Motion made, and Question proposed:
That a sum, not exceeding £473,969, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for the Expenses of the Prisons in England and Wales."—[Note.—£,000,600 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
In addressing myself to the prisons section of the work of the Home Office, it may be interesting if I point out at the outset that, by a coincidence, this subject falls to be discussed here on the birthday anniversary of one of the mast notable prison reformers this country has ever known, Mrs. Elizabeth Fry. I propose to make one or two remarks this evening which I hope may not be regarded as carping criticisms, but rather as helpful suggestions; and before proceeding to the discussion of the Vote itself, it would be well to analyse the problem which confronts the Home Office and those who are responsible for the prison population of this country. I do not desire to blame anybody for the omission, but I would say in passing that it is a little unfortunate that we have not to hand the report of the Prison Commissioners for last year. No doubt, upon that report we could have based effective criticism; but sufficient data are available already to warrant hon. Members on this side of the Committee in asking that this Vote should be put down for discussion. As I have said already, in order to deal with the subject of our prison population, the way it is treated and the way it is instructed and educated, we must first understand the nature of the problem. It is not generally known that the daily prison population in this 1579 country at present averages a little over 10,000; and those 10,000 men and women are all under the care of the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman has therefore a great duty to perform. I shall in a few moments say what I think of the manner in which he performs that task. The Home Secretary speaks occasionally. I do not know if it would be right to say that he speaks too often; but, at any rate, he has delivered himself on one or two occasions indicating his policy towards this prison population and his views on their treatment.
I imagine that the prison population of Great Britain, taken in relation to the civilian population, is probably the lowest in the world; and that prison population has been steadily declining for the last decade or two. To emphasise that fact, I may point out, that in 1878 it stood at 20,000, and that at a time when the civilian population was much lower than it is to-day. With an average figure to-day of about 10,000 I think it can be claimed that we are making considerable progress in reducing the numbers of the men and women who are incarcerated in this country. I should say, however, that it must not be assumed that we are behaving better merely because the prison population is declining. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will understand me when I say that the probation system accounts in part for the decline in our prison population. A decade or two ago, men and women could be sent to prison for delivering political speeches; but we are now immune.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I do not want to make it that. The probation system has undoubtedly tended to reduce the numbers of prisoners. There was a slight increase from the year 1918 onwards, but it has been declining recently. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will be able to give us the figures up to date, because it would be interesting to know whether the number is still falling. What, therefore, is the nature and what are the dimensions of the problem? To get a proper perspective of it we must remember that the number of persons receiving sentences 1580 of not more than two weeks fell from 109,000 in 1908 to 14,000 odd in 1926. I do not want to give the Committee too many figures because I am anxious to dwell on something more interesting than statistics. I wish, therefore, to ask the Under-Secretary whether the Home Office and the Prison Commissioners are satisfied with the present prison buildings. I understood that we had of late developed new ideas as to the treatment, the education and the work of the people inside our prisons, as a result of which the present buildings were found to be totally incapable of meeting the present requirements. The Under-Secretary will probably be able to tell the Committee whether there has been any improvement at all in this respect; and in view of the fact that we are continually closing old prisons, whether the saving thus effected could not be utilised in the provision of more up-to-date institutions.
There has been a great change in the outlook, not only of Governments, but of the community as a whole towards these men and women. Coercion, intimidation, the infliction of pain on the prisoner—all have gone, I hope, for good. The idea prevailing now is that the one thing which you do to the offender against the law is to deprive him of his liberty. One gentleman who is very interested in this problem has very aptly stated that although a man has committed an offence against the law, he is still a human being, and his human instincts are still there. It would not be right for the State merely to take charge of the offender after his conviction and not make any appeal to his better instincts, by means of education and exhortation, with a view to turning him out a better man than he was when he went into prison. That, I think, is the trend of modern thought. I would call the attention of the Under-Secretary to something which has transpired recently in connection with the educational work under our prison system. I put a question a little while ago to the Home Secretary, and I did not like the right hon. Gentleman's reply. I do not like all his replies, by the way. The right hon. Gentleman rather complained because I raised a point as to something, almost in the nature of a riot, which transpired at Parkhurst. I myself went to see Parkhurst in 1924. I went there as a visitor [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] 1581 —though some of my hon. Friends may suggest I should have been there on other grounds. I went there on this occasion as a visitor, and I was astonished to find that there was only one person of my own nationality in the whole place. I may say that I was not entirely satisfied that he ought to have been there at all.
I understood that the Prison Commissioners had actually arranged with the education authority in the Isle of Wight—I am open to correction—a curriculum of teaching and instruction to the prisoners in Parkhurst convict prison; but there was a change of Governor there, I think, towards the end of 1926, and with that change these facilities for education were withdrawn, with the result that there was a strong protest by the prisoners. What I want to know is what is the reason, when the trend of modern thought is in favour of trying to reclaim these people, to improve their behaviour, that induced the Prison Commissioners to take away educational facilities for the convicts in Parkhurst prison? I should also like to ask if those facilities have been reinstated since. It is very necessary in this Debate—and if the Committee should forget everything else I hope I may be able to impress it with this one word—that we should find some means of co-ordinating the work of education inside the prisons, and that educational work should not be exclusively carried on by the Home Office and the Prison Commissioners. I would very much like to see the Board of Education and the local education authorities brought into this sphere. After all, the task of the Home Office is to deal with the offender as a prisoner, but the task of education is to train men and women, and, if possible, to alter their nature; and it seems to me that if the Home Office would consult with the Board of Education and the local education authorities where these institutions are situated, a great deal of good might be done. I have touched upon what occurred at Parkhurst prison; and that, so far as I know, is the only serious outbreak of indiscipline that has taken place for the last few years in connection with our prison system.
The next point that I want to raise is in connection with an organisation to which the British Prison Commissioners are 1582 attached; and, if I may say so, I have always been enamoured of the very good work that has been done by the International Penitentiary Commission. I want to know whether that Commission cannot go very much further than merely discussing problems of prison reform. For instance, is it not possible for this body to collect information, giving us data as to the prison population of other countries, so that we can compare what is transpiring in our own country with what is happening elsewhere? International information on public health, education, warfare, and so on, can all be obtained; but, in this connection, I have never been able to put my hand anywhere on information that would enable me to compare our own prison system with what is happening elsewhere. I would like to know, for instance, what is happening in the prisons of Italy, of Bulgaria—
§ Mr. DAVIES
They have apparently got something worse than that—not that I support capital punishment, by any means. It would be very interesting indeed if we had such data; and information would be very helpful to us, too, on the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend as to what is happening in other countries with regard to capital punishment. I would like to know, for example, whether the abolition of capital punishment in one country has tended to increase crime; and whether on the other hand, the continuation of that system has done anything at all to diminish crime in any country. I think the point is worth pursuing, that the International Penitentiary Commission should continue its work, not only of discussing these vital problems, but that it should secure the information that I have mentioned, to be tabled before the Parliaments of the world. I do not think that would be impossible; but if it cannot be done through the International Penitentiary Commission, I think the Home Office ought to see whether it could not be supplied by the League of Nations.
I turn now to another aspect of our prison system. As I said, the population figures have been reduced to such dimensions that we ought to be 1583 able to treat it better than it has been in the past. When you have a mass of convicts in your prisons it is more difficult, I suppose, to deal with them than when the number is smaller; but now, when we have about 10,000 as a daily average, I think the Home Office and the Prison Commission ought to do something more than they are doing by way of individual training. It is not sufficient, in my view, merely to bring people into these institutions and to regard them as subjects for punishment. I hope that punishment will be wiped clean out from our ideas in relation to this problem.
I pass now to what appears to me to be the most important point that I can possibly raise this evening. I went down to Wandsworth some years ago, and saw the very good work that was being done there by psychologists, pathologists, and so forth, in studying each individual case—not the old criminal, who probably is regarded by most people as beyond hope, though nobody really is beyond hope, unless it be some of the medical profession and our politicians! There is really a great amount of good work being done at the moment at Wandsworth in investigating the mental and physical condition of the young people in particular who are sent to gaol.
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, I sat on a Departmental Committee—and I might say in passing that it was the most interesting organisation that I ever touched—inquiring into the treatment of young offenders, and I was privileged to visit Belgium to inquire into the system they have adopted there. I am dealing now with young people sent to prison under 21 years of age. There is an idea abroad that after 21, if a person has offended against the law several times, there is not as much hope of reformation as in the case of a younger person, but I will leave that point to those who understand the question better than I do. I think we ought to try in this country something of the kind that I saw in Belgium. This is what transpires with a young person here. He commits an offence against the law for a first time, or it may be against a by-law, and he is put on probation once, twice, and 1584 sometimes up to six times. That is all to the good; but when he commits another offence, and probation is deemed to have failed, he is sent to prison. The magistrates here have the right to determine the destination of a convicted person; but in Belgium that is not so. All that the magistrates have to do there is to send every convicted young person to a national observation centre.
I must pay a tribute to the Belgian people and their method of treating their young folk. In fact, I am satisfied myself, that there is nothing more hopeful in the whole of Europe than what is now transpiring in a, place called Moll, it Belgium. Let us see what they do. When a young person reaches that institution, he is put under observation; he is not treated as a criminal, he has a great amount of freedom—very much more than he would have in Borstal or a reformatory school here—and he is observed for three or four months, or it may be six months. The medical observers there, the psychologists and the pathologists, when they have determined what should be done with the young person, decide his destination. What happens here? I do not think I am wrong in saying that there Eire some young people in prisons in this country who are not able mentally to understand why they are there at all. There are not many such, I agree, and I am not blaming the authorities for it. What I am saying is, that the system that we have in this country of dealing with young offenders against the law does not provide for a sufficient discrimination between the mentally deficient, the lunatic, and the person who is sane. I know it is difficult sometimes to secure the certification of a lunatic; but the borderline cases are immensely more difficult to deal with under our present system of imprisonment.
I say, therefore, that one of the greatest steps that could be taken by the Home Office is to carry out a recommendation which was made by the Departmental Committee to which I have referred, and establish observation centres, so that in future no young person, at any rate, will be sent to prison unless he is what is called in medical language compos mentis. A person sent to prison ought to be mentally capable of understanding the offence that he has committed; and 1585 anybody who is not capable of understanding his offence should not be in prison at all, at any time. I want to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether the recommendation to which I have referred cannot be put into operation without legislation. I know that it is not possible for us to-night to deal with legislation; but there are remand homes now in existence, to which people are sent on bail or remand. I do not know whether these remand homes can be turned into observation centres; but the recommendation made was, that there should be three of these institutions established, so that the analysts, the men who understand mental science in particular, should be on the spot to observe these young people and determine their destination in the way that I have suggested.
I turn to another subject, and it is in relation to Borstal. There is no doubt in my mind, from the little information that I have, that the Borstal system is really a great success in dealing with cases that it is designed to treat; and I am not without hope that in the near future we shall not see any young persons under 21 years of age in prison at all; that they shall all be sent either to an observation centre or to a Borstal institution, if they have to be sent to confinement at all. The one thing that has annoyed me in connection with the Home Secretary's work was his appeal to charity to establish a Borstal institution. Why on earth the right hon. Gentleman made an appeal to charity for that work passes my comprehension. Hon. Members will be familiar, I suppose, with the fact that we have been closing reformatory and industrial schools in this country by the dozen during the last five or six years. Surely, the saving that has been secured by closing those schools ought to be used to establish new Borstal institutions. I do not want to use harsh words when the Home Secretary is not here. I prefer attacking the right hon. Gentleman when he is present—
§ Mr. DAVIES
We shall get to know, probably, before we conclude this Debate. I would like to know from the hon. and gallant Gentleman what response has been made to that appeal. I think he wanted £100,000. It would be 1586 just as ridiculous for the President of the Board of Education to make an appeal to charity to establish an elementary school. In fact, I go as far as to say that the establishment of a Borstal institution, in the present circumstances, is as necessary as establishing any educational institution in the land. The right hon. Gentleman has descended, in my view, to a very mean stage indeed by making an appeal to charity for the establishment of a Borstal institution.
Notices have appeared in the Press occasionally that our prisons become too easy for the prisoners. Men in the dock are sometimes heard to say: "I prefer prison to the workhouse." I do not want the Prison Commissioners or the Home Office to be alarmed by those reports. If a man is imprisoned for 10 or 15 years, I doubt if at the end of such a term he has the capacity to understand liberty at all. I read a very good story the other day, if I might inflict it on the Committee, concerned with a prison in China. The walls were composed of woodwork and barbed wire. A cyclone blew the prison walls away, and the 500 men, imprisoned only by wood and barbed wire, were so accustomed to being prisoners that they rebuilt the prison walls forthwith, taking care that they were all inside. Our people, of course, would not do that; but there are a few individuals, obviously, who will say they prefer prison to liberty. I doubt, however, whether they are really telling the truth.
I have been dealing in the last few moments with lads and young women, and it is on that point I wish to dwell a moment or two longer. It is rather an appalling fact that in a country like ours, where we are making progress in some directions, where the death rate is going down, and there is an extension of the average life of the individual, where education is improving, except when the present Government are in power—we were improving before 1925, at any rate—where the hours of labour were being reduced, and we are told by the Prime Minister that the standard of the life of the people was going up, too, and where houses are being built to accommodate the overcrowded; yet, in relation to the treatment of young persons committed for offences we have not made 1587 any progress in comparison with that made in other spheres of life. According to the last figures in my possession, during one year 2,066 lads and 199 young women were sent to prison in this country; and the receptions in the Borstal institutions for that year were 535 lads and 105 young women. What I want to say is, that the 2,066 lads and the 199 young women should not have seen the inside of prison walls at all. They ought to be sent to a Borstal or kindred institution for proper treatment, and it is the duty of the Home Office to proceed as soon as possible with the building of proper institutions to accommodate such persons. I do not think it requires legislation to do that. All it requires is money. While the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not on duty, the Home Secretary will perhaps get a little money from the petrol or the lighter tax for his purpose. In any case, we must know how much money has come in i[...] response to the appeal that he has made.
It is not commonly known that there are in some parts of this country police cells for which the Home Office is responsible. What happens is this: A man is convicted of an offence, and, instead of being sent to prison for a week or fortnight, as the case may be, he is sent to the police cell in the locality. There are police cells in one town but not in another, and I have a fear that there are persons convicted and sent to the police cell because such are available, and that they would not be convicted at all and sent anywhere for imprisonment if there were no such cells available. The administration of justice in that connection depends on the accommodation and not on the offence of the person brought before the Magistrates. I think we ought to know what the position is at the moment. Does the Home Office encourage these police cells, and, if it does encourage them, does it inspect them to see that the accommodation is adequate and proper both for men and women? I have my doubts sometimes as to whether a roan or woman should be sent to the police cells at all. Is there any room for recreation? That there is no room for instruction I am sure.
1588 To come to another matter, I should like to know from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary how many cases of sleepy sickness there are at tee moment in our gaols. I do not know if there are any, but there may still be some. One of the biggest tragedies in our country is that there is no appropriate institution to which to send cases of that kind; and I repeat it is not proper for the State to send any person to an institution for penal purposes unless that person is in the mental position to know what he is doing when he commits the offence. It is assumed sometimes that it meets the claims of justice merely if you satisfy the conscience of the magisterial bench. Sometimes the sentence is reckoned on a scale such as 5s. or a week, 10s. or a fortnight, £1 or a month. I hope that that idea will disappear, too. When a conviction is registered, not only should the bench be satisfied that the sentence is a just one, but the offender himself should be satisfied that he is getting justice from the State. After all, the offender knows in his heart of hearts whether the sentence is just or not.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I was only diverting for a moment. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite will have seen the Report of the Departmental Committee on young offenders. What I want to know is whether any or all of these recommendations cannot be put into operation without legislation. I have the impression that some of them are capable of being translated into action administratively without legislation at all. I am not entitled to deal with guardianship or fines; but, in relation to detention and imprisonment, there are several recommendations in that document which, I think, it would be well if, before passing this Vote, we knew whether they could be put into operation. I close with an appeal to the Home Office and the Prison Commissioners, who have done a great deal of good work by trying to reclaim these individuals—one of the most difficult tasks of all. I appeal to them that they will not relax their effort in connection with instruction and education, because, after all, I am of opinion that the worst criminal in the land can be 1589 appealed to in some way or other, so that when he comes out of prison he shall fit himself to be a decent citizen once again.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I am afraid I cannot claim the intimate knowledge of the subject displayed by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). Very diffidently, I would detain the Committee for a few moments while I put in a very earnest plea to which, I hope, the Home Office will listen, for a more humane, more intelligent, more reformative method of treating young offenders. Reformative methods, as my hon. Friend who has just spoken has pointed out, are useless unless we make some more earnest effort than at present to find out the reasons, physical or mental, which impelled the young offender to commit crime. It is now established among all who take an intelligent interest in the subject that examination must precede any rational treatment. The matter was dealt with by Miss S. Margery Fry, who is now the honorary secretary of the Howard League for Penal Reform. I would like to quote from a speech which she made a few years ago, which, I think, really sums up admirably the whole situation as it is at present. She said:I have been impressed with the need of some sort of investigation of our young delinquents by the short experience which I have yet had in sitting in the children's Courts in this country. One is amazed at the admirable machinery for finding out whether a child is or is not guilty of a particular act. There is something magnificent about the impartial hording of the balance of the law with a large policeman in one scale and a small scrap of a citizen in the other, seeing the balance held by the magistrate and occasionally seeing the small scrap of a citizen able to weigh down the large bulk of two or three policemen and prove his innocence. But when we come to the question of what is to be done with the scrap of a citizen, no such magnificent instrument is at hand. In fact, one finds only a very rough and ready instrument—a combination of a great deal of good will, with a great deal of want of organisation for discovering what had better be done with the child and a great deal of want of organisation for providing exactly the treatment suited to a particular class of children.As the hon. Gentleman has just reminded us, the Belgians are much in front of us in this respect. They came to the conclusion long ago that, if you send people to institutions without 1590 proper classification, you run the risk of doing them a great deal more harm than good, because the treatment which is given for one person may be the very worse kind of treatment for another. What is wanted in England, as the Committee on the Treatment of Youthful Offenders pointed out, is at least three such establishments as the one in Belgium. We want one in London, one in the Midlands, and one in the North. In days gone by, magistrates merely committed to prison, but everybody realises now that the magistrates are taking a much more intelligent, conscientious and humane view of their duties. They are anxious to do their best in a reformative way with the offenders who come before them, but they are gravely handicapped by there being no alternative but to commit to prison youthful defendants who are on remand. The Committee on Youthful Offenders came forward with a very strong recommendation to the effect that:We are satisfied that a much better system of examination is required for young offenders under 21 years.I hope that the Home Secretary, when he reads this Debate, will be impressed with the necessity of moving forward with the times. After all, the Home Secretary will incur a serious responsibility if he allows a very defective and unintelligent and inhumane system to continue. There is no doubt that the system of sending to prison young people on remand is unintelligent and inhumane. Ample allusion has been made in past reports of the Prison Commissioners to the need for reform. Perhaps the House will allow me to read one such allusion:It is deplorable that after all the efforts made lately to diminish the scandal of imprisoning untried, and thus presumably innocent people, there were 2,000 more such prisoners last year than the year before. We again think there is reason to regret that so many persons should receive the stigma of committal to prison. There is a more definite evil, too, namely, that the person remanded, despite all the care of the prison authorities, sometimes becomes known by sight to old offenders, who claim acquaintance"—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Is not this the responsibility of the magistrates rather than that of the Prison Commissioners?
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
It is really a question of the administra- 1591 tion of the law, but my point is that the magistrates are gravely handicapped by the inadequacy of the facilities provided for the proper treatment of youthful offenders. Confining myself to prison administration, I would draw the Committee's attention to the passage in the Report of the Prison Commissioners for last year. They draw attention to the practice of some justices of sending to prison people about whose mental condition they are uncertain, and then calling on the prison authorities for a report on their mental conditions, and asking the prison authorities to have regard to their mental condition, instead of having a proper mental examination first, and then treating the offender in a proper way. They draw attention to the case of a woman who was sentenced to prison for 14 days for sleeping out in order that a report on her mental condition should be obtained. Surely, it would have been more intelligent to get the report first, and then to have treated her afterwards. It was found that this woman was mentally defective. What was the good of Sending to prison a woman who was mentally defective? Another woman was sent to prison for 21 days' hard labour for stealing a pair of shoes, and the prison authorities were asked to keep an eye upon her mental condition. How could anybody keep an eye on her mental condition, when she was sent to 21 days' hard labour? It is absurd, and I put in an urgent plea that the Home Secretary will signalise his office by doing something which will do him great credit and remove what is a scandal and an injustice, and let us see during his term of office that there is in this country a system of treating young criminals in a more humane and intelligent way.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I want to ask a question about the old lag. Those who have watched Question Time during the last six or seven months will be disturbed by the conditions in convict prisons, especially the convict prison at Parkhurst. Can the Under-Secretary say anything about the present condition of that prison, and whether the Department is satisfied with recent developments? I find in the report of the Administrative Inspectors of Prisons that, whereas they visited some prisons twice, and went to 1592 Dartmoor once, the convict prison in which the largest number of convicts are confined, namely, Parkhurst, does not appear to have been visited at all, unless in this sentence we have an explanation. After setting out the list of prisons visited, which does not include Parkhurst, they say:In addition to inspections we have, as occasion arose, visited different establishments in connection with matters of administrative detail.Whether that sentence covers more than one visit to Parkhurst, in view of recent events, I do not know, but it seems strange that the name of Parkhurst is absent from the inspectors' report. It is important, because of the 10,860 persons sent to prison in 1926, 1,399 are in convict establishments, and are more or less old lags. When we refer to the report, we find on analysis that the largest number of these old lags are not in Dartmoor, the largest prison, but in Parkhurst, and the Committee should give some attention to the difference between the figures of Dartmoor and the figures of Parkhurst. In Parkhurst, there are 767 cells. The average daily number of prisoners or inmates in the year was 623. The largest number at any given time was 662, and the lowest was 592. In Dartmoor, while there are 1,226 cells, the daily average was only 481. The largest number was 509 and the lowest number 455. I quote these figures in order to call attention to another table of figures. In Appendix 4 of the report. Table A, we are given the number of offences in the prison for which restraint was necessary. At Dartmoor, the number of applications of the loose canvas restraint jacket to males was two, and of the body belt, 12. The number of times the special cells were used for the temporary confinement of refractory or violent persons was 10 at Dartmoor, and the number of individuals restrained was seven. We have the very startling figure at Parkhurst of 20 under restraint with the loose canvas jacket, 28 with the body belt, and 18 handcuffed. In Dartmoor there were none handcuffed. The number of times the special cells were used for the temporary confinement of refractory or violent persons in Parkhurst was no less than 81, as compared with 10 at Dartmoor, while the number of individuals restrained at Parkhurst was 23 as compared with seven at Dartmoor.
1593 I do not know what is the explanation. It seems a remarkable disproportion between the two prisons. I venture to ask whether there is anything in the suggestion, made in many quarters, that there has been a new policy of severity enforced at Parkhurst since the appointment of a new Governor about July, 1926. Have new sound-proof punishment cells been built, and is it a fact that educational lectures and classes have been cut down, until practically the only regular class is the band? I understand that the admission to lectures is allowed only to a very few convicts, and that at one lecture it is reported that only three men were present. It is also reported that the organiser of the class, the Director of Education in the Isle of Wight, has resigned. If this be so, it seems to call for some inquiry by the Home Office, and some attention by this Committee to the conduct of this prison under the new Governor. In an answer given on 27th February in this House to a question as to the spirit of unrest in the prison, and the disturbance which arose from that spirit of unrest, it was stated that during the first 18 months of the new regime 186 offences for violence occurred, as compared with the 134 in the preceding 18 months. The apparent bad effect on the convicts in the prison has evidently reacted on the officers, because in the "Prison Officers' Magazine" for May last there appeared this sentence:We have to admit that the Parkhurst staff are not as happy as they were under the former Governor.I draw the attention of the Committee to these facts, and I hope that in his reply the Under-Secretary will be able to give us some reassurance as to the explanation of these facts and figures.
§ Captain CAZALET
I rise to deal with the grant which the Government now give to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society, but before doing so I would like to endorse what the hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate and the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) said regarding juvenile offenders. Anyone who has visited Wormwood Scrubs Prison, where the majority are first offenders, must have come to the conclusion that most of the young offenders there are not real criminals in any sense but are suffering 1594 from some form of disease, either mental or physical, and if possible they ought to be treated in a different manner from the ordinary so-called criminal. I understand that the Secretary of State is well aware of this, but it is because he has been unable to extract money from the Exchequer that we have not some more homes, or at least one more home, built for this particular class of juvenile criminals. As he has been successful in various battles during the past two or three years, I hope he will in the end succeed in getting from the Chancellor of the Exchequer the sum needed. Coming to the question of discharged prisoners, I think everybody is aware of the extraordinary difficulties which beset the discharged prisoner, man or woman, in finding some occupation. Every difficulty that can be placed in a discharged prisoner's way is placed in his way. Those puritanical characteristics which have served our nation so well in the past militate against our receiving an ex-convict into our midst.
The Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society and its incorporated branches is doing to-day, as it has done in the past, wonderful work, and the Home Secretary has often paid tribute to it. But even that Society, with all the energy and enthusiasm which it applies to the task, does not, and cannot, really meet the needs of the situation. The report deal-with the year 1925–26 shows that 40,000 men were discharged from prison, of whom about 50 per cent. were assisted by the Central Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society, but only some 7,000, about 14 per cent. or 15 per cent. found jobs. In the same year 8,000 women were discharged, of whom 60 per cent. were assisted, and about 22 per cent. were found occupations. It will be generally admitted, I think, that there is no better way of checking crime and reducing the number of criminals than by getting prisoners jobs immediately they come out of prison. Not only money is required, but personal sympathy and encouragement. The personal sympathy and encouragement are given voluntarily by hundreds of thousands of individuals throughout the country, and what we want from the Government is a little more money. The Home Secretary has said that the Central Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society spends some 10s. per individual, but admits himself that 1595 to do the job properly an expenditure of about £5 is required. The Government grant appears to be 1s. for every convicted prisoner discharged, provided that this grant is met by a voluntary annual subscription of not less than half that grant, and occasionally they give an extra grant of some £750 to £1,000. Voluntary subscriptions last year raised more than £13,000, and the Government grant does not compare very favourably with what is done voluntarily.
From another page in the Report, I see that the value of the work done by the prisoners themselves was reckoned to amount to no less than £292,000 in 1926–27. Would it not be possible for a certain proportion of this money to be allocated specifically to the individual prisoners? I am not suggesting that it should be given to them when they come out of prison. The money should be given to some trustee who is guaranteed by the authorities and is known to the governor of the prison and who will use that accumulated reserve, however small it may be, to assist the prisoner in that very critical period after he comes out of prison and before he finds work. California, in 1923, passed legislation to this effect, and I believe the result has been amazingly satisfactory in finding ex-prisoners jobs with the greatest celerity. I wish that while in prison prisoners could be taught some occupation or industry which would be of use to them and to which they could turn immediately they come out of prison. I know from personal experience that there are men who own shops, both wholesalers and retailers, who are prepared to accept the products made by prisoners both while they are in prison and immediately they come out, but the point they always make is that prisoners are not taught to make articles of standard size, and to be of any use to a big retailer articles must be uniform and standard. I hope the Home Office will draw the attention of the various governors of prisons to this matter.
Another point to which I wish to refer is religious freedom in prison. There is not to-day real religious freedom in the prisons of this country. By an Act passed in 1898 or 1899, when men or women go into prison they have to state categorically to which religion they belong.
§ Captain CAZALET
That is perfectly correct. Once they have decided, they cannot possibly change, except by a tortuous and difficult process. I suggest that large numbers of prisoners do not really know to which religion they belong, and I feel that any clergyman belonging to an accepted religion should be allowed to visit any prisoner whom he wishes to visit, and that any prisoner should be allowed to have the services of and visits from any accredited member of any recognised religion. Once a prisoner has been classified under a particular religion, he may not be visited by a clergyman of any other denomination, he is not allowed to attend the services or the lectures organised by any other denomination, and he is not even allowed to read those books which have been approved of and specified by the clergy of a different sect. If John Wesley, Spurgeon, or General Booth himself were to apply to give an address in a prison in this country to-day, only the particular members of their donominations would be allowed to attend. I think the futility of the situation will be realised from this short report:The Salvation Army has been allowed for some time past to go into prisons and to give band concerts. These were gradually growing into concerts in which short addresses were given to the men and a few prayers offered at the conclusion. The men took pleasure in attending those meetings, and in many cases expressed their desire to become members of the Salvation Army. Objection was taken to this. Protests were sent to the Commissioners that these services were not being conducted according to prison rules, and an order has been issued that in future such services should not take place, and that if the Salvation Army went in they should only be allowed to give musical performances and a non-religious address.We remember that in the Army there were certain men who when they realised that if they belonged to certain religions they got off church parade—there were very few of them—were apt to change their religion, and I recognise that that difficulty presents itself in the case of prisoners also, but I cannot think that any clergyman or accredited minister of an accepted religion, who is approved by the governor, should be denied access to any prisoner whom he may desire to see. If religion can bring any comfort or help to 1597 a prisoner, surely we are not so narrow-minded as to object to its coming either from a Roman Catholic, a Protestant, or a Methodist, and I hope the Home Secretary will use his influence to secure latitude in this respect, as at the present moment we are bound by the actual letter of the law.
Mr. L'ESTRANGE MALONE
I wish to take the Committee hack to some of the remarks made by earlier speakers in connection with juvenile offenders and the administration of Borstal, because I feel there is a certain laxity in the regulations and a certain tightening up of the general conditions. As an example of what I have in mind, I want to draw attention to a sentence which seems to me to constitute a very grave indictment of our whole system of dealing with young offenders. Only on Friday last, 18th May, at the Central Criminal Court in London, Robert Leonard Hobbs, a boy only 16 years of age, from the training ship "Arethusa," was sentenced to four years' penal servitude for wounding another boy. I know it will be quite out of order for me to discuss that sentence, and I am not doing so. It was a very serious offence, something akin to murder, and, undoubtedly, from one point of view it was a sentence which was justified. What I am raising is the question of its being possible for a boy of that sort to come before the Court in that way and to get that sentence. When the question came up, the medical officer at Maidstone, where the boy had been sent on remand, reported that:The prisoner, who was a boy of 16, had the mentality of a boy of 13, and needed supervision for several years.The medical officer went on to say:If he were sent to penal servitude he would he able to go to a department of the prison where he would get special care and be able to continue his education be taught a trade, and be allowed visitors.I should have thought that it was known that at a prison like Maidstone a prisoner is unable to learn a trade which would be suitable for his future career. One can see from the Report of the Commissioners that the sort of work they are employed on includes basket-making, brush-making, mat-making, and son on. I feel that it is really monstrous that a boy of this tender age, who has committed an act of this sort—admittedly a very grave act 1598 which was described by the Judge as "an act akin to attempted murder"—should be sent to penal servitude for four years, from which he will emerge at the age of 20 branded as a convict with a stigma that will remain with him throughout the rest of his life. I do not think this boy should have been dealt with in that way. Have we not at Wandsworth Prison a special staff of trained psychologists or medical people who are supposed to examine all cases of this sort, and is it not easy for the prisoners reported as medical cases to be sent to Wandsworth Prison for supervision before they are sent to penal servitude? Why was this boy, whom the medical officer at Maidstone reported as a medical case, not sent to Wandsworth Prison for examination before being sent to the Central Criminal Court, and why was he not sent to one of our Borstal institutions? We have three Borstal institutions, one at Borstal, one at Feltham, and one at Portland, with various degrees of hardness of treatment, and surely one of those institutions might have been found suitable for a boy of this age after committing this offence. I would like to ask why that procedure was not adopted, and why it is possible for a boy of such tender age to be sent to penal servitude. Why was not this boy put through the customary medical examination at Wandsworth Prison, and when he came up for sentence why was he sent to a convict prison instead of being sent, as a first offender, to a Borstal institution? Treatment of this kind takes one back 50 years in the administration of justice in this country.
I would like to draw attention to the presentation of the Report of the Prison Commissioners. There are two Reports, one presented by the Prison Commissioners for Scotland—which I know it would not be in order for me to discuss on this Vote—and the Report of the Commissioners of Prisons in this country for the year 1927. The Scottish Report is twice the size of the English Report. That does not mean that the Scottish people are more addicted to crime than we are, but I find that the Scottish Report is very much more complete and compiled much better than the English Report. I suggest to the Home Secretary that on future occasions he should follow the example of the Scottish Report and draw up the British Report on similar 1599 lines. One particular feature I wish to emphasise in the Scottish Report is the Appendix at the end giving examples as to the causes of crime. In my opinion that is one of the most valuable sections in the whole Report. When one examines and reads the stories relating to people sent to prison, one must draw certain deductions. I should be very glad to have a reply to the two points which I have raised.
§ Mr. WITHERS
I want to emphasise what has been said by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who moved a reduction of this Vote, and more especially what he said about the Report of the Departmental Committee for the Treatment of Young Offenders. I think every page of that Report bristles with good suggestions. I would like to emphasise what has been suggested with regard to the necessity of having more observation centres. Prison administration in such cases may be compared with people who are ill, and you have to give them a dose of some sort of medicine. Such cases may be simple, but mental cases are more difficult, and it is obviously very much more difficult still in the case of young offenders. I most earnestly emphasise what has been said on these points. I have always found the Home Secretary most considerate in cases of this sort, and I hope he will be considerate on this occasion.
§ Mr. RITSON
I want to speak on this subject from experience I have had in dealing with prisoners. In dealing with juvenile offenders, I hope that the system which has been adopted by the late Chief Constable of Sunderland, who is now at Newcastle, will be carefully considered by the Home Secretary in order to see if it can be carried out in other districts. Under the system to which I allude, the young offenders are taken before the police, and they are not taken before the Children's Court at all. The parents are asked to go with their children, and they are given all the information as to the conduct of the children who are charged. I much prefer children to be brought before a kindly inspector instead of being taken before the magistrate. When you take a child into Court, there is always a policeman at one end of the Court and a magistrate at the other end, and I think it is better to allow the police to deal 1600 with them in the kindly way that I have suggested.
I want to say a word or two about the overcrowding of cells. I have had a long experience of that kind of thing, particularly on a Saturday night, when frequently the cells at a police station are crowded by persons of all types. I want to put in a plea for a man who is awaiting trial for some small offence and who is sometimes placed in a cell with a man who is singing drunk all night. I have seen as many as eight persons in one cell, three or four of them singing drunk, and the others asking to be put in a cell where they can get some sleep. I think that sort of thing ought to be remedied. It is not fair to crowd into a cell a boy of 16 or 17 with a man who is charged with having exposed himself in some filthy way or another. There ought to be a difference made in such cases and the cells ought to be more separated. Children ought to be protected from such associations as. I have mentioned.
Another question to which I wish to refer is the taking of these men to prison. I feel that the time has come when large boroughs ought not to take their prisoners to railway stations where crowds of men and women are looking on, and in the case I am referring to when they get to Durham they are transferred at the station to the Black Maria. I know these prisoners feel their position very keenly. I think, in transferring prisoners from the police stations to the prisons, there should be a complete conveyance right to the prison. I have myself seen eight men and a woman in the same compartment, and that is neither just to the woman nor fair to the men. Sometimes you have an old hardened prisoner sitting alongside a boy prisoner who is going to prison for the first time, and the hardened prisoner frequently frightens the boy by drawing miserable pictures of what they are going to suffer in prison. I know many of these reforms are refused on account of the expense that would be entailed. With regard to religious teaching, I think every sect should have the right to go into the prison to see the prisoners belonging to their creed and all the Free Churches ought to be allowed an opportunity of teaching Christianity to the prisoners.
There is another matter that I should like to mention to the hon. and gallant 1601 Gentleman. One of my constituents made a complaint to me that, when he had to go to prison, having been convicted at a place which I need not mention, he did not get his food, because of certain regulations to the effect that, after a prisoner has been convicted, no food may be given to him until he arrives at his destination at the other end. I mentioned this matter to Major-General Atcherley, who said that he would look into it, and that case has been dealt with, but it may apply to other places. A prisoner may have been tried at eleven in the morning somewhere in the county of Durham, and, although he had had breakfast at eight, he would get nothing more until he reached Durham at five. I have sufficient confidence in the humanity of the Home Secretary to feel sure that it is only necessary to draw his attention to these anomalies under which prisoners suffer. Another matter that I should like to mention is that of the dirty prisoner. I was once taking an American, who was only in for seven days for being drunk, and I had seven others linked together on the chain, among whom were some old men who were simply overrun with lice; and this man and I had to stand in the middle of the compartment to avoid the vermin running on to us. I do not think it is fair that a prisoner who has only committed some simple offence should be chained up with such people. I have put forward these few practical matters of which I know myself in connection with that work, because, small though they may be, they are important, and just as worthy of consideration as larger questions.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I am very glad that this Vote has been put down for discussion. We are concerned here on so many occasions with the rights and privileges of people who are free, and we are thinking almost entirely of their life and activities, so that it is well that just once we should be concerned with those unfortunate people who have missed their way. Some of those who have missed their way are old, hardened offenders, and there is perhaps very little hope of any complete change in their lives. Indeed, their case seems to me to be about the most pathetic of any with which we are 1602 brought into contact. Among those, however, who have missed their way, are large numbers in whose case there is at any rate some possibility of a different result, and it seems to me that society is doubly bound to leave no possible stone unturned to find the way again for people of that kind.
In the first place, society owes it to these individuals. It has no right to leave them in a condition in which they are constantly going into and out of prison, and in which the liberties of life are denied to them, at least intermittently. Over and above that, society owes to itself the duty to see to it that there are none, or at any rate that there are as few as possible, who are outside the pale. It owes that duty to itself because of the trouble and expense and labour involved in attempting to coerce those who disagree; but, far more than that, it owes it to itself because society is one unit, one whole, just as much as is the body one organism, and, precisely as it is not possible to have a healthy body when one member of it is diseased, so it is impossible for society to be really healthy, strong or free when any part of it, however small, is afflicted with the disease which results in imprisonment.
I am very glad to think that in recent years there has been a considerable improvement in the whole attitude of society towards prisons and prisoners. Only a very few years ago the condition of prisons was such as to be, not merely disgraceful and scandalous, but ridiculous from the point of view of any sound or sane object of their existence. No one knows that better than those who, like myself, have at one time in their lives enjoyed the privilege, if it may be so called, of the hospitality of His Majesty inside prison walls. Those of my friends who have shared that experience with me know quite well that the very last thing that a prison was in those days was the sort of place which would in the least degree tend to prevent men or women from going back again within its walls; in fact, the effect of prison life was almost exactly the reverse. I am very glad to think that, partly owing to the presence within our prisons of many men and women different from the ordinary prison popula- 1603 tion, changed ideas with regard to prisons have prevailed in recent years, and there has undoubtedly been a very considerable amelioration in the attitude of the community towards prison and the prison population.
The moment you begin to try to get to the bottom of what is wrong with prisoners, you are confronted with pathological and psychological problems, and you are forced to classify the prison population into at least three sub-divisions. First of all, you have the feeble-minded, who, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) rightly pointed out, are not conscious of what they are doing at all, and very often it never occurs to them to think, or they are quite incapable, of covering up the tracks of their misdemeanour. One could quote many illustrations to prove that point, and it is quite clear that, so far as the feeble-minded are concerned, our whole mechanism of prison punishment and incarceration is quite ridiculous and absurd. At the other end of the scale there is a very small number of super-intellectual people, whose peculiar idiosyncrasy is an extreme individualism. Members on the other side ought to have considerable sympathy with prisoners of that type, because they are simply carrying principles which some hon. Members opposite carry to considerable extremes to still further extremes, till they run counter to the laws of the land.
These people form a comparatively small part of the prison population, and they obviously merit an entirely different kind of treatment from the feeble-minded or from the third class, which forms, or has formed in times gone by, the bulk of the prison population. The bulk of the prison population are ordinary men and women, not very different from those who sit on the benches in all quarters of this House. There are very few Members here, probably, who have not at some time of their lives committed some little delinquency which, under less happy circumstances, might have brought them into considerable trouble, and who, by good luck or, to use a phrase the author of which I do not remember at the moment, by the grace of God, have kept outside prison walls. We have to remember that 1604 this great bulk of the prison population is made up of human beings with like passions, like emotions, and like struggles with the rest of mankind outside, and, therefore, in dealing with them, we need to go beyond the mere classification to which I have referred, into a real diagnosis of character, in order to understand the circumstances, the motives and the instincts which have brought these people into conflict with the law.
It is there, I think, that the kind of mental atmosphere which women possess, owing to the fact that they have the care of children, and that they have to deal with one of their family in a different way from another, and with a third in a different way again, enables them to see more clearly than the average man what ought to be done in these matters connected with prisons; and I think it is at least worth noting that some improvement in the whole attitude towards prisoners has, at any rate, synchronised with the coining into political power of women as well as men. It is because I think it is very important that the individual characters and capacities of the ordinary delinquent should be most carefully studied that I so heartily support the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton that the Home Secretary should take some administrative action in order in some way or other to introduce into this country the Moll system, which has proved such a great success in Belgium, because of its possibilities in the direction of observing the conduct of the youthful offender, so that, either before he or she is convicted, or even, as I understand, in some cases, after conviction, the punishment may be made suitable to the offender. We all remember the famous line in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Mikado" about making the punishment fit the crime, but I think the modern version of that doctrine is not that the punishment should invariably fit the crime, but that the treatment, whatever it may be, should be fitted to the particular mentality of the offender. That is a new doctrine, and a very much more desirable one than the old rigid rule that a certain crime merited a certain definite punishment.
Another point to which my hon. Friend alluded was capital punishment. I am aware, of course, that I should not be allowed to discuss the main question to-day, but I support his request that 1605 we might be furnished with statistics of what is being done in other countries, and how, if at all, the numbers of criminals are affected where capital punishment does not exist. It has been said, I believe with a good deal of truth, that when an execution takes place in a prison it has a very demoralising effect upon the prisoners, and I should like to ask what steps the Minister is taking to minimise this injurious effect. In particular, I understand executions take place at Wandsworth, a prison to which juvenile offenders are sent instead of going to Borstal. There are many objections to sending Borstal boys to Wandsworth, and in any case it seems to me the effect upon the young mind of having executions taking place in the prison is one that ought to be very carefully considered, and any possible step to guard against it should be taken.
I very heartily support what has been said with regard to the Home Secretary's failure to spend money to get a new Borstal. The Prison Commissioners in their report refer to the inadequacy of the present Borstal system, and they say the numbers at Feltham, Borstal, and Portland are so large that it is very difficult for the Governor and the housemasters to maintain the personal touch with each lad which is so essential to Borstal training. It is clear that the present Borstal accommodation is inadequate, and it would be very much better if money were found to add to it. I agree with what has been said in criticising very severely the attempt of the Home Secretary to throw upon the charitable public the task of supplying what is quite obviously a State institution, which ought to be provided for out of State funds. Private charity has not been forthcoming, and, in view of that failure, I hope another year will not elapse before the Home Secretary sees to it that his duty is really done in this matter and that an additional Borstal Institution is provided.
May I say a word with regard to corporal punishment. One of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Young Offenders is its proposal that in certain cases, if they are boys, they should be whipped. I believe that to be a thoroughly retrograde action, and I cannot support it. The flogging of 1606 adults is, in my opinion, a very grave and improper proceeding.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
These sentences are surely not in the responsibility of the prison authorities.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I did not make myself fully clear. I am not referring to sentences of flogging imposed by the Judges, but to the flogging of prisoners for offences against prison discipline. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will say the number of cases is insignificant, but the principle is a bad one, and it is worth noting that M. Mosse, the head of the French Prison Department, writing in a book published a year pr two ago, remarks that of course no corporal punishment is now used in the prisons in France. I believe that is also true of a good many of the States of the United States, and of one or two other countries. At any rate, it is true of France, and I do not think we ought to be behind our neighbours in this respect.
I cannot help thinking that not only we on this side of the Committee, but the Home Secretary also must feel rather disquieted at the fact that the number of debtors in prison, so far from diminishing, has in recent years rather tended to increase. We all realise that some coercive means must be taken to deal with those who either will not pay their rates or taxes when they can, or fail to maintain their wives and families when ordered by the Court, but the treatment of debtors in prisons seems to me to be very unsatisfactory. If there is anything a debtor in prison ought to be doing, it is working and earning a certain amount of money in order to discharge his debt. As a matter of fact, the tasks debtors perform seem to be very desultory and they do not really learn that habit of work which one would suppose to be one of the principal objects of dealing with them in prison.
May I raise one or two more points about individual questions. I hope the Under-Secretary will convey to the right hon. Gentleman the feeling that has been expressed in all parts of the Committee that what is going on at Parkhurst is very far from satisfactory. The time was when that prison was achieving good ends, but latterly there are signs that it it retrogressing, that there is a good deal of revolt and tumult, that the educa- 1607 tional classes have been cut down, and that the warders are dissatisfied, all of which seems to point to there being something wrong, and, while the Home Secretary may be able to gloss it over, I cannot help thinking that there are very grave symptoms which he cannot afford altogether to disregard. When he deals with Parkhurst and Dartmoor, the two great convict establishments, I think we want a better explanation than we have had up to the present as to why their educational systems are not progressing as they ought to do. The Minister has often explained his sympathy with the development of education in prison, but I do not think the actual concrete results in Parkhurst and Dartmoor show that his principles are being put into practice.
The Home Secretary, in reply to me, has admitted the defects of Pentonville, but time goes on, and nothing is done. We ought at a very early date either wholly to reconstruct the prison or to abandon it in favour of other places. Here, again, the right hon. Gentleman seems to have allowed the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his views about expense to stand in the way of a very much needed reform. I feel that, particularly in the earlier part of his administration, the Home Secretary showed very considerable promise and fulfilment in the improvements he effected in prisons, but latterly he has been diverging from the right path, that so far as the convict prisons are concerned he has been insisting upon a greater stringency, which has not worked out for the good of the convicts or their improvement, or for the benefit of the community, and that in his refusal to spend money either in dismantling Pentonville or establishing a new Borstal Institution he has been quite unnecessarily subservient to the exigencies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it is time this Committee stiffened his back to demand, in the interests of real reform, that money ought to be devoted to objects that are necessary in the interest of the community as a whole.
§ Mr. OLIVER
Personally, I was very delighted when this subject was put down for discussion. Listening to the Debate, it is evident that the points which have been raised are of great importance 1608 to the unfortunate persons who find themselves the unwilling guests of His Majesty. One is rather struck by the very thin line which divides the people of this country—the convicted and the unconvicted—because when we see many of our fellow citizens sent to prison for, in many instances, comparatively minor offences we are apt to think that at some period in our lives we may have done worse things. My purpose is to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary to one or two particular points which, in my opinion, are very grave points. I want to direct his attention to a concrete case of an unfortunate youth who at the age of 19 attempted to commit suicide by placing himself before a London Midland and Scottish Express. The boy was brought before the Sessions, and he received six months' imprisonment. Despite the fact that we had medical evidence there to show that this boy was subnormal—
§ Mr. OLIVER
I think I can show exactly how I want to connect the offence with prison administration. It is necessary to point out the offence before I can come to the prison. Medical evidence was given showing that the boy was subnormal, and, despite that fact, the magistrates had no alternative but to send him to prison. What kind of treatment did he receive in prison? I understand that he went into the Second Division. The boy was sent to prison for something which was purely mental and he required mental treatment and mental treatment alone, but, instead of receiving mental treatment, he was sent into the Second Division, and no treatment was given to him at all. Subsequently he came out, but he was not cured. No, there has been no attempt to give the treatment which he so badly requires, and subsequent events show that, instead of his incarceration being of any service whatever to him in a curative sense, he came out infinitely worse than he was when he went in. This is a point which, I think, is of vital importance to the Home Office. It is no use sending people to prison for offences which are purely attributable to mental derangement unless, when they are in prison, something can be done to help these unfor- 1609 tunate victims. Unfortunately, when a sentence is given it is not only upon the unfortunate prisoner that the stigma rests. The stigma is on the family also. Therefore, it is important that every care should be exercised to treat an offence which is attributable to mental derangement distinct from one which is purely attributable to ordinary criminal causes.
There is one other point to which I should like to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary. I understand from the Prison Governors that much damage is done by young offenders associating with old offenders in prison. I understand that very little can be done under the existing arrangements to eliminate this. I remember that in Nottingham a few months ago, two men, apparently from dire straits and unemployment, broke into a shop, and, after they had helped themselves fairly liberally to all the food that was available, or as much as they could consume, they took down the telephone receiver and rang up the police. They asked the police to fetch them, as they had broken into a shop and they were ready to accompany them to the police station. The men received, I think, three months' imprisonment. Obviously, those men were not criminals in the accepted sense of the term, but they had to receive the same treatment as some of the old lags who have been in prison dozens of times. I understand there is no line of demarcation in respect of these men who are sent to prison for offences which probably are attributable to economic causes, probably of a temporary nature. There is no distinction, as far as the treatment is concerned, between this type of offender and the older type of offender. These are the two points I desire to submit to the Under-Secretary, and I hope he will be able to say that in cases of this description some effort will be made to see that a marked improvement takes place in the months and the years that are before us.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
In all the speeches that have been delivered upon this subject until now, I think it will be agreed that a particular point of view has been advanced by each of the speakers in regard to the aim and the purpose of prisons generally. I can say with confidence that every Member on this side of the House, anyhow, takes the view that the aim of prisons should 1610 be not so much punitive or repressive as reclamatory and reformative. The objections that have been raised in this Debate to the present system come back ultimately to and range round that single point of view. Many Members have spoken from varying aspects of this matter to-night. We have had a student of social science, we have had an ex-policeman, and perhaps it is time that the gaolbirds had a word to say for themselves. I have spoken on all sorts of subjects in this House in my time, but perhaps I have never spoken with such evidence of inside information as I have on this matter.
§ Mr. JONES
It does not matter if it is not up-to-date, but we shall see how far it is in accordance with present conditions when the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite replies. I have seen our prison system for a fairly considerable time and have subjected it to personal examination. I would like to know, indeed I am extremely intrigued to find out, as to how far the present system has, in fact, undergone transformation in the course of the last few years. Perhaps I may be able to indicate from practical experience some of the objections that we have to the prison system as we now find it. Is there in contemplation in the minds of the Prison Commissioners a policy for refashioning the prison buildings? In many of the old prisons, a prisoner is no sooner inside the gates than he is immediately reminded that to those in charge of the establishment he is no longer a separate individual, but merely a number. He is given a number. He may be A.2 or A.20 or C.2 or C.30. The only difference between him and his neighbour is that his number is different. That gives an indication of the whole mentality of the prison system; a mentality which is completely wrong. You cannot treat dozens of men or women as though they were all alike, having no differences of personality, no differences of impulse, and could be treated according to one accepted pattern.
The first comment which I wish to make on the prisons as I saw them, with the exception, perhaps, of buildings like Wormwood Scrubs, is that the arrangement is built up on a sort of spy system. 1611 An officer stands at the centre of an hexagonal space in the prison, and he is eternally looking down, watching everyone in the place. The building is designed so that everyone is under observation. You have the chief warden spying upon the lower officers and the lower officers spying upon other lower officers and those lower officers spying upon the prisoners, and, vice versa, the prisoners spying upon the officers, right away up to the top. It is a sort of exaggerated spy system, which creates a desire on the part of a person with any sort of spirit to defeat the system which he finds in operation in the place. Perhaps I might indicate something in my own experience which proves the point. I do not wish to mention any particular prison and I do not wish to say anything against the personnel, because they treated me with the utmost kindness. Let us say that in a certain gaol there is a garden party of prisoners arranged. Before they go out they are drawn up in a row, and every man stretches out his arms and is searched from head to foot, as if he were the most terrible thief imaginable. He goes into the garden and does his day's work, and when he comes back he is searched again. There is not the slightest doubt that that routine being gone through day after day tends to make any prisoner of spirit determined that he will beat it if he can. I did beat, it many times.
The question of clothing is very important. It is rather difficult to obtain a complete set of Regulations which govern the gaols. I do not know why the authorities should be so secretive. It would be much better if we could get easy access to the Regulations that govern the gaols. Under the old Regulations, the clothing which an individual wore and the bedclothes had to be washed so many times; say, once a year or twice a year or once every three months, as the case might be. I happen to know that when a man goes into prison he does not know who was the person who wore the suit which is handed to him. It is most unjust when an individual goes into prison that he has no guarantee that the clothing handed to him has been thoroughly disinfected, as it ought to be. Who knows from what sort of disease the prisoner who wore the suit previously may have suffered? Of 1612 whatever offence a man may have been guilty he is entitled to be guaranteed against that kind of infection. It is time that we treated prisoners as though they were really human beings. I remember well what was done in regard to debtors. One person old enough to be my grandfather had to get ready to see one of the officers of the gaol. He had to stand with his face to the wall, as though he were a naughty boy, and when he wanted to enter the governor's room he had to put his cap on the floor near the doorstep. That kind of thing is altogether too ridiculous so far as the treatment of grown-up persons is concerned. It breeds a sense of s resentment, and it ought not to be tolerated in these enlightened days.
Another aspect of prison discipline is the question of food. I do not care to trouble the Committee with the details, but if I were to describe the dietary that was handed Gut to prisoners in my day, hon. Members would be shocked at the lack of inspiration in the whole thing. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday there was a certain dietary; on Thursday, you had Monday's dietary over again, on Friday you had Tuesday's dietary over again, and on Saturday you had Wednesday's dietary over again, with this remarkable relaxation for your special benefit that on Sunday you got an extra pint of tea or cocoa. To treat people in that stupid, unimaginative way is really hopeless and beyond recall. I should like to make an appeal on the question of the treatment of prisoners from the physical point of view. In most prisons that I have seen there is only a limited exercise yard. You go round and round, morning after morning, the same things to be seen, no chance of decent exercise, and strictly forbidden to say a word to your nearest neighbour. People do talk, in spite of the Regulations. That inculcates in men a desire to destroy and defeat the very rules intended to repress them.
On the question of health I should like to put in a word. I do not know what the present conditions are, but I should like to say what were the conditions that I saw, and I see from this year's report that probably the same conditions prevail to-day. I look at the industries which are being followed inside these institutions. They are basket-making, brush-making, mat-making, and so on. It frequently happens, at least it used to 1613 happen and I think it is still part of prison punishment, that a man has to sit in his cell without speaking to anyone for a fortnight or a month. Into that cell is brought some mattress work, or some mat making or mail-bag making, which is full of dust, and the man who has to work in those conditions is constantly drawing this dust onto his lungs. It always seemed to me to be a monstrous thing that a man should be kept on this stuffy, vitiated atmosphere for 28 days without any opportunity at all of a chance of getting a little fresh air.
I have here a paper illustration of the sort of work which IJ myself did in gaol; I hope it is not done now. On the edges of the mail-bags there is a loop through which the rings pass; but imagine a man starting at six o'clock in the morning and cutting out a long strip of canvas of this shape, the shape of this piece of newspaper. To do that for four hours is an intolerable strain upon anyone, but to keep on doing it for hour after hour, and hour after hour, is enough to drive a man mad. I am not surprised that many men after doing a task like that must feel driven to desperation. Surely we can introduce some variety into our prison work. When we talk of giving men a chance to learn a trade in prison there is very little truth in it. What in actual fact happens is that they find out the previous occupation of a man before he comes into prison, and a man who is a bootmaker makes boots in the prison, and a man who is a bookbinder binds books. There is no variety, no teaching of a trade; and it is worth while, if we have to make mail-bags in prisons, that we should give the men a certain task for a certain number of hours, and then change it during the later part of the day. I am sure that the effect of this desperate monotony which men have to suffer inside our prisons has an after-effect upon their mental condition. Let me speak from my own experience, of what I know; and I think it also applies to many other people. The effect of my prison experience upon me was this, that for weeks on end it was almost an impossibility for me to cencentrate upon any kind of decent hard-thinking or reading. If that is true, and I think it is in the case of others, is it not possible that many of these men who go through gaol at the end of their period of service are not equipped adequately for facing 1614 the new problems which the world presents to them?
The whole problem of the treatment of our prisoners wants complete re-examination. This enables me to lead on to another subject, and that is the sort of education which we provide for prisoners in our normal prisons. I am glad to know that a good deal is being undertaken in this matter. I know that concerts are being given and lectures encouraged, and I see that quite distinguished people are being invited to undertake the organisation of educational studies inside the prisons. So far so good, but it has often occurred to me, in connection with this educational work, that in the ease of people who have to serve a fairly long period, four months, five months, or six months, that instead of casual or haphazard educational work there should be, for the younger people at any rate, a definite course of study provided by some educational organisation which knows what to do in the case of adult people. Take an organisation like the Workers' Educational Association; why should they not be able to draft a syllabus covering a certain amount of definite educational ground for those prisoners who are there for a considerable length of time? The point made by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is quite sound. We really ought to bring our whole educational system more into touch with the educational work which is being done in our prisons. It may be hard to indicate how it should be done, but there is no doubt that it should be undertaken.
It is no use our assuming that everybody in our prisons is entirely hopeless and beyond the pale of reclamation. As a matter of fact, a large number of men would never again return to prison were it not for the effect which solitary confinement without exercise and association has upon their mental equilibrium. What is called association in prisons is not association at all. How can you call it association when people are not allowed to sit as close together as the hon. and gallant Member in charge of this Debate and the Prime Minsiter are at this moment. Even in Church you have to sit a yard apart. You may not breathe a word to anyone; you are utterly and absolutely repressed, and the effect of three or six months silence upon a man 1615 so impairs his mental capacity that when he goes out into the world the sense of relief is so overpowering that he loses control over himself and, as a consequence, does some mad thing in the hour of release; and back he goes in a comparatively short time. I hope the Under-Secretary of State will recognise that we are raising these points to-night, not because we feel that he and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary are unsympathetic to prisoners, but because we think the time has come for reconsidering the problem of our prisons.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton has referred to a Belgian experiment. Let me refer to an American experiment. A distinguished American philanthropist, Mr. Mott Osborne, was asked to undertake the question of reorganising the prison regulations and discipline inside Sing Sing prison itself. The results achieved were simply astounding. The basis of the experiment was largely the introduction into the prison among the prison population of an element of self-government. I think it was Robert Louis Stevenson who said somewhere, "If you wish to make people trustworthy, trust them." What a prisoner so frequently suffers from is the feeling that his friends have left him, that there is no longer any hope for him in society, and that society will look askance at him. Give him a sense of confidence and of trust, show inside the prison that you really want to trust him and want him to feel that you are a friend, and I am sure that if you introduce that spirit into prison work there will be fewer recidivists amongst our prison population than has been the ease in the last few years. The Report of the Prison Commissioners shows that there is a gradual improvement in the prison population statistics, but there is still something to be done, and that thing can be done very largely by more humane treatment of the people inside the prison walls.
§ Mr. BARKER
I wish to support the protest made by the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) with reference to the inadequacy of the accommodation in the Borstal institutions. I think there is nothing that distresses a magistrate more than dealing 1616 with juvenile crime. I live in an area where the young men who have comparatively recently left school have not been able to get employment. As a consequence many of them drift into crime. I was on the bench in Abertillery one day when a young boy was brought before the Court. He had been before the Court on several occasions, and the magistrates were distressed because they did not know what to do with him. He had a good character, except that since he had been unemployed he had drifted into bad company and had fallen into the hands of the police. Everyone who had employed the boy had given him an excellent character. Eventually the magistrates felt compelled to send the case to the Sessions, where he was sentenced to three years in a Borstal institution, but they were horrified to find later that the boy had been sent, not to a Borstal institution, but to Cardiff Gaol. There he was for several weeks. On the ground of economy there could be no worse course than to make criminals, because that is really what it amounts to in plain English. When I came into the House this evening, and heard the speech of the hon. Member for West Leicester, this particular case came across my mind, and I felt that I should not be doing justice to my constituents unless I let the Committee know the facts.
I suggest that a great deal of juvenile crime arises from unemployment. We have found that to be the case in Monmouthshire in many instances. Quite recently a juvenile training centre has been opened in Abertillery, and I believe that it has led to a great reduction in juvenile offences. I suggest that that method of preventing juvenile crime might be extended, especially in the mining areas. Nothing can be more lamentable than to see young lads drifting into crime for lack of employment. It is not right to delude magistrates or the families of these boys into the belief that they are being sent into some industrial institution to learn a trade and to be prepared to earn their own livings at the expiration of their sentences, when as a matter of fact the boys are sent to a common gaol with men among whom there may be those who are sentenced to death. It is the duty of the Home Office 1617 to see that adequate provision is made to prevent a scandal of this kind being repeated. I hope we shall have some assurance that adequate provision will be made for the training of these juveniles, so as to prevent their association with criminals in the gaols. I would also stress the point, that training centres should be more prevalent, so that these young boys may be taught to earn their living and thus be prevented from falling into crime.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Lieut. Colonel Sir Vivian Henderson)
Hon. Members have raised a large number of questions during the Debate, and I would like if possible to deal with them as they were raised. It was suggested by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that the report of the Prison Commissioners is small, and another hon. Member suggested that it did not compare favourably with the report on the Scottish Prisons. I would reply that this particular report is rather different from previous reports, because it deals with a period of only nine months. Previous reports had covered a period of 12 months, but it was decided to bring these prison reports into conformity with the annual reports of prison statistics, which are published for the calendar year and not for the financial year, and to do that this particular report was confined to nine months instead of 12. For that reason it is shorter. I shall certainly ask my right hon. Friend, and I feel sure he will be glad, to consider any observations which have been made this afternoon in reference to future publications of this report, with the suggestion that it should include if possible the extracts which were formerly included but which have been omitted on this particular occasion.
The hon. Member asked whether the prison population had declined. It is a matter for gratification that we can all take to heart, that since the War there has been a very considerable decline in the prison population. But at the moment that decline is more or less stationary. The figures for the last year and the figures on which we base our Estimates this year show a very slight increase. This year's estimated figure is 11,250. In regard to the condition of prison buildings, the question is one 1618 which has exercised the mind of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to a considerable extent, and also my own mind, but in this matter we are very largely bound by finance and by the amount of money which we can get from the Treasury to spend on these purposes. As far as possible, when closing prisons which become surplus to requirements, we endeavour to close those which we think are least likely to be useful to us from a structural point of view, bearing in mind the fact that we must have certain centres in certain parts of the country. The Committee will observe that on the Estimates for this year, money is to be voted for new workshops at Leeds and we are attempting to purchase additional land at Durham. That land, when we obtain it, as I hope we may be able to do at an early date, is to be used in part for workshops and in part for a recreation ground—another subject which has been mentioned in the course of the Debate. Every effort will be made to extract money from the Exchequer to improve the accommodation at the prisons and to improve the recreation and workshop facilities.
There is another purpose for which we are anxious to obtain money, and that is the substitution of electric light for gas in a great many prisons. Electric light is much more satisfactory, and if I may be allowed to diverge for a moment, I may say I am pleased that it has been possible in this year's Estimates to make a beginning with the substitution of electric light for gas in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Various questions have been asked regarding education. I think the considerable strides which have been made in educational work, in connection with prisons, during the past few years are not fully appreciated. At every prison there is an educational adviser, and the actual work of teaching is mainly carried out voluntarily by teachers—all honour to them—who give their assistance in the evenings. During the year 1925–26, there were 58 teachers employed in That way in various prisons. There are also employed 12 certificated teachers, and these teachers work under the inspection of the Board of Education. That, to some extent, meets the point which was raised by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones).
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I was speaking more particularly of the voluntary work, rather than that of the certificated teachers.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
As far as the voluntary work is concerned, there, again, the educational adviser works in conjunction and in touch with the local education authority and in many cases in touch also with the Workers' Educational Association, to which the hon. Member also alluded. Not only is that work done, but a considerable amount of methodical elementary teaching is now given to the younger prisoners. I propose to return in a moment to the question of the younger prisoners. In local prisons any prisoner is eligible to attend evening classes, and the only restriction with regard to work of that kind is that where a man has a very short sentence, it is obviously not likely to benefit him to start a series of evening classes and, possibly, enter a class in the middle of the course and leave it before the course is finished.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
They are fully employed and are on the Estimates. Young prisoners under 26 years of age receive special educational facilities, and during the year in question 9,000 prisoners attended evening classes. We are supplementing the educational work by providing the prisoners with books. I have gone into this question of the books myself to some extent during the short time I have been in this position, and the class of book now available shows a very great improvement on that which existed some years ago.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
It has improved and, as I say, I have gone into the question myself. There is now a circulating library at Maidstone which circulates books to all the prisoners in the country. Over and above that, at every prison there is arranged an annual programme of lectures and concerts. Some people criticise the giving of concerts in prisons because they say it is a pure amusement 1620 but I do not agree with that view. I am a great lover of music and I am convinced that to those who appreciate and understand music—and these men are very often music lovers—attendance at good concerts is probably just as helpful from the educational and moral point of view as going to lectures or making use of other educational facilities. We have endeavoured, in regard to the question of educational facilities, to go even further than I have indicated by trying in the last few years to concentrate the younger prisoners at certain definite prisons. Hon. Members who are interested in this subject may know that we are now attempting to concentrate at Durham, Bristol and Wakefield the younger prisoners who are more amenable to educational treatment.
I recently visited Wakefield because I was anxious to study this question. There, they have developed a system which was mentioned in the course of the Debate and that is giving responsibility to the prisoners themselves. They work on a system of houses. In each house there is greater freedom than in the house below it and, according to his conduct, a man works up from one house to another. The head of the top house is really, except in name, not a prisoner at all. I am convinced that if that principle could be extended—and I hope we shall be able to extend it—it will fulfil a great purpose in eliminating from prison life men who, if properly handled at the beginning, would probably never come back to prison at all. But, as hon. Members know, these schemes have to be worked out very carefully and they are subject, to some extent, to consideration of finance, because all prisons are not like Wakefield, fitted for this purpose.
So far as education in convict prisons is concerned, in Maidstone, which takes what we call the starred convicts, that is to say, first offenders, they get the same educational facilities as are obtained at the ordinary prisons, but at Parkhurst and Dartmoor that is not entirely the case, and I think it must be obvious that it need not be the case, because the class of man who goes to Dartmoor or Parkhurst is not anything like as amenable to educational influences as is the other type of man. He is, without using any unkind expression, what we choose very often to call the more hardened type of criminal, the 1621 recidivist, the man who has been in prison over and over again, often for long sentences; and, if that course of treatment were applied to him, it might not have any or much effect. But we are trying a system of limited education with some of the younger convicts at Dartmoor, and we are also trying a system of concerts and lectures both at Dartmoor and at Parkhurst. We are handicapped at Dartmoor because it is isolated, and it is much more difficult to get outside people there to come and give lectures or concerts than it is in other cases.
So far as Parkhurst is concerned, it would be quite wrong for me to bring in any personalities into this question. After all, the Committee knows quite well that this question arose in its acute form, if I may describe it that way, at least two years ago. It was first raised at least two years ago, and, although it has been raised during Question Time from time to time since that date, I would like to assure the Committee that the position at present is really not one which my right hon. Friend regards with any fear or feeling that the present Governor is in any way incapable of carrying out his work. We all know that on occasions, in governorships of prisons as in other walks of life, where you get a change of personalities you may get a change of system, but I do not believe, and neither does my right hon. Friend—and he has been down to Parkhurst quite recently to examine the question himself—the stories that the present Governor, in his handling of the prison inmates, is harsh and unreasonable. I do not believe that story for a moment. It may be quite true that the previous system of educational facilities which existed under the last Governor does not exist to exactly the same extent as it did, because the Director of Education in the Isle of Wight, who assisted the former Governor, does not assist the present Governor.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
Did he not resign because of the interference by the present Governor with the good work going on?
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
The present Governor is the Governor, and not the Director of Education of the Isle of Wight.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I know it is, but I would like the hon. Member to understand that the Governor of the prison is responsible to the Prison Commissioners and to the Home Secretary, and, if the Director of Education in the Isle of Wight thinks he is going to be the Governor of the prison, he is mistaken.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
He resigned through a difference with the existing Governor of the prison—a natural thing to happen. It happens frequently in other walks of life, but the Governor is responsible to the Prison Commissioners and to the Home Secretary, and he has the confidence of the Prison Commissioners and of the Home Secretary. [An HON. MEMBER: "So much the worse!"] That is a matter of opinion. I would like to assure the Committee that a system of lectures and concerts has been drawn up and is being carried out at Parkhurst, and a modified system of education is also being prepared by the new Educational Adviser, who has recently been appointed for the prison.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) referred to the International Prison Commission and asked whether it was possible for them to collect certain information. I shall be glad to take that matter up and see-to what extent that is possible. The hon. Member knows as well as I do that the International Prison Commission is a very ancient body, dating back more than 50 years, and it is doing very valuable work, but it is an international, not a national, body, and we cannot do exactly as we desire on that body. We must be governed and guided to some extent by the desires and interests of the other nations, but I will certainly take up the point suggested by the hon. Member and see if it is in any way possible to obtain that information. He also asked me to what extent the recommendations of the Young Offenders' Committee are to be carried out by my right hon. Friend. A good many of those recommendations entail legislation, and it would he out of order, of course, for me to discuss those at the moment. Some of them are more appropriate to the Vote which follows this 1623 one, and I think it would be better if I reserved any observations that I have to make on that point until we come to the Reformatory and Industrial Schools Vote.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I do not want to be ruled out when we come to the next Vote, because some of these recommendations relate to persons between 16 and 21 years of age.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I know that. The principal point that the hon. Member made was, I think, the question of observation centres. He asked whether it would not be possible to carry that recommendation into effect without legislation. I am advised that it would require legislation, because it deals with individuals over 16 and under 16, and it would require legislation to carry that recommendation into effect so far as those over 16 are concerned. But I can tell the hon. Member this, that we have set up a small Committee in the Home Office to consider to what extent we can put this recommendation into effect in the London area. That Committee has not reported, but I hope that it will report to the Home Secretary at an early date, and if it is found in any way possible to take any action upon it, I am certain that my right hon. Friend will do so, because he has said more than once in this House that he is fully in sympathy with the general ideas in that Report. I feel sure, subject to any possible reservation which he may make—he made a long reply on the question a few months ago—and subject to the fact that some of these recommendations require legislation, that he will do his best to carry out any administrative reforms that he can.
I am sorry that I cannot give the Committee any information with regard to the success or the non-success of the appeal to the millionaires referred to by the hon. Member. I know my right hon. Friend was very hopeful of some kind of success being forthcoming quite recently, but I have not had much opportunity of discussing the question with him in the last few weeks, and I am afraid that I did not have an opportunity, owing to the fact that other and rather more important matters arose last week, of discuss- 1624 ing this particular Vote with him before he left for Ireland. I think the hon. Member for Westhoughton made some observations as to why young men and women are sent to prison instead of being sent to a Borstal institution. He knows quite well that I cannot make any observations as to why magistrates pass particular sentences on particular people—it would be entirely out of order and improper for me to do so—but I would like to point out two things to him. One is that on more than one occasion my right hon. Friend has pointed out the desirability of boys and girls being sent to reformatory and industrial schools and Borstal institutions when they can conveniently be so treated; but, to obtain the benefit of a Borstal institution, the usual sentence is two to three years. If you are going to sentence a boy, because some small offence is committed, to a few weeks or a few months in prison, there is no object in Borstal organisation, because he would not get any benefit in that way. If you want to raise that question, you really want to raise it, not in regard to whether a boy ought to be committed to a Borstal institution instead of being committed to prison, but as to whether the whole system of probation should not be more highly developed than it is at the present time.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Surely the hon. and gallant Member has heard of the suggestion of a short time Borstal to which these young people could be sent instead of to prison.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
Yes, I have, but I am not satisfied in my own mind that a short time Borstal would be a satisfactory solution of the question.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
An experiment of short time sentences of that kind was tried, and it was not found satisfactory. I think it was tried in reference to some of the reformatory schools. I am speaking from memory.
§ Mr. MAXTON
He will recollect, in connection with Glasgow, the great success of the truant school that the Glasgow School Board established at Shettlestone where the maximum period of detention was three months and where they cured 98 per cent.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I remember that, but the boys who go to Borstal are considerably older than the boys who go to a truant school. I well remember the problem at Glasgow, because it is very much the same as the problem at Liverpool, and they are still the only two centres in the country that have day industrial schools. Leaving that question for the moment, I would like to deal with another small point raised by the hon. Member opposite, the question of police cells. He asked me whether they are inspected. It is quite true they are, and they are not allowed to be used unless the inspection is to the satisfaction of the Home Office. That is really a very small matter. In the Estimates, he will see that there is a very small sum, £100, allotted to the maintenance of persons in these cells, which comes under one of the provisions of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914. He will remember that imprisonment for less than five days was abolished by that Act, but there are some cases where it is considered desirable to give a few days detention rather than send the boy away to some distant prison. I would also remind him that the Committee, of which he was a member, definitely recommended, in connection with their recommendations on detention, that one day's detention at the police court or detention for four days was a useful alternative to sending to prison. We could have a very lengthy debate on the question of short or long sentences, but it would probably be quite out of order for me to discuss them at the present time.
With regard to sleepy sickness, it is stated on page 21 of the 1926 Report, in the medical part of the Report, that during the period under review no case of the onset of encephalitis lethargica occurred during detention in prison or in any Borstal institution. It shows that the whole question is carefully watched by the medical officers concerned. Where any question of mental defect is considered by the medical officer of the prison to exist, steps are now taken to transfer those persons to a prison which is specially adapted or where special treatment is given. Birmingham is one of those prisons. Cases are now dealt with in that way, so that the point raised by the hon. Member opposite is already covered. I cannot deal with the individual case he referred to, because 1626 that again is a question of a sentence by a Court, and it would be out of order for me to comment upon it. The Prison Commissioners are following up this question and trying to eliminate prisoners apparently suffering from any mental defect.
§ Mr. OLIVER
Is the same treatment given to this kind of prisoner as would be given if they were sent to a mental institution?
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
They are dealt with very much more leniently and given a different type of treatment from that given to the ordinary prisoner. Whether they are dealt with in the same way as if they were sent to a mental institution, I cannot say offhand. I have not been able, personally, to look into the matter. I only wanted to assure him that the matter has not been overlooked, but is already being dealt with to a certain extent. I would like to remind the Committee that the passing of the Mental Deficiency Act last year also covered a certain amount of the recommendations of the Young Offenders Committee in regard to this question. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) asked me whether Parkhurst had been visited in 1927. The answer is "Yes." The report covers only nine months of the year owing to a particular circumstance. It is a report of the visits by inspectors. It does not refer to the visits of the Prison Commissioners themselves. I can assure him that it was visited, and my right hon. Friend has himself quite recently visited Parkhurst. Another hon. Member made some reference to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society. There, again, we are glad to take anything we can get out of the Treasury for the services not only to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society but also to the Central Association, which deals with convicts, and the Borstal Association, which deals with Borstal prisoners. The aftercare of Borstal girls has quite recently been handed over to Miss Barker, the Governor of Aylesbury Prison, as she deals with all the girls there herself. It is not always possible to get all one hopes, but my right hon. Friend does very greatly appreciate the very fine work done by those three organisations in assisting prisoners on discharge from prisons, convict prisons or Borstal prisons. Any- 1627 thing we can do to help or to encourage them, I can assure the Committee we shall do.
The hon. Member also made some reference to religion. I always think it is a subject one should approach with caution, but any person can apply to the Visiting Committee to change his religious denomination or classification, if he desires to do so, just as a soldier in the Army can apply for a change. I may, however, have misunderstood what the hon. Member skid, but if one were to allow any minister of any denomination to carry out a kind of canvass of prisoners, I am afraid that there would be a very unseemly scramble for souls. It would be very undignified and lead to very unfortunate occurrences, and it would, I am afraid, add considerably to the work of my right hon. Friend in this House. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Malone) raised certain questions in regard to Borstal committals. There, again, anything that can be done to encourage Courts to send boys to Borstal, instead of to prison, will certainly be done by my right hon. Friend.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I am aware of that fact; we have, so far as girls are concerned. You cannot dictate to Courts how they should deal with prisoners, or what sentences they should give. I would like to remind the Committee that the Borstal training has proved most successful where you get a boy there for two or three years, and can really have some influence upon him. I have yet to he convinced that the whole system of Borstal training is one which can be dealt with by short-term sentences. Therefore, I think that it is a mistake, and it will be impossible in future entirely to abolish every kind of imprisonment for boys under 21. It is, of course, something to which we should aim, but I do not think at the moment that it can be done; and, rather than have an experiment in short terms at Borstal, I should like to see some experiments in developing further the whole system of probation. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson) dealt from his own personal experience with a very large number of questions in connection 1628 with prisons, and I find difficulty in answering some of them, because they were questions of detail on which he has a far greater knowledge than I am ever likely to have.
I would like, however, to assure him en one or two points, which were points also raised by the hon. Member for Caerphilly. Every step is taken, with regard to clothing, to see that where clothing is handed over from one man to another, it is thoroughly and properly disinfected, and that in no case is it in a condition where it could give any disease to anybody. Dietary is a question which I went into personally: quite recently I went round and looked at the diets, and tasted some of them. I went without the authorities knowing I was coming, except two or three hours beforehand, so that they could not have prepared special dishes to bamboozle me. I assure the Committee that there has been, in the last few years, an improvement in the present diet which is very considerable. We all know that at the Borstal institutions, the feeding is very good indeed, but even in prisons the feeding has been greatly improved, particularly in variety, which is perhaps, after all, the most important thing. I do not honestly think that there is any reasonable ground for complaint on that score. Some of the other points, which the hon. Member for Durham raised, will be carefully studied and looked into, but I feel sure that he does not expect me to answer them without looking into them, He dealt with the question of the treatment of young offenders by chief constables, which, I know, has worked quite well in certain parts of the country, but the Young Offenders Committee did not report at all favourably on it.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
Anybody who speaks from experience is entitled to sympathetic consideration, but I was only drawing the hon. Member's attention to the fact that his opinion is in conflict with another opinion which we have to consider. He can rest assured that what he has said will be carefully considered. I am aware of the fact that many of the chief constables in the north and north-east of England are men of great 1629 ability, who carry out sometimes a very difficult task very successfully. The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), who always speaks with great knowledge and sympathy on these questions, drew my attention to the fact that executions at Wandsworth have a very bad effect on young persons. I would like to tell him frankly that I fully appreciate what he has said. It is not always easy to avoid executions at particular prisons. Prisoners cannot always be moved about from one part of the country to another after they have been sentenced, but if it be in any way possible to meet the bon. Gentleman's point—and I will look into it—I shall be happy to do it, because I agree that, if Wandsworth is to be used as a prison for young people, as it is used at the present time, it is most desirable that any demoralising effects, which can be avoided, should not exist. I promise that I will look into that point to see if we can avoid it in future.
With regard to corporal punishment, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that it is only given in prisons for gross personal violence on an officer, and, as he himself fairly stated, only eight cases of corporal punishment have been given in the year under review. Therefore, I do not think that it can be said that it is given without consideration, or that it is given frivolously. In every one of these cases, there is the right of revision by the Secretary of State, and in several cases where punishment was awarded the Secretary of State did not concur, and the punishment did not take place. I do not quite know what the hon. Member for Caerphilly meant in reference to the publication of Regulations, but the bulk of the present Regulations are published in the Statutory Rules and Orders, and I am under the impression that they lay on the Table of the House. If the hon. Gentleman has in mind any particular Regulation about which he has been unable to obtain information, and if he will comunicate with me, I shall be able to give him information.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
With regard to searching, while I appreciate what the 1630 hon. Gentleman says, he must realise that, if we entirely abolish searching, we would lay ourselves open to very serious consequences in convict prisons, for prisoners might be able to carry means of escape or weapons of defence or offence. While certain things may have happened in the past—and the hon. Member was, I think, speaking from experiences in the past—I have no reason to believe that it is normally carried to excess, but I am quite willing to look into the question. In regard to exercise grounds, wherever we can obtain increased facilities we will do so. One of the purposes we have in mind in purchasing this additional land at Durham is to provide improved opportunities for exercise. As far as trades are concerned, I found a little difficulty in following the hon. Member. If a man committed to prison has a particular trade, it seems quite reasonable that he should continue to follow that trade, if opportunities are available.
I quite agree that the present position as to teaching trades in prison is open to criticism, because there is not that variety which, perhaps, ought to exist. To provide really up-to-date methods of teaching trades would cost a great deal more money than we would ever be able to extract from the Treasury under existing circumstances—I went into that question only the other day—but we are making special efforts in those prisons in which we concentrate the younger prisoners to try to teach them something which will be of value to them. There are instructors to teach them who are highly skilled and highly trained, and I am convinced from what I have seen that they do the best they can to help the boys to take an interest in their work. That many of the boys do take a considerable interest in their work I can tell from talking to them. Regarding what the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker) said, I would like to remind him that a sentence of committal to Borstal can only be passed at quarter sessions, and therefore I do not know to what he was referring, because a petty sessional Court cannot commit a boy to Borstal.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I am afraid I did not quite follow the hon. Member. I thought he spoke about the Magistrates who committed the boy to Borstal.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
Yes, but I thought the hon. Member was referring to Magistrates in the petty sessional Courts. I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to cover most of the points raised in the Debate, and, in conclusion, I would like to say there is no part of the work of the Home Office in which either my right hon. Friend or I take a greater interest, or to which we are prepared to devote more of our time, and we are always prepared to consider sympathetically any recommendations brought to our notice for reforming the prison system. I think we can claim that on the whole we treat prisoners in this country with a greater humanity than does any country in the world.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
The hon. Member says, "No." Probably he has experience of Russia, or some other country where more humane methods are followed.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I have never been in Russia in my life. I am prepared to say that in England you treat prisoners better than they are treated in Scotland, but it is not in accordance with the facts to say that British prisons are better than European prisons generally.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I have seen some foreign prisons, and without wishing to say anything which can cause any strain in our foreign relations. I am prepared to say that I have never seen any prisons which in any way compare with our own. We are prepared always to consider proposals which will improve the system of prison administration in this country, and I appreciate all the points which have been raised, and which have been put forward, not with any partisan view, but with a real desire to assist the administration of the prison system.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. and gallant Member has certainly tried to meet the point raised by my hon. Friends, by the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord 1632 H. Cavendish-Bentinck), and by the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet), and other Members of his own party, but with his concluding sentences I absolutely and utterly disagree. I do not say that our prisons are worse than those of other countries, but I do say that history will write that one of the worst blots on the present social system is the mal-treatment of persons committed to prison. By maltreatment I do not mean cruelty; I mean treatment which does not reform them, and which we see reflected in the enormous number of recidivists who still crowd our prisons. The figures are very terrible indeed, and show there is something radically wrong, and I would appeal to the Committee on the grounds of economy if on no other grounds, to reduce the number of people committed to prison. What does it cost to keep a man in prison? In local prisons the annual cost is £80, in convict prisons £109, in preventive detention prisons £133, and in Borstal institutions £106. There would be an immense saving if we could alter our treatment of and our attitude towards first offenders especially, and youthful prisoners in particular, to avoid committing them to prison. In 1925—and the 1926 figures are very little better—we had in our prisons 19,375 persons who had three or more previous convictions, and we had 5,220 with 20 or more convictions.
It is obvious from that and from many other facts which could be quoted that our system, especially in dealing with first offenders, is perfectly hopeless. To the ordinary citizen, it does not matter in what rank he may be, going to prison means the crossing of a border line. Once a person has been in prison the taint of the gaol is upon him or her, and the difficulty of getting employment afterwards is very terrible. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham referred to the work of the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society. For some years I have been associated with the same society, and know the difficulties. It is not the Puritans alone who object to employing discharged prisoners. I am afraid public opinion is against the ex-convict or the ex-prisoner, even if he has been to prison for only a week, and that makes it very difficult for that person to get employment again, and to go straight. Look at the position. The 1633 Borstal system does give us an opportunity of reclaiming the young wrongdoer and preventing him becoming an habitual criminal. It is admitted that we are short of Borstal accommodation to-day and that no more lads can be sent there. We have been told that we cannot have more Borstal institutions unless the money is provided by some philanthropic millionaire.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I did not say that the provision of Borstal accommodation depended upon a gift of that kind. I said that I could not give the necessary information in the absence of the Home Secretary.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Sonic time ago I asked the Home Secretary whether he was still looking for a donor of £100,000 to provide Borstal accommodation, and he admitted that the Treasury had refused to find more money for this purpose. I have in my hand a copy of the speech made by the Home Secretary on that occasion, and he said:Is there no rich man who will give me £100,000 for this purpose and immortalise his name for ever?My complaint is that the Home Secretary is not here to defend his own statements. I think that is a scandalous state of affairs under which you are manufacturing habitual criminals, because you have not got the necessary Borstal accommodation for young lads who could be saved from a life of crime by special treatment. We can afford to spend £800,000,000 which has to be provided for in the Budget, and we can even spend £14,000,000 on constructing two battleships, and yet we cannot afford £100,000 to provide extra Borstal accommodation. We have just been told that our prisons are better than any other prisons in the world. I notice in the Return of the Prison Commissioners that at the present time there are young boys in prison for kicking footballs in the street. The reason for that is that we have not got enough playing fields for the boys, and that is why they have to kick footballs in the street. For doing that, they are sent to prison and in that way a life of crime begins. Perhaps these boys come into contact with hardened convicts and then they go from crime to crime.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dennis Herbert)
It is out of order on this Vote to discuss matters which require legislation, or to criticise the action of magistrates.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I was not proposing to criticise the action of the magistrates. At the present time prison treatment is not administered in such a way as to reclaim prisoners, but it is looked upon as a punishment, with the result that the prisoners go from bad to worse. The Reports of the Prison Commissioners make the most horrible reading. I am sorry that we cannot discuss legislation to alter this state of things, because the present treatment simply manufactures criminals. Most hon. Members have read in the papers the history of those men who are about to die under sentence of death for murder. The man Browne was charged with theft in his first offence, and he declares that he did not mean to steal at all. He was sent to prison, with the result that he became such a rebel against society that a life of crime followed. That sort of thing happens in thousands of cases, and yet when the Estimates come up for discussion the Home Secretary cannot be in his place to hear our grievances. It is becoming increasingly common for Ministers to absent themselves when the Estimates for their Departments are under discussion. One day it is the First Lord of the Admiralty and another day it is the Home Secretary. I think it is their duty to be present to defend their Estimates, and hear the suggestions and complaints which my hon. Friends make from these benches.
I was very glad to hear the Under-Secretary state that he is going to bring to the Home Secretary's notice the extraordinary case of Wandsworth Prison. This is a prison where the whole of the juvenile offenders in London and the home counties are sent, and yet we actually carry out capital punishment at that prison. The effect of an execution on other prisoners is very bad indeed. The prisoners have their own means of communication, the atmosphere is electric, the tolling of the bell on the morning of the execution is heard, and the hour of the execution is well known. The 1635 atmosphere is horrible and the erect on juveniles must be terrible. Is it really contended that you cannot send men under sentence of death to another prison for execution instead of sending them to Wandsworth? I am glad the Under-Secretary has promised to look into this matter, but it ought not to be necessary for hon. Members to have to suggest these matters, because they ought to occur to the Home Secretary himself, and executions should not be allowed to take place at the juvenile prison for the Metropolis.
The other matter that I want to raise is the treatment of mental deficients and, especially, of cases of acute alcoholism. I think it will be admitted that there is a tremendous number of people in gaol to-day who are either mentally deficient or are suffering from such a degree of alcoholism that they ought to be, not in gaol, but in a mental or other hospital. I have here the Report of the Prison Commissioners for the year 1923–24 in which the Governor of Leicester Prison said:It is regrettable that when prisoners are certified to be mentally defective they should he compelled to remain in prison for two or three months or more, before an institution can be found for them. Though these eases improve here, prison is not the place for them.I want to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman if that has now been remedied. Is there any shortage of suitable institutional accommodation for mental cases, or do they still have to remain for two or three months in gaol?
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
The question of institutional accommodation is a matter for the Ministry of Health.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
If the hon. and gallant Member had listened to my speech, he would have heard me deal with that matter.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I know that the hon. and gallant Gentleman made that defence, but I hope that the Home Office is taking some active steps. Why does not the Home Office have a special prison, if people who are mentally deficient have to be kept in prison? We have special prisons for women, who used to be herded with men; 1636 and now we have special prisons for young people, who used to be herded with adults. Why not have special prisons for those who are below par, either mentally or, which is often the same thing, physically, through acute alcoholism It seems absurd to keep these people under the ordinary prison conditions. They undoubtedly interfere with the ordinary prison treatment of the remainder, and they hamper the whole work of reforming the prisoner, which, after all, should be the first duty. The International Conference of Prison Authorities, for which £1,000 was allowed last year, has been referred to, and I see that at that conference a special resolution was passed on this matter. I am quoting here from the Report for 1925–26, on page 61 of which a resolution is quoted which states:It is desirable that abnormal adults showing dangerous tendencies should be sent by the judicial authorities to non-penal institutions or colonies in which they should be subject to appropriate treatment and detained until conditionally discharged by the competent authority.To that resolution our own delegates at the conference agreed, and I would like to know whether anything is being done along those lines, or are we simply carrying on with the old out-of-date prison buildings, and, I am afraid, in many cases, the old out-of-date methods also? The chaplain of Holloway Prison, in the last Report but one, spoke of the scandal of the present method of sentencing alcoholics and deficients, and he said that, if only we could make possible some different treatment of these human derelicts in suitable settlements, huge unwieldy establishments like Holloway could be closed down for ever. That proposal, and others like it, would mean immense savings in expenditure in the long run on the whole prison service. If the old notion of punishment could be got rid of, and if most of these cases were looked upon as cases for reclamation and not for penal treatment, the result would be to cut down enormously the number of recidivists, and still further to cut down the number of prison establishments. That would mean an enormous saving, not only in money, but in human misery and degradation. It is not only the unfortunate prisoner who suffers, but also his family and relatives, and society also suffers when he is released again.
1637 I am sure that there is no social service from which greater results could be obtained in a shorter time than a thorough overhaul and reform of the whole prison system of this country. I admit that reforms have been made; that is proved by the continual reductions in the prison population, and the closing up of prisons in various parts of the country shows that we are getting on; but there is an immense distance still to travel, and, because I think that the Home Office is apathetic about these matters, I hope that my hon. Friends will vote to-night in the Lobby for the reduction which has been moved. We are not satisfied with the attitude of the Government towards this whole question and I can only repeat what I said at the beginning, that the question of the additional cost of accommodation, for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not find the money, is a standing disgrace and scandal of which this Government ought to be thoroughly ashamed.
§ Mr. GROTRIAN
I think that my hon. and gallant colleague the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) must have been speaking with his tongue in his cheek, because, although T have been a magistrate in several counties for a considerable number of years, I have never heard of boys being sent to prison for playing football in the streets, nor was I aware, until I came here to-night, that playing football in the streets was an offence punishable by imprisonment. When, therefore, the hon. and gallant Member talks about manufacturing criminals in that way, I do not think he can be quite serious.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I must correct the hon. and learned Gentleman. He has said that I was speaking with my tongue in my cheek, but I have here the "Manchester Guardian" of the 2nd December last, in which an account is given of the Sheffield magistrates having sent a local boy to prison for playing football in the streets. The case was adversely commented upon by the hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord), who is the Recorder of Manchester, and he criticised this and other short sentences.
1638 Boys have also been sent to prison for gaming in the streets, and I hope that the hon. and learned Member will remember that on Derby Day.
§ Mr. GROTRIAN
I am not surprised that the decision was adversely criticised. I should say that it was absolutely illegal to send a boy to prison for playing football in the streets. The point that I rose to emphasise is in regard to the appeals that have been made for short terms of Borstal treatment. If a young offender is sent to prison, I understand that he gets Borstal treatment in prison, and, therefore, the lack of Borstal accommodation is not so serious as it might appear on the face of it; but I would say that, if it is necessary to punish a young offender at all, the proper way is not to send him either to prison or to a Borstal institution, but to put him on probation, and no sensible magistrate who has had any experience at all would send a young first offender to prison, or send him for either a short or a long term of Borstal treatment. Indeed, a magistrate cannot send a boy to Borstal at all; he has to be sent to Quarter Sessions before than can be done, and, as I have said, really the proper thing to do is to put him on probation. Therefore, although it might be very nice to get some millionaire, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman says, to provide further Borstal institutions, I think, although we may not have enough Borstal institutions, we achieve the same results in the long run by giving young offenders Borstal treatment in prison and keeping them separate from the other prisoners. I think there is great substance in his point that this sort of treatment should not go on in prisons where there are a great many criminals and where capital punishment is carried out. Although I am sorry to have to disagree with him upon several other points I agree with him in that.
§ Mr. VIANT
In prison administration there are occasions when repairs and alterations have to be effected, and I understand as far as possible the prison labour that is available is utilised for that purpose. I am given to understand that quite recently alterations or repairs have been done at Brixton and a large number of prisoners, who were accustomed when they were outside citizens to follow the building trade, were em- 1639 ployed. The available labour was not sufficient and civilian labour was employed upon the work. Certain building trade operatives reported that they have had to associate with prisoners engaged in the work and some of them took strong exception to it. Representations were made to me and I was asked to raise the matter in the House. After consultation with representatives of the unions concerned we came to the opinion that it was not desirable to raise the issue. We are in agreement with the prison authorities putting these men to work at their former trade. We believe keeping them at work in their ordinary avocation is of great advantage to them and must undoubtedly have a beneficial and reformative effect. We have been able to persuade the men that it is in the general interests that this practice should continue. Quite recently, I have had occasion to correspond with the Home Office in connection with another matter where cells were being altered, and a request was made that building trade operatives should be engaged upon the work. To our astonishment, the prisoners were not engaged on that work, but the letter that we received from the Home Office stated that the work in question would have to be done in close proximity to the corridor where prisoners were kept and that in this connection the Home Secretary attached importance to the consideration that outside labour ought not to be brought into contact with the occupants of police cells.
Having persuaded the operatives concerned that it was to the general interest that they should continue their work in Brixton prison by the side of the prisoners, it becomes somewhat difficult for us to persuade the men concerned that the Home Office was logical in giving a reply such as I have already read out stating that it was undesirable that outside labour should in any way be associated with the occupants of police cells. Personally, I am unable to appreciate the difference and the distinction that is made in this respect. The only reason that we can advance for the Home Office attempting to draw the line of distinction is that, instead of prisoners being used for the purpose of effecting the alterations in these cells, police labour is being used instead. It is being done on the grounds 1640 of economy, and I think we are entitled to object to police labour being used to do the work that should be done by outside mechanics. The ordinary citizen, after all is said and done, has to foot the bill, and, if a man joins the police force, whether he be a skilled mechanic or otherwise, his time and services should be spent in police duties, and at no time be used for the purpose of doing work that otherwise would be done by building trade operatives or mechanics. I shall be pleased if the hon. and gallant Gentleman in charge of these Estimates will explain to the Committee the reason why building trade operatives should be expected to associate with prison labour in Brixton, but that when it comes to Brighton the plea advanced is that it is undesirable that outside building operatives should associate with occupants of a prison cell. I hope I shall have a reply on the point I have raised.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not want to detain the Under-Secretary unduly in the arduous task that has been left to him by his Chief to-day, but there are one or two points in which I am interested and would like to raise. I regret to see in the Report that there is still a large number of persons—12,704—who have been sent to prison for periods of two weeks or less. I do not know how far the Home Office have influence with the judiciary, but it seems to me a tremendous waste of public money to send people to prison for a fortnight, or less. If they are not worth more than a fortnight, they are not worth anything.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not the responsibility of the Prison Commissioners; it is the responsibility of the magistrates.
§ Mr. MAXTON
An examination of the Report shows that the two things act and react on one another and that the Home Office does exercise an influence on the magistrates to put prisoners on probation and to give the option of a fine, and time for payment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The argument that was advanced earlier with regard to mental cases was in order, because it was suggested that the Home Office could find other institutions for them, and could do it without legislation; but I do not think 1641 it would be in order to criticise on the present Vote the sentences by magistrates, and their discretion.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It is, at least, within my right to express regret that so much of the present accommodation should be taken up by persons who are only in prison for one week or a fortnight, at the outside. Out of the total number of 40,000 or so prisoners more than one-quarter were in for very short periods. It must add very considerably to the expense of prison administration to have people going in for short sentences, because a tremendous proportion of the labour cast upon the prison officials lies in the original reception of the person on entering, the taking of the particulars of the prisoner, the storing away of his property and clothing and the return to him of these things at the end of his period. All this registration work, etc., has to be done in regard to people who have committed the most trivial offences. A person who is sent to prison for a fortnight or a week has usually committed some very trivial offence.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Prison Commissioners have to take those who are sent to them. They do not ask for them, and they do not send them there themselves.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I accept your rulings, but if you would examine the report of the Prison Commissioners on which we have to base our discussion of the operations of the Home Office you would find that there is detailed in the report of the Prison Commissioners not a report of the law courts but details of the various offences for which persons are sent to prison, such as larceny, false pretences, offences of a fraudulent nature, burglary, housebreaking, sexual offences, receiving, bigamy and so forth. Is it wrong for the Prison Commissioners to put these things in their Report?
§ The CHAIRMAN
No, but the hon. Member is criticising the Prison Commissioners for the acts of those who send the prisoners to them. That is a little unfair on the Prison Commissioners, who have to receive the people who are sent to them.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is it unfair for me to aid the Prison Commissioners in protest- 1642 ing against certain persons being sent to them?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Perhaps the hon. Member might conceivably do that on the Home Office Vote, but not on the Vote for these unhappy people, who have to carry out these distasteful duties which are imposed upon them.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I will keep my eyes open for a suitable opportunity of dealing with this particular phase of the problem and devote myself entirely to what comes legitimately within the scope of the Vote. I listened to the Under-Secretary, particularly when he was dealing with the educational work inside the prisons. I heard him say that twelve schoolmasters were employed on educational work in the prisons. I have looked carefully through the book and failed to find any Vote which provides for the employment of 12 schoolmasters. I find that in 1927 there were six so-called schoolmasters, and that the number has been reduced to four in 1928. Where are the other eight? Have they escaped from their prison service? I look across the page, and I find that the remuneration of these schoolmasters ranges from 55s. to 65s. per week, by increments of 2s. This is a trade with which I used to be connected, and I should be very much surprised if the Home Office are able to get properly qualified, trained teachers at such salaries. I hope the hon. and gallant Member will agree that they are not schoolmasters in the sense that they have received any training for this particular task, but that they are prison warders of the ordinary status who have, perhaps, a little more education than the rest of their fellows, and have been given the grade of schoolmaster with an extra Is. or 2s. per week for carrying out this function in a perfunctory manner in addition to their other prison duties.
I know from experience how this has been worked in the past, and that a prison warder who happens to be a skilled engineer, or a skilled woodworker, is graded as a first-class warder and called an artisan warder. One has a little knowledge of drugs and first aid, and he is graded as a doctor's assistant. He does all the work for the medical man. He diagnoses your complaint and prescribes the appropriate remedy, and it does not matter whether you have a 1643 stomach complaint or have to do your hair—you get the same thing. Having given certain men their grade as artisans, others as medical assistants, they look around to see if there is some decent fellow who ought to be graded and get an extra 2s. per week, and they make him a schoolmaster, as being good for nothing else. I quite approve of the humane motive of the governor of the prison who wants to remunerate a decent fellow a little better. I can appreciate a desire on the part of the governor to remunerate these fellows a little better, but to come here and boast about the educational work that is being done in the prisons is to attempt to deceive the House of Commons and the country.
It seems to me that this is the point at which the next advance has to be made in prison treatment in this country. In regard to educational work in prisons, the man you want is not some second-rate warder or some second-rate teacher, but a most highly skilled, medical psychologist, if I may coin the phrase, who has had a special training in medicine and who understands something about mental diseases, one who has had a very special training in psychology. A prisoner is a very curious person, and requires to be diagnosed. I think the supporters of the present system classify him too easily as a waster, and consider that the best thing you can do is to shut him up—adopt a punitive attitude towards him. The social reformer, on the other hand, takes much too easy an attitude by saying that the prisoner is the unfortunate on whom you should let loose all your Christian love, with charity on the top of it. Both views are much too easy. This is a serious problem which has to be tackled by men specially trained and specially interested in the study of the human brain, and particularly in the study of the somewhat out-of-the-ordinary human brain that goes to the making of the criminal. To tackle this very important problem with a 55-shilling a week warder, rising by two-shillings a week to 65-shillings, seems to me to be a trivial way for a great nation to do this work.
Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman, in another connection, almost boasted— 1644 he finished up by waving the Union Jack—that we had the finest prison system in the world. That is not true. One or two of the Scandinavian countries can show us a tremendous lot of things that we do not tackle. Most of the European countries, including Russia, at which the hon. and gallant Gentleman gibed, treat their political prisoners very much better than the British Government do. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. Up to now that has only been a serious matter for those on the Labour Benches, but in future it may be a serious matter for those on the benches opposite. That is well worthy of hon. Members' consideration. Remember this: A charge of sedition all depends on who happen to form the Government at the moment. I can imagine the hon. Member for Penrith (Mr. Dixey) walking around the prison yard, with his short trousers and his striped stockings and cocked hat, or writing letters in his spare time to the Home Secretary, who might be the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) below me, asking to be placed in the First Division, instead of the Third, "because it is only a political offence." Hon. Members opposite should try to use a little vision. They should try to peer into the future and not always persuade themselves that because they are now on top they will always be on top.
§ Mr. MAXTON
That is not true, of course, but it is good enough for the platform. It is good propaganda, but it is not true.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would point out to both hon. Members that there is no Vote for Russian prisons before the Committee.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It has happened, as se often happens, that evil communications have corrupted good manners. Comparisons have been made between the prison system of England and that of other countries, and I followed the same line. My hon. Friend the Member for Penrith knows that I have no desire to see him in prison. I would rather adopt what he alleges is the Russian method, and get rid of him.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I think it would be almost worth it. In support of the view that the British system is the finest system in the world, the Under-Secretary told us that the authorities ran concerts for the prisoners at night. A concert occasionally in prison is a brightening thing in a prisoner's life, but I think that concerts should be arranged with a great deal more discretion and a great deal more kindly feeling than at present. I can remember one very cold and miserable day. The prison was badly heated; the porridge was as porridgy as usual; the sour milk was as sour as usual; and the door mats were as nasty and awkward to make as they always were. After spending 12 hours on this, one was taken up into the prison hall to hear a concert, and the first song, sung by a young lady, was, "When you come to the end of a perfect day." That seems to be bad, psychologically. It makes for revolt, and for reaction which ought not to occur, since music is supposed to be an elevating, stimulating and uplifting element in prison life. But I would put this matter to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary quite seriously. It is always dangerous to joke about these matters here, because the assumption is that if you joke about a subject you do not feel seriously about it. There is nothing in the region of social reform that I would rather see during my period in Parliament than the tackling of this particular branch of public work in a serious and intelligent way.
I am sure the Under-Secretary could do a tremendous lot, if he would remember that, in connection with the prisons and in the operation of the prison system, there are, as one of my hon. Friends has already pointed out, a great many experts who have spent all their lives under this prison system. It is particularly difficult for a man who has spent his life in the prison service not to become a cynic and a scoffer. But the Home Office acts on the advice of these men who have spent their whole lives in the prison service. Let me say, in fairness to the prison officers I have met, that it has been a surprise to me 1646 that after a lifetime spent in this class of work they should have retained so much of the milk of human kindness as one finds in them. At the same time, as regards the general system, these men are inclined to be cynical about the possibilities of making any impression upon the criminal type.
Therefore, I hope the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary in making their decisions will not be guided completely by the advice of the experts, but that they will conclude that the view of the man in the street in this matter is worth hearing. I wish the hon. and gallant Gentleman could see his way, also, to get the view on these matters of the man who has been in prison. There have been many Royal Commissions and other Commissions of one kind and another in connection with the prison system, but seldom has a man who has himself been in prison given evidence at any of these inquiries. There are many very intelligent people who have been in prison and who could give to the Home Office the view of the prison which the prisoner gets. There is no good in seeing the man while he is in prison. He will not tell the truth even to a Home Secretary. You have to see men who have been in prison but who have been out of it for some time, and who can look back on their experiences and talk about those experiences in an objective way. If the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary put their minds to the task of saving the prisoners and preventing the reproduction of criminals in our midst, I am sure that it is a branch of work which will have great fruits in a very short time.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
By leave of the Committee, I would like to reply to one or two points that have been mentioned since I last spoke. The hon. and learned Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Grotrian) asked certain questions with regard to mental deficients. I have already tried to explain that special steps are now taken, where a man is committed to prison and the prison doctor thinks that man is of a low state of mental efficiency, without actually being certifiable, to transfer that man to a special prison. That is a new departure which is being developed, and it will be watched carefully, and, if successful, further developed, probably along the lines which the hon. and learned Member for South- 1647 West Hull desired. With regard to what he said about alcoholism, I have made inquiries, and I understand that there are practically no alcoholics in prison at all. There are one or two possibly in Holloway, but apart from that there are practically none. As is known, the whole question of alcoholism has largely decreased, and the problem is largely nonexistent so far as the prison population is concerned.
The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) has had discussions with me on the question of the employment of prison labour and outside labour, and he asked me why it was that, whereas in Brixton Prison we allowed outside labour to be employed alongside prison labour, when it came to another prison—which he did not quote, but I believe he was referring to Brighton—we did not adopt the same attitude. I would like to remind him that Brighton is under a Watch Committee, and that the Home Secretary is not in direct control of what the police do or do not do in Brighton. The police there are under a Watch Committee, and apart from the Metropolitan Police the Home Secretary has not direct control of the actions of the police in other parts of the country, particularly on administrative questions of this kind. But you really cannot compare the two cases. In Brixton you have your prisoners under sentence, working under warders, and working with free labour, which, as the hon. Member says, from certain moral aspects is probably a very good thing. I quite agree, and I appreciate his attitude on that question.
In Brighton, the Watch Committee required to make certain alterations to the police station, to fix up some shelving in connection with the lost property office, so far as I remember. The hon. Member did not tell me that he was going to raise the question to-day, and I am speaking from memory of what occurred some weeks ago, but I understand that they required to fix some shelving in connection with improvements to their lost property office in the police station, and for that purpose they required to take away scene existing shelving beside some of the police cells. Under normal circumstances it would not have been necessary, if that work had been done by the 1648 police storekeeper, who is a carpenter, to have had anybody else, but if that work had been done by an outside workman, it was obvious that you would have had to have either a policeman or a warder standing there all the time, as otherwise it would be quite easy for all the prisoners in cells to have attempted to communicate with the individual who was carrying on the work. That would put him in an unfair and impossible position, in which I am quite certain no outside individual would desire to be put. Therefore, it is not fair to say that the two questions are the same and that if we took up one attitude on the one case we were illogical because we took up a different attitude on the other.
My right hon. Friend looked at the case and decided that the attitude of the Watch Committee was one with which he had no power to interfere, and, as the hon. Member knows, the power of the Secretary of State to interfere with a watch committee in cases of this kind is extremely limited. He can only suggest or recommend. I fully appreciate what the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said with regard to the prison services, and I would like to apologise to him if I misled him with regard to the 12 certificated teachers, because these are not included on page 31 of the Estimates. They are among the evening teachers on page 33, and they are not full-time teachers. They are employed at teaching in evening classes, although I was quite correct in stating that they were under the direction of the Education Committee.
I would like to remind him, with regard to his somewhat disparaging remarks as to the status of the schoolmasters on the previous page, that their salaries have to be considered in relation to certain allowances. Therefore, it is not quite fair to take their salaries without realising that the prison officials are entitled to certain personal allowances that bring their pay up to a higher level.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I do not agree in the least with the hon. Member's observations with regard to the people who have been employed in prisons for any length of time being cynical. I have been very much struck with the fact that many of the people who work in and 1649 around the prisons as officials are frequently some of the most humane and compassionate people in the world. One for whom I have very great admiration and have looked upon as one of the most humane women I have ever met is a chief wardress in a prison.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I would not like to be misunderstood on this important point. I did not mean to use the word "cynical" in that way. I meant that they were cynical as to the possibilities of altering the system and not cynical about human beings.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I beg the hon. Member's pardon if I misunderstood him. I am sure my right hon. Friend welcomes outside criticism or assistance of any kind. Although I am not sure it is possible in the immediate future to set up a kind of advisory committee of ex-convicts and prisoners such as the hon. Gentleman suggested, I am certain that there is something to be said for his point of view. It is the kind of point of view which Edgar Wallace would be delighted to develop into a most interesting story. In conclusion, I would like to say that if the future, as envisaged by the hon. Member opposite turns out as badly as he suggests, I hope my great knowledge of the inside of prisons will stand me in good stead.
§ Mr. HAYES
In the few moments which are left, I want to ask one or two questions. I should like to draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to what is regarded in many quarters as the under-staffing of prisons consequent upon the development of reforms in the prison services. In that particular connection, I would like to direct his attention to the practice obtaining in some prisons of the clerical side having to work either undue overtime, or, in some cases of the clerks themselves—foolishly, but nevertheless doing it—taking home work in order to finish it. There is no such thing as overtime, or, at any rate, very little is paid for in the prison services so far as the clerks are concerned. If the prisons are under-staffed it certainly is undesirable that the clerks should complete their work by taking it home. In any case, arrangements ought to be made—not so much that the clerks should have time off, perhaps, because that would mean that they would have to do the work at some other time—and I hope he will 1650 give some attention to what is becoming a somewhat undesirable practice. The other question is one with regard to the temporary officers employed in prisons. They are engaged for longer hours than the ordinary prison officers. Their hours are about 10, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will find some way of meeting that question. Hours in prison are not very pleasant, even for prison officers, and if they can be reduced to eight, it will be appreciated, and a better return in service will be obtained.
In regard to the attitude of the Prison Commissioners towards the establishment of an appeal tribunal for prison officers, who may be found guilty of certain offences, the practice that obtains at the present time is for an officer to have a right of appeal from the Inspector of Prisons to the Prison Commissioners, and nominally to the Home Secretary. The prisoner officers are rarely, if ever, seen by the Commissioners, and the decision by the Home Secretary is given on paper. It is said that the appointment of these tribunals is as hardly necessary in the prison service as in the police service, because the two services are not alike, but the experience that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has had now of the working of the tribunals that were set up by the Act of Parliament of 1927 in the police service, has been so satisfactory, and almost soothing to the police in matters of their dismissal, that it will be a very excellent thing to introduce in the prison service; and as members of the prison service themselves have persistently asked for it, I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to reconsider his view in this respect.
The final question which I want to put is whether it is possible to make it clear to all prison officers what are their rights under the various Superannuation Acts. It is a very big question, and a very old one, going back to 1834, and it is very difficult for them thoroughly to understand their position. I am hoping that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Department may be able to do something to consolidate the position, which at the present moment is a very difficult one.
Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman ever considered the appointment of a woman as a Prison 1651 Commissioner? As there are, unfortunately, a good many women prisoners, and as there are many things where a woman would be of some help, will the hon. and gallant Gentleman, when he has an appointment to make, consider offering it to a woman?
§ Mr. HARDIE
As there is a Bill now before the House to bring Scotland down to the same level as England with regard to prisons, I appeal to the hon. and gallant Gentleman to use his influence to see that Scotland is not brought down to the level of England.
§ Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £473,869, be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, and, objection being taken to further Proceeding, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.