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female convicts, who heretofore had been kept together by the city of New York, at its local prison establishment at Bellevue, at a cost to the state of $100 per annum for each prisoner. They were there in a miserable and disorderly state; that mode of maintenance being found replete with all the evils which it had been the object of the improved penitentiary system, as applied to the males, to reform. This was completed, in an elegant style of architecture, in 1840, and the convicts removed to it, and placed under the charge of a matron, whose admirable management soon brought them to a condition of good order, neatness, and industry, before supposed impossible by those who had witnessed their former character and conduct.*
It is unnecessary to fill the present pages with descriptions of these vast establishments of penitentiary labor, beyond a few simple general features common to both. The cells rise in tiers above each other to the height of five stories. These central structures are surrounded with an outer shell or envelope of a second wall, about eleven or twelve feet distant from the interior. Along the front of each range of cells runs a gallery. The size of the cells is seven feet in depth, by three and a half in width, and seven in height; all of stone, with iron doors, of an open-diamond grating from top to bottom, for the combined objects of security, ventilation, and light. To these buildings are attached spacious workshops, surrounding the large courtyards of the prisons, in which different branches of mechanical industry are pursued with the aid of machinery, in some instances on a very large scale; the whole being enclosed in high outer walls, vigilantly guarded by armed sentries, excepting at Sing-Sing, where there is no enclosure around the prison or the shops, the security of the convicts depending entirely upon the sentries. The convicts wear a peculiar striped prison-uniform, of coarse woollen fabric, manufactured within the prisons. Their movements to and fro at the regular hours, in the daily routine of the life of the prisons, are all made in single file, with the lock-step, and with the heads turned all in one direction, facing the constant eye of the keeper of each respective division, for the prevention of intercommunication. At Sing-Sing, they eat their meals singly in their cells; at Auburn, in large eating-halls, at tables at which they are seated back-to-back, and fronting only their keepers. The food is plentiful and healthy, though coarse. A scrupulous cleanliness reigns through every nook and corner of the establishments. The health of the prisoners is good; the average of deaths being about two per cent. per annum. Each prison is provided with a chaplain, whose whole time is devoted to his interesting though arduous pastoral charge, and under whose direction they receive instruction on the sabbath in Sunday-schools. The cells have always been supplied with biblest For many years the establishments have not only defrayed the cost of their own maintenance, but have continued to earn annually a large excess to the benefit of the general revenues of the state. The mode employed of using the labor of the convicts is to let it out at certain rates per diem, for fixed periods, to contractors in the different branches of industry pursued.
The proper limits of the present occasion forbid the expansion of this brief account with any further details of the operation of the system, whose gradual growth has been thus related. As has been already remarked, the conflict of opinion between the supporters of the Auburn system, of social labor in silence by day, with solitary confinement by night, and the Pennsylvania system, of uninterrupted separate confinement
*Mr. Seward was a prominent advocate of this measure while a member of the senate of the state, in 1832. His speech in favor of the project is mentioned in the first volume of these Works. He also made it a topic of his annual messages to the legislature while governor.-ED.
During Governor Seward's administration, he directed that other books, suitably selected for instruc tion and moral improvement, should be added; and since that time annual appropriations have been made by the legislature to replenish the prison libraries.-ED.
with labor, has been carried on with no small degree of both earnestness and ability. The advocacy of the Auburn system has been chiefly sustained by the Boston PrisonDiscipline Society, the annual reports of which have continued, from the institution of that society in 1825, to hold it up to the admiration and imitation of the world, in terms of unqualified eulogium. The prisons have been visited by many thousands of strangers, from foreign countries as well as from the other states of this Union, attracted by the celebrity which they have acquired; and even those whose preference has inclined in favor of the theory of the Pennsylvania system, have not failed to accord a high degree of praise to the many admirable features characterizing ours, as well as to the excellent management with which they have been practically administered. The following states have since erected penitentiaries for the most part in imitation of the model thus afforded: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio; together with the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada-not to speak of numerous city prisons and county jails.
We are far from desirous of pronouncing even an opinion in relation to this controversy. There are undoubtedly some features in the Auburn system which its best friends would gladly see amended, if it could be done consistently with the efficient maintenance of the general whole of which these are particular parts; nor can it be pretended that the object of the prevention of intercourse between the convicts, by a thousand modes of communication beyond the reach of any degree of vigilance, either has been or ever can be attained, to the degree supposed by many who simply witness the apparent silence that reigns throughout the workshops.
At the last session of the legislature, provision was made for the appointment of a commissioner to examine certain locations in the northern part of the state, with a view to ascertain the practicability of employing the convicts, in a new prison proposed to be erected, in the labor of mining.* The system may therefore be represented as still in a somewhat unsettled state; and a short period may witness the application to it of changes, of which it might not be easy to predict either the extent or the nature—even if it were proper here to engage in any speculation of this char
A few words, before passing from this subject, are due to another excellent institution which occupies a not unimportant position in the penitentiary system of the state -the institution for the reformation of juvenile delinquents, in the city of New York, commonly known as the House of Refuge. This was the first establishment of this kind in the Union, having been founded in the year 1824; though it presented an example which was speedily followed by other states. It grew out of the philanthropic efforts of a private association of gentlemen in New York, who were incorporated March 29, 1824, under the title of the "Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents;" among whom it will not be deemed invidious to particularize as among the most prominent and active, the late Thomas Eddy and Cadwallader D. Colden, and also Mr. Charles G. Haines, who, as chairman of a voluntary committee, was the author, in 1824, of a very able and valuable report on the history and discipline of penitentiaries in the United States, from which much aid has been derived in the hasty preparation of these notes. It was founded on a basis of private subscription, aided by annual assistance from the state; and is administered by officers chosen by the society, and superintended by its constant vigilance, under a system of general laws
This resulted in the establishment, in 1845, of the Clinton prison, in Clinton county, sixteen miles northwest of Plattsburg, where the convicts are employed mainly in mining.-ED.
for its government, enacted by the legislature. It thus partakes of the character partly of a private, though mainly of a public institution; while it has been one of very eminent utility for the rescue of thousands from a career of crime and ruin. It is conducted for the most part on the general plan of the Auburn establishment, though moderated in severity, and adapted to the different class of subjects embraced within its action: children of both sexes are received in it under the age of sixteen. It is a just subject of pride to both the state and the city, as well as of gratitude to its founders and supporters.*
*The following is an extract from a report made to the British government, in 1835, by William Crawford, on the penitentiaries of the United States:
"The House of Refuge of New York was established by an act of incorporation in March, 1824. The idea originated with Professor Griscom, a gentleman of great respectability, who at that period resided in the city of New York. Mr. Griscom had lately returned from England, the charitable institutions of which had occupied a large share of his attention. He was particularly struck with the beneficial effects arising from the "Refuge for the Destitute" in London, and on his arrival in New York, lost no time in making public its meritorious objects, with a view to the establishment of a similar institution in that city. For this purpose he communicated with a society, which had recently been formed, and of which he was a member, for the prevention of pauperism. An address earnestly recommending the measure was immediately issued by that society. Public benevolence spontaneously answered the appeal, and in a few weeks funds were collected to the amount of $15,000." Another and similar institution was established, for the western part of the state, at Rochester, in 1846.-ED.