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stand even upon a higher foundation; for, however intelligent and impartial the judge and jury may be, however equitable the sentence pronounced on the guilty, justice is still but imperfectly administered, if the degree of correction and punishment exceed the measure determined by the law.
The next fubject to which Sir Richard adverts, involves the confideration of a queftion of equal delicacy and importance; namely, whether those persons, against whom no bill of indictment has been found, ought to be immediately discharged; or, whether, conformably to the practice uniformly obferved at the Old Baily feffions, they should be detained in prifon till the morning after the grand jury fhall have been difcharged, and then brought to the bar, for the purpose of being difmiffed by the court? Sir Richard, who contends for their immediate liberation, endeavours to fupport this opinion by reference to Magna Charta, a statute paffed in the 13th of Edward the Firit, and the 14th Geo. III. ch. 20. Againft this there is the established practice, and the poffible existence of other charges against perfons acquitted in the firft inftance by the grand jury. The authorities quoted by Sir Richard, with the exception of his reference to Magna Charta, do not appear fufficient to establish his position; but the general grounds upon which his adverfaries proceed, do certainly appear extremely questionable. The quotation from Magna Charta runs thus: No freeman fhall be taken or imprisoned, &c. but by lawful judgment of his peers, and we will not deny, or defer to any man, either juftice or right.' It is by no means a fatisfactory anfwer to this, that juftice is, in the first inftance, done to the innocence of the accufed, by the acquittal of the grand jury, and that the fubfequent detention cannot poffibly continue longer than is requifite to liberate the prifoner in due courfe of law; or, in other words, conformably to the established practice of the court. The quotation from the act paffed in the 13th of Edward the First, merely eftablishes a provifion against arbitrary imprifonments by fheriffs; and the 14th Geo. III. c. 20. has an evident reference only to the payment of fines, and the illegality of detention on this account. Neither of them appears very ftrongly to bear upon the point in queftion.
But if, for the fake of difcuffion, we fhould admit that our author had failed in fupporting his opinion by Magna Charta and the ftatute law of the country, we fhould still conceive that he has an advantage over his adverfaries, in the arguments which he employs against this practice of detention after acquittal by the grand jury; and which, indeed, are obviously fuch as the common fenfe and common reafon of mankind muft naturally fuggeft. His own ftatement of the difcharge of fixty perfons at one
feffion, against whom no bills had been found, and who, upon an average, had been afterwards detained three or four days and nights in prifon, cannot but fupply a number of valid objections against a practice which appears to trench fo unconstitutionally on the perfonal freedom of the subject. Among this number, indeed, feveral might have been justly fufpected of guilt, but acquitted from defect of evidence; but it must also be fuppofed, that a great proportion of them were acquitted upon the strongest proofs or prefumptions of innocence. Without reference to the hardship of their former imprisonment, the fhame and punishment they have undeservedly endured, and the privation which their families may have experienced from their abfence, they are again, though pronounced innocent, configned to the fame dreary prifon, and are compelled again to herd with mifcreants and felons expiating in gaol the offences of which they have been convicted. It is unneceffary to appeal to the feelings of our readers, by attempting to pursue, the confequences that may attend a protracted detention of the innocent in prifon. To the understandings of the unprejudiced, it must be evident, that the law never could intend to inflict an additional imprisonment of feveral days in fome inftances, and of more than a week in others, on perfons against whom no charges have been found to exift by the grand inqueft of their country.
In order to render more palpable the hardship to which we have attended, we are tempted to fuppofe the following cafe.-A man is fent to prison on fufpicion of an offence for which bail cannot be granted. When the grand jury proceed to examine the evidence for the profecution, it is discovered that an egregious error has led to the imprisonment of a wrong perfon. The bill, of course, is thrown out. One would naturally imagine, that in fo obvious a cafe of innocence, the person who had been thus falfely imprisoned, would be immediately fet at liberty, and would receive every poffible reparation for the injuries which he has unjustly sustained, in character, in his worldly affairs, and in privation of domeftic comfort. So far from this, however, we find that he is remanded to prifon, where he is compelled to remain till regularly liberated in due courfe of law (as it is termed), by the commiffion of gaol delivery. Can it be denied, that this compulsory return to prifon, where he may experience a further detention of feveral days, is a most severe and oppreffive hardship? He has, it is true, the power of commencing an action against his profecutor for falfe imprifonment; but what damages can afford him an adequate compenfation for all that he has undefervedly fuffered in mind, in perfon, in refpectability, in affections! The unimpeachable purity with which juftice is adminiftered in this country, has long been
a fubject of national pride. It is therefore, in this, and indeed in every point of view, defirable, that the whole of its proceedings fhould be ftrictly confiftent; and, as the law equitably regards the untried as innocent, it is the more anxiously to be withed, that those whom it has declared innocent, fhould not be confounded with the guilty. If it can be proved that the ends of justice are more effectually answered by this practice of detention, let it by all means be enforced. But however we may concur with Sir Richard in the view which he has taken of this fubject, we are obliged to remark, that the manner in which it appears to have been infifted on is not very confiftent with that decorum which the subject itself required, and to which the parties interefled in the difcuffion were eminently entitled. Upon this occafion, and indeed in most instances in which the fheriffs have interfered, Sir Richard has contrived to advance himself fo pro-minently, as to reflect on his worthy colleague the difcredit of comparative inactivity. The correfpondence between the fheriffs, introduced in the appendix, fufficiently fhows, that Mr Sheriff Smith was by no means treated with the refpect which he merited, both as fenior officer, and as a colleague in the execution of the fame duties. This want of harmony is the more to be regretted, fince, wherever it fubfifts between thofe who fill the higher magifterial offices, it is uniformly productive of fome public disadvantage. The tone and character of Sir Richard's letters to his colleague, refpe&ting their memorial to the Recorder of London on the objectionable practice of detention, very evidently proves, that Sir Richard's conduct was equally precipitate and difrefpectful. Our limits will not permit us to do more than refer the reader to the appendix of the work before us, if he fhould happen to feel more interest than ourfelves in the querulous correfpondence of thefe worthy magiftrates.
We have now to perform the very painful duty of accompanying the sheriffs through the gaols within their jurisdiction; and many of our readers will, we have no doubt, shudder at the scenes which they present, of misfortune, misery, and criminality. The prisons which come under the cognizance of the sheriffs of London, are, Newgate, or the county gaol; the Poultry and Giltspur-street Compters, which are the city prisons; and Ludgate, which is appropriated for debtors who are citizens of London.
Newgate is the great receptacle for prisoners of every description. The annual average number of persons confined in this gaol, is said to fluctuate from four to five hundred prisoners. A few years ago, nearly eight hundred were at one time confined there. A contagious fever was the consequence of this barbarous
VOL. XIII. NO. 25.
experiment; and the busy hand of death snatched from justice many of her victims. It has been calculated, that more than six hundred prisoners cannot be crowded into Newgate, without the risk of an early appearance of contagious fever; but, by the precaution of lime-washing the gaol, a greater number might perhaps be confined, without exposing them to the danger of so fatal a contagion. It has long been observed, that the prisons under the jurisdiction of the ordinary police-magistrates, are kept in a far more healthy and cleanly state, than those under the care of the sheriffs. The late sheriffs of London, however, paid every laudable attention to this point, and caused the different wards and rooms in Newgate to be thoroughly and repeatedly washed with lime. This is one of the most effectual modes of cleaning and purifying these miserable abodes of misfortune and of guilt; and we hope it will be regularly continued by those who fill, and those who may succeed to, this inportant office.
It is a lamentable reflection, that the gaol of Newgate, extensive as it is, is not sufficiently large for the accommodation of its unhappy tenants. Our regret is almost equally directed to the excessive number of debtors and delinquents, and to the inconveniences which they sustain from this disproportion. These inconveniences are not confined to mere privations of comfort; for it is not in a prison that personal comfort can be expected to be much studied; but they often affect, and in a very serious degree, the health of those who are in confinement, and contribute to weaken or destroy the different degrees of morality, of which few or none are perhaps entirely destitute.
It appears, from Sir Richard's statements, that at the commencement of a session, there are generally in Newgate from one hundred to one hundred and thirty women. He compares, and, as he thinks, not unaptly, the manner in which they are disposed at night, to the arrangement of a slave-ship; their ward. being so constructed, as to admit fifty of them to sleep, in two rooms, within a space thirty-seven feet in length, and thirteen in breadth; consequently, each person has an allotted breadth of only eighteen inches! This wretched accommodation is, perhaps, less to be deplored, than the indiscriminate mixture, in the same room, of the unconvicted with those who have been found guil ty; of those accused, perhaps on slight grounds, of crimes, with those against whom the charge has been established; and of the young and repentant offender, with the old and hardened in transgression.
The condition of the debtors in Newgate is in some respects less painful than that of the women which we have just describ
ed. They have a little better accommodation with respect to room; but, as the average number of debtors has been computed at about two hundred persons, the gaol is not sufficiently large to admit of a separation of classes, suited to their different habits and feelings. They are, besides, subjected to many restraints, which are not imposed on those who are confined in the Fleet and King's Bench prisons. The very circumstance of being committed for debt to Newgate, has a tendency to degrade an unfortunate individual, more than confinement for the same, cause in any other prison. The character and appearance of this. gaol are suited to the exclusive reception of felons. The unhappy debtor feels debased, in his own estimation, by imprisonment under the same roof with thieves and murderers; and, the assistance which he would often receive in any other place, is denied him in a gaol where he most requires it, and where, it is falsely presumed, that none but the most degraded and worthless of mankind are detained. Like the soldier disgraced by corporal punishment, he often ceases afterwards to put a just value on himself in the station in which he is placed. The plan of appropriating Newgate for the reception of felons alone, and of confining debtors in a separate prison, which has been often proposed, and is strongly recommended in the work under consideration, could not fail to be productive of great advantages; especially if strict attention were given to the important point of dividing the prisoners into such classes as might prevent all the injurious consequences arising from that indiscriminate mixture of persons, which surely cannot be too severely censured.
In the want of room,' Sir Richard observes, is comprehended most of the evils which belong to this prison. Separation cannot be effected among the different classes of the prisoners, while there is only one small yard, containing but two wards, for every description of women, and while there are but two common yards for every description of men. Those only committed for trial; those actually convicted; hardened and first offenders; the profligate and the evildisposed; the innocent and the guilty, ought not to be mingled indiscriminately together. While this is the practice, Newgate is necessarily little better than a public seminary of vice, and for teaching the art of thieving. I have been shocked to see boys of thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen, confined for months together in the same yard with hardened and incorrigible offenders. Those committed for first, or for small offences, are constantly placed within this same sphere of moral contamination. I have attempted all that could be done with two yards; and for many months the transports and respites from death have been kept in one yard, while the fines, and persons committed for trial, have been kept in the other. Of course,' however, amidst persons of these two general descriptions, would be