Sivut kuvina


escape from within them, and, I believe, literally forging the chain, making the rod, and twisting the rope which might at no distant day, perhaps, be the instrument of their own punishment; for I was assured that everything required for the service of the gaol was fabricated by the prisoners, and from the many different trades I saw in full operation during a somewhat hurried visit, I am led to believe the implements alluded to would be found to be manufactured among the rest.

The principle upon which the discipline of this gaol was based was silence, strict and constant silence. Not a tongue was allowed to move, was its language permitted to be expressed by sign or token of any sort. Men, by twos and threes, might be seen working together as carpenters, blacksmiths, or masons, in the open air, but not a word was exchanged between them. In spacious apartments within the building large numbers of men were congregated, busied in a variety of sedentary occupations, each man intent upon his work, and taking no heed of his neighbour. Silence reigned supreme everywhere.

Here and there an unarmed keeper might be seen amongst them, directing their work, and to this individual alone, a word might be occasionally addressed, but only if the business the man was engaged in made an appeal to the overseer requisite.

I was much struck by the apparent diligence with which each man plied his task, and there was something remarkably singular, and almost painful, in the dead silence that prevailed amongst so many people gathered together in a small space, at least, small comparatively speaking

My approach was totally unheeded by the busy throng, not a man raised his head to look at me, nor to render the slightest mark of respect to the governor of the establishment, who accompanied me.

Puzzled and interested by what I saw, I asked if this diligence, this perfect silence and decorum, were of every day occurrence, and was assured that such as I saw it, such was the scene presented to view each day during the hours of employment: when they were ended, each man was locked up in a separate cell, and prevented from holding any communication with those to the right and left of him.

This constant, untiring, accurate supervision, thought I, must employ a great number of men, and I inquired how many turnkeys and other officers were attached to the establishment, and was astonished to hear that, including the warders already mentioned as guarding the outer wall, there were but twelve persons employed to overlook and coerce, if necessary, the whole of the prisoners, however numerous they might chance to be.

I have said that no notice whatever was taken of the governor and myself as we gazed at the assembled workmen, and in this lay the secret of the whole affair. Although commanding a perfect view of every part of the room in which the prisoners were employed, we were totally screened from their observation. From where we stood a hundred people might have looked upon them without their being in the least aware of the proximity of a single person.

The upper part of the room, considerably above the head of the tallest man, was boarded; and in this boarding narrow chinks and crevices were left all round, sufficient for obtaining sight of all within the room by applying the eye close to them, but far too narrow to be even observable from below. To make these apertures available for the purpose of exercising a surveillance over the prisoners, a platform was built up all round the outside of the room, and on this platform, at all times, a warder was supposed to be stationed with his eye to a crevice, noting carefully the conduct of every individual beneath.

What was the precise nature of the punishment inflicted on a poor fellow found offending against any of the rules of the prison I could not exactly ascertain. No doubt it would vary greatly according to the nature of the offence; but I was given to understand that each warder had authority to inflict a certain amount of corporal castigation, summarily, and at his own discretion. If the breach of discipline, however, was of a grave nature, it was reported to the governor, who awarded such punishment as he deemed fit.

Thus, although in reality not a foot might tread the platform for hours, not an eye might be directed to a crevice the whole day, each man lived constantly under the impression that an eye was ever upon him, watching his every movement, and ready to visit with swift and sharp punishment the slightest aberration from the strict rules laid down for his observance. He felt that if he flagged in his task for a single moment, if he moved lip or finger, if he so much as smiled, or cast a furtive glance around him, he might be instantly called forth, and subjected to a severe chastisement.

Nor was this supervision ever relaxed for a single moment throughout the twenty-four hours, or rather, I should say, the influence exerted over the minds of the convicts by the supposition that their every movement was overlooked, its propriety canvassed, and perhaps noted against them for future punishment, or that a swift vengeance was about at each moment to fall upon them, was never relaxed.

The cells in which they were confined at night were open at each end, being secured by strong iron gratings. Bright lamps burned in the passages by which they were approached, throwing a strong light upon each sleeper; and on one side of the passage was a wooden partition, pierced as before mentioned, and behind which the ever watchful warder stood, or was supposed to stand, his eye riveted on the slumbering felon, marking his every turn, and restless movement, or guilty start.

Those employed during the day in the open air, or covered sheds, were equally exposed to the surveillance of hidden watchers. Thus, throughout the whole period of a man's incarceration there was literally not a moment in which he could say he was free from observation, not a moment in which he might not incur

« EdellinenJatka »