Dora B. Montefiore

Prison Reform
from a Social-Democratic Point of View

Date: 1909
Publisher: London: Twentieth Century Press.
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
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“If life be our legitimate aim, if absolute morality means, as it does, conformity to the laws of complete life, then absolute morality warrants the restraint of those who force their fellow-citizens into non-conformity…. If it is right for us to live, it is right for us to remove anyone who either breaks these conditions, or constrains us to break them.” This is the carefully worded mandate of Herbert Spencer in his article “Prison Ethics,” authorising the community to restrain those who prove themselves anti-social, and “in conflict with the laws of complete life.” Further on in the same article, he lays down detailed principles as to how the restraint of those offenders against “the laws of complete life” is to be carried out; and before stating our indictment; as Social-Democrats, against the English prison system under capitalism, it may be of interest to note the simple social ethic, which, according to one of the recognised sociologists of the nineteenth century, should guide our conduct towards the anti-social. “We are warranted,” writes Herbert Spencer, “in restraining the actions of the offender to the extent of preventing further aggressions …. There must, however, be no gratuitous infliction of pain, no vengeful penalties.” If we acknowledge the right of each individual to freedom, in order to fulfil “the laws of life,” the life of the offender must be taken into account as an item in this sum. …. It is commonly said that the criminal loses all rights. This may he so according to existing law, but it is not so according to justice. Such portion only of them is just taken away as cannot be left to him without danger to the community. Just as, in his well-known book on education, Herbert Spencer insists upon allowing the natural consequences of an anti-social act on the part of a young child, or of a young person to form the “punishment,” so, in the case of adult offenders against the laws of complete life, does he insist on the same natural consequences being allowed full play, and adds that “these, when vigorously enforced, are quite severe enough.” Among these natural consequences of antisocial action are, of course, temporary loss of liberty and self-maintenance during the time of detention.

Let us now contrast this ideal prison ethic with what goes on in our prisons in England in the twentieth century of Christendom, and with capitalism still dominating all forms of social and economic relations. For centuries, both before and after the Christian era, men have had the bad habit of throwing their fellowmen into underground dungeons, and feeding them on bread and water. This simple barbaric notion of the rights of the stronger over the weaker still holds good as the basis of English prison discipline. The primitive barbaric dungeon idea can still be studied under the ruins of many an old castle and keep, and its modern manifestations can be found in Holloway and other prison cells. The established religion of our country hails from Judea, whose Jehovah was an irresponsible wrathful personage, punishing to the third and four generation. The traditions of this spasmodic wrathful authority, mingled with a withering blast of Puritanism, are nowadays vested in judges, magistrates, governors and officials of prisons, whose duties lie in carrying out in detail the designs of this implacable deity. The English, as a race, are not philosophic, not given to formulating theories on which to regulate scientifically their conduct. Though they have among them great thinkers and writers on sociology and on ethics, the ordinary Englishman considers himself too practical to trouble his head about the writings and teachings of these philosophers. It is principally therefore in other nations, whose people read and study more than we do, that the teachings of our great writers are respected and applied. It is only in Latin countries, where the Jehovah conception has been to a great extent superseded by the more human conception of “Le Bon Dieu,” that a judge like Magnier, known at present in France as “Le Bon Juge,” is possible. It is only in countries where the self-righteous blight of Puritanism has never nipped the tender blossom of the study of Humanitarianism that we have paused in the judicial application of the “Divine law of a life for a life.” Great Britain is still hanging, and burying in quick-lime, while many other European countries, less sure in their delegated “Divine” authority, are staying their hand, and respecting human life. Holland abolished capital punishment in 1870, Finland in 1824, Italy in 1879, Switzerland in 1874, Belgium in 1863, whilst Portugal and Roumania have more recently followed the same example. Statistics prove that the number of murders in these various countries has decreased rather than increased. The old traditional dungeon was dark and insanitary, with a grated window high up in the wall, admitting only a feeble ray of light. In the modern British prison cell the window is scientifically constructed on medieveal dungeon principles, so that discreet twilight may take the place of darkness, and the health-giving rays of the sun, joined with the hygienic influences of the outer air may, by thick corrugated glass and iron bars, be carefully excluded. When it is realised that the window of a Holloway cell is not made to open, that the glass is so opaque one cannot tell whether the sun is shining or not, that the only “fresh” air comes through a little iron ventilator in the brickwork, or from the inner passage on the rare occasions when the door is opened, it will he at once understood that even in the matter of the physical health of the prisoner there is no regard to Herbert Spencer’s ethical prohibition of any “gratuitous inflictions of pain” on the offender who has to suffer imprisonment .... In the old dungeon days the door was opened twice or thrice a day, and food was thrust in to keep life in the miserable being shut out from the light of day. In the British Prison the same clanging process of pushing in tins of food is still preceded and followed by the clash and jangle of keys, as three times a day the prisoner is left to eat in sorrow his solitary meal. The victim of the old dungeon system never left his torture chamber; the victim of the modern dungeon system walks daily round and round the prison courtyard for half an hour, and, if he chooses, attends, either the Roman Catholic or the Protestant chapel for another half hour. If, however, when his cell door is unlocked at 6 a.m., he asks to see the doctor in the course of the day, he loses his half hour of exercise and his variety turn at the chapel. On admission to Holloway, each prisoner is asked what religion he professes, and unless he replies that he is either a Roman Catholic, a Jew or a Protestant, he is told in an insulting tone of voice that he will be entered as a Protestant. It is on this basis that the statistics of the various religions are compiled, and it is in this fashion that the rights of the individual are respected. When it is remembered that a large number of those who are sent to Holloway and other local prisons are not criminals or convicted prisoners, but are there, either as debtors, for contempt of court because they refuse to he bound over to keep the peace, or because they refuse, or are unable to pay a fine, the personal and moral indignities to which they are subjected, from the moment they leave “Black Maria” to the moment they find themselves once more in the street outside the prison, are more than ever inexcusable, and more than ever an outrage on humanity.

If this is the treatment of short sentenced or remand prisoners, what is the fate of convicts who have to work out long sentences? Here, again, it is evident that whatever revolutionary changes take place in outside social and economic life, scarcely a ripple of the teachings of “Prison Ethics” breaks the black surface of this abyss of human misery. The old traditions of severity and brutality that inspired our blood-red system in Tasmania and Botany Bay still inspire the twentieth century convict-prison system of England. Yet, though such books as “The Term of his Natural Life” (every detail of which is taken from Government Blue Books) record the terrible story, the mass of people are so poor in imagination and in sympathy where what is hidden away from sight is concerned, that they fail to connect these horrors of a bygone day with the horrors of to-day. Much of the otherwise incomprehensibly obtuse stupidity of the present-day prison system in England is only to be understood when we read such books as the one above mentioned, or “Margaret Catchpole,” or “It’s Never too Late to Mend.”

“Justice,” of February 8th, 1908, calls attention to “the large amount of flogging which still exists in the local and convict prisons of England and Wales for breaches of discipline; flogging which the Humanitarian League believes to be as unnecessary as it is cruel.” In the most recently published Report of the Commissioner of Prisons, the number of floggings with birch and “cat,” for the year ending March 31st, 1908, are given as 30, as against 26 in the preceding year; so it is evident no heed has been paid to the remonstrances of “Justice” or of the Humanitarian League. In July, 1907, the daily papers reported without comment the fact that after the recapture of two young convicts, who escaped during a fog from a working gang at Dartmoor, their punishment was “dark cells, a flogging, and working in chains.” The same year, also, Sir John Forrest, of Western Australia, was reported to have decided that the only way to hold refractory natives in Australia was to chain them by the neck; adding, “It was the most humane way.” In an old volume of “Our Corner,” a magazine edited some years ago by Mrs. Besant, will be found an account by a Mr. Ramsay (imprisoned for blasphemy) of prison life in Holloway twenty-two years ago. The actual regime, the state of the cells, the quality of the food is as fossilised now as it was then; but among the moral tortures he endured was that of hearing the cries of the men being flogged for breaches of prison discipline. I may explain that in each cell hangs a card with a list of prison rules; for breach of these prison rules flogging may be administered to men, while women get cells and bread and water. Among these prison rules are orders as to the exact angle and position of the “books of devotion,” the tin mug and wooden spoon, which form the ornaments of the corner shelf. It is not difficult for a tyrannical warder or wardress to discover “a breach of prison discipline” in a mattress insufficiently rolled, or in the wooden spoon being placed where the Bible should be. It may be as well to remind the public here that among “other restraints and punishments” for both men and women prisoners, are close confinement in special cells for refractory prisoners, dietary punishment, close confinement in ordinary cells, and IRONS OR HANDCUFFS! The floggings vary from 12 to 24 strokes.

The questions for us Social-Democrats are:—Is not most of the “crime” for which the inmates of our prisons are now suffering prolonged torture “artificial crime”?—that is, crime induced by the present social and economic conditions, under which the majority of people are forced to lead disorganised, haphasard lives, either on the verge of, or below the level of subsistence. Secondly, is the present prison system a scientific method of dealing with the victims of our own social system? And thirdly, what are the Social Democratic palliatives to prevent so much unnecessary suffering and so many wasted lives?

As regards the first question, it is as well to recall the fact, to which Mr. Joseph Collinson of the Humanitarian League gives prominence in an open letter to Mr. Herbert Gladstone, that “11,000 debtors were imprisoned during the year 1905; and that, as there are now no separate prisons for debtors, these debtors were imprisoned along with criminals, and treated as criminals.” “The Manchester Guardian,” when commenting on this letter, says:—“There can be no manner of doubt that in this matter of imprisonment for debt there is one law for the rich and another for the poor.” The “Saturday Review” says: “There are annually eleven or twelve thousand persons kept in prison for civil debts, and the rate payer, or tax payer has to bear the expense of their maintenance …. Moreover, Scotland can carry on its trade without these judgment summonses.” And a writer in the Lancet says: “Prison is prison, whatever the reason may be which causes the detention; and in the long run, many prisoners connotes many miserable homes, much privation, and much disease. The sequence is a fairly direct one.” In spite of these weighty remonstrances, the Home Office Report for the years 1907-8 states: “There are also 17,918 persons imprisoned as debtors, or on civil process, and 1,212 in default of sureties, making a total of 196,233.” And though Mr. Gladstone has a Bill before the country for “The Prevention of Crime,” he still appears to hold out no hope for more humane and up-to-date legislation for the thousands of “debtor” prisoners and captives, for whom the orthodox pray so regularly on Sundays.

Now let us turn to the cases of the habitual drunkards and offenders (who spend a great portion of their lives behind prison walls), as described in a Government Blue Book on Inebriate Homes, published in 1906. Under the Inebriates Act of 1879-1900, certain licensed institutions were established for the treatment, and (if possible) the cure of habitual drunkards. The writer of the Blue Book report states: “Our early impressions concerning the mental and physical characteristics of ‘habitual drunkards,’ for instance, have undergone considerable modification as the result of seven or eight years’ experience, and it seems to me that we can hardly do better than devote the most of our space to a description of these persons, as we have learnt to know them, and the balance, to some considerations, which, in my opinion, should regulate our treatment of them.” On page 9 we read: “Upwards of 62 per cent. are found to be insane or defective in varying degrees.” On page 10: “I am satisfied that the majority of our insane inebriates have become alcoholic because of congenital defect or tendency to insanity, not insane as the result of alcoholism, and that the drunkenness which precedes ‘alcoholic insanity’ was merely the herald—the only obvious sign—of incipient mental disorder.” On page 13: “Those who appreciate the disabilities of mental defect, when it exists to the extent described, need no persuasion to acknowledge irresponsibility. In such cases drunkenness, and all the offences resulting therefrom, are merely the natural results of inability to sensibly direct and control wishes and actions.” On pages 14 and 15 the Report deals in detail with some of the causes, other than defective mentality, which lead to alcoholism, among such causes being “incipient disease (which, in the case of the poor, is not recognised and medically treated as among the rich), and loss of work among the older members of the community.” The writer sums up:

“The cancer cases, and those with heart trouble, the soldiers, the consumptives, the women with morbid uterine conditions, and the kidney disease cases, were all treated for years in the same way; bandied like shuttle-cocks between police-courts and prisons because they had become drunkards, punished, in fact, for disease.” And, again: “It will be seen in reference to the table of ages that 55 of the persons admitted to reformatories are over sixty years of age. Some of these old inmates are weakened and prematurely aged owing to their drunken habits, but there is every reason to believe that nearly 65 per cent. have, in their early days, lived decent, useful lives, and that their drunkenness of late years has been due to naturally reduced vitality, with its accompanying defect in power of control. The sequence of events is the same in most old age cases. Loss of work from incapacity due to approaching age, consequent idleness, poverty and friendlessness, impaired power of control, drunkenness .... These poor old dements have all been subjected to an average of between six and seven years of prison treatment before being sent to reformatories.” At the Aylesbury State Reformatory for Females, out of 32 admitted last year, 8, according to the Government Report, were found to be insane.

As regards the bulk of the other sources of crime which fill our prisons, Edward Carpenter, in his book “Prisons, Police and Punishment,” throws a flood of light on their primary and secondary causes. “The landless masses of the people, unable, owing to the obsession and pillage of the land by the few, to set themselves to work, are driven into the towns to seek employment at the hands of the capitalist class. There they become divided into two sections—one, of the more skilful, strong, healthy, pushing and crafty, who obtain employment, and the other, the weak, unhealthy, aged, ineffectual, independent-minded and so forth, who fail even in this, and fall into the ruck of the unemployed, and the life of the tramp and the slum-dweller .... The weary mass of the unemployed, pinned between the closed doors of the factory on the one side, and the spiked railings of the workhouse on the other, is the great source from which our criminals proceed.” The Governor of Lewes Prison, in his report to the Commissioners of Prisons for the year 1908, remarks: “The present system, under which prisons are regarded as dust-bins, into which, in addition to the men and women found guilty of occasional violation of law, may properly be poured epileptics, weak-minded persons, immature youths, drunkards, tramps and professional criminals, may be regarded as illogical.” The Governor of the Lancaster. Prison writes in the same Report: “Feebleminded prisoners, principally men, continue to be received from time to time. They seem to wander about the country, occasionally committing offences, in an aimless fashion. The majority of them are unfit for work, except of the simplest description. They are not fit subjects for prison discipline.” And the Governor of Lincoln Prison reports that: “The vagrancy question is a serious one. There have been 2,005 prisoners convicted under the Vagrancy Act during the past year.” While the Governor of Reading Prison gives the real clue to this increase in vagrancy when he reports that “Tramps, including the unemployed, who rapidly sink into the condition of tramps, have been largely on the increase.”

After thus piecing together the three causes that fill our prisons with debtors, drunkards, and discouraged unemployed, we have only to add the further facts about inebriates contained in the Blue Book of 1906, from which I have already quoted, and we have linked up the whole vicious circle which is responsible for most of the “crime,” or anti-social conduct under our present economic and social system. On page 7 of the Blue Book we read: “As a matter of fact, 92 per cent. of the women admitted to reformatories last year were responsible for the birth of 850 children .... About 45 per cent. of all children born of these mothers died in infancy or early youth. If a mere handful of 193 women has been responsible for 499 child deaths, what must be the awful total for the thousands of habitually drunken women of the same class?” With the roots of the race steeped in a quagmire of habitual unemployment, alcoholism, slum-dwelling, irregular living, and frequent imprisonment, what can be expected but a spawn of defectives, alcoholics, weak-willed individuals, who sink into unemployment or prostitution, into nervous disease or premature senility? And who help to people those two blots on our so-called twentieth century civilisation—the prison and the workhouse?

Let us now turn to the second part of our proposition: “Is the present prison system a scientific method of dealing with the victims of our own social system?” Chief among the tortures meted out to those whom our existing Governments call criminals (but whom a more enlightened age will term “persons suffering from a distressing form of anti-social dementia”) is the solitary system. John Daly, an ex-convict, is reported in the “Daily Chronicle” of September 12th, 1906, to have said to an interviewer: “I don’t know any language to describe the horrors of penal servitude. You are virtually in a living tomb, cut off from everything; the only human sounds you hear being hard orders and words from the warders. Never a touch of kindness, never a glimpse of humanity, apart from a rare visitor and an occasional letter .... The scanty diet, the treatment, the surroundings, the utter desolation, all these gather around you, and you feel as if you were being enveloped by a shroud.” Michael Davitt wrote in the same strain: “No prisoner is allowed to do anything except with the permission, and in sight of a warder. He is the object of constant and ceaseless vigilance from sentence to liberation. He is closely watched when at prayer in chapel. He is under the warder’s eyes while in his cell, and is never for a second lost sight of while at work …. The human will must be left outside of the prison gates where it is to be picked up again five, seven, fifteen years afterwards, and refitted to the mental conditions which penal servitude has created in the animalised machine which is discharged from custody.” On leaving Holloway I wrote in an article in the “New International Review”: “One had only to watch, as I did, the faces in the prison chapel, the lax facial muscles, the easy flowing tears, the shaking hands; to see the poor hobbling old women being urged round the exercise, yard at the same pace as the younger ones; to read the inscriptions scratched by previous tortured occupants on the walls and doors of the cells, to realise that one was shut up and thrust into silent fellowship with the mad and the sad, much more than with the bad .... ‘Jane Lee, six months for stabbing,’ was one glimpse into a remorse-tortured soul, passing on to the next occupant of the cell its stifled cry. And I asked myself over and over again, which is the more guilty, the wealthy brewer and distiller who sets his gin-palace trap at every street corner, and who, on the cursed profits of his flourishing trade, intrigues for Birthday Honours,‘ and a seat among the Beerocracy,’ or the underpaid, half-starved working man or woman who walks into the warmed and lighted bar because there is nowhere else to go, and who awakes from the temporary relief from hopelessness, which alcohol affords, to the dreary realities of police court proceedings, a nerve-racking journey in ‘Black Maria,’ and the ordeal of standing for twenty minutes, barefooted, and clad in a single garment, while prison officials go through the usual prison routine of reception?” Dr. Helen Bourchier, another imprisoned suffragist, wrote after a month’s imprisonment in Holloway: “I am not a young woman, and a good deal of my life has been spent alone .... Yet I found even that short term of imprisonment, in some subtle way affecting my mind …. But the fact which showed me most startlingly the effect produced on my mind by the unnatural conditions of seclusion, silence and monotony, which prevail in Holloway, was the growth of a strange feeling of apprehension, of shrinking from the outside world.” The Rev. Dr. Morrison, a prison chaplain, writes: “As far as the criminal part of the population is concerned, force, in the shape of punishment, no matter how severe you make it, will not keep down crime. If the penal laws of the past teach us anything, they teach us that crime cannot be put down by mere severity.” Sir Godfrey Lushington wrote in a Government Report: “I regard as unfavourable to reformation the status of a prisoner throughout his whole career; the crushing of self-respect, the starving of all moral instinct he may possess, the absence of all opportunity to do or receive a kindness, the continual association of none but criminals, the forced labour, and the denial of all liberty. I believe the true method of reforming a man, of restoring him to society, is exactly in the opposite direction to all these.”

I would like to add here, that the crushing of all self-respect in the prisoner appears to be, from my experience, an integral part of prison discipline, as administered by wardresses.

To suggest that the comb allotted to one has not been sufficiently cleaned since used by the last prisoner is to bring down upon one a shrewish retort to the effect that “You are not in an hotel, and that you will have to use it as it is.” If you complain that there are rats in the ground floor cell of the infirmary, into which cell, though ill, you are locked at night, the head wardress will turn to her assistant and remark: “What’s this woman in for; has she been drinking?” This, in spite of the fact that, by reading the card on the door, any official can tell at once whether the inmate of the cell is a convicted prisoner, or, as in my case, one who refused to be bound over. The wardresses under capitalism, are, no doubt, drawn from a low strata of society, and are overworked and underpaid (for, let it never be forgotten, there are no worse sweaters than a capitalist Government), and it is also evident that present-day prison discipline could not be carried out by persons of high mental and moral calibre. To quote another witness against the worse than uselessness of the existing prison system, Captain Machonochie states, as a result of observation, that, “a long course of separation so fosters the self-regarding desires, and so weakens the sympathies, as to make even well-disposed men very unfit to bear the little trials of domestic life on their return to their homes. Thus, there is good reason to think that while silence and solitude may cow the spirit or undermine the energies, it cannot produce true reformation.” The Inspector under the Inebriates Act, on page 17 of his report (1906), writes: “There remains no available evidence to justify the assumption that a few weeks’ imprisonment, spasmodically applied to habitual drunkards, results in either benefit to the individual, deterrence from future offences, or adequate protection to the public. Unless we are prepared to admit that the process is solely one of retaliative vengeance, it is difficult to describe the proceeding as other than useless, and because useless, an absolute waste of public money. If we are prepared to admit the futility of prison treatment, it seems hardly necessary to enlarge upon its inhumanity …. The position becomes worse when we realise that many of them, during the earlier stages, were improvable and educable, but were rendered hopeless by their subsequent treatment.” In spite of that official report and recommendation, we find in the last Report of the Commissioners for Prisons, the Governor of Lancaster Prison remarking that, “The frequent recommittal of drunken women for short, and quite useless, terms of imprisonment, is still noticeable. In my opinion they should be committed to Inebriate Reformatories, and not to prison, and earlier in their career.” This, in a succinct form is the indictment brought by one observer after another against the present prison system. It is unscientific, brutal, corrupting both to the prisoner and the warder, not merely useless, but directly harmful in its results, and so senselessly vindictive and cruel that it makes the judges, magistrates, and Governors of prisons chargeable with crimes much more horrible than are those of the prisoners whom they condemn. Our existing system of the private ownership of the means of life is admittedly responsible for five-sixths of the crime; and the criminal, once in process of making, comes in contact with such obtuse and continuous official stupidity, that it is not long before the finished article—the habitual criminal, or the habitual drunkard is developed.

From the point of view of the Social-Democrat, whose ideal is the free, self-governing individual in a Collectivist society, what should be our treatment of the anti-social individuals, the inebriates, degenerates, and irresponsibles? In the first place, as some of the more intelligent of our prison governors point out, there must be a sorting process carried on in what they ironically call the “dustbin” of society—the modern prison. Then thorough inquiries must be made into the life-histories of the prisoners; and we must insist that while prisoners are being detained on remand, and while such inquiries are being made, they shall he properly fed and housed, and shall be industrially employed. All the physically and mentally weak must be removed to various grades of farm colonies, and kept there by the community, either for life, or until any of them may be sufficiently recovered to return to society. The results of the lately tried Borstal system on the physique and moral nature of the juvenile-adult prisoners of this country have been most striking and encouraging; and the officials draw particular attention to the beneficial effects of gymnastic exercises on the young and physically undeveloped criminal. The common sense of the matter is, of course, to give the boys these advantages before they become criminals; but capitalism, which is stupid as well as unjust, prefers to work on the principle of “cure being better than prevention.” Our school curriculum must include education and training for citizenship; both for teaching the wealthy and privileged classes to “render unto the people the things that are the people’s,” and, for restoring to the children of the people a feeling of social self-respect, and of a right to a material share in the wealth and life of the community. We must agitate to put an end to imprisonment for debt, and for the abolition of flogging in our prisons, and of capital punishment. Prisons must be gradually transformed into industrial workshops, where labour is carried on in association, where trades are taught, and wages, over and above the expenses of the prisoner’s maintenance, can be earned. Every prisoner must be looked upon as a potential reformed member of society, who may (as did those who in the old days were transported to our Australian Colonies) find in a new environment, and more congenial surroundings that stimulus to right social conduct which helps to make men and women useful members of society. An ordinary model prison that I went over in Budapest had cells far larger and very superior to those of Holloway; the floors were boarded, there were large double French windows, opening inside so as not to interfere with the iron bars outside; the prison utensils were of enamel or china, an advance on the horrible insanitary tin cans and wooden spoons used in England; and the prisoners worked in association in large airy rooms and workshops. In France the prisoners can buy wine and tobacco with the surplus of their earnings.

We must also agitate that persons found guilty of political offences, whether they be men or women, should have different treatment from the ordinary criminals. In no country, not even in Russia, are political offenders treated by law so harshly as in England. I have seen in Hungary and in France the rooms inside the prison enclosures, where political prisoners reside. They are well furnished, and the prisoners can pass their time reading, writing, and studying; they can receive friends, and are allowed a reasonable time for exercising by themselves in the prison yard. They wear their own clothes, and their friends supply them with food from outside. A young Russian girl who came to stay with me after suffering three terms of imprisonment on remand, on suspicion of having helped organise Trade Unions on a political basis, described the cells in a St. Petersburg prison as having windows that would open, and as having water laid on to each cell, so that a daily bath was possible. Some of the cells were large, and held two or three prisoners. One of her prison mates was a sculptor, who obtained wax., and occupied her time in modelling. There was a good library of books, constantly replenished by the prisoners, and my friend amused herself by teaching English through the medium of some of the English books she found in the library.

As I have already pointed out, the greater part of our laws have for their object the protection of private property, and the maintenance of the property system; whilst, as Kropotkin says: “A large portion of our criminal laws are for the purpose of keeping the workman subordinate to the employer, so as to ensure to the latter a successful exploitation of the said workman.” Any suggestions, therefore, for mitigating the stupidity or cruelty of the existing prison system are merely palliatives, and can never touch the root of the matter. Only a complete sweeping away of the present economic system, and the substitution of a system giving to everyone access to the means of life, can finally empty workhouse, prison, and slum, and help to build up a Co-operative Commonwealth in “England’s green and pleasant land.” The process of renewed social life will possibly be long and tedious, for the unlearning of the lessons, forced by centuries of industrialism and of competitive trading on a whole population, will take the least evolved among its members many years; but, again, we can point hopefully to Australia, where the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those “who left their country for their country’s good,” now lead the way as pioneers in social and industrial legislation, and where a sense of social responsibility is growing much more rapidly than it is doing in the old country. To make Socialists who will work for the Social Revolution is our task as Social-Democrats; but during the years that our propaganda is being carried on, we must see to it that the children of the nation are fed and educated, that laws are passed providing work for the unemployed, and that our prison population is as little degraded as may be under a system of capitalism which forces the weak and the helplessly poor into the “criminal” ranks, and which makes one set of laws for the rich and another for the poor.