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. convicted in Ireland, viz. 9902, only 262 were sentenced to death; and of these, 95 were for offences against the person : of the 262 sentenced to death, 39 suffered.
In inferring from the proportion of commitments in different counties, the degree of immorality and lawlessness which prevails, we cannot be altogether wrong. Yet, it is necessary to bear in mind what has already been stated, that the apparent increase in the number of commitments, and consequently the greater proportion in some counties, may be attributable to other causes than those connected with the advance of crime ;-to the greater efficiency of the police,-to the increased facilities for detecting and prosecuting offenders,—to the state of public feeling with regard to petty offences,-to the readiness of the magistrates to commit for such misdemeanours as were formerly passed over or visited with summary correction; causes which are all likely to operate with most force in the more populous districts. In short, while the number of commitments, or at least of convictions, for atrocious crimes, may be fairly taken as an index to the state of public morals, in a country where the laws are efficiently administered, the number of commitments for petty offences is a very uncertain criterion of the state of morals at different periods, or in different countries; since it may indicate only an alteration in the laws, or in the administration of penal justice. We may apply to this subject the language of St. Paul, that where the law enters, sin is made to abound, by being detected. The multiplication of laws necessarily gives rise to multiplied offences; and an improved police, while it really prevents crime, especially crimes of deeper dye, may have the effect of so increasing the proportion of minor, and even of greater offences that are brought under public cognizance, as to swell the records of crime. Who would judge of the comparative prevalence of murder or robbery in England and in Spain or Italy, by the number of crimes detected and punished by the magistrate ? In like manner, the increased number of commitments for petty delinquencies in the same country, may not indicate, to any thing like the apparent extent, the increase of crime, or its greater proportion in the counties where the commitments are most numerous.
But, in whatever way the increase of convicted offenders may be accounted for, the fact is truly melancholy, and of fearful significance, that in England itself, the proportion is one criminal to every 740 inhabitants, exclusive of debtors, vagrants, and summary convictions before magistrates. The number of insolvent debtors discharged by the Court for Relief was, in 1829, 4063; viz. in town, 2225, and in country, 1838; and this must form a small part of the number of debtors committed to prison for different terms, varying from one to 100 days. In Whitecrossstreet prison alone, during the year 1829, there were confined on process out of the Court of Requests, 756 for a term not exceeding 10 days; 778 for a term not exceeding 40 days; and 29 for a term of from 50 to 100 days; total, 1563. This number is exclusive of those confined under mesne process, or under judgements recovered. Of the number of vagrants and other summary commitments, we have no estimate. Taking all these into account, however, instead of 1 to 740, there must, we fear, be set down 1 to 500, at the lowest computation. And when we consider that every individual offender is related to some family that suffers disgrace or distress in consequence, the calculation becomes still more painfully affecting. In some cases, two or more offenders may be of the same family, and some may have no connexions; but, taking the number of commitments for criminal offences, debt, vagrancy, &c. at only 25,000, and the number of families in England and Wales at 2,800,000, this will make one individual in every 112 families, subjected, every year, to the disgrace and contamination of a gaol. If this calculation at all approximates to accuracy, it ought to rouse every man to consider the active causes of demoralization which are poisoning the con. stitution of society. One other circumstance deserves attention. Of the number committed for trial, in 1829, the males were 15,556, and the females, 3119, or about a sixth of the total number. But there is one class of crimes, the most degrading to the sex, of which the criminal law takes no cognizance.
What then are the remedies for this appalling amount of moral and political disorder? Where so much requires to be done for the health of the body politic, it is hard to say what measure, or what class of measures, claims to be viewed as of the most immediate importance. The most effectual would be of a preventive kind; but it would not be safe, when an evil has reached a certain height, to trust to any slow process of melioration. Measures of immediate mitigation must be adopted; and to these it is the object of the publication before us more particularly to direct the public attention. • Gratifying ', it is remarked, as are the 'improvements which are at this time going forward in various * branches of the jurisprudence of this country, much yet remains ' to be accomplished, before England will be exempt from the re'proach of contributing by her institutions to the encourage'ment of crime. If ever there was a time when the public in‘terests demanded, in an especial manner, the removal of defects • in the criminal institutions of this country, the present is that ' period.' Those defects relate to, 1. the state of the criminal law: 2. the state and regulations of the prisons; 3. the number of unnecessary commitments; 4. the state of the law of imprisonment for debt; 5. the want of some temporary provision for discharged offenders.
With regard to the first of these, the Committee, after giving
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to the subject their best consideration, declare their firm conviction, that an effectual substitute may be found for the penalty of * death, in a well regulated system of penitentiary discipline; a
system which shall inspire dread, not by intensity of punish'ment, but by unremitted occupation, seclusion, and restraint.' In this conviction, we need scarcely say that we fully participate. In the former series of our Journal, our views of the inefficiency of sanguinary laws, were stated on more than one occasion*; and we are fully prepared to maintain them. At present, however, we shall merely call the attention of our readers to the tracts recently issued by the “ Society for the Diffusion of Information on the subject of Capital Punishments”, the first of which was given with our last Number. The present state of the criminal law is, indeed, so far behind the public sentiment, or rather in so direct opposition to it, that it would be absolutely impossible to carry its sanctions into execution. Capital punishment is consequently reduced, in the practice of the courts, to little more than an empty threat, which the offender laughs at, the probabilities of escape from death being 30 to 1 after conviction and sentence to death. But the chances of escape, from the reluctance of prosecutors to appear, of witnesses to give their testimony, of juries to convict, and even of the Bench to direct conviction, where the life of the culprit is at stake, are indefinitely multiplied, so as almost to destroy the terror inspired by the penal sanction; the uncertainty of the operation of the laws more than counterbalancing their severity. Besides, in contemplating the chance of escaping from the greater punishment, the criminal feels very little terror at the smaller ; both because his attention is taken off from it, and because he estimates it by comparison with the danger he hopes to escape. Nor is it the least considerable evil, that, in the few cases in which the law is suffered to take its full effect, in the execution of the capital sentence, (cases of murder excepted,) the misguided feeling of the public is apt to take part with the culprit against the law, and to resent as injustice, as well as inhumanity, the infliction of the extreme penalty. Its remission having become the rule, the execution of it is an odious exception. Thus, too, even that most sacred and gracious prerogative of the Crown, the pardon of the criminal, has been deprived of all its lustre, from the necessity of having recourse to an indiscriminate mitigation of the punishment awarded by laws too sanguinary to be enforced, and therefore too inefficient to be duly respected. In no other country in Europe do such sanguinary enactments exist; by far the greater
We inay refer those of our readers who have sets, to Ecl. Rev. (2d Series, Vol. XI. p. 1.; Vol. XII. p. 108, et seq.
part of them are of modern origin : and the existing practice, not less than the spirit of Christianity, and the common sentiments of humanity, supplies an emphatic condemnation of these foul blots upon the Statute-book.
It has been assumed by many persons, that the amendments recently introduced into the penal code, have deprived it of some of its most repulsive features. This, however, the Committee remark, is a serious mistake.
It cannot be too generally known, that the measures referred to, although to a certain extent unquestionably beneficial, have fallen far short of the expectations to which they had generally given rise, and are by no means of that enlarged and practical character which the interests of society carnestly call for. By those measures, many discrepancies have been removed from the Statute Book ; laws which had become obsolete have been repealed ; redundant provisions have been condensed ; immaterial forms have in certain cases been dispensed with, and absurd distinctions removed. The correction of such technical defects is not lightly to be appreciated ; but, without underrating benefits thus conferred on the penal code considered abstractedly, it must not be forgotten, that the repeal of obsolete statutes has no effect what. ever on the practical administration of criminal justice. It has in no degree affected the spirit and softened the rigour of the laws; and consequently, a feeling of severe disappointment was evinced, when, on the late re-enactment of the Forgery Bill, the punishment of death was retained for that offence. Numerous petitions were presented to the legislature from the bankers, merchants, and traders throughout the kingdom, - parties the most openly exposed to the violation of property,-protesting against the continuance of a penalty which, in effect, exposes them to depredation. Nor was this appeal in vain. On the passing of the Bill through the House of Commons, the cause of truth and humanity prevailed; and of the two hundred and eighty-nine Members present, one hundred and fifty-one decreed that the punishment of death should no longer be inflicted for the crime of forgery. Although the Bill, as thus amended, did not eventually become a law, this decision of the House of Commons is a sure indication that the hour is at hand, when the criminal code will not only be mitigated in respect to this offence, but that its spirit will be still further meliorated upon principles of an enlightened jurisprudence, and adapted to the sentiments and feelings of the community at large."
We must refer our readers to the Report itself, for the views of the Committee as to the efficient penalties to be substituted for the punishment of death. Transportation is deprecated altogether as a secondary punishment; and the example of the United States is adduced in proof, that a system combining solitary confinement at night, hard labour by day, the strict observance of silence, and attention to moral and religious improvement, will be found the most powerful moral instrument for the correction of the guilty. Nothing can be more pernicious than the present hulk
system, both in respect to the convicts themselves, and to the community, upon which some hundreds of persons are annually discharged from those receptacles of vice, hardened in every species of enormity, and spreading pollution wherever they resort.
Owing chiefly to the indefatigable labours of the Committee, the most important improvements in prison discipline have taken place in the principal gaols throughout the kingdom. The highly interesting and satisfactory details will be found in the Appendix to the present Report. Most of the prisons attached to corporate jurisdictions, however, are still in a state so disgraceful as necessarily to corrupt all committed to them. This is especially the case with the gaol of Newgate, that standing reproach upon the first city in the world, and flagrant instance of the inefficiency of corporate jurisdiction! The gaols throughout Scotland also remain for the most part in as defective and disgraceful a state, as when they were visited by Howard. And the disorders prevalent in debtors' prisons call loudly, and in an especial manner, for amendment, as well as the law of imprisonment for debt itself.
• The distressed condition of Juvenile Offenders on their discharge from prison,' is a subject which well deserves the especial attention of the philanthropist, rather, perhaps, than of the legislator; unless, indeed, in place of the present costly, inefficacious, and baneful system of transportation, emigration could be rendered a measure of humanity and sound policy, by allowing the discharged offender to avail himself of emigration, as a resource, under arrangements favourable to the reformation of character. The hint thrown out by the Committee on this point, calls for serious consideration.
Other topics would naturally connect themselves with the general subject of this article, which it did not fall within the province of the Committee to notice. The diffusion of education is, however, with great propriety referred to as “in every point of 'view the most efficacious remedy for the prevention of crime;' understanding by education, that course of moral training which * shall impart religious impressions, control the passions, and ' amend the heart. Among other preventive measures, the legislative enforcement of the Sabbath, in combination with the sedulous promotion of its religious observance by every legitimate method of influence, and the adoption of any plan that may tend to check the enormous abuse of spirituous liquors, are imperatively urged upon public attention by the condition of the lower classes. Sabbath-breaking and drunkenness, those twin sources of crime, are, indeed, gigantic evils, which, if not checked, threaten to loosen the bonds of society. The mixture of parish relief with wages, - that most iniquitous abuse which converts every labourer into a pauper, and stamps the whole transaction between him and