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Posts Tagged ‘the criminal sanction as deterrent’

“On referring to the report of the Montreal Jail, it will be seen that the continued increase in the commitments forms a lamentable feature in it. In 1861 the commitments were 3,436; and in 1862, 3,974; an increase of 538, or 15.6 per cent. The same remark which is applied to Toronto is equally true of Montreal. There is a jail population in the latter city, as in the former, which circulates through the streets to the city courts, and from the city courts to the City prison, where it sojourns for a specified number of days, to issue again from the gates and make the usual circuit.of the streets and courts as before. Of the 3,974 committed, 1,526 were persons recommitted.

There has no record been kept here, unfortunately, of the re-commitments of the same person, except for 1862. I cannot, therefore, go back upon previous years, as I have been able to do with respect to the corresponding class in Toronto; but I have taken from the books a list of 649 individuals of those’recommitted during last year.

Those 649 persons had been consequently 2,146 times before the courts in 186 The keeper of the jail, Mr. McGinn, and his assistant, Mr. Laurie, were also kind enough to go over the books with me, and point out tome a list of 75 of the most notorious inhabitants of the prison, giving me the length of time for:which they have been regular frequenters of it, and the number of days generally intervening between their discharge and their re-commitment. Although those officer communicated the facts from memory only, there is not the slightest doubt of their general accuracy.

I confess that – until my duties led me to inquire into and reflect upon the state of crime, as shown by the Common Jail Returns – I had no idea of such results; and I only fear that I will fail in conveying to the minds of others the convictions now impressed upon my own with such force as to induce remedy. Truly do the officers of the prison, who are brought daily and hourly into contact with this moving mass of, crime, declare that prison reform is not to be looked for, so long as the remedy is not applied at its source. The present state of the law, and the custom of the Police and Recorder’s Courts, actually tend to foster crime, and to train up families of criminals to, the second and third generations, in the practice of their profession.

l order to show how the present system acts, I may give a few instances, as related by Mr. McGinn and his deputy, whose known reputation for accuracy and truth places the facts beyond a question.

Mary R., wife of Michael R., was committed, with a child at her breast, as a loose and disorderly person by the Recorder, on the 27th October last, for one month. When in prison she was visited by her husband and a son of about eleven years of age. On the 27th November she was discharged. On the following day, the whole family husband, wife, son and infant – were committed as vagrants, on their own confession, by the Recorder, for another month. On the 28th December they were discharged, and on the 12th January last they were all again re-committed.

John D. was first committed for larceny in 1840, and, frequently afterwards. After a few re-commitments of himself, his wife was committed along with him, having a child in her arms. D. at last was sent to the Penitentiary, and the wife made the jail her home by means of the short commitment system. The child became prostitute at eleven years of age, and the time that she is not now on the streets, she is in the prison.

J. D. and his family were committed as vagrants about eighteen years ago. Two daughters, being then more children, were reared up in jail.’ The parents are now dead, but the girls became prostitutes at thirteen years of age, and are still frequenters of the prison. One of them ‘has now a bastard in her arms, to be trained up in the same steps in which the grand-mother and mother had walked.

John F. became a vagrant about fifteen years ago; and his son has been reared principally in jail. He turned out an expert thief and is now in the Reformatory.

Thomas M. and Pierre L. became inmates of the jail, and had also each a son, who after training in jail, are now in the Reformatory.

In 1848, J. C. was sent to the Penitentiary, after being a regular inmate of the Montreal Jail for some years before. His Montreal Jail life was shared also by his wife and three children. The mother and two children left Montreal soon after the father had been sent to Kingston, but the oldest girl, about eleven years of age, was already a prostitute, and remained.

J. T., senr., was sent to the Penitentiary in September last, after being an inmate of the jail for some time. His son, 15 years old, was sent five years to the Reformatory, and his wife was sent five times to jail during the last year. There are two other children of. whom the oldest is eight years. They will, in all likelihood, follow in their parents’ stops.

Instances might be multiplied to any extent of the efficiency of the Montreal Jail as an academy for crime. A very considerable number of the criminals now about the city, as well as many in the Penitentiary, have spent terms of imprisonment in this jail, before they reached 12 years of age, some of them at first with one or both parents. At the present moment, there are about a dozen children in the prison with their mothers, who, ten years after this, will be thieves and prostitutes on the streets of the city. They will have acquired – all their education, at the government expense, in the school for crime established in this province.

What is the remedy for all this? The first step, undoubtedly, is to put an end to short commitments. If offenders make it clear, by their frequent appearance before a court, that they cannot keep out of jail, the law ought to take them according to their acts, and make a previous sentence a portion of the fresh crime, increasing the imprisonment every time to adults, and in the case of boys sending them to the Reformatory before a second crime is committed. It is not to be wondered at that the expense of the administration of justice reaches the figure which the public accounts exhibit from year to year. I have shewn from the books at Montreal, that 649 worthless vagrants have been tried 2146 times! These re-commitients proceed from the Recorder’s and the Police Courts, and if we reckon the expense of the police, the witnesses and the clerks, and assume them at the moderate rate of $5 for each arrest and trial, we have the sum of $16,560 expended in producing crime, instead of repressing it!

EMPLOYMENT OF PRISONERS
In connexion with the repression and punishment of crime is the employment of the prisoners in the common jails; and it is a question of no small importance to the public.

Under present circumstances, it may be said that the employment of male prisoners is next to nothing. At times, when the corporation of Toronto feels inclined to purchase broken stone from the jail, the prisoners are set to work, and so with respect to Montreal. At this moment, however, there have been about 3000 loads of stone in, the yard at the latter city for some time, which the corporation will not purchase, for some reason or another, as it has been suggested, connected with the letting of contracts by the Road Committee.

The females in the Toronto Jail are employed in sewing to an unlimited extent, and at Montreal they are also engaged in picking oakum. The total amount earned from all sources is stated at $500 for Toronto, and $850 for Montreal.

The county jails afford no employments any description for either males or females, with the exception of sawing wood for the stove; and the small towns in which they are situated seem to be as careful not to encourage work being-done in them, as tie corporations of the larger cities. The town council of Guelph, for instance, was offered the lab or of the prisoners at that jail in breaking stone, if they would pay for the transport’ it to and from the prison yard; but they have not yet acted upon the offer.

In a young country like Canada, where labor is of so much value and where the taxes are paid entirely by a class which does labor, it becomes a question of some moment to consider what is to be done with the mass of idleness which is housed, fed and clothed in our prisons. Setting aside the cases of first commitments, in which the sentences may probably be for short periods of imprisonment, and consequently beyond the reach of regular systematizing, there must be; according to my computation, from 1200 to 1500 vagrants and petty depredators, who come and go from the jails as from their home. and, it is to this class that, I think, the attention of the authorities ought to be at once directed. One would think, as all reason would suggest, that an evil so palpable, and of daily occurrence to so great an extent, in every part of the Province,would have forced itself upon the consideration of intelligent men, and compelled a remedy. On the contrary, however,the legislation of Parliament, and the practice of courts of justice have been directly exercised for producing and nursing it. For the class of habitués,the idea of a jail, instead of presenting an aspect of terror or discomfort, offers them one of a pleasing absence of work, and a certainty of warm lodgings, with abundant food. Every now and then, a paragraph may be seen to the effect, that parties named applied the Court to be committed to prison,and it is of frequent occurrence at the Montreal Jail that the vagrants are entrusted with, and alone carry to the prison, .in their own arms, the warrants under which they are committed.

The first stop, it appears obvious, that should be taken, is to make every recommittal itself a crime, as in Scotland it is a crime to be habit and repute thief. Even under the present system, this would afford relief, first, to the public, who suffer from the depredations of this class of offenders; 2nd, to the police force of the cities and-towns which they frequent, affording to the officers, more time for the duty of protecting the peace and preventing offences on their regular beats; besides diminishing the cause.of complaint. now so frequently brought against the police, that they are never to be found when wanted; 3rd, to the inferior Courts, the principal expense of which is rendered necessary by perpetually having to try the cases in which the class referred to are parties.

The next step is, to set these culprits to some description of work, by which the expenses they have thrown upon society may be lessened, if not reimbursed. This may be done, it appears to me, in two ways: either by the establishment of Central Jails (as already recommended by the Board of Inspectors and favorably entertained by the. late Administration), in which their labor may be systematised and rendered productive; or by employing them in the construction of public works.

The system of central jails could be the soonest established, as there are now jails nearly completed well adapted for the purpose. It would also be attended with less expense for supervision and security against escape than the other. But it would have this disadvantage, that only a few descriptions of occupations could be carried on within them, and a considerable time would necessarily elapse before expertness could be looked for, or consequent, profit.

In a central jails, trades might be carried on, in which males and females could be em ployed, as is now exemplified in tho Penitentiary. And with respect to females, especially I seec no reason why they should not be set to work by the Government, in making up clothing for the Volunteers and Militia, of whom there is every prospect now of there being a standing force in the country. It is only the other day that contracts were given out by the Government for 10,000 pairs of trousers for the Provincial troops, the expense of making which might have been readily saved to the public by collecting the females now scattered through the various prisons into one central jail, and giving them that work to do.

The other mode of employing male prisoners – that of constructing public works –  might be attended with ,perhaps, more expense, but, as I view it, with more direct and visible profit to, the community. From the nature of forced labor and-especially that’ criminals, it can be most advantageously carried on, both in respect to its efficiency, and the expenses of supervision, where a good deal is required within a small space. In the construction of harbors, in the building of locks, or in the excavation of heavy cuts, where a large number of hands can be kept under the eyes of a few overseers or guards, such labor can be employed to advantage.

The public have now to employ policemen to watch, to track, and to arrest them, jailers and turnkeys to guard them, and, under any circumstances, to house, to feed and to clothe them. What more would the Govérnment have to do for them, if it compelled them to do some labor in return? Nothing that I can see.

The whole Canadian shore of Lake Erie is destitute of harbours, to which the storm surprised commerce on its waters can flee for refuge: why not set to work a sufficient gang of the able-bodied men now wasting their own lives, and the hard-earned money of fhe industrious classes in the prisons, and keep them at work until, at every favorable point a harbour of refuge is constructed?

…I cannot bring myself to think that it is right that the criminal portion of the population should be the only one not only exempted from exertions, but supported in plenty at the public expense when the country requires the labor of every available man for opening up and improving its communications.”

–  Inspector James Moir Ferres, “SEPARATE REPORT for the year 1862,” from Annual Report of the Board of Inspectors of Asylums, Prisons &c for the year 1862. Sessional Papers of the Province of Canada, Sessional Papers No. 66, 26 Victoria, A. 1863.

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“Wife Deserter Sentenced,” Toronto Globe. May 5, 1914. Page 09.

Edward Tilson Gets Two Years in the Kingston Penitentiary.

Pleading guilty to a charge of perjury and bigamy, Edward Tilson was sentenced in the Police Court yesterday by Magistrate Denison to two years in the Penitentiary. The accused was charged with swearing he was a bachelor before an issuer of marriage license, well knowing at the time that he had a wife alive in England, and also that he bigamously married. The Morality Department was communicated with by the wife from England, when Tilson stopped sending her ten shilling a week as he had promised to do, and the bigamous marriage was thus discovered. Col. Denison in imposing sentence said that there were far too great a number of wife-deserters appearing in court, and that perhaps the sentence he gave would act as a deterrent.

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