulties of that life one which 


at the same time leads to more criticism than almost any other while 
still resisting any immediately practicable solution. It has been the 
practice in some countries to instal a water-closet in every cell. Whether 
or not that be the best solution, and modern practice abroad appears 
to move away from it, it has at least in England been found to have 
serious practical disadvantages: Pentonville was thus equipped when 
built, but experience showed that the combined malice, ignorance and 
carelessness of prisoners resulted in such constant stoppage of the drains 
that the system had to be taken out. And experience suggests that a 
hundred years later the result would be the same: the stoppage of W.C. 
drains in prisons is a constant nuisance. It is therefore not proposed, 
in the new prison plans in preparation, to provide water-closets in the 
cells. So the chamber-pot remains, though consideration of the whole 
range of its disadvantages will be better reserved for a later discussion 
of sanitation. 

It may be that ideally a new prison should have wash-basins with 
running water, possibly even 'h. and c.', in the cells, though this would 
add enormously to the cost: the present plans provide for adequate 
lavatory and sanitary annexes on each landing. At present, there is an 
enamel wash basin and water jug on a wooden stand, and a set of toilet 
requisites to go with it nail-brush, soap and towel; toothbrush and 
tooth-powder; hair-brush and comb; a small looking-glass; and for 
men a safety-razor holder and shaving-brush. 

For furniture there is first the bed still commonly a movable plank 
bed, though these are gradually being replaced by iron hospital-type 
beds, which have already been issued to all women's prisons. The 
bedding consists of a mattress, two blankets, and a bed-rug to go on 
top, with an extra blanket in winter, sheets, pillow and pillow-case. 
By day the bed stands on one side against the wall, with the bedding 
neatly folded to hang over the top; this allows of airing and a clean 
floor, and disallows lying on the bed until 'beds-down' in the evening. 

Next in importance after the bed comes the table and chair: the 
table is of wood, fixed between the door and the side-wall, this being 
the position of the old 'gas-box' when the cells were gas-lit: the chair 
is an ordinary straight-backed wooden piece. On the table will be 
eating utensils enamel plate and mug, salt-cellar, and knife, fork and 
spoon, though the 'knife' is a prison speciality of soft metal without a 
cutting edge window bars have been cut through with an ordinary 
table-knife to which a prisoner had given a saw-edge. 

On the wall opposite the bed is a batten with hooks from which 
hang the cell-cards of information and guidance provided under the 
Rules, and maybe a calendar or some Christmas or other cards, 
or photographs. Prisoners are allowed to have a reasonable number of 
such things in their cells, so long as they do not paste or pin them on 
the walls. 


The last fixed object is a corner shelf on the window side, on which 
will be found the prisoner's devotional and library books, and when 
one looks behind the books usually a jackdaw cache of miscellaneous 
objects for which there is no other obvious place. On the floor is a 
strip of coconut matting, and the brushes and cloths supplied for 
cleaning; also, if the prisoner has a 'cell-task', which is invariably the 
sewing or patching of mail-bags, a heap of canvas and the necessary 

All these articles must, before the occupant of the cell goes out to 
work in the morning, be laid out for inspection according to the regula- 
tion pattern of the prison, the cell having first been cleaned out. From 
dinner-time onwards, there is a rather more homely appearance. And 
while 'homely' may not seem to be the mot juste for a prison cell, it is 
remarkable how this impersonal collection of unattractive barrack 
utilities can reflect the personality of its incumbent. Of the short- 
sentence ins-and-outs of local prisons one does not expect more than 
a cell tidy enough to escape notice; they have neither the time nor the 
interest. But there will usually be the cell of some favourite 'old lag' 
which the Chief Officer will point out with amused admiration a 
dazzle of 'spit and polish' set out with mathematical precision. At the 
other extreme one recognises the student, his books double-banked on 
the shelf and note-books and technical journals piled on the table. Indeed 
there are few cells, used for any length of time by the same person, man 
or woman, which will not to a few moments' observation give back 
some human reflections in one the shelf is made a little shrine of 
photographs of husband or wife and children, in another no photo- 
graphs at all, but a collection of old Christmas cards set out with careful 
art; in this cell are some reproductions of good pictures cut from 
magazines and ingeniously backed and framed, in that a riot of 'pin-up 

The complicated and colourful miracles wrought by long-term 
women in their cells we shall see when we reach them, and arrangements 
have recently been completed for extending the use of personal 
possessions in cells to all long-term prisoners at a certain stage of their 

Outside the cell door a small wooden frame of cards contains informa- 
tion for the staff about the occupant. On one appears the name and 
register number, sentence and classification: this card varies in colour 
according to religious denomination, so that Chaplains and Ministers 
may pick out members of their flock at a glance. Here, too, are kept 
notes of the party the prisoner is allotted to for work, the tools he 
should have in his cell, any special diet he is allowed, and other such 





WHILE it is well to start this chapter by remembering, from 
Chapter 1, that the majority of those who come to prison 
are not criminals and the majority of criminals do not come 
to prison, it is also necessary to qualify this statement by adding 
that in recent years the first part of it has very nearly ceased to be true. 
At p. 195 of The Modern English Prison it is stated, in respect of 1931, 
that 'only about one-quarter of the persons received into prison are 
convicted of crime in the ordinary sense, i.e. of indictable offences' : 
in 1949 those persons numbered almost one-half. 

It is also desirable to explain at the outset that in considering numbers 
reference will be made both to 'receptions' and to 'daily average popu- 
lation'. But x receptions in a year does not mean that x separate 
individuals have been received: many persons are 'received' more than 
once in a year, and a special record kept in 1927 showed that in that 
year 35,964 individuals accounted for 43,674 receptions. There is no 
fixed ratio between the number of receptions and the daily average 
population, 1 which reflects not only the volume of receptions but the 
average length of sentences: thus x receptions for an average of three 
months would give a d.a.p. only half as large as x receptions for an 
average of six months. 

Analysis of the receptions The receptions for the year 1949, as 
shown in the Annual Report for 1950, are analysed in Table A at the 
end of this chapter. 

In this table, omitting those sentenced by Courts-Martial and those 
sent to Borstal, it is only those persons in categories 4 (ii), 5 and 6 who 
had been convicted of crimes, except that of those committed in default 
of fines 1-7 of the men and 1-1 of the women had been fined for indict- 
able offences. Thus some 45 per cent of the men and some 35 per cent 
of the women were convicted of indictable offences, a striking 

1 Hereafter referred to as 'd.a.p.' 


increase since 1938, when the comparable figures were 28-8 per cent 
and 21-5 per cent. 

A second point of general interest is that 20-3 per cent of the men 
and 13-3 per cent of the women had been committed for non- 
payment of sums of money, whether debts or fines. This represents 
the present extent of what has been called the coercive function of the 
prison, in that its purpose is to persuade these people to pay, and if 
they pay they can go. There has been a remarkable contraction of this 
function since the years before the late war: for 1931 the comparable 
figures were 41-3 for men and 41-7 for women, and for 1938 they were 
32-0 and 34-8. This drop has been equally marked for both debts and 
fines, but the debtors or civil prisoners as they are now called 
form a trifling proportion of the prison population and their problems 
will be considered in a later chapter. For our present purpose interest 
centres on the important question of committal for non-payment of 
fines, which through the present century has had considerable effect on 
the numbers of persons coming to prison. 

Imprisonment in default of fines Reference has already been made 
(p. 81) to the effects of the Criminal Justice Act 1914 and the Money 
Payments Act 1935 on the abatement of imprisonment in default: 
this is shown in detail in the following table from the Annual Report 
for 1950. 

Imprisonments in Default of Payment of Fines 
Quinquennial Averages or Calendar Years 

Total Imprisonments 

in default 



















1 The Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914 required time to be given for the 
payment of fines. 

2 The Money Payments (Justices Procedure) Act, 1935, came into force in 1936. 

It may be that this process has now been taken almost as far as it can 
go, for in the absence of an effective alternative sanction imprisonment 
must remain. In 1938 the numbers committed in default were 7,936, 
only 1-25 per cent of the total number of fines imposed, as compared 
with 75,152 or 14-9 per cent in 1913. But in spite of this great reduction 
only 2,469 or 31 per cent of the persons actually committed in default 


in 1938 had been allowed time to pay, and in 1949 the percentage was 
still lower, being only 29-9 per cent of the 4,329 committals. 

Length of sentences The statistics of length of sentences shown in 
Table B affect not only the size of the prison population but its dis- 
tribution and the nature of the training which can be given to it. 

The d.a.p. of the prisons may be more affected by the average length 
of sentence of the prisoners received than by their numbers. Thus in 
their Annual Report for 1948 the Commissioners said: 

'From the following table it will be observed that notwithstanding the 
increase in 1940 of the amount of remission to be earned, an increase in 
receptions between 1938 and 1947 of only 8 per cent produced an 
increase in the daily average population of over 54 per cent. 

Convicted Men 

Daily Average 










But an increase in the average length of sentence may be due either 
to a disposition on the part of the Courts to pass longer sentences in 
certain conditions, or to an increase in the proportion of more serious 
offences: thus, in commenting on the foregoing figures, the Commis- 
sioners said: 

'Broadly, this position was due to the proportion of receptions on 
conviction for indictable offences, carrying longer sentences, being 
much higher in the post-war years than in 1938. 

In 1938 the percentages were: 

Non-indictable 51-3 per cent. Indictable 48-7 per cent. 
In 1947 they were: 

Non-indictable 23-4 per cent. Indictable 76-6 per cent.' 

The distribution of the population is affected since long-term prisoners 
(over 3 years) are detained in central prisons, and increases in the numbers 
of long sentences will increase the pressure on the limited number of 
prisons suitable for this purpose: thus in 1948 prisoners of this 
category, owing to the increase in their numbers, had to wait over a 
year in local prisons before there was room for them in central prisons. 1 

Training is affected from two angles. Regional training prisons 
take only prisoners with sentences of 12 months or over, and their 
populations will therefore depend on the numbers of prisoners otherwise 
suitable for training who are received with such sentences. In local 
prisons the training that can be given will affect only those who are 
i Annual Report 1948, p. 24. 

E.P.B.S. 8 


there long enough to profit by it. Of the many misuses and abuses of 
imprisonment as a system, none has been more unsparingly condemned, 
at home and abroad, by penologists, prison administrators and 
informed opinion in general, than the short sentence which for this 
purpose may be taken to mean one of under 6 months. It may be that 
for certain first offenders who stand in no need of constructive training 
but for whom the courts find no alternative to imprisonment a sentence 
of less than 6 months may serve some positive purpose; it is certain 
that for those already inured to prison the effect is purely negative. 
Unfortunately, as will be seen from Table B, the position in this 
respect in this country, though better than it once was, is still far from 
satisfactory. In 1949, 9-9 per cent of the receptions of men and 18-6 
per cent of women sentenced to imprisonment were for periods of 
not more than 14 days; 51-3 per cent of men and 69-3 per cent of women 
were for not more than 3 months; and 70-2 per cent of men and 86-8 
of women were for not more than 6 months. These men and women 
for the most part represent a dreary stage army of 'ins-and-outs' to 
whom these periodic visits to prison are no more than an accepted if 
unwelcome risk of the trade : they clog the efficiency of the prison system, 
add greatly to its cost, and distract it most wastefully from its proper func- 
tion, which is the protection of society against crime: in the 14 day and 
under cases, they reduce the prison to the status of a cleansing centre. 

At the other end of the scale it is notable that the English courts do 
not favour the very long sentence. In 1949 sentences of 5 years and 
upwards for men numbered only 286 or 1-0 per cent of the total 
receptions, a trifling increase over 1913 in spite of the grave increase in 
serious crime which might well have led to a period of very heavy 
sentences. This disposition is welcome to the prison administration, 
since one of their major problems is to counteract the mental and 
physical deterioration which for most men and women may be the 
result of many years in prison. 

To conclude this section, it is to be noted that the large numbers 
received for short periods, although each of them causes as much work 
on reception and discharge as if he were in Tor life, do not, because of 
their rapid turn-over, bulk large in the d.a.p. : figures given in the Annual 
Report for 1950 show that the d.a.p. for 1949, if divided according to 
length of sentences, fell into the following groups: 

Men Women 
Under 1 month ... 318 36 

1 month and less than 3 months 
3 months and less than 6 months 
6 months and less than 12 months 
12 months and less than 18 months 
1 8 months and less than 3 years 
3 years and over . 

650 81 

1,087 96 

2,094 124 

2,261 109 

2,977 122 

4,001 113 

13,388 681 



The following section, which could be the most interesting part of 
this book, may well prove to be the least. To describe what manner of 
men and women prisoners are, why they have been led to do whatever 
has brought them to prison, how they behave in prison and what effect 
imprisonment has on their behaviour, would be the work not of one 
section of a book but of many books from many h^nds criminologists, 
social research workers, psychologists, those who have lived with 
prisoners whether as officers of a prison or as prisoners themselves, 
and others with experience and qualifications which the present writer 
cannot claim. 

Sir Norwood East, whose published work throws on these questions 
as much light as the life-work of a medical psychiatrist among prisoners 
can hope to throw, quotes 1 Sir A. Maxwell, in an address to the 
Cambridge University Medical Society, as follows: 

That persons found guilty of criminal offences are, for the most 
part, ordinary folk, seldom showing abnormal characteristics, is one 
of the first things noted by everyone who is brought into contact with 
a considerable number of offenders. In a prison one prisoner differs 
from another as one clerk or one labourer differs from another, but 
between a hundred prisoners and a hundred persons chosen at random 
from the street outside the resemblances are more noticeable than the 
differences. In each group there will be found a similar mixture of 
good and bad qualities, strains of kindness and streaks of selfishness, 
companionable fellows and self-centred people, masterful personalities 
and weaker characters, a few who are specially intelligent and a few 
who are noticeably dull. In each group there will be some accustomed 
to comfortable circumstances and many who are poor. Perhaps among 
the prisoners the proportion of noticeably egotistic and noticeably 
shiftless characters will be higher than in the other group, but other- 
x wise the ordinary observer will find it hard to discover differences 
between the two groups." 

As a broad statement of the human truth about prisoners this must 
stand. Nevertheless the writer must add the strong personal impression 
that when he enters a workshop in one of the large London prisons 
with its thousand or more hardened recidivists, and feels the furtive 
glances flicking above rows of canvas-draped knees, he has a quick 
and painful impression that here are 'the right men^in the right place'. 
Looking at a shop in a 'star' prison or one of the training prisons, the 
question that starts to his mind is 'why are these men here?' Is it that 
the recidivist prison stamps its own character on its prisoners, or is 
it . . .? But these are speculations which could fill another book: here 
1 Society and the Criminal, pp. 167, 168, 


we must be content with such thin and uncertain light as may come from 
the published statistics. 

Nature of Offences Table C gives in respect of 1913, 1938 and 
1949 a summary of the principal types of offence for which convicted 
prisoners were received into prison. It is interesting as showing again in 
statistical form that protection against crime means in practice pro- 
tection against dishonesty and personal violence, and also how the 
various types of offence have fluctuated through the years : in relation 
to the treatment of offenders in prison its interest is limited what 
matters there is not the nature of the offence but the nature of the 
offender, what he is and what he is capable of becoming. In the indi- 
vidual study of a prisoner the facts of the offence may or may not be of 
interest: in the arrangements for the classification and training of 
prisoners in general they are of no account, except in relation to selec- 
tion for open establishments: even the special consideration given to 
homosexuals is not necessarily connected with their offences, since 
they may well have been convicted of some other offence. 

Classes of prisoner In accordance with the provisions of Statutory 
Rule 9, 'in order so far as possible to prevent contamination and facili- 
tate training', prisoners are divided into three classes, as follows : 

Prisoners under 21 years of age shall be placed in the Young 
Prisoners' Class. 

Prisoners of 21 years of age and over who have not previously 
been in prison on conviction shall be placed in the Star Class 
unless the reception board considers that, in view of their record 
or character, they are likely to have a bad influence on others. 
The reception board may also place in the Star Class a prisoner 
of 21 years of age and over who has previously been in prison 
on conviction if they are satisfied, having regard to the nature 
of the previous offence, or to the length of time since it was 
committed, or to the prisoner's general record and character, 
that he is not likely to have a bad influence on others. 

Other prisoners shall be placed in the Ordinary Class. 
The d.a.p. of persons sentenced to imprisonment was in 1949 divided 
among these statutory classes as follows: l 

Men Women 

Young Prisoners 486 25 

Star Class, serving less than 3 years . . 3,483 188 

Ordinary Class, serving less than 3 years . 5,418 355 

All classes serving 3 years or over . . 4,001 113 

13,388 681 

1 The figures are given in this form in the Annual Report for 1950 because they 
had not in previous years included sentences of penal servitude (3 years and over), 
and the change could not be made in respect of 1949. 


The arrangements for classification will be discussed in the following 
chapter, together with the relation between classification and training: 
here we are concerned only with the make-up of the classes. The first 
thing to be said about the foregoing table is that compared with the 
years between the wars the proportion in the Star class is very much 
higher: exact figures cannot be quoted, first because the system of 
classification before the war was rather different, second because a 
Star cannot be mathematically defined and practice as to the making 
of Stars may vary with the views of individual Governors as well as on 
long term tendencies. Arising out of that is a further point, that these 
figures do not indicate how many of those classed as Stars were in 
prison for the first time, or of those who were in for the first time, how 
many had previous proved offences. These considerations raise inter- 
esting questions concerning the movement of crime and the effect of 
imprisonment on crime, which will be studied in a later chapter: here 
we are only concerned to establish that the prison population of today 
contains a very much higher proportion of the Star class than has been 
the case previously, with the effect that positive training takes a much 
greater part and the need for accommodation in training prisons 
becomes more pressing. 

Sex and age Table D shows the grouping by sex and age of each 
main class of the convicted prisoners received in 1949, with a percentage 
comparison with 1913 and 1938. The striking factors are the growing 
predominance of the 21-30 age-group among the men, and the uprush 
of both the younger age-groups of women in 1949. The annual reports of 
prison governors in the post-war years constantly reflected their almost 
despairing amazement at the character of the young men between 21 and 
30 who were coming to prison in such great numbers, convicted usually 
of serious offences insolent, a-moral, unco-operative, and unashamed. 
The salvage of this war-corroded generation from lives of habitual crime 
is a terrible responsibility for the prison system of our day. The even 
more discouraging problems of young people under 21 are reflected less 
in the prisons than elsewhere, and will be discussed as a whole in Part V. 

Occupations Table E summarises the occupations of convicted 
prisoners, according to their own statements, as given in the Annual 
Report for 1946, since when it has not been published. Its main interest 
is perhaps in comparison with pre-war years, e.g. in 1938 'Vagrants, 
etc.' numbered 2,843 as compared with 113 in 1945, 'Labourers, etc.' 
had fallen from nearly 15,000 to nearly 11,000. 'Skilled work-people, 
had gone up by some 1,500, and 'Armed Forces' had gone up from 
487 to 4,546, though of course this last figure is meaningless since like 
is not compared with like the Forces of 1913 were not those of 1945. 
If any deduction could be ventured from these figures, it might be that 
they tend to support the view of experienced prison officials that too 
much and too easy money is as likely to lead to crime as too little. 



Size In the years following the Second World War the English 
prison system was dominated by the problem of over-crowding. In the 
immediate pre-war years the d.a.p. had been of the order of 10-11,000, 
and the war did not bring a fall as did the First World War, when a 
'record low' of about 9,000 was reached. Instead, it mounted steadily 
to 12,915 in 1944, then rapidly to 17,067 in 1947, and in 1948 reached 
19,765, at or about which level it remained in 1949. During 1950 it 
moved up again to 20,462. In October 1951 the number was 22,500.! A 
population of this order, doubling the pre-war average, had not been 
known since the bad first decade of the century. 

To see this position in its proper perspective, it should be placed 
against its historical background, and to this end Graph A (p. 127) 
shows, from the early years of the Prison Commission to the present 
time, the fluctuations in the numbers of both receptions and d.a.p. 

Since the subject of this book is not crime but the treatment of 
prisoners, no attempt will be made to draw such inferences from this 
graph as to the movement of crime or the practice of the courts as it 
might appear to reflect. Two general observations may however be 
made which appear to be both relevant and safe. 

First, the reason for the very striking divergence of the curves in the 
post-Second War years is the great increase during those years of 
serious crime, resulting in a high proportion of long sentences, as has 
been explained on p. 113. Second, as the converse of this, the enormous 
reduction of committals for minor offences which followed the First 
World War has progressively continued: the receptions on conviction 
of 'other non-indictable offences', which in 1913 numbered over 70,000 
men and nearly 28,000 women, had by 1938 fallen to 10,819 men and 
2,009 women, and in 1949 to 5,088 men and 854 women. The broad 
effect of these movements is to concentrate the prison increasingly on 
its central task of training criminal prisoners. 

Distribution The following table shows how the d.a.p. for 1949 
was distributed among the different categories of prisoners: 




Untried Prisoners . 
Civil Prisoners 
Corrective Training 
Preventive Detention 
Borstal Training . 
Other Convicted Prisoners 



Total d.a.p. 



1 This was the highest figure recorded since the records began in 1878. 


It is unfortunate that the latest available annual statistics should be 
those for a year for only a part of which was the Criminal Justice Act 
in force, since after April 1949 the categories of prisoners were altered 
following the abolition of penal servitude and the introduction of 
corrective training and preventive detention in its new form. The 
situation at the end of 1950 is however shown, on a slightly different 
basis, by the following summary of the weekly population return for 
the week ended December 26th : 




Local prisoners 



Imprisonment over 3 years 



Corrective training 



Preventive detention 



Borstal training . 



Attention may be drawn to certain aspects of these figures. Firstly the 
very small proportion of women, which makes many difficulties in 
providing the most suitable arrangements for their classification, 
accommodation and training: during 1949, for example, the number 
of girls under 21 in custody averaged only about 25 over the whole 
country ! Second, the significant change in the numbers serving sentences 
of preventive detention, after less than two years' experience of the 
provisions of 1948: out of some 500 * cases, only about 30 were serving 
sentences passed under the Act of 1908. 

It is of interest, in conclusion, to note that in 1949 the d.a.p. of men 
and women in our prisons and Borstals represented 117 for each 
100,000 of the male population of England and Wales, and 6-2 for each 
100,000 of the female population (the populations in both cases being 
of persons of 16 years of age or over). 

1 In October 1951 this number was approaching 700. 



Analysis of receptions in the year 1949 







1. Committals on remand or 

for trial, not followed by 

return to prison on con- 

viction .... 





2. Committals by civil process 





3. Committals in default of 

paying fines . 





4. Imprisonment: 

(i) For non-indictable 

offences . 





(ii) For indictable offences 





(iii) By Courts-Martial 



5. Sentences of corrective 






6. Sentences of preventive 






7. Sentences of Borstal train- 

ing .... 


4-1 x 



8 . Other convicted prisoners * 





Total Receptions 





* E.g. Capital and H.M. Pleasure cases, committals under the Mental Deficiency 
Act, 1913 to 1927, committals to Approved Schools, etc. 




Lengths of Sentences of Receptions in 1949 







tions on 
tion with 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

age of 
total re- 
on con- 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

tions on 
tion with 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

age of 
total re- 
on con- 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

tions on 
tion with 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

age of 
total re- 
on con- 
of Impri- 
or Penal 





Not exceeding 1 month . 







Over 1 month and not 

more than 3 months . 







Over 3 months and not 

more than 6 months . 







Over 6 months and not 

more than 12 months. 







Over 12 months and not 

more than 18 months. 







Over 18 months and not 

more than 2 years 







Over 2 years and less 

than 3 years 




3 years 







Over 3 years and not 

more than 4 years 







Over 4 years and not 

more than 5 years 







Over 5 years and not 

more than 7 years 






Over 7 years and not 

more than 10 years . 




Over 10 years and not 

more than 14 years . 




Over 14 years 


Life sentences 


Death sentences 2 com- 

muted to penal servi- 

tude-imprisonment for 

life .... 






1 Includes 212 sentences of 5 years 

2 Disregarded in calculating the percentages in this table. 



Lengths of Sentences of Receptions in 1949 







tions on 
tion with 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

age of 
total re- 
on con- 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

tions on 
tion with 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

age of 
total re- 
on con- 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

tions on 
tion with 
of Impri- 
or Penal 

age of 
total re- 
on con- 
of Impri- 
or Penal 





Not exceeding 1 month . 







Over 1 month and not 

more than 3 months . 







Over 3 months and not 

more than 6 months . 







Over 6 months and not 

more than 12 months. 







Over 12 months and not 

more than 18 months. 







Over 18 months and not 

more than 2 years 






Over 2 years and less 

than 3 years 

3 years 







Over 3 years and not 

more than 4 years 







Over 4 years and not 

more than 5 years 






Over 5 years and not 

more than 7 years 



Over 7 years and not 

more than 10 years . 

Over 10 years and not 

more than 14 years . 

Over 14 years 

Life Sentences 


Death sentences 2 com- 

muted to penal servi- 

tude-imprisonment for 

life .... 






'-'- -" 

1 All sentences of 5 years. 

2 Disregarded in calculating the percentages in this table. 




Analysis of the offences of receptions in the year 1949 




Indictable Offences. 
Violence against the person , 
Sexual offences (including bigamy) . 
Burglary, housebreaking, etc. 
Other offences against property 
Forgery and coining 
Other offences .... 


152 . 






Non-Indictable Offences. 
(i) Offences akin to indictable offences : 
Frequenting, etc. ..... 
Malicious damage .... 
Indecent exposure .... 
Cruelty to children .... 
Other offences 

1,650 . 








(ii) Other Offences: 
Drunkenness ..... 
Offences against the Poor Law 
Begging and Sleeping-out 
Breach of Police Regulations . 
Offences in relation to Railways 
Other offences ..... 









Grand Totals 





TABLE C continued 
Analysis of the offences of receptions in the year 1949 





Indictable Offences. 
Violence against the person . 
Offences against property 
Other offences 


Non-Indictable Offences. 
(1) Offences akin to indictable offences: 
Assaults ...... 
Cruelty to children .... 
Indecent exposure .... 
Malicious damage .... 
Brothel-keeping, etc. .... 
Other offences . . 


(ii) Other Offences: 
Disorderly behaviour of prostitutes . 
Breach of Police Regulations . 
Begging and Sleeping-out 
Other offences ..... 

Grand Totals 






























o > 


vo ctf 53 












1 ( 

fj ' 



















ON *-H CO 
CO *- 1 



Occupations of receptions on conviction in the year 1945 









Number of 


(akin to 





Vagrants and prostitutes and 

others of known bad character 





Labourers, charwomen, and 

other unskilled workpeople . 





Domestic servants . 





Miners, farm hands, factory 

operatives, merchant seamen, 

and other skilled workpeople. 





Members of the Army, Navy or 

Air Force .... 





Shop assistants, clerks, waiters, 






Shopkeepers, tradesmen, farmers, 






Professional employments, mer- 

chants, and persons of inde- 

pendent means, etc. 





Unclassified .... 





Total .... 







Graph A Fluctuations in receptions and daily average. 
Population 1880-1950 

\ r v v \\ i 








HE purposes of training and treatment of convicted prisoners 
shall be to establish in them the will to lead a good and useful 
life on discharge, and to fit them to do so.' 

Having dealt with the historical and penological considerations 
which have led to the establishment of the central purpose of the prison 
system in the terms of the foregoing Rule, with the organisation created 
to effect that purpose, the buildings within which it must be effected, 
and the numbers and types of offender with whom it is concerned, we 
now turn to the practical working of the system as it is organised under 
the Criminal Justice Act and the Prison Rules 1949. In this chapter we 
shall consider the broader outlines and general framework of the 
system, and in this section the principles on which it is based and the 
difficulties, inherent or contingent, which condition the translation of 
those principles into practice. 

The prison system of 1950 is in principle and in method the natural 
growth of the seminal ideas of the years between the wars, as set out 
in the third section of Chapter Four. Its basic ideas have been sum- 
marised as follows : 

'First, that for all suitable prisoners with sentences of suitable 
length, the prison regime should be one of constructive training, moral, 
mental and vocational ; second, that such training can be fully carried 
out only in homogeneous establishments set aside for the purpose, 
though the principle should apply, so far as practicable in the limitations 
of an ordinary prison, to all prisoners in all prisons; third, that the 
special training prisons need not, for all prisoners, provide the security 
of normal prison buildings, since men can only acquire a sense of 
responsibility by exercising it, and experience has shown that a high 
proportion of prisoners can be trusted to exercise it in open conditions ; 
fourth, that the outside community should be brought into the training 



at every practicable point, so as to break down the tradition that the 
prisoner is cut off from society; and fifth, that this continuing respon- 
sibility of society should be maintained after his discharge by effective 
aid towards social rehabilitation.' 1 

Before developing the application of these ideas, let us consider the 
difficulties which condition that application. 

The first we have already discussed : it lies in the inherent contradiction 
between punishment and rehabilitation, and the inherent doubt whether 
the prison can become an effective instrument for reconciling these two 
purposes. The duty of the administration is to do its best, but it does 
not operate in vacuo: it must deal with the human material it receives, 
and the selection of that material is itself conditioned by these doubts 
and contradictions. The people who come to prison must be somehow 
fitted into the general pattern, whether from the point of view of fitting 
in they be well selected or ill, either as persons or in the length of time 
they are to be kept there. 

And here one inevitable feature of prison life must be mentioned: 
writing in 1931 of the general standards of a prison system the present 
writer said: 

'And these standards, at whatever level fixed, must be applied rigidly 
and impartially to all alike. Inflexibility and impartiality are of the 
essence of a prison system: a prison cannot make the punishment fit 
either the crime or the criminal. The sentence is meted out by the Court 
according to an established scale of time-lengths, which may be some 
measure of the offence but can be no measure of the effect upon the 
offender. Once in prison each has for his appointed term to tread the 
same road, at the same step, and in the same standard shoe some it 
may pinch in one place, some in another; some it may fit pretty well, 
others it may painfully crush; many are already hardened to it, but of 
the others few will escape without bruises and callosities. 

4 Yet the contrast between the standardisation of the punishment and 
the variety of the offender grows progressively greater. In the last 
hundred years the increasing complexity of society has brought with it 
a proportionately complex increase in the number of offences against 
society, and in the kinds of people who are convicted of such offences. 
The prison population today shows a vertical section through society 
from peer to vagrant: and to all these people their punishment must 
mean something quite different according to the differences in tempera- 
ment, mental and moral calibre, education and previous social circum- 
stances and training.' 2 

Neither the changes of time nor maturity of reflection have led him 
to wish to modify this as a broad generalisation, though he might now 

1 Prisons and Borstals, p. 1 1 . 2 The Modern English Prison, p. 33. 

E.P.B.S. 9 


qualify it by adding that there are two or three standard shoes made 
on different lasts, and 'American fittings' may be available. 

Again, though the English administration is fortunate in its compara- 
tive freedom to experiment and develop, it must still do its work within 
the climate of opinion of its time, with a constant regard to the effect on 
the value of that work of public and parliamentary criticism; and that 
opinion again reflects the contradictions inherent in the question. 
That it is greatly changed from the times of Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise 
is sufficiently shown by the fact that the publication of the Rule which 
heads this chapter should have passed without comment: undoubtedly 
there is today a much wider circle of opinion which is well informed on 
the realities of penal administration. This may be due to several causes. 
One of these is the belated development in certain of our Universities 
of an interest in penology and criminology as valuable spheres of 
knowledge: it is a curious fact, that in spite of the great English con- 
tribution to international thought on these matters in the eighteenth and 
early nineteenth centuries witness only Blackstone, Howard, Bentham 
and Maconochie there has been until recently almost no modern 
English penology. Even the valuable work now being done here is 
for the most part that of eminent penologists from abroad who have 
honoured us by preferring to work in our Universities. But to balance 
our deficiency in the professional academic field we have lately had, 
as one fruit of the policy of enlisting the community in the service 
of the prison system, the published work of such practical amateurs 
as Mrs. le Mesurier, Sir Leo Page and Mr. John Watson, who have 
learned about prisons and prisoners by working in and with them. 
Fuller access for the Press to prisons and Borstals, with freedom 
of comment within the limits of accurate presentation, has also paid 
occasional dividends in the form of a more balanced and under- 
standing treatment of matters of news interest as they arise, and of 
a willingness to give space to informed accounts of what is being 
done and why. It remains necessary, nevertheless, to distinguish between 
informed and uninformed Press comment on what happens in prisons. 

But when all is said and done, responsible publications on penal 
matters affect the minds of a minimal number of the public. One cannot 
be unaware that what Mr. G. M. Young has called the 'body of assump- 
tions underlying the common talk of common people, and directing 
their praise and blame' l are not, in these matters, the assumptions on 
which contemporary prison administration is based. As to whatever 
he may understand by the phrase 'prison reform', the man-in-the-street 
is at best apathetic, commonly cynical, and at worst frankly hostile. 
And while it must be for an administration to lead, it cannot afford 
to get out of touch with the common sense of the community as a 
whole. Its position in relation to public criticism tends therefore to 
i In The Sumlay Times, October 16th 1949. 


resemble that of the Romans who happened to be in the middle of the 
bridge when 'those behind cried forward, and those in front cried 
back'. In such a position, they may do well to remember the words of a 
former Home Secretary: 

The harm done by crime is caused by a few members of the com- 
munity; but for the harm done by wrong methods of punishment the 
whole community is answerable. The responsibility for our penal laws 
and for the operations of our criminal courts rests on us all, and if 
society continues to tolerate unenlightened methods of dealing with 
offenders when better methods are known and are practicable, all 
members of society are guilty of sinning against the light.' l 

Where the administration thinks it knows the better way it has no 
option but to follow it if it may: but this duty makes it all the more 
necessary to examine and answer all objections which may be felt by 
the majority of the community in whose name it acts and to whom it is 
finally responsible. It is therefore important to consider what are the 
main 'assumptions underlying the common talk of common people' in 
these matters : to dogmatise on this would be unwise, but the opinion 
may be ventured that there are perhaps three. The first has already been 
adumbrated in Chapter 2, p. 19, in the reference to legal punishment 
being in origin a substitute for private vengeance: the second was 
put by Professor Bruno Salmiala when he spoke 2 of its being "an 
almost intuitive conception, sprung from a people's age-old experience' 
that justice requires suffering as an element of punishment: the third, 
though related to the second, is really distinct. It is that repugnance to 
what is believed to be a policy of 'pampering prisoners' which has been 
very fully explored by Dr. Mannheim as a translation into this sphere 
of the 'principle of less eligibility' of the old Poor Law. 

The place of the first two of these popular assumptions in the theory 
of punishment on which the contemporary prison system is based has 
been discussed in principle in Part I: it may however be well at this 
point to elaborate a little the facts behind the official assumption that 
a prisoner is 'sent to prison as a punishment, not for punishment' 
that is, that so far as suffering is a necessary element of punishment it 
is inherent in the fact of imprisonment, and that it is no part of the 
duty of the prison authorities to devise a regime intended to add to it. 

The essence of imprisonment is deprivation of personal liberty: when 
Dame Ethyl Smyth, after imprisonment in Holloway as a suffragette, 
was asked what for her was the worst part of the experience, she replied 
shortly but sufficiently, 'Couldn't get out.' Nor is it only freedom to 

1 Mr. Herbert Morrison, speaking in Birmingham on 28th March 1944. 

2 Annual Meeting of 1948 of the Northern Association of Criminalists, in the dis- 
cussion of The Purpose of Punishment, Yearbook of the Northern Association of 
Criminalists, 1947-48. 


come and go that is cut off, it is freedom to do as you like at almost 
every point of personal life. 'The whole existence of great masses of 
the population receives its vital stimulus mainly from that small margin 
of personal freedom that still remains to them after their daily work is 
done' ; l but the person sentenced to forfeiture of freedom by imprison- 
ment is 'placed under the control of custodians whose powers of super- 
vision and coercion are such that if (he is) recalcitrant (he) can be 
forced to comply with the rules. . . . They control his time, his food, his 
clothing and all the details of his life. He lives within a framework of 
supervision and control, whether he is in a prison cell or working on 
an outlying farm. The control is not dependent on walls or bolts and 
bars: it is constituted by the legal powers of his custodians. Those 
powers are unaffected by such changes as the institution of 'open 
prisons' or arrangements for the offender to work at a distance from 
the prison or Borstal establishment. The essence of his punishment is 
that he is in subjection to his custodians and can do only what they 
allow or direct. The right of citizens to freedom from restraint is a 
precious right, and the loss of that right is a severe deprivation. If any- 
one is illegally held in captivity by some other person or persons, he 
suffers a grave injury, for which the courts will award him heavy 
damages, however considerately he may have been treated by his 
captors. When an offender is held in legal custody, he suffers a grave 
punishment, however free from punitive conditions his treatment may 
be.' 2 

There are other conditions of confinement which may cause more or 
less suffering according to the circumstances and temperament of the 
individual. Save for infrequent letters, and even less frequent visits in 
what for most are distressing circumstances, the prisoner is wholly cut 
off from his family, friends and all familiar life, with perhaps the added 
suffering of knowing that his crime has left them in want and trouble. 
The troubles of complete separation from the other sex in what Pater- 
son has described as 'a monastery of men unwilling to be monks' and 
these are not absent in the nunnery must be common to imprisonment 
in any form. For many prisoners for many months, at any rate in 
present conditions, nearly every evening must be spent in silence in a 
locked cell. If to all this be added the nature of the company for those 
who do not like it and few prisoners of any type enjoy each other's 
company and the fact that this life is to be lived in physical sur- 
roundings which for many are a punishment in themselves, it may be 
understood that the idea that imprisonment is a punishment per se is 
not without substance. 

It is of course implicit in the nature of imprisonment that as a punish- 

1 Mannheim, p. 70. 

2 'The Institutional Treatment of Offenders', Ninth Clarke Hall Lecture, by Sir 
Alexander Maxwell, pp. 39, 40. 


ment it does not fall equally on all subjected to it: what punishment 
does? It is one purpose of classification to secure so far as may be, in 
the broad, the 'individualisation of the punishment', which implies a 
certain levelling out of inherent inequalities as well as fitting the training 
to the needs of the individual. Not all of these conditions therefore fall 
equally today, for the whole of their sentences, on all classes of prisoner 
in every type of prison: there is more than one 'standard shoe'. But 
broadly they are and must be the common lot, the punishment 
inherent in the sentence. 

Now as to the third assumption, the recurrent question of 'pamper- 
ing', Dr. Mannheim has treated one aspect of it as follows. The Poor 
Law principle of 'less eligibility' was defined by Sidney and Beatrice 
Webb l as follows 'that the condition of the pauper should be less 
eligible than that of the lowest grade of independent labourer'. This 
had been re-stated by Bentham, 2 in relation to the penal system, thus 
'saving the regard due to life, health and bodily ease, the ordinary 
condition of a convict doomed to punishment, which few or none but 
individuals of the poorest class are apt to incur, ought not to be made 
more eligible than that of the poorest class of subjects in a state of 
innocence and liberty'. The justness of one or other of these principles 
is deeply ingrained in common thought about the treatment of con- 
victed prisoners, and the second at least has not been specifically 
rejected by any English prison administration. But the application of 
the principle is beset with many problems, both theoretical and practical. 
Dr. Mannheim, basing his argument on the view that, in law, imprison- 
ment is fundamentally no more than deprivation of liberty, takes 
account of the additions to this fundament which occur in fact, and 
suggests that 'it becomes the duty of the state to compensate the prisoner 
for this excess of evil that the execution of the penalty has inflicted upon 
him'; and he adds to this that 'modern treatment . . . while often 
implying greater leniency, may . . . lead to the imposition of long-term 
penalties for comparatively petty offences which would previously 
have been visited with much smaller sentences'. 3 He concludes that 
these principles (less eligibility or non-superiority) are 'incompatible with 
the idea of reformation . . . and equally . . . with the idea of individual 
treatment,' pointing out in particular that 'for all members of the better 
situated classes a rigid adherence to the principle of less eligibility 
makes their punishment much more severe than that of others'. 4 

This last point deserves a moment's elaboration. We have moved far 
from the situation in which Bentham could write of imprisonment as 
something which 'none but individuals of the poorest class are apt to 
incur'. Table E (p. 126) shows that the great majority of those who come 
to prison today are of or above the standing of 'skilled work-people', 

1 Cit. Mannheim, p. 56. 3 p. 93. 

2 Cit. Mannheim, p. 57. * Pp. 100, 101. 


who in modern social conditions are by no means 'individuals 
of the poorest class'. And considering the application of this principle 
on the plane of purely physical standards food, clothing, furniture 
and accommodation, and so on it must be emphasised that these 
standards at least, at whatever level fixed, apply with complete imparti- 
ality to every prisoner alike no methods of classification or individual- 
isation significantly affect this. 

There are also practical difficulties. Any public institution charged 
with the residential care of persons committed to its charge is bound 
for reasons of health and good order alone to require a certain level 
in its physical standards, and where that institution charges itself with 
preserving at least and enhancing if possible the self-respect of its 
charges, and with training them if it can in good citizenship, that level 
must in some respects be higher still. In the matter, for instance, of 
personal appearance, it might be adequate on a minimum basis to 
clothe its prisoners in drab, shapeless, and shaming dress, crop their 
heads close, and balance this with a week's stubble on the chin. This 
was done within the present century. But if today men and women are 
given clothes of normal type, wear their hair in reason as they like, 
shave every day if they are men and use their cosmetics if they are 
women, that is not to 'pamper' them but to avoid the evil of making 
their personal appearance a source of constant humiliation: not that, 
with the best will of all concerned, prison dress ever seems to contrive 
an air much above its station. As to food, again, health might be 
preserved by a reasonably varied diet of adequate nutritional value, 
but it is not with the intention to pamper that attention is also paid to 
the conditions in which it is served: to require that men or women 
eating together should have a clean table, properly set with the mini- 
mum requirements of civilised eating, and should use it properly, is 
the merest necessity of a system which allows of common meals, even 
if some visitors remark with almost shocked surprise that the effect is 
little different from a good works canteen. 

In fact all these physical standards remain, and often by the in- 
evitable conditions of their surroundings are bound to remain, at a 
level which most prisoners used to a modicum of material comfort or 
refinement find at the least austere; and harder words have been used 
by those accustomed to more than that modicum who have not appreci- 
ated the principle of less eligibility. Certainly they do not offer much of 
what for Vhomme moyen sensuel might seem the smallest comforts of 
life. There is no beer for the thirsty, for the weary no armchair: and 
the troubles of a smoker suddenly reduced to one cigarette or less a 
day which he cannot even smoke when he likes are not small. 

But even so these standards, at their minimum, will remain above 
those which many prisoners are able, or willing, to provide for them- 
selves outside. Hence the traditional stories of people who so much 


prefer prison to the workhouse (cidevant), or regularly winter in their 
favourite prison. There may well be such people, though Table E 
(p. 126) shows that the class from which they are likely to be drawn is 
nowadays minimal in the prison population, and the Report of the 
Casual Poor Committee 1930 1 found little factual foundation for these 
stories. The answer given by Edwin Chadwick, one of the Poor Law 
Commissioners in the days when Bentham's principle was young and 
strong, is valid in its degree today : 

The prisons (he wrote) were formerly distinguished for their filth 
and bad ventilation; but the descriptions given by Howard of the worst 
prisons he visited in England (which he states were among the worst he 
had seen in Europe) were exceeded in every wynd in Edinburgh and 
Glasgow inspected by Dr. Arnott and myself. More filth, worse physical 
suffering and moral disorder than Howard describes are to be found 
amongst the cellar populations of the working people of Liverpool, 
Manchester or Leeds and in large portions of the Metropolis/ 2 

The conclusion is well stated by Dr. Mannheim: 'The old materialistic 
idea that prison conditions can be considered one by one, and that each 
calorie of food, each cubic foot of air, enjoyed by the prisoner should be 
compared and contrasted with conditions outside . . . has proved 
fundamentally wrong. No comparison is possible between social 
conditions that have no common factor.' 3 

But in spite of some adverse comment in Parliament and the Press 
when in recent years, at a time of potato shortage, prisoners were 
thought to be receiving more potatoes than those 'in a state of inno- 
cence and liberty', and it became necessary to publish a calorific 
balance sheet, it is less to these purely physical conditions than to 
methods of treatment and control that the flavour of pampering seems 
nowadays to attach. This can be ascribed only to a failure to appreciate 
either the nature or the purpose or the methods of imprisonment. 

In the light of the foregoing description of the nature of imprison- 
ment, we may appreciate the truth of Sir Alexander Maxwell's con- 
clusion 'that when an offender is confined in an institution the con- 
striction of his life and his isolation from society have harmful effects 
on his mind and character, that to mitigate these harmful effects 
should be the aim of institutional treatment, and that methods of 
treatment adopted for punitive purposes aggravate the harmful effect 
and should be avoided. . . . How far it is practicable to make men and 
women better by methods of prison treatment may be arguable. That it 
is possible to make them worse is incontestable; and the primary 
object of prison reform is to mitigate the deformative effects of 
detention.' 4 To prevent actual deterioration, moral, mental or physical, 

1 Cit. Mannheim, p. 85. 3 p. 70. 

2 Cit. Trevelyan, p. 529. 4 Ninth Clarke Hall Lecture, pp. 25, 38. 


must clearly be a primary, if negative, duty of the administration, 
especially for those serving long sentences, and to this end alone such 
small progress as has been made towards normalising the abnormal 
and deforming conditions of prison life would have been essential. 
But the positive duty enjoined in Rule 6 calls not only for this but for 
more than this. The traditional 'punitive' discipline and treatment was 
entirely negative; it was humiliating, repressive, dead and dull. It 
allowed the prisoner who could 'take it' to shuffle through his sentence 
with the minimum of mental and physical effort so long as he knew 
enough to appear to be keeping within the rules. It was symbolised by 
the 'face to the wall' order whenever a person of sufficient importance 
entered or passed by a practice by which the writer has himself been 
humiliated while visiting a war-time military prison in this country, 
but not, fortunately, of it. If for 'discipline' of this type there has been 
substituted a method of control which is positive and constructive, 
this does not mean that discipline in its proper sense has been in any 
way relaxed: it does mean that, in the words of the relevant Rule, 
'Discipline and order shall be maintained with firmness, but with no 
more restriction than is required for safe custody and well ordered 
community life', and that 'At all times the treatment of prisoners shall 
be such as to encourage their self-respect and a sense of personal 
responsibility.' Self-respect and a sense of personal responsibility are 
qualities that can only be acquired by exercising them: they will not 
come from the 'fugitive and cloistered virtue' of men and women walk- 
ing in silence from cell to workshop and back again, seeking no more 
than to keep out of trouble. This is not to pamper: it is to substitute 
for what was merely repressive something more strenuous and more 

Similar considerations apply to every technique which the system 
devises to get prisoners out of their cells for as long as possible, so as 
to quicken rather than deaden their moral, mental and physical 
responses to so much of life as a prison can offer them. The final 
development and test of these principles, the practical application of 
Paterson's dictum that 'you cannot train men for freedom in a condition 
of captivity', is the open prison. Although men and women placed in 
these conditions are still, in all the implications of the word, in captivity, 
at least it is a form of captivity less subject to deformative effects, more 
likely to turn out better men and women, than any that has yet been 
tried. And it is for that reason and that alone that open prisons are 
used. They are in no sense 'holiday camps'; save for the different 
buildings and the open view, the standards of material life are the 
same as in a closed prison; work is just as hard, probably harder, the 
standard of discipline just as high, probably higher. 

Here the man-in-the-street, may well raise his hand and put a point 
that for some time has been pressing from the back of his mind. 


This,' he may say, 'may be all very well. But what about your really 
bad men your recidivists, old lags, habitual criminals, or whatever 
you call them. Those who keep coming back for more. Is there 
nothing more to be done about them? This system doesn't seem 
either to reform them or deter them.' This is a valid point and must 
be answered. First, the system recognises this type, and classification 
sorts them out: if there is no apparent hope that training can help 
them, they will get very little in the fuller sense of the word per- 
haps indeed too little: many men could serve many sentences in our 
prisons today without benefit of much that is described in these pages 
as training but the system cannot do everything for the best for 
everybody, or not yet. 

Second, it remains as true for the recidivists as for the first offenders 
that if you cannot make them better at least you must not make them 
worse: and it is a basic assumption that deliberately punitive measures 
will make them worse. That conclusion of the Gladstone Committee 
was confirmed by one who suffered the deterrent system at its sharpest 
in Reading Gaol in 1898. Wilde wrote in De Profundis that: 

'prison life with its endless privations and restrictions makes one 
rebellious. The most terrible thing about it is not that it breaks one's 
heart hearts are made to be broken but that it turns one's heart to 
stone. One sometimes feels that it is only with a front of brass and a 
lip of scorn that one can get through the day at all. And he who is in 
a state of rebellion cannot receive grace 

Third, a question what is it suggested that, in actual practice, such 
measures should be? Work harder? But all are made to work as hard 
as they can. More confinement in cells? That will only deaden or 
embitter. Lower the physical standards of treatment? But where is this 
to stop, short of a bread and water diet in dungeons? The prisons 
cannot include an entirely different kind of system directed in terrorem 
against 'the criminal class'. Among other reasons, the 'criminal class' 
is too diverse: it includes many who are dangers to society in prison 
and out, brutal, cunning and vicious, but many also who are not so 
much anti-social as a-social misfits who through mental or physical 
deficiencies slip into crime because they cannot keep out of it. Each 
offender presents an individual human problem, and the administration 
cannot assume the responsibility of adjusting the physical severity of 
the punishment in accordance with some criterion of moral guilt 
prescribed by whom? Not by the courts, who must be assumed to have 
expressed their sense of the gravity of offences in the lengths of the 
punishments they award. No, the problem is not to be solved on these 
lines : that way leads straight back to the opinion Sir Godfrey Lushing- 
ton gave to the Gladstone Committee that 'a mediaeval thief who had 
his right hand chopped off was much more likely to turn over a new 


leaf than a convict who has had penal servitude'. The contemporary 
solution is that provided by the Criminal Justice Act: follow the better 
way so long as it is open when it is clear that the offender will not 
take it, then for the protection of society shut him up out of harm's 
way for a very long time. 

Such are the answers to be returned to those who, believing that 
'prison reform' goes too far or too fast, would seek to curb it. To those 
who, thinking it goes neither far nor fast enough, would serve it in the 
office of a spur, there are others. Pressure from this direction is however 
less urgent since the fuller developments of the training system, and is 
directed for the most part against conditions in the local prisons. 

So far as this criticism is directed against physical conditions in and 
arising from the buildings, it is at the same time pushing at an open 
door and beating its head against a stone wall. No one charged with 
responsibility in these matters for many years past has not at some 
time publicly raised his voice in bitterness on this question; equally no 
one so charged today does not realise that the economic conditions of 
the time will prevent any substantial changes for some years to come. 
Nevertheless, by the use of huts and other improvisations, steady 
improvement goes on in the teeth of steady reduction of available funds. 

Within this rigid and unsuitable framework, the staff of a local 
prison cannot, as in a training prison, concentrate on its central 
function. There is a constant ebb and flow of receptions and discharges, 
surges of family visitors, a great and growing amount of work in 
escorting prisoners to and from courts and other prisons and a special 
drain on the staff at every sitting of the many Assizes and Sessions 
which a local prison serves: often on these occasions there are hardly 
enough officers left in the prison to man the essential posts. Again, as 
we have seen in Chapter Eight, a considerable proportion of the 
prisoners are not criminals but either civil prisoners or untried prisoners 
who cannot yet be deemed criminal, and each of these categories has 
to be treated separately under special rules. Of the convicted prisoners, 
many are merely on their way to some other kind of prison ; many are 
there for so short a time that there is nothing to be done with or for 
them except provide board, lodging and work; and those who stay 
longer are only those who are unsuitable to go anywhere else. It is a 
valid criticism of the system of specialised prisons that it tends to 
concentrate the more interesting and constructive work in a few 
prisons and leave to the majority little that is encouraging and much 
that is mere routine. But these distracting features, in their degree, 
are inseparable from a local prison, and the balance of advantage 
seems to lie in doing the best for those prisoners who are most likely 
to profit by removing them to prisons where the conditions are more 
settled and favourable, and the staff is able to concentrate on its 
fundamental job. 


There is another aspect of prison treatment which, though it affects 
every kind of prison, especially governs the working of local prisons. 
The essence of the punishment being deprivation of liberty, it must be 
of the essence of prison life that the prisoners be kept in safe-custody. 
The methods of securing this will vary from one type of prison to 
another, but in the conditions of a local prison only rigid attendance 
to the needs of security at every point will suffice. What this entails in 
detail is fully described in Chapter Ten. 

Without doubt many of these difficulties could with time and thought 
be removed or mitigated, and without doubt, in time, they will be. 
But the bright prospect opened out by the Criminal Justice Act is 
clouded by unfavourable conditions which may be transient, but are a 
serious check on progress while they last. The overcrowding of the 
prisons caused by the increase of population (p. 118) clogs the admin- 
istration of the local prisons and tends to an atmosphere of rush and 
pressure making for frayed tempers among both prisoners and staff, 
of which the substantial increase of offences of violence by prisoners 
in 1949 was perhaps one unhappy effect, though the unduly high pro- 
portion of inexperienced staff may also have contributed. In 1947 the 
Commissioners reported as follows : 

'One result of the overcrowding was that in almost every prison 
from time to time, and in many all the time, it became necessary to 
sleep three men in a cell. The effects were not so bad as might have been 
expected. Some prisoners, of course, disliked it, but the more general 
reaction seems to liave been to find the advantage of company out- 
weighing the drawbacks of 'crowding in\ The hygienic effects must be 
disagreeable, but have not so far affected the general state of health. 
The staff and the general tempo and standards of administration have 
perhaps suffered most. When there are three times the normal number 
of prisoners on a landing to be locked up and unlocked, 'slopped out', 
searched, and served with meals, speed must tend to take the place of 
care. II is a situation in which an officer can rarely feel satisfaction in 
his work, and particularly bad for the training of so many young 

There are other bad effects of over-crowding. The results in the 
industrial sphere have been mentioned. In the largest prisons the 
administration is simply clogged by the unwieldy masses of men who 
have to be moved from place to place, so that workshop hours as well 
as tempers become shorter. There is a perpetual general post of prisoners 
and officers, the prisoners being moved from the more overcrowded 
prisons to the less, the officers detached on temporary duty from the 
morq fortunate prisons to the less. In most prisons every room that 
could be used for education or recreation has been pressed into use as 
a dormitory. And when every cell has to be used, classification by 


wings and landings is preserved more in principle than in effective 
practice.' l 

Throughout 1950 these conditions had not improved and a daily 
average of some 2,000 men were still sleeping three in a cell, though 
their lot had been improved by the introduction of tiered bunks and 
suitable furniture. These conditions were not allowed to affect the 
regional training prisons and the central prisons, though here there 
were balancing disadvantages: a large number of men qualified for 
training prisons could not go to them, and the average period of waiting 
for removal to a central prison was, for men of the Ordinary Class, 
about 15 months. 

These difficulties were capable of relief by expansion of accommoda- 
tion, or mitigation by expansion of staff. But by 1947 every available 
cell in the country had been taken into use; expansion thereafter could 
only be into open conditions; and there are limits to the numbers of 
prisoners who can properly be placed in those conditions. The opening 
of new prisons is also a heavy drain on staff, and the fall in recruiting 
in 1949 strictly limited the possibilities of further expansion. The effects 
of this serious staff shortage on the administration of prisons and the 
training of prisoners have already been touched on: in March 1951 the 
numbers of established officers in post were still below the number 
reckoned to be necessary to maintain even a one-shift system with 
full efficiency. Women prisoners, it may be added, are not overcrowded, 
but the women's prisons are equally understaffed. 

In these circumstances it is a tribute to the tradition and morale 
of the service that health, discipline and good order were kept at a satis- 
factory level and that substantial progress was made in improving the 
methods of training even in the local prisons. But 1949 was a bad year in 
which to face the substantial reorganisation of the whole system required 
by the provisions, so long and so hopefully awaited, of the Act of 1948. 

Before we finally leave principle for practice, it is of interest to note 
the international diffusion of the 'climate of opinion' in which the 
contemporary English prison system has developed. This may be seen 
in the spirit which characterises the Resolutions of the Twelfth Inter- 
national Penal and Penitentiary Congress at The Hague (1950) (Appen- 
dix F), and in the selection in Appendix G of recently published reports 
and studies which show a striking correspondence of thought, whether 
as to the principles of penal punishment or its application, across the 
five continents of the world. 


Classification is a word which has come, like democracy, to mean 
very much what the user wants it to mean. It first gained currency in 

i A.R. for 1947, p. 34. 


England to describe a system intended to break down the contamination 
of the common wards and yards of the eighteenth century gaols : as 
established by Peel's Gaol Act of 1823 it was based on Bentham's 
division of the prisoners into five groups debtors (or, in the bridewells, 
vagrants), unconvicted felons, unconvicted misdemeanants, convicted 
felons and convicted misdemeanants. Although this method was 
shortly abandoned for the separate system, it did establish two prin- 
ciples that have governed all subsequent methods of classification, 
viz. the necessity for the prevention of contamination, and the complete 
separation of debtors and unconvicted prisoners from convicted 
prisoners. The latter principle has for over fifty years been as much a 
matter of course as the separation of the sexes, though it does present 
its own anomalies : any collection of untried prisoners is likely to include 
every degree of criminality, while among civil prisoners there may well 
be criminal records and the ethical distinction between some forms 
of debt and some forms of crime is rather fine. It is equally a matter of 
course that young prisoners under 21 will be separated from all other 
categories. The questions to be considered here will therefore relate 
solely to adult convicted prisoners, the treatment of the three special 
categories above-mentioned being dealt with in later chapters. 

The ground must be further cleared by eliminating those who are 
dealt with under section 21 of the Act of 1948 as persistent offenders. 
This is in fact a major act of classification, since it separates out two 
significant classes of offender for appropriate treatment of different 
forms : but since it places them under a separate statutory system, they 
will also be dealt with in a separate chapter. 

But having reduced the present subject-matter to adult convicted 
offenders sentenced to imprisonment, we have by no means reduced 
the terms of the problem to simplicity. Dr. Griinhut, for instance, 
devotes 17 pages l to a study of classification without approximating 
to a statement corresponding with current English practice. We may 
however take as a point of departure his opening statement that 
'classification means a method of assigning certain types of prisoner 
to different forms of custody and treatment', together with his further 
statement (p. 182) that 'classification is a means to an end'. But when 
the inquiry is pursued along the lines of 'what types, to what forms of 
(a) custody (b) treatment, to what ends, and why?' we shall find con- 
siderable confusion of both theory and practice in respect of each 
separate part of this question. 

At the London Congress of the International Penal and Penitentiary 
Commission in 1925 the following statement emerged from a full dis- 
cussion by higly qualified and experienced experts of many countries: 

The prevention of the contamination of the less criminal prisoner 
1 Penal Reform, pp. 179 seqq. 


by those more experienced in crime is one of the first essentials in 
prison treatment. 

'After the necessary divisions according to age and sex have been 
made and the mental status of the prisoner has been taken into account, 
classification should be according to character and ability to be reformed 
of each prisoner. 

'The shorter term prisoners should be treated apart from those with 
longer sentences in order that a regime or course of training, appro- 
priate to the latter but not possible with the former, may be applied. 

The various classifications of prisoners should be located separately 
and where possible in different buildings on the same ground under 
one administrative head. 

'It is difficult to apply the necessary individual treatment of prisoners 
where the number in any one establishment exceeds five hundred.' 1 

This statement implies two ends to which classification is a means 
first, prevention of contamination; second, individualisation of treat- 
ment, taking account of 'mental status, character and ability to be 
reformed'. It also implies, in addition to these vertical divisions, a 
horizontal division according to the length of sentences, and suggests 
the classification of prisons as well as of prisoners. 

Dr. Griinhut also deals with classification under the headings of 
'horizontal' and 'vertical', though along different lines. He includes 
under the former the division of prisoners 'into a number of treatment 
groups', and under the latter the 'differentiation of the prison term into 
a number of consecutive stages' : in English practice the stage system 
is not regarded as an aspect of classification, being itself adapted to the 
special needs of each 'treatment group'. In his discussion of the assign- 
ment of types of prisoner to appropriate treatment groups, Dr. Griinhut 
distinguishes two leading principles ; the first is based on 'a distinction 
between offenders committing crimes from strong motives or the lack 
of counter-motives, and those whose offences seem an almost inevitable 
expression of deep-rooted anti-social tendencies'; the second on "the 
consideration whether every prisoner needs the same amount of safe- 
custody in order to prevent assaults and escapes'. He also gives as the 
basis of a classification proposed in the Handbook of Case Work and 
Classification Methods of the American Prison Association, 'a differen- 
tiation into first offenders, recidivists, mentally abnormal, and physic- 
ally defective prisoners'. More recently and nearer home, the Report on 
the Scottish Prison System by the Scottish Advisory Council on the 
Treatment and Rehabilitation of Offenders (1949) recommends that 
'convicted prisoners whose sentences are over 6 months should be 
classified in the first instance according to their mental ability irrespec- 

1 For a later statement by The Hague Congress 1950, see I (3), Appendix F. 


tive of their age, criminal record or character, and divided into two 
groups those of low intelligence and the mentally agile' (para. 105). 

In considering what is meant by classification in current English 
practice, we shall find that in outline it corresponds almost exactly 
with the specifications of the Congresses of London and The Hague, 
but that in its detailed application to types and individuals not more 
than one or two of the systems and considerations mentioned by Dr. 
Griinhut, the American Prison Association Handbook, or the Scottish 
Report are even indirectly relevant. 

The main structure is based on one vertical division by type and two 
horizontal divisions by length of sentence. The vertical division is into 
two classes, Star and Ordinary, in accordance with the provisions of 
Rule 9, which (omitting certain paras, relevant only to young prisoners) 
reads as follows : 

9. (1) 'In order so far as possible to prevent contamination and to 
facilitate training the arrangements set out in the following 
paragraphs of this Rule shall be made in classifying prisoners. 

(3) 'Prisoners of 21 years of age and over who have not previously 
been in prison on conviction shall be placed in the Star Class un- 
less the reception board considers that, in view of their record or 
character, they are likely to have a bad influence on others. The 
reception board may also place in the Star Class a prisoner of 21 
years of age and over who has previously been in prison on con- 
viction if they are satisfied, having regard to the nature of the 
previous offence, or to the length of time since it was committed, 
or to the prisoner's general record and character, that he is not 
likely to have a bad influence on others. 

(4) 'Other prisoners shall be placed in the Ordinary Class. 

(5) (b) 'The Governor may in his discretion at any time remove from 
the Star Class to the Ordinary Class a prisoner whose character has 
shown him to be unfit to associate with other prisoners of the Star 

(6) 'Arrangements shall be made in all local prisons to provide so 
far as practicable for the effective separation at all times of the three 
classes of convicted prisoners. 

(7) 'Prisoners of the Star Class transferred to a central prison shall 
normally be placed in a prison set aside for prisoners of that class and, 
where they are in the same prison as prisoners of the Ordinary Class, 
the two classes shall so far as practicable be effectively separated. 

(8) 'The Commissioners may set up such other classes, or may 
authorise in particular cases or at particular prisons such departures 
from the provisions of this Rule, as may in their opinion be 
desirable for the purposes of paragraph (1) of this Rule." 


It will be observed that this Rule, like the statement of the Congress 
of London, lays down two objects of classification prevention of 
contamination and facilitation of training: but as to the methods of 
achieving these objects, it goes no further in terms than the division 
into two classes, and provision for their effective separation. This 
division serves primarily the prevention of contamination, though the 
training of the two classes is facilitated by separation, since different 
methods of treatment are appropriate. In the break-down of these two 
statutory classes into appropriate treatment groups the Commissioners 
are left a fairly free hand under para. (8) of the Rule. 

Of the horizontal divisions, the first is based on the view that 
prisoners who have to serve really long terms of imprisonment require 
different treatment from those serving shorter terms, and in separate 
establishments; accordingly the Rules provide that the Commissioners 
may set aside particular prisons, or parts of prisons, for such prisoners 
or classes of prisoner serving sentences of 3 years and upwards as they 
may determine. These are known as central prisons, and at present 
the prisoners removed to them are normally those serving sentences 
of over 4 years, 1 though this may be varied from time to time 
or for particular prisoners. The vertical division of this long-term 
group is preserved by setting aside separate prisons for those of the 
Star class and those of the Ordinary class, whether men or women. 
One of the two prisons for the Star class men is an open prison 

. For the prisoners below this horizontal line there is another line 
drawn below 12 months, this being the minimum sentence required 
before transfer to a regional training prison is considered. The regional 
training prison represents one aspect of the principle recommended by 
the Congress of London of setting aside particular prisons for particular 
classes of prisoner : the second aspect (again leaving aside the provision 
for young prisoners) is met by providing so far as possible separate 
prisons for the Star class. These latter arrangements are at the time 
of writing in process of reorganisation, but in principle there are two 
prisons, one in the north and one in the south, for Stars with sentences 
of over 6 months, and two more for those with sentences of up to 
6 months. 2 The two last mentioned prisons are of medium or minimum 
security: they were opened primarily to relieve overcrowding, though 
having become available they are used in a manner to assist the process 
of classification in accordance with the principle of 'custodial differen- 
tiation' mentioned by Dr. Griinhut, the convicted prisoners sent to 
them being of types which by length of sentence are not eligible for 
training prisons, but which both by length of sentence and by character 
are suitable for treatment in conditions of minimum security, since 

1 For Stars, 3 years. See also Appendix K. 

2 Civil prisoners are also sent to these prisons. See also Appendix K. 


they are unlikely either to think it worth while to escape or to require 
conditions of close control. 

While for short-sentence Stars the principle of custodial differen- 
tiation is applied to the class as a whole, individuals being held 
back on special grounds only (e.g. medical unfitness or some doubt- 
ful factor in the offence or record), in other categories it is based on 
rigorous personal selection after careful observation. For the long-term 
(over 3 year) Stars the practice is to send them first to that half of 
Wakefield which serves as a central prison, where their characters and 
accommodation to prison conditions are periodically considered by a 
board : when it is thought that they are suitable and ready to go to the 
open central prison at Leyhill, a recommendation is made to the Com- 
missioners, who again give the case most careful consideration before 
either approving or postponing transfer. No type of case is auto- 
matically excluded, but the greatest care is taken with men who have 
committed offences of violence, particularly sexual offences, homo- 
sexuals and younger men with any suggestion of mental instability. 
The Commissioners feel that they have a considerable responsibility 
to the public among whom they place some hundreds of men serving 
sentences of from 4 years to life for serious offences, including murder, 
with no physical restrictions against escape. They are, moreover, 
acutely conscious that too many escapes, or even a very few serious 
offences committed against members of the public by prisoners, might 
seriously shake public and parliamentary confidence in the system. 
Most prisoners, therefore, serve some months, and many much 
longer, before the Commissioners can feel satisfied that they are able 
and ready to settle down and co-operate in a system which requires a 
high standard of self-discipline: moreover any who show that they 
cannot maintain that standard are at once returned to a closed prison. 

The same methods are applied, in relation to short-term prisoners 
eligible for training prisons, in considering whether they are suitable 
for an open training prison, except that they do not pass through 
Wakefield. In any case of doubt it is thought right to place the interests 
of the system before those of the individual, and on this basis the 
English experience since the first open prison was established in 1933 
has been fortunate, in that the number of escapes has been insignificant 
and only two prisoners have been charged with offences against local 

From this divagation into 'custodial differentiation' we return to 
consider how the two divisions of short-term (up to 3 years) prisoners 
are further subdivided into appropriate 'treatment groups'. 

Let us first take those above the horizontal line which qualifies for a 
training prison, i.e. 12 months to 3 years. These may be either Stars or 
Ordinaries. For a Star, the assumption is that he will go to a training 
prison unless some exceptional reason appears against it: the main 

E.P.B.S. 10 


question for decision is whether the prison shall be open or closed. 
The disposal of Ordinaries is more complicated, and calls for another 
divagation from the main theme. 

In their origin training prisons were for the Star class only, since it 
was thought that only with prisoners of that type could the atmosphere 
of trust and self-responsibility required for such prisons be maintained. 
But in more recent years the Commissioners came to the conclusion 
that to devote this intensive system of training solely to a class of 
offender of whom it was statistically certain that some 80 per cent 
would not in any event return to prison was in some sense a waste. 
In the fight against recidivism the hard core of the problem was the 
20 per cent who did return to prison: these were the people who 
above all needed the best training that could be given. But to attempt 
to create the atmosphere of a training prison with prisoners drawn 
only from this group was out of the question. The somewhat revolu- 
tionary solution decided on was to break down, under the powers of 
Rule 9 (8), the vertical division into Stars and Ordinaries and substitute 
a division into 'trainable' and 'non-trainable'. This implied a revaluation 
of 'contamination' : the possibilities of contamination are, perhaps, no 
easier to evaluate than the possibilities of reform without a much more 
subtle and precise method of probing the depths of the human mind 
than is yet available to prison staffs there may be many who must be 
classed as Stars who are more likely to corrupt the minds of their 
fellows than many who must be classed as recidivists. Nor is a burglar 
or a pickpocket likely to teach his trade to a defaulting solicitor or a 
public servant who has committed a breach of his trust. However that 
may be, it was decided to look the bogy of contamination firmly in the 
face and to act on the optimistic view that, provided the recidivists 
were selected with sufficient care, and remained a minority, it was more 
reasonable to suppose that they would be influenced for the good by a 
majority of better men than the other way about. Accordingly 
machinery was devised for selecting prisoners of the Ordinary Class 
whose records suggested that they were not yet beyond hope of rehabili- 
tation, and whose characters appeared to be such that they would 
co-operate in and profit by the special regime of a training prison. These 
'trainable ordinaries' were slowly infiltrated into the training prisons 
until they reached a proportion of 40 to 60 per cent of Stars, though 
within the training prisons there is no classification all are treated 
alike. Governors of closed training prisons, like those of open prisons, 
are free to send back to their local prisons any who cannot or will not 
co-operate, after they have done their best with them and they do not 
like to admit failure too easily. After three years' trial, there has been no 
reason to regret this experiment, either in the administration of the train- 
ing prisons or in the results after discharge of either class of prisoner. 1 

1 Appendix K. 


Finally, for those who, being disqualified either by character or 
shortness of sentence from transfer to a training prison, serve their 
sentences in their local prisons, there remains nothing but the division 
into the two normal classes, with appropriate treatment for each 
class so far as the conditions of such prisons permit of differentiation, 
and such physical separation as is practicable of the Stars who will not 
be, or have not yet been, transferred to a separate prison. 

It will be noticed that this system translates into practice with some 
precision the recommendations of the Congress of London, except 
that it appears to take no account of 'mental status', whether this term 
be taken to mean, as in the criterion favoured by the Scottish Report, 
'mental ability', or as in that of the American Prison Association, 
'mental abnormality'. Nor has account been taken of certain other 
features mentioned in Dr. Griinhut's study, e.g. the nature and motive 
of the offence and physical defect. Nevertheless, although none of 
these criteria is used as the basis of a separate treatment group, any 
one of them may be relevant to the question whether an individual 
should be selected either for a training prison or an open prison. The 
nature of the offence and even its motives, so far as they could be 
discovered, might well decide whether or not a man was sent to a 
particular type of prison, as would a medical diagnosis of psychopathy 
or psycho-neurotic disturbance: but neither subnormal intelligence nor 
physical defect would affect a prisoner's selection for a particular form 
of training unless it were such that he would evidently be unable to 
co-operate in and profit by the training. This does not mean that 
serious consideration has not been given to the separation for appro- 
priate treatment of the group described by Sir Norwood East as the 
'non-sane non-insane': this has long been accepted in principle, but 
this whole important question may be more properly considered as a 
medical one, and is dealt with as such in Chapter Fourteen. Another 
related question which has occasioned much doubt in the English as 
in other prison systems is whether homosexual offenders should, as 
such, be separated from other groups: the view so far taken in this 
country, not without consideration of other methods and their effects, 
is against such separation. But so far, rightly or wrongly, consideration 
has not been given to the practice followed in some systems of setting 
up separate establishments for e.g. the tuberculous, or those requiring 
continuous treatment in hospital. 

A word in conclusion about women. Although the foregoing dis- 
cussion has been throughout in the masculine gender, the whole of it 
applies equally to women, except in so far as modifications are necessary 
owing to the much smaller numbers to be dealt with it is, for example, 
impossible to provide training centres for girls under 21 when the total 
number eligible l at any one time, all over the country, rarely reaches 
1 I.e. with sentences of 3 months or over. 


twenty. Apart from Hollo way, the characteristics of which have already 
been described, there are only four local prisons which have wings for 
women, plus one which keeps a small block of cells for untried women 
only, and in only one of these is the population likely to exceed 100. 
These small and ill-provided premises offer little facility either for 
complete separation of classes or for active training. However, subject 
to these limitations of the local prisons, the general principles above 
described are applied except that there is no separate prison for short- 
term Stars the long-term (over 3 year) Stars go to a separate prison 
at Aylesbury, the long-term Ordinaries to a separate wing of Hollo way . 
There is one regional training prison for women at Askham Grange 
in Yorkshire, and a second in preparation at Hill Hall in Essex, both 
being open prisons. In the Tive Year Plan' presented by the Com- 
missioners to the Secretary of State at the end of the war 1 the building 
of modern prisons for women was given a high priority, but of these 
hopeful plans, five years later, only the sense of urgency remains. 


Having divided the prisoners into appropriate treatment groups, we 
pass to consideration of how, in the broad, the principles of training 
and treatment already described are applied to the different groups, 
working our way up from the local prisons, through the regional 
training prisons, to the central prisons. In the local prisons we are 
concerned with those members of the Star class whose sentences are 
too short for training prisons, or who are awaiting their turn to go to 
one, but principally with the common run of 'in-and-out' Ordinaries 
mostly with short sentences, but a fair proportion also with sentences 
up to 4 years whose character and record offer little hope that they will 
profit by any sort of training. The operation of section 21 of the 
Criminal Justice Act is now diverting a number of these last, with what 
result remains to be seen, into the channel of corrective training. 

Methods of treatment concerned with security and control, material 
conditions of life and so forth make no differentiation between the 
two classes; and in smaller prisons where only one or two industries 
are available there will be little if any differentiation in work, though 
in general the Stars would be put to the better class work where prac- 
ticable. But in practice this would not always work out, as the more 
skilled industries call for men with longer sentences, and these will ex 
hypothesi be Ordinaries. On the other hand, Stars will generally be 
found in positions of trust, as in the library, or in small 'honour parties' 
working without the direct supervision of an officer, or working on the 
prison gardens or in outside agricultural parties : and in the separate 
Star prisons the industries are of the better class. Trust and responsi- 
2 Annual Report for 1945, Appendix 2A. 


bility are not, in the hurly-burly of local prison life, to be attributed 
with any freedom to the general run of the Ordinary class: those who 
are given the 'red-band' of the prisoner who is allowed to pass to and 
fro, or do his special job, without continuous supervision, are as likely 
to be reliable old customers who know the ropes as men selected for 
the inculcation of a sense of responsibility. 

The main differentiation lies in the application to the two classes of 
the Stage System. This has, in recent years, undergone such changes 
of both principle and practice as may almost have excluded it from any 
of the classical definitions or descriptions. We have seen how, at least 
from the time of Maconochie on Norfolk Island, the conception of 
Progressive Stages, coupled with Maconochie's marks system, became 
almost the dominating idea in prison reform in both Europe and 
America. In its earliest form, it amounted to little more than per- 
mission to pass from a stage of desperate hopelessness, through one of 
mere existence, to the ultimate goal of hope that some remission might 
be earned. Its second form, corresponding in England roughly with the 
du Cane regime, added to this some progressive mitigation of the 
severer physical deprivations, though convicts with their longer sen- 
tences received a little more encouragement. Under the Ruggles-Brise 
' regime the main features were a slow increase in the numbers of letters 
and visits allowed, and in the quality and quantity of library books one 
'good' book in the First Stage, one good book and one less good but 
more interesting in the Second, two good ones and one interesting one 
in the Third, and so on. Indeed this sort of thing remained the sub- 
stantial basis of the system until recent years, with some provision for 
periodicals to be sent in, attendance at concerts and lectures, and the 
privilege of association at certain meals for Stars : with the introduction 
of earnings at work the right to earn also became a stage privilege, 
while convicts had continued to receive their traditional 'stage gratu- 
ities' of a few pence increasing year by year. 

Under the modifications gradually introduced since the war, and 
standardised in the revised stage system introduced in 1949, almost 
the whole of this machinery has been discarded. The marks system had 
gone some years earlier, having long become a piece of labour-wasting 
routine which served no perceptible purpose: in practice every prisoner 
was automatically credited with the necessary marks for both remission 
and stage unless he had forfeited them by idleness or misconduct it 
was therefore much simpler all round to assume that he had earned 
these privileges unless they had been taken away, which could more 
conveniently be done in terms of days than of marks. 

It appeared to the Commissioners that a system of this traditional 
pattern was open to two objections in principle. In so far as the 'privi- 
leges' had a value as elements of training, the sooner a prisoner was 
able to profit by them the better: and in so far as they were useful as 


aids to discipline, a prisoner might be more affected by the loss of 
something he was actually enjoying than by deferment of the hope of 
enjoying it. Accordingly it was decided that since good reading, the 
stimulation of industry by earning, and the maintenance of family 
relations by letters and visits were all valuable for training, they should 
be divorced from the stage system and made available as fully as 
possible to all prisoners from the beginning of their sentences. Further, 
that except for long-term Ordinaries the system should no longer be 
progressive through a number of stages, but that the prisoners should 
be either 'in stage' or 'out of stage', this being already the practice in 
the training prisons before the war. For the long-term Ordinaries it 
seemed desirable, for a variety of reasons, to keep a progressive system. 
The feeling of progress through a term of years is helpful to men to 
whom it is neither practicable nor desirable to give at an early stage the 
privileges which the modern system affords to Stars; and the old lag 
is a conservative person who values his place in a well-defined class 
system, with its cachet of distinctive dress and separate 'club room' in 
the higher ranks, and he will usually try to live up to it. Long-term 
Stars however get all available privileges as soon as they come into stage. 
Another feature of the new system is that any one privilege, whether 
it be a stage privilege or not, may be forfeited independently, but 
Governors are advised that certain privileges, e.g. letters, library books 
and educational facilities should normally be forfeited only if they are 
abused. A list of all the features of treatment which are defined as 
privileges which may be forfeited is given in Appendix H, together 
with a detailed account of the operation of the Stage System. Certain 
features of this call for special comment. 

The differentiation in the application of the short-term system to the 
two classes is two-fold. The Star gets into stage after a month, this 
being in some sense a period of quarantine to make sure that he is a 
Star, and suitable to be trusted in the fairly full association allowed to 
his class: the Ordinary is out of stage for 4 months, which means that 
he has to have a sentence of over 6 months (allowing one-third off for 
remission) to get into stage. This decision was deliberately taken to 
exclude the mass of short-sentence recidivists for whom their imprison- 
ment could have no training value, who could not be trusted in associa- 
tion, and for whom there would be no room if they could be trusted: 
it should nevertheless be noted that while out of stage they now receive 
every privilege which they could have earned in the second stage of 
the previous progressive system. The second difference relates to the 
amount of association allowed in stage: to allow prisoners to mix freely 
together for meals and recreation is a means of allowing the staff to 
form some judgment of a prisoner's real character it is also a privilege 
so highly valued by the majority that they will try to conform to the 
required standards of behaviour rather than lose it, and for many there 


is a positive gain in having succeeded in living up to a standard for 
some months, however reluctantly and for whatever motives. Nor is it 
compulsory those who prefer their own company or wish to read or 
study quietly can stay in their cells. But this privilege can be awarded 
much more sparingly to Ordinaries than to Stars, not only because of 
their nature but because in a local prison, which normally has only the 
floors of the halls available for association, there simply is not room 
for them: so the Governor is given complete discretion as to allowing 
them to associate either at meals or for evening recreation, and it is only 
after 12 months in stage that they come out in the evenings. 

The long-term system gives to all prisoners from the beginning 
everything that was formerly a second-stage privilege, and for the rest 
is based mainly on the gradual extension of the periods of association 
an arrangement that is conditioned as much by the limited accommo- 
dation of the central prisons as by any principle of treatment or training, 
though over a period of years too much purposeless association does 
tend to diminish its value. 

The shorter periods of the progressive stages for women are due 
primarily to the fact that the women's prisons are better able to provide 
the necessary facilities for association. 

There are two important aspects of training which are not dependent 
on stage or class education in all its forms, and what may broadly 
be termed social welfare. Both these subjects will be fully discussed 
elsewhere, and it is only necessary to say of them here that in a local 
prison all prisoners of both classes may benefit from all the facilities 
available to the extent of their capacity and will. 

In a training prison nothing turns on either stage or class all, 
whether in their local prisons they were Stars or Ordinaries, are on the 
same footing, and all are in stage from the start. And there are two 
other features which are not found in local prisons stability and homo- 
geneity: all the prisoners are there for at least six months and often 
much longer. The staff get to know them because they are not being 
constantly taken off their regular work by extraneous jobs, and the 
whole establishment and every one in it is working to one and the same 
end. The principles are not different from those in a local prison, but 
they can be more fully and intensively practised. All the industries are 
of good quality, with three or four vocational training classes in skilled 
trades, and the staff is sufficient to allow a working week of reasonable 
length. The evening educational and recreational programmes are full 
and varied, so that little or no time need be spent in cells indeed these 
stand open all day and are used for little else but sleeping. And the 
teaching of self-discipline and self-responsibility is taken much further 
in many ways besides the daily freedom of association from getting up 
to going to bed : although security cannot be neglected it is not obtruded, 
and prisoners move freely about the place without the direct supervision 


of officers. This is one result of the 'leader' system. A leader is 
something quite different from the 'red-band' of a local prison, though 
he has none of the attributes of the 'trustie' of some American practice 
or of the N.C.O. prisoner of some colonial practice at Wakefield they 
are traditionally called 'strokes', because their job is not to command 
the crew but to set the pace: each mess of some ten men has its stroke, 
and in this prison each mess has its own small room where it eats and 
lives, and the stroke sees to it that the standards of the prison and the 
mess are maintained but he has no disciplinary authority and no 
special privileges or remuneration. At Maidstone there are no separate 
mess-rooms so the system is rather different: here leaders are respons- 
ible, for example, for the cleanliness and turn-out of their halls, for 
arranging evening activities and taking parties to and fro, and generally 
they play a fairly responsible part in the life of the prison. The writer 
was in a block of this prison one evening while a number of educa- 
tional classes were going on, for the most part under prison teachers ; 
while he was in one such class, the lights fused and the building was in 
darkness ; although there was no uniformed officer in the block, there 
was no disorder prisoners from a technical class quickly located the 
fault and restored the light, and all went quietly on. Such can be the 
effect of self-discipline through trust. 

An essential part of the training in regional prisons is personal 
knowledge by the staff of every prisoner and attention to the problems 
he presents as an individual, whether in relation to his past or his 
future, his training inside the prison or his family and social relations 
outside. The subordinate staff, as we have seen, are in a much better 
position to help here than in a local prison; there is a resident Welfare 
Officer appointed by the National Association of Discharged Prisoners' 
Aid Societies x ; the Medical Officers are skilled in psychological medi- 
cine and play a full and essential part in the training; the Chaplain is 
in a much better position than in a local prison to get to know his 
flock as individual souls, and to find the way to reach them; and finally, 
though this cannot be carried so far as in a Borstal, appropriate blocks 
or divisions of the prisons are placed under Assistant Governors who 
bring to the men in their charge much the sort of care that a Borstal 
housemaster brings to his house. 

The culminating feature of the training for many men is the transfer 
to camp. Both Wakefield and Maidstone have camps, which normally 
take up to 100 men, some miles away in the country. These are entirely 
without security, the men sleeping in wooden huts and the bounds 
designated, if at all, by whitewash marks on the trees. An Assistant 
Governor is in charge, with a Principal Officer and a staff of three or 
four officers who lead a bachelor life on the premises. Work is entirely 
agricultural; at Wakefield, in clearing the woodland for cultivation and 

1 See Chapter 16. 


then cultivating it, with minor stock-raising (pigs, hens, rabbits); at 
Maidstone, by supplying parties of workers to surrounding farms or 
for public works 1 (catchment, land drainage, etc.). Selection for camp 
will usually be considered in the latter part of a man's sentence, as 
forming a valuable half-way house to freedom, an opportunity for 
conditioning to the feel of normal life after the distortions of life behind 
a wall. It is not, however, either valuable or possible, or not equally 
so, for everyone; some men from their records, the nature of their 
offences (especially if it is a sexual offence or one of violence), their 
observed characters in the prison, are bad risks; others may be com- 
pleting a trade training course and prefer to stick to their lasts; others 
are just not tempted by a rather hard physical life out of doors with 
dormitory life and modest amenities. But wise selection can bring to 
many men an influence which is of determining value for their future: 
there have been many cases of men with dubious records, on whom 
other forms of treatment had little apparent effect, who lost in camp 
their 'old-lag' mentality and did well after discharge. With this careful 
selection, and the rigorous return to the prison of any who cannot 
stand up to the strain of self-discipline, experience has shown that the 
public is not asked to undergo any special risk in the interests of this 
form of training: from New Hall Camp at Wakefield, since 1936, only 
seven prisoners have escaped, and only one has been charged with an 
offence against a local inhabitant, while from Aldington Camp at 
Maidstone, since it was opened in 1947, there has been one escape and 
no known offences. 

This experience led the Commissioners, in 1948, to establish at 
Sudbury, Derbyshire, in the premises of a former American army 
hospital, an independent training prison for up to 300 men in entirely 
open conditions. This establishment was built up slowly with an initial 
population of selected Stars, and now takes up to 40 per cent of train- 
able Ordinaries or corrective trainees 2 like the closed training prisons 
to the extent, that is, to which a sufficient number of these categories 
suitable for open conditions can be found. Its traditions are now well- 
established, and are based on the fullest responsibility and initiative in 
a communal life which is less cramped and distorted than that of a 
walled prison. There is first-class workshop accommodation, ample 
space for indoor and outdoor recreation (including a good theatre), 
and a valuable educational programme provided by the County 
Education Authority. 

The fourth of the present training prisons for men might technically 
be described as a 'medium security' prison not because the system 
recognises a place for medium security in principle, but because the 
premises became available and happened to be built that way. This 

1 For the conditions of extra-mural employment of prisoners in all prisons, see 
Chapter 11. 2 See Appendix K, note on p. 146. 


institution is situated within the formidable earthwork and moat of the 
Verne Citadel on the Island of Portland. The security of the perimeter 
is thus impressive, but the conditions within are quite open, the 
prisoners using the former accommodation of the garrison. The prem- 
ises lend themselves admirably to their new purpose, the dining-room 
and kitchen, common-rooms and workshops being exceptionally good. 
The prison was opened early in 1949 by a pioneer party of Stars, and 
the population was slowly built up towards the optimum of 300, of 
whom up to 40 per cent will be trainable Ordinaries or corrective 
trainees as elsewhere. A football field has been levelled and prepared 
within the 'wall', and the Dorset County Education Authority provide 
a programme of evening education. 1 

The first training prison for women, at Askham Grange near York, 
is also on the 60-40 basis, but there is rather more elasticity about the 
types of women sent there. The prison was established early in 1947 
in a large country house, not because premises of this type were thought 
to be the most appropriate for the purpose, but because, in the circum- 
stances of the time, if anything was to be done for women it had to be 
done in a house of this sort or not at all. Many visitors have raised 
the question, both here and in the similar but more beautiful house for 
Borstal girls at East Sutton Park, whether it is wise to accustom women 
and girls to this standard of amenity when most of them must shortly 
go back to something so depressingly different. It is a valid question 
but would it have been better or worse, on the whole, to have left them 
behind the walls of Holloway or Strangeways? And again, may there 
not be some continuing value in having given them, perhaps for the 
first time, the feeling of a way of life with standards and values outside 
the possibility of their own experience? Apart from this doubt, it may 
also be thought that mature women would be better placed in single 
rooms than in the small dormitories that the structure of Askham 
Grange requires. But given these conditions as inevitable, one can 
only put them to the test of experience and remark that after two years' 
experience the Governor was able to report that no woman had escaped, 
none had been punished and none had been reconvicted. 2 

The principles at Askham are the same as for men, but the methods 
are modified to meet the needs of women, and of a small unit of women, 
for the house will take only 60. It has not yet been possible to find an 
industry in which vocational training could be given to women on the 
lines of that given to men, and the day's work is based on a thorough 
training in the various aspects of home-making, including cookery, 
housewifery, needlework, gardening and laundry-work. It is worth 
while to emphasise that this is training, and that the conditions of the 
house make it possible, in a way that is not possible in an ordinary 

1 Another open training prison was opened in 1951 at Falfleld, Glos. 

2 Annual Report for 1948, p. 27. In 1949 two reconvictions were reported. 


prison, to relate the training to the needs of ordinary life: the women 
become really competent cooks and needlewomen, learn how to do 
home washing, and finally go through a course of Cookery and Home 
Management prescribed by the County Council, who examine them at 
the end. The painting and decorating has also been done by the women 
themselves, and done very well. There is plenty of outdoor work, not 
only in gardening and poultry-keeping in the grounds but (in super- 
vised parties) for local farmers. The evening educational activities 
have a useful bias, including teaching in embroidery, dress-making, 
toymaking and leatherwork, and lectures in Child Welfare, Home 
Nursing, First Aid and Personal Hygiene. There are also classes in 
English and other subjects. All this is of real value to women who will 
for the most part return to their homes or be called on to make homes. 
After a time the women are allowed to go for local walks in small groups 
without supervision, and in a spirit of good-neighbourliness 'the 
Grange', in spite of its new use, remains within proper limits the local 
centre for both recreation and social welfare. 

On the effects of this homely community life on character the 
Governor reported as follows: 

'A code of honour takes the place of what is generally known as 
discipline; this is rarely abused even in a small way. The improvement 
in manners, appearance, industry and co-operation of the women has 
been well maintained, there is always an atmosphere of friendliness, 
and freedom from fear and anxiety makes a noticeable difference in 
their behaviour in a short time. Their readiness to shoulder responsi- 
bility is praiseworthy. Friendship with the local inhabitants is now 
firmly established, they are invited to all our social activities, and always 
come in full force.' l 

We pass now to the central prisons, taking first those for the Ordinary 
Class at Parkhurst and Dartmoor. Dartmoor, in spite of its reputation, 
climate and buildings, does provide good facilities for training: there 
is a variety of good class industry, and almost unlimited work outside 
the walls on the extensive farm-lands, quarries and land maintenance 
and reclamation. Notwithstanding the isolation of the prison the Devon 
County Council provides a good programme of evening education, 
and the use of the library and of correspondence courses shows a high 
level of serious interest. The two great draw-backs to this prison, apart 
from archaic buildings, are its isolation, which minimises the amenities 
of life for the staff and the application of outside resources to the 
training of the prisoners, and the sensational reputation which has 
been attached to it. It has been doomed to discontinuance for so long 
that it will now be a long and costly business to bring its buildings and 
staff accommodation up to the standards which might make of it the 
* Annual Report for 1948, p. 28. 


healthy and active training establishment which, given a fair chance, 
it is capable of becoming. Nevertheless, with the growing need for 
prisons of this type to provide for the large number of long-term 
prisoners flowing from the 'persistent offenders' provisions of the 
Criminal Justice Act, it became necessary in 1949 to grant this ancient 
prison a reprieve from its long-impending doom, and to set to work 
on its reorganisation and modernisation. 

Dartmoor is built of hard granite on the high moors. Parkhurst, 
brick-built in the softer climate of the Isle of Wight, is a different 
affair. Steeped in the 'old-lag mentality', it harboured until 1950 l the 
'old-age party', the pre-1948 preventive detention men, a considerable 
hospital which has long been the conyict medical centre, and generally 
favoured the feeling of doing one's time quietly. There are few elements 
of hope in the Parkhurst population. Nevertheless, as is desirable for 
men serving long sentences, there are good industries, out-door work 
on the farm and in the forest, and a football-field in an adjoining 
compound, where the week-end games offer an outlet alike for the 
physical energies of the more robust and the gambling instincts of all. 
The whole prison turns out for the game, and the break from routine is 
good for discipline and morale. There is little to be said of any con- 
structive evening activities. 

Long-term men of the Star Class, for so long as they remain at 
Wakefield (see p. 175), are treated under a regime similar to that of 
the 'training' side of the prison which has already been described. It 
remains to consider those who in due course are passed on to the open 
prison at Leyhill. Although this prison represents the most advanced 
experiment in training prisoners so far attempted in this country, not 
in the fact of its being in open conditions but in the resolution to 
trust in those conditions men serving very long sentences for serious 
offences, there is little fresh to be said of principles : all the methods 
that have been described as applicable in training prisons are applied 
here. First, plenty of high-class industrial work, with outside work on 
surrounding farms, to which some men go out individually on bicycles. 
Then, the provision of ample and various opportunities for the valuable 
use of leisure a good educational programme organised by the Local 
Education Authorities in conjunction with Bristol University, and a 
variety of recreational and sporting activities organised by the men 
themselves the Leyhill Amateur Dramatic Society puts on two or 
three shows a year in its own theatre from its own resources ; the cricket 
and football clubs stand high in the sporting esteem of neighbouring 
leagues, though they play only 'home' matches; regular concerts are 

1 In the summer of 1950 the first of the 'new-style' preventive detention men 
under the Act of 1948 began to arrive see Chapter 18. It seems probable that by 
the end of 1951 Parkhurst, except for medical cases, will be full of preventive deten- 
tion men. Dartmoor will then be the only prison for long-term Ordinaries. 


supported by the prison orchestra; there is a monthly periodical edited 
and produced by the men ... in short nothing in reason is omitted 
which may keep the bodies and minds of the prisoners healthy, active 
and interested, and prepare them for normal life, during their long 
years of confinement. Here, as in other open prisons, there is a notice- 
able absence of the tensions of ordinary prison life, and a high standard 
of discipline is required and maintained with little need to resort to 
punishment for which indeed there are few facilities: the real sanction 
against failure to keep up is to be sent back to a closed prison. And last 
but not least, knowledge of each man by the staff Governor and 
Assistant Governors, Chaplain, Medical Officer and every one else, 
so that their problems both inside and outside the prison may be 
understood and so far as possible resolved for even in an open prison 
any mole-hill may quickly become a mountain in the mind of a prisoner. 
The picture for women fills neither so broad nor so various a canvas. 
Long-term women are few: some 30 Stars at Aylesbury and about the 
same number of Ordinaries in a separate wing at Holloway. Aylesbury 
is an ordinary cellular prison within a wall, though there is space for 
gardens. The women have in the past been for the most part elderly 
abortionists, with others who have committed serious offences which 
may often be classed as 'accidental', though since the war the proportion 
of younger women has increased. For this type of women it has been 
found that a rather homely and informal atmosphere, allowing closer 
personal contacts with the staff, is more successful than a regimented 
though possibly more constructive regime to which few would be likely 
to respond. Those for whom something more positive may be needed, 
especially the younger women, may be transferred to Askham Grange 
after a time. Certainly the regime appears to serve its primary purpose, 
since a reconviction is almost unknown. Nevertheless, it would be 
refreshing to see the women housed in some more pleasant and appro- 
priate buildings which would encourage a more tonic and normal life. 
Even more would one wish this for the Ordinaries, who behind the grim 
walls of Holloway lead a life very much that of the local prison, save 
for their privileges of association and the efforts made by the staff, 
under an Assistant Governor who has them in her special charge, to 
understand and help them, keep the peace, and make their evenings 
as interesting and constructive as possible. Again, certain carefully 
selected women may be sent to Askham Grange to be 'finished'. 1 

1 See also Appendix K. 



THE regime of a prison is founded, and must be firmly founded, on 
the twin rocks of security and good order: if these are not sound 
the superstructure, whatever its purpose, must sooner or later 
crack: this holds true in its degree for prisons of every type, though 
methods of securing the foundations will vary. Classification brings 
together in separate prisons those who can be trusted to exercise self- 
discipline, and there control by the staff, though not less effective, 
should be less obtrusive. The serious problems are presented in the 
local prisons and in those for long-term Ordinaries and persistent 
offenders : it is essential here that the staff should not only have com- 
plete and unquestioned control but that they should manifestly and 
openly be seen to have it. Many of these prisoners are malicious, cun- 
ning and often violent men whose only interests, throughout their 
sentences, are to score points in their incessant poker-game against 
authority and to bend to their purposes such weaker prisoners as they 
can dominate: and once this section feels itself to be on top, there is 
no more peace in that prison. Firm control is therefore necessary in the 
interests not only of the administration but of the majority of prisoners 
who want to do their time quietly, and they recognise and welcome it. 
Above all therefore a prison officer must know his men on the 
one hand those who can be allowed some latitude, or checked with a 
quiet word, on the other those who are out to make trouble, and 
especially those who, while skilfully keeping out of trouble themselves, 
know how to make others fire their bullets for them: he must be able 
to keep order fairly and firmly without too much fuss he should not 
often need to place a prisoner 'on report', but he should never hesitate 
if it is necessary for that man at that time. Long periods of superficial 
calm must not be allowed to dull alertness in the abnormal associa- 
tions of a prison any trifling incident, fumbled in its handling, may 
lead for no apparent reason to disorder, assault or mutinous riot. 



It is against this background that we should consider the first of the 
Statutory Rules under this heading, which reads: 

'The Rules in this section shall be applied, due allowance being 
made for the differences of character and response to discipline of 
different types of prisoner, in accordance with the following principles : 

(i) Discipline and order shall be maintained with firmness, but with 
no more restriction than is required for safe custody and well 
ordered community life; 

(ii) In the control of prisoners officers shall seek to influence them 
through their own example and leadership, and to enlist their 
willing co-operation; 

(iii) At all times the treatment of prisoners shall be such as to 
encourage their self-respect and a sense of personal responsi- 

In Star prisons and training prisons, and in dealing with Stars in 
local prisons, the regime and the conduct of the staff can be and are 
confidently based on those principles. For the rest they are valid, as the 
Rule implies, as far as they can be taken, and the farther that is the 
better will be the tone of that prison: but it needs a well selected, trained 
and experienced staff to do it. There is more than one system of con- 
trolling prisoners : in America the tendency is to strengthen the prison 
wall with watch-towers, searchlights, armed sentries and every mechan- 
ical aid, and within this impregnable circuit to allow relaxed control 
the prisoners suffer little immediate restriction of their doings, but they 
know that tear-gas and fire-arms are not far in the background. The 
English prison officers carry staves (concealed in a special pocket) for 
use only when essential and in self-defence, but no fire-arms or tear-gas 
or the like are held in prisons, 1 and the staff is on a minimum functional 
basis without reserves against violent contingencies. It may here be 
mentioned that a Statutory Rule to which the greatest importance is 
attached is that 'No officer when dealing with prisoners shall use force 
unnecessarily, and when . . . force is necessary, no more force than is 
necessary shall be used.' Nothing is more likely to result in dismissal 
than a breach of this Rule, and though it cannot be confidently stated 
that illicit 'beatings-up' never happen, they are very rare and are never 
condoned. To avoid violence, officers are instructed in certain Judo 
holds for the control of refractory prisoners. 

This system of control does call for a somewhat regimented routine 
with close and constant supervision by the staff: it also requires high 
qualities from the staff and a high standard of discipline from the 
prisoners : but if discipline is regarded as a willing response to authority, 

i Except at Dartmoor, where armed patrols cover the large parties working 
outside the wall. 


and the staff is able on the whole to secure that response by fairness 
and humanity, there is something of value gained. And it may be 
doubted whether the American system, whatever its advantages, would 
travel so well as other ideas which have been successfully transplanted 
across the Atlantic. However that may be, order is maintained under 
this system with little recourse to punishment: for ten years before the 
late war the average number of prisoners punished in local prisons was 
about 4-5 per cent since the war, overcrowding and shortage of 
experienced staff have resulted in an increase to over 8 per cent, but 
even so, in a recent year in a large and difficult local prison less than 2 
men a day were reported for offences out of over 800. Serious or con- 
certed disorder is very rare, and only three times since the First World 
War have there been serious outbreaks of mutinous violence. 

Of all restrictions on the conduct of prisoners, the most notorious 
has been the Rule of Silence. It is, therefore, well to emphasise that in 
English prisons today there is no such rule. Broadly, talking is restricted, 
though not forbidden, on certain occasions, and entirely unrestricted on 
others. During working hours, gossip and unnecessary chatter will be 
discouraged, as also when parties of prisoners are moving about under 
supervision, or waiting to see the Governor or Medical Officer when 
there may be prisoners of different classes in the same party: on all 
these 'parade' occasions a prisoner who does not stop talking when he 
is warned is likely to be reported. 'Off parade', during meals, recreation, 
exercise and on educational occasions, talking is quite unrestricted. 
There is a story that, shortly after talking at exercise was first allowed, 
an officer of the old school reported a prisoner for 'not conversing on 
conversational exercise' apocryphal perhaps, but it does hint at the 
danger of a certain traditionalism, tending to rigidity, which is still 
latent in our system. 

The qualities this system seeks in its officers are not those of an 
amateur psychologist, or even of a strong vocation for social service, 
but humanity, fairness, self-responsibility, self-control and complete 
integrity and it must be said that it is this last which is likely to be 
most sorely assailed among the type of prisoner we are primarily con- 
sidering and even among the Star class there are not a few who are 
dangerous here. Every prison officer in regular contact with prisoners 
is constantly open to corruption, and the root of this evil is tobacco. 
There has always been a certain amount of illegal traffic in tobacco, 
even when its presence in a prison was most strictly forbidden. But 
then it was fairly easy to detect illicit tobacco. When, with the intro- 
duction of the earnings scheme, the purchase of tobacco by prisoners 
was allowed, detection became less easy; and since the level of earnings 
can only provide enough tobacco to stimulate the craving for more, 
the effects have been bad so bad as to raise the question whether the 
disadvantages of this step have not outweighed the advantages. To- 


bacco, or the lack of it, leads to more corruption, secret and overt 
violence and general bad feeling and evil conduct than almost any 
other aspect of prison life. The 'tobacco-baron' who, with the help of 
his jackals, gets a hold on the weak and hard-up who have been led into 
borrowing, is a menacing feature of the unsavoury underlife of all too 
many prisons. 

An even greater menace may be the corrupt officer, rare though he 
fortunately is: to bring illicit tobacco, letters and other specified 
articles into a prison, or to 'plant' them outside for the purpose, is an 
offence punishable by imprisonment and (for a member of the staff) 
automatic forfeiture of office, but the profits are so great that the risks 
may still be taken. The danger to the officer is insidious if he gives 
way, however little, he cannot withdraw; once a prisoner has moved 
him from the strict path of duty it is the prisoners who control him, 
not he the prisoners -facilis descensus . . . 

This is a situation of real difficulty for prison administrators, who 
cannot but know that in this sort of atmosphere moral training is 
unlikely to do well : it is one of the strongest reasons for the separate 
training prison. The present combination of high prices for tobacco 
with restrictions on the cost of the earnings scheme required by public 
economy is unfavourable to a simple economic solution; to allow 
prisoners a reasonable ration of tobacco below cost, when so many 'in 
a state of innocence and liberty' cannot now afford to smoke at all, 
might prove to be too flagrant a breach of the principle of less eligibility; 
the radical solution of abolishing smoking in prisons is probably 
impracticable. Recently some improvement has been effected by a 
modest increase of earnings, by allowing all to earn and to smoke from 
the beginning, and by experiments in substituting book-credits for 
cash payments. But this may well remain as a troublesome problem 
in any prison of mixed or recidivist population, or to a lesser degree 
in other prisons should an officer become corrupted and escape detec- 
tion. Fortunately the determination of the staff as a whole to resist and 
expose this evil of 'trafficking' keeps it within very small dimensions. 


The essence of commitment to prison for any purpose being that the 
prisoner is deprived of his liberty, the basic charge on the keepers of the 
prison is, today as yesterday, safe-custody. If today other 'primary and 
concurrent' charges are laid on the prison which cannot be fully dis- 
charged if safe-custody is treated as an over-riding consideration, that 
raises questions of method and emphasis rather than of principle. 
Where the value of a particular system of training for the prevention 
of crime is such that, in order to preserve it, reasonable risks must be 
taken as to safe-custody, such risks may properly be taken for so long 

E.P.B.S. 11 


as the balance of results justifies them for so long, that is, as escapes 
do not cause trouble to the police and the public, and disturbance in the 
administration of the prison, which are disproportionate to the addi- 
tional value of the system over one of greater security. 

But in prisons which rely on physical restraints walls, locks and 
bars there can be no half-measures. To many prisoners this type of 
safe-custody offers a challenge which they are always ready to accept, 
and they show great skill, perseverance and daring in their attempts 
to defeat it. For the defenders therefore a certain professional pride also 
becomes involved, if no more. In the local prisons, then, and those for 
long-term prisoners and persistent offenders, the requirements of security 
have a dominating influence on the life and routine of the prison. 

The structural features of the security system condition the whole 
plan and atmosphere of the prison. The sheer 20-foot wall encloses all, 
with its massive gate-house of which the outer and inner gates must 
never be open at the same time. Every entrance to the main prison 
blocks has an iron-barred gate on a double lock opened with a special 
key of limited issue, and the day's routine is regularly punctuated by 
the unlocking and locking up of the prisoners in their cells. The prison 
officer of today is a good deal more than a turnkey, but turning keys, 
checking them, and accounting for them remain a prominent and 
permanent feature of his daily life. 

This locking and unlocking of gates and cell doors, with the 'proving' 
and checking required to ensure that they are always properly secured, 
requires a specialised technique, as do the various ceremonies of the 
keys a stray key may give sleepless nights to the whole staff till it is 
found. The checking of numbers is the next essential of security. This 
requires the careful supervision of every party of prisoners at all times, 
and a sort of running audit and balancing up of numbers at each un- 
locking and locking-up comparable with the operations of a bank. 
The first thing reported to a visiting superior is the number on the 
roll, whether of the whole prison or a particular shop or party, and the 
standard greeting of every prison officer, as he salutes the visitor, is 
'Fourteen men, sir, all correct.' When prisoners are locked up at 
dinner-time, and again at supper-time, every officer has to report his 
roll, and the senior officer balances up. The staff cannot dismiss till the 
balance is correct, and many a careless officer has appeared before the 
Governor charged with 'giving an incorrect roll, thereby delaying the 
staff for 20 minutes'. When account is taken of all the comings and 
goings of prisoners, the odd men who are sick, or on report, or waiting 
to see the Governor, or taken away from their parties for a bath or a 
visit, the complication of this technique, and the constant care required 
to keep the record straight, become almost distressingly clear. But it is 
not difficult for an experienced prisoner to 'escape notice disappearing' 
in the to-and-fro of a busy prison day, and without this somewhat rigid 


and exacting routine his absence might not be noticed for hours, and 
then it might take a very long time to find out who it was that was 
missing, where he was last seen, whether he was not perhaps somewhere 
where he might legitimately be, and so on. It is easier to fade away 
during the day and lie-up somewhere till night-fall than to break out 
of a cell, and much more disturbing to the administration. 

But breaking out of a cell is a possible and, with a limited number 
of skilled operators, a popular project. It has been done in many 
different ways by making keys, by filing window-bars, by making a 
hole in the wall, or even by cutting a hole in the floor and going out 
through a ventilating shaft. But it requires time, care and tools of sorts, 
and the counter-move to this gambit is searching. About once a fort- 
night, at irregular intervals to secure a surprise effect, every cell and its 
occupant should have a 'special search' designed to lay bare any filing or 
picking or scratching, or any illicit objects that could serve as tools. 
Many 'unauthorised articles' are revealed on these occasions, perhaps 
the most striking of recent years being a little wireless receiver made 
out of bits and pieces of broken-down telephone equipment smuggled 
in from a workshop though, as it was put by the officer displaying this 
ingenious bit of work, 'the poor chap was wasting his time because 
after all it seemed he could only get the Third Programme!' Every party 
is, in principle, searched on coming in from work, but this is no more 
than a superficial rub-down supposed to ensure that nothing is con- 
cealed in the clothing. It is not surprising that, in the general rush, this 
should have developed into little more than a formal gesture by the 
officer carrying it out, though it may still have some deterrent effect. 
The 'shadow-boards' for tools in the workshops are part of the same 
set of precautions, to ensure that the officers responsible for checking 
tools at the end of each period can see at a glance whether one is missing. 
A break out from a cell is usually made at night, {hough it has been 
done by day (and once by a girl of about 16), and must include the 
operation of 'selling the dummy' to the night-patrol, that is of placing 
in the bed objects giving the appearance of a sleeping occupant: 
since the night-patrols have no cell-key (lest they should be over- 
powered by someone at large who could then unlock the whole prison) 
this is not difficult indeed the night-patrols are not effective as a 
security measure, and escapers can always gauge their operations so as 
to evade inspection. 

Having broken out of the cell, it is necessary to get over the wall, 
and this seems to present surprisingly little difficulty to the enterprising. 
Security measures against this move include the careful locking up of 
ladders, timber, ropes and other articles that would help, but somehow 
the escaper is usually able to construct and conceal somewhere a rope 
and hook, or get hold of a long piece of timber. The expense of man- 
power in yard-patrols by night has not seemed justifiable. 


On top of all this precaution is the blanket-measure of the Escape 
List, on which the Governor is required to place all prisoners who are 
known to have escaped or tried to escape before. These men are located 
together in cells placed where they can most easily be supervised, and 
have to put all their clothing outside the door at night, while a dim 
light is kept on in their cells. During the day every officer who takes 
such a man over signs for him and duly hands him over on receipt to 
his successor, and to make sure that they are not overlooked they wear 
coloured patches of an unobtrusive sort on their jackets and trousers. 
The Governor has complete discretion to take a man off the Escape 
List at any time he thinks it right to do so. 

The dispassionate observer, considering the enormous effort put 
into this complicated system of security, and its effect in adding to the 
repression and artificiality of prison life, may well wonder if there 
may not be more sorrow over one offender who escapes safe-custody 
than over ninety-and-nine who escape reform. What, he may ask, are 
its effects? After all this trouble, how many prisoners do escape from 
conditions of security? The answer, as given by the Commissioners in 
their Annual Report for 1947 (p. 35) is that prior to 1939 the average 
number of escapes from secure conditions was about 5 a year; the 
conditions during and after the war, already described, had led to an 
increase, wholly disproportionate to the increase of population, to 
between 40 and 50 a year. A great improvement was however recorded 
in 1950, when escapes fell to 20 for a much larger population. 


Here it may be said first that the chaining of prisoners who have tried 
to escape is no longer permitted in English prisons. Indeed the use of 
any form of mechanical restraint inside the prison is strictly forbidden 
by the Statutory Rules except on medical grounds by direction of the 
Medical Officer, or when it appears to the Governor that it is necessary 
in order to prevent a prisoner injuring himself or others, or damaging 
property, or creating a disturbance. If the Governor does so order, he 
must at once inform the Visiting Committee and the Medical Officer 
in writing, and if the Medical Officer does not concur the Governor 
must act on his recommendations. No prisoner must be kept under 
restraint longer than is necessary for the purpose for which it was 
, ordered, nor for a longer period than 24 hours without the written 
authority of the Visiting Committee or the Commissioners. 

Outside the prison, when convicted men (but not women or, except 
by special direction of the Governor, young prisoners) are being 
removed to another prison, or to or from court, they may be and 
usually are handcuffed, or attached to a chain when being moved in 
parties. On these occasions the Rules prescribe that 'they shall be 


exposed to public view as little as possible, and proper safeguards shall 
be adopted to protect them from insult and curiosity' : this of course 
applies whether the prisoners are handcuffed or not, and to all classes 
of prisoner. Effect is given to the rule by using road transport direct 
from place to place as much as possible, and where rail is used by 
securing reserved compartments and making special arrangements with 
the railway authorities to ensure the inconspicuous entraining and 
detraining of the prisoners and their escort. These arrangements do not 
always work to perfection, and on occasion the sensitive may still be 
shocked by the sight of chained prisoners at a railway station : but at 
least such a sight is accidental, unforeseen and undesired by those 
responsible. We have moved far in such matters from the days, not 
much more than a hundred years ago, when a party of unconvicted 
women were taken down the public street to York Assizes not only 
handcuffed, but chained by their necks; or from those, some fifty 
years ago, when Oscar Wilde, handcuffed and in prison garb, was kept 
for twenty minutes on the crowded platform of Clapham Junction 
waiting for the train to Reading. 


From the days of transportation and the early penal servitude system, 
eligibility to earn a remission of part of the sentence by good conduct 
and industry has been the first and most valuable privilege accorded to 
prisoners, as the power to forfeit remission has been and remains one 
of the strongest sanctions against bad conduct. Under the penal servi- 
tude system a convict did not, strictly, earn a remission of his sentence, 
but became eligible for earlier release on a conditional licence: the 
sentence remained in force and on breach of licence he might be required 
to serve the unexpired portion, again with the power to earn earlier 
release on a fresh licence. But when by the Prison Act 1898 this privilege 
was extended from penal servitude to imprisonment, the person sen- 
tenced to imprisonment could earn an absolute remission: when he was 
discharged the sentence was deemed to have expired. On the abolition of 
penal servitude by the Criminal Justice Act 1948, this system of absolute 
remission was continued for all sentences of imprisonment of whatever 
length, save for young prisoners (see Chapter 20). For persons sen- 
tenced to corrective training or preventive detention the conditional 
licence system is retained (see Chapter 18). 

The amount of remission which may be earned is prescribed not by 
the Act but by the Statutory Rules. After 1898 the amount to be earned 
on a sentence of penal servitude was one-quarter of the sentence for 
men and one-third for women, and on one of imprisonment one-sixth. 
During the Second World War, primarily as a measure to reduce 
the prison population, a flat-rate of one-third for all sentences was 


introduced, and this rate was continued in the Statutory Rules 1949. 
Remission applies only to sentences above one month, and cannot 
serve to reduce a sentence to less than 31 days. A prisoner is discharged 
in the early morning of the day following that on which he earns full 

It is not easy to define any principle on which the amount of 
remission to be earned has been or should be based. On the one hand, 
the amount must be enough to enable its forfeiture to be effective as 
a disciplinary sanction : if a badly behaved prisoner loses all his remis- 
sion in the early days of his sentence, he is left with nothing to hope or 
work for, while if he continues to behave badly the Governor has no 
resource but continued physical punishments such as close confinement 
or reduced diet. On the other hand, if the amount went beyond a certain 
point, the Courts might feel constrained to pass longer sentences than 
they would otherwise consider appropriate. Although the present rate 
was fixed on grounds of expediency rather than of principle, it appears 
to strike a reasonable balance. 

Since the abolition of the marks system, it is perhaps hardly correct 
to speak of a prisoner 'earning' his remission. It is, like his privileges 
under the new stage system, credited to him at the beginning and he 
keeps it unless it is forfeited by his own fault. 


A prisoner may be punished only for one of the 'offences against 
discipline' set out as such in the Statutory Rules, and by one of the 
punishments prescribed in the Rules. Punishments may be awarded only 
by the Governor or the officer authorised to act for him, or, for more 
serious offences, by the Visiting Committee or a Commissioner or 
Assistant Commissioner. 1 

The Rules prescribe that 'A prisoner shall, before a report against 
him is dealt with, be informed of the offence for which he has been 
reported and shall be given a proper opportunity of hearing the facts 
alleged against him and of presenting his case.' This Rule follows an 
enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 1948, in the course of debate on 
which concern was shown by the Committee of the House of Commons 
as to whether, in the special circumstances of a prison, prisoners charged 
with offences are enabled to make an effective defence: in particular, 
the view was expressed that an accused prisoner should be assisted or 
represented by a 'friend', who might even in certain circumstances be 
a legal adviser. In deference to the feeling of the House, the Secretary 
of State appointed a Departmental Committee to examine the whole 
question of offences and punishments in prisons and Borstals, and it 

1 This power is in practice rarely used by Commissioners or Assistant Commis- 
sioners, except where a recaptured escaper has to be dealt with in another prison. 


may be that the Report of this Committee will suggest reconsideration 
of some of the present Rules, or of the practice in applying them. 1 

Pending any such changes, the present procedure is that when an 
officer finds it necessary to report a prisoner, he completes a form, 
which is handed to the prisoner, setting out the precise paragraph of 
the Rule under which the charge is made (the prisoner has a copy of 
this in his cell) and the time and place: there is a space on the form on 
which the prisoner can make a written reply if he wishes. Pending 
adjudication the prisoner is kept in his cell: this will not be for long, 
except at the week-end, for the Governor is required to adjudicate on 
reports every morning except on Sundays and public holidays. 

When the prisoner's turn comes he is brought before the Governor 
under escort, and is first ordered to 'give your full name and number 
to the Governor': this is done whenever a prisoner is brought before 
the Governor for any purpose, and is not, as might appear, meaningless 
routine it could happen, and has happened, that by some accident 
the man present is not the man named in the records before the 
Governor. The Governor then reads out the charge, and hears the 
evidence of the reporting officer, which is of course also heard by the 
prisoner: the prisoner is then invited to say whatever he has to say in 
his defence, and here the written statement of defence may be helpful 
to those who are too over-awed or incoherent to express themselves to 
advantage. Usually in these cases there is no question of difficulty about 
the facts, or of an alibi, or the like, and the Governor has little difficulty 
in making up his mind as to guilt, though there may be a certain 
amount of question and answer between the prisoner and the officer, 
and it may even be necessary to call other evidence. But in cases within 
his own competence the Governor can usually despatch the matter 
then and there, perhaps after sending the prisoner out while he consults 
with the Chief Officer, in the light of the prisoner's record, on the best 
way to deal with him. The proceedings may be brusque, but one thing 
about which there is, on the whole, virtually no complaint by prisoners 
is the standard of fairness and justice in Governors' adjudications. The 
Governor makes a full note of the proceedings, and these are sent to 
the Prison Commission weekly for information. Each Assistant Com- 
missioner scrutinises these reports from his prisons. 

Frequently an admonition to a prisoner is sufficient, but when 
punishment is necessary the Governor may choose from the following: 

(a) forfeiture of remission of sentence for a period not exceeding 
fourteen days; 

(6) forfeiture or postponement of privileges for a period not exceed- 
ing twenty-eight days ; 

1 For a summary of the recommendations of this Committee, which were published 
in May 1951, see Appendix I. 


(c) exclusion from associated work for a period not exceeding four- 
teen days; 

(d) cellular confinement for a period not exceeding three days; 

(e) restricted diet No. 1 for a period not exceeding three days; 
(/) restricted diet No. 2 for a period not exceeding fifteen days; 
(g) stoppage of earnings for a period not exceeding fourteen days. 

Where the misconduct is so serious or repeated that the Governor 
considers the punishments within his power inadequate, he may report 
the prisoner to the Visiting Committee, and he must do so if the offence 
charged is one of the following: 

(a) escaping or attempting to escape from prison or from legal custody ; 

(b) gross personal violence to a fellow prisoner; 

(c) mutiny or incitement to mutiny; 

(d) gross personal violence to an officer. 

Pending adjudication by the Visiting Committee the prisoner will 
again, unless the Governor orders otherwise, be kept in his cell, except 
for Chapel and exercise, but again not for more than a few days in the 
ordinary course, since except for mutiny and gross personal violence to 
an officer the powers of the Visiting Committee may be exercised by 
any one of them, and a member visits by rota every week. 

The investigation by the Visiting Committee is more formal, especi- 
ally when it is taken by the full Committee, though in normal practice 
this means a panel of from three to five of the members presided over 
by the Chairman. The investigation may be on oath if the Committee 
so decides. It is within the discretion of the Committee to decide what 
additional evidence should be called, and in the peculiar circumstances 
of a prison this may give rise to difficulty, and even to an appearance 
of injustice if the standards of the Courts are applied. In a conflict 
between the word of an officer and that of a prisoner, without corro- 
boration, the prisoner may well feel that the odds are on the officer, 
though this position is not peculiar to a prison the private soldier 
in the Orderly Room, or the citizen in the Magistrates' Court, may 
equally gain the impression that his word carries less weight than 
that of a sergeant-major or a police constable. If the officer calls 
corroborative evidence, the prisoner may suppose that the 'screws' 
will naturally support each other, and if the prisoner wishes to call 
other prisoners to support his version he may be faced with difficulties: 
the natural disposition of most prisoners is to 'keep out of trouble', 
and unless they have some personal axe to grind they will not usually 
be anxious either to give the lie to an officer on oath or to give away 
a fellow prisoner. The Committee may also be unconvinced of the 
relevance of the evidence which a prisoner claims to call, and where 
they hear evidence which remains in clear conflict with that of the 


officer or officers on the other side, they are still faced with their 
original dilemma on the one side the voice of authority, which should 
be supported unless it is clearly being abused, on the other that of a 
man or men of, in all probability, known bad character and dubious 
motives. Yet an officer is not to be believed because he is an officer, 
nor a prisoner disbelieved because he is a prisoner. In spite of these 
difficulties, no ground has been given for supposing that, on the whole, 
the magistrates who undertake these difficult duties do not succeed in 
doing substantial justice, and the Chairman usually regards it as his 
duty to assist the accused in making the best of his defence and in 
questioning the evidence against him. 

The punishments which a Visiting Committee may award are as 
follows : 

(a) forfeiture of remission of sentence; 

(b) forfeiture or postponement of privileges; 

(c) exclusion from associated work for a period not exceeding 
twenty-eight days ; 

(d) restricted diet No. 1 for a period not exceeding fifteen days; 

(e) restricted diet No. 2 for a period not exceeding forty-two days; 
(/) cellular confinement for a period not exceeding fourteen days or, 

where the prisoner is found guilty of mutiny or incitement to 
mutiny, or of gross personal violence to an officer, not exceeding 
twenty-eight days ; 
(g) stoppage of earnings for a period not exceeding twenty-eight days. 

For the two offences of mutiny or incitement to mutiny, and gross 
personal violence to an officer, there are special provisions in view of 
their gravity and of the fact that they may, by the provisions_qf the 
Criminal _ Justice _ Act^ 1^948^ be^punished J^^jcorporal punishment. This 
is now the sole relic of flogging as a legal punishmOTrin~EngIan37and 
since its retention in support of prison discipline has so recently been 
approved by Parliament, discussion of merits in a matter of so much 
controversy would here be out of place. The grounds on which it has 
been defended have been clearly and fairly stated by a prominent 
opponent of corporal punishment as follows : 'The case for the retention 
of flogging for breaches of prison discipline rests upon the need of 
defending prison officers against violence in the particular circum- 
stances in which they are placed. An outstanding feature of the English 
Prison Service is the absence of brutality, or of the manhandling of 
prisoners by warders. The rule against brutality is rigidly enforced 
even in cases of violent attack. It is held that as individual retaliation 
is forbidden to the officer he must be specially protected, not so much 
for his own safety as in the interests of good discipline in the service.' l 

1 Corporal Punishment An Indictment, George Benson and Edward Glover 
(Howard League for Penal Reform. Price 6d.)> p. 12. 


The procedure of the Visiting Committee on these charges is the 
same, except that a special meeting must be summoned at which not 
more than five nor less than three members, two at least being magis- 
trates, must be present, and the proceedings must be on oath. 

If corporal punishment is awarded, the number of strokes is by 
statute restricted to 18 with the cat o' nine tails or birch rod 1 9 the 
former being inflicted on the back, the latter on the buttocks; and 
cellular confinement or restricted diet may not be awarded in addition. 
Only male prisoners serving sentences of imprisonment, corrective 
training or preventive detention are eligible for corporal punishment. 

All awards of corporal punishment must be confirmed by the 
Secretary of State, who sees all such cases personally. When they are 
not confirmed, an alternative punishment is substituted by the Visiting 

Corporal punishment may not be awarded unless the Medical 
Officer has examined the prisoner and certified that he is medically and 
physically fit for it, and he must again examine him immediately before 
the punishment is inflicted and be present during its infliction : if on 
medical grounds the Medical Officer advises that it should stop, the 
Governor, who must also be present, must remit the remainder. 

A note in conclusion of this section on the nature of the various 
punishments permitted. 

Forfeitures of remission and privileges have been discussed else- 
where, though it may be added that privileges need not be forfeited 
en bloc any one may be forfeited if it has been abused or if that 
seems the most appropriate punishment, and Governors are advised 
that such privileges as letters and visits, use of the library, and education 
facilities should be forfeited in the ordinary course only if they are 

Exclusion from associated work is usually awarded in the prisoner's 
own interests to keep him out of trouble: he then works in his cell. 

Cellular confinement does not conaote a dark cell or a dungeon: 
there is nothing of this sort in English practice. The prisoner works 
in his cell and is deprived of all forms of association: in some prisons, 
for convenience, a separate block of cells or part of a landing is set 
aside for prisoners undergoing punishment, but these do not differ in 
construction or equipment from ordinary cells. There are advantages 
in keeping these prisoners away from the normal life of the prison. 

Although not relevant to the heading of punishment, it is con- 
venient to mention here that as distinct from the foregoing 'separate' 
cells there are also 'special' cells, which again are not dark though 
they are silent, or as near so as may be, with double-doors and a 
minimum of fixed unbreakable furniture with the window well out of 
reach. These are for the temporary confinement of violent, noisy or 
2 For a person under 21, twelve strokes with the birch rod. 


hysterical prisoners who would otherwise smash up their cells, possibly 
injure themselves or others, keep the prison awake with their noise, 
or otherwise violently disturb the peace. The Statutory Rules provide 
that ''no prisoner shall be confined in such a cell as a punishment or 
after he has ceased to be refractory or violent'. 

Restricted Diet No. 1 is one pound of bread per diem with water. 
If given for more than 3 days, the first 3 days bread and water are 
followed by 3 days ordinary diet, then 3 more days bread and water, 
and so on, so that the maximum period of 15 days means 9 days bread 
and water and 6 days ordinary diet. A prisoner on this diet is not 
required to work, but may work in his cell if he so wishes. 

Restricted diet No. 2 consists of 8 oz. of bread with water for break- 
fast and supper, and 1 pint of oatmeal porridge, 8 oz. of potatoes, and 
8 oz. of bread with water for dinner. If given for more than 21 days, 
it must be interrupted after 21 days by 7 days ordinary diet. This 
prolonged excess of carbo-hydrates is now regarded as unsatisfactory, 
and alternatives are under consideration. 

No prisoner may be awarded cellular confinement or dietary punish- 
ment unless he has been certified fit for such punishment by the Medical 
Officer, and the Governor, Chaplain and Medical Officer are required 
to pay a daily visit to every prisoner undergoing cellular confinement 
or No. 1 diet. 


The Statutory Rules are explicit as to the necessity of informing 
prisoners fully about the Rules governing their treatment and generally 
as to their rights and obligations, and ensuring that this information 
has been read and understood. This is done by a series of cell-cards. 
The prisoner meets the first of these in the reception-cell, its purpose 
being to assure him that he is not going to serve his sentence in this 
bleak cubicle, and to instruct him as to the processes through which he 
will pass in the reception block. On the wall of his cell, when he reaches 
the main prison, he will find a collection of cards dealing with all 
contingencies. For the untried and recently convicted there will be a 
batch dealing with Bail, Legal Aid and Appeals: for more sustained 
reading there are four cards, one giving 'Notes for Guidance' on most 
aspects of prison life not covered by the other three, which deal with 
Discipline, Privileges and Stage; Diet; and Aid on Discharge. These 
large and closely-printed cards make neither for convenient reading nor, 
after a time, for amenity as a wall-decoration, and their combination in 
some form of booklet or folder is under consideration: the variety of 
cards required for different categories and classifications will, however, 
make it difficult to secure a system at once effective and economical. 

1 See Appendix I. 


One matter to which a prisoner's attention is fully and precisely 
directed in his 'Notes for Guidance' is his right to make complaints 
and the channels through which he may make them, which are both 
numerous and, in time and trouble expended from the landing officer 
up to the Home Secretary himself, costly. The English prison system 
is especially sensitive to any possibility of abuse of authority without 

The care taken here can perhaps be best shown by quoting the 
information actually given to the prisoner, which reads as follows: 

'2. (a) If you want to make a request or complaint, you can have 
an interview with any of the following: 

Governor, Chaplain or Medical Officer. 

Member of the Visiting Committee or Board of Visitors at his next 

Commissioner or Assistant Commissioner at his next visit. 

'If you want to see any of the first three you should ask your landing 
officer when your cell is opened in the morning: to see the others you 
should apply to the Governor. 

'(b) If you are taken suddenly ill, you may ask for the Medical 
Officer at any time. 

\c) You may if you wish submit a petition to the Secretary of State, 
but before doing so you should enquire of the Governor whether the 
matter about which you desire to petition is one which which the 
Governor or the Visiting Committee or the Board of Visitors are 
authorised to deal. If it is such a matter you should take steps to bring 
it to the notice of the Governor or the Visiting Committee or the Board 
of Visitors and should await their decision before submitting a petition. 

'3. If you wish to write to a Member of Parliament to complain 
about your conviction or sentence or your treatment in prison, you 
may do so on the following conditions : 

"(a) If your complaint is about your treatment in prison you must 
first make it through the usual channels set out in Note 2 above. You 
will not be allowed to write to a member of Parliament about a com- 
plaint of this sort on which you have written a petition till you have 
had a reply to the petition. 

'() You must use one of your ordinary letters unless you have been 
2 months in prison, when you may on application be allowed one 
special letter. 

'(c) You must not put in the letter any enclosures for the M.P. to 
send to the Home Office, or any matter intended for insertion in the 


'(W) You must not ask the M.P. to approach on your behalf any 
Judge, Foreign Minister or Consul, or other public department or 
authority at home or abroad. 

'(V) Your letter must comply with the regulations as to outgoing 
letters: in particular, you must not use any threatening or improper 

As further evidence, one may note the care with which the Secretary 
of State thought it necessary to justify to the House of Commons 
certain restrictions on the right of prisoners to communicate with 
Members of Parliament: in reply to a Question on 29 July 1949, Mr. 
Chuter Ede said : 

'In July of last year, after consultation with my right hon. Friend 
the Secretary of State for Scotland, I decided, as I announced to the 
House at the time, to issue instructions that prisoners might be per- 
mitted to use letters from their ordinary allowance to write to a Member 
of Parliament of their choice, and that such letters might be permitted 
in certain circumstances. 

4 1 am anxious to maintain this concession, which I think is right in 
principle, and in accordance with the wishes of the House, but experi- 
ence of its working has shown that certain limitations are necessary 
in the interests of the maintenance of discipline and the proper manage- 
ment of prisons. Under the Prison Standing Orders a prisoner is not 
permitted to make complaints in his letters to friends and relatives 
about his treatment in prison, because there are appointed channels by 
which grievances of this kind can be considered and redressed. A 
prisoner can ask to see the Governor, and if dissatisfied with the 
Governor's decision, can ask to see the Visiting Committee or Board 
of Visitors, and he has the further remedy of petitioning the Secretary 
of State. He can also request an interview with one of the Prison Com- 
missioners or Assistant Commissioners or in Scotland with an officer 
of the Secretary of State at his next visit to the prison. Moreover, if a 
prisoner makes, either to the visiting magistrates or in a petition, 
allegations against a prison officer, which are established to be false 
and malicious, he is liable to be punished. 

'Hon. Members will appreciate that if a prisoner is to be allowed to 
use a letter to a Member of Parliament for the purpose of making 
complaints about his treatment, which he would not be allowed to 
make in an ordinary letter, and which he has never made to the prison 
authorities, the result would be that a prisoner could by-pass the 
appointed channels for the investigation of such complaints, and could 
make with impunity the most malicious and unfounded allegations 
against particular officers. This seems to be most undesirable and likely 
eventually to undermine the authority of the Visiting Committee or 


Board of Visitors who are the independent check on prison administra- 
tion for which Parliament has made provision. My right hon. Friend 
the Secretary of State for Scotland and I therefore propose to issue 
instructions that a prisoner shall not be allowed to make complaints 
about his prison treatment in a letter to a Member unless he has 
already exhausted his right of making the complaint through the proper 
channels in one or other of the ways I have mentioned. 

'Under the Prison Standing Orders there are certain matters which 
may not be included in letters written by prisoners. These are: 

'(1) Discussion of methods of committing crime, instigation of 
criminal offences, attempts to defeat the ends of justice by 
suborning witnesses or tampering with evidence, or attempts to 
facilitate escapes. 

'(2) Complaints about the courts and the police which are deliber- 
ately calculated to hold the authorities up to contempt. 

'(3) Threats of violence. 

'(4) Matter intended for insertion in the Press. 

*(5) Grossly improper language. 

'(6) Attempts to stimulate public agitation about matters other than 
the prisoner's own conviction and sentence. 

There can be no grounds upon which it would be justifiable to 
allow a prisoner to include in a letter to a Member of Parliament any 
of these matters, which are objectionable in themselves, irrespective 
of the person to whom the letter is addressed, and my right hon. Friend 
and I propose, therefore, to issue instructions that the rule prohibiting 
ihe inclusion of such matters in prisoners' letters shall be applied to 
letters addressed to Members of Parliament.' l 

This statement by the Secretary of State gives a sufficient explanation 
of the principles and practice in this matter, but a few foot-notes may 
be of interest. 

If a prisoner puts himself down to see the Governor, Chaplain, 
Medical Officer, Visiting Magistrate or Commissioner, he does not 
have to explain why he sees the members of the staff that day or (on 
a late application) the next, and the visitors on their next visit, without 

If he asks for a petition form he is given one, unless he already has 
an unanswered petition outstanding, and he can petition about anything 
he likes so long as he does not use improper language. If the matter is 
one with which the Visiting Committee is competent to deal the petition 
is first laid before them, and if the prisoner is then satisfied he may 

i Hansard, Vol. 467, No. 160, Cols. 181-183. 


withdraw it: otherwise it is posted at once with all relevant information 
and reports, and dealt with by the administrative staff of the Prison 
Commission or of the Criminal Division of the Home Office, according 
to its subject-matter, in consultation as necessary with the appropriate 
Directorate of the Commission. If necessary, a petition may well be 
considered by the Permanent Under Secretary of State or by Ministers. 
It is desirable to state this in view of a commonly expressed belief 
by prisoners that their petitions are answered by the Governor's clerk! 
The Home Secretary's statement referred to one question which 
from time to time causes particular difficulty the making of complaints 
against officers by prisoners. It is important to protect prisoners against 
abuse of authority, but it is equally important to protect the staff, 
in the proper discharge of their difficult duties, against accusations 
which are malicious and unfounded and likely to damage their reputa- 
tion or even their livelihood. Prisoners are, therefore, advised on their 
cell-cards that they should always consult the Governor before com- 
mitting themselves to any serious accusation against a member of the 
staff. A Governor so consulted will advise the prisoner that he should 
consider carefully, before he makes his charge, whether he will be able 
to prove it, because it will be carefully investigated and, if it is found 
to be false and made with malice knowing it to be false, he is liable to 
punishment. If he wishes to go on, the prisoner is then told to put it 
in writing, and a copy is sent to the officer concerned. The subsequent 
proceedings depend on the facts and circumstances, but a full-dress 
inquiry by the Visiting Committee, and if necessary by the Com- 
missioners, may well follow. It is an inevitable feature of imprison- 
ment that men and women, especially the more unbalanced, brood 
excessively over trifles and make mountains out of every molehill. 
The last thing wanted is the appearance of frightening them out of 
what may be mere 'blowing off steam' or the making of legitimate 
complaints. To steer a fair and sympathetic course between this evil 
and the equal evil of leaving the staff a prey to the malice of some of the 
cunning and wicked people in their charge is not easy. 



SHOULD prisoners work? The fact that, as recently as 1931, an 
authoritative work l should have been published under this title 
implies all the still unresolved questions surrounding this central 
problem of prison administration. Should prisoners be required to 
work? If so, for what purpose? What sort of work should they do? 
On what economic basis should the work be found and organised? 
What incentives, if any, should be offered to induce them to work well? 
Any or all of these questions may still be asked today in the penal 
systems of the world without finding answers of general acceptance in 
principle or applicability in practice. 2 The integration of social, econ- 
omic and penal theory required for a clear and consistent set of 
principles on which such answers could be based is far from complete, 
in England or elsewhere. 

As before, consideration starts from the basic fact that imprison- 
ment at common law is deprivation of liberty in a lawful prison and 
no more. While the function of the prison was no more than custodial, 
therefore, there was no doubt as to the answer to the first question 
prisoners could not be required to work: nor is the position different 
today in respect of the custodial function. By the Statutory Rules of 
1949 neither untried prisoners nor those 'convicted of sedition etc.' 
may be required to work in the service or industries of the prison with- 
out their consent, and if they do so work they must be paid for it. 
The same held good until recent years in respect of the coercive function 
in its application to debtors. It appears, therefore, that the right to 
exact work is to be considered as inherent, if at all, in the corrective 
function of the prison and not in imprisonment as such : if the State 
does not claim the right to exact from all whom it commits to its penal 
institutions that they should work, whether for their keep or on other 

1 Should Prisoners Work, L. N. Robinson. Philadelphia, 1931. 

2 See however Resolution II (3), Appendix F. 


WORK 177 

grounds, the principles on which work is to be exacted from those who 
are subject to the corrective function are still to seek. 

During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the local 
prison authorities were under no liability to maintain their prisoners, 
they might be allowed to work to keep themselves from starvation, 
and at a later stage the authorities might be glad to ease the burden of 
prisons on the rates by providing industries in the prisons and even 
paying the prisoners well for working in them; but these practices 
derived from economic considerations, not from penal theory. Setting 
aside the early practice of Houses of Correction, which again did not 
derive from penal theory, the first clear principle of work generally 
applied in English prisons was that of 1865 hard labour as a form of 
punishment over and above the punishment by deprivation of liberty: 
the derivation here was entirely from penal theory divorced from social 
or economic principles, since its essence was that the labour should be 
unproductive it aimed at punishment of the body and spirit by mono- 
tony and fatigue and nothing more. This principle, though in historical 
perspective it now seems no more than a temporary deviation from the 
true line of development, did have the effect of importing into the 
prison system the idea of 'work as a part of the punishment' which has 
never since been wholly exorcised from consideration of the question. 
This conception was limited in its application to persons sentenced to 
penal servitude or to imprisonment with hard labour: for those not so 
sentenced, productive work was still provided, but after 1865, the 
liability of the county to maintain all criminal prisoners having been 
established, it was forbidden to pay the prisoners for their work. 
It is interesting to note here that there seems still to have lingered a 
doubt as to whether such prisoners should be forced to work, since for 
neglect of work the Rules specifically limited punishment to alteration 
of diet : the implication seems to be that the governing principle here, 
expressed or not, was the social-economic fc he who does not work, 
neither shall he eat'. 

But as to any principle governing productive work in penal theory, 
serious consideration is lacking until 1895; the thought of Howard, 
Bentham and Mrs. Fry in relation to prisoners' work, valuable and 
constructive as it was, was not concerned with the prison as a primary 
instrument of legal punishment: the prisoners with whom they were 
concerned, saving the untried, debtors and minor offenders, were to 
be punished not by imprisonment but by transportation or death. It 
is, therefore, a matter for continuing regret that, when it had become 
not only possible but essential to define the function of work in the 
regime of the prison, the examination of the question by the Gladstone 
Committee was neither exhaustive nor convincing. 

The Committee opened its observations under the heading of 
Prison Labour by pointing out that notwithstanding its 'great intrinsic 

E.P.B.S 12 


importance ... in previous inquiries it has been passed over with but 
little notice': but although their own consideration started from the 
principle, revolutionary in its time, 'that prison treatment should have 
as its primary and concurrent objects deterrence and reformation', 
their conclusions were still conditioned by the conception of 'work as 
part of the punishment'. 'It follows, therefore,' they continued, 'that 
it is desirable to provide labour which in conjunction with the general 
prison discipline does not impair the one, and which does include the 
other.' From this somewhat Delphic utterance of principle one clear 
recommendation only resulted, that 'the mechanical labour should be 
discontinued wherever practicable' and replaced by what? Here was 
the crux, the test of the Committee's faith in the principle from which 
they started. But here they faltered: the authority of the idea of deter- 
rence was still too great for them to separate it altogether from the 
function of work, and instead of a courageous statement of the place 
of work in a regime intended to be reformative, the conclusion is that 
'we recommend that every effort should be made to find work for 
prisoners which would be a fitting equivalent to hard labour of the 
1st class as now defined'. 

In England, therefore, the first phase of the twentieth-century system 
opened without benefit of real examination of the place of work in a 
prison regime which included reformation in its objects, and so with 
no clear view of a purpose behind the requirement that its prisoners 
should be set to productive work. The provision of useful work was 
regarded as in itself a 'reformative element', and indeed that provision 
was and is basic, on many grounds. The first was put by Elizabeth 
Fry when, in answer to the question 'Do you think any reformation 
possible without employment?' she said 'I should believe it impossible. 
We may instruct as we will, but if we allow them . . . nothing to do they 
must return to their evil practices.' l To the mere avoidance of Satan's 
mischief the Gladstone Committee had added the value of 'training in 
orderly and industrial habits', and a third and most cogent point was 
well put by Mr. E. R. Cass 2 when he said 'idleness in a prison is 
subversive of discipline and hurtful to the moral, intellectual and 
physical well-being of the inmates. No greater cruelty can possibly be 
inflicted on prisoners than enforced idleness.' No prison treatment 
can hope to reform a person on whom it inflicts this cruelty as an 
addition to the punishment of deprivation of liberty. But at this stage 
perception of the reformative value of useful work was still balanced 
by the feeling that, deterrence being a 'primary and concurrent object', 
work must also be regarded as part of the punishment, 'the fitting 
equivalent of 1st class Hard Labour'. 

The true line of development, from the original principle of the 

1 Whitney, p. 167. 

2 General Secretary of the American Prison Association, cit. L. N. Robinson, p. 2. 

WORK 179 

Houses of Correction that work should be the instrument of restoration 
of offenders to good citizenship, was not resumed till that integration 
of deterrence and reform in the conception of training which marked 
the second phase of the twentieth-century system. This principle, 
expressed by the Commissioners in those passages which have been 
quoted from their Annual Reports in Chapter 4, was fully endorsed 
by a Departmental Committee appointed in 1933 to report on the 
whole question of employment of prisoners. 'We cannot,' said the 
Committee, 'stress too strongly . . . that suitable employment is 
the most important factor in the physical and moral regeneration of 
the prisoner.' 1 While one might linger over possible qualifications of this 
robust declaration, the Commissioners themselves had already made it 
clear at least that a full working-day of useful and interesting work was 
central to the scheme of training, and the Statutory Rules of 1949 
provide that 'Every prisoner shall be required to engage in useful work 
for not more than ten hours a day, of which so far as practicable at 
least eight hours shall be spent in associated or other work outside the 

From this Rule, read in conjunction with that which lays down that 
the purpose of the training and treatment of prisoners is 'to establish 
in them the will to lead a good and useful life on discharge and to fit 
them to do so 9 , may be derived the second clear statement of the purpose 
of prison work in English penal theory, well put by Dr. Grunhut (p. 209) 
as follows, 'the object of prison labour in a rehabilitative programme is 
twofold: training for work and training by work'. 

It does not appear to derogate from this principle to suggest that, 
in so far as a prisoner has, by his offence, caused loss or damage to the 
community, it is right that he should make some restitution by his 
labour; for an appreciation of this as a moral obligation would also 
mark some advance in moral training. Nor is it inconsistent to advance 
the economic argument that the burden on the community of maintain- 
ing prisons should be eased so far as possible by the product of prison 
labour, so long as the argument is not pressed to the prejudice of the 
true purpose of the prison, which is to prevent crime: elsewhere, though 
not hitherto in this country, the demand that prisons should at all costs 
be self-supporting has led to distortion of their function and gross 
exploitation of prison labour. 

In the English system of today, therefore, the answers to the first 
two questions posed at the beginning of this chapter are, in principle, 
clear and settled: they are the fruits of long practical experience, fully 
endorsed by the report of a Departmental Committee, and finally 
translated into statutory form by an act of the legislature. But when we 
come to consider the further questions, which concern the translation 

i Report of the Departmental Committee on Employment of Prisoners, 1933, 
Part I, p. 64. 


of the principle into practice, we shall unfortunately find that this is 
no more than 'the end of the beginning'. Before practice becomes wholly 
consistent with principle there are many and major difficulties still 
to be overcome. Some of these are internal, in that they are (or at 
present seem to be) inherent in the conditions of work in prisons ; some 
are external, in that they concern the integration of that work into the 
economic framework of society prisons do not produce in an economic 

Of the internal difficulties, the first is that the prison management has 
absolutely no control over its labour force in respect of either quantity 
or quality. As to quantity, it must accept and employ whatever numbers 
are received from the Courts : it may be that it has been organised for 
some years to provide industrial work for 5,000, and then finds its 
numbers have grown, for reasons it could not foresee or provide 
against, to 10,000: should it undertake capital expansion of workshops 
and machinery to meet this situation, it may find the numbers sink 
again to 7,000 or 4,000. As to quality, the situation has not substantially 
changed since the Gladstone Committee said, The capacities of 
prisoners range from a high standard to the lowest to be found any- 
where in an almost endless variety. . . . (The population) is of a low 
order of physical and mental development, it is constantly changing, 
and in short presents no favourable feature whatever for the develop- 
ment of industrial work' (p. 22) : or, as Dr. Griinhut puts it (p. 223), 
'Prisoners, though not different from people at large, are a negative 
selection with regard to ability and inclination for regular work.' 
The Departmental Committee of 1933, in illustration of the same point, 
quoted Sir Norwood (then Dr.) East, the Medical Commissioner, as 
saying 'Many prisoners purposely avoid hard work and have lost 
permanently the capacity for sustained effort, others are untrained or 
cannot be trusted to work with machines or tools. Thirty-seven per 
cent of the male admissions in 1930 were 40 years of age or over. 
Some are of poor physique, indifferent mental capacity or tempera- 
mentally unstable. In short the human material in prison differs con- 
siderably from that in the general labour market. It is seldom efficient, 
it is often indifferent and is sometimes useless. No doubt many of the 
first offenders 30 per cent of the admissions in 1930 would be 
retained by a private employer working for profit. Only few recidivists 
would escape dismissal if staffs were being reduced, (p. 14). 

This situation is further complicated by the special care which the 
prison authorities must exercise to see that no prisoner suffers injury 
to his health through being put to work unsuitable to his physical 
condition. This is one of the oldest and strongest traditions of the 
English prisons, deriving in part from the days of Hard Labour, in 
part from a real care for the rights and welfare of those so completely 
subject to authority. The Statutory Rules provide that The Medical 

WORK 181 

Officer may excuse a prisoner from work on medical grounds, and no 
prisoner shall be set to any work unless he has been certified as fit for 
that type of work by the Medical Officer.' So all prison work is roughly 
classified, for medical purposes, into No. 1, No. 2 and Light, and the 
Departmental Committee found that, in 1932-33, the percentage of 
admission to each of these categories was 74 to No. 1, 17 to No. 2, 6 to 
Light and 3 unfit for any work. 

The next factor is that a high proportion of the prisoners received 
have sentences so short that there is no question of teaching them in 
the time available more than the simplest operations, even when they 
are both able and willing to learn. The proportions of this problem 
have been dealt with in Chapter 8. 

The effect of these various factors is that one of the gravest and most 
persistent problems of prison work is not strictly concerned with work 
as training at all: it is the problem of finding sufficient work suitable 
for this large number of unskilled short-sentence prisoners. It must be 
work that can be easily taught in a short time, does not require valuable 
material or delicate machines that can be spoiled through ignorance, 
carelessness or malice and does not require much skilled supervision. 
Further, on the economic side, it must be work for the product of 
which a regular demand can be foreseen and a steady flow of orders 
relied on. So it happens that in most prison systems there is a traditional 
occupation, of a low industrial grade, which comes to bear particularly 
the stigma of prison : on the Continent, it is sticking paper-bags, in 
England it is making or repairing mailbags. This is one of the sore 
spots of our prison administration. Nobody likes it, inside or outside 
the prisons. It fits a man for no form of work he is likely to do outside, 
and few are likely to feel anything but dislike for doing it inside. And 
you do not even train men in 'orderly and industrial habits' by setting 
them to work in which they do not take and can scarcely be expected 
to take any intelligent interest. But not even the Departmental Com- 
mittee was able to make a concrete suggestion for a better alternative, 
and continuous criticism since 1933 has equally produced no con- 
structive suggestion which meets all the conditions. 

There could be a brighter side even to this picture. Given a sufficient 
flow of orders in relation to the labour potential, the making of new 
bags could be carried out entirely on machines, with which the prisons 
are well equipped, and this is reasonably skilled and interesting work. 
But all too often, for long periods, expensive batteries of power machines 
stand idle while the work is done by hand to make the order last out 
till the next one is received. The prisons cannot stand men off when 
orders fall off, and 'redeployment' is no easier inside than outside. 
The worst features of this situation can only be mitigated by offering 
incentives for work of good quality and quantity: this question will 
be discussed separately, but it may be said here that on the one hand 


the present piece-work earnings scheme does ensure that even when 
employed on no more arduous and interesting work than sewing or 
patching canvas by hand the prisoners on the whole work fast and well, 
and that is not without training value; but on the other hand if work 
is really short the application of this incentive is obviously difficult. 

There are certain other internal difficulties which are not inherent 
but are the result of conditions which are, it may be hoped, trans- 

The first of these is shortage of work shops. The prisons were not 
built with the intention of employing prisoners in association, and 
workshop construction in local prisons, with some exceptions, began 
in the early years of the century. The Departmental Committee found 
that in 1933 there were 94 shops employing 42-9 per cent of the total 
prison population out of some 60-5 per cent employed in manufacturing 
work (as distinct from farm and building work and domestic services). 
Additional workshops were built after that date, and the position 
before the Second World War was reasonably satisfactory and would 
have become entirely so had it not been for the post-war increase of 
population: in 1947-8 the Commissioners reported 8,992 prisoners 
engaged in manufacturing work as compared with 5,925 ten years 
earlier. Several workshops had been lost by enemy action in the war, 
and a major effort was therefore necessary to keep pace with the situa- 
tion, within the limits of new construction permitted by the economic 
situation. In their Report for 1948 the Commissioners reported that 
8 industrial workshops and 23 vocational training shops l had been 
completed during the year, and others were in progress. Nevertheless 
it was still no uncommon sight in 1949 to see the narrow space of a 
long prison wing filled with men, elbow to elbow on their stools, 
sewing their dreary canvas. 2 

After shortage of shops shortage of staff ranks next as an obstacle 
to the full development of work. The effect of being able to employ 
only one shift of staff is to make it impossible (except in training prisons 
and a few special shops) to preserve the 8-hour workshop day predicated 
by the Rules and always sought by the administration. The Committee 
of 1933 said on this question, after quoting the Statutory Rule then in 
force (which was of similar effect to the Rule of 1949), This Rule 
gave effect to what had become at that time the general practice in all 
prisons, viz. the employment of all prisoners in association for as 
nearly as practicable 8 hours a day. In practice it was not found possible 
to secure that prisoners were actually employed in association for 
eight hours since this period included the time spent in getting men to 
and from their cells, a time which varied according to the size and 
construction of the prison, and it was further liable to be interrupted 

* Some of these would be in Borstals. 

2 This situation had notably improved in 1951. 

WORK 183 

by intervals for attendance at chapel, exercise, bathing, visits, etc. 
On an average the period of actual employment might be fairly stated 
as 6^ hours daily. The rule giving statutory authority for the enforce- 
ment of an eight-hour associated working day had only been made 
three months when the financial crisis forced upon the Commissioners 
in July, 1 93 1 , a reduction of the staff of the prisons in England and Wales. 
This reduction made it impossible to continue to employ all prisoners 
for a nominal eight-hour day of associated labour (6^ hours actual 
work) and in most prisons the actual period of associated labour was 
reduced to under 5 hours daily. A longer period continues to be worked 
in the Borstal Institutions, in certain specialised prisons such as Wake- 
field and by certain parties of prisoners in other prisons. In conse- 
quence of the reduction in the hours of associated labour a corres- 
ponding increase was made in the hours of cell labour when work 
was available.' 

By 1939 the position had been almost restored, and with a full shift- 
system the approximate 8-hour day was general. Then, substituting 
'war' for 'financial crisis', history repeated itself almost precisely, and 
with minor variations the foregoing will serve for a description of the 
position today: one variation would be to underline 'when work was 
available' at the end of the quotation, for in recent years, in order to 
keep the shops working, the cell-task has become almost a matter of 

Other writers on this subject have dealt with the classification sys- 
tem as an internal obstacle to the best organisation of work, but this 
and similar considerations are relevant only to the economic aspects of 
prison industry. If a prison were a factory and nothing else much might 
be more efficiently and economically done. But a prison is a prison 
first, and the proper treatment and training of the prisoners in accord- 
ance with the Statutory Rules, and the maintenance of good order 
and safe-custody, cannot be subordinated to considerations of good 

We now pass to those external considerations which affect the quality 
and quantity of the work that can be provided for prisoners; and on 
this one may begin by saying that he who wills the end may be supposed 
to will the means, and that if society, expressing its will through the 
elected legislature in statutory form, has decided that prisoners should 
be employed for 8 hours a day in useful productive work, which 
should so far as possible be such as to assist both in the character- 
formation of the prisoner inside and in fitting him to earn an honest 
living outside, then society should be prepared to modify its economic 
and social practices, so far as may be reasonable and necessary, to 
assist in securing these ends. Prison managements in general have 
not found, and do not find today, that that position has been reached: 
as Dr. Mannheim puts it, 'Nowhere else has the inconsistency between 


penological progress and real or imagined demands of national econ- 
omy become so glaringly unmasked. This is true not only of the funda- 
mental problem whether prisoners should be given work at all, but 
also of the further question of how they should be employed.' l Here 
again the principle of less eligibility is found operating in many direc- 
ions; prisoners should work, no doubt, but only in such a way that 
the product of their work does not compete with that of free workers; 
indeed, as Dr. Griinhut points out, 2 in social-economic conditions 
where work has come to be regarded not as a 'damned duty' but as a 
fundamental right, the question may even be raised of a prisoner's 
right to work if that right cannot be enjoyed by honest men at liberty; 
and where it has been proposed to give prisoners vocational training 
in a skilled trade, objection has been raised both in England 3 and 
abroad on the grounds that such training may not be available to 
honest citizens who might profit by it. It is still necessary in England to 
face fairly and openly all the implications of 'less eligibility', and of 
complaints of unfair competition by prison industries, if the intentions 
of Parliament in regard to 'the training of prisoners by work and for 
work' are to be properly fulfilled. 

One problem has been recurrently posed and left unsolved ever since 
serious attention was first given to it. In 1895 the Gladstone Committee 
said, 'Difficulty of a greater or less extent is experienced almost in every 
prison in getting a sufficiency of suitable work for the male prisoners' 
(p. 21); in 1933 the Departmental Committee said, 'The root of all 
evil in the employment of prisoners is the definite shortage of work' ; 
in 1948 Dr. Grunhut, writing not only of England, said, 'It is the over- 
whelming problem of prison management to provide penal institutions 
constantly with useful work.' The nature of these difficulties still, in 
1951, conditions the answers to questions as to what sort of work 
prisoners in English prisons should do, and how it should be found 
and organised. 

The story is not a new one: indeed, Mrs. Fry, as so often, said most 
of what needs saying about it 'The benefit which society derives 
from the employment of criminals greatly outweighs the inconvenience 
which can possibly arise to the mass of our labouring population 
from the small proportion of work done in our prisons.' 4 'My idea 
with regard to the employment of women is that it should be a regular 
thing, undertaken by Government; considering that there are so many 
to provide for; there is the Army and the Navy and so many things 
required for them; why should not Government make use of the 
prisoners?' 5 The Gladstone Committee, on the same subject, said, 

i Mannheim, p. 75. 2 Griinhut, p. 197. 

3 Report of the Departmental Committee on Employment of Prisoners, 1933, 
Part I, pp. 82-84. 

4 Whitney, p. 161. 5 Whitney, p. 167. 

WORK 185 

'This difficulty (shortage of work) has been largely added to by outside 
agitation against competition of prisoners with free labour. In conse- 
quence of the agitation, and of proceedings in the House of Commons, 
some suitable industries and in particular mat-making have been to a 
large extent given up' l : yet they accepted evidence that the conversion, 
of all prisoners from non-productive to productive labour 'would only 
increase the interference of prison with outside labour in the proportion 
of 1 to 2,500'. Dr. Griinhut, surveying the international position in 
1948, says '. . . almost throughout its whole history prison labour has 
been denounced by trade and free labour as unfair competition'. Yet 
in America, he points out, 2 'in 1923 prison-made goods reached the 
volume of 0-12 per cent of all goods manufactured in establishments 
doing business of 5,000 dollars or more.' And he adds, The economic 
loss through crime is considerable, and far surpasses the alleged detri- 
mental effects of prison labour on private enterprise. What is indispens- 
able for social readjustment must be accepted. But apart from rational 
weighing-up, men and women in prison are members of a wider com- 
munity. Neither crime nor punishment would justify forfeiture of the 
right to work.' 

The Departmental Committee of 1933 started from the propositions 
that 'Continuous and useful employment must be regarded not as a 
punishment but as an instrument of discipline and reformation. In 
order that this idea may be achieved, the first requirement is that useful 
and suitable work should be provided and that there should be plenty of 
it' (para. 128). 'But the most serious problem which the Prison Authori^ 
ties have to face is the shortage of simple work suitable for unskilled 
and short-term prisoners' (para. 122). 

As remedies for this difficulty they proposed that (1) The maximum 
amount of suitable Government work should be allocated to the 
prisons.' They did not recommend 'a compulsory system of state use 
as in certain American States' but that 'where it is known that goods 
required by Government Departments can be made satisfactorily by 
prison labour, the Prison Department should be given the opportunity 
in all cases of undertaking the work at a price based on that ruling in 
the outside market', and that in order that prison work could be planned 
ahead such orders should be given on a regular annual programme, 
with manufactures for stock of goods in regular use (133-136). 

(2) That the requirements of local authorities should be met in the 
same way as those of Government Departments (140). 

(3) 'Work for prison purposes and for Government Departments 
provides practically the entire occupation of the English prisoners 
today, and the Commissioners have hitherto been deterred by the fear 
of objection from outside manufacturers or workpeople from under- 
taking any considerable volume of outside work. 

1 Pp. 21 and 22. 2 P. 53, quoting L. N. 'Robinson, op. cit. 


'In principle the competition of prison labour with free labour is the 
same whether the articles made are for Government Departments or 
for sale in the outside market, though the effects of prison competition 
in the outside market are more obvious. We think it desirable that so 
far as possible prisoners should be employed on Government work, 
but in so far as such work may be found insufficient to keep prisoners 
fully employed we see no objection to outside work being undertaken 
subject to the conditions laid down in the Report of the Gladstone 
Committee of 1895, viz. that prison goods are not sold below the market 
price, and that every consideration is shown to the special circumstances 
of particular industries outside so as to avoid undue interference with 
wages or the employment of free labour. 

'The number of prisoners likely to be employed on such work at 
any time is so small in comparison with the outside labour market 
that the effect of their competition will be negligible provided there 
is a careful avoidance of concentration on a particular industry in a 
particular district' (141). 

(4) 'Wherever it is possible to obtain suitable land in the vicinity 
of a prison on reasonable terms we are strongly of opinion that it 
should be acquired and brought under cultivation with a view both 
to the provision of employment and to making the prisons, so far as 
possible, self-supporting in the matter of vegetables' (143). 

(5) As regards works of public utility such as drainage work, land 
reclamation, afforestation, etc., 'we are impressed by the importance in 
the existing state of unemployment of avoiding any step which might 
give to prisoners work which might otherwise be allocated to the 
unemployed. We are satisfied, however, that there is a considerable 
volume of useful work of this kind available and it seems probable that 
in many cases it will not be put in hand even as a scheme for alleviating 
unemployment. We recommend that such work should be considered 
available for prison labour in suitable cases' (144). 

The effect of these recommendations, so far as they were applied, 
and especially of the new system of industrial management instituted 
on the Committee's recommendation, was such that Dr. Griinhut, sur- 
veying the international position as it was in 1938, was able to say 
'the percentage of prisoners productively employed varies between 
74-2 in England and Wales and 43-5 in the United States, where one- 
fifth of the prisoners have no work at all. . . . England with a pre-war 
ratio of less than 10 per cent of prisoners without work, 1 comes very 

1 In 1950, in U.S.A., 'probably less than thirty per cent of the prisoners in State 
prisons and reformatories are gainfully employed' (Report of the Federal Bureau 
of Prisons, 1950, p. 3). The position in the English prisons in 1949, as stated on 
p. 233, shows that all prisoners available for work were employed. The 10 per cent 
quoted by Dr. Griinhut refers to 'ineffectives', not to unemployment among prisoners 
available for work. 

WORK 187 

near to the optimum of full employment The good record of English 

prisons not only testifies to successful labour management, but is also 
one of the beneficial results of the centralisation of administration, the 
reduction of local gaols, and the small number of remand prisoners.' 
(P. 200.) 

The war, naturally, solved all problems of underemployment in 
prisons as elsewhere. Prison industries played their full part in the 
industrial war effort, and responded magnificently to the various and 
urgent calls made on them, including in preparation for 'D Day' 
'the work of anti-rust treating, wrapping and cartoning of military 
spare parts for the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (approx. 2,000,000 
cartons).' 1 But in the post-war contraction of demand by Government 
Departments this record was of little avail. Before long the principle of 
less eligibility was ironically illustrated when English prisoners were 
refused permission to prepare a site for housing prison staff, on prison 
land, in favour of German war-prisoners ; and in their Annual Report 
for 1949 (p. 41) the Commissioners reported that, 'In the latter part of 
1949 there was a marked decline in the orders from Government 
Departments. This affected particularly the simpler types of work 
required for short-sentence prisoners, and caused a curtailment of the 
cellular work. The mat-making industry, which had been greatly 
expanded since the war, has also suffered a serious set-back through 
the competition of cheap imported mats, and much useful work has 
been lost here. There is also a shortage of more skilled work suitable 
for the training of long-term prisoners, which is particularly unfortun- 
ate at a time when the introduction of Corrective Training requires an 
increase in that class of work. There is a prospect of serious under- 
employment in the prisons in 1950, and the position is under review, 
with the Departments concerned, with a view to preventing such a 
situation and to securing the position for the future.' 

As a result of this review, a more satisfactory appreciation of the 
principles of 1933 was reached, and methods were devised for their 
practical application so far as concerned government contracting 
departments which marked a distinct advance. There was under- 
employment in 1950, but it never became so serious as had been antici- 
pated. Nevertheless, if this is the position in a period of full employment 
nationally, when the great majority of prisoners are working no more 
than 25 hours a week instead of 44, it is sufficiently clear that the pro- 
vision of useful work is still, as ever, 'the overwhelming problem of 
prison management'. 2 


Many different systems of employing prisoners have been and are 
in use in the penal systems of the world: Dr. L. N. Robinson in 1931 
1 Annual Report, 1945, p. 33. 2 See Appendix K. 


listed five as being in use in the U.S.A., and most of these, or combina- 
tions or modifications of them, may still be found in the systems of 
Europe. They are as follows. 1 

Lease System. The State contracts with a lessee to feed, clothe, 
house and guard the prisoners, subject to inspection, the lessee paying 
an agreed amount for the prisoners' labour. 

Contract System. The State keeps the prisoners but lets their labour 
to a contractor, who manages the business side and superintends the 

Piece-price System. This is a variation of the contract system under 
which the contractor pays for output by the piece or article. The 
supervision of the work is generally performed by a prison official, 
although sometimes by the contractors. The officials of the prison not 
only maintain discipline, but also dictate the daily quantity of work 

State-account System. The State enters the field of manufacturing 
on its own account . . . has the entire care and control of the convicts 
and with them conducts an ordinary factory.' 

State-use System. As in the State-account system, but manufacture 
is for use of State institutions only. The principle ... is that the State 
shall produce ... for its own consumption alone and shall not compete 
directly with the business of manufacturers employing free labour.' 

The first of these systems may be disregarded; Dr. Robinson indi- 
cated that it had virtually fallen into disuse, or had been pronounced 
illegal, in most of the States of America. The second, though it would 
be regarded as incompatible with the requirements of the English 
system, was legal in some States of America and has been used in 
Europe since the late war. 

The English system may be said to be primarily 'State-use' as above 
defined, though it should be noted that this term is sometimes applied 
also to a system whereby States are required by law to purchase certain 
manufactures of prison industries this is 'compulsory State-use' as 
considered and rejected by the Departmental Committee of 1933 
(p. 185 above), and there is no such provision in English law or practice. 
But in so far as, in a few industries and on a small scale, English 
prisons make goods for sale on the outside market, they may be said 
to operate also the State-account System. During the late war they also 
made substantial use of the Piece-price System the prisons acted as 
sub-contractors to Government contractors, who supplied the tools, 
materials and technical supervision, paying for the output on pricing 
systems agreed, usually, through the Ministry of Supply : this system 
may still, in principle, be used, and a certain number of workshops 
today are employed on doing work for outside contractors though 
entirely under prison supervision. During the war much highly skilled 
1 See Should Prisoners Work, pp. 79, 80. 

WORK 189 

work, such as assembly of radio-sets, electrical equipment for tanks 
and the like was carried out on this system. 

Somewhere between 'Piece-price' and 'Contract' falls the system, 
originated during the war and still continued, of extra-mural employ- 
ment of prisoners by farmers, public bodies and private firms in 
suitable industries. Here we have a somewhat paradoxical position. 
No system of employing prisoners is more open to abuse and has been 
more roundly condemned than the Contract System. Yet no step by 
the English administration in recent years has given more cause for 
satisfaction, both to the administration and to the interested public, 
than its moves towards a system of this type. The explanation may lie 
in the strictness of the safeguards to ensure on the one hand that no 
interest of normal labour is prejudiced, and on the other that no em- 
ployer is at any financial advantage through the employment of prison 
labour. No such labour may be employed without the prior consent 
of the local office of the Ministry of Labour, who ensure that no local 
labour is available for the job and that there is no Trade Union objec- 
tion; and every employer must pay over to the prison the full local 
rate for the job for every man-hour worked. 

But so far as concerns industrial work, the prisons must rely for 
the great bulk of their work on making what they need for themselves 
clothing, underclothing and shoes; beds and bedding; furniture and 
equipment of all kinds and on orders from other Government De- 
partments for such articles as the prisons can make. The methods of 
allocating such orders, and of extending their volume and variety to 
meet the growing shortage of work in prisons, have recently been much 
improved in consultation with all the departments concerned. 

The responsibility for finding the orders and organising production 
in workshops and farms falls to the Director of Industries in the Prison 
Commission. He is assisted by a staff of Industrial Supervisors and a 
Supervisor of Farms and Gardens, with other technical staff, at the 
Head Office, and by Industrial Managers at the larger prisons and groups 
of smaller prisons. 

In their Annual Report for 1949, the Commissioners reported that of 
a daily average population of 20,043 l there were 16,932 available for 
employment and 3,111 non-effectives, i.e. untried who did not choose 
to work, sick, under punishment, in transit, etc. The labour available 
was utilised as follows: 

(1) Domestic Services . 3,618 

(2) Farms and gardens . 538 

(3) Building Services . 1,622 

(4) Manufactures . 10,158 

(5) Outside work. . 996 

1 This and the subsequent figures include Borstal inmates; the figures for prisons 
are not published separately. 


A survey of these categories one by one will give a complete picture of 
the work now done in prisons. 

Domestic services include much more than the unskilled work of 
cleaning the prison and working in the grounds. There are parties 
doing fairly skilled and interesting work in the kitchens and laundries: 
the latter over a period of years have been gradually centralised and 
modernised, and are conducted either by a civilian or a prison officer 
who has been through a course of training in laundry methods. Where 
there is a women's section they usually do the laundry work. Some of 
the larger power laundries take in work from other Government 

There is also in this category a number of individual jobs as orderlies, 
stokers and the like which are usually assigned to 'red-band men' who 
are allowed to move about the prison and do their work without con- 
stant supervision. 

The amount of work provided by the gardens varies from prison to 
prison. All have flower-beds or vegetable gardens in any cultivable 
space within the walls, and a few have market-gardens outside the main 
wall. At Dartmoor and Parkhurst there are substantial mixed farms, 
but farming is not carried out at the local or regional prisons except on 
the land reclaimed at New Hall Camp, Wakefield. It is often suggested 
that it would be beneficial to extend the employment >of prisoners on 
farms, but there are certain practical objections: local prisons are in 
towns, and it would be necessary to buy land at some distance for 
cultivation; it is to be assumed that most cultivable land is already 
under cultivation by farmers who would not necessarily be willing to 
be dispossessed, while the Ministry of Agriculture would require to be 
convinced that the interests of food production would be served by such 
a change; and it would require some hundreds of acres, with substantial 
capital expenditure in buildings and machinery, to employ more than 
a handful of men except for seasonal periods. 

The employment provided at all prisons by the Works Department is 
various, interesting and often skilled. Except for an occasional special- 
ised job the maintenance of the buildings and equipment of the prisons, 
and the erection of all new buildings and installations (including 
electrical installations) within the walls is carried out entirely by 
prisoners working under the engineers and tradesmen of the Works 
Department. Considerable works have also been undertaken outside the 
walls, including the erection of staff quarters 1 and such substantial 
buildings as the Imperial Training School at Wakefield and the Borstal 
Institution at Lowdham Grange. The provision of doors, window- 
frames and other wooden and metal fittings for the Works Department 

1 At the end of 1949 over 800 additional quarters had been completed or were 
under construction since the war, but the greater part of this large programme was 
completed by contractors. 

WORK 191 

provides skilled work for the carpenters, joiners and metal shops on 
the industrial side. At several prisons where there are large new building 
programmes the Works Department maintain training classes in brick- 
laying and painting from which men pass out to practical work on the 
job. During and since the war women have also been extensively 
employed on painting and decorations : the whole of the redecoration 
of Askham Grange, including a good deal of such complicated detail 
as may be expected in an Edwardian mansion, was recently completed 
by the women with equal satisfaction and skill. 

The list of manufactures in Appendix 6 to the Annual Report of the 
Prison Commissioners for 1949 includes 36 different trades, and of 
over 11,150 persons engaged in them rather less than half are making 
or repairing mailbags : the implications of this have already been dis- 
cussed. Other trades in this unskilled category, such as bed-making, 
sack-making and rope-making, employ some 250; but the largest 
group, of over 650, under the heading Pickers & Sorters, is engaged for 
the most part in the transitory post-war work of stripping and sorting 
into its component parts surplus government stores of many kinds from 
telephone equipment to bandages useful work and not uninteresting, 
though of little constructive or vocational value. This is the pathetic 
obverse of the high and strenuous days of 1944, when prisoners worked 
long hours packing such stores for the invasion of Europe. 

First of the semi-skilled trades is the making of coir mats door 
mats, gymnasium mats, floor-matting, small coloured mats. These 
are made either on frames or looms ; the methods are not those of an 
outside factory, but the work is harder, more skilful, and more interest- 
ing than sewing canvas. After the late war this industry was rapidly 
expanded to meet both the increased prison population and the in- 
creased demand, and in 1949 employed nearly 1,000. Today, much of 
this market has been lost to foreign competition, and many mat-shops 
are dwindling to stagnation. Basket-making and brush-making are two 
valuable trades employing over 230, while knitting, shoe-making and 
shoe-repairing absorb over 370. Needleworkers and dressmakers (some 
420), mostly women, include all grades of work from unskilled to skilled, 
as do over 420 tailors : between them they make and repair all the cloth- 
ing, both under and outer, for the use of men and women prisoners, 
and in some shops do high-grade work in making clothing for other 
Government departments. 

Of the more skilled trades the largest are the carpenters (245); the 
metal-workers moulders, smiths, fitters and tinsmiths (118); and 
weavers (126), who make all the cloth, calico, sheeting, blankets, etc. 
required for prison dress and bedding. There is a printing shop at 
Maidstone where most of the forms and internal publications of the 
department are printed. Over 100 prisoners are also engaged in book- 
binding; this is at present confined to the needs of prison libraries, 


but arrangements have recently been made for prisoners to undertake 
the binding of Government papers for the official libraries, which will 
provide a skilled and interesting occupation for a number of long-term 

The last group of workers to be considered is those who work outside 
the walls, not on the prison lands and buildings but on work of public 
value through or for public authorities. This development was first 
described by the Commissioners in their Annual Report for 1942-44 as 
follows : 

The work done for private farmers by boys from the Usk Borstal 
Institution was described in the previous report. Since that time the 
original idea has developed in a remarkable manner. In co-operation 
with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the local County 
War Agricultural Executive Committees in 26 counties, men and 
women, boys and girls, from nearly every prison and Borstal Institution 
in the country have been regularly working on farms far from the 
prisons and have made a valuable contribution to the country's food 
production. The quality and quantity of their work has received high 
praise from their employers, and though only token supervision was 
provided by the prisons, escapes and unfortunate incidents were rare 
in proportion to the numbers employed. Wage Board rates are paid to 
the Commissioners in all cases, the workers receiving the normal 
payments under the prison or Borstal earnings schemes. The approxim- 
ate revenue was 67,500 for 1943 and 92,000 for 1944. 

'Further work by outside parties was arranged with the Timber 
Control Section of the Ministry of Supply. These operated in timber 
yards and colliery pit prop sites, and even unloaded barges in London 
Docks. A small number of selected men were allowed to work in power 
saw mills. As in the case of land workers they had the minimum of 
supervision. The arrangements for pay were the same as for land 
workers. The approximate revenue was 30,000 in 1943 and 28,000 in 

In 1945 the daily average numbers employed in this way were 985, 
and this sort of level was maintained in the next three years. In 1948 
the Commissioners reported that work was being done in this way in 
agriculture (through the County Committees); river drainage; laying 
of gas and water mains and drains for housing; and at store-depots, 
etc., for the Service Departments: 120,560 was credited to the Com- 
missioners foe wages, and 407,500 hours were worked free of charge for 
other Government Departments. 

Two things were perhaps surprising about these developments : first, 
the high reputation earned by prison labour, which was always in strong 
demand and usually described by farmers as the best labour they had 

WORK 193 

had from any source; second, the very small number of abscondings or 
misbehaviour in relation to the number of man-hours worked and a 
high proportion of these workers have been prisoners of the Ordinary 
Class. A typical report from one Governor, quoted by the Com- 
missioners in their Annual Report for 1948 (p. 73) was as follows: 

'During most of the year 30 prisoners were employed, in three parties, 
on agricultural work, land drainage etc. for the Local Agricultural 
Executive Committees. During November a further party of 14 pris- 
oners was started on potato picking. I have received several letters from 
farmers, for whom these parties were working, speaking very highly of 
their work, conduct and industry. One such letter is reproduced below 
for information : 


'A party of prisoners working for the A.E.C. have just completed 
the picking of 12 acres of potatoes on the farm and my father and I 
felt that we could not let the way they did the job pass unnoticed. 

They tackled the job wholeheartedly, quickly and thoroughly, 
and it was a great pleasure to see the cheerful spirit in which they set 
about their work and were always willing to lend a helping hand, 
besides being so well mannered and well behaved. 

Yours faithfully. 

'This type of work is appreciated by the men and the privilege of 
working outside the prison is seldom abused. During the year under 
review there have been no absconders from any of these parties.' 

What was not surprising was the remarkable benefit not only to the 
physical and mental health of the men so employed, and to their morale, 
but to the general morale of the prison: competition to get into an out- 
side party was keen, and only to be earned by proof of trustworthiness 
there was no better culmination to a system of training in self-respon- 
sibility, for it must be emphasised that the supervision by one officer 
of a dozen or twenty men spread over a tract of farmland could only be 
nominal. Many stories to illustrate this are recorded: a party whose 
lorry broke down, and remained for some hours in the dark while the 
officer went to see about repairs another caught by fog and benighted 
as the guests of a golf-club another party (recidivists) lost four of its 
members and reported them as absconders; shortly the Governor 
received a 'transferred trunk-call' from one of them asking to be 
fetched they had strayed to pick chestnuts and missed the bus! 

There have been variations of the normal procedure of work in 

parties of 10-20 going out daily from the prison with an officer. At 

Leyhill, following a Borstal precedent, selected men go out singly on 

bicycles to work for local farmers, and when this valuable form of 

E.P.B.S. 13 


training was temporarily discontinued when local labour was found to 
be available, the farmers publicly voiced their disappointment. 

Another variation was the location of a party on the site, in camp 
conditions, to carry out a specific job. This is a method of which much 
valuable use may yet be made in suitable conditions, as may be seen 
from the following description by the Commissioners of their first 
essay in this mode of operation. 

'A development at Stafford Prison during the year provides a classic 
example of the use of prison labour to the maximum advantage of the 
public, both direct, in that it gets necessary work done which would in 
all probability not get done otherwise, and indirect, in that it provides 
precisely that form of training most likely to lead to the social re- 
adaptation of the prisoner and therefore to the protection of the public 
which is the purpose of imprisonment. This might also have been said 
of the employment of women in hospitals, and of all other schemes for 
employing prisoners outside the prison on work of public importance 
where normal labour interests are not prejudiced. 

'The Governor, in his Annual Report, describes this scheme as 

'Hanbury and the Camp. 

'In November 1944 an explosion took place in the R.A.F. Bomb 
Store at Fauld, near Burton-on-Trent, which resulted in the loss of 
some 100 lives and the devastation of some 350 acres of the best 
grazing land in the County. 

'In February 1945 I was asked to provide a small party to do some 
drainage work there and on March 14th the first party of men started 
work in a setting of appalling desolation. 

'I do not think the full significance of what their work really 
meant came to them until 1 took the party to a memorial service to 
the 18 who were still missing from the explosion, when they realised 
that this was more than a job of just clearing up a mess and that it had 
deeper possibilities for each man on the job. Much has been done 
since then, and by the end of the year some 100 acres had been 
restored and were under cultivation, some miles of fencing and 
ditching had been completed, and a start had been made on a large 
afforestation scheme. 

'With the progress of the work the Air Ministry were good enough 
to provide and the Commissioners to sanction a Camp, and on July 
23rd the first party of men moved into a series of huts some two miles 
from the job. At the end of the year 36 men were living in the Camp 
and 80 others were coming out from Stafford daily to the working 

'Here in the Camp are all the needs of civilian training met under 

WORK 195 

rational conditions, from the huts to the attendance at the village 
Church at Hanbury each Sunday evening as part of an ordinary 
congregation. Freed from the prison machine men behave naturally 
and the good can be sifted from the bad. I hope to see the whole of 
my working-out parties living under similar conditions. 

'Those 100 acres of green pasture and fertile ploughland, set against 
the 200 acres of remaining devastation reminiscent of the Ypres 
salient in 1918, were indeed to the Commissioners, as to the Governor 
and his staff, a source both of pride and of inspiration.' l 

In 1948 the Commissioners reported that There is a tendency for 
this employment to decline owing to the use of European Voluntary 
Workers, Government efforts to encourage youths to take up land work 
as a career and also the slight rise in unemployment in some districts. 
The Commissioners are taking such steps as are open to them to 
maintain the volume of this valuable form of employment.' 2 Un- 
happily this tendency continued during 1949, when the number fell to 

On occasion by arrangement with the Ministry of Labour extra- 
mural parties have been employed on suitable work for private em- 
ployers, e.g. quarrying: this differs in principle from other such work 
only in that it is not work for a public authority. 3 


In recent years the training value of work has been increased by 
the installation at certain prisons of vocational training classes in 
skilled trades. These had for some time been active in the regional 
prisons at Wakefield and Maidstone, which during the war discharged 
hundreds of men direct to skilled work in the engineering trades for 
which they had been trained in the prisons. Later an engineering course 
was started at Wormwood Scrubs, and since the war courses in mould- 
ing, weaving, bricklaying and painting and decoration have been 
started at Wakefield and Maidstone. Similar courses have been or will 
be opened at all regional or corrective training prisons, including among 
other trades taught carpentry, black-smithing, shoe-making and tin- 
smithing. All these courses are based on the Ministry of Labour syllabus 
for civilian training courses, last for 26 weeks, and include both 
theoretical and practical training under skilled civilian instructors 
recruited from the trades. There are also courses in bricklaying and 
painting and decorating at certain local and central prisons where 
the men after training can be employed in these trades by the Works 

1 Annual Report for 1945, para. 78. This work is now virtually complete. 

2 Annual Report for 1948, p. 37. 3 See Appendix K. 


Department. In 1949 the Commissioners reported that there were 24 
classes in operation for adult prisoners engaging 320 men. 

At the end of 1950 it was decided to make a fresh approach to this 
question of industrial training. Instead of having the training courses 
quite separate from the production shops of the same trade, they will 
now be amalgamated, and instead of a separate six months course each 
man selected for a trade will get 'on-the-job' training over a longer 
period. He will begin with 10 weeks' training before he starts on pro- 
duction, so that he knows the use of tools and materials: the rest of the 
present 26-week syllabus will not be lost, but will be given at intervals 
by withdrawing a certain number of men from the production end of 
the shop for a short period of special training, practical or theoretical. 

It is unfortunate that, despite careful enquiry, it has not so far proved 
possible to find trades in which it would be both useful and practicable 
to train women in prison : at Askham Grange, however, the work is so 
arranged as to give the women a complete course of training in the 
domestic arts, each woman doing a period of training in the kitchen, 
the laundry, the sewing-room, the gardens and the care of the house, 
with periodical examinations by the Local Education Authority in 
cookery and housewifery. In the evenings there are classes in fine dress- 
making, toy-making, leather-work and other handicrafts, and many 
women are known to have established flourishing little businesses on 
the basis of a craft learned in the prison. 

From time to time the question is raised whether men who have been 
trained in a trade can be placed in that trade on discharge, and if , not 
whether the training is really worth while. There can be no general 
answer to the first part of the question: a prison course is not recognised 
by the Trade Unions as qualifying a man for entry to the trade as a 
skilled worker, nor as counting towards the apprenticeship of a 
younger man, and on occasion hostility has been shown by par- 
ticular Unions both to the principle of giving such training in prisons 
and to the employment of such men in their trades after discharge: 
nevertheless, many men trained in prison have found work in their 
trades, especially where the local Employment Exchange manager 
understands the difficulties and co-operates in removing them. Even if 
they do not, the training is still worth while; it wholly enlists a man's 
interest ; to acquire a new skill is a valuable piece of character forma- 
tion, making for increased self-control and self-respect; and at least 
it gives the man a skill which he may be able to turn to advantage after 


Once work is treated as part of the training and not as part of the 
punishment, it follows that prisoners should work fast and work well. 

WORK 197 

True, a certain level of industry can be maintained by the discipline of 
fear, but there is a wide gap between the quality and quantity of work 
a man will do to escape punishment, and what he will do when doing 
his best: and to get the best out of a man requires the discipline not of 
fear but of interest in prison this will not always come from the 
nature of the work itself, but it may well come from normal economic 
self-interest if suitable incentives can be offered. 

This question has been approached from many angles. In some 
countries hunger has been used as the spur: the basic ration is bare and 
unappetising, but may be supplemented by a variety of additional food 
to be bought with earnings. At the other extreme lies the conception 
of an 'economic wage', out of which a prisoner will keep both himself 
and his family, maintain his insurances, compensate those he has 
wronged, and do as he will with the balance if any. This has advan- 
tages in principle, as making both for self-respect and self-responsibility, 
as well as for interest and industry at work. But imagination and reason 
alike recoil from the prospect of trying to realise this conception. It 
is difficult to visualise a system of this sort which would not in practice 
be wholly artificial and unrelated to actual economic conditions, honey- 
combed with anomaly and inequity, almost impossible to administer, 
and unduly costly to the taxpayer : nor, in the opinion at least of the 
present writer, wouM it be likely to produce in practice the advantages 
attributed to it in theory. This view would appear to have been shared 
by the Departmental Committee of 1933, which briefly considered the 
idea and rejected it, adding that their enquiries showed that in certain 
countries where 'in theory wages are paid on the basis of outside scales, 
in practice the prisoner receives only a much smaller sum arbitrarily 
fixed by the prison authority' (para. 166). 1 

In England, at least after the Act of 1865, the only incentive to 
industry was the marks system, under which both 'stage' and 're- 
mission' were earned on the basis of a daily allocation of marks which 
in theory were proportioned to the amount of industry shown. But in 
the course of years the award of marks became a time-wasting formal- 
ity, and during the late war it was abolished as a measure of economy. 
The prisoner was then credited with full remission from the beginning, 
and if he had to be reported for idleness or other misconduct some of 
it might be forfeited the discipline of fear. But before the war other 
methods had been tried : the Departmental Committee expressed itself 
(para. 167) as 'greatly impressed by the good results of the experimental 
systems of payment in force at Wakefield and Lowdham, and we think 
that the extension of a system of payment to other establishments on 

1 See however para. 6. of Resolution II (3) of The Hague Congress (Appendix F). 
In view of the recommendation of the Congress, and of a similar recommendation 
by the Scottish Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offences in 1949, this question 
is further considered in Appendix K. 


similar lines should be made.' Before the war this system had been 
extended to all establishments, and the present scheme has developed 
out of it with little change of principle. 

Although the earnings scheme has in fact acted, and still acts, as a 
considerable incentive to industry, it may be said at once both that it 
has other purposes and justifications, and that it is open to many valid 
criticisms, the nature of which reflects the difficulties that would be 
met in attempting to apply a system based on economic wage fates in 
outside industry. Try as one may to 'normalise' prison life, the fact 
remains that a prison is a wholly artificial community, in which the 
economic conditions of outside life can no more easily be reproduced 
than its social conditions. Rightly or wrongly, it is a basic principle of 
the English system that, subject to such variations and privileges as 
may be accorded to defined groups in accordance with stated principles 
known to all prisoners, every prisoner should be treated alike in respect 
of the material conditions of life and the grant of specific concessions 
or privileges : absolute fairness as between man and man is the essence 
of successful management of a community where small things count 
for so much. Again, a prisoner is not free to choose his work, or to 
change it when he wishes: the management, on the other hand, is 
bound to employ him for so long as he is there, however stupid, 
malicious or incompetent he may be and a considerable number are 
virtually unemployable. Yet another peculiar feature of prison life is that 
skill in normal prison trades, which may result in high output, will 
usually result from experience born of long years in prison the novice 
for all his effort will never make so much: and as for specialist trades, 
a serious offender may have a trade at his finger-tips that he happens 
to be able to follow in prison, while a minor offender has another 
trade which he cannot follow in prison. These are random examples 
of the many conditions peculiar to a prison which inevitably create 
anomalies in any system of payment for work. Two other considerations 
may be mentioned. First, wages may be expressed in terms of cash, but 
the true currency is the tobacco into which the great majority at once 
convert the cash: the real value of earnings varies exactly with the 
price of tobacco. Second, when the value of a prisoner's work is not 
enough to pay the cost of keeping him in prison, any sum paid to him 
is by way of an unconvenanted benefit, the cost of which to the taxpayer 
should not become unduly high. 

The system at present in force is as follows. Work is divided into 
what can be measured and therefore paid at piece-rates, and what can- 
not be measured and must therefore be paid at flat-rates. The majority 
of prisoners, including many skilled tradesmen, are employed in flat- 
rate parties; the scheme must therefore seek to preserve an approxima- 
tion to equality as between the two rates of earning. 

All prisoners for the first eight weeks of their sentences are paid the 

WORK 199 

'beginners' rate' of lOd. a week. Thereafter, piece-workers go on to a 
basic rate of Is. 8d. a week for a minimum output of approved quality: 
sums in excess of 15-. 8d. may be earned by increased output according to 
the rates fixed in the different trades, but though there is no ceiling for 
piece-rate earnings the rates are fixed in the expectation that they will 
produce an overall average of about 3s. a week an exceptional 
worker may earn 45-., but more would be rare. Flat-rate workers 
after the initial eight weeks go into grade C at Is. M. a week, and 
from this semi-skilled and particularly useful men may be promoted 
to grade B in which they can earn supplements up to Is. 3d. a week on 
the basis of the party officer's assessment of their skill and effort. 
Fully skilled tradesmen placed in grade A may earn from 3s. to 49. 
on the same basis. Prisoners who through no fault of their own are 
unable to work are paid Wd. a week. 

While it is the expressed intention of the scheme that workers should 
be paid according to their merits, and that payments should be related 
rather to genuine endeavour than to dexterity, it is difficult to realise 
these intentions in practice: flat-rates may tend to become automatic, 
and piece-rates to be proportioned to quantity rather than to quality 
or effort. Certainly piece-rates have had a remarkable effect on output, 
but it is a minority who beyond the original eight weeks are so 
employed: the flat-rates, if flexibly and intelligently administered, 
should have the effect of keeping the workers 'on their toes', but 
cannot of course influence output in the same way as piece-rates. 

It may well be that over all the true value of earnings lies rather in 
their contribution to the training scheme as a whole than in their 
direct stimulus to industry. It makes for self-responsibility and self- 
respect that a man should have some reward for his effort, that he 
should have something to spend in his pocket and have to think about 
how he should spend it. There is a humanising influence too: many a 
father and mother in prison regularly save their earnings to buy 
chocolates for their children. Certainly it was the general opinion of 
Governors that the revision of the scheme in 1949, with its increased 
rate of earnings and closer assimilation of flat-rates to piece-rates, 
had a beneficial effect not only on output but on morale. Finally, it is 
not to be denied that another of the, so to speak, uncovenanted benefits 
of an earnings scheme is to place a potent disciplinary sanction in the 
hands of authority, for there is nothing that touches the recalcitrant 
more than stoppage of earnings, which means stoppage of tobacco. 

The criticism may well be made that the level of earnings under 
this scheme is too low even that it is derisory. But to assess the validity 
of this argument, it is necessary to establish some criterion by which 
the suitability of any level can be judged. There is no contract of 
service and no legal entitlement. No ordinary economic considerations 
apply. The prisoner, and as may be necessary his family also, are 


maintained at the public expense, and it is unlikely that the product of 
the prisoner's work approaches that expense in value. Any payment at 
all is by way of an act of grace, and its purpose must be considered in 
the more general light indicated above rather than in relation to 
economic considerations. The conclusion would seem to be that the 
least amount necessary to effect that purpose is the most that the tax- 
payer should be asked to pay. 

However that may be, since in fact the average prisoner has only a 
shilling or two to dispose of each week, his normal disposition will be 
to spend it, and arrangements are made to ensure that he or she shall 
have a reasonable range of choice in the weekly shopping. Every 
prison has a canteen, in which are displayed for sale tobacco, sweets, 
jams and pickles, hair-cream, cosmetics and such other articles as 
may be in demand. 

Before leaving the question of industrial conditions in prisons, it 
may be mentioned that all workshops are inspected to secure com- 
pliance with the Factory Acts as to health and safety, and that prisoners 
are fully compensated for industrial injury (see p. 221), 


<r | THROUGHOUT history the better part of what has been done for 
I prisoners beyond the maintenance of a marginal existence and 

JL the provision of work originated in pastoral work. Education 
and welfare work in prison even more than in the world at large 
are a secularisation of tasks undertaken originally by the Church and 
her ministers. The prison chaplain's original importance was that he 
was the one neutral force in an otherwise impersonal and repressive 
regime.' 1 This statement is true both of the historical development of 
education and welfare in English prisons and of their present practice: 
all the matters dealt with in this chapter fall, in principle, within 
'the Chaplain's Department', though developments in spheres other 
than that of religion tend increasingly and necessarily to their 'secular- 
isation'. As more importance is given to education and libraries, it 
becomes increasingly difficult in the larger or more specialised prisons 
for the Chaplain to manage them without detraction from his first 
duty the spiritual welfare of the prisoners. 

Nor is the Chaplain today the only 'neutral force' in a prison regime. 
The normal agencies of society are active in all the prisons, so that 
education becomes the business of the Local Education Authority, 
and the library that of the County or City Public Library, while the 
Prison Visitors represent the generalised good-will of the community. 

This dichotomy is now carried into the Head Office organisation. 
The Assistant Commissioner (Education and Welfare) is responsible 
to the Board for all secular aspects of the work of 'the Chaplain's 
Department' in prisons and Borstals. In matters of religion and of the 
organisation and work of Ministers of religion the Board receives the 
advice and reports of the Chaplain Inspector. 


It is not enough that Statutory Rules should require that all the 
formal necessities of the practice of religion be at a prisoner's disposal 

i Griinhut, p. 253. 


a Minister of his denomination, a^chapel, a regular service, books of 
devotion and instruction in his cell, pastoral visits and even the right 
on good grounds to change his religious denomination. All this is 
ensured, and whether the offender wishes it or not at least he will find 
his feet more firmly set on this road in prison than in any other situation 
in which he is likely to find himself. But whether he will follow it, and 
in what spirit, and to what end, will depend on more than this. If a 
Minister is to preach Christ in prison, the whole ethos of the prison 
should sustain and justify his work. Nor are the purposes of English 
prisons dissonant from an aspiration to this condition, however far 
they may, at times and places, fall short in practice. Let us now consider 
how they are applied to the particular questions of religious practice 
and instruction. 

The care taken in the selection of full-time Chaplains, particularly 
in order to preserve their freshness and zeal, has already been described 
(Chapter 6), and the more numerous body of part-time Chaplains 
and Ministers of other denominations than the Established Church 
bring to the work no less devotion and interest. In the larger prisons 
the Chaplains are assisted by Church Army Evangelists, on a full-time 
basis, selected by the Church Army and changed from time to time: 
their work is invaluable on every side of the Chaplain's department. 

Prison chapels vary in the possibilities they offer of providing an 
inspiring centre for the spiritual life of the prison. Many are perhaps as 
beautiful as the average Victorian parish church, others are neutral, 
some an affront to beauty and piety alike. A real effort is being made 
to bring the decorations, furniture and fittings up to the level of their 
purpose sometimes with outstanding success but this programme 
will take some years to complete. The officers are no longer placed on 
high seats facing the prisoners, and though they are definitely there on 
duty and not as voluntary members of the congregation, this marks 
at least an advance from the chapel of Walnut Street Prison, Phila- 
delphia, where the first preacher in 1790 is said to have been protected 
by a guard with a lighted torch beside a loaded cannon! l 

In most prisons there is a separate Roman Catholic chapel, and in a 
few a Jewish synagogue. It can only be deplored that the absence of 
any other suitable hall makes it necessary in most prisons to use the 
chapel for such secular entertainment as is provided. 

The Rules require the Chaplain to conduct Divine Service for the 
prisoners of the Church of England at least once on every Sunday, on 
Christmas Day and Good Friday, and 'such celebrations of Holy 
Communion and such services on weekdays as may be arranged'. 
Prison Ministers conduct Divine Service for prisoners of their denomin- 
ations at convenient times. There is, therefore, no question that every 
prisoner has the opportunity of attending a service once a week : what 

* Grunhut, p. 257. 


is still to some extent in question is how far he should be compelled to 
take advantage of it. The arguments against compulsory worship are 
strong, and have prevailed more completely elsewhere than in our 
prisons: here opinion has been divided, the balance falling hitherto 
in favour of a compromise under which all must attend the Sunday 
morning services unless they have formally 'opted out' with the Gover- 
nor's consent. Thus no-one is compelled to attend against his con- 
science, but it is not open to a man who has not opted out to decide 
on any Sunday that he would rather do something else. 

There is usually a voluntary service on Sunday afternoons and 
another during the week: sometimes the Sunday afternoon service is 
replaced by a suitable concert or band performance. The mid-week 
service is held after work in the evening, except in a few prisons where 
at present staff shortages preclude this, and it has to be held in the 
morning. These are usually well attended. 

The Chaplains regularly celebrate Holy Communion, and the major- 
ity prepare candidates for confirmation and arrange for Confirmation 
Services in the prison chapels. Some Chaplains however take the view 
that it is better, after preparing a candidate, to recommend him to 
his parish priest on discharge: they believe this to be a better test of a 
man's sincerity, and a safeguard against a sort of opportunist formalism 
known as 'prison religion'. This manifestation may be more emotional 
than spiritual, but at least it does no harm: what is more dangerous is 
the hypocritical approach which looks for some material advantage 
from playing up to the Chaplain not always perhaps so naive as that 
of the candidate for confirmation who, on being told that he would 
be given a course of preparation, replied 'Why, Chaplain, /don't need 
no preparation! I've been confirmed three times already Borstal, 
Dartmoor, and Wormwood Scrubs!' 

There is no prescribed form of Service: each Chaplain, on the basis 
of the liturgy of the Church of England, seeks in his own way to bring 
beauty, variety and conviction into the different forms : it is common 
to seek freshness by inviting an outside clergyman to take the Service 
now and then. There are also occasional Mission Services, and the 
Film Mission conducted by the Rev. W. Upright of the Methodist 
Church has often been welcomed. Since the war it has become a 
general practice, either in place of or as well as one of the voluntary 
services, to have a 'Chaplain's Hour' when questions are answered and 
points of doctrine and ritual explained and discussed. And some Chap- 
lains, realising that the minds of most of their congregation are virtually 
a blank on any question of Christian practice or belief, start patiently 
at the beginning with classes of elementary instruction. In the end the 
Chaplain's Annual Report usually states that his congregation is 
encouragingly reverent, attentive and especially in the North 
harmonious, and it may well be right to believe that whatever a man's 


motives his presence once a week in this place and this atmosphere 
may give him something of lasting value. 

In several Borstals and open prisons, where there is no chapel, the 
inmates go to the parish church as ordinary members of the congre- 
gation. All the Chaplains concerned find much good in this. The 
prisoners feel that they are taking part in a normal activity of the 
community in which they share like anyone else, and many realise 
perhaps for the first time that corporate worship is a normal activity, 
in which they can go on sharing after their release, and not a peculiar 
feature of prison life. They will not be shy of entering a church. And 
it is pleasant to learn how they are welcomed and made to feel at 
home by the congregations. 

Music in chapel presents less difficulty than might be supposed with 
a congregation of this sort, thanks to the devotion of organists, choir- 
masters and Chaplains. An organ, or at worst a harmonium, is pro- 
vided, and the central and regional prisons at least seem to be fortunate 
in finding a succession of competent organists and choirmasters 
among their prisoners, though usually this work is done by a local 
gentleman for a small a surprisingly small fee. The prison choir 
often forms the basis of a musical society in the prison. 

Apart from prayer-books and hymn-books for use in chapel, the 
Rules require that, so far as practicable, every prisoner shall have 
available for his personal use 'such of the Scriptures and books of 
religious observance and instruction recognised for his denomination 
as are accepted by the Commissioners for use in prisons'. For Protest- 
ants, the present application of this Rule is conditioned to some 
extent by war experience. Under the Rules then in force, a Bible was 
provided in every cell as a normal piece of cell equipment, and was 
so regarded and treated by most of the prisoners indeed it seemed 
that many, in the general shortage of paper, used it principally as a 
source of cigarette and toilet paper. When this situation was taken in 
hand, all the mutilated Bibles were withdrawn, and a new system was 
instituted. Chaplains were asked to give each prisoner personally a 
New Testament at his reception interview, and to tell him that if later 
he wished for a complete Bible he might come and ask for one: if a 
prisoner does not wish to have the Testament it is not pressed on him, 
and his refusal is noted. In addition to the Scriptures, the Chaplain 
gives to Church of England prisoners who will profit by them suitable 
books from 'the Chaplain's Library', and for prisoners of other 
denominations devotional and instructional books are allowed from 
lists agreed between the Commissioners and the church authorities. 
The general effect of the present practice is that Scriptures and other 
devotional books are treated with respect : it is no longer a matter for 
pleased surprise to find a complete Bible in a cell, for it is there because 
the prisoner wants to have it there to read. 


Many Chaplains feel that much of their most valuable and rewarding 
work is done not in the chapel but in the cells, or wherever they may 
find opportunity for quiet private talks with those who can be helped. 
This work is naturally selective the Chaplain sees every prisoner on 
reception, but there is no regulation visit to all and sundry thereafter. 
Indeed in the active evening life of many prisons it becomes increasingly 
difficult to make opportunities for these talks, though the Chaplain 
may make his influence felt and valued, by being about and accessible 
during periods of associated activity. 


Prison Visitors started with Elizabeth Fry and her Quaker Ladies, 
and though after her time they did not last long, the idea was not dead. 
Sir E. du Cane must have allowed some limited revival, for the Glad- 
stone Committee reported (para. 33) that 'the governor of the female 
Convict Prison was of the decided opinion that lady visitors to female 
prisoners did good' : and they evidently contemplated an extension of 
the system, and not only for women, for in discussing the necessity 
for 'adequate individual attention' and for 'power to give or obtain 
for an individual prisoner that guidance, advice or help which at such 
a crisis in his life may make a priceless change in his intentions or 
disposition', they thought that 'under proper rules and regulations 
outside helpers could be brought in to supplement the work of the 
prison staff . . . There are many men and women . . . who by training 
and temperament are amply competent to render valuable assistance' 
(para. 27)' 

Although it was not until 1922 that the Commissioners began to 
develop the full implications of this idea, from the beginning of the 
century there was a great extension of Visitors to women. In 1901 the 
Lady Visitors Association (later the National Association of Visitors to 
Women Prisoners) was constituted under the presidency of Adeline, 
Duchess of Bedford, and first under her guidance and later under that 
of Lady Ampthill, the lady members did valuable work at all prisons 
for women. Visitors to men prisoners started in 1922, and in 1924 
followed the example of their women colleagues by forming the 
National Association of Prison Visitors. The two Associations worked 
side by side for some twenty years in happy collaboration, but in 1944 
a marriage was arranged and the N.A.P.V. (as we shall hereafter call 
it), with a Women's Committee, now manages the affairs of all the 
Prison Visitors. The Association has a branch in each prison, with a 
local Secretary, and manages its affairs centrally through the good 
will of those members who, by election to office, voluntarily shoulder 
an administrative burden on top of their work in the prisons : it keeps 
its members in touch by a monthly News-letter, and by an annual 


general meeting which is devoted in part to the business of the Associa- 
tion and in part to discussion of matters of interest with the Com- 
missioners, who attach real value to views based not on theory but on 
knowledge of the problems of the individual prisoner and the ways 
in which imprisonment affects him. The Commissioners reported that 
in 1949 there were some 720 men and women Visitors engaged in this 
valuable social service, organised in 39 Branches. 

Perhaps at this point we should stop to consider why this service is 
valuable, and how it fits into the general scheme of training. We should 
remember first that, except in the regional training prisons and to a 
certain extent in the later stages of a long sentence, the normal fate 
of an Ordinary Class prisoner is to be locked in his cell by 5 p.m., and 
unless it is his night for a class he may not see anybody to speak to 
again till he is unlocked next morning. Even those out in association 
will usually be locked up by 7 p.m. This is a bleak and lonely period 
for many, since not all are capable of concentrated reading, and the 
cell task is monotonous and easily disposed of by the experienced 
prisoner. It is at this time that a visit from someone from the outside 
world, quite unconnected with the prison staff someone to talk and 
listen l about ordinary matters of everyday interest, to take an interest 
in his family, perhaps to help him to understand how he has gone wrong 
and to discuss the future may not only prevent the prisoner from 
solitary brooding over real or fancied grievances, but may actively 
direct his thoughts in profitable directions, give him fresh hopes and 
interests, and assist to restore his self-respect by letting him see that 
someone thinks it worth while to come and talk to him and take an 
interest in his affairs. 

There is a considerable value in this last aspect, which is well assessed 
by Mr. John Watson when he says, 'The visitor's position is that of 
one man paying a friendly call on another and he is anxious to show 
himself in that light from the beginning. Prison visitors are sometimes 
called the 'unofficial visitors' and there is more meaning in the adjective 
than a mere distinction between the voluntary workers and the official 
panel of visiting justices. The deeper significance of the word 'un- 
official' makes its most obvious appeal to the prisoner himself. He knows 
that the visitor has no official status, is unpaid and comes to the prison 
because he wants to and for no other reason.' 2 In short, the visitor 
provides that element of social conversation which is necessary to the 
ordinary life of most of us; he restores and confirms the prisoner's 
sense of community with what is good and valuable; he refreshes his 
mind with topics outside the stagnant and often unhealthy flow of 

1 'Mathilde Wrede, the Finnish pioneer of prison welfare, when asked what she 
told the prisoners, replied, "So many people talk to them; what they want is someone 
who listens to what they are saying." Griinhut, p. 249. 

2 Meet the Prisoner, John A. F. Watson. Jonathan Cape, 1939. 


normal prison talk, and perhaps gets him to see his prison problems 
in better balance and perspective; he may, by showing interest and 
sympathy in a prisoner's private affairs, improve his attitude towards 
his present situation; he may help and advise him in his studies and 
his reading; and he may direct his mind to the future. In this last con- 
nection, the closest co-operation is encouraged between visitors and 
Aid Societies or After-Care agencies, and at every local prison the 
visitors are represented on the committee of the Aid Society. 

Work of this sort is not for everybody. It needs particular qualities, 
and to learn what these are we cannot do better than consult Mr. 
John Watson, one of the pioneers of prison visiting to men, Hon. 
Secretary of the N.A.P.V. from 1928 to 1938 and its Chairman for 
some years thereafter. The allocation of prisoners to a visitor demands 
much care, for the visitors vary between one and another as greatly 
as do the prisoners themselves, arfd both need grouping according to 
their individual qualities. Socially, visitors are drawn from every class. 
But whether the prison visitor graduated in the Board School or at 
Balliol, there are certain qualities he must possess breadth of outlook, 
sympathy and, above all, a sense of humour. He should not be too 
young; most certainly he must not be too old. He must have a hard 
head which is quite unrelated to a hard heart and be devoid of all 
false sentiment or morbidity ... he will (not) sentimentalise with the 
prisoner on his present situation and seek his confidence by seeming 
to side with him in his antagonism to society. Equally he will refrain, 
particularly in the early stages, from delivering any kind of moral 
homily; for no one likes to be preached at. ... Obviously the visitor 
will not embroil himself in political argument indeed he should bear 
no political label and in any case he will find that the average prisoner 
is much more interested in the fortunes of the 'Arsenal' than in the 
Government's foreign policy. The visitor should look upon it as part of 
his job to know enough about the principal forms of sport to be able 
to discuss any of them with reasonable intelligence. ... It is objected 
that the prison visitor is not there to make light-hearted conversation 
on frivolous topics. I venture to disagree. Conversation on any topic is 
justified if it helps to lift the prisoner out of himself and enables his 
visitor to get to know him. I have little faith in the prison visitor with 
the long face and the pocket full of tracts. Prisons are gloomy enough 
without long-faced prison visitors, and I believe that Christianity 
needs to be something more live and vital than can be proffered second- 
hand in a pamphlet. Only cheerful people should be prison visitors, 
for there is dire need for brightness and laughter especially laughter. 
In prison life there is little to laugh at.' l The official advice to visitors 
underlines two of Mr. Watson's points. Visitors should not discuss 
with prisoners their grievances about their convictions and sentences 

1 Meet the Prisoner, pp. 101-109. 


there are other channels for these, and the visitor's purpose is to shake 
the prisoner out of the mood of morbid brooding over real or imaginary 
grievances, not to encourage it: and they should not discuss religion 
that approach is for the Chaplains and Ministers. This is not work 
for those who are 'interested in crime' or whose primary motive is the 
saving of souls. 

It follows that great care must be taken in selecting men and women 
for the work, and that if they turn out to be unsuitable they should 
not go on with it. Recommendations are made to the Commissioners 
by Governors with the advice of their Chaplains, and if they approve 
the Commissioners invite the visitor to serve for a year. There is an 
annual review, after which each visitor receives a letter which either 
invites him to serve for another year or thanks him for his services, 
but does not renew the invitation. The Commissioners, in agreement 
with the N.A.P.V., make it a rule never to tell visitors why they are 
not again invited to serve: it is difficult to explain their shortcomings to 
voluntary workers without giving offence, and the Commissioners feel 
that their discretion must not be limited by the necessity of embarrassing 
explanations. The case is of course different when a visitor's services 
are discontinued because of some grave indiscretion or breach of the 
rules 1 laid down, by agreement with the N.A.P.V., for the proper 
conduct of their work. 

Two points in conclusion. Every prisoner does not have a visitor 
720 visitors with some 10 prisoners each on their lists would cover less 
than half of the eligible prisoners. They are not necessary for most 
short-sentence prisoners, and would be wasted on many recidivists 
though cases have been known of most intractable prisoners, whose 
hostile attitude no efforts of the staff could affect, having been com- 
pletely changed by the insight and patience of a visitor. It is one of the 
functions of the Reception Board to allocate visitors to prisoners. And 
finally, though we have spoken of women visitors to women and men 
to men, there are also women visitors to young men: it has been found 
that well-chosen women may have a most helpful influence on young 
prisoners, and though the experiment was at first thought rash, their 
presence is now as welcome to the Governors as to the boys. 


The linking of education and recreation suggests both the virtues 
and the defects of education in prison. The purpose of prison training 
is not primarily to inculcate particular skills, but to train the whole man. 
So education is not to be treated as a thing apart, but must be related 
to the whole scheme. In its relation to work, therefore, the general 

i Breaches of this sort are fortunately rare, and may generally be ascribed to the 
heart being stronger than the head. 


purpose will be to produce in the prisoner an attitude of mind, a 
desire to work well for the sake of good work rather than a vocational 
skill, though for persons who want them vocational courses l will be 
arranged. Nor does formal education in academic subjects take a 
primary place, though it may be there for those who need it, particu- 
larly the illiterate and backward on the one hand and serious students 
of superior education on the other. 

Many prisoners, too, cannot easily profit by normal educational 
processes, but can find satisfaction and often obtain mental relief by 
acquiring a manual skill or learnng to express themselves through 
some sort of creative work, such as drawing or singing the writer 
has heard of more than one case of intractable and inaccessible pris- 
oners whose attitude to life was completely changed by a box of 
paints, though they had never handled a brush before. So hobby and 
handicraft classes, and the encouragement of any form of creative 
expression, must hold an important place. 

Again, since it is often through failure in some sort of social adapta- 
tion that delinquency has occurred, prison education should have a 
social content, and that aimed not only at normal life outside but at 
the abnormal life inside: if prisoners' relations with each other are to 
be tolerable, and if their conversation is to be of anything but the usual 
dark and dirty topics of prison life, they must be given some healthy 
food for their starved minds. A prison syllabus, therefore, is likely to 
show as many hours devoted to discussion groups, debates, play- 
readings and musical appreciation classes as to arithmetic, shorthand 
and French. 

There will, too, be regular lectures, concerts and cinematograph 
shows : there will be the wireless, the library and the newspaper. Who 
is to say where, in all this, education and recreation divide? To read a 
good book, to take part an producing a play, to hear a symphony, to 
see an interesting documentary film, to listen to an expert lecture is 
it education, or is it recreation? 

the origins of the Adult Education Scheme in our prisons in 1922, 
and its development up to the late war, have already been described 
(pp. 68, 69). Trom the operation of this scheme much was learned. It 
was found that the prisoner generally responded well. He was willing 
and anxious to learn, and it was remarkable that in the thousands of 
classes taken by outside teachers scarcely a single case of indiscipline 
had been reported, although no prison officers were present. The pris- 
oner was generally ill-nourished mentally, however, with no reserves 
for meditation, his taste untrained and with little equipment mentally 
for learning and temperamentally for self-discipline and concentration. 
It was found too that the voluntary teacher had great value, coming as 

1 The reference here is to evening education courses, not to Vocational Training 
as part of the day's work, though the two may naturally be related. 
E.P.B.S. 14 


he did to the prisoner as one who approached him simply as a member 
of the community wishing to make the prisoner feel that the com- 
munity still interested itself in him and wished to help him. The volun- 
tary teacher was also in the happy position, owing to his individual 
approach, of acting in some sense as a personal tutor rather than a 
class teacher, and the prisoner above all needed and responded to this 
form of approach. On the other hand the system had its limitations. 
The curriculum at any prison was apt to depend on what the available 
teachers had to offer at any given time, and it therefore lacked cohesion 
and continuity. So the intellectually undernourished prisoner was offered 
not a diet prescribed by experts for his condition, but an assortment of 
dishes that happened to be on the menu at the moment/ l 

This scheme was virtually killed by the war, and in 1946 the Com- 
missioners had to consider what to put in its place. They began by 
obtaining authority for the appointment in their office of a Director of 
Education and Welfare, and by seeking the advice of a small informal 
committee of educational experts whose first Report was discussed in 
the Annual Report of the Commissioners for 1948. 

The Committee had before it information about various expedients 
adopted during and since the war in order to fill the educational gap. 
Much use had been made of correspondence courses for individual 
prisoners provided by various organisations; these were in some ways 
more valuable than classes and lectures, since prisoners could choose 
the subjects nearest to their needs; and to work at them in their cells 
suggested a serious wish to learn, whereas it may be that many prisoners 
go to classes mainly to get out of their cells for an hour in the evening. 
These courses had the additional value that a prisoner on transfer or 
discharge could take his course with him. This method has continued 
to develop since the war. In their 1948 Report the Commissioners said 
that some 2,000 prisoners had entered for courses. Many had gained 
diplomas, and some have been enabled to get work through the 
knowledge thus acquired. ^ 

A by-product of correspondence courses was the tutorial system, 
under which a teacher, instead of taking a class, coaches a small 
group of prisoners engaged in private study either as a group or 
individually in their cells. 

The use of suitably qualified prisoners as teachers had also extended 
and has continued since the war: in their Report for 1948 the Com- 
missioners remarked that of 63 classes a week held in one prison 14 
were taken by prison teachers. 

But the most notable and pregnant development was initiated at 
Durham Prison in 1945. Informal conversations between the Director 
of Education for the County and the Governor led to the suggestion 
that the County Education Authority should take over responsibility 

i Extract from the Report of the Prisoners' Education Advisory Committee. 


for the provision of evening education in the prison. The Commissioners 
and the Ministry of Education cordially welcomed the idea. There 
was little equipment and no class-rooms, but plenty of enthusiasm, and 
soon, on any evening, the dim lengths of the prison halls were punctu- 
ated at regular intervals by groups of prisoners seated round a teacher 
and a blackboard. The success of this scheme was such that in their 
Report for 1946 the Commissioners said 'it was agreed in principle 
between the Ministry of Education and the Commissioners that it was 
a proper function of an Education Authority to provide Further Educa- 
tion for the citizen in prison as for the citizen outside, and plans were 
prepared for future development on these lines.' The Advisory Com- 
mittee encouraged these plans, which are now in force at all prisons and 
Borstals. 1 At the end of 1949 over 700 regular classes were in progress. 

The normal arrangement is for the Education Authority to establish 
in the prison an Evening Institute with a Supervising Teacher, the 
classes being staffed by qualified teachers supplied by the Authority. 
In the larger prisons blocks of class-rooms in huts are gradually being 
supplied where possible : otherwise the teachers make the best of what 
rooms there are, or the floors of the prison halls. The work is regularly 
inspected by divisional inspectors of the Ministry of Education, at 
whose headquarters a controlling inspector keeps in close touch with 
the Assistant Commissioner charged with education in the Prison 

The extent to which prison education may be taken in favourable 
conditions is shown by the reference in the Annual Report for 1949 to 
Wormwood Scrubs Prison, which then housed over 1,000 prisoners of 
the Star and Young Prisoner classes. There were 62 classes each week 
of 1 5-20 men each. These were taken by 37 professional teachers pro- 
vided by the London County Council, 4 voluntary teachers, 8 members 
of the staff and 13 prisoners. In addition 45 men were taking corres- 
pondence courses and 1 1 diplomas in such courses were gained in the 

There are two features of this scheme that should be emphasised. 
Education in prison, as for workers in ordinary life, takes place in the 
workers' own time when the working day is over, and it is entirely 
voluntary. In training prisons especially a certain amount of encourage- 
ment, even pressure, may be used, since the prisoners are there to be 
trained and this is an important part of the training: but no teacher 
would welcome a conscript class. Usually, there are waiting lists for 

These arrangements are elastic enough to cover special tuition for 
the illiterate and backward at one end of the scale, 2 and for the more 

1 Similar arrangements had been provided before the war at two Borstals by the 
L.E.As. concerned. 

2 This may be during working hours, and may be compulsory. 


advanced at the other: for the latter, the University of London has 
kindly allowed long-sentence prisoners to enter for its Matriculation, 
Intermediate and Degree courses. 

The Commissioners communicated to all Governors the Report of 
the Advisory Committee, 'and expressed the desire that its recom- 
mendations should be brought into effect as soon as practicable'. 
(Annual Report 1948.) Broadly, {his has now been done, and it is fitting 
to leave this aspect of education with a quotation from the Report: 

'The social education of a prisoner, in its widest sense, should be 
taken to cover everything that is concerned with living as a member of 
society including the proper use of leisure. 

'We agreed that the basis for all prisoners should be training in the 
use of English, both written and spoken; citizenship, in its widest 
sense; and creative work of some sort whether in crafts, art or music. 

'Training in English should include both basic training and play- 
readings, discussions, etc. 

'We attach particular importance to the treatment of the illiterate, 
by whom we mean those who can not, or can only with difficulty, read, 
write or interpret drawings. In our view every effort should be made 
to bring the illiterate up to the best possible standard in the time avail- 
able, and we suggest that where necessary and practicable time should 
be taken from the working day for this purpose: where this is done the 
evening period might be devoted to handicrafts. 

'For more advanced training, both in English and in what we have 
called citizenship, we consider that the most fruitful methods will be 
not so much formal classes as discussion groups, lectures followed by 
discussion, Brains Trusts, the following of B.B.C. discussion series and 
the like.' 

And now we approach the boundary line between education and 
recreation, around which may be found both the cinema and the wire- 
less. As to the former, every prison has a projector, which is used to 
provide a show as often as the limited funds available for film-hire 
permit: since 'documentary' and 'educational' films come cheaper 
than more popular features, it may be that to the audience the educa- 
tional rather than the entertainment value of many film shows seems to 
predominate. Film-strips are also a recognised visual-aid adjunct of 

Each prison also has a wireless equipment, but on the use of this 
the Commissioners in their Annual Report for 1944 gave a rather 
pessimistic view. 'In 1943 the Commissioners decided to collect informa- 
tion about the use of wireless in prisons, and subsequently issued the 
following circular: 


'On consideration of the information recently obtained from Gover- 
nors on the use of wireless sets in prisons, the Commissioners think it 
desirable to give some guidance as to the policy they wish to be followed. 

The introduction of wireless into prisons is not intended to provide 
entertainment for the general body of prisoners, but to keep them in 
touch with the outside world, and to serve as a supplement to the 
educational and recreational programme of the prison. For the prison 
as a whole, therefore, it should only be used for broadcasting the news 
bulletins (not more than once a day) and any important speeches or 
events of national importance. 

'Where its separate use is allowed by prisoners who have the privilege 
of association, it may be used as those prisoners wish during the hours 
of association, subject to such control as Governors may think 

In hospitals it may be used at the discretion of the Medical Officer. 

'No doubt it will also be found valuable in connection with educa- 
tional classes (e.g. for discussion groups) and on occasion it may well 
be used, when a suitable programme is available, to give a concert 
under the conditions of S.O. 426.' 

In 1944, in the hope of reaching more definite conclusions as to how 
wireless could best be made to fit into the scheme of training, they 
made further inquiries, but found the subject so beset with difficulties 
that no clear opinions could easily be formed. There are considerable 
technical difficulties, which even the latest sets have not entirely over- 
come, in obtaining effective broadcasting in the special acoustic con- 
ditions of a prison, and it does not yet appear practicable, even if it 
were desirable, to provide a broadcast to penetrate a closed cell. 
Effective use is therefore limited to times when prisoners are out of 
their cells, which means that generally speaking the only 'all prisoners' 
broadcast is the news. At a number of establishments the wireless is 
used during the association hours of stage prisoners; but save in a few 
special establishments, this tends to be no more than 'background 
noise', and may be the cause of more discord than harmony. There are, 
it seems, still those who prefer their books, chess, or conversation 
without a musical background; mutual agreement in a mixed company 
on a programme to be listened to rather than heard would be difficult 
to achieve; and any attempt to require attention to officially selected 
programmes would probably, and properly, meet with small success. 
Loudspeakers in the hospitals present obvious difficulties, and head- 
phones would seem to be the only practicable method here. There 
remains the use for educational purposes, including in this not only 
discussion groups but selected talks, plays and musical programmes. 
'This seems to be the most hopeful approach to a really constructive 


use of wireless in prisons, and along these lines the Commissioners 
propose to explore the subject further, so soon as staffing and other 
conditions make it possible to resume a full programme of evening 
activities.' Nor, it is to be feared, has the position substantially changed 
since then. 

The newspaper also occupies a marginal place. Daily papers to meet 
most tastes and opinions are supplied to the association messes. The 
primary purpose is to keep the prisoners informed of what goes on in 
the outside world, but authority does not concern itself with the relative 
attention paid by readers to the parliamentary and sporting reports. 
Before the late war a small prison-service news-sheet was printed and 
distributed to all prisoners. When this had to be discontinued, the 
Chaplains used to read a news-bulletin after the Sunday service. With 
the general introduction after the war of wireless and newspapers this 
unhappy expedient came to an end : it was less than seemly that Divine 
Service should be looked forward to as the time for checking one's 
football pools. In general, with the present arrangements, all prisoners 
are sufficiently in touch with the news of the day. Prisoners may also 
have sent in to them by their friends the weekly editions of local and 
national newspapers, and such periodicals as may help to keep them 
in touch with current thought and events or with any hobbies or 
specialised interests. 

From the Press we pass to the Library. Since the War, everything 
has been done to encourage a full and intelligent use of the prison 
library. The divorce of reading matter from the Stage System has 
already been noted: the present wish is to encourage reading, not to 
restrict it. With few exceptions the County or Borough Libraries now 
run the prison library as a branch of their own, and the prisoners are 
given direct access to the books on the shelves except where the physical 
conditions forbid. The libraries are on the whole well stocked with an 
adequate selection of all categories of books, new and old, in normal 
demand, and will usually take considerable trouble to meet special 
demands. There is at Wakefield Prison a central library of technical 
and foreign books. Although in a few prisons with specially unfavour- 
able conditions traces of the older system may still persist, these are 
gradually being eliminated, and it ought to be, and in no long time will 
be, possible to say that (saving the often unsuitable premises) any 
prisoner may get as good a library service inside a prison as out. And 
in addition they may have books sent to them from outside on condition 
that they become the property of the prison library when done with. 
There is, therefore, every facility for both educational and recreational 
reading, and much is done to encourage and help those who need it. 4 " 
Many a man who had never read anything but a certain type of Sunday 
paper has left prison with a taste for good reading. An encouraging 
lesson from this development of prison libraries has been that it has 


practically killed the nasty and endemic prison disease of mutilating 
and scribbling in library-books, perhaps because these outlets for 
repressed resentments are no longer needed, perhaps because prisoners 
will live up to a good standard as easily as down to a bad one. 

Prison libraries are under the control of a selected prison officer 
who, after a short course at the local library, is paid an allowance 
for this specialised work. The best of these take great trouble to see 
that the prisoners get what they want, or where, as often, they 
do not know what they want, to help and advise them. But it is an 
interesting question whether at the largest prisons a professional 
librarian might not be employed with advantage. Prisoners are also 
employed in the libraries, and this work is usually reserved for the better 
type of Star. 1 

Still in the borderland we find the regular concerts and lectures, 
varied sometimes by an amateur dramatic performance, that have at 
least since the days of Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise been a regular feature 
of prison life. These in general are held about once a month, and in 
the local prisons are open to every prisoner 'in stage', and to those 
'out of stage' too if there is room for them. One cannot generalise about 
the scope and nature of these. Governors and Chaplains, according 
to their initiative, imagination and connections, get the best they can 
find and many a well-known concert artiste, actor or actress, or music- 
hall star, as well as kind-hearted 'local talent', have come into the 
prisons and given their best. The variety of lectures too is surprisingly 
rich, and first-class authorities may be heard on most aspects of life 
and thought: here the Commissioners have acknowledged special 
debts of gratitude to Mrs. J. W. Field, who has for long organised 
regular fortnightly lectures in the London Prisons, and to the Central 
Office of Information, who have given constant help in the supply 
both of lectures and of film shows. 

But even more important than hearing plays or music is that prisoners 
should be encouraged to make their own plays and music. Mr. John 
Watson has given a vivid account of the first play-readings at Worm- 
wood Scrubs in 1922, and the help the volunteer teachers were given 
by well-known actors and actresses, leading to 'an excellent production 
of Julius Caesar with Leslie Banks as Cassius against Claude Rains' 
Brutus'. 2 Today at many regional and central prisons there are 
flourishing Dramatic Societies staging one or two performances a year. 
In such prisons too, and in not a few local prisons, music-making and 
appreciation of music are fostered through choirs, bands, gramophone 
clubs, musical appreciation classes and the like. 

It is desirable for completeness to mention one small matter, which 
has nevertheless occasioned no small controversial heat. Prisoners had 
long been allowed note-books to use in connection with any educational 

i See Appendix K. 2 Meet the Prisoner, J. F. Watson, Jonathan Cape, p. 137. 


class or study in which they might be engaged, and these (if properly 
used) they could take out on discharge: in 1947, however, there was a 
development described by the Commissioners on pp. 37 and 38 of 
their Annual Report for that year as follows: 

'The Standing Orders required the use of the notebooks to be strictly 
limited to the technical or educational purpose for which they were 
issued, and specially prohibited verse or prose compositions, drawings, 
etc. "for the purpose of subsequent publication or sale". On condition 
that the regulations were complied with, the notebooks might be taken 
out on discharge. Nevertheless, "educational purpose" was liberally 
interpreted, and marginal questions of whether the contents of a given 
notebook were notes on English literature or a prose composition were 
likely to arise. A conflict haunted by the ghosts of Bunyan and of 
Wilde also became evident between the principle that a prisoner must 
not be allowed to use his leisure to work for personal gain, and the 
fear that some great work of literature might be untimely strangled 
by red-tape. In an attempt to resolve these difficulties, the Commissioners 
decided to divide notebooks into two classes, educational and general. 
The former may be issued to any prisoner at any time after reception 
to enable him to profit by an approved course of study, whether it be 
followed as a member of a class or individually: the interpretation of 
"approved course" is still liberal anything tending to improve general 
education, or vocational fitness, or wise use of leisure is encouraged, 
but "compositions for publication" are prohibited. These "educational" 
notebooks, if properly used, may be taken out on discharge. The 
"general" notebooks may be issued to 2nd Stage prisoners on appli- 
cation, and there is no restriction, within the bounds of propriety and 
discipline, on the use to which they may be put, but they may not in 
any circumstances be taken out. Thus their use may extend from idle 
jottings, which may still be more beneficial to a man alone in his cell 
than mental stagnation, to the work of some future Bunyan. We cer- 
tainly see no reason why a man with an urge to express himself creatively 
should be prevented from doing so because he is a prisoner, though 
he may not be allowed to profit financially by the use of his manu- 

This statement attracted further attention to the problem, which 
was eventually referred by the Home Secretary to the Advisory Council 
on the Treatment of Offenders for their advice on the general question 
of whether prisoners should be allowed to take out of prison work they 
had done in their spare time, and the particular question of whether 
matter in notebooks which might have a sales value should be excepted 
from any general prohibition, so that the prisoners might be able to 
take their 'general' notebooks out with them. The Council advised in 
favour of maintaining the principle that prisoners should not work for 


profit in their spare time, but felt that it was so desirable that prisoners 
should be allowed to take their notebooks out with them that the very 
slight risk of some saleable matter going out might well be taken, 
provided that control was exercised to prevent objectionable or sensa- 
tional matter being taken out. The Secretary of State having accepted 
this advice, matters have been arranged accordingly. The prisoner can 
now write what he likes in his book, provided it is not indecent oj sub- 
versive of discipline, and he can take it out provided it contains nothing 
against the security or good order of the prison, and no autobiographical 
writing or other 'crime stuff' or descriptions of prison life. These note- 
books are not issued for the preparation of sensational stories for such 
newspapers as might be disposed to publish them; on the contrary they 
are intended, as part of the process of training, to divert the prisoner's 
mind from his criminal activities and his real or alleged grievances to 
more constructive attitudes. 

In future, therefore, there need be no fear that any work of art 
conceived in a prison cell will never see the light. If it be retorted that 
under these restrictions 'De Profundis' would have remained buried, 
there are several answers. First, that 'De Profundis' did in fact emerge. 
Second, that Oscar Wildes do not come into prison with any frequency: 
since 'De Profundis' only one man of letters is known to have written 
anything of note in a prison oddly enough, Lord Alfred Douglas. 
Third, it has long been the rule that if any prisoner claimed that his 
notebook contained matter worthy of preservation it should be kept for 
ten years. What was to happen at the end of the ten years was not, at 
the time, decided; and it may be fortunate that under present practice 
the question is unlikely to arise. The Advisory Council examined all 
the notebooks retained in the prisons over a long period of years, and 
found in them nothing of the slightest literary or artistic value. 

It would be wrong to close this section without special reference to 
the value of handicrafts in the educational training scheme. A sub- 
stantial proportion of the evening classes are devoted to hand-work of 
many kinds. Some are taken by the Local Education Authority or 
voluntary teachers, many by members of the prison staff, who obtain 
strikingly attractive results. In different prisons may be found carpentry, 
rug-making, leather work, plastics, toy-making, embroidery, knitting, 
dress-making and many other useful and enjoyable crafts. The results 
range from the commonplace to the spectacular, as when the wireless 
class at one prison made themselves a television set which worked. 
Apart from classes, prisoners in stage may have the privilege of carrying 
on permitted 'arts or crafts' in their cells, while those taking part in 
classes may also carry on in their cells where the work is suitable, 
e.g. rug-making. 

The economics of these classes should be explained. There is no 
question of the prisoners making anything out of it financially. There 


is a 'handicraft fund' at each prison from which tools and raw materials 
are supplied, and this must be kept self-supporting by the sale of the 
product. The prices are fixed by a committee at an approximation to 
market value, and sales are made to staff and the public, any surplus 
going usually to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society. Prisoners are 
allowed to buy articles they have made at the prices so fixed to send 
out as presents to their family, and many a doll's house or teddy-bear or 
baby's frock has been sent home at Christmas or for birthdays. 

At one women's prison the D.P.A.S. will set up a released prisoner 
with tools and materials to carry on a craft she has learned, and more 
than one woman has in this way managed to establish a useful little 
spare-time business. 

Altogether, the humanising, vocational and educational value of 
these classes is great, and it is a pity that it is not practicable to extend 
the practice of handicrafts to any prisoners who wish to pass the 
evenings usefully in their cells. 


In this section we shall consider what may be called the external 
relations of a prisoner the preserving or fostering of all those interests l 
outside the prison wall which may serve either his better adaptation to 
his present situation or his re-adaptation in due course to normal life. 
The forcible severance of an offender from family and community 
life raises many problems, both for himself and others, which cannot 
be neglected by a system which claims to seek his social rehabilitation. 
'An even more important question concerns those needs which have 
been revealed or caused by the punishment itself. From a legal point 
of view imprisonment is deprivation of liberty in an enclosed institution, 
minutely regulated and strictly limited to years, months, weeks, or 
days. Any additional hardship for the prisoner's family or his future 
career is without legal foundation and ought to be prevented or 
removed. From a social point of view imprisonment is not a forfeiture 
of a man's position in life, but an opportunity for adapting him to the 
community of law-abiding citizens. This cannot be achieved by indi- 
vidual persuasion alone. Much has to be done to disentangle difficult 
family and other personal relationships, to protect legitimate economic 
interests, and to prepare the ground for a fresh start. All this is the 
responsibility of the social services in penal institutions.' 2 

The phrase 'forfeiture of a man's position in life' raises in the first 
place the question of 'forfeiture of civil rights' as a consequence of 
imprisonment. Dr. Mannheim says of this : 'Whilst the different legal 

1 Except those relating to after-care and aid-on-discharge, which are dealt with 
separately in Chapter 16. 

2 Grimhut, p. 245. 


systems show wide variations in detail, certain fundamental character- 
istics are common to most of them. The offender who is convicted of a 
serious crime may have to suffer, for instance, loss of his offices, pro- 
fessional or honorary, and of eligibility for future office, of his pension, 
of the right to wear decorations and to bear titles and academic degrees, 
of the right to elect and to be elected in parliamentary and municipal 
elections, to act as guardian, trustee or witness, and so on. Sometimes 
these deprivations follow as automatic consequences attached to every 
severe sentence; sometimes, however, it is left to ths discretion of the 
judge to make a specific order to that effect.' l He also emphasises 
that while many such provisions may be defended as being for the 
protection of society their actual effect is social defamation. 

To define English practice in these matters is difficult. What, in 
England, are our 'civil rights'? It does not appear to be possible either 
to give them the legal definition which they receive in some legal systems 
or to say, with any authoritative precision, what is the effect on whatever 
one may deem them to be of a sentence of imprisonment. So far as 
statute law takes us, certain of the consequences set out by Dr. Mann- 
heim may result from a conviction of felony, but not from imprison- 
ment per se. These derive from the Forfeiture Act 1870, as amended 
by the Criminal Justice Act 1948. Prior to the Act of 1870 a convicted 
felon, among other disabilities, forfeited his property to the Crown: 
the Act was intended as a measure of relief, substituting for forfeiture 
certain disabilities on dealing with his property during the currency of 
the sentences : these disabilities in turn were removed by the Criminal 
Justice Act 1948. The effect of the remaining disabilities may be sum- 
marised as follows. A person convicted of treason or felony, who is 
sentenced to death, preventive detention, corrective training, or any 
term of imprisonment over 12 months, must vacate certain public 
offices and forfeit any pension connected with them. He also becomes 
incapable of holding such offices, or of being elected or sitting or 
voting as a member of either House of Parliament, or of exercising any 
right of parliamentary or municipal franchise, until he has completed 
his punishment or received a free pardon. 

A further statutory provision (section 59 (1) Local Government Act 
1933) disqualifies a person from being elected or being a member of a 
local authority if he has 'within five years before the day of election 
or since his election been convicted in the United Kingdom, the Channel 
Islands or the Isle of Man of any offence and ordered to be imprisoned 
for a period of not less than three months without the option of a fine'. 

Further disabilities and disqualifications may result from the action 
of professional associations (e.g. the striking off the rolls in certain 
circumstances of a convicted doctor or solicitor), or from administra- 
tive action (e.g. forfeiture of honours or decorations). 2 

1 Mannheim, pp. 109, 110. 2 See Appendix K. 


Where a prisoner is not subject to a statutory disability, the position 
would appear to be as follows: a sentence of imprisonment does not 
of itself impose on an offender any 'loss of civil rights', but his position 
as a prisoner may disable him from exercising them, and any relief of 
this disability rests in the discretion of the Secretary of State. As an 
example of the exercise of this discretion, in 1948 a convicted prisoner 
petitioned to be allowed to offer himself as a parliamentary candidate 
at a bye-election, and the petition was granted, though he was not 
nominated. Subsequently, he was further allowed to petition against 
the election result and the Courts accepted his petition: he was not 
allowed to proceed because he had not lodged his security. 1 Again, 
when in 1948 postal voting became permissible for voters absent from 
their constituencies in certain conditions, it appeared that prisoners 
confined in prisons outside their constituencies (if not disqualified 
under the Forfeiture Act from voting) would be accepted by Returning 
Officers as eligible to vote by post. It was, therefore, decided that they 
should be allowed to post their votes in the subsequent General 
Election, notwithstanding the anomaly that other prisoners in the same 
prison who normally resided in the constituency in which the prison 
was situated were not in a position to go to the polling-booths! 2 

From these examples it is clear that, so far at any rate as concerns 
parliamentary franchise and elections, the Home Office has not been 
disposed to interfere arbitrarily with the exercise of a prisoner's 'civil 
rights', in so far as they can be exercised from within the prison walls. 
But whether a prisoner would have any remedy if the Secretary of State 
declined to exercise a discretion in his favour it does not seem possible 
to say until a case in point has been decided by the Courts. 

Within the category of what may be called for this purpose civil 
rights, the position of a prisoner in regard to marriage is of interest. 
Requests are frequently made for the temporary release of prisoners so 
that they may marry, sometimes on grounds of considerable force in 
relation to the welfare either of the prisoner or of the other party. 
Hitherto, however, the practice has been to refuse such requests. 3 

Again, any citizen has a right to seek a remedy at law for any wrong 
that he may conceive himself to have suffered, or at least to seek advice 
to that end. This right, however, is not conceded to persons under 
sentence of imprisonment, the Commissioners holding themselves free to 
decide on the merits of each case whether a prisoner should be allowed 
to initiate legal proceedings, or to seek legal advice to that end. Their 
discretion is, however, exercised fairly widely in favour of the prisoners. 
Broadly speaking, prisoners have not been prevented from initiating 
proceedings against the Crown where they claimed to have suffered 

1 Daily Herald, 9 April 1948. 

2 Weekly Hansard, Vol. 163, cols. 379, 380, 383, 384, 676. See also Appendix K. 

3 See Appendix K. 


damage arising out of their detention, and permission has been given 
in other categories of actions where it appeared that the prisoner's in- 
terests would be prejudiced if he had to wait until his release, or where the 
action was already under consideration before committal to prison. In 
such cases the legal advisers of a prisoner are, by Statutory Rule, allowed 
reasonable facilities for visits out of the hearing of a prison officer. 

The next category of interests comprises what may be called the social 
insurance group, including health and industrial insurance. Every 
care has been taken to ensure that, so far as is legally and administra- 
tively practicable, the punitive effects of imprisonment do not extend 
to the prejudice of this important aspect of contemporary social life. 

In the benefits of the National Health Service, as will appear in a 
subsequent chapter, every prisoner may fully participate including 
dental, ophthalmological and other subsidiary services. 

Although prisoners are formally outside the scope of the Industrial 
Injuries Acts, not being persons employed under a contract of service, 
it has been decided that, where a prisoner is injured in the course of his 
prison employment, any incapacity which persists beyond the expiration 
of his sentence will attract an ex gratia grant calculated by reference to 
those Acts. To ensure the proper assessment of such injuries, prisoners 
are examined by the Medical Boards of the Ministry of National 
Insurance. Nor is a prisoner debarred from taking action against the 
Commissioners at common law if he suffers injury through their alleged 
negligence, though where such cases arise they are usually settled by 
negotiation between the Treasury Solicitor and solicitors acting for the 
injured party. The position of the prisoner in both these respects is 
equally safeguarded if he is working for another public department or 
for a private employer. 

The position of prisoners under the National Insurance Act, which 
covers inter alia sickness and unemployment benefits and old age 
pensions, is less completely safeguarded. Title to benefits under this 
Act is conditional on payment of a minimum number of contributions 
and on the maintenance of an annual credit of at least fifty contribu- 
tions : further, benefits and contribution rates vary according to whether 
the contributor is classed as an employed, self-employed, or non- 
employed person. For the purpose of the Act persons in legal custody 
are deemed to be non-employed persons, but they are excused from the 
statutory liability to pay the contributions appropriate to that category, 
known as Class 3 contributions. 

This statutory position, if unmitigated, would have two potentially 
adverse effects on a prisoner's insurance position after discharge. 
In the first place, for certain persons in certain circumstances there 
could be a loss or reduction of unemployment or sickness benefits to 
which they might otherwise become entitled after release, while the 
amount of the old age pension might also be affected. In the second 


place, the state of the prisoner's insurance card could be such as to 
disclose the fact that he has been in prison. Adequate steps have been 
taken, in collaboration with the Ministry of National Insurance, to 
avert the second contingency. The first cannot be wholly averted: it is 
not legally practicable for prisoners to pay Class 2 contributions while 
in custody, and no sufficient grounds have been shown for the State 
to assume the heavy financial responsibility of paying their contribu- 
tions from public funds, whether direct or behind the fagade of in- 
creasing prisoners' earnings to enable them to pay. While the arguments 
advanced in favour of such a course have a certain validity, they do not 
take account of two factors : first, that this would be to put prisoners in 
a privileged position as compared with many citizens in Bentham's 
'state of innocence and liberty' who are unable for various reasons 
to maintain their contributions: second, the considerable and compli- 
cated administrative labour of ascertaining the precise insurance 
position of prisoners on reception and assessing the nature and amount 
of the contributions due in each case. What has been done, after 
exhaustive consideration by all Departments concerned of all the 
possibilities, is to provide that any convicted or civil prisoner who wishes 
to maintain his insurance position to the extent of paying Class 3 con- 
tributions may do so, either from such private money as he has in his 
possession or through his friends. A prisoner who was self-employed 
immediately before being taken into custody may also opt to pay a 
Class 1 contribution. All prisoners are informed by a special cell-card 
of the machinery available for this purpose. 1 

Relations with past and potential employers being more conveniently 
dealt with in connection with after-care, we now pass to what for many, 
perhaps most, prisoners are the most necessary and valuable of the 
social services which the prison must seek to provide for them those 
concerned with their families. And here it may be that more remains 
to be done than in any other part of this field of work. 

If one fact can be accepted as established in the field of criminology, 
it is the overwhelming influence of unsatisfactory home conditions in 
the formation of delinquency, and that not only among juveniles. 
Dr. W. F. Roper, in a detailed survey of over 1,400 adult prisoners at 
Wakefield and Dartmoor, 2 found not only that faulty home training and 
bad family relations had a preponderating influence on subsequent crim- 
inality this was to be expected : he also found that '25 per cent of the 
marriages represented have been broken by separation or divorce' and 
that 'the man from a faulty home tends to recreate faults in his own 
home, when he comes to found one, and this hands evil down the gen- 

1 See Appendix K, note on p. 219. 

2 The British Journal of Delinquency, July 1950 'A Comparative Survey of the 
Wakefield Prison Population in 1948', by W. F. Roper, Principal Medical Officer, 
Wakefield Prison. 


erations'. These observations suggest how wide a field of work there 
may be, hitherto almost untouched, in seeking the rehabilitation of 
an offender through his family as well as through his personal training. 

And family relations may be of central importance in the treatment 
of prisoners before as well as after their release. Their adaptation to their 
situation as prisoners may be materially eased by the sorting out of 
domestic tangles and difficulties : this is work to which Governors and 
their Assistants, Chaplains and Welfare Officers willingly give much 
time and trouble, knowing how great the reward may be in ease of 
mind among their charges and so in their better co-operation. Many 
an escape, especially from open prisons, and many an outburst of bad 
conduct has resulted from some molehill of domestic trouble magnified 
into a mountain by the helpless brooding of the prisoner. 

And here perhaps we may turn aside to consider a problem which is 
increasingly engaging attention, though in this country hitherto merely 
as a matter of abstract discussion. How far is it possible, within the 
limits of prison treatment as those are now understood, to continue the 
'normalisation' of prison life by filling its greatest gap the absence of 
all those normal and necessary human influences, ties and responsi- 
bilities which centre round the life of the family, including the depriva- 
tion of all normal sexual life? The problems thus raised are so various 
and difficult that it is not possible here to do more than recognise 
them. In their wider aspects they have led so distinguished and experi- 
enced an authority as M. Paul Cornil, Secretary-General of the Min- 
istry of Justice of Belgium and for long head of the Belgian prison 
administration, to ask l whether it may not be right so to arrange 
prisons that the family life of prisoners may be continued within their 
confines: and reports from Russia have told of certain prisons where 
that is in fact done. In certain prison systems in Europe and South 
America the narrower sex problem is recognised, whether or not it be 
resolved, by regular arrangements in the prisons for 'connubial visits' 
between husband and wife. If these questions have assumed less im- 
portance in this country, it is not from failure to recognise their exist- 
ence. The problems of homosexuality in prisons are patent to all 
familiar with prison life, though the desirability of a hetero-sexual 
antidote has not hitherto been brought into discussion. 2 

In the wider sphere, no more has been done than to reduce the 
limitations on visits and letters, and so far as may be within these 
limits to encourage and promote all valuable ties between a prisoner 
and his family. But prison letters and visits at the best must be cold 

1 In an address to the XII International Penal and Penitentiary Congress at The 
Hague, 1950. 

2 It has however been suggested by an outside observer that the efflorescence of 
'pin-up-girls' in the rooms of Borstal boys may have, in this connection, an effect 
as much therapeutic as decorative. (Mark Benney, 'Leader.' 3 December 1949.) 


channels for the human affections. Letters must be censored, and kept 
within reasonable limits of length. The conditions in which visits take 
place at most prisons are commonly repugnant to any sensitive mind. 
What can be done to humanise these things is done. For example, 
immediate agreement was given to the suggestion that a prisoner writing 
to a child in the care of a school or foster-home should be allowed to 
use plain paper and a 'camouflage' address. Experiment to improve 
visiting conditions is continuous, and many different systems will be 
found in use in different types of prison. At one end of the scale is the 
traditional system of 'visiting-boxes' a row of cubicles, in which the 
prisoner sits in one half and the visitor in the other, separated by glass 
and a wire grille, so permitting sight and sound without the possibility of 
physical contact: at the other end, in open prisons and some training 
prisons, the prisoners and their visitors may walk about the grounds 
and have tea and a cigarette together under the trees. Between these 
extremes experiments continue, seeking to devise a system of 'open 
visits', away from the 'boxes', without loss of essential control and 
supervision. A common plan is a long table, with a partition down the 
centre to prevent contraband being flicked across, and supervising 
officers at the ends: but the paradoxical situation was reached that, 
although this system was devised primarily for Stars and prisoners of 
the better sort, such prisoners began to ask for visits in the boxes 'as a 
privilege' they and their friends could not stand the noise and elbow- 
to-elbow publicity of the public tables. It should be understood that 
these difficulties are not due to mere obtuseness or conservatism in the 
prisons, but to inherent difficulties first, as in so many other things, 
inadequate space; second, that visiting times must suit the visitors, 
and they all tend to come at the same time, especially on Saturdays; 
and third, that control must be kept to prevent contraventions of the 
law and the prison Rules it is a mistake to think of all visitors to 
prisoners as innocent and sensitive persons ; many of them are them- 
selves members or associates of the criminal class and up to every 
trick of the trade, with extraordinary ingenuity in getting across a 
pound note or a packet of cigarettes or a hack-saw blade, and even 
visitors to Stars will often go to some lengths to circumvent the Rules 
in this way. The tax-payers' bill is sensibly relieved by the amount of 
contraband annually confiscated, as no doubt are many prisoners by 
the unknown amount which escapes detection. The latest experiment is 
to rely for control on searching after the visit, and to allow each party 
a small separate table and chairs, spaced at reasonable distances. 
Observation of the practice of other prison systems suggests a similar 
variety of approach: in the U.S.A., for example, the writer has seen 
'guest-rooms' suggesting the foyer of the Waldorf-Astoria, with up- 
holstered couches and chairs; wooden benches and tables in a basement 
passage; and boxes similar to our own. 


One point to which criticism has been directed illustrates the per- 
plexities of prison life. Is it right that young children should be brought 
to visit their parents in prison, and in such conditions as often prevail? 
To many the answer may seem at once to be a shocked 'no'. But do 
the imprisoned parents think so? And how if the mother, or father, 
cannot come unless the children come too? The conclusion so far has 
been, rightly or wrongly, that this is a matter for the parents to decide 
for themselves: it is not for authority to say no. 

Certainly, among the many improvements which our ancient prisons 
still await, the building of completely new blocks for visiting should, 
when the time comes, have a high priority. 

Before we leave the question of family relations, there are certain 
other points of interest, actual and potential. In their Annual Reports 
for 1947 and 1948 the Commissioners described an interesting new 
scheme as follows : 

'The Commissioners were able during the year to help in filling a 
gap in social assistance for women prisoners. It was brought to their 
notice through the Howard League that many women, on being sent 
perhaps unexpectedly to prison, are faced with immediate dom- 
estic problems which may be small but can cause acute anxiety to 
themselves and much inconvenience or worse to their families if they 
are not seen to at once and on the spot. The Commissioners felt that 
there was a situation here that ought to be dealt with somehow, but 
was beyond the scope of the existing welfare agencies in a prison. They 
were fortunate in being able to enlist the interest of the Women's 
Voluntary Services an experimental scheme was started at Holloway. 

'Here W.V.S. representatives attend every evening in the reception, 
and see any woman who wishes to see them soon after she is brought 
in. The service is essentially one of "first-aid", and any but immediate 
difficulties are referred to the D.P.A.S. But with the urgent problems 
that call for action at once the W.V.S. , with its wide organisation of 
helpful women on the spot, is excellently fitted to deal. These problems 
have included disposal of keys and ration books, securing luggage and 
rooms, making arrangements for children at home or at school, looking 
after the dog left behind, or stopping a woman in Durham from leaving 
to visit her sister who was by then in Holloway. . . . 

'The W.V.S. "First-Aid" scheme for meeting the immediate domestic 
problems of women on reception has continued successfully at Hollo- 
way. Since the scheme started on July 28th 1947, 2,144 women have 
been interviewed, and help has been given to 346 of them. It is apparent 
therefore, that although the need may not be frequent it exists, and 
where it exists it is usually urgent. A similar scheme was tried at 
Birmingham, Durham and Manchester, but for reasons which defy 

E.P.B.S. 15 


speculation there was not one request for help in these prisons: the 
service was therefore reduced to a "shadow" organisation. 

'In all these experiments the Commissioners met with the most willing 
co-operation from the W.V.S., who have throughout regarded this 
unsensational and often apparently unwanted service as amply justified 
by the cases in which a real need has been met and a woman saved 
much unnecessary distress.' 

For the future, the power now available 1 to release prisoners on 
parole may well be used to afford to certaiil classes of prisoner 'home 
leave' on the lines long established for Borstal boys. This would 
enable prisoners to resume contact with their homes and families before 
release, and give them a better sense of the future and its respon- 

Given the importance of the family background as a factor in the 
causation of crime, it may be that valuable help could be given in many 
cases by boldly including the prisoner's family in the process of his 
rehabilitation. This would require a various, tactful and skilled 
approach. In one case their understanding co-operation might be all 
that it was necessary to secure, in another the family itself might need 
rehabilitation. The development of a professional social-welfare service 
in prisons, which has recently been advocated (see p. 264), might enable 
progress towards this end. 

i Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1949, llth Schedule and Prison Rules, 1951 See 
also Appendix K. 



THE Statutory Rules under this heading are as follows: 
'94. The Medical Officer shall oversee and shall advise the 
Governor upon the hygiene of the prison and the prisoners, 
including arrangements for cleanliness, sanitation, heating, 
lighting and ventilation. 

'95. Arrangements shall be made for every prisoner to wash at all 
proper times, to have a hot bath at least once a week, and for men 
(unless excused or prohibited on medical or other grounds) to 
shave or be shaved daily and to have their hair cut as required. 
The hair of a male prisoner may be cut as short as is necessary 
for good appearance but the hair of a female prisoner shall not be 
cut without her consent, except by the direction of the Medical 
officer for the eradication of vermin, dirt or disease. 

'96. Every prisoner shall be provided on admission with such toilet 
articles as are necessary for health and cleanliness, and arrange- 
ments shall be made for the replacement of these articles when 

These general statements of principle call for little elaboration. The 
washing arrangements and toilet equipment in cellular prisons have 
already been described (p. 131). Men are required to shave every 
morning on getting up, blades being issued and collected on each 
occasion: each man has his own blade, and they may buy blacfe- 
sharpeners, or have them sent in. Certain additional toilet articles may 
be bought in the canteen. 

Bathing takes place once a week in the central bath-house, and is 
usually the occasion for change of underclothing. 

Haircutting is not very satisfactory. This is one of the activities 
which, when prisons are staffed for an evening shift, should certainly 
take place after working hours. As things are, one may find in any 



workshop a prisoner in process of having his hair cut by another. The 
result is that the phrase 'as short as is necessary for good appearance' 
gets a strikingly elastic interpretation, and the younger men rival the 
women in the elaborate complication of their 'hair-dos', generally with 
less taste. It may be that this can be justified as being the one expression 
of personality left to a man in prison uniform. But it may also be that 
the reaction against the 'convict crop' has gone too far, and that the 
pendulum could with aesthetic advantage begin to swing the other way. 
The proper solution is undoubtedly a barber's shop, with trained men 
doing the work under skilled supervision. 

This problem does not arise for women, who may do what they will 
with their hair, though they do not have the advantage of 'beauty- 
parlours' as do many of their American cousins in distress. They are 
however free to act as their own beauticians with such lip-stick and 
powder as they may bring in 'with them, or purchase at the canteen. 
Much detrition of crimson book-bindings is thereby saved. 

The last words of Rule 95 are 'the eradication of vermin, dirt or 
disease', and it must be emphasised that this is one of the first and 
nastiest duties of the reception staff, particularly in women's prisons. 
A considerable number of prisoners, notably among the short-sentence 
class, are received in a filthy condition, and the greatest care has to be 
taken to detect and isolate cases of vermin and contagious skin disease. 
There is special apparatus for dealing with women's hair, and special 
baths and cells are set aside for 'dirt diseases'. Every prisoner of course 
has to take a hot bath before leaving the reception block, and personal 
cleanliness is enforced thereafter. 

The high general standard of health, the rareness of epidemics and 
the absence of evidence of the spread of contagious disease suggest 
that the precautions taken are effective. Verminous infestations are 
fortunately rare but when they occur vigorous action is taken. The 
cells are stripped and the door fittings and furniture are treated in an 
insulated container by cyanide gas, the floors and walls being sprayed 
with D.D.T. solution.' * 

Finally, sanitation. On this many hard words have been written 
and spoken, not without some justification, against prison arrangements. 
There are, for cellular prisons, a chamber-pot in each cell (with cover), 
and one or more 'sanitary recesses' on each landing: the recess includes 
a slop-sink, running water (cold) and a water closet : over a period of 
years these have been and are being gradually reconstructed and given 
more modern fittings, but those remaining of the old type are not 
pleasant to see. There are also ranges of W.Cs. in the exercise yards, 
and a certain number in each workshop. The prisoner is instructed that 
he should normally use the W.C. during his exercise: that on the 

1 Prisons and Borstals, p. 53. 


landing is intended only for emergency use if he requires it while he is 
locked in his cell, when he should ring for the duty officer. In general, 
prisoners have plenty of opportunity to attend to the calls of nature 
when they are out of their cells, and again before locking up; they 
should not often, therefore, need to venture a ring. 1 

Criticism of these arrangements centres first on the disadvantages of 
the chamber-pot, and then on the nature of the recesses and W.C. 
provision generally. As to this, one or two deprecatory observations 
may be ventured. Prisons were not designed for those from whom this 
sort of criticism most generally emanates; and while we should no 
doubt do better if we were building today, the normal habits of large 
numbers of the prison population still fall short of refinement. And 
making all due allowance for this, is either the standard of fitting or the 
cleanliness of a modern prison W.C. much below the average of similar 
accommodation in say railway stations and public places? As for the 
chamber-pot, the difficulties of dispensing with it have already been 
discussed, and it is after all not peculiar to a prison cell. The principal 
objection is to the unsavoury process of 'slopping out' on morning 
unlocking, when the prisoners line up to empty their slops at the 
recesses. This objection must be sustained; but the slops must also be 
emptied. The solution of the problem, in spite of constant thought, has 
not yet emerged. 

The relevant Statutory Rule provides as follows : 

'97. (1) Prisoners who are not engaged in out-door work shall be 
given one hour's exercise in the open air, weather permitting: 
provided that in special circumstances the Commissioners may 
authorise the reduction of the daily period to half an hour. 

'(2) Wherever practicable prisoners of suitable age and physical 
condition shall receive physical training under qualified instructors 
during some part of the daily exercise period. 

'(3) The Medical Officer shall decide on the fitness of every prisoner 
for exercise and to undergo physical training, and may on medical 
grounds modify the exercise of a prisoner or excuse a prisoner 
from exercise.' 

The exercise period is divided into two half-hours, either before or 
after each period of work. For those who are fit for physical training, 
one period will be for this, the other for 'walking exercise': for the 

1 On this, see p. 106. 


others, both periods will be walking exercise. This still takes place, in 
the great majority of prisons, on the paved concentric rings of the 
original Pentonville model, which in recent years have been widened 
to allow two prisoners to walk abreast. There are usually two or three 
exercise yards, to allow of separation of the different categories, and 
it is common to find them very pleasantly laid out with flowers and 
small shrubs. The general arrangement is for the young and active to 
step briskly round the outer rings, while the old and infirm potter 
gently round the inner. Supervising officers keep the circulation flowing 
evenly and without bunching. Conversation is unrestricted, but smoking 
is not permitted. This traditional English prison scene has sometimes 
aroused surprise in foreign visitors, who see it as regimented and some- 
what inhuman, and ask why the prisoners should not just be left to 
themselves in the open air for half-an-hour to wander round, prop 
up the walls or gossip in groups in a natural manner. It is a legitimate 
question. The answer lies partly in the view still taken, rightly or 
wrongly, in our prisons of the need for constant control and super- 
vision, and partly in the terms of the Rule, which does in fact and it 
may be thought, at least by ah Englishman, rightly require exercise, 
not just fresh air. It may be added that in women's prisons the scene 
and tempo are likely to be much more in the 'natural manner'. 

Physical training during the exercise periods may be given by any 
member of the staff who has qualified as an instructor during his 
initial training at Wakefield, but at most prisons there is also a recog- 
nised Gymnastic Instructor, in receipt of a special allowance, who has 
obtained an instructor's certificate at the Army School of Physical 
Training at Aldershot. He has a general supervision of physical training 
in the prison, and he alone is authorised to take classes with apparatus 
in the gymnasium. These are limited to younger men passed fit by the 
Medical Officer and are held in the evenings on a voluntary basis. 
For women the position is a little different. There is no daily physical 
training, but a good deal is done in evening classes on lines more 
suitable for women 'keep fit' classes, therapeutic exercises, dancing 
and the like. 

While outdoor games are not precluded in principle, lack of suitable 
space prevents them at all but a few favoured prisons, though several 
prisons have developed types of football or handball with local rules 
appropriate to the peculiarities of the pitch. There is often a large 
parade ground used for physical training which may also serve for 
cricket of a sort, though the hard surface may make football too 
dangerous. At some prisons with ground outside the walls cricket or 
football may be played at week-ends, and most of the prisons used for 
corrective training are so favoured, as is the central prison at Park- 
hurst here the week-end game in 'the compound' is eagerly looked 
forward to by both players and spectators, and the privilege is so 


highly valued that any abuse would make the sinner's life uneasy in 
that prison. One man who tried to escape from the compound spent 
weeks of voluntary segregation in the separate cells to allow memories 
to fade. 

In the open prisons the cricket and football clubs are often vigorous 
institutions with regular fixture lists against local teams, though so far 
the Commissioners have not thought fit to authorise 'away' fixtures. 
At one camp, community with village life had gone so far that the 
village team were borrowing players from the prison to fill gaps in their 
side a practice which the Commissioners, with some regret, felt 
bound to frown on when it came to notice. However, the incident 
shows to what extent friendly relations can develop, and sport is one 
of the many ways by which the prisoner and the outside community 
can healthily and fruitfully be brought together. 1 

(3) FOOD 

The morale of a prison, not less than that of an army, depends upon 
its stomach. All who have been prisoners of war know the dispro- 
portionate importance which food assumed in their daily life. 'When 
we listen to the well-known complaints to be found in prison memoirs 
old and new, we can be sure that the majority of them are concerned 
with the problem of food. From older writers, as Friedrich von der 
Trenck, to Macartney and Mark Benney, the quantity of the bread, 
the consistency of the porridge and the flavour of the cocoa become 
matters of utmost importance.' 2 Dr. Mannheim has traced in detail 
the effect of the 'principle of less eligibility' on this aspect of prison life 
and reference has also been made to this in earlier chapters of this 
book. But though it would no longer be seriously argued that a 
prisoner's diet should not be better than that of the poorest citizen 
at large, it is still necessary for it to bear a suitable relation to the 
general standard of life of the population. Comparisons between the 
dietary standards of different prison systems are therefore of little 
value without a wider connotation. The food in our English prisons 
may seem meagre and dull against the rich and various meals served in 
an American penitentiary, or gross in comparison with those of some 
European prisons; but the only proper criterion is its relation to the 
standard of eating among the generality of manual workers in this 

And here there is another consideration to be borne in mind. Half 
a dozen cooks given the same collection of ingredients may well produce 
six strikingly different results. And if a visitor looking at a prison dinner 
is inclined to say grudgingly that it is 'better than anything he would be 
likely to get at home', he should reflect that a trained cook working on 
1 See Appendix K. 2 Mannheim, p. 62. 


bulk materials in a well-equipped kitchen is very likely to get better 
results than a number of harassed and possibly indifferent housewives 
with such resources as they have to hand. It is not necessary to have 
bad cooking as part of the punishment. 

The present dietary system, then, is intended to maintain not health 
and strength only, but also contentment. It does not seek to go beyond 
this, and some may think it does not even go so far. But no institutional 
meals will ever satisfy everybody, and one of the unpleasant aspects of 
prison life is that in the way of food you have to eat what you get or 
go without. And on the whole, in recent years, internal complaints 
about food have been negligible, while external criticism which was 
forceful during and immediately after the war has not lately been 

This situation, curiously enough, was to a large extent brought 
about by the national food situation during the war and post-war 
years. In their Annual Report for the years 1939-41 the Commissioners 

The introduction of civilian rationing made it imperative to review 
the dietary in all classes of prisons and Borstals institutions. The pre- 
war dietary had been based on the report of a Committee which reported 
in 1925. Immediately before the present war the Commissioners were 
arranging for a new committee to be appointed to reconsider the whole 
question of prison diets. This was not practicable after the outbreak of 
war. Nevertheless, the whole scheme of prison dietary was recast in 
1940. Instead of an arrangement of set meals, a ration scale was drawn 
up for each prisoner in strict accordance with the civilian ration scale. 
Certain additions in the shape of culinary adjuncts were made. One of 
the criticisms of the old prison diets, and one not without force, was 
that they all tasted alike. The addition to the rations of such things as 
curry powder, herbs and dried fruit (or fresh fruit if in season) enabled 
the cooks to serve the food in more palatable form and with greater 

'The set meals were abolished, and it was left to the cook to serve 
the rations issued in the most suitable manner he could devise. There 
have been singularly few complaints from prisoners about the new 
dietary, and medical officers report that the general health of prisoners 
has been well maintained, as also have their body weights. The great 
majority of the cooks have risen to the occasion and have produced 
meals which have given general satisfaction. They are to be com- 
mended warmly for their efforts.' 

There was nevertheless a considerable if contradictory criticism of 
the dietary, and 4 In August 1944 the Prison Commissioners consulted 
the Ministry of Food and asked them to assist in studying the problem 
of prison diets. The Scientific Adviser's Department of the Ministry 


drew up a scheme for this investigation which was approved and the 
investigation commenced at the end of September, 1944.' l The investi- 
gator attended seven representative institutions for seven days each, 
and got together from each an average diet for the seven day period. 
Each of these diets was analysed and every calorie, protein, vitamin 
and other element duly weighed and estimated. Nothing could have 
been more scientifically thorough. It was found that the composition 
of the diet was generally satisfactory except for a shortage of vitamin C. 
Recommendations were made to remedy this, to improve the Borstal 
diet to meet the higher physiological requirements of adolescents, and 
on certain other matters. Steps were taken, as approved by the Min- 
istry, to give effect to these recommendations, and the diets have 
remained on this basis, subject to the fluctuations of rationing, in the 
ensuing years. 

At the same time the Commissioners asked the Ministry of Food to 
advise on the planning of menus and the preparation and serving of 
meals, and among the many recommendations made was that the 
Commissioners should appoint a full-time Catering Adviser advice 
which was followed by an appointment in 1946. 

The one remaining weakness of the dietary arrangements was the long 
gap between the evening meal, which on the one-shift staff system must 
in most prisons be served by 5 p.m., and breakfast next morning. To 
meet this it was arranged for cocoa to be served later in the evening. 

The meals served, except dinners, are described on the Diet Card 
placed in each cell, a copy of which is shown as Appendix J. The 
dinners consist of a meat or fish course, with bread, potatoes and a 
vegetable, followed on most days of the week by a sweet pudding. 
Cooks have a reasonable repertoire, and they try to avoid sameness by 
not serving the same dish on the same day of every week: a specimen 
week's diet from a London prison is included in Appendix J. In their 
Report for 1949 the Commissioners gave the calorific value of the diets 
in use as follows : 

Local Prisons Central Prisons 

Men . . . 3,140 Men . . . 3,452 

Women . . . 2,790 Women . . . 2,790 

Y.P. Boys. . . 3,420 

Y.P. Girls. . . 3,114 

Borstal Institutions Regional Prisons 

Boys . . . 4,495 Men . . . 3,452 

Girls . . . 4,329 Women . . . 2,790 

Prison kitchens are in charge of 'cook and baker officers' who are 
members of the established grade of prison officer. They have all 
gone through a special course of training and receive an additional 

* Annual Report 1942-44, para. 209. 


allowance for their specialist skill and responsibility. In the larger 
kitchens there may be both a cook and a balcer. 

A considerable effort has been made since the war to bring the 
kitchen buildings and equipment up to a satisfactory level: all have 
now been supplied with refrigerators, fish-fryers, mechanical potato 
cleaners, slicing machines and the like, and in some of the larger 
bakeries dough-mixing machines have also been installed. 

Responsibility for securing that the food is 'of wholesome quality 
and well prepared', under the general surveillance of the Director of 
Medical Services and the Catering Adviser, is placed first, by Statutory 
Rule, on the Medical Officer who 'shall frequently inspect the food, 
cooked and uncooked, provided for prisoners, and shall report to the 
Governor on the state and quality of the food and on any deficiency 
in the quantity or defect in the quality of the water'. The Governor 
also, as part of his daily duty, inspects the meals and tastes them. A 
traditional feature of every prison kitchen is a small side table, laid 
with a white cloth, on which are set out with geometrical precision 
samples of every article of diet served during the day, including the 
special vegetarian and hospital diets. While this is aesthetically pleasing, 
knowledge is better gained by examining the actual meals as they are 
to be served. Control of the quality and quantity of the ingredients 
rests with the Steward, who issues the necessary amounts to the cook 
from his stores. 

One question, in the application of the Statutory Rule, is still to be 
answered. Are the meals 'well served'? At present the answer must, on 
the whole, be no, with the usual qualifications required in so various a 
system. The unit of service is still, in the majority of prisons and for 
the majority of prisoners in those prisons, the single prisoner eating in 
his cell; and for breakfast this is always so. The basic system, therefore, 
requires the kitchen to put up some hundreds of identical meals in 
individual containers, which in turn are stacked in large wooden food- 
trays, covered with a cloth, and placed in hot-plates some time before 
the hour for serving the meal. These trays must contain the exact 
number of meals required on each landing in each hall, including 
vegetarian and other special diets, according to the daily state a 
complicated bit of calculation and organisation. As soon as all the 
men are in their cells, the Principal Officer on the centre gives the signal 
and from all directions the 'landing orderlies' clatter down to the point 
where their trays await them, duly marked with the landing number and 
number of meals in each tray. These are checked by the landing officers 
and carried up to the landings, where the processions begin an officer 
in front to unlock, a second officer to hand in the dinner from the 
tray to the waiting hands inside the door. As the time when the staff 
get away to their own dinners depends on the speed of the operation, 
time is not wasted. Another method, for dinners only, is more usual at 


most prisons here the trays are brought to a central point and placed 
on tables ; the men as they come in from work file past, each collecting 
his own meal which is handed to him by prisoner orderlies, with no 
unnecessary ceremony, under the supervision of officers. 

The source of all evil in any single unit service is the nature of the 
container. This from time beyond memory has been the notorious 
prison can perhaps, with the broad-arrow and the mail-bag, one of 
the hoariest stigmata of the prison. It is a cylindrical metal tin, with a 
carrying handle (rarely used) and an inverted loose top which serves 
both as cover for the main body beneath and container for potatoes on 
top. It is in every way unsuitable, unhygienic, and inefficient by modern 
standards, though it may have served its purpose when prison meals 
and standards were simpler. It must be both sticky and unsafe to climb 
the narrow spiral stair of a prison hall with a piece of pudding in one 
hand and in the other this tin, with a piece of bread precariously 
perched on top of the potatoes. The meal is not or should not be 
eaten from the tin, for plate, knife, fork and spoon are provided in 
each cell: it is intended simply for transport, but apart from its in- 
efficiency for that purpose it has the effect of reducing any meal, 
however well prepared, to an unpalatable slush before its gets to the 

Since the war experiments have been carried out with alternative 
methods, and at the time of writing initial supplies have been delivered 
of a white plastic cafeteria tray, compartmented to hold the various 
parts of a meal. These are to be tried in representative prisons: but the 
problems of storage in the hot-cupboards, transport from kitchen to 
cell without loss of heat, and resistance to the less than fair wear-and- 
tear they will get in the prisons may still delay a satisfactory solution. 

It is of course axiomatic that a modern prison would avoid these 
troubles by communal eating in dining-rooms with a cafeteria service. 
Meanwhile the best arrangements possible are made in prisons with 
nothing like a dining-room for those prisoners in stage who do eat to- 
gether. Usually this has to be on the floors of the halls, though some 
prisons have a number of small rooms which are used for 'messes'. 
Small tables, usually for six, are provided, and neatly laid with two 
plates and a mug, knife, fork and spoon for each man. Water and 
condiments are placed on each table. For these associated messes the 
meals are sent up from the kitchen in bulk, and served on to the plates 
from a service table. Every effort is made to secure a clean and decent 
standard of table-manners. 

In the open prisons, of course, all meals are served in dining-rooms, 
where the standards of a good works canteen may be expected. 

There are certain variations of the standard pattern. At some prisons 
where there is a lot of outdoor work the men prefer to have their main 
meal in the evening, and outside parties at all prisons who do not come 


back during the day take out a 'haversack ration' and have their main 
meal when they get back : these parties usually have their dinner together 
in mess. There are of course variations of diet for the hospital generally 
and for individuals on medical grounds. And at Christmas there is 
more than a variation : the cooks usually show a good deal of enter- 
prise then, and a good roast, Christmas pudding, cake, fruit, mincemeat 
and the like somehow appear in quantities beyond what is necessary 
to maintain health and strength. 


It is difficult to strike the right note in prison dress. One of the earliest 
of the changes made after the First World War was to abandon deliber- 
ately defamatory dress the drab tunic and breeches, sown with broad- 
arrows, which are still cherished by cartoonists. In place of this came a 
plain suit of jacket, waistcoat and trousers, worn with a shirt, collar and 
tie, woollen socks and black leather shoes. But the result was dis- 
appointing: no-one could feel that it helped to stimulate self-respect. 
In particular the practice of boiling all outer garments before re-issue, 
though hygienically sound, did not make for good appearance. Women 
at this time wore jean dresses, with aprons and white washable caps, 
woollen cardigans for colder weather, and underclothing that 
approached the normal scarcely more in principle than in detail. 

After the late war, the Commissioners reconsidered the whole 
position, and in view of the difficulties of providing suits cut on normal 
civilian lines to look well on such a large and constantly changing 
population, other possibilities were discussed, such as something along 
the lines of the 'battle-dress' suit popularised during the war. However 
the balance of advantage seemed to be in favour of a suit, and much 
care was devoted to getting a suitable cloth which would stand up to 
the conditions, and a style that would look well and could still be made 
up in prison work-shops. Two important innovations were the substi- 
tution of dry-cleaning for boiling, and the provision of protective 
clothing for use at work. The underclothing and shoes were also brought 
into line with normal wear. 

A more radical change was made for the women, who may now have 
a choice of frocks (in four colours to their own taste) made in a 'zephyr' 
material to a normal (though uniform) design. Two dresses are issued, 
one for work, one for the evening. Maternity frocks of similar material 
are also available. The underclothing, stockings and shoes were also 
revised and would probably now be acceptable, in the circumstances, 
to most women : those who wish to use their own corsets and brassieres 
may do so, if they are fit for use. The grey wool cardigans remain, and 
aprons, overalls, raincoats, boots etc., are issued as required by the 
nature of the work. 


The men's suits are of plain grey cloth for the convicted, and of 
brown for untried and civil prisoners who choose to wear prison dress. 
Men in the higher stages of a long-term sentence wear navy bluejackets. 
The shirts are cream coloured with a pin-stripe, have attached collars, 
and are worn with a plain blue or brown tie. A second shirt is issued 
for night wear. It is a little early yet to pronounce on the general effect, 
but though it is an improvement, it does not so far look like fulfilling 
the hopes of the designers: and time will not improve it. There is, 
however, no doubt that the working dress, of ordinary blue bib-and- 
brace overalls, is a pronounced success: the appearance of prisoners at 
work is normal and workmanlike. 

The outer clothing is diversified by stripes and badges of varying 
significance, the proliferation of which has recently been brought under 
control. Star class prisoners in local prisons wear a red cloth star, men 
on the sleeve below the shoulder, women above the left breast. Young 
prisoners in local prisons wear a yellow triangle in the same position 
in their separate centres they need no distinguishing mark. They no 
longer wear shorts and stockings: this attire, for robust young men of 
19 or 20, was felt on the whole to be unsuitable indeed at times it 
seemed to verge on the 'defamatory'. For women the different stages of 
the long-term stage system are marked by different coloured ties or 
bows on the front of the dress; for men by a stripe on the cuff. 

There are local variations in different types of prison. In prisons 
where there are 'leaders', these wear a blue armlet. In central and 
regional prisons where there is much outdoor work jerseys are issued, 
and all outdoor parties have mackintoshes for wet weather. The stand- 
ard wet-weather (or cold-weather) wear has not been changed, and is 
still a short grey cloth cape for men and a longer blue cape for women. 
There is no regular head-gear: elderly men, and others on medical 
recommendation, have the old prison cap, which is something like 
the pre-war army forage cap. Men on the 'escape list' wear a dark 
cloth patch on the front and back of the trousers and the breast- 
pocket, so that they can be easily identified. 



IN the medical department of the prison the principle of 'inclusion 
in the community' has been carried as far as in any other. Although 
prison Medical Officers are not themselves officers of the National 
Health Service, every facility offered by that service is available to 
every prisoner. Dentists and opticians regularly visit the prisons, which 
are equipped with dental surgeries, and all necessary dental treatment 
(including dentures) and spectacles are supplied. Venereal disease is 
treated by venereologists from the local clinics, whether at the prisons 
or at the public clinics: everything is done to secure so far as possible 
continuity of treatment on discharge, and at Holloway, where the 
problem bulks largest, the London County Council have attached a 
venereal disease social worker to the prison clinic to this particular end. 
Full use is also made of N.H.S. consultant and hospital services, and 
for all these purposes numbers of prisoners are taken every day to the 
public hospitals and clinics a considerable additional drain on the 
time of the staff for escort duties. 

To this extent the prisoner is as well served as if he were not in prison, 
and no better, for his status affords him no priority in the supply of 
dentures, spectacles, etc. But in so far as he is under regular medical 
supervision and direction from the day of his reception he is at some 
advantage, and it is a necessary and logical part of his treatment that 
this should be so : the prison may or may not succeed in removing moral 
defects, but it may well remove or relieve mental and physical defects 
which could handicap a prisoner who, on discharge, had the will to 
'lead a good and useful life'. This indeed is regarded as a duty implicit 
in the terms of Statutory Rule 6. 

The Medical Officer is, therefore, equipped with considerable autono- 
mous powers and responsibilities, which are prescribed in detail in the 
Statutory Rules. He must examine every prisoner on reception, record 
the state of his health and other particulars and note his fitness for 



labour and physical training. He must 'have the care of the mental 
and physical health of the prisoners and shall every day visit every 
sick prisoner, every prisoner who complains of illness, and every other 
prisoner to whom his attention is specially directed (S.R. 86)'; and 
'attend at once on receiving information of the illness of a prisoner' 
(S.R. 87). Mention has already been made of his responsibilities in respect 
of hygiene and sanitation; food, work and exercise; and of prisoners 
undergoing certain forms of punishment or under mechanical restraint. 
In addition, the following specific responsibilities are laid on him by 
the Rules : 

'88. The Medical Officer shall report to the Governor any matter 
which appears to him to require the consideration of the Com- 
missioners on medical grounds, and the Governor shall send such 
report to the Commissioners. 

'89. Whenever the Medical Officer has reason to believe that a prisoner's 
mental or physical health is likely to be injuriously affected by 
continued imprisonment or by any conditions of imprisonment, 
or that the life of a prisoner will be endangered by imprisonment, 
or that a sick prisoner will not survive his sentence or is totally or 
permanently unfit for imprisonment, he shall without delay report 
the case in writing to the Governor with such recommendations as 
he thinks fit, and the Governor shall forward such report and 
recommendations to the Commissioners forthwith. 

'90. The Medical Officer shall report in writing to the Governor the 
case of any prisoner to which he thinks it necessary on medical 
grounds to draw attention, and shall make such recommendations 
as he deems needful for the alteration of the diet or treatment of 
the prisoner or for his separation from other prisoners, or for the 
supply to him of additional clothing, bedding or other articles, 
and the Governor shall so far as practicable carry such recom- 
mendations into effect. 

'91. The Medical Officer shall draw the attention of the Governor to 
any prisoner who he may have reason to think has suicidal inten- 
tions in order that special observation may be kept on such 
prisoner, and the Governor shall, without delay, direct that such 
prisoner be observed at frequent intervals. 

'92. The Medical Officer shall keep under special observation every 
prisoner whose mental condition appears to require it, and shall 
take such steps as he considers proper for his segregation, and if 
necessary his certification under the Acts relating to lunacy or 
mental deficiency. 

'93. The Medical Officer shall give notice to the Governor and the 
Chaplain when a prisoner appears to be seriously ill.' 


Finally, he must examine every prisoner 'as short a time as practicable 
before discharge, or removal to another prison' (S.R. 25), and if a 
prisoner dies the Medical Officer 'shall keep a record of the death of 
any prisoner which shall include the following particulars: at what 
time the deceased was taken ill, when the illness was first notified to 
the Medical Officer, the nature of the illness, when the prisoner died, 
and an account of the appearance after death (in cases where a post 
mortem examination is made) together with any special remarks that 
appear to him to be required' (S.R. 27). In this event the Governor is 
also required to 'give immediate notice thereof to the Coroner having 
jurisdiction, to the Visiting Committee and to the Commissioners' 
(S.R. 28). The examination before discharge is intended to ensure that 
the prisoner is fit for the journey, and that his medical condition is on 
record in case of subsequent complaints : a prisoner may not be removed 
to another prison unless the Medical Officer certifies that he is fit for 
removal, and one due for discharge 'who is suffering from an acute or 
dangerous illness shall, unless he refuses to stay, not be sent out of 
prison until in the opinion of the Medical Officer it is safe to send him 
out, (S.R. 25). 

To assist the Medical Officer in the discharge of his duties the Rules 
further provide that 'At every prison either a separate hospital building 
or a suitable part of the prison shall be equipped and furnished in a 
manner proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and 
staffed by suitably trained officers' (S.R. 85). Most prisons have a 
separate hospital building within the wall. The nature and size of these 
vary with the size of the prison. The best of them are light, airy and 
well-equipped buildings, with pleasant wards and ranges of separate 
rooms which are larger than the ordinary cell, painted white, lighted 
by normal windows and equipped with hospital beds and furniture 
and head-phones for wireless. There will also be a dispensary, treatment 
rooms, offices, etc. Others are less satisfactory, and could only be put 
right by rebuilding. In smaller prisons a few hospital rooms and 
offices in one of the halls may suffice for normal purposes. 

The hospital will also control a number of cells in the main building 
set aside for certain cases who do not require 'hospitalisation' epileptic 
cells, with padded floor, walls, etc.; special cells for itch, verminous 
and venereal cases; and others, with large windows and washable walls, 
for tubercular cases. In dealing with tuberculosis, full use is made of 
the resources of local T.B. clinics and, where necessary, sanatoria. 

The nursing in men's prisons is done by male nurses who are called 
Hospital Officers. They are recruited mainly from men with suitable 
nursing experience in the Royal Navy, the R.A.M.C. or the R.A.F., 
or as mental hospital attendants: some are State Registered Nurses 
and some hold certificates in mental nursing, but these qualifications 
are not essential. Selected candidates are first given the ordinary course 


of training of a prison officer: those who are successful are later sent to 
a course of training in prison nursing at a large prison hospital, and 
if they pass the examination they receive a certificate and are posted 
for duty as Hospital Officers. 

For women's prisons there is a service of Nursing Sisters recruited 
from fully trained State Registered Nurses, with assistant nurses in the 
larger hospitals. There are one or more Sisters at every women's prison, 
and in the large hospital at Holloway there would be 30 or more if the 
staff were at full strength. Unfortunately since the war there has been 
a serious shortage of qualified Nursing Sisters in the prison service as 
elsewhere. The head of the women's Nursing Service is the Nursing 
Matron-in-Chief, who though stationed at Holloway periodically 
visits all the women's hospitals. The Commissioners also receive advice 
on nursing matters, and on the conditions of service of the female 
nursing staff, from a Voluntary Advisory Nursing Board, consisting 
of the Matrons of certain large London hospitals and other qualified 
ladies: the Board meets quarterly, with the Governor of Holloway and 
the Matron-in-Chief, from the latter of whom it receives a regular 
report. Members of the Board visit the Holloway hospital on a regular 
rota, and other hospitals from time to time. 

The prisons are thus equipped to deal with most medical contin- 
gencies, including minor surgery, and some hospitals have operation 
theatres in which major operations can be performed. There is, however, 
power under the Criminal Justice Act 1948 to remove to an outside 
hospital any prisoner who requires surgical or medical treatment which 
cannot be given in the prison. This power is freely used. The majority 
of cases requiring major operations are however removed to Wormwood 
Scrubs prison, where there is a large modern operating theatre and 
surgical unit staffed by Nursing Sisters : the operations are performed 
by outside surgical consultants. 

Until 1949 it was the practice for births to take place in the prison 
hospitals, and all Sisters were required to be qualified midwives. 
Following the Criminal Justice Act, however, the Secretary of State 
decided that any woman who wished to be delivered in an outside 
hospital should be removed to one if suitable arrangements could be 
made, and the great majority of women have since opted to do this so 
that their babies may not be under the stigma of having been born in 
prison. The hospital authorities have in general co-operated most help- 
fully, and the arrangements have worked well: mother and child are 
however, usually returned to the prison a day or two after the birth. 
These babies get an excellent start in life, in spite of their inauspicious 
nursery, for their mothers have not only had skilled pre-natal care but 
are given a good training in child welfare and management, and the 
babies are provided with a nice little outfit to go home in. A woman 
may have her baby with her in prison, whether it be born there or 

E.P.B.S. 16 


brought in at reception, 'during the normal period of lactation and 
longer if required in special circumstances' (S.R. 20). The creche is 
usually the most cheerful feature of a women's prison, except when 
feeding-time is overdue. 


In this section we approach a subject which is highly specialised, of 
increasing interest today both inside and outside the prison world, and 
also, because of its scientific immaturity, in many of its aspects still 
controversial. The impact of psychological medicine on the treatment 
of offenders is nevertheless no new thing. As long ago as 1932 the 
Departmental Committee on Persistent Offenders stated, in the course 
of its recommendations, that The mental condition of offenders is a 
matter calling for careful attention. There is reason to believe that 
certain delinquents may be amenable to psychological treatment. The 
application of this method to criminal cases is, in this country at any 
rate, in its infancy. Its scope is probably limited and is applicable 
chiefly to children, juveniles and adolescents. Further experience is 
desirable to show to what extent this method can be used effectively. 
A certain number of offenders might benefit by attending under proba- 
tion approved mental hospitals or out-patient clinics. Use should also 
be made in suitable cases of child-guidance clinics. A medical psycholo- 
gist should be attached to one or more penal establishments to carry 
out psychological treatment in selected cases. He should be assisted by 
voluntary women workers who should visit the offender's home and 
obtain information as to his history and circumstances. This system 
should be applied to offenders who are willing to be treated during a 
sentence of Borstal detention or imprisonment, and are recommended 
for such treatment by the Medical Officer as being hopeful cases if 
transferred for this purpose to a special establishment.' 

All these recommendations have since been realised, either by 
developments in prison medical practice or by legislation, and the 
position before the war was set out in the well-known 'East-Hubert' 
Report on the Psychological Treatment of Crime. 1 This four-year 
investigation was undertaken, the writers tell us, largely as a result of 
the recommendation of the Departmental Committee. 

It is not within the scope of this section, nor the competence of the 
writer, to attempt either to summarise or to comment on this authorita- 
tive work, nor on the post-war reports of the successors to Sir Norwood 
East and Dr. Hubert in this field which have appeared in the Annual 

1 By W. Norwood East, M.D., F.R.C.P., late Medical Commissioner of Prisons, 
and W. H. de B. Hubert, B.A., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., late Psychotherapist, H.M. 
Prison, Wormwood Scrubs. Published in 1939 for the Home Office by H.M. 
Stationery Office, price 2s. 6d. 


Reports of the Commissioners: readers can but be referred to the 
originals, and more particularly to the Appendix to Chapter Seven of 
the 1949 Report, which contains full accounts of their work by the 
two consulting psycho-therapists at Wormwood Scrubs, Dr. John C. 
Mackwood and Dr. Jonathan H. Gould. 1 

The primary purpose of this section will be the more limited one of 
describing the 'set-up' within the prison system for dealing with diseases 
and disorders of the mind, and the duties .which fall on the Medical 
Officers and their assistants in this connection: it will however be 
necessary for completeness to consider also the provision made by 
law for dealing with any offender, whether he be sentenced to imprison- 
ment or not, who may suffer or be thought to suffer from such diseases 
and disorders, since the prison Medical Officer may have an essential 
part to play at any stage of these proceedings. We shall consider also 
the role of the Medical Officer qua psychiatrist, and of the psychologist, 
in the general treatment of prisoners, especially in relation to classifica- 
tion. For a synthesis of contemporary international expert views on 
all these, and other, aspects of the function of psychiatry in the prison, 
attention is drawn to the Resolution on Question Two of Section I in 
Appendix F. How far English practice conforms with these views will 
appear as we proceed. 

An essential preliminary here is the definition of terms, since these 
are not always used in the same sense internationally or even profession- 
ally within the same country: this is not to claim any authority for the 
following definitions, but simply to make clear the sense in which these 
terms will be used. By psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy we 
shall mean the branches of science concerned respectively with the 
nature and functions of the mind, with mental abnormality and disease 
and with the specific treatment of mental abnormality and disease. 
Our psychologist will therefore be a professionally qualified layman, 
our psychiatrist a medical man skilled in diseases and disorders of the 
mind, our psychotherapist a medical man who undertakes the treat- 
ment of such diseases and disorders. By 'lunatic' we shall mean a 
person certifiable as insane under the Lunacy Acts. By 'mental defec- 
tive' a person certifiable under the Mental Deficiency Acts, i.e. one 
who suffers from an incomplete or arrested development of mind, 
existing before the age of 18 years; these fall into the categories of idiots, 
imbeciles, feeble-minded persons and moral defectives. By 'mentally 
subnormal', we shall mean persons of inferior intelligence who are not 
certifiable as mentally defective. By 'psychoneurotics', those who suffer 
from minor mental disorders such as neurasthenia, hysteria, anxiety 
and obsessive neuroses. With the major mental diseases classed as 
'psychoses' we shall be little concerned: they will commonly lead to 
certification. There remains the difficult group commonly described as 
i Dr. Gould resigned in 1950 and was replaced by Dr, D, S. Macphail. 


'psychopaths', of which so far as the writer is aware no comprehensive 
definition exists which has been generally accepted by medical psycholo- 
gists. The term,' says Sir Norwood East, 'has been frequently abused, 
so that some observers consider it to be little more than a waste-paper 
basket nomenclature.' 1 East's own 'tentative' definition is 'a person 
who, although not insane, psychoneurotic or mentally defective, is 
persistently unable to adapt himself to social requirements on account 
of abnormal peculiarities of impulse, temperament and character', and 
he adds that 'Many cases seem to lie on the borderline between mental 
disease and anomalies of character rather than between mental health 
and mental disease.' 

Offenders suffering from any of these disorders may come to prison, 
either before or after trial, and the most onerous and exacting of the 
duties falling on the Medical Officer is that of recognising them and 
taking the appropriate action. In respect of untried prisoners, he must 
prepare reports to the courts on their state of mind when the courts 
require such information, or when he considers it necessary, and give 
evidence if required: remands for 'state of mind reports' are increasingly 
used by the courts, and the medical officer of a busy local prison may be 
required to prepare many hundreds in the course of a year. Where 
prisoners are committed for trial for serious offences, he must also be 
prepared to inform the Director of Public Prosecutions of any abnormal 
mental condition that may be relevant, and if the defence decide to put 
their client's state of mind in question, the Medical Officer may be 
called by either the prosecution or the defence to give evidence based on 
his findings, which may be in conflict with those of medical experts 
called by the defence. In murder cases, the accused is invariably placed 
under mental observation, and a medical report is sent to the Director 
of Public Prosecutions and to the defence. This (as in other cases) may 
be directed either to the question whether the prisoner is fit to plead, 
since if he is mentally incapable of instructing his defence or following 
the proceedings there may be a verdict of 'insane on arraignment', or 
to the question of whether at the time of committing the offence he 
was insane within the meaning of the 'MacNaghten Rules', in which 
case there may be a verdict of 'guilty but insane'. 2 

There are still other circumstances in which the Medical Officer may 
be required to make reports or give evidence on 'states of mind'. It may 
be explained that English law does not recognise the conception of 

1 Society and the Criminal, p. 41. 

2 It should be understood that these Rules, which were laid down by the Judges 
in 1843, purport to provide a definition of criminal irresponsibility, not of insanity. 
It is possible for an offender to be certifiably insane and at the same time to be 
criminally responsible under the MacNaghten Rules, the essence of which is that 
if at the time of committing the offence the offender, by reason of some defect of 
reason from disease of the mind, did not know what he was doing or did not know 
that it was wrong, then he cannot be held to be criminally responsible. 


"partial responsibility' arising from an abnormal state of mind falling 
short of insanity. It does however recognise indirectly that the culpa- 
bility, though not the responsibility, of an offender may be modified by 
the presence of mental abnormality, since by certain provisions of the 
Criminal Justice Act 1948 it gives the Courts powers to have expert 
inquiry made in such cases with a view to measures which seek rather 
to remove the abnormality than to punish the offender. In particular, 
by section 4 of the Act, if the Court is satisfied by expert medical evi- 
dence that the mental condition of an offender is such that he may 
benefit by medical treatment, though he is not certifiable as a lunatic 
or as a mental defective, and that such treatment is available and he is 
willing to undergo it, they may place him on probation with a condition 
that he undergpes such treatment. For this purpose again the offender 
may be remanded to prison, the Medical Officer providing the 'expert 
medical evidence' and making the necessary arrangements, through 
the Regional Psychiatrist of the National Health Service, for the carry- 
ing out of the treatment in a mental hospital or otherwise. 

It is of interest to note in this connection a report issued in 1950 by 
the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders which- makes 
proposals towards taking this process a stage further. The Council was 
concerned with those offenders of the 'non-certifiable mentally abnor- 
mal' group in respect of whom the Courts might feel that action under 
section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act was inappropriate, in view of the 
gravity of their offences or their danger to society. In such cases the 
Courts might see no alternative to sending them to prison, though they 
might be reluctant either to do this at all or to impose a sentence long 
enough for effective treatment within the prison system. The Council 
therefore proposed further legislation to give the Courts powers to 
commit such offenders to a special psychiatric institution to be pro- 
vided by the Home Office (though not as a prison), for such period as 
may be necessary within the maximum period prescribed by law as a 
sentence for the offence in question. The Home Secretary would have 
power to release within the period of the sentence on evidence that the 
offender had obtained maximum benefit from the treatment. These 
proposals are a compromise with the more logical if drastic system of 
'psychiatric internment* in use, e.g. in Denmark, where such an offender 
may be committed until he is cured, however long that may be. 

Returning to the actualities of the system, it will be evident that the 
prison Medical Officer must not only be or become a psychiatrist, but 
that when he has obtained sufficient experience he will also be an 
expert in forensic psychiatry. For these reasons experience in psychiatric 
medicine, and if possible the D.P.M., are sought in all candidates. 
This expertise of the senior Medical Officers is so far recognised that 
some of the leading psychiatric hospitals attach their Registrars to 
certain prisons for instruction in forensic psychiatry. 


To turn from the untried to the convicted, the first duty of the 
Medical Officer is to diagnose lunacy or mental deficiency where it 
exists, to arrange for certification as prescribed by the Acts, and then 
to get the prisoner removed as soon as possible to a mental hospital 
or an institution for mental defectives. It is also necessary to arrange 
for the disposal to appropriate institutions of persons in prison under 
verdicts of guilty but insane or insane on arraignment, and of mentally 
defective offenders committed pending the presentation of an order or 
to await removal to an institution. While they remain in prison, such 
persons are by Statutory Rule placed under the special care of the 
Medical Officer. 

The next category calling for medical treatment is the non-certifiable 
but mentally abnormal. These fall into two groups, those whose 
symptoms indicate that they may benefit by psycho-therapy, and the 
remainder. For the former group there is the fullest provision, described 
as follows in Prisons and Borstals 'All Medical Officers are given 
guidance on the type of case likely to benefit by such treatment and the 
prisoners they select, or those to whom the courts have drawn attention, 
are, in the case of men, removed to Wormwood Scrubs or Wakefield 
where the Principal Medical Officers investigate their condition. Here 
are psychiatric clinics (in one of which there are remedial workshops 
and a biochemical laboratory) and visiting psychiatrists conduct 
assessments and carry out such treatment as they consider necessary. 
Most recognised physical methods of various kinds and group therapy 
are employed, and the psychiatrists are assisted by non-medical 
psychologists and psychiatric social workers. Women in similar circum- 
stances are removed to Hollo way where there is a visiting psychiatrist. 1 
Treatment is practicable in prison only for prisoners who comply with 
the necessary criteria of suitability. It is necessary, inter alia, not only 
that the mental condition should be such as in the opinion of the 
psychiatrist will respond to treatment, but that the patient should be 
willing and able to co-operate and that the sentence should be of 
sufficient length to enable a course, which may be prolonged, to be 
carried out. It may therefore happen that an offender sent to prison 
with a recommendation by a court for psychological treatment will 
not in fact be able to receive it, though all such cases will be fully 
considered. It follows that where such a recommendation is made by 
a court it is better not to announce it. Prisoners who are not certifiable 
under the Lunacy Act but who require physical psychiatric treatment 
in a mental hospital are released as voluntary patients under Section 
60 (2) (b) of the Criminal Justice Act 1948 for so long as may be 
necessary. This privilege is very rarely abused and great care is taken 
to ensure that other inmates of the hospital do not become aware of 
the fact that the patient is a convicted prisoner,' In their Annual Report 
1 And also a psychiatric social worker and a psychologist. 


for 1949 the Commissioners gave full particulars of the types considered 
unsuitable for treatment as follows : 

'(a) Those who are certifiable under either the Lunacy or Mental 
Deficiency Act. 

'(6) Those who are suffering from permanent organic cerebral 

\c) Those who show intellectual inferiority of such a degree as to 
render them incapable of co-operating in treatment. 

'(d) Those who do not exhibit a genuine anxiety for cure. 

\e) Those who are unwilling to co-operate in measures designed to 
modify their abnormal practices. 

'(/) Adult prisoners whose criminal activities show evidence of 
marked chronicity. 

'(g) Adolescents whose abnormality has existed from an early age 
and is combined with a closely related psychopathic heredity. 

'(/O Those showing excessive resentment or undue resignation at 
* their conviction or sentence. 

'(/) Those whose attitude suggests that they have ulterior motives 
in seeking treatment. 

The nature of the work carried out at the Wormwood Scrubs clinic, 
and its results, are fully described and discussed by the two consultant 
psychotherapists in an appendix to the same Report. The Com- 
missioners have also begun to make arrangements, through the Regional 
Hospital Boards, for prisoners whose sentences are too short for treat- 
ment in prison to be seen by psychiatrists from the public clinics under 
whom they may continue treatment after release. As much as possible 
is also done by way of follow-up after release for those treated in the 
prison clinics: but the specifically personal relationship between psycho- 
therapist and patient imposes a difficulty here. 

For the remainder, the provision is less clear-cut. From simpler days, 
when provision would be made in a prison for the 'weak-minded party', 
it has been accepted that there exists a class of prisoner who, while not 
requiring or likely to profit by psychotherapeutic treatment, do require 
special management under medical supervision. It has for many years 
been the practice to concentrate long-term prisoners of this class at 
Parkhurst. Such a group would include the mentally subnormal, in- 
efficient and constitutionally unstable, and today one would add at 
any rate some of those who might be called psychopaths. To these 
'chronic' cases should also be added those who become temporarily 
unstable or unduly depressed through failure to adapt to prison life, 
or whose reactions to discipline present special difficulties. Ideally, such 
a group in every prison should be under 'psychiatric management', 


designed primarily to improve their adaptation to present circum- 
stances and prevent them from being a nuisance to others, but looking 
also to helping their re-adaptation to normal social life after discharge. 

But the ordinary local prison is not the ideal milieu for this sort of 
treatment, nor has the long and serious shortage of medical staff 
since the war been propitious to its development. For these reasons, 
and in order to place the whole treatment of mentally abnormal pri- 
soners on a satisfactory scientific basis, the Commissioners proposed as 
soon as the war was over to give first priority, in any new building pro- 
gramme, to the provision of a special psychiatric institution within the 
prison system on the lines recommended in the East-Hubert Report 
(para. 172). This would not only concentrate psycho therapeutic treat- 
ment in a suitable building suitably equipped and staffed, and provide 
favourable conditions for the training and treatment of the mentally 
abnormal generally, but serve as a centre of research into the relation- 
ships between mental disorder and crime. 

Even without such a research centre, however, the prison Medical 
Service, sometimes in conjunction with outside experts and institutions, 
has since the war made many interesting contributions to knowledge in 
this field. Among those listed in the Annual Reports for 1948 and 1949 

\d) In conjunction with the Maudsley Hospital, an analysis of the 
clinical histories and electroencephalographic recordings of 64 
cases of murder. 1 

\b) Observations by the Medical Officer at Wormwood Scrubs on 
the results of encephalography in 38 cases. 

\c) An investigation, including encephalography, in conjunction 
with the Maudsley Hospital, into psychopathic personalities at 
Wandsworth and Wormwood Scrubs. 

\d) At Bristol, in collaboration with the Medical Superintendent of 
Bristol Mental Hospital, research into the endocrinological aspect 
of psychopathic personality.' 

It having been necessary to deal at so much length with the treatment 
of mental disorder, it would be well before leaving the subject to give 
some quantitative information to put the question in its proper per- 
spective. The widespread interest in psychology which developed 
between the wars, and the valuable work done in applying the teachings 
of psychological medicine, so far as it has progressed, to the causation 
and treatment of delinquency, has led to an over-emphasis which in 
some quarters might seem to have led to the conclusion that crime 
is itself a form of mental disease, and that its removal as a social evil 
is a matter more for medicine than for the penal law. A more balanced 

1 Reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, Vol. 12, 


view has been stated as follows: 'Some psychiatrists in recent times 
have emphasised the fact that crime is not a disease though it may be 
due to disease/ 1 

Apart from the questions raised in Chapter 1 (pp. 5, 6) as to the 
nature of crime,* some impression of the actual extent to which crime 
may be 'due to disease' may be gained from the following facts cited by 
East and Hubert in their Report of 1939: 

'Among 278,667 persons received into prisons in England and 
Wales during the five-year period 1932-6, 1,164 or 0-41 per cent were 
certified as mentally defective, and 2,039 or 0-73 per cent were certifiably 
insane' (para. 20). 

'The "normal" group will include at least 80 per cent of offenders' 
(para. 19). 

Again, as regards psychopaths, Sir Norwood East 2 cites Healy and 
Bronner as having found 2-8 per cent of psychopathic personalities in 
a series of 4,000 juvenile delinquents. 

The reports by Dr. Mackwood and Dr. Gould in the Annual Report 
for 1949 deal with 313 cases referred to them over a period of 5 years 
from 1943, an annual average of 62-6. 

It is also necessary to strike a cautionary note about the results of 
this form of treatment. In the Annual Report for 1947 the Director of 
Medical Services said: 'It is sometimes assumed that cure by psycho- 
logical treatment is, or should be, a sure preventive of further criminal 
activity. Criminal acts may arise from abnormal psychological factors 
of which the subject is unaware or only partially aware. The function 
of psychotherapy is to bring these factors into consciousness in such a 
way that any repetition of the act can only take place if the subject has 
the will and intention to do it. To expect more from psychological 
treatment is to give it credit for greater powers than it possesses.' 
And Dr. Mackwood added in 1949 that: 'The heading "greatly im- 
proved" is as near to "cure" as one feels justified in stating. The results 
of psychotherapy in some ways resemble those of surgical cancer; years 
have to go by before one can talk in terms of cure' (p. 77). The same 
thought has been expressed by Dr. J. R. Rees in Mental Health and the 
Offender: 'There is no mystery about the aims or methods of psycho- 
logical treatment. Granted the co-operation of the patient, one hopes 
through careful and detailed discussion of the nature and origins of his 
particular difficulty, or abnormal reactions, to make it possible for him 
to alter and reshape his point of view or his conduct. To 'pull yourself 
together' is rarely possible in cold blood unless you know what to get 

1 Mental Health and the Offender, by J. R. Rees, M.D. The Seventh Clarke Hall 
Lecture, p. 6. 

2 Society and the Criminal, p. 127. 


hold of and how to pull. Analytical psychotherapy seeks to provide 
this understanding.' 

We may now pass to the functions of psychiatry and psychology in 
relation to the suitability of offenders for particular forms of treatment: 
these fall into two groups, the first concerned with advice to the Courts 
on the type of sentence appropriate to particular cases, the second with 
advice to the administration on the classification of sentenced offenders. 1 
By sections 20 and 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 1948, the Courts are 
required, before passing sentence of Borstal training, corrective training 
or preventive detention, to consider reports made to the Prison Com- 
missioners as to the suitability of the offender for such a sentence. These 
reports 2 are in practice made by Governors on behalf of the Com- 
missioners, and invariably include in addition to the general recom- 
mendation a medical report as to mental and physical fitness. The report 
on mental fitness is yet another psychiatric function of the Medical 
Officer, in so far as questions of mental abnormality may arise and 
their bearing have to be considered, but in making these reports 
Governors and Medical Officers should have the assistance of a psycho- 
logist. So far, however, this situation has been reached in principle only: 
in practice, psychologists are not available in anything like sufficient 
numbers. In their Annual Report for 1949 (p. 69) the Commissioners 
described their intentions as follows : 

4 In order to meet the requirements of the Criminal Justice Act 1948, 
arrangements are being made for the setting up of a psychological 
staff in this department. This scheme will necessitate the employment of: 

1 Chief Psychologist 

4 Principal Psychologists 
7 Senior Psychologists 

5 Basic Psychologists 

14 Psychiatric Social Workers 
13 Psychological Testers. 

'Psychologists are in post at all the allocation centres through which 
persons sentenced to Corrective and Borstal training pass. The alloca- 
tion, whether to open or closed establishments, and if so, to which, is 
determined here by Boards, of which the psychologist is a member. 
It is here that decisions on referring cases for psychological treatment 
are taken and observations on the form of training recommended are 
made at this point. The psychological reports made at all the remand 
and trial prisons by psychologists with the assistance of psychiatric 
social workers, and testers, as it becomes possible to fill these posts, 
will be reviewed here. 

1 See Appendix K. 

2 They will be discussed more fully in the context of Borstal training and the treat- 
ment of persistent offenders. 


The duties of these psychologists, who will work to the medical 
officers at remand and trial prisons in their respective groups, will be 
(1) to assist in the preparation of reports to courts under Section 21 of 
the Criminal Justice Act ; (2) to provide medical officers with the assist- 
ance necessary to enable them to fulfil the increasing demands by 
courts for reports on the psychological condition of untried prisoners, 
under Sections 4 and 26 of the Criminal Justice Act. They will also give 
the same assistance in the preparation of reports on Borstal cases under 
Section 20 as in older age groups under Section 21; (3) they will be 
available for making reports where necessary on convicted prisoners or 
Borstal inmates. Their work will include the ascertainment of intelli- 
gence, the application of performance tests, education attainment tests, 
mechanical and other aptitude tests and general attainment tests, and 
an opinion on the personality and character of the offender. The 
medical officer will take these data into account when submitting his 
report to the Court on the mental and physical condition of the 

'That much depends upon the psychological assessment as a basis of 
opinion on the suitability of the offender for Corrective Training has 
been shown by the results obtained at Reading Corrective Training 
Allocation Centre, where a psychological staff has been in operation for 
several months. Here an attempt is being made to overtake the leeway 
due to the lack of psychologists at receiving prisons and approximately 
40 prisoners a week are being dealt with. A not inconsiderable number 
of these would have been reported as unsuitable for corrective training 
if the evidence subsequently obtained at Reading had been available at 
the time of trial.' 

The functions of the psychologist in relation to classification are also 
touched on in the foregoing statement, to which there is little to be 
added. It may be, however, that as psychologists come to be employed 
in the local prisons they will also play their part there in assessing the 
suitability of prisoners for transfer to regional training prisons and for 
other special forms of training. The Medical Officer already plays his 
part as a member of the Reception Board. 

Finally, the Medical Officer qua psychiatrist should have a valuable 
role, in collaboration with other members of the staff, in the general 
'man-management' of the prison, along the lines suggested in para. 1 
and para. 2 (2) and (3) of The Hague Congress resolution. At present 
the serious medical under-staffing of the prisons hampers the fullest 
development of this function, but in the regional training prisons where 
there are full-time Medical Officers they do take an active part as 
regular members of the team, as also in central prisons and Borstals. 

The Hague resolution, in para. 5, refers also to the assistance which 
can be given by the psychiatrist in the training of staff. Such assistance 


is fully used at the Imperial Training School at Wakefield in relation 
to the selection of staff, both the Medical Officer and the psychologist 
of the prison taking an active part in the testing of the candidates and 
in making personality reports to the Board. The Medical Officer also 
gives a series of lectures to each course on the psychological aspects of 



' TT T has been said that a prisoner's real punishment begins when he 
I is discharged; and, again, that the true test of a prison system is 
JL what happens to a man when he comes out. Modern methods of 
prison treatment seek the social rehabilitation of the offender, endea- 
vouring to prepare him to take his place once more as a normal mem- 
ber of society, and to help him retain the feeling that he is still part of 
the community and that the community takes a continuing interest in 
his welfare. But this effort may be fruitless unless the difficult transition 
to life in the world outside the prison gates is helped and guided by a 
humane and efficient system of after-care; but for organised help and 
guidance on release, recovery would often be very difficult, if not 
impossible.' 1 

It would be morally indefensible, nor would the protection of society 
against crime be secured, if the offender, having purged his offence by 
undergoing his punishment, were then put out of the prison gate without 
thought or care for his future. So much has been recognised, at least in 
principle, from Howard onwards: but there is a wide gap between a 
simple humanitarian urge to relieve misery and distress and the state- 
ment in the foregoing quotation, which implies that the social rehabilita- 
tion of the offender as a duty of society does not cease when he leaves 
the prison. The trend from private charity to public responsibility 
corresponds to a change in the underlying theoretical conceptions. As 
long as the principle of retribution dominated the administration of 
criminal justice, the State contented itself with executing the penalty in 
accordance with the law. With the expiration of a prison term, however, 
the social effects of punishment were by no means extinct. It was left to 
society to help the ex-prisoner with shelter, work and bare necessities 
of life, and thereby to compensate for any additional hardship beyond 
the limits of legal punishment proper. With the recognition of social 

1 Prisons and Borstals, Chapter 9, para. 1. 


adjustment as a primary object of penal policy, the negative intention 
of avoiding undesirable after-effects became a positive aim and an 
essential stage in the rehabilitative process/ 1 

The history of 'aid-on-discharge' and 'after-care' during the last 
hundred years has been that of the movement of thought and practice 
towards this principle and its implementation; and it may be said at 
the outset that this movement is by no means complete as will appear, 
the post-war years in this field of work may well mark a significant 
point of fresh departure. 

The problems facing a discharged prisoner are twofold the 
emotional or psychological, and the economic; and both will vary 
widely according to the temperament and circumstances of the person, 
the length of time he has been in prison and the number of times he 
has been in prison. Individualisation of treatment is even more neces- 
sary, and certainly more practicable, after release than before it. 

Attention must first concentrate on the economic problems, though 
the others may often be more pressing. These comprise, in a word, the 
re-settlement of the prisoner return to his home district, and the 
provision of shelter, immediate financial and material needs and work 
all that is included in the phrase 'aid-on-discharge' as distinct from 
'after-care'. That society has an obligation to see to these things has not 
for a long time past been in doubt: both pity and prudence dictate 
their necessity. There is, as we shall see, a well-developed machinery 
for dealing with them, and on the whole the needs have been and are 
being met. The main problems still arising are two, and of these the 
first is now as it has always been that of providing work. 

That a discharged prisoner should get into work as soon as possible 
is of the first importance both economically and psychologically. If he 
is not to be tempted to revert to crime, he must be able to support him- 
self and his family by honest work. Even if he is out of work but sup- 
ported by the State through unemployment pay or other regular 
channels of assistance, he is yet in a more difficult position, making him 
more vulnerable to temptation, than those equally unhappily placed 
who have not been in prison: he is ex hypothesi one who has already 
shown some weakness of control, and whatever effect of deterrence or 
reform his prison experience may have had on him, he is likely to 
imagine himself inferior, tainted, persecuted even, and from such 
imaginings to develop feelings of self-justification and resentment 
which may well drive him to dishonesty again as soon as opportunity 
offers. And if his normal associates are already so disposed, oppor- 
tunity will not wait long. 

Yet there are serious difficulties to be faced. No one would wish to 
claim that because a person has been punished for a criminal offence he 
should therefore have some special priority as against those who, in 

i Griinhut, pp, 318, 319. 


the face maybe of equal temptation, have not offended. So in times of 
unemployment, when the right to work is denied to many, the ex- 
prisoner must take his chance with the rest. But whether employment 
be full or scarce, he may not always get that chance. 'Distrust and 
resentment against the man who has been in prison has always proved 
an obstacle to the work of welfare agencies as well as to the honest 
efforts of the former prisoner himself.' l For many this must be so, if 
they think to return to their former work ; the public servant who has 
committed a breach of the trust placed in him, the dishonest clerk and 
many other such cannot reasonably expect reinstatement: and these are 
commonly the sort who have no trade to turn to. Nor is it easy to 
turn any reproach against an employer who prefers a man of known 
good character to one with a record of crime. One can only be grateful 
to all those employers, and they are many, who do not pass by on the 
other side. From the offender's fellow workpeople one might hope for 
an even wider charity, but it must be said that this is not always found; 
nor has it always been easy to secure the full co-operation of Trade 
Unions in the problems of re-absorbing prisoners into industry. 

And finally there is the ex-prisoner himself: all too many are difficult, 
too apt still to the same self-regarding motives that drove them to crime, 
and to weary the patience of their welfare officers and of helpful 
employers by declining good work or leaving it for no good reason. 
And where there is a reasonable willingness, many are virtually un- 
employable by reason of physical or mental inferiority, while others 
have never had a trade or are precluded from re-entry to such work as 
they can do. Even those who have learned a trade in prison which they 
are willing and able to practise must be prepared for disappointment : 
to come out of prison with long training in and practice of a skilled 
trade is no passport to entry into that trade, whether as a journeyman 
or a labourer. No regular apprenticeship is likely to mean no union 
card, and no card usually means no job. 

To all aspects of this problem of work-finding the Commissioners 
and the welfare agencies, in consultation with all interests concerned, 
continue to give unremitting attention. 

The second of the main problems of the time is much wider: it con- 
cerns that 'trend from private charity to public responsibility' of which 
Dr. Griinhut has spoken. As we shall see in the following section, the 
system of aid-on-discharge in this country was based almost from its 
beginnings on some sort of partnership between the State and private 
benevolence. More recent years have seen a marked tendency for the 
State to become the predominant partner, on grounds in part of finance 
and in part of an increasing disposition to hold that the rehabilitation 
of the offender after release is a duty not only of society but of the penal 
system itself: the whole process, inside the prison and out, is one and 

i Griinhut, p. 322. 


indivisible. A related aspect of this problem derives more recently still 
from the full development in this country of the conception of the 
Welfare State. We have already noted (Chapter Twelve) how far the 
prisoner's social insurance position is preserved. And when the position 
is reached that his fare home on discharge is paid from public funds; 
that the Assistance Board (which may already have been looking after 
his family) at once assumes responsibility for his maintenance; that the 
National Health Service looks after him if he is sick; and that the 
Ministry of Labour seeks to find him work, while so long as it fails he 
and his family are maintained either through Uuemployment Insurance 
or by the Assistance Board in such a position it seems that the assump- 
tions on which the present system of aid-on-discharge was built up 
cannot remain unquestioned. 

It may be, therefore, that the time is ripe for a radical reassessment 
both of the nature of 'aid-on-discharge' and of the relative responsi- 
bilities of the State and of private benevolence in providing and 
administering it. It may also be that in any such reassessment emphasis 
will be shifted from the economic to the psychological problems, from 
4 aid-on-discharge' to 'after-care'. 1 

What is the nature of these psychological problems? It will already 
have appeared that they sensibly interpenetrate the economic : the two 
can only formally be considered as if they were in separate compart- 
ments. Their nature will of course vary widely with the nature of the 
individual concerned, the kind of sentence he has undergone and its 
length, and the circumstances to which he is to return. Prolonged 
segregation from normal life creates difficulties of re-adaptation not 
only for the ex-prisoner the conditions are not dissimilar for one 
coming out of a prisoner-of-war camp, or a hospital. This was recog- 
nised during the late war by the setting up of Civil Resettlement Units 
for ex-prisoners of war, with a regime specially designed to assist 
them to overcome these difficulties. But prison life, save in special types 
of prison, may be more abnormal, create more difficulties, even than 
these : it may certainly have a weakening effect on the will, and create 
a sense of inferiority or even dread of normal contacts, a fumbling and 
fearfulness in facing the future in what may be, or seem, a hard and 
unsympathetic world. 

Again, there are often painful family difficulties: a home may have 
been broken up, economically or emotionally, or both, by prolonged 
separation. It may be essential to re-establish it if relapse is to be avoided. 

And in the case of one whose associations have been criminal, there 
are difficulties of the opposite kind. The sheep may be all too kindly 
received in the old fold, and it may take more moral courage than he 
has to maintain in that company that he is now a good white sheep, 
not a bad black one, especially if being white cannot be shown to pay. . 

1 See Appendix K. 


The training inside the prisons seeks to provide, so far as it may, 
against these problems, but in many cases it will be wasted effort 
unless, after discharge, it is continued through a system of after-care 
based on close personal attention to the needs of the individual. After- 
care in this sense means more than attention to material needs, though 
it includes this: it means understanding, watchful sympathy, bracing 
oversight for some a friend at hand to advise and help, for others a 
supervisor to admonish and warn, with the sanctions of authority 
behind him. 

And to close this introduction, it should be explained that, in so far 
as they can properly be regarded as distinct processes, there is in some 
sense a legal distinction between aid-on-discharge and after-care. 
When a person sentenced to simple imprisonment has earned his 
remission and been discharged his sentence has terminated : he is under 
no further obligations in respect of it, and owes no duty but gratitude 
to any agency that may be assigned to help him. For these, after-care 
may be provided if they wish to have it, but for many of them the first 
thought may well be to put everything connected with the prison 
behind them and have no more to do with it. In general, what they 
receive is aid-on-discharge. 

But for those categories who are released on a conditional licence 
the position is quite different: until the sentence expires by efflux of time 
they are by the terms of the licence under the supervision of a Society 
named in the licence, and if they do not comply with the directions of 
that Society they may be recalled to prison to continue their sentence. 
It is true that the intentions of the Society are wholly benevolent, 
and seek nothing but the welfare of those in their charge they provide 
after-care in the fullest sense. Nevertheless, experience shows that if 
after-care is to be effective with the majority it requires this sort of 
sanction to make it so, even though the flavour of compulsion and 
constraint may often militate against its success. 


The principle that a prisoner should be assisted to regain his own 
parish was recognised by Parliament in 1792. Peel's Gaol Act of 1823 
went further, and authorised Justices to provide, at the expense of the 
County Rate, for the provision of necessary clothing, and a sum not 
exceeding twenty shillings, to deserving prisoners whose sentences 
were shortened for good conduct : the Justices were further authorised 
to divert the various charitable bequests for providing poor prisoners 
with food and clothing to providing them with the means of returning 
home and with 'implements of labour'. 

The next step was marked by the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Act of 
1862, which set out that: 'Whereas divers Societies, hereinafter referred 

E.P.B.S. 17 


to as Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies, have been formed in divers 
parts of England by persons subscribing voluntarily for the purpose of 
finding employment for discharged prisoners and enabling them by 
loans and grants of money to live by honest labour', these Societies 
might be recognised as the medium through which the Justices might 
assist prisoners, provided the Society had been certified by the Justices 
as an approved Society, and any sum which the Justices might have 
paid to the prisoner they were authorised to pay to the Society for the 
prisoner's benefit. Justices were also given power to pay grants to these 
Societies for the benefit of each discharged prisoner. These powers 
were by the Prison Act 1877 passed on to the Prison Commissioners. 

When the Prison Commissioners took over in 1878 they found 29 
Aid Societies in operation, but they promoted their formation with such 
diligence that by 1885 there were 'sixty-three Discharged Prisoners' Aid 
Societies working in connection with all prisons in England and Wales 
except one or two'. 1 The sum expended by the Government on aid to 
Discharged Prisoners in 1884 amounted to 7,280, made up in part of 
gratuities earned by prisoners under the Progressive Stage System, 
which were paid to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies for their 
benefit, and in part of a Government Grant of 4,000 distributed to 
the prisons in proportion to the number of prisoners discharged, but 
'with a proviso that an equal amount shall be provided by private 
subscriptions as a guarantee of that local and private interest in the 
work without which it cannot prosper'. 2 

'Here are contained two important assertions of principle on which 
has been based the action of the Government since this date: 

'1. That it is the duty of the Government to make a charitable 
donation in aid of discharged prisoners in addition to the gratui- 
ties under the Stage System, which are an affair of prison 

'2. That the sum should be regulated by the amount of private 
subscriptions, provided that a maximum calculated on the total 
number of discharges is not exceeded. 

'In short, the State goes into partnership with bodies of charitable 
and benevolent persons, duly certified under the Act, in order to secure 
a double object: (a) the State object, that steps shall be taken at least 
to lessen the chances of a man's relapse into crime, (b) the private and 
charitable object of relieving misfortune and distress.' 3 

The Gladstone Committee in 1894 found that To each prison are 
attached one or more Societies. Some do admirable work but it does 
not appear that there is either uniformity of action under definite 
principles, or that the various societies are so far organised as a whole 

i Du Cane, p. 197. 2 ibid. 3 Ruggles-Brise, p. 170. 


that the effect of aid can be satisfactorily ascertained. There seems to be 
a great and unnecessary variation in the methods of working.* While 
emphasising the importance of maintaining the voluntary and local 
side of Prisoners' Aid Society work, they thought there should be some 
central organisation and supervision, and 4 a representative conference 
in London for the purpose of securing common and uniform action 
providing for the most effectual distribution of the Government Grant, 
and for stimulating the considerable number of Societies which do little 
work or exist but in name'. They also recommended that arrangements 
should be made for the agents of approved societies to see prisoners 
and make the necessary arrangements with them before discharge, 
instead of waiting for them at the, gate. v 

In consequence of these recommendations the Commissioners made 
a special inquiry into the methods of Aid Societies, and a notable 
improvement in the work resulted. Uniformity of procedure and 
organisation was secured, and in order to secure the Secretary of State's 
'certificate of efficiency' the Societies were required to comply with 
certain Regulations, and the government grant was paid only to 
certified Societies conforming with these Regulations. 

This grant was divided into two parts a capitation grant and a 
variable grant. In 1913 the earning of gratuities by convicted prisoners 
was abolished, and in addition to the existing grant of Is. a head in 
respect of each convicted prisoner discharged to its care, each Society 
now received, as an equivalent of the gratuity, a further sum (averaging 
Is. a head) which varied, as the gratuities had done, according to the 
length of the prisoners' sentence. In 1931 this complicated system was 
abolished, and a flat capitation rate of 2s. was substituted. For the first 
time now the grant was also paid in respect of debtor prisoners, in 
consequence of the abolition of the system of paying them allowances 
for their work in prison, and debtors and convicted were assisted on 
the same basis. In addition to the capitation grants there was a supple- 
mentary grant of (at that time) 1,500 a year, which after consultation 
at an annual conference was distributed by the Commissioners 'in such 
a manner as they think best for the furtherance of the work'. This 
procedure was found valuable both in stimulating the less active 
societies, and in redressing to some extent the disparity between the 
richer and the poorer. 

In 1933 the total sum raised by Aid Societies by voluntary effort 
was over 23,000, and the total Government grant, including both the 
capitation and supplementary grants, was 7,398. 1 

In the meantime, there had been a further organisational develop- 
ment. In 1918, in order to secure co-ordination of effort and ideas, 
there was instituted a Central Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society, with 
offices^ in London, and a Central Executive on which the various 
1 Departmental Committee on the Employment of Prisoners, Part II. 


Societies were represented; this Society also dealt with special cases 
referred to it by the local Societies. Co-ordination with the Prison 
Commissioners was secured by the oversight of the Chaplain Inspector, 
who was especially charged with the care of education, aid-on-discharge, 
and other branches of welfare work, 1 and by the institution of an 
annual representative conference with the Commissioners for dis- 
cussion both of general questions and of the distribution of the Annual 

In 1932 the Secretary of State appointed a Departmental Committee, 
under the chairmanship of Major Sir Isidore Salmon, C.B.E., J.P., M.P., 
'to review the methods of employing prisoners and of assisting them to 
find employment on discharge'. Their Report was published in two 
parts, the latter (1935) dealing with the second part of the terms of 
reference. This Committee, like the Gladstone Committee, began by 
deciding to exceed its terms of reference and to consider also 'the 
methods and organisation of the Prisoners' Aid Societies and other 
organisations . . . responsible for the after-care of prisoners'. On these 
matters they made a number of recommendations; there should be only 
one Society for each committal area, and each should have a full-time 
Organising Secretary and an office separate from the prison; there 
should be a National Council to co-ordinate and direct their work, and 
allocate the Government grant; all Societies should concentrate on the 
re-instatement of the ex-prisoner in employment as their primary object. 

The Committee expressed themselves as satisfied that 'it is of great 
importance to preserve the voluntary principle to the fullest possible 
extent' . . . 'after-care work ... is not a duty which can be adequately 
discharged by the staff of any Government Department alone, although 
the policy of official co-operation and of Government contributions 
should undoubtedly continue. The work is one for which the sympathy 
and active interest of the whole community need to be enlisted, and 
that, we are convinced, can best be done through an efficient voluntary 
organisation' (paras. 22 and 23). Their main concern, based on the 
view that 'the Central Society has failed to achieve the main objects of 
its foundation', was to secure better co-ordination of the work, and 
this was the purpose of the proposed National Council, which would 
Embrace the aims of the existing Central Society, but its scope would 
be much wider': the Chairman of the Council and of its Executive 
Committee should be nominated by the Secretary of State (though he 
should not be a Government official), and a representative of the Com- 
missioners should sit on the Council and the Executive Committee, 
as should the Director of the Borstal and Central Associations (as to 
which, see following section of this chapter). 

1 On the abolition of his office in 1921 these duties passed to one of the Assistant 
Commissioners, and in 1948 to the newly appointed Director of Education and 
Welfare. The office of Chaplain Inspector was re-created in 1950. 


Although the Committee appeared to be satisfied that its views were 
consonant with those of the Societies generally, it shortly became all too 
clear that this was not so. Stimulated by the affronted Central Society, 
a conference of Aid Societies was held in London within two months 
of the appearance of the Report. The resolution which was passed 
made it clear that the Societies thought first that the Committee had 
indulged in unwarranted trespassing 'we feel that such reorganisation 
as is necessary should come from within our movement rather from 
without'; then that the Committee had been unfortunate in its choice 
of witnesses (and certainly only two representatives of Aid Societies 
were heard, in addition to the Chairman of the Central Society) ; and 
finally that the recommendations should be rejected in toto, principally 
because 'they make State control almost certain in the near future'. 

Finally, the conference set up a Committee under the Chairman of 
the Central Society 'to inquire into the present position from inside 
our movement, and to report what reforms, if any, are desirable and 

This incident is of interest as showing the strong spirit of independ- 
ence in the Societies, and their wish to retain in its completeness the 
spirit of self-reliance and voluntary effort on which they had been 
built. The result was in every way fortunate. The Home Office did not 
proceed with the National Council on the lines proposed by the Salmon 
Committee, and in 1936, following the report of the committee set 
up by the conference of Aid Societies, the Central Society was recon- 
stituted as the National Association of Discharged Prisoners' Aid 
Societies (Inc.). To this Association all certified Societies are now 
affiliated. It is managed by Committees elected by the representatives 
of the Societies at their annual meetings, and on these the Prison 
Commissioners have from the outset been represented. Indeed from 
this time there was a new atmosphere of confidence and co-operation 
between the Commissioners and the Societies which has stood the test 
of time and change. 

The new Association actively promoted the consolidation and more 
efficient organisation of its constituent Societies, and has admirably 
served its purpose as the channel of communication between the Com- 
missioners and the Societies. It is on the recommendation of the 
Association that the Commissioners advise the Secretary of State as to 
the grant, continuance or withdrawal of the statutory Certificates of 
Efficiency of Aid Societies, one condition of which is that the model 
Rules prescribed by the Commissioners should form part of the con- 
stitution of each Society. Through the Association again, and on its 
advice, the Commissioners distribute the Government grants paid to 
the Societies, and to it they naturally turn for advice on all matters 
concerning aid-on-discharge. The Association also acts directly as an 
Aid Society, firstly for difficult cases referred to it by any constituent 


Society, and secondly, with the development of Regional Training 
Prisons and other specialised prisons which take prisoners away from 
their own locality, for supervising the aid-on-discharge arrangements 
from such prisons. It is an excellent example of that sort of intricate 
partnership between statutory and voluntary bodies towards which in 
this country we empirically feel our way. 

As a result of the war, that partnership has become closer, with the 
statutory body taking a more active part: this situation, fully if at 
first reluctantly accepted by the Societies, has resulted in no loss of the 
spirit of free co-operation. The reason for the change was financial. It 
became necessary first to make a subvention from public funds to help 
the Association, and then to meet the whole of its administrative 
expenses. With this, control by the Prison Commissioners (and ultim- 
ately by the Treasury) of the numbers and conditions of service of its 
staff became necessary; but this has not derogated from the freedom of 
the Association to manage its own affairs within the financial limits 
imposed, and the staff has on the whole benefited from its quasi civil 
service status. At the same time, it became necessary to come to the 
help of the Societies by a further Government grant of one-third of 
their administrative expenses. Shortly after the war the capitation rate 
was increased from 2s. to 3s. 9 and requests have been pressed for a fur- 
ther increase which, in face of the changes in price levels since the 2s. 
rate was fixed, have every appearance of reasonableness. But in finance 
as in function, the positions of the State and private benevolence in 
relation to aid-on-discharge seem now to require radical review rather 
than further patching. l 

In 1948, 22,000 was raised by voluntary subscription, while the 
Government grant consisted of 4,750 capitation rate, 2,000 special 
grant, and 3,000 grant towards administrative costs, or 9,750 in all. 

No general statistics of the work of D.P.A. Societies are published, 
but in their Report for 1949 (p. 50) the Commissioners recorded that 
during 1949 over 31,000 men and women were discharged to the care 
of the Societies, while the N.A.D.P.A.S. dealt with over 1,000 discharges 
from Regional Prisons and over 3,300 from special Local Prisons, as 
well as with 445 cases referred to its Head Office from the constituent 
Societies or other quarters. 

The operation of the Societies is relatively uniform. The Secretary, 
under the control of the Executive Committee, is responsible for getting 
in subscriptions and managing the affairs of the Society generally: in 
the largest Societies he may be a paid full-time officer, in others a paid 
part-time officer, and in others again an honorary officer. The Treasurer, 
under the Finance Committee, manages and accounts for the funds. 
Every Society employs a Welfare Officer who works in the prison, sees 
the prisoners and under the direction of the Case Committee makes all 
1 See Appendix K, note on p. 256. 


necessary arrangements : he is usually a full-time paid worker, though 
not always so in the smallest prisons. 

The Statutory Rules require that 'From the beginning of the sentence 
of every prisoner consideration shall be given, in consultation with the 
Welfare Officer of the appropriate Aid Society or After-care Associa- 
tion, to the future of the prisoner and the assistance to be given to him 
on and after his discharge' (S.R. 72). Accordingly the Welfare Officer 
is always a member of the Reception Board, and should seek from the 
beginning to enlist the co-operation of the prisoner in the arrangements 
to be made for his future after release. Every prisoner has in his cell a 
card giving him information about aid-on-discharge, and this tells him 
that he may apply to see the Welfare Officer at any time. No prison 
officer is present at these interviews. Some weeks before his discharge, 
if he wishes or if it is otherwise desirable, he appears before the Case 
Committee of the Society, at which final arrangements are settled. 
The most important of these will be for employment, where the prisoner 
needs help to find it, and here, since 1949, there has been an important 
development. Following a local experiment at Wakefield prison, the 
Ministry of Labour, as a result of consultation with the N.A.D.P.A.S., 
agreed to co-operate in a scheme 'whereby every prisoner serving a 
sentence of more than six months may, if he so wishes, be interviewed 
before discharge by an officer of the Ministry in the hope that suitable 
employment may be found for him within a few days of his release. 
Should he have been serving his sentence at a distance from his home, 
his case will, after the interview, be brought without delay to the notice 
of the Employment Officer of the Ministry in his own locality.' l 

For the rest, the first need is to see that the prisoner goes out suitably 
clad both for the time of year and the job he has to do, and if his own 
clothing is inadequate the Society may supplement it. The next is to 
get him home: the State by law pays for his fare back to his place of 
arrest or conviction (whichever is the nearer) or the equivalent in cost, 
and if he wishes to go further the Society may pay the difference: it 
will also give him a small sum to cover expenses till he can get a grant 
from the Assistance Board at his destination. Where the prisoner has 
no home to go to, the Welfare Officer will arrange for lodgings at the 
destination if the prisoner so wishes. In suitable cases the Society may 
also provide tools for a tradesman or a small stock for shop or stall, 
and in general will be prepared to consider the special needs of any 
deserving case. The deserts of cases in a local prison must of course 
vary widely. There is the stage army of ins-and-outs with longer or 
shorter sentences whose faces are all too familiar, though they generally 
think it worth while to try some fresh story on the Committee: these 
will usually leave with 2s. 6d. or so and their fare home if it is beyond 
walking distance. There are others on whom much may be spent both 
1 Annual Report for 1949, p. 49. See also Appendix K. 


in time, money and sympathetic consideration. For many the Societies 
will do their best, if it is needed and desired, to provide after-care as 
well as material aid; but as we have already seen, their powers are 
limited to setting a man on the right road they cannot interfere to keep 
him on it. Nor, indeed, are they equipped to do so : such work requires 
the friend to be on the spot, and the Welfare Officer can only deal with 
people in his immediate neighbourhood, though he may, and often 
does, arrange by correspondence for the help of some benevolent 
agency near the home of a person who needs it. 

In an attempt to fill this gap, at any rate for women, an interesting 
experiment was suggested at the end of 1950 on the initiative of the 
W.V.S. The proposal was that their members, who are to be found in 
every town and village, should act as the agents of the Holloway 
D.P.A.S. in providing a 'friend' for every Star prisoner discharged 
from Holloway who wished to have one. The procedure proposed was 
that the Aid Society should co-opt on to its Case Committee two 
representatives of the Headquarters of the W.V.S. Each Star woman 
when seen by the Committee would be asked if she would like help of 
this sort: if she said yes, the W.V.S. representative present would 
arrange for a suitable member to be selected in the woman's home 
district. She would have as her first duty to get to know the prisoner's 
family and prepare the ground there for her return: if possible, she 
would also come to Holloway and get to know the prisoner before 
discharge. Having done what she could to smooth the way for her 
return home, she would, after release, visit her at fairly frequent inter- 
vals and see what help or advice she might need, any need for material 
help being referred to the Aid Society. At the end of the first month 
she would send in a report in a prescribed form, and from these reports 
it was hoped that useful knowledge would be gained of the problems 
confronting women on discharge and how best to overcome them. 

The experiment was initiated early in 1951, and should it prove 
successful at Holloway its extension to other women's prisons might be 
considered. The advantage of using the W.V.S. for a service of this sort 
is twofold their members are everywhere at hand, and being entirely 
voluntary and unofficial their coming and going in a home raises no 
awkward questions among curious neighbours. 

Another aspect of the same problem has also begun of late to receive 
attention. The Commissioners have been invited, both by the Prisons 
and Borstals Committee of the Magistrates Association and by the 
Howard League, to consider the employment in prisons of trained 
Social Welfare Officers, who would concern themselves with the whole 
of a prisoner's 'external relations' during his sentence and prepare for 
his resettlement after discharge. Such a service exists in the 'Assistance 
Sociale' of the French and Belgian prison systems, and the idea is 
certainly in tune with modern thought. On the other hand such work is 


being done already, in one way or another, by Chaplains, Assistant 
Governors and Welfare Officers, who properly regard it as an essential 
part of their function. Whether the introduction of another full-time 
worker in this field would on the whole be advantageous remains, at 
the time of writing, an open question. 

All these considerations emphasise the gradual shifting of emphasis, 
in relation to prisoners not subject to 'statutory after-care', from the 
purely economic problems which face them on release to those other 
problems which may often have a more significant influence on their 
ultimate rehabilitation. 


We pass now to the organisation of after-care for those categories 
who are released on a conditional licence, and certain others. It will 
be necessary to include here reference to the Borstal Association, though 
Borstal after-care will be dealt with in a later chapter. 

Prisoners sentenced to penal servitude had always been outside the 
scope of local Aid Society arrangements, the convict prisons having been 
from the beginning the affair of the central government, but the govern- 
ment had for long made no central arrangements for their assistance 
and after-care. The fact that they were released on a conditional licence 
did not necessarily involve such arrangements, for this licence, like the 
transportation ticket-of-leave which it succeeded, was a police measure 
of security and sanction against subsequent offence: it had no flavour 
of welfare. This situation continued until 1910, when Mr. Churchill, on 
the advice of Sir E. Ruggles-Brise, established the Central Association 
for the Aid of Discharged Convicts. The Association was from the 
outset wholly financed from public funds. It was nominally placed 
under a General Council, of which the Secretary of State was President, 
and on which the Societies and Institutions hitherto operating in this 
field of charity were represented. In fact, after the first four years, the 
Association was managed by its Director, in consultation with the 
Prison Commissioners, and the Council ceased to have an effective 
existence. After the late war, this Association was brought into close 
co-operation with the N.A.D.P.A.S.: both occupied the same premises, 
and the General Secretary of the N.A.D.P.A.S. was Hon. Director of 
the Central Association. 

The origin of the Borstal Association was rather earlier. In the early 
years of this century, when Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise was experimenting 
with that system of treating young offenders between the ages of 17-21 
which was by the Prevention of Crime Act 1908 established as the 
Borstal system, he started among his personal acquaintances an 
Association of Visitors to these young men. When the Borstal system was 
legally established, it incorporated a new principle of vital importance 


to the future of after-care. Unlike the negative convict licence, the 
licence under which a Borstal boy or girl was released was positive: 
its main object was not a sort of police control, but to ensure that the 
boy was placed under the supervision of a Society whose first object 
was his rehabilitation, and that he should have regard to their directions 
and advice at the risk of being recalled if he failed to do so. 

For this purpose Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise's Association of Visitors 
was established as the Borstal Association l under the direction of a 
voluntary committee, and so continued, as the Society named in the 
licence of a Borstal boy, until the Central After-care Association was 
set up. Here again the partnership with the Prison Commission was 
gradually extended, till in recent years the whole of the expense of 
administration as well as that of after-care came to be met from public 

The arrangements for convict women and Borstal girls were similarly 
centralised, but on rather different lines. Until 1928 responsibility for 
their after-care rested with the Central Association and Borstal Associa- 
tion respectively. The work was carried out at a branch office in London 
by a lady who was an Assistant Director of these Associations. The 
arrangement was neither convenient nor economical, and it was 
thought that there would be many advantages in bringing the after-care 
work into closer association with the work carried on at Aylesbury, 
which comprised both the only Borstal at that time for girls and the con- 
vict prison for women of the Star class. Accordingly a new Society was 
set up known as the Aylesbury Association, of which the Council was 
the Visiting Committee of the Institution and the first Director was 
the then Governor of the Institution, who is now Dame Lilian Barker. 
In more recent years, when more girls' Borstals were set up, and the 
convicts at Holloway assumed greater importance than those at Ayles- 
bury, it was found desirable to separate the offices of Governor and 
Director, and a separate Director was appointed and provided with 
offices in London. As with the Borstal and Central Association, the 
Aylesbury Association was financed wholly from public funds. 

This was the situation at the time of passing of the Criminal Justice 
Act, which had several important provisions affecting the field of after- 
care. On the one hand, it increased the categories of offenders to be 
released conditionally on a 'positive' licence a licence which places 
them, for the purpose of assisting their rehabilitation, under certain 
obligations during the unexpired portion of their sentences These 
categories now include, as well as Borstal boys and girls, men and 
women released on licence from sentences of Corrective Training and 
Preventive Detention, and young persons under 21 released on licence 
from sentences of imprisonment. In all these cases the Act provides 

1 The first Director of the Association, one of the original Visitors, was Sir 
Wemyss Grant Wilson, who continued in office till his retirement in 1935. 


that they should be under the supervision of an appointed Society. 
On the other hand, by abolishing penal servitude and with it the con- 
vict licence, it left prisoners serving sentences of 3 years and upwards, * 
in whatever type of prison, in the same position as local prisoners, i.e. 
their sentences were terminated on discharge and they had no further 
obligations. As some set-off to this, the higher courts were given 
power, under section 22 of the Act, to impose certain security 
conditions, in specified conditions, on persons discharged after serving 
sentences of 12 months or more for certain more serious offences. 
This provision was evidently influenced by recommendations made 
by both the Departmental Committee on Persistent Offenders in 1932 
and that on Employment of Prisoners in 1935. The latter, looking 
forward to legislation which might 'obliterate the distinction between 
prisoners and convicts', made the following observations (para. 62) : 

'In view of the dangers to which police supervision is alleged to 
expose a well-intentioned prisoner (though, as we have said, we do 
not by any means accept all that has been represented to us on this 
subject), we are of opinion that the mode of supervision should be 
one which, while securing to the police all that information about the 
movements of dangerous criminals which they ought to have in the 
public interest, would safeguard the interests of the prisoner who is 
really seeking to make good. We are disposed to think that this object 
might be achieved if in proper cases the prisoner were allowed to report 
to a suitable Society instead of to the police, on the understanding that 
the Society would on request supply the police with his address and 
communicate to them any information which indicated an intention to 
revert to crime. 

'We have considered the objection that the undertaking of the duty 
of supervision might prejudice the relationship of the Societies to the 
discharged prisoner, but we do not anticipate that it would have this 
result. Supervision by a Society would be an alternative to supervision 
by the police, and we think prisoners would be quick to appreciate that 
it was a concession and a privilege rather than an attempt to convert the 
Societies into agents of the police.' 

This in fact was the sort of arrangement which Parliament adopted in 
section 22, with results that we shall notice in due course. 

Finally, the Act (5th Schedule, para. 3 (5)) enumerated among the 
duties of probation officers 'to advise, assist and befriend, in such cases 
and in such manner as may be prescribed, persons who have been 
released from custody'. This development had also been adumbrated by 
the Salmon Committee, which had given some attention to 'the desira- 
bility of instituting a National Parole Service, which should include the 
work both of Probation Officers and of the D.P.A.S.'. While the 
1 Except for life sentences, as to which see Appendix K. 


Committee was 'not prepared to recommend any such far-reaching 
proposal', they did find themselves able to 'welcome an extension of 
the association of Probation Officers with the work of after-care' (paras. 
86, 87). 

In considering how this vitally important question of supervision 
and after-care for all these different classes of people, men and boys, 
women and girls, ought to be handled in the light of the great responsi- 
bilities now to be placed on the after-care organisations, the Secretary 
of State was faced with two problems. The first was to bring together 
the existing unrelated bodies in such a way as to ensure that what is in 
essence one problem should be treated on common principles, with a 
proper co-ordination of all the parts in a common whole. The second 
was to ensure that the actual work in the field, the supervision and help 
of persons released on licence and others requiring centrally organised 
after-care, should equally be co-ordinated and treated on common 
principles by a competent body of qualified social workers. 

The first end was achieved by the setting up of the Central After- 
care Association, which is the appointed Society for all the purposes 
of the Act; the second by establishing de lege a situation which had long 
existed de facto, though in a partial and somewhat unsatisfactory 
condition that is, that this work of after-care and social rehabilitation 
under statutory supervision falls naturally, indeed inevitably, to the 
Probation Service. 

The constitution of the Central After-care Association (England and 
Wales), hereinafter referred to as the C.A.C.A., sets out its objects as 
follows : 

'(1) To be a Society which may be specified by the Prison Com- 
missioners to undertake the care and Supervision of a person after 
his release: 

'(i) from a Borstal Institution (section 20 (2) of the Criminal Justice 
Act 1948, and paragraph 2 of the Second Schedule to that Act): 

'(ii) on a licence from Corrective Training or Preventive Detention 
(section 21 (3) of the Criminal Justice Act 1948, and paragraph 
2 of the Third Schedule to that Act): 

'(iii) on a licence from imprisonment (section 56 (2) of the Criminal 
Justice Act 1948, and paragraph 1 of the Sixth Schedule to that 

and to undertake such care and supervision. 

'(2) To be a Society which may be approved by the Secretary of State 
and appointed by the Prison Commissioners to receive information of 
an offender's address on his discharge from prison and thereafter from 
time to time in accordance with the provisions of section 22 of the 
Criminal Justice Act 1948, and to receive such information. 


'(3) To undertake the supervision of such other persons who have 
been released from custody as the Secretary of State may from time to 
time require. 

'(4) To consult and co-operate with the National Association of 
Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies with a view to the most effective 
and economical use of the resources of both bodies, whether jointly 
or in their respective spheres, in all matters affecting the after-care of 
persons released from custody. 

'(5) To consider and report to the Secretary of State on questions 
arising out of the aforementioned objects, and in particular such 
questions as may from time to time be referred to the Association by 
the Secretary of State.' 

The categories mentioned in paras. (1) (i) (ii) and (2) have already 
been mentioned. Para. (1) (iii) refers to young prisoners. Para. (3) 
includes prisoners released from central (formerly convict) prisons. 

The form of the Association represents still the desire to preserve a 
partnership between the State and the spirit of voluntary social service. 
Although entirely financed from public funds as to both its central 
administration and its direct expenditure on the welfare of those in its 
charge, it is managed by a voluntary Council of not more than 20 
members appointed by the Secretary of State for such period as he 
may think fit: the Chairman of the Council is also appointed by the 
Secretary of State, 1 and the General Secretary by the Prison Com- 
missioners. The constitution requires that the Chairman and Vice- 
Chairman of the N.A.D.P.A.S. shall be ex-officio members of the 
Council: the other members represent Government Departments with 
a relevant interest (Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour and 
National Service, War Office, National Assistance Board), the Prison 
Commissioners, the Probation Service, the National Association of 
Prison Visitors, the Visiting Committees of Aylesbury and Holloway, the 
W.V.S., and the former committee of the Borstal Association, together 
with certain non-representative members with special interest or 
experience in the field. 

The Council has hitherto met twice a year, and its Executive Com- 
mittee, which manages the business of the Association in detail, four 
times a year. An annual report is made to the Secretary of State, and it 
is proposed to publish this for the year 1950 and thereafter. 

The work of the Association is organised in three Divisions, corres- 
ponding roughly with the three pre-existing organisations, each under 
a Director. The Men's Division deals with men prisoners, the Women's 
and Girls' Division with women and girl prisoners and Borstal girls, 

1 The first Chairman was the Chairman of the Prison Commissioners, but this 
precedent need not be followed again. 


the Borstal Division with Borstal boys and male young prisoners. 
The three Directors attend all meetings of the Executive Committee and 
of the Council. 

Broadly, the work of the Association is preparatory: their officers 
regularly visit the prisons and Borstals, interview their prospective 
charges, and, in co-operation with the Ministry of Labour and the 
'associates' who will actually receive and supervise them on release, 
make all necessary arrangements with families and so far as possible 
employers. Direct after-care by employees of the Association is given 
only in the London area for men, though the Women's Division have 
their own supervisors in some other centres. The Association also 
receives reports from its associates in the field on all persons under 
supervision, and where necessary makes recommendations to the 
Commissioners as to revocation of licence. And finally it receives, 
dispenses and accounts for the funds provided for the work. 

With few exceptions, the associates who undertake the actual work 
of after-care in the field are the probation officers, under the authority 
of the Criminal Justice Act and the statutory Probation Rules, which 
prescribe the classes of person released from custody whom it shall be 
'the duty of a probation officer to advise, assist and befriend', and 
also his duties in respect of reporting to the C.A.C.A. It may be said 
that the probation service has welcomed this addition to its duties, and 
the fullest co-operation in spirit is already assured, though practical 
details are still in process of being worked out. Provided always that the 
local authorities employing probation officers make proper allowance 
for this addition to their case-loads in assessing the number of officers 
required at each court, this essential part of the process of rehabilitation 
should now be firmly based and effectively furthered. 

Details of method in this work can never become stereotyped: 
broadly, they fall into three parts pre-release case work, reception 
case work, and supervisory case work. In the first stage the associate 
should some months before release receive from the C.A.C.A. the 
fullest information about an offender to come under his care his 
record, character and aptitudes in prison and out, physical and mental 
characteristics, family and social relations and so forth. He should 
then become acquainted with the family situation, and do his best to 
smooth the way there. He should also get into touch with the offender 
himself if possible by visits, if not, by correspondence so as to make 
himself known and encourage friendly consideration of future plans for 
work and living. 

When the second or 'reception' stage is reached, both the offender 
and his associate should be ready to meet with a common knowledge of 
the problems to be faced and what is to be done about them. This is the 
critical stage of re-settlement, and whatever previous plans may have 
been made it will call for the associate's constant attention. 


If the initial problems of re-settlement have been successfully over- 
come, it may be that the subsequent supervision will not be exacting 
on either side. But for the reasons given in the opening section of this 
chapter this is by no means to be expected, and the associate cannot 
be content with mere routine reporting. He should know what is 
happening, if he can, inside the person in his charge as well as round 
about him, and always be ready to take quick action in a crisis, to 
instil courage or give sharp warning, to advise the C.A.C.A. if material 
help is needed, or in the last resort to suggest recall to prison. 

Two points in conclusion. Although men and women sentenced to 
terms of imprisonment of more than 3 years are not subject to any 
statutory obligations or supervision, their after-care is the business of 
the C.A.C.A., and the probation service 'befriends, assists and advises 
them', so far as they need and desire such help, in the same way as if 
they were on licence, though without the sanction of the licence. The 
extent to which assistance is given in these cases is nevertheless con- 
siderable, as shown on pp. 52-54 of the Annual Report of the Prison 
Commissioners for 1949. In that year 1,354 long-term prisoners were 
discharged to the care of the Men's Division: of these 175 "required no 
help', and 961 were given all necessary material help and placed in 
employment 512 being found work through the Association, and 449 
finding their own work. Of 188 it was said that they "were given advice 
and maintenance but would not co-operate'. The remainder were 
returned to the Forces, repatriated, deported, or certified as Institution 
cases. The Women's Division received 48 long-term women, of whom 
26 returned to their homes, some to resume their duties as housewives, 
others to start work: of the remainder 6 were found resident work, 3 
went to hostels and found daily work, 8 returned to friends or relatives, 
and 2 went to lodgings *a number of these started work'. Three only 
were lost sight of. 

On the other hand men discharged from prison against whom a 
'section 22 order' has been made, unless they come under the C.A.C.A. 
by virtue of length of sentence, are dealt with by the local Aid Societies 
in the ordinary course: the C.A.C.A. merely receives their addresses, 
passes them on to the police, and notifies the Criminal Record Office 
if they lose touch with them. There is a certain inconsistency of function 
here, in that the C.A.C.A. carries out what is in effect a security measure 
without exercising any function of after-care: but the purpose of the 
section was to keep the police in touch with the whereabouts of known 
criminals who commit serious offences, and not to put such criminals 
in a specially favourable position as regards after-care. 

This chapter may well close on a statement of the position by one who 
had at least the merit of being able to express it with imaginative insight 
and force. Oscar Wilde wrote in De Profundis l : 

i De Profundis. The Complete Text, p. 84, Methucn 1949, price IQs. 6d. 


'Many men on their release carry their prison about with them into 
the air, and hide it as a secret disgrace in their hearts, and at length, 
like poor poisoned things, creep into some hole and die. It is wretched 
that they should have to do so, and it is wrong, terribly wrong, of 
society that it should force them to do so. Society takes upon itself the 
right to inflict appalling punishment on the individual, but it also has 
the supreme vice of shallowness, and fails to realise what it has done. 
When the man's punishment is over, it leaves him to himself; that is 
to say, it abandons him at the very moment when its highest duty 
towards him begins. It is really ashamed of its own actions, and shuns 
those whom it has punished, as people shun a creditor whose debt they 
cannot pay, or one on whom they have inflicted an irreparable, an 
irredeemable wrong. I can claim on my side that if I realise what I have 
suffered, society should realise what it has inflicted on me; and that 
there should be no bitterness or hate on either side.' 



WHILE it is right, indeed necessary, that the public should be 
informed of the results of a system for which it is morally 
and financially responsible, there is no recognised method by 
which the results of a prison system can be assessed, either absolutely or 
relatively, nor does it appear that such a method could be devised. 
Imprisonment is only one of the means at the disposal of the Courts 
for the prevention of crime, and the general statistics of crime can only 
reflect the total effect of the use which the Courts make of those means. 
Nor is it possible to compare one period with another, either over the 
whole field or in relation to prisons as one part of the field, on a purely 
statistical basis : for this a wide social study would be necessary to take 
account of such extraneous factors as changes in social and economic 
conditions relevant to the causation of crime, variations in the practice 
of the police and the Courts, and the effect of fresh legislation. A fortiori, 
there is no possibility of useful international comparison: the U.N. 
Secretariat is at present studying the practicability of some common 
form of general criminal statistics which may enable such comparison, but 
the prospects have not hitherto appeared hopeful. In the more restricted 
field of imprisonment and its results, there is insufficient published 
material to work on, even if it afforded any valid comparative basis. 

The figures to be given in this chapter, therefore, while they are of 
considerable interest in themselves, afford no basis for conclusions as 
to whether our contemporary prison system is more or less effective 
for its purpose than earlier phases in this country or than the systems 
of any other countries. They are based on the figures for 1949 in the 
series published by the Commissioners in their Annual Reports, and at 
least they give some answer to certain basic questions. If, for example, 
one were asked to frame a criterion of complete 'success' for a prison 
system, one might put it that no-one who had once been sentenced to 
imprisonment should ever have to be sent to prison again: and from 
E.p.B.s.18 273 


these figures we can learn with some accuracy how close our system 
has come to that standard of success over a period of some 15 years. 
Again, since the system does not in fact reach that standard, and a 
proportion of those sent to prison for the first time are again punished 
by imprisonment, the figures tell us something of these failures, and of 
how many of them, by repeated returns to prison, go to make up that 
body of 'recidivists' who form the hard core of penal problems in 
general and prison problems in particular. 

It is necessary to resist the temptation to read more into these figures 
than they claim to say, or to draw inferences from them on such broad 
general questions as the effect of the prison system on general or 
individual deterrence. The difficulties of assessing the effects of general 
deterrence on any scientific basis have already been suggested, and as 
Dr. Griinhut points out, 'the reasons for avoiding conflict with the law 
are even more multiple and obscure than the causes of crime' (p. 454). 
As for the effects of imprisonment on the individual subjected to it, 
'only an extensive social research could show, of any group of persons 
released who have not returned to prison, whether they were reformed, 
or deterred, or would have been unlikely to revert to crime in any case; 
or of any group of those who do return, whether they were in fact 
better or worse human beings, more or less likely to revert to crime, as 
a result of their imprisonment'. 1 

Such research has in fact been carried out in the United States, over 
a long period of years, by Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck, and their 
illuminating conclusions have earned world-wide attention. But while 
they have shown the way, their results are, in general, valid only in 
the conditions in which they were obtained, and it remains for us to 
seek similar light in the conditions of our own problems. Scientific 
research on these lines in this country is scarcely yet in the state of 
conception. Provision is made in the Criminal Justice Act empowering 
the Secretary of State to spend money for this purpose, and consulta- 
tions have taken place between the Home Office and the Universities 
and Foundations concerned with these matters as to the best lines of 
approach. But the field is wide, both funds and qualified research 
workers are limited and contemporary interest in juvenile delinquency 
has tended to swing available resources in that direction. In the field 
of the effects of various forms of treatment on adult delinquents, the 
little that has been completed since the war is by way of individual 
post-graduate research theses which have not yet been published. At 
present, it is understood that a study group of social and research 
workers in Oxford University, under the direction of Dr. Griinhut, is 
preparing to make a study of penal and correctional treatment, based 
on a large number of criminal careers, with a view to establishing 
information about response to treatment and post-treatment behaviour. 

1 Prisons and Borstals, p, 21. 



Material is also being collected in the London and Middlesex probation 
areas with a view to an assessment of the results of probation by a 
Cambridge University research group. 1 


The published figures available are in three separate groups : publica- 
tion of each was started at a different time and for a different purpose, 
and they are not easily synthesised. 

The first group is that which has been published for some years 
past as Appendix 10 of the Annual Reports, which is headed 'Prisoners 
who have not returned to prison after a first sentence of imprisonment 
for a finger-printable offence'. This table as published for 1949 shows, 
from 1930 onwards, by age-groups, the total number of these 'first- 
timers' received during each period and the percentage of that number 
who had not returned to prison before the end of 1948. It is important 
to be clear as to just what this table does and does not cover before 
considering its effect. It relates to: 

(1) Persons received in prison for the first time, not to persons con- 
victed for the first time: the figures shown are divided between those 
with previous proved offences and those with no previous proved offences. 

(2) Persons convicted of 'finger-printable offences' only, i.e. indict- 
able offences and some more serious non-indictable offences which are 
akin to crime rather than to social nuisance: it is therefore a review of 
criminal offenders in the stricter sense, not of all offenders. 

(3) Persons sentenced to imprisonment as it was before the Act of 
1948, and not to sentences of penal servitude: this means that the 
sentences concerned may be from 5 days to 2 years. 

(4) Persons serving sentences in all prisons except what prior to 1949 
were 'convict prisons', i.e. the table includes those discharged from the 
special training prisons for whom separate figures are given later, 
provided they were not serving sentences of penal servitude. 

The total effect of this table may be expressed as follows : 

Year of First 

Number received 
for first time 

Number not again 
received so far as 
is known before 

(3) of (2) 





Note: No accurate figures are available in respect of prisoners first received 
during 1941 or 1942. 

1 See also p. 367 as to a Borstal research project. 


It should be noted in respect of the 1946 entry that the 2 year 
prisoners committed during that year would all have been released 
(excepting losses of remission for disciplinary reasons) between 1 May 
1947 and 30 April 1948, so that on 31 December 1948 none would have 
been out of prison for less than 8 months or more than 20 months. 

The fuller details given in Appendix 10 provide additional information. 

For persons with no previous proved offences the percentages in 
column 4 of the foregoing table, from 1936 onwards, are remarkably 
steady at 93, 94, 92, 93, 94; but it would be unwise to infer from this 
that as a method of treatment for a first offence imprisonment is 
13 per cent more likely to be successful than any other method! 

The analysis of the percentages by age-groups is particularly 

Without previous offences 

With previous offences 





40 & 




40 & 

























































At this point there exists the possibility of a comparison of the 
results shown with other authenticated figures, though the relativity 
is by no means exact. The '500 criminal careers' followed up by Sheldon 
and Eleanor Glueck in the first of their studies on these lines covered 
'500 ex-inmates of the Massachusetts Reformatory, mostly property 
offenders with previous violations of the law, and they regarded as 
recidivists those relapsing into any sort of punishable conduct, whether 
reconvicted or not. The result was a shock to any criminologist inclined 
to complacency. By these rather severe standards in the first five-year 
post-treatment span, when the average age of the men was thirty, the 
ratio of those relapsing into crime was 80-1 per cent; in the second, 
with an average age of thirty-five, 69-9 per cent; and in the third, at 
the time of the general depression, 69-2 per cent, but only 58-2 in the 
fifth year of the last period.' l So far as the case-material is concerned, 
the comparable material in the foregoing table would be the age-groups 
17-30 with previous offences: as regards results, the English material 
relates not only to reconvictions but to recommittals to prison, whereas 
the American material relates to 'punishable conduct whether recon- 
victed or not'. It is impossible to discount this variation, but the 

i Griinhut, p. 388. 



comparable figures, for what they may be worth, in respect of the 'first 
five-year post-treatment span' seem to be 8Q-1 'relapsed' on the Glueck 
findings and 48-6 recommitted to prison on the figures of Appendix 10. 1 

The next group of figures relates to prisoners discharged from the 
three Training Prisons at Wakefield, Maidstone and Askham Grange 
(women): unfortunately the figures published for these three prisons 
cover neither the same* periods nor the same case-material, so that each 
must be considered separately. 

The Commissioners have published in their Annual Reports in 
respect of every year since 1931 the numbers discharged from Wakefield 
in that year and the Dumber of those discharges reconvicted up to a 
recent date. The figures cover two categories of prisoner, Star Class 
and Special Class, 2 though the figures for the latter cease after 1945, 
when this class was discontinued. The sentences would be, broadly, 1-3 
years, giving a maximum of 2 years to be served. For this prison the 
figures published in 1949 show that of 5,883 Stars discharged from 
1939-46 inclusive, 507 or 8-6 per cent had been reconvicted up to 
31 December 1948, i.e. after not less than 2 years at large. The com- 
parable figure for the Special Class was 24-7. This gives a 'success' 
percentage of 91-4 for Stars as against the overall Star figure in 
Appendix 10 of about 80, and 75-3 for Specials as against about 55 for 
the 21-30 age-group with previous offences which is the comparable 
class in Appendix 10. If for stricter comparison the four Wakefield 
years 1943-6 are compared with the years 1943-6 in the first of two 
tables given above as abstracts from Appendix 10, the Wakefield 
'success' figure for Stars becomes 95-3. 

The Maidstone figures cover a much shorter period, but are here 
given for what they may be worth as quoted in the Annual Report for 
1949, p. 36. 

Numbers discharged from Maidstone Prison from 1945 to 1948 
and since reconvicted up to 31 December 1949 

































1 3,087 offenders of the age-groups 17-30 are shown in Appendix 10 as having been 
received with previous offences in 1943. Q n 31 December 1948, 1,587 of these had 
not again been received into prison, i.e. 514 per cent. 

2 The Special Class was for young men between the ages 21-30 who by record 
and character were unfit for the Star Class. 


In the foregoing table the Stars are as case material comparable with 
the Wakefield Stars: taking the 1945-7 discharges only, so as to allow 
a two-year gap to the end of 1949, this gives 23 reconvictions out of 
397 discharges, or a success percentage of about 94. Particular interest 
attaches to the figures for the Ordinary Class discharges, since these 
(so far as they go) indipate what measures of success may attend the 
experiment of treating recidivists in the special conditions of a Training 
Prison: again taking only the 1945-47 figures, we find that of 542 
discharges 74 had been reconvicted up to the end of 1949, giving a 
'success' percentage of about 86-3. If these figures are taken with the 
Special Class figures for Wakefield they suggest that this method of 
training recidivists may hope to achieve a success rate round about 80. 

Encouraging as these figures may be, they must bow to those achieved 
by the women trained at Askham Grange in the first three years of 
that prison's life (1947-9), though over this short period, during the 
greater part of which only carefully selected Stars were received, the 
fact that only two reconvictions had been recorded before the end of 
1949 does not merit statistical assessment. 

The third group of figures supplements Appendix 10, though in- 
directly and incompletely, by giving information about the reconvic- 
tions of prisoners with sentences of 3 years and over discharged from 
central and local prisons. This comes from the reports of the Men's and 
Women's Divisions of the C. A.C. A. at pp. 52 and 54 of the Annual Report 
for 1949: the figures given for men relate to the position of 1947 dis- 
charges at the end of 1949. For Stars the 'satisfactory' percentages are, 
Leyhill 96-7: * Wakefield 87-8. For Ordinaries, Parkhurst 46-6: local 
prisons 56-3. For women the figures are given for discharges over a three- 
year period 1945-47 and again relate to the position at the end of 
1949 they are Stars, 96-8, 2 Ordinaries, 67-7. 

From the total effect of these three groups of figures it seems possible 
to deduce some answer to the question of how the actual results of the 
contemporary prison system compare with the criterion of complete 
success postulated in the opening section of the chapter. If we take the 
Star Class as representing those who come to prison for the first time, 3 
it appears that of all those who have served up to 2 year sentences 
some 80 per cent will not return to prison, and if they have served their 
sentences in training prisons, over 90 per cent will not return: for 
those who have served longer sentences in central prisons the figure 
may be 95 for men and tends to approach 100 for women. 

1 The 1946 discharge figure for Camp Hill, which preceded Leyhill as a long-term 
Star prison, was 95*5 satisfactory at the end of 1948. 

2 This represents 2 reconvictions out of 63 discharges : in most years no recon- 
victions are reported. 

3 In fact a small proportion of Stars may have been in prison before, but to 
balance this a small proportion of 'first-timers' may have been reclassified as Ordin- 
aries owing to bad conduct or influence. 


Of those who do not come back to prison these figures tell us nothing, 
and nothing, on any statistical basis, can be known. For them, imprison- 
ment must be supposed to have served its purpose, for some in one way, 
for some in another. Many personal accounts still unhappily suggest 
that for the writers at least Wilde could speak today as he wrote in 
De Profundis: 'Prison life with its endless privations and restrictions 
makes one rebellious . . . and he who is in a state of rebellion cannot 
receive grace. . . . The most terrible thing about it is not that it breaks 
one's heart . . . but that it turns one's heart to stone.' But there is much 
in the records of Aid Societies, and in letters to Governors and Chap- 
lains and other officers of the prisons, to count on the other side of the 
assessment as this from the parents of a young woman recently 

'My wife and I feel we would like to express our appreciation for 
your sympathetic consideration towards our daughter, which meant 
so much to her in the very unfortunate circumstances. We are quite 
certain that had your attitude been more in keeping with what one 
usually associates with prison life, she would have come back to us 
very much the worse for her experiences. Instead, we find the shining 
light of an unbroken spirit and renewed faith in humanity. This is quite 
contrary to our expectations, and so you will understand the extent of 
our gratitude.' 


A recidivist, for an English writer, is no easier to define than a 
psychopath. It is not, in English usage, a term with any legal definition: 
it appears in no statute and in no statutory rule. We are therefore 
thrown back on its dictionary definition, which is given in the O.E.D. 
as 'one who habitually relapses into crime'. This is the sense in which 
the word will be used here, and in which it is perhaps most generally 
understood, pace Dr. Griinhut, who refers to the 'legal term' of reci- 
divist, and defines recidivism as 'the commission of a new offence 
after the expiration of a sentence for a previous breach of the law' 
(p. 387). It would certainly be convenient if there could be some 
accepted definition of the point in an offender's career at which relapse 
could be said to have become habitual, and in some English-speaking 
countries legal or at any rate administrative definition is given to the 
term recidivist: no doubt Dr. Griinhut had the practice of those 
countries in mind rather than the English practice. 

However that may be, it will have appeared sufficiently from the 
foregoing section that since of those who come to prison for the first 
time not more than 20 per cent are likely to return, a substantial pro- 
portion of that 20 per cent must return very often and for a very long 
time for them to bulk so large in the prison population. That this is 


indeed so is shown by figures published on p. 39 of the Annual Report 
for 1949, from which it appears that in 1948 there were 15,589 recep- 
tions of men and 1,143 receptions of women convicted of offences who 
were known to have been in prison before: the analysis of their previous 
offences is given as follows : 

Men Women 

I to 5 previous offences . . 11,916 939 
6 to 10 previous offences . . 2,207 128 

II td 20 previous offences . . 1,046 39 
Over 20 previous offences . . 420 37 

15,589 1,143 

The Report also gives, in Table VIIA of the Appendices, analysed by 
offences, the number of previous sentences of imprisonment (other 
than for non-payment of fines) which had been served by the prisoners 
received in 1948. This enables the inquiry to be narrowed down to crime 
proper by the omission of the less serious non-indictable offences. On 
this basis it appears that the number of men received on conviction of 
indictable offences or 'non-indictable akin to indictable' who were 
known to have served previous sentences was 14,247. The number of 
known previous sentences were : 






Six to ten 

Eleven to 










For women, of a total of 902, the numbers were: 






Six to ten 

Eleven to 










From these figures the size and nature of the problem of recidivism 
begin to take shape. Whatever definition one gives to the term it can 
be fairly applied to one who is serving a fourth sentence of imprison- 
ment for a serious offence: on this limited basis alone it appears that 
we are concerned with nearly 7,200 men and 400 women, who represent 
the failures of the penal system in general and the prison system in 
particular. Looking back at these figures, and considering that nearly 
2,000 men had served 6-10 sentences and over 1,200 had served more 
and often many more than ten, one need not hesitate to draw 'the 
inference that the present methods not only fail to check the criminal 
propensities of such people, but may actually cause progressive 


deterioration by habituating the offenders to prison conditions', 1 or to 
agree with Dr. Griinhut that 'the crime risk increases with every sub- 
sequent conviction' (p. 455). 

There is one ray of comforting light in this dark picture depressing 
as it may be, it is in some respects better now than it was before the war. 
In the Annual Report for 1938 the number of men shown in Table 
VITA as having served three or more previous sentences was 57*3 of 
the total receptions of men known to have been in prison before for 
serious offences, as compared with 50-3 in 1948. And serious recidivism 
as shown by the number received with 6 or more previous convictions 
fell from an average of 43 per cent for 1935-39 to less than 38 per cent 
for 1945-48. 

It is against this background that we must assess the significance of 
the Maidstone 'success' figure for recidivists quoted earlier in this 
chapter, and the importance of the new methods of dealing with 
'persistent offenders' to be described in Chapter Eighteen. 

1 Report of the Departmental Committee on Persistent Offenders 1932, para. 5. 




THESE representatives of the original function of the prison are 
today an awkward anomaly. The law presumes them to be 
innocent, and the Prison Act 1877 required that 'a clear difference 
shall be made between the treatment of persons unconvicted of crime' 
and the treatment of convicted prisoners, and that special rules should 
be made 'regulating their confinement in such manner as to make it as 
little as possible oppressive, due regard only being had to their safe- 
custody, to the necessity of preserving order and good government . . . 
and to the physical and moral well-being of the prisoners themselves'. 
These provisions were repealed by the Act of 1948, but their moral 
force remains, and public opinion would be properly disturbed by 
any suggestion of undue harshness in the conditions in which untried 
prisoners are detained. 

But although their innocence must be presumed, and their treatment 
regulated accordingly, there are other presumptions which work in 
rather different directions. Since in all proper cases the courts will 
normally release an untried offender on bail, it must be assumed that 
in at any rate a great many cases of those received into prison, the 
courts have decided that detention is necessary either to ensure further 
appearance or to prevent interference with the course of justice: 
exceptions would include remands for 'state of mind reports', and cases 
where bail has been allowed but sureties have not been found. Further, 
the special Rules have continuously since 1877 laid on the administra- 
tion the duty to 'prevent contamination or conspiracy to defeat the 
ends of justice'. 

The conditions of detention must therefore secure, as absolute 
obligations, safe-custody, good order, and the prevention of contamina- 
tion or conspiracy: and they must be applied in, and be compatible with 
the regime of, an establishment primarily designed for and populated 
by convicted prisoners, although from these the untried must be 



strictly separated. It must also be recognised that the majority of these 
prisoners, whether or no they have committed the offences currently 
charged, are not in fact respectable and innocent persons but old hands 
well known to the prison staffs. 

In the light of these considerations it is possible to understand why 
the lot of an untried prisoner may seem in practice to be more depress- 
ing, even if 'less oppressive', than that of a convicted prisoner. He may 
work if he wishes, though he may not be required to do so: those who 
choose to work will be given some mail-bags to sew or patch, and will 
be paid 6d. a day. It must be difficult to decide which is more boring, 
to work or not to work, for the mandate to prevent contamination and 
conspiracy precludes any kind of free association. Nor will the untried 
find their evenings relieved by the educational and other activities 
provided for the convicted, or even by the conversation available to 
those who have to sleep three in a cell a practice strictly forbidden for 
the untried. 

In what sense, then, can it be claimed that the treatment of the untried 
prisoner is 'less oppressive' than that of the convicted? Apart from the 
freedom to be idle, he may wear his own clothes, if they are sufficient 
and suitable and not required for the purposes of justice, and retain his 
personal possessions 'so far as is consistent with discipline and good 
order' ; he may be supplied with food and drink at his own expense or 
that of his friends; he may have books, newspapers, writing materials, 
etc. sent in to him; he may on reasonable grounds be attended by his 
own doctor or dentist; he may write and receive as many letters as he 
likes, and receive daily visits from his friends. He may also, on payment, 
be allowed 'to occupy a suitable room or cell specially fitted for such 
prisoners' and 'to be relieved from the duty of cleaning his room or cell 
or from other such tasks or offices', and he may 'have at his own cost the 
use of private furniture and utensils approved by the Governor'. 

The man with a little money, or friends to look after him, who does 
not mind spending his whole time in his cell except for the usual exercise 
periods, and can pass the time in reading or writing, may therefore be 
reasonably comfortable. But the cell remains a cell. The 'specially fitted 
room' does not offer a lot of comfort, and the conditions under which 
food and drink may be sent in fall short of the epicurean alcoholic 
liquors are limited to a pint of ale, etc. or half a bottle of wine a day, 
and spirits are prohibited. But the respectable novice prepared to seclude 
himself in this way need come to little harm. 

These conditions are perhaps the best that can be provided in the 
local prisons as they are, and even in a prison designed today little 
more could be done, though it would perhaps be reasonable to provide 
a separate block with its own work-room in which the rooms were of a 
higher standard than ordinary cells and more comfortably furnished. 
They have never excited public comment of a general nature, and even 


the Gladstone Committee found little to say on the subject. It should 
be understood that except so far as the special Rules apply, untried 
prisoners are subject to the general Rules: if they commit offences 
against discipline they may forfeit any of their special privileges except 
visits and letters required for procuring bail or preparing a defence; 
if they do not wear their own clothes they wear prison dress, though 
of a different colour from the convicted; and their food, except so far 
as they buy their own, is the ordinary prison food. 

But in what is the most important aspect of their position, the pre- 
paration of their defence, the Rules provide the fullest facilities and 
protection. An untried prisoner is allowed to see his legal advisers in 
private on any week-day at any reasonable time, and may hand to 
them personally any documents he has prepared as instructions for his 
defence without examination by a prison officer. The prison authorities 
are also required to provide him with all reasonable facilities, including 
writing materials, for preparing notes and instructions and writing to 
his legal advisers and friends. Where medical evidence is required, he 
may be examined by a doctor chosen by himself, his friends or his 
legal adviser. 

Special facilities are granted to those who are trying to obtain 
sureties for bail, and to foreigners who wish to communicate with 
their consulate or other representative; and every prisoner is made 
aware by printed notices in his cell not only of the regulations relative 
to his class, but of the steps he should take if he wishes to seek bail, or 
to secure legal assistance under the Poor Prisoners' Defence Acts. 

The Welfare Agencies are available to the untried as to the convicted. 
They are informed on their cell-cards how to seek help if they are 
troubled about their family or other private affairs, or about the future. 
And in special cases the Prison Visitors may help them too. 


Under the Criminal Appeal Act 1907 a prisoner convicted at Assizes 
or Quarter Sessions may, under prescribed conditions, appeal against 
either conviction or sentence to the Court of Criminal Appeal; and 
from the day on which he signs his notice of appeal to the day on which 
it is either abandoned or determined by the Court, his sentence is held 
to be suspended and he is treated under the special Rules for Appellants. 
It should be noted that these Rules do not apply to persons appealing to 
Quarter Sessions against convictions by Courts of Summary Juris- 
diction: a person so appealing may be, and normally is, released on 
bail, but if he is not so released he continues to serve his sentence until 
his appeal is heard. 

The object of suspending an appellant's sentence is primarily to 
discourage frivolous appeals, and where the Court thinks fit, even if the 


appeal is unsuccessful, it may order the time spent as an appellant to 
count as part of the sentence. The special Rules do not therefore 
provide any specially favourable treatment for the appellant, but only 
regulate certain technical details, and ensure for the prisoner the same 
freedom of access to his legal advisers, and facilities for preparing his 
appeal, as the trial prisoner has for the preparation of his defence. 
If the Court discharges him, he may be paid for his work in prison 
while an appellant at rates fixed by the Commissioners. 



Prisoners falling into these categories are treated like other con- 
victed prisoners save in one respect. They may, if they wish, for the 
purpose of preparing any representations to the Courts before which 
they are to appear for sentence or otherwise, have the same special 
facilities as the Rules allow to Appellants. 


By section 52 (4) of the Criminal Justice Act 1948, rules are to be 
made providing for the special treatment of persons who have been 
sentenced to imprisonment on conviction of sedition, seditious libel, or 
seditious conspiracy. This provision, taken with the repeal by the first 
section of the Act of the arrangements of 1898 for the 'triple division' of 
offenders, brings to an end that curious failure of the English penal 
system, the First Division. 

The history of this experiment goes back to the Prisons Act 1865, 
section 67 of which provided as follows : 

'In every Prison to which this Act applies, Prisoners convicted of 
Misdemeanor, and not sentenced to Hard Labour, shall be divided into 
at least Two Divisions, One of which shall be called the First Division; 
and whenever any Person convicted of Misdemeanor is sentenced to 
Imprisonment without Hard Labour it shall be lawful for the Court or 
Judge before whom such Person has been tried to order, if such Court 
or Judge think fit, that such Person shall be treated as a Misdemeanant 
of the First Division, and a Misdemeanant of the First Division shall 
not be deemed to be a Criminal Prisoner within the Meaning of this 

The next step was taken by section 40 of the Act of 1877, which 
provided that 'the Prison Commissioners shall see that any prisoner 
under sentence inflicted on conviction for sedition or seditious libel 
shall be treated as a misdemeanant of the first division within the 
meaning of section 67 of the Prisons Act 1865\ 


Finally, section 6 (2) of the Prison Act 1898, as amended by section 
16 (2) of the Criminal Justice Administration Act 1914, provided that 
'where a person is convicted by any court of an offence, and is sentenced 
to imprisonment without hard labour, or committed to prison for 
non-payment of a fine, the court may, if it thinks fit, having regard to 
the nature of the offence and the antecedents of the offender, direct 
that he be treated as an offender of the first division or as an offender 
of the second division'. And sub-section (5) further provided that any 
reference in section 40 of the Prisons Act 1877 to a misdemeanant of 
the first division should be construed as reference to an offender of the 
first division within the meaning of this section. 

So much of this story as concerns the Second Division, and the 
reasons for the failure of that attempt to set up a system of classification 
by the courts, we have already considered. The original purpose of the 
First Division was different: it was to separate out a category of mis- 
demeanants who were to be given special treatment as 'non-criminal' 
prisoners. As to the qualifications for admission to this category, 
however, the Act of 1865 was silent, and as to the nature of the non- 
criminal regime, para. 102 of Schedule I did no more than empower the 
Justices to 'make such Rules as they may think expedient'. 

The Act of 1877 made no fundamental alteration of this position: 
its effect was limited to ensuring that a certain category of prisoners, 
whose offences were in essence political, were included in the First 
Division. This clause was inserted in the Bill on the motion of Mr. 
Parnell, and was primarily intended to provide for the Irish Fenian 
prisoners, though in the course of discussion in Committee the Chartists 
were also mentioned. In fact the Fenians were usually convicted of 
'treason-felony', and ParnelPs attempt to include treason-felony in 
the clause was defeated on the technical ground that these persons being 
sentenced to penal servitude were confined in convict prisons which 
were outside the scope of the Bill. It seems clear that the reason for 
dealing with the matter by a direction to the Prison Commissioners, 
rather than by leaving it to the discretion of the court, was distrust of 
the Judges and especially the Irish Judges: only one Hon. Member 
raised this point, and his intervention enlisted no support. 1 

The transfer in 1877 of the power to make Prison Rules from the 
Justices to the Secretary of State did not make for clarification of the 
nature of the special 'non-criminal' regime: Sir E. du Cane's comment 
on the position in 1884 is as follows 'The rules for misdemeanants of 
the first division guard against the possible abuse of interest or influence 
which might lead to an unwarrantable difference in the treatment of 
prisoners, by prescribing that no prisoner shall be placed in this division 
except as provided by statute or by order of the court of law which 
sentenced him. They permit the visiting committees to authorise the 
i Hansard'. 5 April 1877, pp. 616-638; and 14 June 1877, pp. 1789-1800. 

E.P.B.S. 19 



modification of certain ordinary rules and routine to suit the special 
circumstances of any particular prisoner of this class.' l 

The effect of the Act of 1898 was to remove the limitation to mis- 
demeanants imposed in 1865 for admission to the First Division, and 
to leave the courts complete discretion 'having regard to the nature of 
the offence and the antecedents of the offender'. But the admission of 
those convicted of sedition or seditious libel was still mandatory. From 
this time on, the Rules provided in detail for the treatment of the First 
Division, the general effect being that of simple imprisonment in the 
plain meaning of the words confinement and no more. 

The effect of the Act of 1948 and the Rules of 1949 is to abolish the 
First Division as such, but to preserve the regime of 'simple imprison- 
ment' solely for the political category for whom it was made mandatory 
in 1877. The courts no longer have any powers or discretion in the 
matter; the treatment automatically follows imprisonment for the 
offence, as for this special category it has done since 1877. 

It would be of more than historical interest to attempt to establish 
the real intentions of the legislature in this matter, and to ascertain 
how in practice those intentions have been understood and applied by 
the courts and the administration, since the questions raised, though 
temporarily at rest in this country, might well in certain circumstances 
arise again. That they still excite interest elsewhere is evident from the 
discussion at a meeting of the Swedish Association of Criminalists 
on 11 November 1949. 2 There exists, in the law of the Scandinavian 
countries, a form of sentence known as custodia honesta or 'honourable 
confinement' : in the course of discussion of the ever-green topic of the 
'single form of penalty involving deprivation of liberty', this form of 
sentence came under review. It appears that in Norway it may be 
applied 'for political offences and other crimes, where in a particular 
case it may be assumed that the offence is not due to a depraved dis- 
position'. The Danish representative thought it should be retained 
for offenders who 'act as they do because of their adherence to a par- 
ticular political ideology'. Another speaker 'considered that subjects for 
custodia honesta were offenders by conviction, in the sense of group 
conviction, that is to say, behind their offence was the pressure of a 
group'. It would appear that with the possible exception of Denmark 
this form of sentence is now little used: in Norway 'the punishment 
has not acquired any appreciable significance, though opportunities for 
applying it have not been lacking. It has hardly been used at all after 
the war. . . . The provisions now in force for the execution of imprison- 
ment are such that there is no need for a special form of punishment 
requiring lenient treatment.' 

1 Du Cane, p. 76. 

2 Yearbook of the Northern Association of Criminalists, 1949-50; Stockholm 1950; 
pp. 21-26. 


Was it the intention of Parliament, in setting up this First Division, 
to create a custodia honest a in our penal system? Sir E. Ruggles-Brise 
appears to have thought not. 'It is difficult', he says, 'to say whether 
the legislature intended this division, which, on the face of it, was a bold 
step in the way of differentiation, to be more than a reservation in 
favour of a few exceptional cases, such as are actually mentioned in 
the Act. The presumption is, having regard to the fact that prisoners 
treated as First Class Misdemeanants were not to be deemed criminal 
prisoners, that there was no intention to anticipate an elaborate classi- 
fication such as is now laid down. . . .' 1 In this statement Sir Evelyn 
follows his predecessor in stressing the Tew exceptional cases', and 
goes further in suggesting that these cases would only be the political 
offenders envisaged by the Act of 1877. 

That this was more than a purely personal view is borne out by the 
circumstances in which, as Home Secretary, Mr. Winston Churchill 
found it necessary in 1910 to secure the approval of Parliament to the 
following additional Prison Rule : 

'In the case of any offender whose previous character is good, and 
who has been convicted of, or committed to prison for an offence not 
involving dishonesty, cruelty, indecency or serious violence, the Com- 
missioners may allow such amelioration of the conditions prescribed 
in the foregoing rules as the Secretary of State may approve in respect 
of the wearing of prison clothing, bathing, hair-cutting, cleaning of 
cells, employment, exercise, books and otherwise. 

'Provided that no such amelioration shall be greater than that 
granted under the rules for offenders of the First Division.' 

Notwithstanding the general terms of this Rule and the carefully 
guarded phraseology in which Mr. Churchill proposed it, 2 its purpose 
was in fact limited. The Government had been placed in a politically 
embarrassing position by the imprisonment of the militant suffragettes 
in Holloway and elsewhere, and particularly by their recent technique 
of the hunger-strike. Similar problems had also arisen in connection 
with other offenders from 'group conviction', such as the 'passive 
resisters' to the levying of the Education Rate under the Education Act 
of 1902; but it was primarily with a view to meeting the suffragette 
situation that this Rule was introduced. 

The question at once arises why, since the practical effect of the 
new Rule was to give very little short of First Division treatment to 
those to whom it applied, its introduction was thought to be necessary. 
Was not the First Division provided precisely for persons who broke 
the law, but not from 'criminal' motives? This view was strongly 
pressed on the Government at the time by influential supporters of the 

1 Ruggles-Brise, p. 71. 

2 Reply to Question by Mr. John O'Connor, Hansard, 15 March 1910, p. 177. 


suffragist movement. The answer to be deduced from the reply to a 
deputation by the Home Secretary, Mr. McKenna, 1 and from his 
reply to a subsequent Parliamentary Question, 2 is twofold: the First 
Division was for 'political offenders', and persons who were sent to 
prison for offences of violence (e.g. such assaults and breakings of 
windows as the suffragettes were wont to commit) could not be placed 
in that category on the ground that their motives were political. Further, 
the Home Secretary believed 'that the infrequency of the use of the 
First Division arises from the fact that the conditions are so easy that 
Judges and Magistrates are unwilling to pass a sentence that can have 
little or no deterrent effect. The conditions of Rule 343A are somewhat 
more stringent.' 

Whatever view may be taken today of the validity of this reasoning, 
it is at least clear that it did not embrace that conception of the function 
of the First Division which has been defined as custodia honesta. Nor 
indeed does it appear to have coincided with the actual practice of the 
courts up to that time. From the Annual Report of the Prison Com- 
missioners for 1910-11 (p. 23) it appears that since 1899 no less than 
572 persons had in fact been placed by the courts in the First Division. 
Analysis of Appendix 16 to the Annual Reports for the years 1906-10 
shows that during those 5 years, of 348 persons placed in the First 
Division, only 2 were convicted of offences 'against the State and 
Public Order'. On the other hand there were 119 offenders against the 
Education Acts, who may be assumed to have been 'passive resisters', 
and in 1906 there were 127 women committed for offences against the 
Metropolitan Police Acts, who are stated in para. 19 of the Report for 
that year to have been London Suffragettes: there were also, eiusdem 
generis, 27 offenders against the Vaccination Acts. The balance were an 
assortment ranging from larceny and embezzlement to drunks and 
indecent exposure. With the exception of the two quasi-politicals, 
virtually all these persons were committed by courts of summary 
jurisdiction. One can only infer that many magistrates were prepared to 
use the discretion which the Act of 1898 had reposed in them in the 
sense which Parliament would appear to have intended. 

However that may be, the conception of custodia honesta was soon 
to be eliminated by the inevitable if unconscious movement of English 
thought and practice towards the 'single sentence'. Between the wars 
both the First Division and the special Rule fell into desuetude, and 
finally disappeared in 1948-49. However devious the means, this end 
may perhaps be justified by the reasons advanced by the Norwegian 
representative at Stockholm, that in modern conditions of imprison- 
ment 'there is no need for a special form of punishment requiring lenient 

1 Reported verbatim in The Standard of 24 May 1912. 

2 Question by Mr. McVeagh, Hansard, 3 July 1912. 



What remains is of little practical significance in the prison system, 
since long years may elapse without the reception of any prisoner 
convicted of one of these offences. Should one be received, he would 
find that his conditions were almost precisely those of an untried 
prisoner, except that he 'may work at his own trade, employment or 
profession, so far as the conditions of the prison and the requirements 
of discipline and safe-custody permit'. He would however have an 
inducement to choose to work in the service or industries of the prison, 
since he would not be eligible to earn any remission of his sentence un- 
less he regularly did so. 


This class of prisoner was known, until the Statutory Rules of 1949, 
as 'debtors', and indeed the great majority of them are still persons 
committed by courts of summary jurisdiction, or by county courts, 
for the non-payment of sums of money ordered by the courts to be 
paid under non-criminal process, e.g. wife-maintenance or affiliation 
orders, non-payment of rates or taxes, or civil debts. They do however 
include certain miscellaneous classes who are not debtors, and the term 
civil prisoners (which followed pre-existing Scottish practice) is there- 
fore more accurate: these classes include persons committed for con- 
tempt of court or for non-payment under various orders of court, and 
aliens committed for deportation or otherwise. 

As the following table shows, civil prisoners are a much less import- 
ant element of the prison population than they were before the war: 
in 1931 they accounted for 24-2 per cent of the receptions of male 
prisoners, in 1949 for 11-8 per cent. The table also makes it clear that 
this change is broadly due to a very great reduction, accentuated as a 

Civil Process Prisoners 
Annual averages or Calendar years 


Under Wife 

In default of 
payment of 













1 Year ended 31 March. 


result of the late war, in the committals by county courts for non- 
payment of civil debts and by courts of summary jurisdiction for non- 
payment of rates. Nearly three out of four of the civil prisoners of today 
are men who cannot or will not pay the amounts due under wife 
maintenance or bastardy orders. 

Although the number of county court debtors has been insignificant 
in recent years, their position calls for some explanation, since they 
are committed under an 'Act for the Abolition of Imprisonment for 
Debt'. The legal theory is that the debtor is not imprisoned for the debt 
but as a punishment for contempt of court, the intention being, as 
stated by Halsbury in The Laws of England, that 'a fraudulent debtor 
shall be punished, but that an honest debtor shall not'. Thus the law l 
requires the court, before making an order for committal to prison, to 
be satisfied that since the debtor was ordered to pay the sum found by 
the court to be due, he has or has had the means to pay such sum but 
has refused or neglected to pay. In practice, however, the court often 
makes in the first instance an order for payment by instalments, and 
only commits to prison if and when the creditor applies for committal 
because the instalments are not being paid. There is therefore some 
ground for the view that whatever the legal theory the Act is used in 
fact as an instrument to enable creditors to enforce the payment of 
debts by the sanction of imprisonment, and from time to time doubt 
has been expressed whether under present practice committals are 
always confined to the 'fraudulent' debtors, and there has been 'con- 
troversy as to whether it is or is not right to retain a power of imprison- 
ment in respect of county court orders'. 2 In 1908 a Select Committee 
inquired into this question, but no agreement was reached. 

In 1933 the Home Secretary appointed a Departmental Committee to 
try to find ways to reduce the number of committals by courts of 
summary jurisdiction in default of payment of fines and rates and of 
sums due under wife maintenance and affiliation orders, and a number 
of practical recommendations were made. We have already noted the 
useful effect of these in reducing the numbers of committals for fines 
(p. 81), and the foregoing table shows that in the five years following 
1935 the number of committals by courts of summary jurisdiction 
under non-criminal process was practically halved. 

This use of the prison for the coercion of debtors is not satisfactory 
in principle or in practice. So far as 'county court debtors' are deemed, 
with Halsbury, to be 'fraudulent' there seems to be no reason for 
treating them differently from persons convicted of fraud indeed it is 
not easy to draw an ethical line between the person who steals a pound 
of sugar from the grocer and the person who buys a pound of sugar 

1 Debtors Act 1869, section 5, and Summary Jurisdiction Act 1879, section 35. 

2 Report of the Departmental Committee on Imprisonment by Courts of Sum- 
mary Jurisdiction in Default of Payment of Fines, etc., 1934, para. 1. 


and refrains from paying for it. And the doubt remains whether in 
practice all such debtors are in fact fraudulent. For the rest, notwith- 
standing the recommendations of 1934, it is still not clear why many of 
them come to prison. The Annual Reports of the Commissioners 
since the war have shown the concern which many Governors feel 
about these men 'mainly on two grounds first, that many are genuinely 
convinced, and often with apparently good reason, that the fault lies 
as much or more with their wives as with them, and they have no 
intention of paying; second, that insufficient consideration appears to 
have been given to individual circumstances before committal to 
prison, and that more patient attempts to investigate and advise with a 
view to avoiding imprisonment wherever possible would perhaps avert 
much unfruitful hardship to both man and wife. Of recent years many 
of this class have been ex-service men who, for one reason or another, 
have not resumed normal married life. Attention has also been drawn 
to the marked variations in the periods of imprisonment ordered by 
courts in respect of similar sums of money.' l 

The treatment provided by the Rules reflects this confusion, being a 
sort of compromise between the custodial treatment of untried prisoners 
and the corrective treatment of the convicted. Civil prisoners must be 
kept separate from criminal prisoners, but may associate among them- 
selves: it was found however that in some prisons there were so few 
civil prisoners that association was scarcely practicable, and the Rules 
of 1949 therefore provide that 'Where owing to the small numbers of 
civil prisoners or otherwise suitable arrangements for association of 
such prisoners cannot be made, such a prisoner may if he so desires, 
with the approval of the Governor, be allowed to associate with 
prisoners of the Star Class at such times and in such manner as the 
Commissioners determine.' They are required to work at the normal 
prison work, and earn money on the same basis as convicted prisoners : 
they may be included in 'outside parties'. They do not earn remission, 
since they can secure discharge by paying what they owe, and they 
receive only 'out of stage' privileges. They receive the normal prison 
diet without supplement, and are subject to the normal prison discipline. 
But they may wear their own clothes, if these are sufficient and suitable, 
and they receive more letters and visits than convicted prisoners one 
letter a week each way, and a half-hour visit once a week. On discharge 
they are eligible for assistance by the D.P.A.S. on the same basis as 
convicted prisoners. 

The maximum period of imprisonment is 3 months if committed by a 
court of summary jurisdiction; 6 weeks if by a county court; 12 
months if by the High Court under section 4 of the Debtors Act 
1869. A contempt of court prisoner is held at the pleasure of the court, 2 
and aliens until the necessary arrangements for deportation can be made, 
i Annual Report for 1946, pp. 29, 30. 2 See Appendix K. 



Every care is taken to prevent a condemned prisoner from coming 
into contact with other prisoners, or from being exposed to their view 
at exercise or chapeL The 'condemned cell' is usually set, at the end of 
a landing, and is of at least double the ordinary size, with a bed for the 
prisoner, a table, and chairs for the prisoner and the two officers who 
remain in the cell day and night: washing facilities and water-closet 
are placed in an adjoining cell, and the visiting room also adjoins, 
with a separate entrance for the visitors. The execution chamber is 
reached through an intervening lobby, the whole set of rooms being 

The condemned prisoner wears prison dress, and except as to labour 
which is not required of him is subject to the general Rules so far as 
they are applicable. The prisoner may, at the discretion of the Medical 
Officer, receive additions to the usual diet, and be allowed to smoke, 
while books, games, and other means of occupation are freely permitted. 
He may see his friends and legal advisers at any reasonable time, in the 
presence of prison officers, but otherwise no person except an official of 
the prison or a member of the Visiting Committee may see him without 
the authority of the Prison Commissioners. He may if he wishes see the 
Chaplain, or a Minister of his own denomination, at any reasonable 
time. Ample facilities are granted for correspondence and for the 
preparation, if desired, of an appeal. 

Responsibility for carrying out the execution rests with the Sheriff 
of the county, whose Under-Sheriff fixes the date of execution, engages 
and pays the executioner, attends the execution and decides whether 
representatives of the Press should be admitted. Immediately after the 
execution the Coroner for the district holds an inquest on the body at 
the prison. The burial takes place within the prison walls: a register of 
the graves is kept, but they are not distinguished by names or other 



THROUGHOUT this century the penal systems of Europe and 
America have sought, with little enough success hitherto, the 
answers to many questions arising from that central problem of 
penal law, the habitual criminal the man who forms the statistical 
unit in the depressing figures given at the end of Chapter Sixteen. In this 
matter England took the lead early, and has retained it with the interest- 
ing and novel provisions of section 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 1948 
and the Rules made in 1949 for implementing those provisions. 

The Gladstone Committee recognised the problem as early as 1894 
and prescribed broad principles for its solution which the subsequent 
half-century has sought to translate into practice. The first part of the 
prescription was to cut off the supply at the source, to dam 'the head- 
springs of recidivism'. 'It is certain,' they said, 'that the age when the 
majority of habitual criminals are made lies between 16 and 21. ... It 
appears to us that the most determined effort should be made to lay 
hold of these incipient criminals and to prevent them by strong restraint 
and rational treatment from recruiting the habitual class' (para. 29). 
From this suggestion there developed the Borstal system, which, as we 
shall see in a later chapter, succeeds in diverting from 'the habitual 
class' some seven out often of those whom it receives. This 'cutting off' 
process continues throughout the prison system : we have seen that of 
those who come to prison for the first time less than 20 per cent return, 
and that of that 20 per cent, under modern methods of training, a 
substantial majority may not return again. 

But in the end we are left with a certain number, small though it be, 
of those who are committed to a life of crime and remain ostensibly 
unaffected by any number of sentences of whatever severity. What is to 
be done with them? The suggestion of the Gladstone Committee was as 
follows: To punish them for the particular offence in which they are 
detected is almost useless ; witnesses were almost unanimous in approving 



of some kind of cumulative sentence; the real offence is the wilful 
persistence in the deliberately acquired habit of crime. We venture to 
offer the opinion formed during this inquiry that a new form of sentence 
should be placed at the disposal of the judges by which these offenders 
might be segregated for long periods of detention during which they 
would not be treated with the severity of first-class hard labour or penal 
servitude, but would be forced to work under less onerous conditions. 
As loss of liberty would to them prove eventually the chief deterrent, 
so by their being removed from the opportunity of doing wrong the 
community would gain' (para. 85). 

These ideas, or something like them, have since found expression in 
most European thought in this matter; but the first attempt to translate 
them into practice was made in England, when the Prevention of Crime 
Act 1908 made the two-pronged attack on recidivism recommended by 
the Committee the Borstal system for young offenders on the one 
flank, the Preventive Detention system for habitual criminals on the 

So far as it concerned habitual criminals, the system of 1908 failed. 
To understand the reasons for that failure, and for the changes intro- 
duced in 1948, it is necessary to take a wider view of the elements of 
the problem. These may be divided into four: the definition of an 
habitual criminal, the juridical basis of their treatment, the conditions 
of their detention and the determination and method of their release. 

The Definition of Habitual Criminality 

However we may define a recidivist, it is clear that the habitual 
criminal, or, in the current English term, persistent offender, is 
something more than a recidivist. First, his offences must be of a serious 
nature we are not concerned with the petty misdemeanant. Then, there 
must be something more than mere repetition of offence: it is generally 
accepted that the repetition must be indicative of a significant character 
trait, defined by Dr. Griinhut after the Austrian criminologist Wahlberg 
as 'criminal tendency' (p. 389). Dr. Griinhut points out that terms hav- 
ing this meaning appear in the Italian Penal Code of 1930 tendenza a 
delinquere, and in the Swiss Criminal Code of 1937 penchant au crime, 
while the German Supreme Court defined an habitual criminal as 'a 
person who on account of an inner tendency due to the constitution of 
his character, or acquired by habit, has repeatedly committed criminal 
offences and tends to a further repetition'. 

It is also generally accepted that these offenders fall broadly into two 
classes. The first, who have been described as 'a-sociaP, and who con- 
stitute more of a nuisance than a danger, relapse into crime because 
through physical, mental or social inadequacy they are incapable of the 
effort to keep out of it. The second, who have been described as 'anti- 
social', are usually persons of adequate intelligence and competence 


who deliberately persist in a career of crime because they prefer it and 
hope, according to their own scale of values, to make it pay. 

English law has never sought to define the habitual criminal: the 
Act of 1908 provided, as does that of 1948, for a minimum number of 
previous convictions of crime before an offender can become eligible 
for consideration, but it remains with the court to decide whether he 
is to be treated as 'habitual'. Under the Act of 1908 the decision rested 
with the jury: the procedure of section 21 of 1948 is quite different: 

'Where a person who is not less than 30 years of age: 

'(a) is convicted on indictment of an offence punishable with im- 
prisonment for a term of two years or more; and 

\b) has been convicted on indictment on at least three previous 
occasions since he attained the age of 17 of offences punishable on 
indictment with such a sentence, and was on at least two of those 
occasions sentenced to Borstal training, imprisonment or corrective 

then, if the court is satisfied that it is expedient for the protection of 
the public that he should be detained in custody for a substantial time, 
followed by a period of supervision if released before the expiration of 
his sentence, the court may pass, in lieu of any other sentence, a 
sentence of preventive detention for such term of not less than five nor 
more than 14 years as the court may determine.' 

This procedure is in complete accord with the recommendation of 
The Hague Congress in para. 2 of the relevant resolution (II, 2, Appx. 
F). There is first the legal condition of 'a certain number of sentences 
undergone or of crimes committed', then a complete discretion in the 
court governed only by the need to satisfy itself that for the protection 
of the public it is expedient to segregate the offender for a substantial 

It is noteworthy that there is no longer any attempt to distinguish 
between the 'a-social' and the 'anti-social'. Under the 1908 procedure, 
when the offender was specifically charged with being an habitual 
criminal and the jury had to find on the charge, prosecutions were 
deliberately limited to the 'anti-social', the 'persistent dangerous 
criminals'. The memorandum issued to courts by the Home Office 
when section 21 of the Act of 1948 came into force made it clear that in 
the opinion of the Secretary of State the terms of the section imposed no 
such limitation on the discretion of the courts. This view appears to 
accord with common-sense: if Bill Sikes invariably resumes his career 
of house-breaking when he is discharged from prison, the mental atti- 
tudes which lead to this tendency do not seem to be relevant to the 
question of protecting the public. It would seem also to have been the 
view of the Departmental Committee of 1932, which said: 'For some 


types of offenders particularly those between 21 and 30 the object 
of detention will be reformative training: for others particularly those 
whose criminality appears to be mainly determined by mental inertia 
and other innate negative qualities little in the way of positive training 
may be practicable, and the main object may be to provide for the 
control of the offender and for the protection of the public' (para. 40). 

It remains, in considering the definition of an habitual criminal, to 
examine the procedure for assisting the courts to arrive at a decision. 
The Hague Resolution suggests 'that the declaration of habitual 
criminality . . . should be in the hands of a judicial authority with the 
advice of experts' (10 (a)) and that 'before the sentence . . . these 
offenders should be submitted to an observation which should pay 
particular attention to their social background and history, and to the 
psychological and psychiatric aspects of the case' (6). The procedure 
established under section 21 to these ends is described in Prisons and 
Borstals (pp. 39, 40) as follows: 

To assist the court here, it is required to consider any report (a 
copy of which must be given by the Court to the prisoner or his legal 
representative) on the offender's physical and mental condition and his 
suitability for Corrective Training l or Preventive Detention which may 
be made by or on behalf of the Prison Commissioners. The report is 
ordinarily made on behalf of the Prison Commissioners by the Gover- 
nor of the local prison concerned. It sets out all relevant information 
about the offender obtained from reports by police, employers and, 
where he has been on probation, by the probation officer, and is supple- 
mented, where the offender has been in custody, by an estimate of his 
character. It concludes by expressing an opinion as to his suitability for 
Corrective Training 'suitability' connoting both that the offender is in 
need of prolonged training and that he is likely to profit by it. 2 Where 
the offender is eligible for Preventive Detention only, no opinion on 
suitability is given, the question whether the protection of society 
requires a long period of detention being regarded as a matter for the 
cburt alone. These reports also give the Medical Officer's conclusions 
about the mental and physical fitness of the offender for the sentence/ 

To this it may be added that the Commissioners have expressed their 
intention, as soon as conditions permit, to set up regional Observation 
Centres, which will have the function of observing and reporting to the 
courts on untried prisoners, including those eligible to be dealt with 
under section 21, as well as of advising on the classification of appro- 
priate convicted prisoners. These will include staff qualified to advise 
on the 'psychological and psychiatric aspects of the case' : in the mean- 
time, psychologists are being posted, as they become available, to 
groups of local prisons to assist the Governors and Medical Officers 
in the preparation of reports to courts under section 21 and otherwise. 
1 See p. 302. 2 See Appendix K. 


The Juridical Basis 

'Traditional punishments,' says the first paragraph of The Hague 
Resolution, 'are not sufficient to fight effectively against habitual 
criminality. It is, therefore, necessary to employ other and more 
appropriate measures.' That this pronouncement in 1950 does no 
more than echo that of the Gladstone Committee in 1895 sufficiently 
indicates the caution with which this question has been approached. 
'Traditional punishments' must traditionally be proportioned to the 
gravity of the offence. But if society is to be effectively protected against 
the habitual criminal, regard must be had not to the nature of the offence 
but to the nature of the offender; and where this is such that traditional 
punishments cannot restrain him, the only 'appropriate measure' seems 
to be to place him, for a very long time, in a position from which he is 
no longer able to prey on society. 

Here a difficulty of principle arises. At one time banishment or 
transportation would have seemed entirely appropriate and advocates 
of some such measure, in terms of an 'island colony', may still be heard. 
But so long as these resources are not available, the fact must be faced 
that the 'measure', under whatever name, is confinement within a 
prison wall. Continental systems have long drawn a distinction in law 
between 'punishments' and 'measures of security', and have established 
the doctrine that the prolonged detention of a persistent offender falls 
within the latter category. English law does not draw this distinction, 
nor, in the light of the contemporary conception of imprisonment, does 
it appear to have any reality in practice. Given that punishment by 
imprisonment means punishment by confinement in a prison, with no 
implication of a regime directed towards causing 'pain and suffering' 
over and above what is implicit in the confinement, then the imprison- 
ment of a persistent offender as a 'measure of security' does not differ 
in essence from that of another offender as a 'punishment'. 

It was over this difficulty, in part, that the English system of 1908 
broke down. 'Some countries,' says Dr. Griinhut, 'have introduced a 
cumulative system which enables the Court to inflict legal punishment 
for the expiation of the offender's guilt, together with a further sentence 
awarded as a measure of public security to check his unabated danger- 
ousness' (p. 392). This was precisely the system of 1908, the effect of 
which was that if a person with three previous convictions of crime was 
again convicted of crime and sentenced to penal servitude, and was 
found by the jury to be an 'habitual criminal', the court might pass 
a further sentence of not less than five nor more than ten years of 
preventive detention. No doctrinal camouflage could prevent prisoners, 
courts and juries from regarding this as what in fact it was a double 
punishment, and after the first few years it fell into general disfavour; 
in 10 years from 1921 only 346 men and 8 women were sentenced to 
preventive detention. There were other reasons for this the reluctance 


of the prosecution to prefer the charge of habitual criminality, and the 
requirement that the preceding sentence must be one of penal servitude, 
which meant that an offender, whatever his record, could only be 
caught in this net on conviction of a particularly serious offence. 

In 1931 therefore the Home Secretary appointed a Departmental 
Committee 'to enquire into the existing methods of dealing with Per- 
sistent offenders', and its Report of 1932 1 is one of the landmarks of 
English penological thought. From its suggestions came not only the 
provisions of the Act of 1948 dealing with persistent offenders and the 
abolition of penal servitude, but the subsequent inquiries into prison 
employment and the re-absorption of prisoners into industry, the 
development of the 'open prison' system, and the establishment of 
psychiatric services in the prisons. On the question under immediate 
consideration, they recommended the abolition of the 'cumulative 
sentence' system, and the substitution of a procedure such as is now 
provided by section 21. This again is in accord with the recommenda- 
tion at (3) of the Hague Resolution that 'the special measure should 
not be added to a sentence of a punitive character. There should be 
one unified measure. . . .' 

Their major contribution to the problem, however, was an entirely 
novel one in practice, though in principle it was no more than an 
extension of the 'cutting off' procedure already described. They pro- 
posed to divide persistent offenders into two categories those 'still in 
the early stages of a criminal career, including the large number of 
such offenders as are between the ages of 21 and 30', and the rest. 
What the Committee wished to ensure for the first group was no more 
than a period of imprisonment of sufficient length to enable them to 
profit from the regime of 'training' already well established in the 
English prisons, in the hope that this might succeed in diverting them 
from a career of crime. But to do this it was necessary, as for the con- 
firmed habitual, to establish a fresh juridical basis. Again, in order to 
make the punishment fit not the offence but the offender, it was neces- 
sary to break with the traditional practice in the infliction of traditional 
punishments. It had been laid down by the Court of Criminal Appeal 
that if the offender's specific offence did not warrant a sentence above 
a certain length, a longer sentence should not be awarded for the pur- 
pose of giving him a period of training appropriate to his needs. 2 
The proposal of the Committee was that, for 'those persistent offenders 
who are likely to profit by a period of training ... a new form of sentence 
should be introduced and that courts should be given power, as an 
alternative to their present powers of ordering imprisonment or penal 

1 Report of the Departmental Committee on Persistent Offenders, 1932. Cmd. 
4090. Is. 6d. 

2 Case of Stanley Oxlade (13 Cr. App. R. 65), cit. p. 25 of the Report of the 
Departmental Committee. 


servitude, to order, in suitable cases and subject to proper safeguards, 
detention for any period being not less than two nor more than four 
years with the object, not of imposing a specific penalty for a specific 
offence, but of subjecting the offender to such training, discipline, 
treatment or control as will be calculated to check his criminal 
propensities' (p. 16). 

These were the proposals which in section 21 of the Act of 1948 
found legislative form in the new sentence called 'corrective training', 
as follows: 

'Where a person who is not less than 21 years of age: 

'(#) is convicted on indictment of an offence punishable with im- 
prisonment for a term of two years or more; and 

'(/?) has been convicted on at least two previous occasions since he 
attained the age of 17 of offences punishable on indictment 
with such a sentence; 

then, if the court is satisfied that it is expedient with a view to his 
reformation and the prevention of crime that he should receive training 
of a corrective character for a substantial time, followed by a period of 
supervision if released before the expiration of his sentence, the court 
may pass, in lieu of any other sentence, a sentence of corrective training 
for such term of not less than two nor more than four years as the 
court may determine.' 

We have already noted (p. 300) the procedure to be followed by the 
courts when offenders eligible for corrective training are before them. 

Conditions of Detention 

The problem here is related to the difficulty of distinguishing in 
principle between the confinement of an offender as a 'measure of 
security' and as a 'punishment', and a study of international practice in 
this matter published by the International Penal and Penitentiary 
Commission l confirms the statement of Dr. Griinhut that 'No existing 
system has succeeded in differentiating between ordinary prison routine 
and the regime applicable to preventive detention' (p. 399). The Finnish 
report says, 'It must be admitted that it is difficult to arrange the 
conditions so as to make much difference from those of ordinary 
prisoners, at least of those who are promoted to the higher stages. 
The loss of liberty in itself, the discipline, and the maintenance of 
order entail the essential restrictions.' The German report stresses the 
same point, adding that this necessary resemblance gives prisoners in 
'internment' a sense of grievance which it is difficult to eradicate. 

This problem was clearly envisaged by the Home Office when the 

1 Recueilde Documents en Matiere Penale et Penitenfiaire, Vol. XIII, 1. Staempfli 
et Cie, Berne, 1947. 


draft Rules under the Act of 1908 were laid before Parliament, and 
was set out in the accompanying memorandum in the following terms: 

The present draft Rules have been prepared by the Prison Com- 
missioners, who have done their utmost to carry out the intention of 
the Statute and to make the conditions of Preventive Detention as 
easy as circumstances will allow. But it should be clearly understood 
that no modification of the conditions which prevail in Convict Prisons 
can alter the essential fact that Preventive Detention is a form of 
imprisonment. Several hundred criminals of the most skilful and deter- 
mined class will have to be confined for considerable periods within 
prison walls and to be controlled by a staff which cannot be made very 
numerous without undue expense. During their detention, they must 
always be either within locked cells or under close supervision; discipline 
must be firmly maintained; and hard work enforced. If there were 
neglect or relaxation in the supervision and discipline, it would 
inevitably lead to escape, or mutiny or vice. 

4 While, therefore, it is possible to maintain the conditions of sufficient 
food, adequate clothing, warmth and shelter, which all convicts enjoy, 
and to allow further relaxations in the way of conversation and associa- 
tion, of minor luxuries, and to some extent of recreation, the essential 
fact remains that, after every possible mitigation has been allowed, the 
convict is completely deprived of his liberty and is subject to constant 
supervision, control and compulsion in all that he does.' 

The Departmental Committee, in its consideration of this question, 
described the appropriate regime as 'custodial and remedial'. By 
'custodial' they appear to have intended first, safe custody, and second, 
the absence of specifically 'penal' or 'repressive' aspects of ordinary 
imprisonment: by 'remedial', reformative treatment in conditions 
which will be 'more strenuous' than ordinary prison conditions, and 
designed 'so far as practicable to fit them to take up life on release 
under normal social conditions' (paras. 40, 46, 48, 52, 65, and 160 (8)). 
When it became necessary to reconsider the problem in 1948, two 
fresh factors were apparent. First, that in spite of the strong words of 
the Home Office memorandum of 1911, the system established in the 
first preventive detention prison at Camp Hill l had degenerated, no 
doubt owing to the dwindling of its population, until the atmosphere 
so far from being strenuous was rather that of a 'home for aged con- 
victs', in which any attempt to secure firm discipline or hard work 
would have come as a serious shock. Second, since 1911, and indeed 
since the Report of 1932, the conditions of normal imprisonment had 
so far developed that practically all the features introduced into 

1 Subsequently transferred to Portsmouth, then to Lewes and finally to a wing of 


preventive detention in 1 9 1 1 as 'mitigations' had become quite usual in all 
prisons. Nor was it easy to define the 'penal' or 'repressive' features of 
imprisonment which could be removed from preventive detention: 
it was still the case, as the Home Office had pointed out in 1911, that 
this system would be required to handle many hundreds of the most 
difficult and dangerous prisoners in the country, with whom there 
could be no relaxation either of security or of control. 

Although a serious attempt was made to make a fresh approach to 
the problem in the light of past experience both at home and abroad, 
it will be apparent when we come to describe the present system that 
it differs even less from the long-term imprisonment of today than did 
the system of 1911 from penal servitude. Whether it will prove, as it is 
intended to prove, more 'remedial' than that system, we shall not know 
for many years. The solution to the difficulty of principle may perhaps 
be stated as follows. In a prison system in which there is a complete 
system of classification, providing different methods of training and 
forms of custody appropriate to different categories of prisoners, the 
provision of a regime appropriate to habitual criminals detained for 
very long periods requires no more than the application to the particu- 
lar case of the general principles of the system, which include due 
regard to the purpose for which the sentence was awarded. 

Length and Determination of the Sentence 

Consideration of what is an appropriate length of sentence to be 
applied as a measure of prevention rather than of punishment in- 
evitably raises the question of the 'indeterminate sentence'. This is not 
the place for a discussion of the merits of this system, since in spite of 
its established favour in America and some European countries the 
idea has never succeeded in naturalising itself in this country, save in 
the restricted sense of the Borstal sentence, where release is indeter- 
minate within a statutory minimum of 9 months and a maximum of 
3 years. For this evasive action there is good precedent in the Report 
of the Departmental Committee, which said (para. 50) 'We have con- 
sidered the general question of the indeterminate sentence, but we do 
not think it necessary to enter into a discussion of the general consider- 
ations for and against a sentence wholly indeterminate in length, because 
we feel that the scheme we have suggested will give powers as extensive 
as any Court in practice will wish to use.' 

Nevertheless the systems of the majority of European and American 
States have committed themselves to a sentence of indeterminate 
length for habitual criminals, and the law of some American States 
has gone even further, the Baumes Law of New York making the 
indeterminate sentence subject to a minimum of 15 years, and the 
Californian law imposing a life sentence from which release on parole is 
not permissible before 12 years. In these circumstances it is noteworthy 

E.P.B.S. 20 


that the Hague Resolution goes no further than to suggest that the 
'measure' should be of a 'relatively indeterminate duration'. 

The provisions of the Criminal Justice Act left it open to the admin- 
istration, in framing the Statutory Rules governing corrective training 
and preventive detention, to allow the date of release to be (as in the 
Borstal sentence) indeterminate within the statutory maxima of 2 to 4 
years for corrective training and 14 years for preventive detention; but 
the decision was deliberately taken not to do this in respect of corrective 
training. For preventive detention, however, which stands on a different 
basis, the Rules do provide, as we shall see, a modest concession to 
the Hague principle of 'relative indeterminacy'. English prison ad- 
ministrators have never felt that for adult prisoners, particularly 
those of the types now under consideration, the theoretical advantages 
of this system outweigh the practical disadvantages. If a man gets a 
sentence of 3 years' corrective training he knows from the start that he 
can get out in two years if he does not play the fool: he settles down to 
it and gets on with his training. If the date of his release is entirely vague, 
and dependent on the decision of some Board or Committee which will 
be taken on grounds that are never likely to commend themselves to a 
disappointed prisoner even if he understands them, he will be in a state 
of constant unrest, always 'sweating on the next Board' instead of 
concentrating on the job in hand, and thrown into a fury of resentment 
whenever A is lucky and B is not, whether B be himself or one of his 
friends. This does not make for 'a happy prison'. Nor is it certain that 
either the prison staff or a Board with or without the advice of psychia- 
trists on the basis of past records and of behaviour in prison con- 
ditions, could make enough good guesses about the behaviour of 
prisoners after release to justify a system of selective discharge in the 
face of these disadvantages. 

There is the further difficulty that the courts might well view with 
distrust a system under which an habitual criminal might be released 
some years before the expiration of the period they had fixed as neces- 
sary for the protection of the public. Hitherto English law and practice 
have been such that this question has not become prominent. Where the 
sentence is wholly indeterminate it may be of primary importance; 
indeed one of the principal points of controversy in the discussion of 
the Hague Resolution centred on the question whether the date of 
termination of a preventive sentence should be fixed by a judicial 
authority or otherwise, and para. 10 (b) of the Resolution has the 
characteristics of the 'formule agreable' required to resolve such a 
situation. 1 

English practice in this matter, under the Rules of 1949 relating to 

1 The proceedings have not yet been published, and are not therefore available 
for reference: the writer is in a position to make this statement since he acted as 
President of the Section concerned. 


preventive detention, is consonant with the latter alternative of 10 (6). 
It accords also with para. 7, which suggests that "the final discharge of 
the habitual offender should, in general, be preceded by parole com- 
bined with well-directed after-care'. All prisoners discharged from 
corrective training or preventive detention, after the expiration of that 
part of their sentences specified in the Rules, are released on a con- 
ditional licence of the 'positive' type, which places them under the 
care and supervision of the Central After-Care Association. 


Corrective training is a new name in our penal terminology, but it 
does not describe any new method of treatment or training: it is the 
statutory application of an existing method to a category of prisoners 
selected not by the administrative classification system but by the 
Courts. This method is the system of training, formerly known as the 
Wakefield System, as it is now applied in the regional training prisons. 
But those who, under the normal classification system, are found suit- 
able for the system practised in those prisons are carefully selected as 
being likely to respond to and co-operate in a system "based on the 
maximum of trust and self-responsibility, and it was evident from the 
outset that among the wide variety of offenders who were likely to 
receive sentences of corrective training there would be many who would 
not be found suitable for training in these regional prisons: indeed 
this was foreseen by the Departmental Committee, which said 'we do 
not suggest that the Wakefield methods would be generally applicable 
to all Detention Establishments', and envisaged another type of estab- 
lishment with the same purposes but with 'a regime of strict discipline 
and firm control' (paras. 58, 59). 

Accordingly the Statutory Rules provide as follows : 

'151. A sentence of corrective training shall be served in: 

'(a) a regional prison set aside under sub-paragraph (ii) of 
paragraph (2) of Rule 7, or 

'(&) some other prison or part of a prison set aside for the 

"152. (1) When a prisoner sentenced to corrective training is received 
in a local prison his suitability for training in a regional prison 
shall be considered, and for this purpose he may be removed for 
special observation to a prison set aside under sub-paragraph (i) 
of paragraph (2) of Rule 7. 

'(2) If the character or previous history of a prisoner are such that 
he appears to be unsuitable for a regional prison, he shall serve 
his sentence in some other prison or part of a prison set aside for 
the purpose. 


'153. A prisoner sentenced to corrective training shall before removal 
to the prison in which he is to serve his sentence be treated as a 
prisoner of the Ordinary Class.' 

Since it was of the essence of this scheme that the prisoners sent to 
regional training prisons, whether open or closed, should participate 
fully in the training without differentiation from the other trainees, it 
was necessary to secure most careful classification. Accordingly, Read- 
ing Prison was set aside as an Allocation Centre for the observation 
and allocation to the appropriate type of prison of all men sentenced 
to corrective training, and to Reading * they are removed as soon as 
possible after reception in a local prison. 'Here the causes of his anti- 
social behaviour will be studied in relation to his social history, mental 
and physical constitution, personality and temperament, by a selected 
staff, which includes psychologists and social workers. When the 
investigation is complete, his case is considered by a Board consisting 
of the senior members of the staff which, on the basis of the case-study, 
will decide his allocation in one of the following ways: 

'(1) To an "open" regional training prison. Such an allocation 
postulates that he is likely, from the outset, to co-operate in his training 
and to respond to a system of trust and self-discipline. 

'(2) To a "closed" regional training prison, where there is greater 
security and where the conditions of training can be graduated accord- 
ing to the response shown. These prisons have camps attached to them 
and suitable prisoners may obtain a remove to "open" conditions as 
their training proceeds. 

'(3) To a corrective training prison, for those from whom there is 
little hope of spontaneous co-operation, at any rate at an early stage of 
the sentence, and whose training can only proceed under conditions 
of maximum security and close supervision.' 2 

On 30 January 1951 there were 367 men serving sentences of cor- 
rective training in regional training prisons, of whom 15 were in the 
open prison at Sudbury and 63 in the 'medium security' of The Verne. 
Their assimilation presented no special problems : one Governor in his 
Annual Report for 1950 said 'Nearly all the trainees received during the 
past six months have been carefully selected and are likely to benefit 
by positive training,' and another 'Nevertheless, the majority of the 
corrective training prisoners played their part as well as the Star 
prisoners. Eight became Leaders; and one of the best examples set 
was that by a corrective training prisoner who was the Leader in 
charge of a party of men employed on the construction of the Sports 
Ground.' We can therefore leave these men there, in the hope that the 

1 See Appendix K. 2 Prisons and Borstals, p. 40. 


numbers diverted from their careers of crime will be not less than those 
of the 'trainable Ordinaries' whom they have largely displaced. 

As for the women, their much smaller numbers do not call for such 
an elaborate system. They all go to Holloway in the first instance, and 
there the great majority remain, since the only regional training prison 
for women is the open establishment at Askham Grange. However, by 
January 1951 eleven women had been found suitable for transfer to 

It was thought by the draftsmen of the Statutory Rules to be desirable 
to set out, in the 'Special Rules for Prisoners Sentenced to Corrective 
Training', a definition of the training to be given in the regional prisons 
to prisoners so sentenced, although this training is not exclusive to 
corrective trainees : it is as follows : 

'154. The training in a regional prison of prisoners so sentenced shall 
be designed to carry out the purposes specified in Rule 6, and shall 

'(i) the provision of work which will so far as practicable help to 
fit them to earn their living after release, with technical 
training in skilled trades for suitable prisoners; 

'(ii) special attention to education; 

'(iii) the exercise of personal influence on the character and train- 
ing of individuals by members of the prison staff; 

'(iv) the provision of every opportunity for the development of a 
sense of personal responsibility, including for suitable 
prisoners training in open conditions.' 

The next Rule carries into effect the above quoted intention of the 
Departmental Committee in these terms: 

*155. The training in other prisons set aside for the purpose of correct- 
ive training shall be designed to carry out the purpose of the 
foregoing Rule, with such modifications of method as are neces- 
sary for ensuring closer supervision and safe custody.' 

These provisions, on the coming into force of section 21 in April 
1949, presented the Commissioners with formidable difficulties. All 
their prisons were at that time full and overfull, and there was no 
more cellular accommodation to be had. There was no means of 
knowing the extent to which Courts would wish to use their new powers 
against the thousands of eligible candidates who would in due course 
be appearing before them, or of divining how many of those selected 
for the new treatment would be suitable for regional training and for 
how many it would be necessary for 'other prisons or parts of prisons' 
to be set aside. And it was clear that if the intention of the Rules was 
to be properly implemented these other prisons would have to combine 


with maximum security adequate accommodation and facilities for 
this type of training, and, where parts of prisons had to be used, 
adequate separation from other types of prisoner, wfiich virtually 
ruled out all prisons built on the normal radial plan. It was out of the 
question to empty prisons or any parts of prisons in readiness for a 
new influx which might be either a trickle or a torrent. 

However, in the course of 1949 and 1950 these difficulties were 
somehow overcome. In the eight months of 1949 sentences of corrective 
training were passed on over 1,000 men and 52 women, and in their 
Annual Report for that year the Commissioners were able to say that 
'while at present all men and women sentenced to corrective training 
are receiving it, in full accordance with the Rules, in separate and suit- 
able accommodation and without undue delay, it may not prove poss- 
ible to preserve the situation throughout 1950 if the number of com- 
mittals to corrective training increases without a corresponding fall in 
other categories of the prison population'. This situation was achieved 
by setting aside Chelmsford Prison and the former Nottingham Prison, 
then in use as a Borstal, two wings of Liverpool, two wings of Worm- 
wood Scrubs, and a wing of Durham. CheLnsford had formerly been a 
training prison for young convicts, the accommodation at Durham 
and Liverpool had been centres for young prisoners, who were now 
concentrated at Stafford and Lewes, and the two wings at Wormwood 
Scrubs had been the Star prison for the south-east. All, therefore, pro- 
vided the best available facilities for training and for segregation in 
separate blocks. This was the position in May 1950. For the rest of 
the year the corrective training population continued its steady increase 
and there was no diminution in the overall population. No further 
prison accommodation could be spared, so it became necessary to 
squeeze the Borstals again, and at the end of the year Camp Hill, 
the former preventive detention prison, was taken over as a corrective 
training prison. On the 30 January 1951 there were in these corrective 
training prisons 1,247 men, 1 and it was calculated that the accommo- 
dation thus provided would suffice until the flow of release of 3-year 
men began in April: thereafter the rate of discharge -should balance 
the rate of intake, if that did not significantly change. 2 

On this date the distribution of corrective training prisoners was as 


In Regional Training Prisons . . 367 

In Corrective Training Prisons . . 1,247 

In the Allocation Centre . . .129 

In local prisons awaiting removal, etc. . 386 

Total 2,129 

1 At that stage only 80 had been removed to Camp Hill. 

2 See Appendix K. 



At Askham Grange . . . . 11 

AtHolloway 76 

In local prisons 4 

Total 91 

It would evidently have been better if all the corrective training 
prisons could have been separate institutions, but in the circum- 
stances that was impracticable, and towards the end of the second 
year of the system it was possible to say that it had satisfactorily 
established itself in the available premises, in which the regime pre- 
scribed by the Rules was still being fully applied. Let us now look at the 
practical working of that regime, as it is set out above in Rule 152. 

A prisoner sentenced to corrective training, as soon as he comes into 
his local prison, is given a special cell-card which aims to make him see 
his sentence in a proper light. It tells him why he has got this form of 
sentence, and warns him squarely that if he is charged with one more 
serious offence he may become liable to preventive detention for up to 
14 years. There has been some evidence that these provisions have come 
as a considerable shock to the regular members of the criminal class, 
who had been under the mistaken impression that the main purpose of 
the Act was to make life easier for them. 1 Many of them in the early 
stages took it far from well, and were in no frame of mind to co-operate 
in any sort of training. However, it was thought well to leave no doubt 
in their minds as to their position, even at the cost of seeming to 'rub 
it in' : if they could not be reformed, they might still be deterred. The 
next purpose of the card was to remove the illusion, prevalent at least 
in the early days of the system, that corrective training was a sort of 
'Butlin's Borstal' an idea too often fostered by well-meant but ill- 
conceived remarks made by some Courts in passing sentence. All 
Governors agree that an almost universal characteristic of these men 
is the desire to avoid any kind of effort of their own: they regard 
'training' as a sort of beneficent influence to be applied by the staff 
for their good, but calling for nothing from them. They must, therefore, 
be told at the outset that while the staff is there to help them the out- 
come of the business is entirely 'up to them'. Those ideas are again 
pressed home during their stay at Reading, and it seems that most of 
the men leave there in a reasonable frame of mind and willing to make 
the best of it. 

Arrived at his corrective training prison, the offender finds himself 
for the first 8 weeks 'out of stage'. This is a period of orientation during 
which the staff get to know him and he gets to know what will be 
expected of him. During this time he will be seen once or twice by the 
Reception Board (or Planning Board as some corrective training prisons 

1 See Appendix K. 


call it) to discuss how he can best make use of his time in the prison 
in the light of what his future after release is likely to be. The repre- 
sentative of the Central After-Care Association will take part in this 
planning. While 'out of stage' he receives all the privileges which 
he would have in stage in a sentence of imprisonment except association 
for meals and evening recreation. When he comes into stage, he has all 
meals and the evenings in full association. Indeed from then on the con- 
ditions are very similar to those already described at Wakefield or Maid- 
stone, except that there is less trust and closer supervision by the staff. 

The industries available are all of a good class there is no mailbag 
sewing and in every prison there are spme shops which provide 
'technical training in skilled trades', though it is neither possible nor 
necessary to provide this for all of them. Many are incapable of 
learning. 1 Many more start by demanding 'vocational training' as of 
right, under the impression that it is a 'cushy job', and then do their 
best to get out of it when they find it means hard work and sustained 
effort. These are the men who all claim to be cooks in the winter and 
gardeners in the summer; who on discharge will be found work, given 
a kit of tools, and helped in every way; who will throw up their jobs a 
fortnight later and appear in court the following week plausibly 
pleading that they 'have never been given a chance'. However, there are 
many more who are willing and able to stick it, become good work- 
men, and write after they have settled in work to say how grateful they 
are for the help that was given them. 

The next thing required by the Rule is special attention to education, 
and this is given as fully in corrective training prisons as in regional 
prisons. There is nothing to add here to what has already been said in 
Chapter Twelve (3). 

To 'the exercise of personal influence by members of the staff' the 
greatest importance is attached. Assistant Governors are appointed 
to all these prisons who take special responsibility for the individual 
training of groups of men. It is their job to get to know and under- 
stand them as individual human beings, to fortify their weakness, 
encourage their strength, help them in their troubles inside and outside 
the prison, and try to make them face reality with courage and confi- 
dence. 2 In this difficult task they have the help and co-operation of all 

* One Governor of a corrective training prison, in his Annual Report for 1950, 
estimated at 60 per cent those 'quite unfitted for Vocational Training through lack 
of manipulative ability, interest or mental capacity.' 

2 The Governor of a corrective training prison, in his Annual Report for 1950, 
mentioned the case of a man who failed at the end of a V.T. class after a promising 
start. The man 'eventually admitted that he had not wanted to pass because he 
thought the fact would be recorded and having been taught a trade might well be 
held against him should he have to face a court in the future. This reason may not 
have been valid but such a depressing and pessimistic outlook is not uncommon 
among corrective trainees.' 


grades of the staff. It is usual for groups of men to have 'supervising 
officers', who are encouraged to study them and make full reports at 
regular periods on their development and behaviour, as do their 
instructors on their performance at work. This is possible because of 
the stability of the staffs in these prisons, which enables them to 
concentrate on the job of getting to know the men in their charge and 
so handling them as to get the best out of them. 

The last requirement, to develop a sense of personal responsibility, 
cannot in the nature of these prisons and of the men who come to them 
be taken so far as in the regional prisons. A large proportion of 
them, having already passed most of their lives in Approved Schools, 
Borstals and prisons, are 'over-institutionalised', which means inter 
alia that while they normally give no trouble they can only be trusted 
as far as the staff can see them. But the regime is nevertheless made as 
open as is compatible with safe custody and proper control. The periods 
of association are observed rather than strictly controlled. At all the 
prisons but one there is ground on which football can be played at the 
week-ends, and though there are no camps, as at Wakefield and Maid- 
stone, there are opportunities for work in parties outside the prisons 
for selected men towards the end of their sentences. And the whole 
effort of the staff is devoted to making the men face precisely this 
question of self-responsibility in their general attitude to life. 

'In order not to jeopardise the success of this system, or to sacrifice 
the welfare of the majority of prisoners under training to the interests 
of the vicious or incorrigible few, strong sanctions are necessary against 
those who will not co-operate. To this end parts of Manchester (for 
men and women) and Pentonville (for men) have been set aside for 
the reception of prisoners removed as unsuitable for training in the 
ordinary corrective training prisons: here the Rules are applied to 
the extent practicable, but they are not eligible for corrective training 
stage privileges. Their cases are reconsidered by the Commissioners 
from time to time' (A.R. 1949, p. 32, para. 20). At the time of writing it 
has been necessary to exercise this sanction against some 50 men and 
two or three women, and the result has been most salutary. A propor- 
tion return in due course to a corrective training prison: the others 
appear to give little or no trouble indeed many of them prefer the 
more routine and less exacting life of a local prison, and it may be that 
they are neither more nor less likely to offend again as a result of the 
change. ( 

For women the principles are the same, and are applied in the same 
way. They are located in a separate wing at Holloway, under the specific 
charge of an Assistant Governor. Such differences as there are are 
such as are inevitable in the training of women and have been men- 
tioned elsewhere. Thus there is no 'vocational training', but the in- 
dustrial training follows the pattern described at Askham Grange, and 


if the evening education programme is less strenuous it is as much as 
these women are willing or able to take. 

As we have seen, a corrective training prisoner is released on a 
conditional licence, after he has served a period which is fixed by the 
Rules as two- thirds of his sentence: his release may however be post- 
poned as a punishment for an offence against discipline, for not more 
than 14 days at any one time on an award by the Governor or 6 months 
on an award by the Board of Visitors. This licence is of the 'positive' 
kind, which imposes on him a duty not only to lead an honest, sober 
and industrious life, but to place himself under the supervision of the 
Central After-care Association, and to obey any directions of the 
Association as to where he shall work and live, and as to when and how 
he shall report to his supervisor. 

The Rules provide that 'From the reception of a prisoner in the 
prison in which he is to serve his sentence consideration shall be given, 
in consultation with the Central After-care Association, to the provision 
to be made for his welfare and supervision after release.' Accordingly 
the representative of the Association visits the prison at frequent 
intervals, sees all the men soon after their reception, and consults 
with the prison staff and the Ministry of Labour representative about 
their ultimate disposal. Towards the end of the sentence, when plans 
can be finalised, he will make contact with the Probation Officer who 
will take the case on after release, in accordance with the procedure 
described in Chapter Fifteen (3). 

Behind a conditional licence there must be the sanction of recall, 
and on this the Rules provide as follows : 

'159. (1) A prisoner sentenced to corrective training who has been 
recalled after release on licence shall on his return to prison in 
consequence of such recall remain in a local prison and be treated 
as a prisoner of the Ordinary Class until such time as the Com- 
missioners, in their discretion, order his removal to a prison or 
part of a prison set aside for prisoners sentenced to corrective 

'(2) A prisoner who has been so recalled shall not be eligible for 
release on licence until he has served two-thirds of the unexpired 
portion of his sentence.' 

At the time of writing little experience has been gained of the opera- 
tion of the recall procedure, though its use has already been necessary 
in a few cases. In general, other than in cases of reconviction, it is not 
intended to use it arbitrarily on a mere technical infringement of the 
conditions of licence: the Probation Officer reports to the Association, 
which makes a recommendation to the Commissioners, who consider 
on the merits of each case whether recall is necessary. No regular 
practice has yet developed as to return to a corrective training prison 


on recall; it is unlikely that in many of these cases further training will 
have a positive effect, and the presence of recalled men would not be 
helpful to the training prisons. At present these men are located in 
part of a local prison which has been set aside as a 'recall centre'. 

It is not yet possible to assess or even to forecast the results of cor- 
rective training. So far the only discharges have been the earlier cases 
with 2-year sentences. Nor will it perhaps be fair to judge the system by 
the results of the first two or three years. Without doubt, in the early 
stages, a number of offenders have been received who were beyond the 
aid of any penal system. Nor can this be ascribed in any large measure 
to failure of the courts to pay regard to the recommendations made to 
them by Governors on behalf of the Commissioners. It may be hoped 
that with the enlargement of experience, and more expertise in assess- 
ment before reports are made to courts, fewer offenders will be recom- 
mended who are unlikely to profit from this form of training. But for the 
proper application of such expertise it would certainly be necessary for 
the methods adopted at Reading after sentence to be applied in Obser- 
vation Centres before sentence, and to make this possible in every case 
changes would be necessary in the machinery of justice. Adequate 
reports can never be made on offenders who are only in custody for 
a few days before trial, or who are never seen because they are on bail. 

One feature of the corrective training system which may be open to 
question is the variable sentence, of from 2 to 4 years, which it is open 
to courts to pass: during 1949 and 1950 the great majority of the 
sentences were for 3 years. While in principle it may seem right that 
the courts should have power to vary the length of training according 
to the needs of the offender, Governors of corrective training prisons 
have expressed the view that these variations cause much resentment 
among the prisoners, and that for their part, having no information 
as to what reasons influenced the courts, they are unable to offer any 
satisfactory explanations in their attempts to secure the co-operation of 
the disgruntled prisoners nor do comparisons of the criminal records 
of the prisoners always avail to clear up these doubts. It has not been 
the practice for the reports made by the Commissioners to the courts 
to include any recommendation as to the length of training required. 

The Prison Commissioners in their Annual Report for 1950 gave full 
information showing how the courts have used their powers, and the 
type of offender to whom the sentence of corrective training was applied, 
in the first full year of the system. 


The threefold problem confronting those charged in 1948 with 
devising a new system of preventive detention has already been defined. 
The system should conform with the penological principle that this 


sentence is a preventive, not a punitive measure. Nevertheless, it must 
provide maximum security and firm disciplinary control for a large 
number of men who are ex hypothesi difficult and potentially dangerous. 
And notwithstanding that they have received this sentence because 
they have proved impervious to all other forms of training, it must still 
seek to be 'remedial'. 

The solution of the problem was complicated by the circumstances 
of the time. After the Act of 1908, a special preventive detention prison 
was built at Camp Hill in the Isle of Wight, neighbouring Parkhurst, 
and the administration had ample advance notice of the numbers it 
would have to deal with since all had first to serve a sentence of penal 
servitude. In 1948 there was no prospect either of building a new 
prison or of emptying an existing one. To be suitable for its purpose the 
prison selected must be one of those suitable for long-term prisoners 
and that limited the choice to Parkhurst or Dartmoor, since Camp 
Hill was then in use as a Borstal. Parkhurst, therefore, virtually chose 
itself, and it already housed the handful of men serving sentences 
under the Act of 1908. How many persistent offenders would be 
sent there, and how fast the flow would be, there was no means of 

Accordingly the Act made no provision that preventive detention 
was to be served in a prison set aside for the purpose, and the Rules 
provided simply that the second stage of the sentence should be served 
in a central prison, where the preventive detention prisoners 'shall so 
far as practicable be accommodated in a separate part of the prison 
and shall not be allowed to associate with prisoners serving sentences 
of imprisonment except in the course of industrial or agricultural 
employment'. No principles of classification are affected, for these are 
all the same sort of men, whether they happen at the moment to be 
serving 7 years' imprisonment or 7 years' preventive detention. The 
situation moreover was likely to solve itself, for the rate of flow from 
the courts into preventive detention during 1950 was such as, if 
continued, would fill Parkhurst in 1951 : already in 1950 it had become 
necessary to limit transfer to central prisons of long-term Ordinaries to 
those with sentences of over 4 years. 1 

The two assumptions on which the new system was based were that 
it was neither necessary in principle nor possible in practice that it 
should throughout be separate from and different from that for long 
sentences of imprisonment; and that instead of a normal progressive 
stage system, which seemed inappropriate to sentences of such length, 
there should rather be progress through a series of establishments of 
different types, each serving a particular purpose, with a total effect 
of breaking up the monotony of a long sentence. 

i On 30 January 1951, 517 men and 18 women were in custody under sentences 
of preventive detention. 


Accordingly the new Rules provided that a sentence of preventive 
detention should be served in three stages. The first stage should be 
served either in a regional prison set aside as an observation centre or in a 
local prison: it should last for not less than one year nor more than two 
years, and in this stage a prisoner 'shall be treated in all respects under 
the Rules applicable to prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment'. 

The original intention of this arrangement cannot be given full effect 
until the proposed observation centres have been set up. The purpose 
was that treatment should be preceded by diagnosis, and also perhaps 
by some measure of classification if this could be put to practical use 
by making two prisons available, possibly allowing for a more open 
regime for those for whom it might be appropriate. At present the whole 
of the first stage is passed in a local prison. This serves to induce a 
certain humility, to stamp out the idea prevalent among men of this 
type that they are a privileged class entitled to special consideration 
and peculiar rights, and to suggest to them rather that they have 
deservedly received a long sentence because of their bad records, and 
though they will shortly enjoy the very different conditions of the second 
stage they will not do so as of right but by earning them and if they 
don't continue to deserve them they may find themselves back where 
they are, in the first stage. 

The Rules provide that 'The Governor of the regional or local 
prison shall report to the Commissioners on the expiration of the first 
twelve months of the sentence, and thereafter at such intervals not 
exceeding three months as the Commissioners determine, on the suita- 
bility of the prisoner for removal to the second stage.' In practice, 
during 1950, men were almost invariably sent on to the second stage at 
Parkhurst after the first 12 months. 

'The second stage' says Rule 163, 'shall be served in a central prison 
and the arrangements in this stage shall be such that the treatment of a 
prisoner (other than a prisoner in the penal grade) shall be not less 
favourable than that of a prisoner serving a sentence of imprisonment 
in a central prison.' This is a necessary statement of principle, but the 
practical conditions derive rather from the further provisions of Rule 
165, viz: 

'165. Arrangements shall be made under which a prisoner who has 
passed into the second stage may become eligible to earn privileges 
over and above those allowed to a prisoner serving a sentence of 
imprisonment, including: 

'(0) payment for work done at a higher rate, 

'(6) facilities for spending money earned in prison either at a 
prison store or on such articles, including newspapers and 
periodicals, purchased outside the prison as may be 


'(c) the cultivation of garden allotments and the use or sale of 
the produce in such manner as may be approved, 

\d} the practice in the prisoner's own time of arts or crafts of 
such kinds and in such a manner as may be approved, 

'(e) additional letters and visits, 

'(/) association in common rooms for meals and recreation.' 

The effect of these two Rules, as they are being put into effect at 
Parkhurst, is that a preventive detention prisoner, after his year in the 
first stage, moves straight into a minimum way of life which it would 
take him 4 years to reach on a sentence of imprisonment, and then only 
by consistent good conduct. He has his meals in association in a large 
dining-room specially provided for this purpose, and a period of each 
evening is spent in recreation in the same conditions. He spends, or 
need spend, very little time in his cell, but he can make it homely with 
things of his own, and keep in it the materials for any craft or hobby 
that, with approval, he may wish to practice. These conditions are 
similar to those of the final stage of a long sentence of imprisonment. 
But he can also earn a higher standard of wages than an ordinary 
prisoner: this is arranged not by any variation of the earnings scheme, 
but by an additional payment, related on a percentage basis to his 
actual earnings, which ensures first that his addition is related to his 
industry and second that he can earn more in total than if he were 
drawing the appropriate 'stage allowance' on a sentence of imprison- 
ment. The canteen also offers him rather more facilities he can, for 
instance, purchase through it not only periodicals but daily newspapers. 

For work the prisoners have the full range of the useful industrial and 
agricultural trades of this prison, and every effort is made to interest 
them in educational activities in the evenings: classes are taken by 
L.E.A. teachers, as well as by voluntary teachers and members of the 
staff. These, apart from such normal activities as band, choir and 
gymnastics, include at the end of 1950 building construction, elementary 
and advanced English, current affairs, art, chess, and a dramatic class 
which stages periodical shows. Education is of course voluntary, and the 
Governor noted in his Annual Report for 1950 that less than half the 
men had applied for classes and only 18 per cent attended regularly: 
out of over 200 men only 15 were taking correspondence courses. It 
will be a necessary part of the regime to seek to overcome this dis- 
position to enjoy any privilege except those which call for some effort. 
One weapon may well prove to be the arrangements for promotion to 
the Third Stage: if it comes to be understood that this is not automatic 
progress for the man who keeps out of trouble, but careful selection 
based on general attitudes and real progress, something may yet be 
done to make this system 'remedial' as well as 'custodial'. 

Before passing to the Third Stage, it may be noted that the allotments 


mentioned in Rule 165 (c) are in fact available, though their number 
is limited and entails a waiting-list, and that the letters and visits under 
(e) are one letter a week each way and a visit oncfe a fortnight (or 
additional letter and reply in lieu). 

The arrangements for the Third Stage are novel, complicated and 
at present largely notional, since they were devised for men sentenced 
under the Act of 1948 who cannot become eligible for consideration for 
some time yet. The remaining 1908 Act men, however, are deemed to be 
serving their sentences under the Act of 1948 and the Rules of 1949 
must therefore be applied to them so far as practicable. 

The first feature to be noted of the Third Stage is that it introduces 
into the system, to a limited extent, the Hague principle of 'relative 
indeterminacy'. This is explained to the prisoners, on the cell-card 
issued in the prevention detention prisons, as follows : 

'Admission to the Third Stage is not automatic: it depends on the 
view taken by the Advisory Board both of your conduct in the Second 
Stage and of your prospects on release. If you get into the Third Stage, 
you may become eligible for release on licence when you have served 
two-thirds of your sentence. If you stay in the Second Stage, you will 
not become eligible for release on licence till you have served five- 
sixths of your sentence.' 

The Rules provide that 'the date of admission of any prisoner to the 
Third Stage shall not be more than twelve months before the date on 
which he will have served two-thirds of his sentence' and that 'the 
period to be served in the Third Stage shall not in any case be less than 
six months and shall not normally exceed twelve months'. 

The Advisory Board for which the Rules provide, as the operative 
instrument of this system, is appointed by the Secretary of State, and 
is required to consist 'of three members of the Board of Visitors 
approved by the Secretary of State, and such other persons not exceed- 
ing four, of whom one may be a Commissioner or Assistant Com- 
missioner, as the Secretary of State may appoint. The chairman of the 
Advisory Board shall be appointed by the Secretary of State.' The 
members additional to the Board of Visitors members so far appointed 
are a Commissioner, a Principal Probation Officer, and the Chairman, 
who is one of the Metropolitan Magistrates. The Board is required to 
meet at the prison once a quarter. In form it is ^advisory' to the Board 
of Visitors, on whom the Act places the duty of reporting to the 
Commissioners on the advisability of releasing a preventive detention 
prisoner on licence. 

The further provisions of the Rules require that the Advisory Board, 
when a prisoner who has become eligible for consideration for the 
third stage is brought before them, 'shall consider not only his conduct 
in the second stage, but whether they expect to be able, within the 


period to be served in the third stage, to recommend his release on 
licence'. This should mean that this is not automatic promotion for 
the Veil-conducted prisoner': the Board will look not so much at 
what he does but at what he is, and what is the likelihood of his making 
a real effort after release to keep out of trouble a difficult task indeed, 
but one which with this sort of sentence must be attempted, so long 
as the attempt continues to make the system in any sense 'remedial'. 

If a man is not placed in the third stage on his first appearance, his 
case must be reconsidered at intervals of not less than 3 months, and 
once he has been placed in the stage, the question of his date of release 
on licence must be considered at each quarterly meeting of the Board. 

Under this system therefore the indeterminate factor rests primarily 
on the decision of the Board as to admission to the third stage, and it 
normally affects the date of release only within the limits of two-thirds 
or five sixths of the sentence. This variation however may be consider- 
able on the longer sentences, amounting to the difference between 2 
years 4 months and 4 years 8 months on the maximum sentence. 

This then is the administrative framework. We come now to the 
more interesting questions What is the third stage? What are its 
purposes? How does it work? It is described in the Rules as follows: 

'168. (1) The third stage shall be designed both to fit the prisoner for 
release and to test his fitness therefor, and may be served in such 
conditions of modified security as are available for the purpose, 
whether in connexion with a central prison or elsewhere. 
'(2) During this stage every effort shall be made, by special industrial 
and social training and otherwise, to fit a prisoner to take his place 
in normal social life on discharge. 

'(3) As and when suitable arrangements can be made, prisoners in 
this stage, or in the latter part thereof, may be permitted to live in 
conditions of modified security designed to form a transition from 
prison life to freedom.' 

Since the practical implementation of the Rules lies in the future, it 
may here be discussed as a theoretical problem, the solution of which 
may take various forms. It is a problem as old as the transportation 
system, long discussed in principle and experimented with in practice 
in the prison systems of the world how best to regulate the transition 
from prison to freedom. In our own system we have noted the various 
gradations to freedom of the transportation system, Sir Walter Crof- 
ton's 'intermediate stage' in the Irish penal servitude system, and the 
'satellite camps' of more recent practice. At Camp Hill too, in its time 
as a preventive detention prison, there was an experiment of this 
sort, notable in its day, in that selected men towards the end of their 
sentence were allowed to live in 'parole cabins' : these were a single- 
storey row of small rooms detached from the main prison, though 


within the wall, in which the favoured prisoners slept and kept house on 
their own. This however was an administrative arrangement and formed 
no part of the statutory ba'sis of the system as does the third stage of 

The processes involved in a complete solution of the problem appear 
to be as follows. 

First, the psychological preparation of the prisoner for release, which 
requires that he should be brought face to face with all the problems 
that he will have to meet in adjusting himself both to normal life and to 
the initial period of supervision; that he should be made to think about 
them realistically; and that he should be brought to appreciate the best 
ways of meeting them. 

Second, his vocational preparation for release, which requires that 
his industrial training should so far as possible be adapted to fitting 
him to earn a living in the occupation he seems likely to take up. 

Third, his 4 de-institutionalisation', which requires the 'tapering off* 
of supervision and control, and the gradual increase of personal 
responsibility, from the conditions of confinement through certain 
stages of supervised freedom to complete freedom. 

Each of these features, under the general heading of 'pre-release 
procedure' has already received a good deal of consideration in different 
penal systems, particularly in the U.S.A., 1 and the question was 
touched on in the last paragraph of Resolution III, 2, of the Hague 
Congress. And it should be said at once that while they are here dis- 
cussed only in the context of preventive detention, their importance is 
beyond doubt in relation to all long-sentence prisoners. 

The first presents little difficulty. It seems probable that the technique 
of group-discussion, under the leadership of suitable experts from the 
outside community, would provide the most effective approach. 

The second is easier in principle than in practice. The resources of any 
prison for real industrial training in trades in which men of this type 
can usefully be trained must be limited, if a realistic view is taken of 
the prospects of their employment in the trades they have been taught. 
Nevertheless, whatever is reasonable and possible should be done. 

The third is both the most difficult and the most interesting. On the 
basis of various practices already well established in different penal 
systems, one may conceive of a 'tapering off' in four stages. 

First, the provision within the prison wall of a special 'pre-release', 
or in our preventive detention prison, 'third-stage' block, in which 
staff control would be reduced to the minimum and responsibility for 
a degree of self-government placed on the inmates. This would be a 
variation of the old 'parole-cabins'. This practice has been followed in 
certain American prisons, of which that of the Federal Penitentiary at 

i Cf. Handbook on Pre-Release Preparation in Correctional Institutions, 1950, 
prepared and published by the American Prison Association. 

E.P.B.S. 21 


Lewisburg, Pa., may be singled out for mention since the writer was able 
to see it in operation, and a well-developed example in the National 
Penitentiary at Buenos Aires was described in a paper presented to 
theHague Congress by the Argentine delegate (Question III, 2). 

Second, weekly leave for the inmates of this block, after a certain 
time, to go for walks in the country, or visit the neighbouring town, 
without supervision and with money to spend. This is already usual in 
English Borstals, and is practised in France at the central prison of 
Loos, where since 1948 a bold experiment has been in progress to 
provide graduated steps to freedom for the reUgues who are no longer 
transported to Cayenne. ! 

Third, removal to conditions, preferably in a hostel away from the 
prison, from which the inmates will go out to normal work like free 
men. This stage may be seen in various forms in different systems. 
The Cornton Vale Borstal in Scotland is in effect a hostel for selected 
boys from the parent Borstal who go out to work in various employ- 
ments in the neighbouring town. At Witzwil in Switzerland the men 
live in a hostel on the edge of the extensive prison estate, near the 
village, but they work on the estate. At Loos the men go out to work in 
the town, but return to the central prison after the day's work. 

Which of these forms, or which fresh combination of them, may 
eventually be adopted for the third stage of preventive detention it is 
not yet possible to say. If it is not possible to provide suitable new 
buildings, consideration may be given to adapting some large house as 
a hostel in a suitable urban centre, or by a variation of the Loos 
system to creating hostel conditions within a local prison, if one can 
be found in a good centre for employment with a suitable block or hut 
to spare. 2 But this conception may not be so easy to realise as it is to 
state. These men will only require employment in this centre for short 
periods, in no case more than a year. If they have been trained for a 
trade, work in that trade may not be available. And the special co- 
operation of local employers will have to be secured if any work is to 
be found at all. If these difficulties are too great, it may still be possible 
to fall back on the Witzwil model, employing the men on the prison 
farm and in other extra mural work, with perhaps a different form of 

It is to be understood that throughout these three phases the prisoner 
will still be serving his sentence under prison control: they are designed 
not only to prepare him for greater freedom but to test his fitness for 
it. The Rules therefore provide that "The advisory board may at any 

1 'Le Probteme des Relegues,' par MM. Cannat, Gayraud, Vienne, et Vallien. 
Published in the Revue Penitentlaire et de Droit Pdnal, 1950, no. 1. 

2 There is an example of this method in the West German youth prison at Herford : 
the youths live in a pleasant hostel hut within the walls, and though they work in 
the prison they may go into the town without supervision. 


lime order the return of a prisoner to the second stage if it appears to 
them to be in the interests of himself or of others to do so, and the 
Governor, if he considers it necessary, may so order in his discretion 
subject to confirmation by the board at its next meeting.' 

The fourth phase is the release on a conditional licence, the procedure 
for which, and for after-care, does not differ materially from that 
described for corrective training prisoners. This licence is also subject 
to the sanction of recall, the procedure for which is set out in the Rules 
as follows: 

'173. (1) A prisoner who has been recalled from release on licence shall 
on his return to prison in consequence of such recall be placed in 
the first stage, and may at the discretion of the Commissioners be 
removed to the second stage within a period of twelve months 
from his return to prison as aforesaid : 

'Provided that if the unexpired period of the sentence is less than 
two years, the whole of it may be served in the first stage. 

'(2) A prisoner who has been recalled shall not again be eligible for 
release on licence before he has served five-sixths of the unexpired 
portion of his sentence and, if that period is completed in the first 
stage, the question whether he shall be released on licence shall be 
decided by the Commissioners on a recommendation of the 
Governor of the local prison.' 

The time has not yet come for the establishment of any practice in 
this matter. 

Finally, the Rules make provisions for the maintenance of discipline 
in a preventive detention prison which differ from those in a central 
prison. In addition to the normal punishments of restricted diet, close 
confinement and stoppage or reduction of earnings, the special privileges 
of a preventive detention prisoner may be suspended for up to 28 days 
for 'the abuse of any privilege or for an offence arising from the enjoy- 
ment of a privilege'. 

A sanction peculiar to preventive detention is removal to the 'penal 
grade', which involves forfeiture of all association and privileges and 
accommodation in a separate part of the prison. The Rules provide, 
however, for the prisoner to continue his normal work in association 
unless the Governor 'considers it necessary to exclude him in the 
interests of the prisoner himself or of others'. So long as the prisoner 
does his normal work he is eligible to earn on the ordinary prison rate, 
i.e., excluding the special addition for preventive detention prisoners. 
It is also provided that 'The diet of prisoners in the penal grade may 
be restricted, so long as it is not reduced below a nutritional standard 
adequate for health and strength at normal work.' Removal to the penal 
grade is for so long as may be necessary up to 28 days on a Governor's 


award, and for so long as may be necessary without limit on an award 
by the Board of Visitors, though no prisoner may be kept for more 
than three months consecutively unless he has again been brought 
before the Board and the Board continues the order. 

In addition to these punishments the Board of Visitors have power 
to defer, for a period of not more than 6 months at any one time, the 
date on which a prisoner will become eligible for release on licence. 

Finally, This attempt to establish a system in which some attempt 
will be made to apply remedial methods which require the co-operation 
of the prisoners makes it necessary, as in corrective training, to have 
available severe sanctions for the minority who by refusal or failure 
to co-operate jeopardise the system and with it the good of the majority. 
Accordingly tlie Rules provide not only for a penal grade within the 
second stage, but for removal to the first stage in a local prison when a 
prisoner persistently misconducts himself and is not influenced by 
reprimand or punishment: this can only be done by the Commissioners 
on the recommendation of the Board of Visitors, and the Commis- 
sioners are required to reconsider such cases at least every three months 
and order return to the second stage as soon as they consider it 
expedient.' l 

So far it has not been necessary to use this power. 2 

1 Prisons and Borstals, p. 45. 

2 For later developments in preventive detention see Appendix K. 




(1) BEFORE 1908 


"N 1816,' says Sir E. du Cane, 'when the population of London was 
under a million and a half, there were in London prisons above 
3,000 inmates under 20 years of age half of these were under 
17, some were 9 or 10, and 1,000 of these children were convicted of 
felony.' l What these prisons were like, and what must have been their 
effect on these young people, we have sufficiently considered. Nor did 
the other arms of the penal law make any concession to youth: many 
of the 1,000 convicted of felony would without doubt be hanged or 
transported. These conditions, however, were sufficiently known and 
abhorred to excite active and practical interest among people of good 
will from the earliest years of the century indeed from the eighteenth 
century such interest had been moved to action at least of a preventive 
kind. In n56^.Jhe_Marine Society had established a school for jgaifs. 
and strai and the cMfB^n clot^^ndJGeB13Kem and 

Planthropic Society had 

established in London another schobl for the~chftdren of convicts. 
"nGOKenGrsFTfalf of the nineteenth century this 
under the impulse of private benevolence, began to gather force. The 
firsTRagpd Schools were Founded by John Pounds In 181R, but atten^ 
to turn to reformation as well as to^pieventTon, and 
fliere began 

.,.- ^-^^ + -^_ ^N^,^ - -*^i^^_ ^^ 




th& history of our penal 

system first developed: the latter were in __ 

corrective thej^were intended to_grovidg_training in decg^ 
for thelost children of the new Industrial ago^uTthQ hope of preventing 
them fromTieCTUiting the TanEs*oTcnnflnals. Tlie reformatories were 

Du Cane, p. 


for the correction of young people who had actually been convicted of 
crime. They were in no sense State institutions, but they were* recognised 
and indeed encouraged, and their use was made possible by the flexible 
instrument of the Prerogative, under which a young offender would be 
granted a Pardon on condition of placing himself under the care of a 
Charitable Institution though he would still be sent to the Colonies 
when his 'reformation' was deemed to have been effected. 

One of the first of these reformatories was established at the Stretton 
Colony, in Warwickshire, in 1818; and Sir E. Ruggles-Brise tells us 
that when in 1847 a Parliamentary Committee was established to 
enquire into Juvenile Crime, the authorities of this Colony said in 
evidence that their experience had been that 'with prisoners between 
the ages of 16 and 20 ... no less than 60 in every 100 might be perma- 
nently reformed and restored to Society.' 1 England was not alone in 
this field, and development here was much influenced by similar work 
in France and Germany, in particular that of the pioneer agricultural 
colony established at Mettray in France in 1839. It was on the pattern 
of Mettray, with its cottage 'family' system, that the Philanthropic 
Society in 1849 modelled their new Farm School at Redhill, Surrey, 
which from the time of its first Warden, the Rev. Sydney Turner, 
exercised a notable influence in reformatory development. 

A series of Parliamentary Committees resulted in 1854 in the first 
Reformatory Schools Act, which enabled the Courts to commit 
offenders under 16 to a reformatory, after not less than 14 days im- 
prisonment, for periods of not less than 2 nor more than 5 years. The 
reformatories remained under voluntary management, but were now 
given legal powers to detain and control their charges, and were subject 
to certification by the Secretary of State and inspection by an Inspector 
of Prisons: Treasury contributions were also authorised. By a later 
Act of 1857 Local Authorities were enabled to contribute towards the 
establishment of reformatories, and power was given to license the 
inmates when they had served not less than half their period of deten- 
tion. In that year also Sydney Turner was appointed an Inspector of 
Prisons, to devote himself to the reformatories, and in 1866 his post 
was converted into Inspector of Reformatories. But it was not until 
1899 that the last link between reformatory and prison was severed 
by the repeal of the provision requiring a period of imprisonment as a 
preparation for reformatory treatment. 

%^mdustrial Schools were first placed in a legal setting by the Act of 
1857, which, as amended by later Acts of 1860, 1861 and 1866, estab- 
lished them as primarily training schools for children under 14 years 
old who would today be described as 'care or protection' cases, including 
those beyond the control of their parents. Children under twelve who 
had committed offences might also be sent there. Local Authorities 

1 Ruggles-Brise, p. 89. 



were also; (in 1872) empowered to establish these schools. The State 
interest was similar to that for reformatories: there were Treasury 
contributions, and control by the Secretary of State through the 
approval of plans and rules, and by inspection. The Inspector of 
Reformatories, with Assistant Inspectors, now became Inspector of 
Reformatories and Industrial Schools. The scope of the Schools was 
extended by the Elementary Education Acts 1870 and 1876, which; 
empowered justices to send children 'to Inda&galjfch^ 

While this movement for keeping children out of prison was develop- 
ing, the Government had taken an important step for dealing with those 
in prison. The Parkhurst Act of 1838, observing in its preamble that 
it would be 'of great public advantage that a prison be provided in 
which young offenders may be detained and corrected, and receive such 
Discipline as shall appear most conducive to their Reformation and to 
the Repression of Crime', enabled the buildings of the former military 
hospital at Parkhurst in the Isle of Wight to be used for such a prison. 
Here were sent offenders under 18 sentenced to transportation, to be 
subject for a few years to what Sir E. du Cane described as 'a system of 
treatment distinguished from that applied to adults, by being composed 
more largely of the reformatory than the strictly penal element' l ; 
there was also some classification, those under 10 years old forming a 
junior class. In due course the inmates might be either pardoned on 
condition of going to a reformatory, or transported to the Colonies. 
The Gladstone Committee found that it was 'almost impossible to 
ascertain to what extent the Parkhurst Government Reformatory was a 
success. It died a natural death after the passing of the Reformatory Acts'. 

The system of reformatories and industrial schools thus established 
did succeed, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, in keeping a 
very large number of young people out of prison but a very large 
number also came into the prisons: Sir E. du Cane states (p. 201) that 
'there were on 31 March 1884 only [sic] 275 prisoners under 16 years of 
age, and 3,226 between 16 and 21', while on 31 March 1894 there were 
100 prisoners under 16 and 2,226 between the ages of 16 and 20. 2 Those 
under 16, officially known as 'juveniles', were by the Prisons Act 1865 
required to be kept separate and given special treatment. 

The Gladstone Committee did not devote a great deal of attention 
to the question of juveniles. They did not find 'practicable or desirable' 
the suggestions made by several witnesses 'in favour of the total dis- 
continuance of committing this class of offenders to prison'. They did 
however speak strongly about their treatment in prison: 'We think 
that the ordinary prison discipline and regulations should not be 
applied to juveniles, but that governors and the visiting committees 
should be made responsible for their treatment subject to general 
instructions which should be issued by the Secretary of State. The 
* Du Cane, p. 202. 2 Report of Gladstone Committee, p. 29. 


principle of these instructions should be that each child should be 
treated according to its own peculiarities of temperament ; that the fact of 
imprisonment should be the main deterrent; and that treatment should 
be altogether of a reformatory character. We think that the age of 16, 
above referred to, should be raised to 17.' 

It was many years before this suggestion of the Committee as to 
raising the age of 'criminal majority' was implemented, although as 
Sir E. Ruggles-Brise tells us, there had been strong pressure as early as 
the 'eighties' to have it raised to 18. He adds the interesting comment 
that The age of 16 was adopted at that time by universal consent for 
no other reason, so far as I can gather, than that it was the age of 
''criminal majority" in the French Penal Code, and it had become 
notorious owing to the success of the French Colony of Mettray, 
established in the "thirties" and which prescribed 16 as the age of 
"discernment" under French Law.' l 

The Committee were much more concerned with the next higher 
age-group, that of 16-21. 'It is certain that the ages when the majority 
of habitual criminals are made lies between 16 and 21. And from the 
interesting figures supplied by Mr. Merrick, the Chaplain of Holloway 
Prison, the most fatal years are 17, 18 and 19. This is corroborated by 
other experienced witnesses. It appears to us that the most determined 
effort should be made to lay hold of these incipient criminals and to 
prevent them by strong restraint and rational treatment from recruiting 
the habitual class. It is remarkable that previous inquiries have almost 
altogether overlooked this all-important matter. The habitual criminals 
can only be effectually put down in one way, and that is by cutting off 
the supply.' They were impressed by the Redhill Reformatory system, 
and recommended that the age of admission to reformatories should be 
raised from 16 to 18: this proposal was not followed. Their next 
proposal however, was more fruitful, since it developed directly into 
the Borstal system as it is today. It deserves the respect of full quotation. 

'We are of opinion that the experiment of establishing a penal 
reformatory under Government management should be tried. It should 
be begun on a moderate scale, but on a design which would allow of 
large expansion if the results were proved to be satisfactory. The 
court should have power to commit to these establishments offenders 
under the age of 23, for periods of not less than one year and up to 
three years, with a system of licences graduated according to sentence, 
which should be freely exercised. In the event of any inmate of a 
reformatory being contumacious and beyond the power of the managers 
to control, power should be given to a court of summary jurisdiction, 
on cause being shown by the managers, to transfer him or her to a 
penal reformatory for a period not exceeding the unexpired portion of 

i Ruggles-Brise, p. 90. 


the term which was to be served in the reformatory. And power should 
also be vested with the Secretary of State similarly to transfer prisoners 
under 23 from prisons to the penal reformatory, if satisfied that the 
treatment there would be more suitable to the particular case. 

The penal reformatory should be a half-way house between the 
prison and the reformatory. It should be situated in the country with 
ample space for agricultural and land reclamation work. It would have 
penal and coercive sides which could be applied according to the merits 
of particular cases. But it should be amply provided with a staff capable 
of giving sound education, training the inmates in various kinds of 
industrial work, and qualified generally to exercise the best and 
healthiest kind of moral influence. Special arrangements ought to be 
made for receiving and helping the inmates on discharge. It would be 
necessary to adopt a careful system of classification, which should limit 
the number of inmates in each building, as at the Redhill Reformatory, 
in order to insure proper individual treatment. 

'We look upon this plan, in conjunction with the raising of the age for 
admission to reformatories, as the best proposal that is open to us for 
the rescue of young offenders. Under the present system numbers of 
them come out of prison in a condition as bad or worse than that in 
which they came. They go out with the prison taint on them. The avail- 
able prison staff and the rigid system of prison discipline, without any 
fault on the part of the officials, preclude the possibility of bringing to 
bear on the prison population the moral suasion and the healthy prac- 
tical advice which we think could be exercised by a trained and selected 
staff in the penal reformatory. The inmates upon discharge would be 
provided for and looked after much as in the case of the lads and girls 
who leave reformatories, and if they relapsed into crime it would be of 
their own deliberate choice, in spite of every effort to save them, and 
they would subsequently be exposed to the far sterner penalties of 
prison life.' l 

It is also fitting that Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, foe f $ 
Borstal sy stei^^ialt; up liie-stOry" in His J3wn words. 2 The 
proposal tcT found a State, or T%nat^Reformatory, ^confirmed and 
emphasised the opinion that had been rapidly gaining ground, both in 
England and abroad, and especially in the United States, that up to a 
certain age, every criminal may be regarded as potentially a good 
citizen: that his relapse into crime may be due either to physical 
degeneracy, or to bad social environment : that it is the duty of the State 
at least to try and effect a cure, and not to class the offender off-hand 
and without experiment with the adult professional criminal. ... I 

1 Gladstone Committee, pp. 30, 31, para. 84 (b). 

2 The following quotations are from Chapter 8 of The English Prison System. 


obtained the authority of the Home Secretary, Sir M. Ridley, who was 
in warm sympathy with my views, to go to the United States in 1897 
to study at Elmira the working of what is known as the American "State 
Reformatory System". The annual reports of the authorities at Elmira 
had begun to attract considerable attention in Europe. The American 
System classified as youths all persons between the ages of 16 and 30. 
While we classified our boys as adults, the American adopted the con- 
verse method, and classified his adults as boys. I thought myself that 
the truth lay midway between these two systems, between the system 
that ends youth too early and that which prolongs it too late, between 
the voluntary system of England and the State Reformatory System 
of the United -States. The point I was aiming at was to take the "dan- 
gerous" age 16-21 out of the Prison System altogether, and to make 
it subject to special "Institutional" treatment on reformatory lines. I was 
^ impressed by all that I saw and learnt at the principal State Reforma- 
tories of America, at that time chiefly in the States of New York and 
Massachusetts. The elaborate system of moral, physical, and industrial 
training of these prisoners, the enthusiasm which dominated the work, 
the elaborate machinery for supervision of parole, all these things, if 
stripped of their extravagances, satisfied me that a real, human effort 
was being made in these States for the rehabilitation of the youthful 
criminal. It was on my return that, with the authority of the Secretary 
of State, the first experiments were begun of the special treatment, 
with a view to the rehabilitation of the young prisoners, 16 to 21, in 
London Prisons.' 

The next stage in this experiment was to give it 'a local habitation 
and a name'. Near the village of Borstal in Kent, on a hill above the 
Medway two miles from Rochester, stood one of the old 'public works' 
convict prisons built in connection with the prison at Chatham. 
'There were still,' says Sir Evelyn, 'a few convicts there; but there was 
available space for an experiment, which it was decided to make (and 
which is described later) for the special location and treatment on 
reformatory lines of young prisoners, 16-21, selected from the ordinary 
Prisons, where the length of sentence afforded a reasonable time for 
the application of the system. The title "Juvenile- Adult" was invented to 
describe the class too old for commitment to Reformatory Schools, 
and too young to be classified with the ordinary grown-up criminal.' 
The grounds on which the name of this prison was first attached to the 
system are of considerable interest, in the light of the regular but fruit- 
less attempts that have since been made to find for it some other name. 
'At that time, there was a confusing medley of appellations; and child- 
ren, young persons, and youthful offenders, were all jumbled together 
in the same category. The specific proposal was to deal with the age, 
16 to 21, and it was decided, in order to emphasise this fact and make 
a clear distinction between this age and all other ages, to make use of 


the word "Borstal", that is, the name of the village where the experiment 
was being carried out. I think that this appellation has been singularly 
fortunate in its results, as it has made it quite clear that we are not 
dealing with the youthful offender as usually conceived, that is, a boy, 
or even a child, who may have lapsed into some petty or occasional 
delinquency, and who was being sufficiently provided for by the 
Reformatory School Acts and by the Rules concerning juvenile offen- 
ders in prisons. Our object was to deal with a far different material, the 
young hooligan advanced in crime, perhaps with many previous con- 
victions, and who appeared to be inevitably doomed to a life of habitual 

The system which Sir Evelyn established in this 'juvenile-adult' 
prison at Borstal is thus described. The object of the System was to 
arrest or check the evil habit by the " individual isation" of the prisoner, 
mentally, morally and physically. To the exhortation and moral 
persuasion of a selected staff, we added physical drill, gymnastics, 
technical and literary instruction: inducements to good conduct by a 
system of grades and rewards, which, though small and trivial in them- 
selves, were yet calculated to encourage a spirit of healthy emulation 
and inspire self respect. Elaborate rules for giving effect to the system 
were introduced by the Authority of Parliament, but at this stage, 
Parliament had not recognised the system in any other way, and we had 
to work within the limits which existing Penal law afforded: that is, the 
cases we dealt with were by the transfer of young prisoners of this age, 
who happened, for their particular offence, to have been awarded 
sentences of imprisonment for six months and upwards. It soon became 
clear that the element of time, that is, a longer sentence than the law 
permitted, was essential for the success of the scheme. Experience 
showed that something may be done in twelve months, little or nothing 
in a shorter period, that the system should be one of stern and exact 
discipline, tempered only by such rewards and privileges as good 
conduct, with industry, might earn: and resting on its physical side on 
the basis of hard, manual labour and skilled trades, and on its moral 
and intellectual side on the combined efforts of the Chaplain and the 
Schoolmaster. Such a sentence should not be less than three years, 
conditional liberation being freely granted, when the circumstances of 
any case gave a reasonable prospect of reclamation, and when the 
Borstal Association, after careful study of the case, felt able to make fair 
provision on discharge.' 

The translation of this system into law, and the subsequent develop- 
ments, up to the Second World War, in the Borstal system and the 
other methods which had been and were to be provided by Parliament 
for the treatment of young offenders, are described in the following 


(2) 1908-1938 

The years 1907 and 1908 laid the foundation stones of the contempor- 
ary penal system in England: they were three the Probation of 
Offenders Act 1907, the Children Act 1908, and the Prevention of Crime 
Act 1908, of which the first or Borstal part only will now concern us. 
The probation system is not for discussion here, except to note its 
enduring value in enabling the courts to provide suitable treatment for 
young offenders l without imprisonment or detention in a training 

The Children Act, popularly known at the time as The Children's 
Charter, ranged over the whole field of child protection, and in the 
particular field of delinquency clarified and codified the Jaw relating 
to reformatory and industrial schools, established juvenile courts, and 
took further steps towards restricting the imprisonment of young 
offenders and providing alternative methods oftlealing with them. The 
Act began by establishing the definition of a 'child' as a person under 
the age of 14 years, and of a 'young person' as one who was 14 years of 
age and over but under 16. It then provided that a child should not be 
sentenced to imprisonment or committed in default of payment of a 
fine, etc. ; that a young person should not be sentenced to penal servi- 
tude; and that a young person should not be sentenced to imprison- 
ment, or committed in default 'unless the court certifies that the young 
person is of so unruly a character that he cannot be detained in a place 
of detention provided under this Part of this Act, or that he is of so 
depraved a character that he is not a fit person to be so detained'. All 
persons under the age of 16 apprehended by the police and not released 
on bail, and all such persons remanded or committed for trial by the 
courts and not released on bail, were also to be sent to 'places of 
detention', except on a certificate of unruliness or depravity. These 
'places of detention' were to be provided by police authorities for every 
petty sessional division: they might be in specially provided premises 
or in any existing premises suitable for the purpose, the 'registered 
occupier' being the responsible custodian. 

The Act made no change in the age of /criminal majority', nor in 
the ages qualifying for admission to a reformatory, which remained at 
12 and over but under 16, or to an industrial school, which remained at 
under 14. The treatment of young offenders under 16, on the basis of 
these statutory provisions and under the guidance of a new department 
of the Home Office called the Children's Branch, developed steadily 
and without further legislation for the next twenty-five years. At the 
outbreak of the First World War, there were 223 reformatory and 
industrial schools, containing 25,357 children and young persons. 2 

For those whom Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise had called juvenile-adults, 
1 And of course for adults also. 2 Making Citizens, p. 9. 


aged 16-20, provision was made by Part I of the Prevention of Crime 
Act 1908. In 1906 Sir Evelyn, satisfied with the success of his Borstal 
experiment, had advised the Home Secretary that if its fruits were to 
be harvested it would be necessary to introduce legislation to give the 
courts power to commit suitable offenders of this age-group direct to a 
'juvenile-adult reformatory', for a period long enough to allow of their 
training, and subject to release under supervision on a conditional 
licence. It was at this time that Mr. Herbert Samuel, now Lord Samuel, 
joined the Home Office as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, 
and became responsible for the introduction of the Bill to effect these 
purposes. He has told in his Memoirs (p. 53) how he firmly refused to 
sponsor anything called a 'juvenile-adult reformatory', how no other 
suitable name could be found, and how in the end he suggested 'Borstal 
Institutions'. So 'Borstals' they became, and in spite of recurrent 
attacks on the name, Borstals they still are among the few public 
institutions to survive contemporary euphemism in names of any 
embarrassing connotation. It may be doubted whether those who work 
in Borstals regret this ; for them, as for all who understand their work 
throughout the world, it is a name of honourable significance which 
should not be lightly put aside. 

It is unnecessary at this stage to describe in detail either the legal 
basis of the sentence of Borstal Detention as it was laid down in 1908 
or the Borstal system as it was developed in the following years, since 
the Act of 1908 was repealed by the Criminal Justice Act of 1948, which 
will be fully considered in the following section, and the system as it 
works today will be described in the following chapters. To fit it into 
the general picture of the treatment of young offenders up to the 
Second World War, it is sufficient to say that it provided a method of 
correctional training for persons aged 16-20 who had been convicted 
of indictable offences for which they might be sentenced to imprison- 
ment, and who 'by reason of criminal habits or tendencies, or associa- 
tion with persons of bad character' appeared to the courts to require 
'detention under penal discipline'. As subsequently amended by the 
Criminal Justice Administration Act 1914, section 11, the Act provided 
for a term of not less than two years nor more than three years, to be 
followed by a year under supervision. Within the maximum imposed 
by the court, however, the sentence was 'indeterminate', since the 
Prison Commissioners had power to release a boy on a conditional 
licence after six months, a girl after three. 

It is sufficiently clear from the phraseology of the section that those 
who framed it still had in mind Sir Evelyn's 'young hooligans well 
advanced in crime', and that 'shades of the prison house' still hung 
about their conception of the appropriate treatment. Indeed of the 
three Borstals for boys first taken into use, two were old convict 
prisons Borstal and Portland: the third, at Feltham in Middlesex, 


was one of the earliest local authority industrial schools. All three 
buildings were substantially altered to adapt them to their new use. 
For girls provision was made in the premises of the former State 
Inebriate Reformatory within the high wall of the women's prison at 
Aylesbury. This was still the position when the writer joined the Prison 
Commission in 1925, to find Alec Paterson leaving in his colleagues' 
rooms large cards inscribed with the words 'Borstalium quartum 
aedificandum est'. When that fourth Borstal came to be built it embodied 
all that enlargement of the spirit of Borstal for which Paterson was 
especially responsible. He substituted self-discipline for 'penal disci- 
pline', introduced the house system, and made the house-master the 
centre of his staff 'It is men,' he said, 'not buildings, that will change 
the hearts and ways of misguided lads.' 

The new Borstal, at Lowdham Grange in Nottinghamshire, embodied 
Paterson's view that 'you cannot train men for freedom in a condition 
of captivity'. In the summer of 1930 took place the historic march 
from Feltham to Lowdham of a party of Borstal boys, who camped on 
the hill-side and began to build their own institution without walls, 
cells, locks or bars. They are still adding to it. Lowdham was the first 
and last Borstal to be built for its purpose. With two exceptions all 
those to come were established in hutted camps or large country houses. 
In 1938 there were nine Borstals for boys (including a special wing of 
Wandsworth Prison for those who had been recalled from licence or 
had seriously misconducted themselves in their institutions) and 
Aylesbury for girls. At the end of the year there were over 2,100 boys 
in the male Borstals, and the provision of a new institution was in 

We must now retrace our steps to 1927, when the Report of the 
Departmental Committee on the Treatment of Young Offenders pro- 
vided a fresh point of departure of which the consequences were not 
exhausted until the Criminal Justice Act 1948. Their recommendations 
ranged over the whole field the juvenile court, bail and remand, pro- 
bation, fines, whipping, detention, reformatory and industrial schools, 
imprisonment, Borstal, capital punishment and after-care; and sub- 
sequent legislation in this field has been largely concerned with tran- 
slating them into practice. 

The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 revised the constitution 
and procedure of juvenile courts, raised from seven to eight years the 
age below which a child cannot be adjudged guilty of a criminal 
offence, and redefined a 'young person' as one over 14 and under 17 
years of age, bringing all children and young persons within the juris- 
diction of the juvenile court. 

The distinction between reformatory and industrial schools was 
abolished, and they were renamed 'approved schools!* The normal 
minimum age for committal was raised to 10, the maximum to 17: 


this gave an overlap of the Borstal age of 16-21 of one year, thus 
allowing the courts a discretion in the cases of the more mature young 
people of sixteen. Here we must leave these partners of the Borstal 
system, junior in their material but senior in their experience, observing 
only that a friendly co-operation is maintained between the Children's 
Department and the Prison Commission, and that regular visits are 
arranged between Headmasters of Approved Schools and Governors of 
Borstals and their staffs. Those who would learn more of the schools 
should read the full account of their work in the Home Office booklet 
called Making Citizens. 1 

The restrictions on the imprisonment of children and young persons 
imposed by the Children Act 1908 were re-enacted in relation to 
children and young persons as now re-defined, with the effect of extend- 
ing this special protection from those under 16 to those under 17. 
The age below which sentence of death could not be pronounced was 
rasied to 18, and in lieu of that sentence there was substituted one of 
'detention during His Majesty's pleasure' the one truly indeterminate 
sentence which our law provides. For certain grave offences of violence 
against the person by a child or young person 'the court may sentence 
the offender to be detained for such period as may be specified in the 
sentence; and where such a sentence has been passed the child or 
young person shall, during that period, notwithstanding anything in 
the other provisions of this Act, be liable to be detained in such 
place and on such conditions as the Secretary of State may direct'. 
In practice such an offender may be sent to an approved school, a 
Borstal or a prison according to the circumstances of the offence, his 
age, maturity, character, mental condition and all other relevant con- 

For the 'places of detention' of 1908 the Act substituted 'remand 
homes', the provision of which for their areas was made a duty of 
county and county borough councils, and detention for not more than 
one month in a remand home, as a punishment in place of imprison- 
ment, was by section 54 substituted for detention in a 'place of deten- 
tion'. Since 1933 therefore all young persons committed to prison by 
courts of summary jurisdiction, whether on remand or under sentence, 
have come under a certificate of unsuitability, through 'unruliness or 
depravity', for detention in a remand home. 

Certain other recommendations of the Young Offenders Committee, 
including those relating to Borstal, were gathered together in the 
Criminal Justice Bill introduced by Sir Samuel Hoare (now Lord 
Templewood) in 1938. The outbreak of war in 1939 put an end to this 
Bill, the provisions of which were with certain modifications included 
in the Criminal Justice Act of 1948. 

i Stationery Office 1945. Price Is. 
E.P.B.S. 22 



With the general scope of this Act we have already dealt. In the field 
of the treatment of young offenders it supplements the Children and 
Young Persons Act 1933 by taking what may prove to be the final steps, 
so far as concerns legislative action, in the long-drawn process of 
removing young people under 21 from the scope of the prison system. 

These steps may be summarised as follows: 

'(1) To provide some place other than a prison to which courts may 
send, before conviction, persons between the ages of 17 and 21 
and young persons under 17 who are unsuitable for detention in 
remand homes. 

4 (2) To prohibit altogether the imprisonment of persons under 15 
years of age; to limit the imprisonment of young persons under 
17 to those more serious cases which are dealt with in the higher 
courts; and to restrict still more closely the imprisonment of 
persons between the ages 17-21 by courts of summary juris- 

'(3) To provide alternative methods of treating young offenders for 
less serious offences, so as to avoid short sentences of imprison- 

'(4) To remove, in the qualifications for Borstal training, the limita- 
tion to criminal habits and associations. 

4 (5) Finally, when the alternative methods of dealing with young 
offenders have become available, to extend from 17 to 21 the 
age of complete prohibition of imprisonment for young offenders 
found guilty by courts of summary jurisdiction.' 

The eventual enforcement of complete prohibition of the imprison- 
ment of persons under 21 by summary courts is left to the Secretary of 
State, who may proceed by Order in Council when he is "satisfied that 
the methods, other than imprisonment, available for the treatment of 
offenders afford to courts of summary jurisdiction adequate means of 
dealing with the persons to whom the Order relates'. It is left open to 
the Secretary of State to proceed in this matter step by step as regards 
age, and to deal with one sex at a time. 

If, therefore, we may assume a time when the Secretary of State 
has exhausted his powers under this provision, the position will be 
that no person under 15 can be sentenced to imprisonment at all, and no 
person under 21, convicted or unconvicted, can be sent to prison by a 
court of summary jurisdiction. The only persons under 15 in prison 
will then be those sentenced under the Children and Young Persons 
Act 1933 to detention, whether at His Majesty's Pleasure in lieu of the 


capital sentence l or for grave offences of violence against the person, 
in so far as the Secretary of State may direct their detention in prison: 
the only persons between 15 and 21 will be those convicted by the higher 
courts of serious offences for which the court finds, and states as a 
considered opinion, that no other method of dealing with them is 
appropriate. Whether Parliament will ever find it both desirable and 
practicable to go beyond that stage can now be no more than a matter 
of speculation. Whether and when that stage may be reached at all 
depends first on the extent to which the alternative methods can be made 
available. It may be also, though this is perhaps a questibn of the 
interpretation of the statute, that it will depend on the view formed by 
the Secretary of State of the success of those methods they may well 
have been provided, but he may nevertheless not be satisfied that they 
are 'adequate'. 

Let us therefore proceed to consider, one by one, what those methods 
will be in so far as they go beyond cautions, bindings over and fines : 
all those, in short, which involve some limitation of the freedom of the 
offender. 2 

The first group concerns young people who are not yet found guilty. 
For those under 17 there are the existing remand homes, which by 
section 49 are brought under closer Home Office control, and em- 
powered to provide 'facilities for the observation of any person detained 
therein on whose physical or mental condition a medical report may 
be desirable for the assistance of the court in determining the most 
suitable method of dealing with the case'. For those of 17 and over, 
there is to be a new type of institution called a remand centre, which 
will serve the same purpose as a remand home, but will be provided 
by the Secretary of State, not by local authorities. To these centres 
also may be sent the 'unruly and depraved' from remand homes, 
provided they are 14 years old or over, and any of 14 or over who 
require special observation for which the local remand home does not 
provide facilities. They will perform the present function of the prisons 
in respect of the young offenders concerned. 

For those found guilty, perhaps the mildest form of treatment at the 
disposal of the courts will be an entirely novel method known as 
Attendance Centres. The idea behind the Attendance Centre is 'depriva- 
tion of leisure' without removal from home: the offender must attend 
at the place specified, at such hours, not exceeding 12 in all, as will not 
interfere with his school or working hours, and not more than once a 
day nor for more than 3 hours at once. Physical exercise and useful 
occupation will be provided. 

1 This is now covered by section 16 of the Act of 1948. 

2 The following order of consideration is one of convenience only, and is not 
intended to carry any implications as to the manner in which they may be used by 
the courts. 


The next group of treatments rests on the probation system, and is 
in three tiers, the first being the normal order placing the offender for 
a stated period under the supervision of a probation officer. The second 
carries the idea of deprivation of leisure one stage further, by making it 
a condition of the order that the offender shall reside in a probation 
hostel, from which he will go out to school or work. The third involves 
complete deprivation of liberty, by making it a condition of the order 
that he shall reside in a probation home, where he will both live and 
work: these probation homes are the 1948 equivalent of the institutions 
proposed by the 1938 Bill under the name of Howard Houses, which 
were to perform a similar function but were not linked with the 
probation system. 

While the Bill of 1948 was under consideration, the view was 
expressed by many magistrates, and supported by the Advisory Council 
on the Treatment of Offenders, that it was necessary to have some 
sanction behind these milder measures that had not been provided in 
the Bill of 1938. It was argued that many young people come before the 
courts who can be taught respect for the law only by something in 
the nature of a 'short sharp shock' : it is not yet necessary or desirable 
to send them away for residential training in an approved school or 
Borstal, but they laugh at probation, and will not stay or behave in 
a home or hostel. For these the only measure short of prison had been 
detention for a month in a remand home under section 54 of 1933, and 
that was not regarded as adequate. This procedure in fact had been 
little used, and almost the only information available about it is a 
survey of the Liverpool experience, issued under the auspices of the 
School of Social Sciences of Liverpool University, by Mr. J. H. Bagot. 1 
Mr. Bagot's conclusions on the value of this form of treatment were 
that 'in general the results may be considered disappointing', but that 
punitive detention 'as a form of treatment has its uses'; these however 
would be more effective in a separate institution devoted to this purpose. 
He quotes with approval Mr. John Watson's remarks on this question : 
'In theory it would seem that this provision meets the case where no 
long period of training is called for, and all that is necessary is a short 
sharp punishment to bring the offender to his senses and act as a 
deterrent. There is a very definite demand for some form of treatment of 
this kind, which would be of short duration but thoroughly unpleasant, 
and available as a penalty for minor offences, including minor breaches 
of probation. What is needed is a small local establishment in which the 
discipline is of the sternest, the food of the plainest, where everything 
is done "at the double", and where there is the maximum of hard 
work and the minimum of amusement; the kind of establishment a 
young offender would not wish to visit twice, and of which he would 
paint a vivid picture on his return home.' 2 

i Punitive Detention, 1944, Cape. 2 The Child and the Magistrate, 1942, Cape. 


It was precisely such an establishment as Mr. Watson describes that 
was envisaged by the Advisory Council, and in due course was provided 
for in the Act of 1948 under the name of 'detention centre'. These 
centres are to be provided by the Secretary of State, and in a case where 
a court would have power to impose imprisonment it may commit 
to one of them a person who is not less than 14 but under 21 years of 
age for a term of three months, or in 'special circumstances' (which 
the section does not define) not more than 6 months. There is a still 
further qualification in respect of offenders of compulsory school 
age, for whom the term may be reduced to not less than one month. 

Committal to a detention centre is hedged about with conditions to 
prevent the committal of persons who have previously been sentenced 
to imprisonment or Borstal training, or have previously (if aged 17 or 
more) been sent to a detention centre, and to ensure that this method 
is not used 'unless the court has considered every other method (except 
imprisonment) by which the court might deal with him and is of opinion 
that none of those methods is appropriate'. 

This power will become available to courts when the Secretary of 
State has notified them that detention centres are available for the 
reception of their committals. When a court has been so notified, it 
will no longer have power to commit young persons to a remand home 
under section 54 of 1933: meanwhile that section remains in force. 

Finally, if the time comes when a young offender must be sent away 
for prolonged residential training, the court may send him to an 
approved school if he is under 17, or to a Borstal if he is not less than 
16 and under 21. With approved schools we have already dealt, and 
with the Borstal system, as it stands after the Act of 1948, we shall deal 
in subsequent chapters. 

Of these various alternatives to prison, only those institutions to 
which the Prisons Acts apply, and which therefore are placed under 
the control of the Prison Commissioners, come within the scope of this 
book: these are the remand centres, detention centres and Borstal 
institutions. Probation hostels and homes existed before 1948, and are 
controlled by the Probation Division of the Home Office: the provisions 
of 1948 may however extend their use and value. Attendance centres 
come under the Children's Department of the Home Office: three have 
already been set up by way of experiment, but no report is yet available 
as to their methods and success. 1 

So far no remand centres have been established, nor has any 
provision been made for doing so in the near future. If these centres 
are to do the work required of them, they will be not only places of 
safe custody but laboratories of research into the causes and treatment 
of juvenile delinquency, with large and specialised staffs of medical, 
psychological and social workers. Their number must therefore be 
* Four more are expected to be ready by the end of 1951. 


limited, so that except for the largest urban centres they will have to 
provide for both sexes and all ages in the same premises. They will 
therefore require a number of separate blocks, some of which at least 
will have to provide complete security against escape. These require- 
ments could only be met in buildings designed and erected for the 
purpose, and so far it has not been possible to provide funds for this 

The Commissioners originally took the view that specially provided 
buildings would also be required for detention centres, but when it 
became clear that such buildings could not be provided, they decided 
at least to experiment with adapted buildings, if any suitable could be 
found. In their Annual Report for 1950 they announced that negotia- 
tions were in progress for two sites in south-east England, which they 
hoped might be ready for use in 1951. It is therefore too soon to speak 
of the methods and management of these centres, though it is possible 
to give certain broad indications of intention. 

The first point of interest is that the Prison Commissioners will now 
be responsible as also, in due course, in remand centres for offenders 
of 14 years and over who would otherwise come under the care of the 
Children's Department. It has therefore been decided that there shall 
be separate centres for the older and younger age-groups, and that in 
respect of the latter the Commissioners shall act in consultation with 
the Children's Department, whose Inspectors may visit the centres. 

The next concerns method. Ex hypothesi, the primary purpose of 
the centres is deterrence, nor does the very short period of the sentence 
offer the possibility of constructive training: indeed it is a second 
hypothesis that an offender who really needs such training ought not to 
be committed to a centre, but to an approved school or a Borstal. And 
it is certainly a third hypothesis that these centres shall not be prisons 
for young people under a new name. 

To devise a regime which will comply with these intentions, in such 
buildings as may be found, will not be easy. It must clearly be such 
that the youngster who has once been through it will leave with the 
feeling that he would rather not do it again. Yet so purely negative an 
attitude to the task is unthinkable. Some constructive and formative 
influences must be brought into play, though it may be granted at 
once that among these the insistence on a brisk and disciplined activity 
will itself rank high. Further, for those of compulsory school age, 
provision for continuing their education will be essential. 

At this stage, therefore, one can predicate only certain essentials. 
A centre must be separated entirely not only from the premises of a 
prison but from the idea and ambience of a prison there must be no 
names or practices in it connecting it with the prison system in any 
way. The regime must be deterrent in the sense that the offender will 
be deprived not only of liberty but of every element of what he thinks 


is 'a good time', with a minim v um of physical amenity, and he will have 
to work hard and do as he is told. But it must surely not be based on 
any idea that its purpose is to frighten young people into well-doing. 
The key to the enigma can lie only in a sympathetic and well-selected 
staff, who within the limits of what is possible in the conditions will be 
prepared to make a real effort to find out what is wrong with a boy or 
girl and set it right. Finally, although the Act makes no provision for 
after-care, which can therefore be provided only with the willing co- 
operation of the offender, whatever can be done in this way must be 
done no doubt through the provision of after-care committees at the 
centres and a close liaison with the probation service. 



THE Annual Report of the Prison Commissioners for 1949 shows 
that in 1948, the last year before the Criminal Justice Act came 
into force, 17,485 males and 2,783 females aged 16 and over but 
under 21 were found guilty of indictable offences. In 1945 the numbers 
had been 21,133 and 2,919. These post-war years had shown an alarm- 
ing increase in the volume of crime committed by young people as 
compared with 1939, when the equivalent figures were 13,655 and 
1,780, and public opinion was deeply concerned as to the causes of 
this situation and the measures to be taken to deal with it. It is therefore 
satisfactory to note that the courts were not driven by this public 
concern to a more frequent recourse to imprisonment, and that in 
fact the percentage of imprisonments to convictions fell from 16 per 
cent in 1947 to 13-5 per cent in 1948. 

But if there is so much ground for satisfaction, the further analysis 
of those whom the courts did send to prison presents no such ground. 
Of the 2,479 youths and 277 girls received in prison on conviction in 
1948, some 30 per cent and 35 per cent respectively had not, so far as 
was known, been previously proved guilty of any offence. On the 
other hand, 1,740 or 70-2 per cent of the youths had previous proved 
offences, and of these 536 had previously served sentences of im- 

The numbers of their previous sentences of imprisonment were: 

1 previous sentence of imprisonment . . 350 

2 previous sentences of imprisonment . .131 

3 previous sentences of imprisonment . . 25 
Over 3 previous sentences of imprisonment . 30 


'Their previous proved offences were: 












Six to ten 


Eleven to twenty 


Over twenty . 



The figures for girls present a similar picture. 1 

The necessity of the measures taken in the Act of 1948 is abundantly 
shown by these disturbing figures. In one year 2,756 young people 
under 21 were sentenced to imprisonment, no less than 836 of them 
for their first proved offence, and of the youths there were over 1,100 
with more than two previous convictions of whom many must surely 
have been qualified for Borstal training. Further, 1,362 of the sentences 
on youths, and 192 of those on girls, were for not more than three 

Their numbers by ages were as follows: 













Females . 






Their offences were as follows: 



Burglary and housebreaking 
Other offences against property 
Assaults and wounding 
Sexual offences 
Other offences . 



Reference to Table II on pp. 154 and 155 of the Report shows that, 
of the youths, less than 20 per cent were convicted of non-indictable 
offences, and of the girls, less than 30 per cent. One might expect to 
find this much lower proportion of young people than of older people 
in prison for non-indictable offences, firstly because courts would be 
reluctant to send them to prison for 'social nuisance', and secondly 
because they would on the whole be less prone to commit such offences. 
Of these minor offences by males, almost all were committed by youths 

i Annual Report 1949, p. 22. 


of 17 and over, and the only ones reaching significant figures were 
assaults (118) and 'Highway Acts' (105): drunkenness produced only 
28. For girls the only classified offences which reached double figures 
were 11 drunks and 13 sleeping out: prostitution produced only 8. 

The number of persons under 17 received under section 53 of the Act 
of 1933 is small: in 1949 only two such cases were received under the 
direction of the Secretary of State. The number of convicted boys 
under 17 received as so 'unruly or depraved' that they could not be 
detained in a remand home was 29; of girls there were none. The num- 
bers of young persons of both sexes sent to prison for this reason before 
conviction however was very much higher, the average for 1947 and 
1948 being about 300 boys and 46 girls. An average for these years of 
those under 17 committed to await removal to an approved school 
was 81 boys and 18 girls, and to await removal to Borstal 254 boys and 
13 girls. 

The real need for the proposed remand centres is shown by the figures 
quoted in the Annual Report for 1949 of young offenders who were 
received in prison on remand and did not return to prison on convic- 
tion. These numbered in 1948 no less th^n 1,633, of whom 446 were 
found not guilty and discharged and 1,187 were dealt with other than 
by imprisonment or Borstal training. It is to be supposed that the 
explanation lies in the desire of the courts to have full information 
about a young person before deciding how to dispose of his case: 
nevertheless, it is deplorable that so many young people, many of them 
innocent, should thus have the taint of prison thrust upon them 
deplorable also that when the remedy is known, and Parliament has 
prescribed it, it should be out of our power to make it available. 


It was unfortunate that Sir E. Ruggles-Brise, in his enthusiasm for 
Borstal methods, chose to describe his system for the treatment of 
'juvenile-adults' in prisons as the Modified Borstal System, and to set 
up at each prison 'Borstal Committees' for the after-care of these young 
people. 1 The intention was good, but it had the result of suggesting to 
the courts that since some sort of Borstal training was given in prison, 
a sentence of imprisonment might serve the same purpose as one of 
Borstal training. His successors, on the other hand, were so strongly 
impressed with the necessity of keeping young people out of prison 
that while they continued this system they not only dropped the name, 
so as to avoid any suggestion that prison could be a substitute for 
Borstal training, but almost Tell over backwards' in their reluctance to 
admit that imprisonment could have any constructive effect at all. 

The system as it is today endeavours to steer a middle course, forti- 

1 Ruggles-Brise, p. 96. 


fied by those provisions of the Criminal Justice Act which are designed 
to ensure that if young people do come to prison, it is because the 
courts, after proper consideration of all alternative courses, have 
decided that imprisonment is the most suitable treatment. And indeed, 
even when detention centres are fully available, it is difficult to see 
how the courts can entirely dispense with the use of prison, at any 
rate for young offenders over 17. There will always be those whose 
offences are so serious that a severe sentence is essential, and they may 
be either unsuited for Borstal or already qualified as 'Borstal failures'. 
And as we shall see in considering the Borstal system, it is a necessary 
part of that system that there should be power to commute to imprison- 
ment the Borstal sentences of those who refuse to profit by the training 
it provides. 

The prison system must, therefore, be prepared to do what it can to 
provide suitable treatment and effective training for young people, 
but its efforts must also be conditioned by certain qualifications. 
First, the conditions of local prisons, as they have been described in 
earlier chapters, do not now and never will provide a suitable frame- 
work for the treatment of young offenders. But in these prisons short 
sentences must be served, until we have detention centres. It may be 
that for some, who come to it for the first time, this experience will at 
least have the effect of deterrence and to that extent serve its purpose: 
but it will almost certainly be quite useless a second time. Nor can 
young people in these conditions hope to escape the prison taint, how- 
ever carefully they may be kept from direct contamination by older 
men 'and women. The second qualification is that the advantages of 
open prisons have not been made available for young offenders : they 
are for the most part too unstable and irresponsible to be trusted in 
these conditions the analogy of open Borstals does not hold good, 
for the conditions are quite different. And lastly, whatever may be done 
for boys outside the local prisons, nothing similar can be done for 
girls: their numbers are so small that it is impossible to make any 
suitable arrangements for their segregation in special centres. 

The system therefore concentrates on getting young men out of the 
local prisons into separate prisons, or separate wings of specialised 
prisons, called Young Prisoners' Centres. There are three of these. 
A detached wing at Wakefield takes the majority of those with long 
sentences (over 3 years) including those detained during His Majesty's 
Pleasure. Lewes, a pleasant country prison, receives in one wing all 
those who have not been in prison before and others suitable to associ- 
ate with them, in another wing those of recidivist type. A detached 
block at Stafford, which is otherwise a Star prison, takes the rest of the 
recidivists and any overflow of 'Star' types from Lewes. 

The qualifying length of sentence for removal to a centre is 3 months 
or over, which allowing for remission means 2 months to serve. This 


is not to suggest that constructive training can be given in two months : 
but it does remove as many as possible from the local prisons, and it is 
not worth while to arrange transfers for a shorter period. There is another 
reason for making a distinction at three months. In order to secure 
for young persons sentenced to imprisonment the same positive after- 
care and supervision as is provided by a Borstal licence, the Criminal 
Justice Act gave power to release such persons on a conditional licence, 
and that power is exercised in respect of sentences of three months and 
over. It would not be worth while to issue a licence to those who would 
only be under supervision for two or three weeks. Thus all the young 
prisoners in the centres are in the same position as regards release on 
licence, and all come under the care of the Central After-Care 

It follows that if a young man receives a sentence of three months and 
upwards, it may be hoped that at least it will do him no harm, and 
the system certainly aims, as we shall see, to do him some good. And 
when he is released he will be well looked after. But let us first see what 
happens to those left in the local prisons. 

Under the Rules all prisoners under 21 are placed in the Young 
Prisoner Class, and kept separate from all other classes. This means 
that in a local prison all those under 21, with or without previous con- 
victions, including those awaiting removal to Borstal, are treated 
together as one group. Admittedly an illogical and unsatisfactory 
arrangement, and one that can be modified in the largest prisons, but 
in the average prison it is simply not possible to subdivide this class 
into 'homogeneous groups', unless some boys are to spend their 'time 
in what would amount to separate confinement. In London it is possible 
to do better: all young prisoners go to Wormwood Scrubs which has 
a separate 'Boys' Prison', including a block for the untried which 
forms a sort of remand centre within prison walls. 

But in the normal local prison on the radial plan separation of the 
young prisoner class can mean no more than locating them together 
on one landing, giving them exercise at a separate time or in a separate 
yard, and keeping them separated from the men while at work. 1 As 
work they must do what the prison has to offer in the way of unskilled 
jobs they cannot be put on to skilled work for the few weeks they 
are there. Usually Governors try to employ them on the gardens or 
other odd jobs in the open air: if they have to be in a workshop they 
will be put together somewhere at the front or back by way of notional 
separation sometimes behind a screen if there are enough of them. 
And in all their comings and goings during the prison day they are in 
the sight and hearing of the general prison population. They will be 

i At Holloway the girls for once have the advantage, since with the larger numbers 
in this prison it is possible to place them in a separate block, with Star women only, 
under the special charge of an Assistant Governor. 


given physical training instead of walking exercise, and allowed to play 
such recreational games as space permits. 'Special attention' should, 
in principle, be paid to their education, but it is hardly practicable to 
have regular classes for boys who change at least every few weeks, and 
many of them every few days. 

This somewhat pessimistic picture could be improved if conditions 
permitted a full working day, for at least the boys would get 7 or 8 
hours work; but as things are it can be nothing but a dreary round of 
unexacting routine, dull, comfortless and perhaps for the younger 
novice frightening till he has got used to it, but of little significance to 
those who have had it before. Indeed it cannot be too strongly empha- 
sised that to send a young person to prison for a short sentence is 
likely to make certain one thing and one thing only that by removal 
of the dread of the unknown a great part of the deterrent effect of 
prison for the future will have been lost. One small point may be added, 
which mitigates the dangers of contamination within these very mixed 
groups the Rules allow the Governor to remove from the Y.P. Class 
any prisoner over 17 years of age whom he regards as unsuitable by 
character for that class, and to place him in the Star Class. It is better 
for an aggressive young tough to find himself among older men who 
are not impressed by his exhibitionism. 

Turning to the Y.P. Centres, we find at Wakefield a difficult collection 
of young people, some of whom may be mere children detained under 
the Act of 1933, who have for the most part committed homicides or 
other grave offences. Many of them present psychological problems, 
and since Wakefield is one of the psychiatric centres they are well cared 
for in that way in his Report for 1948 the Governor said, The 
improvement in some of these youngsters after treatment has been 
sometimes quite amazing.' 1 They are a small group, usually less than 
fifty, and lead a fully communal life of their own in their detached 
wing, though they mix with the other prisoners in the workshops : this 
does more good than harm in the conditions of a specialised prison 
with a selected population like Wakefield. They have a choice of 
several skilled and interesting trades with vocational training classes, 
and a full working day. Their evenings are productively active, with a 
wide selection of educational classes and correspondence courses, and 
other fruitful organised activity. Above all a carefully selected and 
stable staff, with an Assistant Governor who gives his whole time to 
the group, are responsible for the personal training of the boys: in the 
same Annual Report the Governor said, 'I am more than ever con- 
vinced that what success we have had, is, in the main, attributable to 
the fact that the Housemaster, Principal Officer and the Discipline 
Staff, are in close contact with the boys, study their individual charac- 
ters, gain their respect and often their affection and so are able to 
1 Annual Report for 1948, p. 28. 


influence them in a way which would be impossible under more rigid 

These lads mature at different ages, and they are transferred to the 
adult central prison for Stars at Wakefield as soon after they are 21 
as is appropriate to their individual needs. 

Not all long-sentence young men go to Wakefield it is a rather 
specialised group, and it would not be possible to include in it some of 
the hardened and depraved young men who get 3 years or more. 
These go to Stafford or Lewes if their sentences do not exceed 4 years 
otherwise they must, at present, go to Dartmoor with the long-term 
prisoners of the Ordinary Class. Such cases however are rare, and are 
looked at with care before they are finally allocated. 

Of the other centres the more satisfactory is at Lewes, which except 
for a detached block holding the untried prisoners of the locality is 
entirely devoted to the young prisoners, who number about 250. 
Those of 'Star' type who come here are kept apart from the others 
except to some extent at work. There is a brisk and tonic discipline, a 
full working day, and a coherent scheme of training. The industries are 
good, with vocational training classes in carpentry, shoe repairing, 
bricklaying and painting and decorating. Evening education is well 
organised under the direction of a full-time teacher appointed by the 
Local Education Authority, and there is a good library. Finally, as 
always, there is personal training by the staff, with two Assistant 
Governors to divide this special charge between them. 

Stafford takes a much smaller group, and their surroundings are 
less attractive. They are housed in a detached block of a prison with 
a good general atmosphere, since all the men are Stars, and they 
have their own workshops, with one or two training classes. The 
L.E.A. take a great interest in their education, which offers a wide 
variety of classes. An Assistant Governor has special charge of the 

At all the centres there is a Young Prisoners' Committee, which 
includes members of the Visiting Committee, specially charged with 
the oversight of the training, welfare and after-care of the young 
prisoners. The representatives of the Central After-Care Association 
visit regularly, and great care is taken, with the help of the Ministry of 
Labour and the probation service, to secure suitable placing in work 
and helpful supervision after discharge. 

The Special Rules for young prisoners are concerned only with the 
setting up of the centres and of the young prisoner committees: other- 
wise the General Rules, and general practice as it has been described 
in previous chapters, apply to them, with such modifications as have 
been suggested above. Their stage system however is more akin to that 
of the corrective training prisons than to that of the local prisons : they 
are out of stage for 8 weeks, and then receive all available privileges. 


In effect, this operates only in the centres, since no young prisoner 
is likely to remain more than 8 weeks in a local prison. This period 
enables them to be observed and 'conditioned', and in doubtful cases 
to have their classification checked, before they are placed in full 
association. They have one stage privilege not enjoyed by adults a 
letter once a week instead of once a fortnight. 


(1) THE LAW 

THE Criminal Justice Act of 1948 follows the tradition of the 
Prevention of Crime Act 1908 in placing young offenders and 
persistent offenders next door to each other. The statutory frame- 
work of the Borstal system is entirely contained" withm^section 20, 
preceding j^tion^ 

tcHIurA^ the amending sections of 1914, 

aTe entirely~repeale3. 

This framework is basically that of 1908, but there are several 
new features which derive for the most part from recommendations 
of the Departmental Committee on Young Offenders. The qualifi- 
cations for a Borstal sentence have been changed so as, in the words 
of the Committee, 'to give more young offenders the advantage of 
this form of training' and to give 'prominence . . . rather to the need 
of training than to the existence of formed criminal habits'. The 
section requires that the court shall be 'satisfied having regard to his 
character and previous conduct, and to the circumstances of his offence, 
that it is expedient for his reformation and the prevention of crime 
(hallowed words!) that he should undergo a period of training in a 
Borstal institution'. 

The qualification by age remains the same not less than 16 but under 
21 : but the provision of 1908 enabling the Secretary of State to raise the 
maximum age to 23 has not been repeated. In fact between the wars 
the age was so raised, but it was found that Borstal training was unsuit- 
able for men of this age and after World War II the Order was repealed. 

The third and last qualification is that the person should have been 
convicted on indictment of an offence punishable with imprisonment. 1 

The sentence itself is now one of 'Borstal training' instead of 'Borstal 
detention', a change which speaks for itself. Another change recom- 
mended by the Committee affects the length of the sentence: under the 
1 See Appendix K as to absconders from approved schools. 



Act of 1908 this was for not less than 2 nor more than 3 years, plus 1 
year's supervision: the Committee thought the 2-year sentence should 
be abolished, and a flat rate of 3 years provided. Given a normal period 
of about 2 years of institutional training followed by release on licence, 
this would give a total period of control of 4 years, of which two would 
be 'inside' and two under supervision outside. Under the provisions 
of the Act of 1948, the court does not prescribe a period at all, but 
simply passes a sentence of Borstal training: the effect of such a 
sentence, as defined in the Second Schedule, is that the person may be 
detained in a Borstal institution for such period, being not less than 
9 months or more than 3 years from the date of sentence, as the Prison 
Commissioners may determine, and after release from a Borstal he 
shall, until the expiration of four years from the date of his sentence, 
be under the supervision of a specified society or person. During this 
period of supervision he may, in specified conditions, be recalled to a 
Borstal and detained until the expiration of the original 3 years, or for 
6 months from the date of being taken into custody under the order of 
recall, whichever is the later. 

This method of approach has the advantage of emphasising first, 
the indeterminacy of the period of detention, and second that the whole 
period of four years is a unity, one part being training under detention, 
the other part being training in controlled liberty. 

In one respect the Act does not follow the Committee's recom- 
mendations. They proposed that under certain restrictions summary 
courts should be empowered to pass Borstal sentences, so as to avoid 
what was often a wait of several weeks in prison for an offender who 
had been convicted by a summary court and referred to a higher court 
for sentence. This has always been a point of controversy, but in 1948 
Parliament decided to leave the power to pass a Borstal sentence with 
the higher courts. If therefore a person is convicted by a court of sum- 
mary jurisdiction of an offence punishable with imprisonment, and 
the court is satisfied that Ife is qualified for Borstal training, they may 
commit him in custody to quarter sessions for sentence. 

As in 1908, a court of summary jurisdiction before committing for 
sentence, or a higher court before passing sentence, must consider 
a report by the Prison Commissioners on the offender's physical and 
mental condition and his suitability for the sentence. The observations 
in Chapter Eighteen on the preparation of the similar reports required 
for corrective training are equally applicable here. 

Such is the legal basis of the Borstal sentence. There are certain other 
administrative provisions in the Act, By section 48 the Secretary of 
State is empowered to provide Borstal institutions, and the Prison 
Acts 1865 to 1898 are applied to them 'subject to such adaptations and 
modifications as may be made by rules of the Secretary of State'. This 
is a legal formality: it does not have the effect of turning the Borstals 

E.P.B.S. 23 


into prisons either in principle or in practice. By section 52 the Secre- 
tary of State may make rules 'for the regulation and management of 
(inter alia} Borstal institutions, and for the classification, treatment, 
employment, discipline and control of persons required to be detained 
therein': the rules now in force are the Borstal (No. 2) Rules 1949. 
Section 53 provides for the appointment by the Secretary of State of a 
Board of Visitors at each Borstal (see Chapter Six). 

Section 59 provides for transfers from prison to Borstal, and vice 
versa, in the following circumstances. By sub-section (1), 'If the Secre- 
tary of State is satisfied that a person serving a sentence of imprison- 
ment is under 21 years of age and might with advantage be detained 
in a Borstal institution he may, after consultation where practicable 
with the judge or presiding chairman of the court which passes the 
sentence, authorise the Prison Commissioners to transfer him to a 
Borstal institution; and the provisions of the Second Schedule to this 
Act shall thereupon apply to him as if he had on the date of the transfer 
been sentenced to Borstal training: provided that if on that date the 
unexpired term of his sentence is less than three years those provisions 
shall apply to him as if he had been sentenced to Borstal training three 
years before the expiration of that term.' This provision repeats a 
similar provision of 1908, with the addition of prior consultation with 
the court. It is used on occasion with advantage, but since the court 
must be deemed to have decided on imprisonment rather than Borstal 
in full knowledge of all the facts, it is normally invoked only on the 
basis of considerations which were not before the court at the time. 

Sub-section (2) provides as follows 'If a person detained in a 
Borstal institution is reported to the Secretary of State by the board 
of visitors to be incorrigible, or to be exercising a bad influence on the 
other inmates of the institution, the Secretary of State may commute 
the unexpired part of the term for which the said person is then liable 
to be detained in a Borstal institution to such term of imprisonment as 
the Secretary of State may determine, not exceeding the said unexpired 
part; and for the purpose of this Act the said person shall be treated 
as if he had been sentenced to imprisonment for that term.' This also 
repeats a provision of 1908, which the Departmental Committee con- 
sidered at some length. They found that in some cases 'it has worked 
fairly well', but that in others 'particularly with girls, the result has been 
an unhappy one. A bitter sense of injustice has been created in the 
inmate's mind by finding that he or she has to serve a long time in 
prison, when the offence for which he or she was originally committed 
was no worse than those for which other people in the same prison 
have been sentenced to a few weeks. A large reduction of the term of 
imprisonment, on the other hand, is impracticable, because it would 
place a premium on misconduct at the institutions. On account of these 
drawbacks the power is not now used, and the institutions deal with 


their ill-conducted members themselves.' They therefore recommended 
that this section should be repealed. Whatever the conditions in 1927, 
it would be difficult to dispense with this power today, and it has 
unfortunately been necessary to use it fairly often since the war: 
this question is further discussed in the following chapter. 

There remains only, among the statutory provisions which call for 
special mention, section 65. This was inserted to bite on all persons 
who escape from penal institutions, including Borstals, by providing 
that, unless the Secretary of State otherwise directs, time during which 
the escaper is unlawfully at large shall not count towards calculating 
the period for which he may be detained. In its application to Borstal, 
it does not apply to the person who does not respond to an order of 
recall, and cannot serve to extend the total period for which a person is 
liable to supervision. 


second and revised 

edition of a littte^reyboocalled The Principles of the Borstal System. 
Written by Alexander Paterson, tins Depressed the spirit which he had 
brought into Borstal during the ten previous years. Though much has 
changed in practice since then, the spirit still holds, and cannot be 
better explained than in the words of its first expression. Where un- 
identified quotations follow, therefore, they will be from this source. 

'At the back and at the bottom of this Borstal System of training 
there lies a fundamental principle. There have always been bad lads 
and the supply will never cease entirely. Once upon a time the method 
employed to deal with them consisted simply in the use of force. The 
lad was regarded as a lump of hard material, yielding only to the 
hammer, and was, with every good intention, beaten into shape. 
Sometimes there were internal injuries, and the spirit of the lad grew 
into a wrong shape, for sometimes the use of force produces a reaction 
more anti-social than the original condition. There ensued a second 
method which has flourished for fifty years in many schools and places 
where boys are trained, and might be termed the method of pressure. 
The lad is treated as though he were a lump of putty, and an effort is 
made to reduce him to a certain uniform shape by the gentle and 
continuous pressure of authority from without. In course of time, by 
perpetual repetition, he forms a habit of moving smartly, keeping 
himself clean, obeying orders and behaving with all decorum in the 
presence of his betters. These are in themselves very useful qualities, 
and it is hoped by those who use this system that, after some years of 
constant admonition and daily habit, all lads will retain the same 
pleasing shape when no longer subject to the pressure of those in 
authority. But the springs of action lie deeper than the laws of habit or 


the voice of the mentor are likely to reach, and character is determined 
ultimately not by the outside shape that has been fashioned, but by 
powers within that possibly have not been touched. It happens, there- 
fore, sadly often that the lad who has been merely subjected to the 
pressure of authority from outside will, when exposed to the different 
influences of free life, assume quite another shape. In other words, 
having been treated like a lump of putty, he will behave like a lump of 
putty and respond successively to the influences of each environment. 

The third and most difficult way of training a lad is to regard him as 
a living organism, having its secret of life and motive-power within, 
adapting itself in external conduct to the surroundings of the moment, 
but undergoing no permanent organic change merely as a result of 
outside pressure. So does Borstal look at him, as a lad of many mixtures, 
with a life and character of his own. The task is not to break or knead 
him into shape, but to stimulate some power within to regulate conduct 
aright, to insinuate a preference for the good and the clean, to make 
him want to use his life well, so that he himself and not others will save 
him from waste. It becomes necessary to study the individual lad, to 
discover his trend and his possibility, and to infect him with some idea 
of life which will germinate and produce a character, controlling desire, 
and shaping conduct to some more glorious end than mere satisfaction 
or acquisition. 

This is indeed the more difficult way, for it passes from the external 
things that can be seen, which are dealt with so much more easily, to 
the inner things unseen. Further it requires that each lad shall be 
dealt with as an individual and shall not be regarded as being the same 
as any other lad, requiring the same universal prescription.' 

A system which seeks to work in this way must depend first and 
foremost on the men who are to do the work. The Borstal System has 
no merit apart from the Borstal Staff. It is men and not buildings who 
will change the hearts and ways of misguised lads. Better an institution 
that consists of two log-huts in swamp or desert, with a staff devoted to 
their task, than a model block of buildings, equipped without thought of 
economy, whose staff is solely concerned with thoughts of pay and 
promotion. Thejoundations of Jthe_Borstal_ System are first the recruit- 
. ment of the jnyght _ inenJTHen their. .pjpper {r^T}^ 9 ^r^^al^^^^[ill 
Cooperation with one another in an atmosphere of freedonuind ^mutual 

Se~EfsFstep in a system aiming at this individual training of the 
young offender must be careful classification, to ensure that, in the words 
of the relevant Statutory Rule, 'inJjieUght onusju^i^jharacterjjnid- 
capacities he may Regent tojhe BorstaT&est ^itedjto^Ws^chLararter 
an3 requirem^ents^. 'It may be maintained that, as no two lads are the 
iJameTonlya policy of separate confinement can provide a perfect system 


of classification. This reductio ad absurdum shall not, however, deter 
us from proceeding with as sensible a scheme as we can devise. The 
first purpose of classification is positive, and consists in putting a lad 
in such a milieu as is likely to draw out what is best in him. Ideally, 
therefore, each Borstal lad should be drafted to a group of honest and 
intelligent lads, to whose level he would wish to aspire. This, by the 
nature of things, is impossible; there are too many rogues and not 
enough honest lads. For this reason the courts rightly hesitate before 
committing a first offender to a Borstal Institution. But it is possible 
within rather narrow limits, in assigning a lad to an Institution or a 
House or group, to put him in a place where there is someone or 
something that will stimulate the better side of him. The second purpose 
of classification, and it should always be kept in the second place, is the 
avoidance of contamination. One evil spirit can poison the tone of a 
whole House, and every Borstal Officer is keen to watch the effect of 
one lad upon the others. A clique may form whose influence on each 
member is undoubtedly evil. Such a clique will be scattered among 
different Houses or Institutions. Transfer and reclassification are ready 
to our hand to prevent corruption, and should be employed without 
hesitation where the reasonable prospect of a risk, .has been established 
by those who have observed. The community must be protected even 
at the cost of disturbance to the individual.' 
The purpose of a Borstal Institutiojij^l^ 
self-contained mgn^to torn themj^^ 

t(^i^Llnjnen for^eejom in a condition of j;apiivityJLI]ie conditions of 
Borstal training"must therefore be jis littl^lik^tho^ 6 9^ a P r * s ^&&ll 
QQmpatiHe with compulsory "detention: they must be 'based on pra-v 
ana^selPcontrol. These are qualities wW 

practismgTHeimi^'^ndr they_cannot be practised mj^Qjxditions where 
safeHSiIStMy^ Thus Borstals must pf c 

vlde^varyirig^conditions of ^ecujityjo^suit (USerenlMtyges of character, 
ajKOjOE^^ to a sfage^Twmplete 

trust and self-discipline. But this progisss must be e&rned^ Steps must 

the difficulty of ascent, so that the mini- 

mum of promotion may reward a maximum of effort. This can be 
done by emphasising the responsibilities rather than the privileges 
associated with each grade, and by a merciless reduction when these 
responsibilities are not fulfilled. Each grade carries a lad a little further 
towards freedom. He is practising his wings, developing his power of 
choice between right and wrong. This is a more difficult life than that of 
confinement and repression. He must show that he justifies the trust 
and is indeed growing more fit for freedom. If he fails, he must return 
to the lower order where it is easy to be good, and wait a little while 

1 Prisons and Borstals, p. 60. 


before taking a step forward again towards liberty. Further, we must 
scrutinise very closely the claim of the lad for promotion. Let it not 
come to him. Lay rather the onus on him to show that he has stretched 
himself to reach it.' 

The essential instrument of this individual study and personal 
training is the House a group which should ideally be of not more than 
about fifty, leading its separate and corporate life under the House- 
master or Housemistress and House Staff. Thus corporate pride is 
nurtured and a great natural force is brought into play. No lad is 
proud, or should be proud, of being a Borstal boy. The smaller the 
unit, however, the stouter the allegiance of the lad. He becomes proud 
of his House. He can be induced sometimes so to change his habits as 
to conform with its traditions. The Housemaster and his staff set a 
standard, the boys catch the spirit, and on it rolls to successive genera- 
tions. This division into smaller entities releases the two great weapons 
of moral training personal influence and the corporate spirit.' 

These principles are summed up in the Statutory Rules governing 
Borstal training as follows : 

'4. (1) The objects of training shall be to bring to bear every influence 
which may establish in the inmates the will to lead a good and 
useful life on release, and to fit them to do so by the fullest possible 
development of their character, capacities, and sense of personal 

'(2) Methods of training may vary as between one Borstal and 
another, according to the needs of the different types of inmate 
allocated to them. 

'6. In order to ensure so far as practicable the prevention of contamina- 
tion and the best use of training facilities, the Commissioners shall 
arrange that each Borstal receives inmates who have been selected 
as suitable for that Borstal in age, character, and capacities. 

'7. (1) To enable members of the staff to exercise their personal 
influence on the character and development of individual inmates, 
and to understand the needs of each for the purposes of training, 
inmates of Borstals may be grouped in houses. 

'(2) A Housemaster shall be responsible to the Governor, with the 
assistance of a Matron and such other staff as may be appointed, 
for the administration of each house, and for the personal training 
of the inmates in his house. 

'8. (1) To encourage the progressive development of responsibility, and 
to assist in the assessment of fitness for release, inmates may be 
placed in such grades as the Commissioners approve. 

'(2) Promotion from grade to grade or reduction in grade otherwise 
than as an award for an offence against discipline shall be decided 


by the Governor with the advice of an institution board composed 
of such officers as the Commissioners determine. 

'(3) Inmates who have been promoted to an appropriate grade may 
be given positions of special responsibility and leadership. 

4 9. (1) There shall be established at every Borstal such system of 
privileges as the Commissioners approve in the interests of good 
conduct and training.' 

So much for the broad principles of training in the institution : but 
'Borstal training falls into two parts. In the first part a lad is trained in 
custody at an Institution: in the second part he enjoys the comparative 
freedom of licence or supervision, and is under the training of the 
Borstal Association. 1 The functions of the two bodies dovetail closely 
into one another. . . . The Borstal Association represents one-half of 
the Borstal System. Its method of after-care starts to discover the lad 
and plan his future from the date of his conviction, following him 
through the Institution, finding him employment and guiding him for 
some years after his discharge.' 

The unity of these two parts of Borstal training, as we have seen, is 
emphasised by the form of the sentence, and the principles of 1932 are 
implemented by the following Statutory Rule: 

64. (1) From the beginning of the training of every inmate considera- 
tion shall be given, in consultation with the Central After-care 
Association, to the future of the inmate and the assistance to be 
given to him on and after release, and for this purpose the Associa- 
tion or their representatives shall be given all necessary information 
and assistance. 

'(2) Facilities shall be afforded to the representatives of the Associa- 
tion to visit every inmate before release.' 


A Borstal Reception Centre has four functions: to decide, as the 
Rules require, after careful examination of each inmate, which is 'the 
Borstal best suited to his character and requirements' : to straighten out 
the inmate's affairs, to relieve his mind of any difficulties, to look into 
his mental and physical state and so far as possible relieve any condi- 
tions that might handicap his training, and generally to prepare him to 
receive his training in a fit and ready state of body and mind: to give 
him instruction in what he is to expect in Borstal, with certain element- 
ary training: and to furnish the Governor of the Borstal to which he 
will go with all the information necessary to help in charting his course. 

There are two of these centres, one in a separate wing of Wormwood 

1 Now the Borstal Division of the Central After-care Association. 


Scrubs prison, the other at Latchmere House, near Kingston-on- 
Thames, formerly a war-time military detention establishment. It is 
wrong that the former should be part of a prison, but security is 
necessary for young men at this stage, and no other suitable accommo- 
dation has become available. For girls there is at present no separate 
centre, nor is one strictly necessary since the only decision to be made 
is whether she is or is not suitable for the one open Borstal, at East 
Sutton: they all go first, therefore, to the closed Borstal at Ayles- 
bury, where they are kept under observation for some weeks before 

The team working under the Governor of a reception centre will 
include the housemasters, a psychologist, an educational guidance 
officer, a vocational guidance officer, and two or three women social 
workers who make out the case histories and pay home visits where 
necessary. At Wormwood Scrubs the services of the Chaplain and 
medical staff of the main prison are available; at Latchmere House the 
Chaplain and doctor are part-time, and there is a visiting psychiatrist 
to see such boys as the psychologist refers to him. The period of 
observation and testing lasts about 6 weeks, and when members of the 
above team, and the Borstal officers in charge of the boys, have com- 
pleted their reports the institution Board meets to consider the case. 

The possibilities of allocation are wide, as there are thirteen institu- 
tions to choose from, each with slightly different characteristics, and 
each taking, on the whole, a slightly different type of boy. Broadly 
speaking, there is one group of Borstals for the more mature, another 
for the less mature. Within these two groups, some take those with 
better records and some those with worse. The Board will also take 
account of a boy's vocational aptitudes and wishes, and so far as 
possible allot him within his group to the Borstal best able to help 
him in that way. Often too, with particular cases, they will have in mind 
that a particular Governor or member of a Borstal staff is likely to bring 
the best out of a boy. 

Among the thirteen Borstals are four which are generally described as 
'closed', since they are situated in buildings with security walls, locks 
and bars. To these are sejit the more unstable, who present the greatest 
escape risk, and the older and tougher types. One of these, in the former 
prison at Hull, takes those who are thought unlikely to co-operate in 
or profit from the normal training system, particularly those with 
second sentences of Borstal training. 


Only one Borstal was built for its purpose Lowdham Grange. All 
the others are adapted premises of various types. Of the three originals 
of the Ruggles-Brise era, Borstal and Portland were early convict 


prisons, but the buildings have been radically reconstructed and serve 
their purpose pretty well. Each provides five self-contained houses 
with their separate dining and common rooms : at Portland all houses 
are cellular, at Borstal one is a dormitory house, the others cellular. 
Feltham, on the other hand, which was one of the first industrial 
schools, has four dormitory houses and one cellular house added later. 
All these have extensive farms or market-gardens outside the walls, 
the gates stand open all day, and there is little feeling of confinement. 
The security they provide is that of having their inmates safe once the 
gates are shut in the evening. All are on the large side, housing over 
300 boys each. 

The contemporary girls' Borstal of these three is also, unhappily, 
within a prison wall. The mixed establishment at Aylesbury comprises 
a small cellular prison, part of which is used for the initial stages of 
the Borstal girls, and the pleasanter premises of what was once a 
State Inebriate Reformatory, which now provide two houses with 
separate bedrooms and suitable dining and common rooms. Here too 
therp is a small farm with a dairy outside the wall, and room for play- 
grounds, gardens and a swimming pool inside. The Borstal now houses 
about 150 girls, though at its peak during the war it had some 250. 
Even so, it is too big and too prison-like for training young girls: a 
first priority is the building of two small Borstals to take its place. This 
would be so even if it had not the added disadvantage of neighbouring 
the long-term Star women in the other part of the prison block. 

The next to be added, Lowdham Grange, was Alec Paterson's 
'Borstalium quartum', the origin of which has already been described. 
It is designed as an entirely open institution with four dormitory houses 
for sixty boys connected by a covered way : in appearance it might be 
a pleasant hospital. It stands in a large estate which is farmed by the 
institution, and has been built indeed is still being built with the 
institution's own labour. Two more open institutions followed before 
the war: Hollesley Bay Colony was taken over from the London 
County Council, who had developed it as a farm training colony for 
unemployed. Its four hutted houses, with dormitory sleeping accom- 
modation, are widely dispersed about the broad acres of farmland and 
orchard, with an administrative centre of more substantial structure. 
This is one of the largest Borstals, primarily agricultural in its interests, 
breeding prize sheep and Suffolk Punch horses, which are used for 
work on most of the prison and Borstal farms. North Sea Camp was 
another pioneering experiment in the heroic spirit of those days. At 
least since the days of the Empire men have embanked the shores of 
the Wash to reclaim rich Lincolnshire land from the sea-marsh, and 
in 1938 a party of Borstal boys was set down in a hut under the Roman 
Bank to continue the work. Today a thriving little colony of about 100 
boys still toil in the deep mud and bitter winds to add to the protecting 


banks, and farm some 200 acres of the richest land in the country 
which before the war were under salt water. 

The last pre-war Borstal was at Usk, and is again different. Its base 
is the old county gaol, where the boys are received to begin with, and 
from which they go out to work on various jobs around the premises 
and neighbourhood. The main body however are in a farm-camp some 
miles away. There is a good deal of to-and-fro on bicycles, boys from 
the camp cycling out to local farms to work or back into town for 
classes, and boys from the town cycling out to work at the camp. 
There is no definite purpose in this arrangement it just happened so. 

The first post-war Borstal, at Gringley-on-the-Hill in Nottingham- 
shire, was an experiment on still another basis. The Ministry of Agri- 
culture had, for war purposes, taken over a large tract of low-lying 
country, poorly and partially farmed, and turned it into a fine estate, 
largely worked by the Women's Land Army. When the W.L.A. was 
disbanded, Borstal came forward to take over their hostel and their 
work. The sixty or so men here also provide large work-parties for the 
local authorities responsible for keeping up the river banks and other 
such work. A few years ago, when a bank broke and a disastrous flood 
submerged the estate, they worked for days and nights on end rescuing 
lives and property, and an inscribed radio set in the camp marks the 
great gratitude of the neighbourhood. The five Borstals that followed 
in the post-war years present less striking features, excepting perhaps 
at Hewell Grange. Here, in the former seat of a noble family, reproduc- 
tions of the lovely mediaeval tapestries of the 'Dame aux Licornes' 
strangely encompass the Borstal boys at their meals, and from its 
famous glass-houses First Prize blooms still regularly emerge at the 
National Chrysanthemum Society's exhibition in Vincent Square. 

Gaynes Hall and Huntercombe have each the same pattern of a large 
country house with a war-time camp in the grounds, though in the 
latter the 'camp' is cellular in construction, having served as a war- 
time Army detention establishment: it is however 'open' in all essentials, 
as the Army removed all the locks and the Borstal has removed the 
barbed wire. Hatfield and Pollington, the two latest, are training camps 
borrowed from the Army, unadorned but lending themselves well to 
Borstal purposes. All these post-war camps will take about 150 boys 
in three houses. 

Since the war it has also been possible to provide for the girls as well 
as for the boys an open Borstal: two were intended, but before the 
second was acquired it became clear that one small unit of 50-60 
would suffice for all the girls found suitable for these conditions. East 
Sutton Park is placed in an Elizabethan house of considerable beauty 
and character, in a natural setting not less beautiful. 

Such are the ordinary 'training institutions'. There are also several 
institutions serving special purpose