Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION V.: CELLS, DOUBLE INSTEAD OF SINGLE. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 4
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SECTION V.: CELLS, DOUBLE INSTEAD OF SINGLE. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 4 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 4.
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CELLS, DOUBLE INSTEAD OF SINGLE.
The change is not a trifling one. It will not lightly be acceded to: the expediency of it will be expected to be fully and satisfactorily made out. It shall be so: by reason, by authority, and by practice. In the letters, I assumed solitude as a fundamental principle. I then copied, and I copied from recollection. I had no books. I have since read a little: I have thought more.
Not that the Panopticon system has any interest in the change. You may apply it, indeed, to mitigated seclusion, but so you may, with equal facility, to absolute solitude. Applied to the degree of mitigated seclusion here proposed, it clears the punishment of its inconveniences, and gives it the advantages that have been looked for from solitude: applied to solitude, it enables you to screw up the punishment to a degree of barbarous perfection never yet given to it in any English prison, and scarcely to be given to it by any other means.
Double cells suppose two prisoners at least in company; and admit of three, or even, in case of necessity, four; and that with much less inconvenience, as we shall see, in point of room, than would result from the putting of two into a cell designed only for one. As to any greater number, I lay it out of the question. The choice lies, it must be remembered, not betwixt solitude and crowded rooms, but betwixt absolute perpetual and universal solitude, on the one hand, and mitigated seclusion in very small assorted companies, on the other: companies, in the formation of which every regard might be paid, and naturally would be paid, to every sort of consideration by which expediency can be influenced—to age, temper, character, talents, and capabilities. Single cells throughout, that is, a number of cells equal to that of the prisoners for whose reception they are designed—cells in which, under the Panopticon discipline, they are to work, and eat, and attend Divine service, as well as sleep, and out of which, unless for the purpose of being aired and exercised, they are never to stir: suppose them doomed, or at least meant to be doomed, during the whole time of their imprisonment, to the state of unmitigated solitude above mentioned; that time, for the most part, a term of not less than seven years.
Of perfect solitude in the penitentiary discipline I know but of one use,† —the breaking the spirit, as the parase is, and subduing the contumacy of the intractable. In this quality it may be a necessary instrument: none, at any rate, can be more unexceptionable; none can be more certain in its effect.* In what instance was it ever known to fail?
But in this quality the demand for it can be but temporary. What it does, if it does anything, it does quickly—better, according to Mr. Howard, in two or three days, than in more.† Why, then, at an immense expense set up a perpetual establishment for the sake of so transitory a use?
In the character of a permanent article of discipline, continued throughout the whole of the confinement, if it were thought necessary on any account, it must be for one or other of two purposes:—1. To prevent the spread of mischievous instruction; or, 2. To prevent conspiracies for the purpose of escape.
It is not necessary for either purpose: I mean always in contradistinction to the mitigated plan of seclusion, which gives to each man, but one, or at most two companions: I. Not for the former. In the cases in which mischievous inclinations have been apprehended, and in which a plan of solitude, more or less steadily adhered to, has been employed or thought of by way of remedy, the following circumstances have generally concurred:—1. The multitude of the prisoners collected together large and indeterminate; 2. The composition of that multitude not capable of being regulated by any power of selection; 3. The whole multitude left together, during the whole, or almost the whole of the four-and-twenty hours, without inspection or controul, and that in a narrow space, where no one, however desirous, could escape from the conversation of any other; 4. All of them at liberty, without any other check than that of poverty, to supply themselves to any excess with the means of intoxication; 5. A part, more or less considerable, of that number, about to be turned loose again upon the public in a short time, with the lessons of mischief fresh in their ears, and ready at the first opportunity to apply the theory to practice. Under the arrangement to which, upon maturer consideration, I have given the preference in comparison with the first hasty conception of perpetual solitude, not one of the above circumstances has place. The number of the prisoners proposed to be put together is very small; in general, but two, at the utmost not more than four: the composition of these little groupes dependent upon the ruling powers in the first instance, and capable of being varied every moment, upon any the slightest intimation which experience or even suspicion can afford: every groupe, and every individual in it, exposed more or less to the scrutiny of an inspecting eye during every moment of their continuance there: all means of intoxication for ever out of reach: the degree of seclusion determined upon, capable, whatever it be, of being—thanks to the all-efficient power of the Panopticon principle—maintained inviolate, while every plan of solitude yet attempted has been broken in upon, and its purpose in great measure frustrated, by occasional associations: and the pernicious instruction, should any such be communicated, not capable, were it to find a learner ever so ripe for it, of being applied to practice for many years to come.
If from reason we turn to example, an instance where the plan of perpetual, total, and universal solitude has been adopted and steadily adhered to, will not anywhere, I believe, be found. Either it has not been aimed at, or if aimed at in principle, it has been relented from in practice.
In the Wymondham Penitentiary-House, each prisoner, it is true, has a separate cell to sleep in: it is, however, only upon occasion* that he works there. If he does not work there, he must work, and unquestionably does work, in company, viz. in the workroom of twenty feet four inches by ten feet,† which was not destined for a few. As a preservative against mischievous instruction, what, then, at those times, that is, throughout the day, becomes of solitude?
In the Gloucester Penitentiary-House, as well as in the other Gloucester prisons, solitude, under the two modifications there adopted, viz. with and without the concomitant of darkness, is, with great propriety, and in conformity to the principle I am contending for, “directed merely as a punishment for refractory prisoners, and to enforce the discipline of the prison.”
In the penitentiary-house, indeed, it is provided, that during the hours of rest, the prisoners shall be “kept entirely separate—in separate cells.” So much for the night. How is it all day long?—“During the hours of labour,” they are to be “kept separate.”—How?—absolutely? No: but only “as far as the nature of the employment will adnut.”
What follows immediately after, I do not perfectly comprehend:—“When the nature of the employment may require two persons to work together,” (it does not say two persons or more) “the taskmasters, or assistant, (it is said) shall be present to attend to the behaviour of such offenders, who shall not continue together except during such hours of labour.” How is this? Not more than two persons ever to work together? nor even two without a taskmaster, or his assistant, to attend them? Upon any idea of economy, can this be looked upon as practicable? One man at £50, or £30, or £25 a-year,‡ to do nothing but look on, for every two men who are expected to work? The governor is allowed, I observe, for but one subordinate of each of those descriptions. Are there, then, to be but three pair of prisoners on the whole establishment, to whom the indulgence of so much as a single companion is to be allowed? are all the rest to remain in solitude for the want of an attendant to each pair?—This cannot be. By two, then, we are to understand two or more: in short, here, as at Wymondham, there are working-rooms in common, in which none are to be without an inspector stationed in some part of the room.—But in this case, too, what becomes of solitude?
If the benefits expected from solitude in the character of a preservative, were not given up by this relaxation, they would be by another. The following I observe prescribed, as one of the four degrees of punishment “to be applied in the discipline of all the prisons,” the Penitentiary prison, therefore, among the rest. The prisoner, though “on working-days confined to his cell, except during the times of airing,”∥ and though “removed singly to the chapel,” is, “provided his or her behaviour be orderly or decent,” to be “allowed on Sundays, to air in the courts, in the society of his or her class.”§ Under this indulgence, too, what becomes of the antiseptic regimen? May not the same person who opens a school of corruption as soon as the keeper’s back is turned, be orderly and decent during his presence? may not there be eye-prisoners, as well as eye-servants? cannot the arts of housebreaking and pilfering be taught on Sundays, as well as on week-days? cannot they be taught quietly, and in a low voice?
So much as to evil instruction. Now as to safe custody. Upon the Panopticon plan, at least, absolute solitude is equally unnecessary to this purpose. Towards effecting an escape, what can two or three do more than one, confined as they are by iron grates while they are within the prison, and by walls when they are without? and, in either case, never out of the eye of an inspector, who is armed and out of reach of attack, and within reach of whatever assistance he can desire? and this, too, as we shall see, but a part of the securities with which the system is armed? for every thing cannot be said at once, nor repeated at each sentence.
Upon the common plans, absolute solitude while the prisoners were out of sight might, for aught I can say, be a necessary precaution: at least it cannot be said to be an useless one. In the course of sixteen hours, a good deal might be done by two or three persons, steeled against danger, reckoning life as nothing, and secure of not being observed.
If perpetual and unremitted solitude is not necessary either to prevent the spread of mischievous instruction, or to prevent escapes, to what other purpose can it be either necessary, or of use? To reformation? but that you have already, either without any solitude, or by the help of a short course of it. What further proof would you wish for? what further proof can human eyes have, of such a change, beyond quietness, silence, and obedience?
To the purpose of example? The effect in the way of example, the effect of the spectacle, receives little addition from the protracted duration of the term.
Are you afraid the situation should not be made uncomfortable enough to render it ineligible? There are ways enough in the world of making men miserable, without this expensive one: nor, if their situation in such a place were made the best of, is there any great danger of their finding themselves too much at their ease. If you must torment them, do it in a way in which somebody may be a gainer by it. Sooner than rob them of all society, I would pinch them at their meals.
But solitude, when it ceases to be necessary, becomes worse than useless. Mr. Howard has shewn how. It is productive of gloomy despondency, or sullen insensibility. What better can be the result, when a vacant mind is left for months, or years, to prey upon itself.
This is not all. Making this lavish use of solitude is expending an useful instrument of discipline in waste. Not that of punishments, or even a proper variety of punishments, there can ever be a dearth: I mean, of what is usually in view under that name—suffering employed in a quantity predetermined, after an offence long past. But of instruments of compulsion, such as will bear scrutiny, there is no such great abundance.
Starving thus employed, is open to suspicion, and may not always be practicable, without prejudice to health. Acute applications, such as whipping or beating, are open to abuse, and still more to suspicion of abuse. Applied in this way, they would be execrated under the name of torture. Solitude thus applied, especially if accompanied with darkness and low diet, is torture in effect, without being obnoxious to the name.
Compared to that mitigated degree of seclusion which admits of allowing two or three to a cell, it is unthrifty in a more literal sense. Pecuniary economy must be sacrificed to it in a thousand shapes:—1. It enhances the expense of building; 2. It consumes room; 3. It cramps the choice of trades; 4. It cramps industry in any trade.
1. It enhances the expense of building. Admit of double cells instead of single, and observe the saving. Half the number of the partition-walls; a considerable part of the expense of warming; half that of lighting; half the apparatus, whatever it be, dedicated to cleanliness; and the expense of waterclosets, upon the most perfect plan, need the less be grudged.
2. It consumes room: 1. Admit of double cells, you gain to the purpose of stowage and manufacture, the space occupied by the partition-walls you have thrown out; 2. It precludes the saving that may be made in double cells, by putting together two sorts of workmen, one of whom required more room than the average allowance, the other less; a weaver, for example, and a shoemaker.
3. It cramps the choice of employments: 1. It excludes all such as require more room than you would think fit to allow to your single cell; 2. It excludes all such as require two or more to work in the same apartment.*
4. It cramps industry in any employment: 1. It precludes an experienced workman from having boys given to him for apprentices; 2. Nor probably would the same quantity of work be done by two persons in a state of solitude, as would be done by the same two persons in a state of society, at least under the influence of the inspection principle. Who does not know the influence that the state of the spirits has upon the quantity of the work?†
Sequestered society is favourable to friendship, the sister of the virtues. Should the comrades agree, a firm and innocent attachment will be the natural fruit of so intimate a society, and so long an union.
Each cell is an island:—the inhabitants, shipwrecked mariners, cast ashore upon it by the adverse blasts of fortune: partners in affliction, indebted to each other for whatever share they are permitted to enjoy of society, the greatest of all comforts.
Should disagreement intervene, how easy will separation be! and what should hinder it? Should the mischief be the result of illnature or turbulence of one alone, the remedy is at hand:—consign him to solitude till tamed; take from him the blessing, till he has learned to know its value; punish him in the faculty he has abused.
A fund of society will thus be laid up for them against the happy period which is to restore them to the world. A difficulty will thus be obviated which has been remarked as one of the most unfortunate concomitants of this mode of punishment, and as having but too powerful a tendency to replunge them into the same abandoned courses of life which brought them to it before. Quitting the school of adversity, they will be to each other as old school-fellows, who had been through the school together, always in the same class.
Let us keep clear of mistakes on all sides. There are four distinctions we should be careful to observe in regard to solitude:—One is, between the utility of it in the character of a temporary instrument applicable to a temporary purpose, and the necessity of it, in the character of a permanent ingredient in the system of discipline. Another is, between the peculiar effects of solitude, and the advantages which are equally obtainable by means of sequestered society, in small assorted companies. A third is, between the effects of such associations, under the common plan and under the all-preservative influence of the inspection principle.
A fourth is, between the duration the solitary discipline is capable of requiring in a penitentiary-house, and that which it may possibly be of use to give to it in a house of correction. It may be longer in the latter.* Why? Because, in a penitentiary-house, all it can be wanted for is to produce immediate submission: for as to reformation and change of character, years are remaining for that task: the offender is not returned from thence into unlimited society. In a house of correction, the term being so much shorter, the remedy must be so much the more powerful. If the reformation of the offender is not completed in his solitary cell, there is no other place for it to be continued in; for from thence he is returned to society at large.†
One thing is good for physic, another thing for food? Would you keep a man upon bark or antimony?
Rejecting, then, the idea of absolute solitude, I lay two of the cells proposed in the original draught into one. Two, accordingly, is the number I consider as forming the ordinary complement of the double cell thus formed: three, if three are anywhere to be admitted, I style a super-complement: four, a double complement.
The degree of extensibility thus given to the establishment seems a very considerable advantage: the number is not rigorously confined to the measure originally allotted to it: provision is made for the fluctuation and uncertainty naturally incident to the number of inhabitants in such a house. Though two should be deemed the properest complement for a general one, even so considerable an one as four, especially if not universal, does not seem to threaten any formidable inconvenience. As to safe custody and good order, four is not such a number as can well be deemed unmanageable: if it were, how would so many more be managed all day long in the work-shops, and that without the benefit of invisible inspection, as on the common plans? As to room, four would have much more in one of these double cells, than two would have in a single cell formed by the division of such a double cell into equal parts. A partition, in certain cases, excludes from use a much greater space than that which it covers.‡
Under this arrangement, solitude, in its character of a temporary instrument, is by no means laid aside. On the contrary, it is made applicable to a greater, indeed to an almost unlimited extent, and, what is more, without any additional expense. Two, I call, as before, the ordinary complement for these double cells. Conceive the whole number of the cells provided with their ordinary complement: to consign a delinquent to solitude, there needs no more than to deprive him of his companion, and by transferring the companion to another cell, give that one other cell a super-complement. In this way, by only giving to half the number of cells a super-complement, half the number of prisoners might be consigned to solitude at once: a multitude of solitaries beyond comparison greater than what is provided for in any prison in which solitude is not meant to be the constant state of the whole. Even supposing the cells universally provided with a super-complement, give two-thirds of them a double complement, and you may still consign to solitude one-third of their inhabitants at the same time: and so, in case of an universal double complement, one quarter, upon no worse terms than the putting five persons into a space, which, in the ordinary way of providing for the inferior classes, is often made to hold a greater number without any very decided inconvenience.
In estimating the effects of putting two or three or four prisoners together (all under inspection, it must be remembered, all the while) the advantage of grouping them at the discretion of the inspector must not be overlooked. Very inattentive indeed must he have been to this capital part of his business, if in a very short time the character of every individual among them be not known to him as much as is material to his purpose. He will, of course, sort them in such a manner as that they may be checks upon one another, not assistants, with regard to any forbidden enterprise.
Let us not be imposed upon by sounds: let not the frightful name of felon bereave us of the faculty of discrimination. Even antecedently to the time within which the reformatory powers of the institution can be expected to have had their effect, there will be perhaps no very considerable part of the whole number, whose characters need inspire much more apprehension than would be justified by an equal number of men taken at large. It is a too common, though natural error to affix to this odious name, whatsoever difference of character may accompany it, one indistinguishing idea of profligacy and violence. But the number of the persons guilty of crimes of violence, such as robbery, the only sorts of crimes which in such an establishment can be productive of any serious mischief, bear, comparatively speaking, but a small proportion to the whole. Those whose offences consist in acts of timid iniquity, such as thieves and sharpers, even though trained to the practice as to a profession, are formidable, not to the peace of the establishment, but only in the capacity of instructors to the rest; while the qualities of perhaps the major part, whose criminality is confined to the having yielded for once to the momentary impulse of some transient temptation, are such as afford little or no danger in any shape, more than would be afforded by any equal number of persons in the same state of poverty and coercion taken at large. They are like those on whom the tower of Siloam fell—distinguished from many of their neighbours more by suffering than by guilt. Drunkenness, it is to be remembered, the most inexhaustible and most contagious source of all corruptions, is here altogether out of the question. Intoxication cannot be taught, where there is nothing (for this I take for granted) where with a man can be intoxicated.*
[† ]Mr. Howard knew no other. “The intention of this,” viz. (solitary confinement)—“the intention of this,” says he, in Account of Lazarettos, p. 169, “I mean by day as well as by night, is either to reclaim the most atrocious and daring criminals; to punish the refractory for crimes committed in prison; or to make a strong impression in a short time, upon thoughtless and irregular young persons, as faulty apprentices and the like. It should therefore be considered by those who are ready to commit for a long term petty offenders to absolute solitude, that such a state is more than human nature can bear, without the hazard of distraction or despair. The beneficial effects of such a punishment are speedy, proceeding from the horror of a vicious person left entirely to his own reflections. This may wear off by long continuance, and a sullen insensibility may succeed.”
[* ]Darkness and fasting, one or both, must be added, where it is thought necessary that the effect should be speedily produced: as in the case of English juries.
[† ]Account of Lazarettos, p. 192.
[* ]When necessary. See Sir T. Beevor’s Letters in Annual Register for 1786, Let. I.
[† ]Ibid. Let. III.
[‡ ]The salaries allowed by these regulations to a taskmaster, turnkey, and assistant turnkey. Ib. Part I. p. 18.
[∥ ]As to airing, a plan for that purpose will be found below, which does not require the slightest infringement upon whatever plan of seclusion may be fixed upon as most eligible.
[§ ]Ibid. Part II. p. 10.
[* ]I do not pretend to say, that even in single cells employments would be to seek; or that there is any reason to strain a point for the sake of admitting employments that require an extraordinary measure of room, as if the profitableness of employments were in uniform proportion to the quantity of room they required. I would not, therefore, be at a great expense in building, for the vague chance of giving admittance to trades, which by their difference in point of profitableness might do more than pay for the difference in point of expense in building. What I said in the letters I say still. All I mean here is, that if a latitude in that article can be obtained without any additional expense, the advantage ought not to be foregone.
[† ]True it is, that two boys, or two idle men, if put together without motives for working, would be apt enough to play or lounge the whole time, and not work at all. True it is also, that after having had experience for a certain time of absolute solitude, debarred from all means of employment, the most arrant idler that ever lived would be apt to fly to almost any employment as a relief. But the question here is, not between a recluse without the means either of work or play, and two idlers possessing the means of play without the motives to work, but between one person in solitude, and two others in society, neither the one nor the two having the means of play, but, with regard to work, all having as well the motives as the means.
[* ]Though even there not a long one. Hear Mr. Howard, in a note before referred to:—“In all manufacturing towns,” says he, p. 192, “it would be proper to have solitary cells for the confinement of faulty apprentices and servants for a few days, where they should be constrained to work, and have no visitors, unless clergymen: for a short term would probably do more to effect a reformation, than three or four months’ confinement; as it is generally found that in the first two or three days prisoners seem to have their minds most affected and penitent.”
[† ]I speak with a view to the common plans. In a panopticon house of correction, beginning, where necessary, with a very short course of solitude, I would allot the rest of the term to a state of mitigated seclusion. But in many cases, where a long term is prescribed without distinction or thought about the discipline that will be pursued, the short course of solitude would be sufficient of itself.
[‡ ]Thus, in a room of twelve feet wide, you might join lengthways three tables of four feet in length each: divide the room into two equal rooms by a partition, you can place but two such tables in the same direction, though the partition be but a lath.
[* ]In showing that absolute solitude is not an essential part, nor indeed any part of the penitentiary system, I had forgot the original Penitentiary Act, 19 Geo. III. c. 74; under which act, solitude extends neither to “labour,” nor “devotion,” nor “meals,” nor “airing.” See Section 33.