23 JUNE 1860, Page 16


IN an article of last week's Spectator, "Two Systems of Treating Con- victs," we alluded to a traveller's account of the public prison of Valencia as not sufficiently affording warrant substantial enough for quotation; but a correspondent, whose aid in the question is beyond price, has most kindly corrected a slip of the memory. The Glimpses of Spain, pub- lished in 1850 by Mr. S. T. Wallis, an American gentleman, contained a description of the prison' sufficiently light and sketchy to make a respon- sible public writer think twice before producing it as an authority. But that this "jail in Arcadia" is or was a substantial reality, far surpas- sing Mr. Wallis'a brightly-tinted picture, we have abundant proof in the Account of the Public Prison at Valencia, by Captain Maconochie ; Spain As Is, by Mr. G. A. Hoskins; and in What Shall We Do with our Criminals? by the same author. An admirable resume of the whole will be found in the valuable work on the Repression of Crime, by Mr. M. D. Hill:— " In the city of Valencia," says Mr. 11111, "there has long been a pene- tentiary gaol, under the government of Colonel Montesinos, a gentleman who has made for himself a European reputation by his skill in the treat- ment of his prisoners. He acted upon them by urging them to self-refor- mation. He excited them to industry, by allowing them a small portion of their earnings for their own immediate expenditure, under due regulations to prevent abuse. He enabled them to raise their position, stage after stage, by their perseverance in good conduct. When they had acquired his confi- dence, he entrusted them with commissions which carried them beyond the walls of their prison ; relying on the moral influence which he had acquired over them, to prevent their desertion. And, finally, he discharged them before the expiration of their sentences when he had satisfied himself that they desired to do well,—had acquired of patient labour—so much of skill in some useful occupation as would ensure employment,—the inesti- mable faculty of self-denial,—the power of saying "no" to the tempter,— and, in short, such a general control over the infirmities of their minds and their hearts, as should enable them to deserve and maintain the liberty which they had earned. His success was answerable to the wisdom and zeal of his administration."

The Spanish Government recognizing the great abilites of Colonel Montesinos, appointed him Inspector-General of all the Prisons in Spain ; but afterwards, with strange inconsistency, the same Government esta- blished a new criminal code the operation of which rendered all the Colonel's efforts nugatory. Finding nO means to counteract the evils of the new code, which utterly destroyed his system, Colonel Montesinos resigned his appointment.

The time, however, is not very far distant when this or some similar mode of treating our convicts must be adopted in all our prisons. That will be as soon as we have fully recognized the fact that the sole end of criminal prosecution is not to inflict suffering upon the guilty, but to protect the innocent ; and that, instead of going to an enormous expense to make the bad infinitely worse, till we are at a loss what to do with them, and almost wish we were allowed to hang them out of hand,—it would be better and wiser to convert them into honest men and useful citizens, at comparatively no cost to the country. Such a result is no longer problematical, as the experience of Colonel Montesinos alone would have proved, even if it had not been so strikingly and thoroughly con- firmed by the more persistent and complete experience of Captain Walter

i Crofton, n Ireland.