THE ENGLISH PRISON [To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—I
regret that Mr. Athill should continue with his in- accuracies. It is not right to say that 28 days is the limit of solitary confinement.
If Mr. Atha' can quote the regulation insisting that 28 days is the limit of solitary confinement, a prisoner called Norman Stewart who received 15 days No. 1 and 28 days No. 2 dietary punishment with solitary confinement, making 43 days solitary confinement in all, will have an action against the visiting magistrates who awarded this punishment.
Further, Thomas Davis, the Dartmoor mutineer who did actually four months in sclitary confinement, will also have cause for legal complaint, and Mr. Athill, once he is convinced that these men did the period of solitary confinement in excess of what he states to be the period laid down by law, will no doubt help them to recover damages. And these are not the only cases.
Norman Stewart, furthermore, suffered the loss of six months remission and six months stage. So outrageous was the treatment of this man that several years later when things has eased up a bit in Parkhurst I drafted a petition to the Home Secretary which recovered a considerable portion of the for- feited remission.
For Mr. Athill to say that i4 days cellular confinement is the limit except for personal violence or mutiny or incitement to mutiny is absolute nonsense. The prison governor can give 17 days cellular confinement and frequently does, and the visiting magistrates can give up to 57 days, and repeat it immediately after the last day in cellular confinement has been served for all sorts of offences, such as, false accusations against a gaoler, insolence, smashing up, sodomy, trafficking, attempting to bribe a gaoler, and a hundred and one other prison offences. For incitement to mutiny men are flogged, and for mutiny get long terms of penal servitude added to their original sentences.
That Mr. Athill could not get his teeth into such a serious scandal as the death of John Edward Corduroy, or the Wands- worth assaults, is a comment on his inquiry. I am inclined to think that if Mr. Athill were a personal wimess of an abuse he would be like the yokel who, when he saw a giraffe in a circus passing through his village, blinked his eyes and said, " There ain't no such animal."
The allegations of the shocking brutalities at Barlinnie Prison made by Mr. McGovern in the House and Mr. Tom Gnwes's exposure of the Wandsworth assaults show that the exposure of scandals comes not from a diligent prison commission seeking to correct abuse, but from public-minded people and journals who will not always tolerate a complacency which nods amiably at horror.
Sir Samuel Hoare is meeting much opposition from the prison staff in his reformative efforts and already the proposed Prison Bill has entered its " emasculatory " stages at the Home Office, and I must repeat that Mr. Athill aids bigots and hinders reformers.
At this very moment fierce arguments are taking place between the reactionary members of the staff at Parkhurst who jeer at Sir Samuel Hoare's efforts, and the convicts who defend the Home - Secretary vigorously, saying, " You leave our Sam alone. He's all right."—Yours, &c.,