Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION XXI.: APPROACH AND FENCES. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 4
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SECTION XXI.: APPROACH AND FENCES. - 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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APPROACH AND FENCES.
In the contrivance of the fences, I had of course two classes of persons in view: the prisoners within; and hostile mobs, or such individuals as might be disposed to form plans or join in plots for the escape of prisoners, without. To these were added, in the contrivance of the approach, the subordinate keepers; as likewise, though with a different view, the chapel-visitors. While the government or coercion of the first three of these four descriptions of persons was to be provided for, the accommodation of the last, those still better than gratuitous inspectors, who, instead of being paid for inspecting, may be content to pay for it, must not be neglected.
The approach, I make one only: a walled avenue, cut through and from the surrounding wall to the front of the building, thrown back purposely to a certain distance—say, for example only, 240 feet, twice the diameter of the polygonal part of the building, neglecting the projecting front. The aperture thus made is closed by a set of gates a small one, close to the porter’s lodge, for foot passengers; next to that, a larger one, for carriages to go in at; and beyond it, one of the same size as the second, for carriages to return by. At the very entrance, the avenue is contracted as much as it can be, consistently with the above-mentioned purposes; it grows gradually wider and wider as it approaches the building; arrived at a distance equal to the breadth of the projecting front, it stops short. Conceive a square having this front for one of its sides. In the opposite side, the walls that bound the avenue terminate. In the same line terminate two walls or other fences, which, issuing at right angles from the front, bound the two remaining sides of the square. The avenue, though gradually expanded from the entrance to the spot where it falls into the square, wants on each side some feet of occupying the whole width. That interval is filled up on each side by a pair of gates, which, being of open work, afford to the building access to, and view of, the spaces on each side the avenue; designed partly and principally for containing offices, and affording small gardens to the officers. In the centre of the square stands a lamp-post, or some such object, serving as a direction to carriages in turning; and from this central mark, to the pier between the two gates across the entrance, it might perhaps be found convenient at chapel-times, to keep a strained rope or chain, for the purpose of separating the path of the returning, from that of the approaching vehicles; thus obviating the confusion, which, without such precaution, is apt to arise in a throng of carriages.
The public road runs, according to local circumstances, either in the same direction with the avenue, or else at right angles to it, and parallel to the wall cut through to form the approach. No public highway, either carriage-road or foot-path, runs near to it in any other quarter.
Parallel to the gates, and to the extent of the gates, the road is bounded on the other side by a wall, which may be called the protection-wall, and behind it a branch of the road, which may be called the protection-road.
i.Why only one approach to so large a building?
1. For the sake of economy: the more approaches, the more porters.
2. For the sake of safe custody and subordination: the more exits, the more places to watch, and the greater the danger of escape. And were there more exits than one, all would not be equally under the view of the head-governor. What if he, and the next in authority under him, had each a separate exit under his care? The inspective force would be diminished by one half: on the one side, the subordinate would be withdrawn from under the controul of his principal; on the other, the principal would lose the assistance of the subordinate.
ii.Why throw the building back in this manner, and place it in a recess, rather than close to the road, and flush with the surrounding wall?
1. For security; and that, in the first place, against enterprises from within. Suppose a prisoner, by permission or by negligence, got out and landed at the front of the building: on this plan, what chance has he gained of an opportunity of escape? He is inclosed in a defile, with the building at one end, and the gates that open to it on the other; exposed on one side to the whole view of the front, and on the other to that of the gate-keeper, without whose concurrence the gates can afford him no exit, and the prison habit betraying him to both. On the other hand, suppose a part of the building to have doors or windows opening to the highway: let a man but have got through any one of those apertures, he finds himself at large. What though the part thus bordered by the road should be no part of the place designed for prisoners, but only of the house or lodging of one of the officers, the governor for example? Such places may not be always inaccessible to the prisoners, at least to all of them. A prisoner may be there by permission, engaged in some domestic employment; he may have stepped in thither on some pretence; he may have been let in on purpose by the infidelity of some servant of the house. Should even the prisoners be all of one sex, there may be servants of the other. Of a prison so circumstanced, where is the part that can be sure of being always proof against the united assaults of Cupid’s arrows and Danaë’s golden shower?
2. Against clandestine enterprises from without. What enterprises of this nature can be attempted with the smallest prospect of success? Without procuring the door to be opened by the porter, a man cannot pass the gate; he is then inclosed in a defile as before, reconnoitred all the while from the lodge at one end, and the building at the other. The gate which lets him in might, in the act of opening it, and without any attention on the part of the porter, ring a warning-bell proclaiming the stranger’s entrance and approach.
3. Against hostile enterprises by mobs. The enterprises of mobs cannot, like the attempts of individuals, be sudden and secret: they have always a known cause. The guards are everywhere upon the watch. Is mischief threatened? The porter rings his bell—a sentinel fires his piece—the force of the prison is collected in the front. What mob will make any attempt against the gates? No sooner have they begun, than they find themselves exposed to the fire of the whole front; that front more than twice the breadth of the space they occupy, and converging thither as to a point. There needs no riot-act; the riot-act has been read by the first man who has forced himself within the gates. The line is completely drawn beyond all power of mistake—all within it are malcfactors. The avenue is no public highway; it is the private inclosure of the keeper of the prison: those who force themselves within it do so at their peril.
In the ordinary state of prison-building, all preparations for an attack, everything short of the actual attempt, may be carried on without molestation under the keeper’s nose. The rioters collect together in force, in what numbers they think proper, and with what arms they can procure. What shall hinder, or who shall so much as question them? It is the king’s highway: one man has as much right there as another. Let them have what arms they will, still who shall question them? Every man has a right to carry arms, till some overt act demonstrates his intention of employing them to a forbidden purpose. Observe now the consequences: The walls of the prison are impregnable; its doors well fortified; windows looking to the highway it has none. But the keeper’s doors are like other doors—his windows like other windows. A bar or a log will force the one—a stone or push will lay open the other. Where the keeper enters, there may the rioters enter, and there may the prisoners get out, when they are in the keeper’s place. The cuckoo is completely hedged in, except at one place which is not thought of.
At Newgate, the building, including the keeper’s house, runs along the public footway: and the fate of that edifice at the disgraceful era of 1780 displays the consequence. No impediment does it present, natural or legal, that can hinder any single man, or any body of men, from introducing their eyes or hands close to the keeper’s windows. A little army may come up with clubs and iron crows to the very door, ready to force it open; and till the attack is actually begun, there is neither right nor obstacle to impede, much less power to hinder them.
All the other prisons in London, that I recollect, the King’s Bench amongst the rest, are in the same predicament. Had the contrary precaution been observed, the tragedy of St. George’s fields would hardly have been acted. The ill-fated youth, whose death drew forth in its day such a torrent of popular discontent, would not have fallen, or his fall would have been acknowledged to have been not undeserved.
In a great town, the ground may not always admit of giving the remedy its full extent; though, to a certain extent, and that sufficient to give a vast advantage over the common plans, it might be made use of almost everywhere.
Even Mr. Howard’s plan, though uncircumscribed by any considerations of local necessity, even Mr. Howard’s plan of perfection in the abstract, has overlooked it. The piles of building allotted to the convicts are indeed placed all of them within, and at a distance from, the surrounding wall; but lodges for porters, a house for a chaplain, and another for a steward or storekeeper, form part of it. Alongside, for anything that appears, runs the public way: nor is there any thing to hinder a mob of rioters from forcing themselves in at the chaplain’s and the steward’s door and windows, till the outrage is begun.
Thus it stands upon the face of the engraved plan. His after thoughts, so far from obviating the inconvenience in question, double it. His last opinion is in favour of “a spacious walk, clear of buildings, through the centre, with three courts on each side, and the chapel and chaplain’s apartments at the opposite end, facing the governor’s own apartment.”* Is the chaplain, then, to have an outlet at his end, as well as the governor at his? This will require another pair of lodges (for the plan gives two) and at least one other porter. At any rate, the chaplain and his family are out of the reach of lending an inspecting eye to observe the approach of those who come on the design, or with the pretence of visiting the governor, his family, or his servants. The inspective force at that end is pro tanto diminished by the removal of that constituent part of it. What Mr. Howard’s reasons were for this change of opinion, he has not told us.
No one can be more anxious than Mr. Howard to prevent every part of the building where prisoners are lodged from having windows to the street. Why? Because such windows, besides affording converse, will let in spirituous liquors, not to mention implements for escape. Windows to the governor’s house, or the chaplain’s, will not indeed let in spirituous liquors, or any thing else, into the prison clandestinely, but they will let in armed deliverers openly, where they are in force.
iii.The avenue—why contracted at the entrance?—The narrower the entrance, the less the expense of the gates which close it, and the more perfectly it lies within the command of the porter. At the spot where it reaches the building, were it no wider than it is at the entrance, it would scarce afford turningroom for carriages, much less the standingroom which would be requisite at church time. Were it of less width than the front, so much of the front as was excluded, so much of the inspective force which that part of the building furnishes, would be lost.
Of the total area inclosed by the general surrounding wall, the magnitude must of course depend upon a variety of circumstances; some of a more general, others of a local or otherwise particular nature. Behind the building, it will be occupied by the prisoner’s yards, of which in the last section. In front of the building, on each side of the approach, it will be occupied by exterior offices and officer’s gardens.
On the outside all round, at a small distance (say 12 feet) from the wall, runs a slight palisade of open work. The intermediate space receives four centinels, whose paths flank and cross one another at the ends. The walls, instead of forming an angle, are rounded at the junctions. The palisade will serve as a fence to the grounds on the other side: but highways on which the public in general have a right to pass, whether carriage-ways, or simple foot-ways, are kept from approaching it as far as may be.
At two of the corners, the place of the palisade might be occupied by two guard-houses: each with two fronts to flank and command the two centinel’s walks. To one of these I should give such a situation and such a height as to enable it to command the airing yards: but at that quarter in which it would be at the greatest distance from those destined for the reception of female prisoners, if that sex be admitted, it might have a platform in that situation, and in that elevation, without having any windows either way. It might have a communication with the airing-yards, to be made use of in case of alarm and demand of succour from the keepers in the building or the yards. The communication might be effected in any one of several ways: by a drawbridge, by an under-ground passage, or by a ladder kept under lock and key; the key always in the hands of the commanding officer. To prevent converse between the soldiers and the prisoners, the doors opening into the platform (for windows that way it has none) ought to be locked up, and the key kept in the same custody. It is for this same reason that I attach it, not to the wall, but to the palisade which is detached from the wall.
iv.Why the palisade?—To cut off from the public in general all facility and all pretence for approaching the wall near enough to attack the centinel, to hold converse with the prisoners in the yards, or to plant ladders or throw over ropes to enable them to escape.
v.Why of open work, rather than close? a wall, for instance, or a park-pale?—For cheapness; and that nobody may approach it without being seen.
vi.The centinel’s walks, why crossing and flanking each other?—That each centinel may have two to check him. Who in such case would venture or offer to bribe any one of them to connive at projects of escape? The connivance of any one, or even any two, would be unavailing.
vii.The walls—why rounded off at the meetings?* —To avoid giving the assistance which angles afford to the operation of climbing up in the inside. Add to which, that the greater the space thus rounded off, the greater the part of each centinel’s walk which is laid open to the view of the two others.
As to the height of the wall, and the thickness, which will be governed by the height, the quantum of expense necessary on this score would depend upon the decision made as to the resorting or not resorting to the military establishment for a guard. With this assistance, added to that of the palisaded walk, walls of very moderate height would be sufficient: say 8 or 9 feet, about 2 or 3 feet above the height of a tall man.† This height would be sufficient to prevent any intelligible converse between prisoners and centinels: forbidden conversation will not be carried on in a loud voice, in the ears and under the eyes of the superiors who forbid it. Without this assistance, it might be rather difficult to draw the line.
By rejecting this assistance, the requisite quantity and expense of walling that might be thought requisite, might be increased in another way. The higher the wall, the more obstructive to ventilation. The higher the wall, the more ample the space that on that account it might be thought necessary to inclose within it; and the greater that space, the more walling it would take to inclose it.
Did it depend upon me, though I would get a military guard if I could, yet even without such assistance, trusting to so many other safeguards, I think I would put up with an 8 or 9 foot wall. In the look-out, sits constantly an inspector, armed and instructed, and commanding all the yards. By a bell, he summons to his assistance at any time the whole collected force of the prison.
viii.To what use the protection-wall, and the protection-road?—The use is tolerably well indicated by the name. Behind the wall, and in the road, in case of an attack by a riotous mob upon the gates, as many passengers as do not choose to take part in it will find shelter; and the attack may be opposed with fire-arms from the building with the less scruple, as no one can suffer from it whose guilt has not made him the author of his own fate.
And would you wish, then, to see a perhaps well-meaning, though culpable multitude devoted in heaps to slaughter? No, surely: though better thus than that the prison should be destroyed, the prisoners turned loose upon society, and justice struck with impotence. But the truth is, that nothing of this sort will happen: the more plainly impracticable you make the enterprise, the surer you may be that it will never be attempted. Prevention is the work of humanity. Cruelty joins with improvidence in making the instruments of justice of such apparent weakness as to hold out invitation to a destroying hand.
This is perhaps the first plan of defence against rioters, of which the protection of the peaceable passenger ever made a part—the first in which the discrimination of the innocent from the guilty was ever provided for or thought of.
In the instance of every prison—of every public building as yet existing—an attack once begun, what is the consequence? The guilty must be suffered to perpetrate without controul their forbidden enterprise, or a continual risk incurred of involving the innocent in their fate. What is the effect of streetfiring? a medley massacre of rioters and passengers, of guilty and innocent, of men, women, and children.
The maximum of economy, with regard to the figure of the ground, and thence of its surrounding fences, remains yet to be suggested; and situations may be conceived, in which it would not be irreconcileable with convenience. The quadrangular figure is that which will naturally have first presented itself. But three lines are enough to inclose a space. The ground may therefore be triangular; nor, if regularity and beauty, in as far as it depends upon regularity, are disregarded, is it necessary that of this triangle any two sides should be equal. An equal legged-triangle, with the legs longer than the base, is to be preferred to an equilateral triangle, much more to a triangle having the angle opposite the base equal to or greater than a right one. The reason is, that the figure may have a space running out in length, in order to afford a sufficient length of avenue; the point or apex being cut off, in order to form the entrance.
The number of the centinels, too, if the military plan of guarding be approved of, and if the difference in point of number be an object, will, in this way, be reduced from four to three.
With or without a guard, the inspection principle, seconded by other assistances, we have seen, or shall see, relative to the plan of management, supersedes the necessity, without detracting anything from the ingenuity, of Mr. Blackburne’s expensive system of mural fortification. “If a man gets to the other side of the wall,” said he to me one day, as he has said to others, “it must be by getting either through, or under, or over it. To prevent his getting through, I make it of stone, and of stones too massy to be displaced, as bricks may be, by picking. To prevent his getting under, I make a drain. As he undermines, no sooner is he got within the arch, than out flows the water and spoils his mine.” To prevent his getting over, there was a system of precautions, one under another, too long to be repeated here. Sound logic was here combined with admirable ingenuity; in all this there might be nothing which, on a certain supposition, might not be necessary. What is that supposition?—that in some cases a number of prisoners, in others at least one prisoner, have time almost without stint to carry on their operations unobserved. In all other modes of construction, under all other systems of prison-management, the supposition speaks the truth. But under the Panopticon mode of construction, under the plan of management which it supposes and provides for, is this the case?—exactly the reverse. What prisoner carries on plans of escape under a keeper’s eye?
In a dark night, it may be said, the benefitof the inspection principle fails you. Yes, if there be no lamps sufficient to light the wall;—yes, if there be no watchman patrolling in the house. The question then lies between the expense of this system of complicated circumvallation, and the expense of lighting, or rather the expense of providing a single watchman to go the rounds. I say, that a watchman will be sufficient security without even lighting on purpose, and that, in an establishment like this, a watchman need cost nothing: since the people necessary for guarding and instructing by day, will be sufficient to watch at night by turns. Even in the darkest night, and without artificial light, can a prisoner, without tools, at no more than 25 feet distance from the watchman, first force through the glass of a window, and then through iron bars on the other side? Will he hazard any such attempt, when, supposing him against all probability to succeed, there is still a wall of 13 feet high for him to climb (I mean that which bounds the exterior well,) and beyond that, another?
To get clear altogether of the obstruction afforded by walls to ventilation, it has been proposed* to dig a ditch, and to set down the wall at the bottom of the ditch. The expedient seems unnecessary, the expense of it considerable, and the inconvenience material and unavoidable.
The inconvenience is, that whatsoever it may do with regard to security, it gives up seclusion. Of what breadth must your ditch be? A hundred, two hundred feet, would not preclude converse with the ear; nor four hundred feet, nor a thousand, with the eye. The grounds all round would be a continual rendezvous for the associates and confederates of the prisoners; that is, for all sorts of malefactors. It would be a continual scene of plans of mischief, and plots for escape. What should hinder a man on the outside from tossing over a rope or a rope-ladder to a prisoner prepared to receive it? what should hinder twenty men from doing the same thing at the same time?
How is the ditch to be constructed? If the sides are perpendicular, they must be supported by brick-work, or the earth will be continually washing and crumbling in, till it reduces the depth of your ditch, and consequently the height of your wall, to nothing. Are they to be thus supported? Then, besides the expense of an enormous ditch, you have that of two walls instead of one. Are they to be sloping without brick-work? The width of this enormous ditch must then be enormously increased, and still the obnoxious effect will be gradually produced. By the prisoners, at least on their side, everything will be done, that can be done, to accelerate it. Among their friends, too, on the outside, to contribute a stone or an handful of earth, will be a pious work.
At any rate, you have on each side a receptacle for stagnant water. Which would be the greater?—the service done to health by the sinking of the wall, or the detriment by the accumulation of this water?
It would be incompatible with the mode of guarding above proposed, by centinels inclosed in inaccessible lanes; unless stationed at such distances as would occasion an enormous addition to the length of their walks, and to the quantity of ground consumed; for it would be altogether ineligible to bring the guards so near as to possess an easy intercourse with the prisoners.
Were it indeed worth while, the advantage in point of ventilation expected from this idea, might be obtained by a partial adoption of it, with the help of one of the precautions already indicated. It would not be necessary to lay the space open all round: it would be sufficient were it laid open at one end, and that end might be narrowed in the manner of the approach as above described. But at that end, the property of the ground on the other side, to a very considerable distance, would require to be attached to the establishment, in such manner that no stranger should have it in his power to approach near enough to hold any sort of converse, either with the prisoners, or even with the centinel; whose path must also be at such a distance from the nearest spot to which they can approach, as to prevent all converse between him and them, in a voice too loud to escape the ear of the inspector in the look-out.†
[* ]On Lazarettos, p. 229.
[* ]For this precaution I am indebted to Mr. Blackburn. In what instances, if any, he has himself applied it, I do not know. I took the hint from a history he used to tell of a man who, by the assistance of two walls meeting at a right angle, and an instrument of his own contrivance, used to convey himself in this way over the wall of the King’s-Bench prison in St. George’s Fields.
[† ]Or would not 12 feet be deemed necessary? since one man might mount on the shoulders, and perhaps for a moment on the head of another.
[* ]By the late Dr. Jebb, in a pamphlet written on purpose.
[† ]Prisons are not by any means the only buildings to which this mode of exterior fortification (if it be doing justice to a precaution so simple and unexpensive to style it by so formidable a name,) might be applicable with advantage.