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[Corrected Copy, received 10th June, 1811.] Dated - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 11.
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[Corrected Copy, received 10th June, 1811.] Dated
Queen’s Square Place, Westminster, 6th May, 1811.
Understanding at different times, from different gentlemen, members of the Committee, that in calling me before them, the object of the Committee has been—not merely to scrutinize into the contract to which I am a party, but also, for the purpose of forming their judgment concerning the most eligible mode of disposing of such part of the convict population of the country as it may not be thought fit to confine in Hulks, or employ in colonizing, to collect any such information as, in any shape, I might be found capable of affording—I take the liberty of submitting in this mode, to your consideration and that of the Committee, a few suggestions on the subject of the country convicts.
For such of the convicts, whose conviction shall have taken place in London or Middlesex, with or without the addition of a few other counties nearly contiguous to the metropolis, such as those for instance which are comprised in the home-circuit, the provision made by the existing contract may, it seems to be supposed, suffice.
On this supposition, what, in some mode or other of the Penitentiary plan, remains to be provided for, is—that as yet indefinite part of the convict population, which may be expected to be furnished by the more or less distant counties:—say, for example, the five remaining circuits.
For this large remnant of that population the question then is—What is the best mode?
To this question the answer presents three options—
1. Panopticons in the metropolis, over and above the one supposed to be determined upon: viz. in number, one at least, and as many more, if any, as the number of convicts to be provided for shall be deemed to require.
2. Panopticons, upon an equal scale, and consequently in equal number, in the country. These two plans belong alike to what, for distinction’s sake, I would beg leave to call the open mode upon a large scale.
3. Penitentiary houses, in the existing mode, one in and for each county; or, in such cases in which the convict population afforded by a single county would be manifestly too small, one in each aggregate of contiguous counties, to be associated together for the purpose.
This last mode I would beg leave to distinguish by the appellation of the close mode upon a small scale.
As to the question between the open mode upon a large scale—viz. the Panopticon mode upon the Panopticon scale, and the close mode upon a small scale—my opinion has been already submitted, and not my opinion only, but the considerations, or the ground on which it was formed.
Management, in every imaginable point, better; expense less: in these few words all those considerations will be found comprised.
On the question between panopticons all in the metropolis, and panopticons one in the metropolis and others in the country, (in each case in the open mode upon the large scale,) neither are the points of distinction so manifest, nor the importance of them so great.
On the whole, however, the result of my inquiry is—that panopticons all in the metropolis present a decided title to preference.
What presents itself to me as the principal reason is, that the metropolis affords beyond comparison the best public. Here whatsoever matter proper for consideration comes into existence, is, with the minimum of trouble, brought instantaneously to the ear, laid open even to the inspection of the eye, of the whole body of constituted authorities: of the members of the administration, of the immediately superintending judicial authority: of every member of the legislature.
Not that objections are altogether wanting; but neither from report nor from imagination, have I been able to collect any, the united force of which seems sufficient to constitute a preponderant one.
1. Danger to the metropolis, from forcible and general eruption, increased.
2. Inordinate accumulation of convicts for whom provision may be to be made after discharge.
3. Remoteness of the convicts from their respective desired abodes, at the time of their discharge.
4. Inordinate expense of conveying the convicts from the place of conviction to the place of punishment.
5. Supposed unsuitableness of the fund, upon which, on this plan, the expense of maintenance, with or without the expense of conveyance, would be to be charged.
These are all the objections which I have been able to discover: and to these I proceed to submit such answers as the nature of the case has suggested.
I. Objection 1. Danger of general and forcible eruption. Answer. In my own particular opinion it will readily enough be conceived, considering the peculiar guards which the peculiarities of the Panopticon plan provide, this danger cannot appear very considerable in either case.
But, if it be considerable, the metropolis is the spot in which it should naturally appear much less considerable than in any other place: in any other town or towns at least, to which, otherwise, this part of the convict population would be to be consigned.
Millbank and Tothill Fields being, by the supposition, the spot fixed upon already for one panopticon, I see not what should hinder its being made to receive as many others as can be required.
Within a few hundred yards of Tothill Fields is constantly stationed a body of regular troops, to the amount of some thousands: the distance, so small, that, in case of commotion, communication might be made by signals of both sorts: signals not only to the ear, but even to the eye, if an apparatus to that effect were thought fit to be provided.
In Tothill Fields, at one end of Rochester Row, stands, and has stood for (I think it is) about eight or ten years, a military infirmary, in which is constantly stationed a military guard, consisting, as I have just been informed on the spot, of nine soldiers. On one side, the waste called Tothill Fields has for its boundary this Rochester Row, on the opposite side the parcel of ground already purchased for the Panopticon Penitentiary House. On no part of this ground is there any building but what may at present be actually seen from the infirmary just mentioned, and by the guard there stationed.
“On a subject so plain I should never have thought of troubling the Committee with so many words, but for the recollection, that some eighteen or nineteen years ago, at the commencement of my negotiations, to an observation of mine pointing to the military force in the Park as an obvious source of security, the answer returned, by a gentleman then in office, was an inexorable negative. What the objections were, I inquired in vain: with the gentleman himself they did not originate. Be they what they may, they would now be found, I should hope, no longer in existence. If the Panopticon contained within its lodge an acting magistrate, this military guard, being actually in his view, would, on any such occasion as that in question, be actually under his command. I mean by common-law, to which no order from any war-office, would, I presume, be opposed.
“By the constant sight of a similar guard, stationed, if thought necessary, close to the spot; for example, three or four at the entrance into the Panopticon ground through the walled avenue that leads to the house,—two or three at each of the two elevated watch-houses, which command, each of them, by night as well as by day, the inside as well as the outside of two of the four surrounding walls,—by the constant sight of this small guard, coupled with the knowledge of the arrangements that might so easily be made for instantaneous communication with the great body stationed in the neighbouring park, it would be extraordinary indeed, if, in the imagination of the most refractory prisoner, all chance of success in any such attempt, would not be rendered hopeless,—manifestly as well as constantly hopeless. Further observations on this head, may be seen in Panopticon Postscript, part 2, sect. 15, pp. from 201 to 208. [Works, vol. iv., p. 164-5.]
“Against every danger of this sort, such are the means of security afforded by the metropolis in general, but in a more particular degree by the particular spot in question. In any of the provincial situations, what security comparable to this could be afforded? and that, too, as in this case, without any special allotment of military force for this particular purpose?
“True it is, that spite of military guards, French and other prisoners of war have, from time to time, and but too often, and in too great numbers, contrived to make their escape.
“But against the escape of convict prisoners, the Panopticon plan presents securities in abundance, few of which, if any, would (I believe) be found employed on any existing plan, in the case of foreign prisoners.
“1. Uniform conspicuously distinctive.
“2. Close dress, in which the concealment of any weapon suited to the purpose of offence or defence, would be impracticable.
“3. Mark, by which, on the mere baring the habitually covered arm, (the other being habitually uncovered,) the condition of the person in question, viz. the fact of his being a person belonging, in the character of a prisoner, to the prison in question, would, for weeks at least after escape, be manifested.
“4. Constant division of the prisoners into small, and those assorted companies.
“5. The prisoners rendered distinguishable at a distance, each of them by a number marked upon his clothing at the back and at the breast.
“6. No outlet for the prisoners into the enclosed area, but through a passage commanded by a guard; and so narrow that no more than one can make his exit at a time, nor then but under a horizontal bar, so stationed, as, by obliging each person to stoop, to render impossible any acquisition of conjunct force by running.
“7. Light kept constantly thrown, by night as well as by day, not only upon every spot to which the prisoners have access within the prison, but upon the whole surface of the four surrounding walls.
“8. For the purpose of inspection, eyes in considerable numbers constantly availing themselves of that light: viz., some in the centre as well as other parts of the circularly polygonal building within the walls, others stationed in the commanding watch-houses above mentioned, on the outside of, and in part above, those walls.
“9. On the top of the walls all round, a range of spikes, iron or wooden, of such slightness, that, in the attempt to set a ladder against them, or throw a rope over them to get up by, they would give way and break, and in either case strike against a range of wires, by which a number of bells would be set a-ringing.
“10. A conversation-tube from the central lodge to each of the exterior guard-houses.
“11. On the outside of each of the surrounding walls, a ditch, the water of which would, on any attempt to undermine the contiguous wall, inundate the miners, and while it betrayed their operations, render an exit, if not absolutely impracticable, at least impracticable without such noise as would give abundant warning to the guard-house.
“12. To each such guard-house a dog or dogs, of the sort of those which in the night are set a-barking by any the least noise.
“In the eyes of the Committee, the enumeration of these several resources may be perhaps the more pardonable, if they should appear, any of them, capable of being applied with advantage to the giving additional security to those modes of confinement of which in the present state of things the inefficiency has so frequently been seen to betray itself.
“To such of the convicts as it might be thought fit to give employment to in the Panopticon ground at large, and thence without the limits of the enclosed area, true it is, that no more than a part of the above securities, nor that the most considerable part, would be found applicable.
“But considering, that the time of day-light would be the only time at which the demand or use for any such employment would present itself; considering that in fact, on the many public works on which convicts have now for so many years been employed, they have been employed in large numbers, and (as supposed) without any particular means of selection or anxiety on that head, and that too under slight guard, and yet, at those times at least, without any instances, I believe, of escape; considering, that the passion by which a prisoner is prompted to seek, by violent means and at the hazard of his life, a relief from durance, is not likely to be found in equal strength in the breast of every individual member, of a society so numerous and so miscellaneous, the members of which may, with less danger of injustice than anywhere else, be rendered responsible for each other; considering, that in the mode of treatment which is essential to a system of commercial operation conducted upon the plan in question, there is nothing that seems to present a probability of its being productive of any exertion more violent and desperate than in the case of a prison upon any of the ordinary plans: all these things considered, the conclusion may, it is hoped, be, that in a case where by any failure of human prudence the party failing would, as in the present case, be in so many shapes and in so high a degree a sufferer, that same human prudence, on which, in spite of all possible securities of every other kind, reliance must in every case be placed, is not, in the present case, to be considered as destitute of all claim to that sort and degree of confidence, which is so unavoidably bestowed upon it in all other cases.
“To make use of every one of these securities, at all events, and under all circumstances, without any exception in any case, is more than I see any necessity of pledging myself for; nor yet do they constitute a complete list of all the securities, to which it might eventually happen to me to have recourse. Many of them will be attended with an expense which, if incurred without necessity, would be so much waste; but for which the justification, as well on the score of necessity as of good economy, will be the more complete, the larger the scale is on which the establishment is conducted.
“The faculty by which these securities were devised, will not, I presume, be considered as putting an exclusion upon the kindred faculty, by which the decision on the question, how many and which of them to employ, will from time to time be to be pronounced.
“I proceed with the objections.
“II. Objection 2d. Inordinate accumulation of convicts for whom provision may be to be made after discharge.
“Answer. Upon the Panopticon plan, there will be the subsidiary establishment, open to as many as may choose to take the benefit of it. Some will, some will not; but, whatever may be the proportion of the one number to the other, and whatever may be the sum of the two numbers, the exclusive choice of the metropolis does not, to my apprehension, present itself in the shape of an inconvenience.
“In the character of a reservoir for the influx in question, the option lies between the metropolis and some country town: some other town within the circuits of South Britain. The metropolis will, it is true, already have to provide for the influx from its own Panopticon. But, taking into the account the magnitude of the influx in both cases, compare the magnitude of the mass of population into which the influx will have to discharge itself in this case, (say in round numbers a million;) with the magnitude of the largest mass into which it can be set to discharge itself in the case of any other such town; say 80,000: by this comparison, all apprehension on this score will, it should seem, be dissipated.
III. Objection 3d. Remoteness of the convicts from their respective desired abodes, at the time of their discharge.
“Answer 1. Merely for the purpose of facilitating, on the part of the prisoners after their discharge, the return to their places of birth or subsequent settlement, in the open mode on the large scale, it would hardly, I presume, be deemed worth while so much as to build one additional Panopticon as above, much less, as in the close mode upon the small scale, to establish, in each county, or set of associated counties, a Penitentiary House or improved prison, on any other plan or plans. On this occasion, the object ultimately and intrinsically aimed at, would be, I suppose, not the birthplace of each person, nor yet his place of last settlement as such, but the place, wherever it were, of his choice. But, take either of those places of presumed preference, the stain upon his character considered, it might not less probably be the spot, that, of all others, he would be the most averse, than that which he would be most desirous, to fix upon for his residence.
2. The subsidiary establishment, which, under the Panopticon plan, the governor would stand bound to provide for the purpose of making provision for all such as chose to accept of it, has for its basis the supposed non-existence of any such place of former abode, or the unwillingness to fix in it: and the least that this provision does is, to remove from the ground of necessity to that of mere inclination, the demand for means of conveyance to any other spot.
3. Whatsoever be, in preference to employment in the above-mentioned subsidiary establishment, the object of each man’s desire, that portion of the earnings of his whole term, which by the contract is secured to him, must be small indeed, if it does not afford him ample means of gratifying such desire.
4. If after all, it were deemed necessary, that to each such discharged convict means of conveyance to the place of his choice, whatever it be, should be afforded at the public charge, a mode beyond comparison less expensive, than providing, though it were no more than a single prison, in this sole view, would be the putting into his pocket a sum of money, under the expectation of its being applied to this purpose. But, as the ascertaining, upon any satisfactory evidence, the spot really desired, would be plainly impossible, the spot assumed could be no other than the spot most distant from the Penitentiary House in question; for, as that most distant spot is the spot that would command most money, that would of course be the declared spot of each man’s choice.
But even this maximum—meaning the annual sum of all these maximums—would be a trifle, in comparison of the expense of an additional prison, to be built and kept up on purpose. As to conveyance, the means of loco-motion derived by each man from the bounty of nature, would for this purpose be, I presume, regarded as sufficient: of the maximum in question, the expense would therefore be neither more nor less, than the supposed necessary expense of subsistence, during a journey begun, continued, and ended, in the pedestrian mode.
IV. Objection 4th. Inordinate expense of conveying the convicts from the place of conviction to the place of punishment.
Answer. Supposing the convicts to be conveyed from the several Assize and Quarter Session towns to the metropolis, the expense (it must be acknowledged) could not but be greater than it would be, upon the supposition of a plurality of Panopticons, of which, the number being determined by the largeness of the scale, the situations should be exclusively adapted to this one purpose: say one allotted to each of the three points of the compass—east, north, and west. But—
1. Suppose, that in addition to the one London Panopticon, only two such country receptacles were required,—place these two in any two of the three above-mentioned points of the compass, to the exclusion of the third,—in the east and north only—or in the east and west only—or in the west and north only,—it seems questionable whether any such saving as supposed, even to any the minutest amount, would really take place.
2. Even supposing each of those three points of the compass to have its Panopticon, and thence, in respect of length of journeys and magnitude of travelling expenses, a corresponding saving produced, the advantage produced on this score, would, on calculation, be found (I am inclined to think) so small, as to go but a very little way towards counteracting the disadvantage already indicated as having place, on the more important score, above mentioned.
“Being, as to a more or less considerable portion of it, unavoidable, we have here an expense which as to so much cannot be saved. But that which may be done, and in point of justice (it should seem) ought to be done, is, to equalize it:—to equalize it, I mean, in such sort, that upon a county, the Assize or Quarter-Session town of which is more distant than that of another county from the place of permanent confinement, man for man, the burthen of conveyance may not, on that account, be rendered, or left to be, the heavier, in its pressure on the first-mentioned county, viz. in the proportion of the distance.
“Now as to the mode of equalization. On the contract plan, whosoever carries on the management of that Panopticon receptacle which is the common reservoir for the convicts of all the several counties in question, in his contract it might be made a condition, that, for a sum certain, he should take upon him the conveyance of the convicts from all the several Assize towns and Quarter-Session towns in the district:—for which purpose, an average would of course be taken, viz. by taking the sum of the distances, and dividing it by the number of the towns:—charge of conveyance, so much per mile.
“V. Objection 5th. Supposed unsuitableness of the fund, upon which, on this plan, the expense of maintenance, with or without the expense of conveyance, would be to be charged.
“To this objection two answers present themselves:
“I. That, for the expense in question, the fund in question is not an unsuitable one: but, on the contrary, a more suitable one, than the fund upon which it would, in the other case, be charged.
“II. That, supposing the rival fund a more suitable one, there would be no difficulty in transferring the expense to that rival fund.
“I. First then, the proposed fund is not an unsuitable one.
“1. The proposed is the common national fund. It is the same fund, on which the expense is charged, in the instance of all that portion of the convict population which is sent to colonize. It is the same fund, on which the expense is charged, in the instance of all that portion of the same population which is consigned to the hulks.
“If, as yet, of that portion which has hitherto been consigned to prisons,—to improved or not improved prisons,—the expense has hitherto been charged on the counties, that is on the contributors to the poor rates, the disposition thus made, had, I should suppose, for its cause,—not any such opinion, as that the poor rates constituted a fund more suitable than the national fund, but merely this circumstance, viz. that the poor rates of each county constituted the only fund, out of which it was possible to obtain money for defraying the expense of the sort of prison in question;—viz. a prison situate within the county, and appropriated to the use of that county, to the exclusion of every other part of the kingdom.
“To save the trouble and responsibility of making provision, at the charge of the national fund, for an expenditure to a certain amount, a public man would hardly, I should suppose, be desirous of imposing upon this or that class of his fellow-subjects, such as the contributors to the poor rates, an expense, for example, of double that amount.
“But my calculation, as well as my expectations, will have greatly indeed deceived me, should the difference in point of expense between the open mode upon a large scale, and the close mode upon a small scale, turn out to be as little as to the amount of two to one to the disadvantage of the small scale.
“In the case of poor-houses, in the tract entitled ‘Pauper Management improved, &c.,’ published in Young’s Annals of Agriculture, in p. 43, [Works, vol. viii., p. 378,] may be seen a calculation, made by a professional and official hand, in which, under the head of construction, for a system of poor-houses on that small scale which then was and actually is in practice in the Suffolk poor-houses, the expense for all England being £10,275,250 money of that time, the expense of the central-inspection plan, on the scale of 2,000 inhabitants to a house, is stated at no more than £2,357,000; considerably less than a fourth part;—amount of saving, 7,918,250:—and upon the official establishment, (an annually recurring expense,) the amount of the annual saving is therein stated at £408,131 5s.—ditto multiplied by 20, (to bring it, like the other expense, to principal money,) 8,162,625.—Number of persons maintained in each such supposed Panopticon poor-house, 2,000: being the exact number of the persons for whom, in the character of prisoners, above eleven years ago, viz., on the 25th of March, 1800, as stated in a former letter of mine now lying before the Committee, I was ordered to prepare.
“This is the case of poor-houses: and, both being on the Panopticon plan, so far as concerns the influence of magnitude of scale upon expense, no difference will be found between the case of poor-houses and the case of prisons.
“II. But, secondly, supposing the determination should be taken, to charge on the poor-rate fund this third part of that general head of expense, the convict expense, of which the two other thirds are charged on the national fund, on this supposition the transference might without difficulty be made. The average numbers of the convicts, which, for a certain number of years back, the several counties have respectively been in the habit of furnishing, being taken, those numbers would serve for expressing the relative sums with which each such county might annually be charged, towards the expense of the common Panopticon or Panopticons, the station of which is supposed to be in the metropolis: I mean the Panopticons serving in common for the maintenance of the aggregate body of the convicts receivable from those several counties.
“But, any such number as 2,000, would it not (I hear it asked) be an unwieldy number? too unwieldy for good management? Oh yes: on every ordinary plan, too unwieldy by a great deal. Nine hundred was the number of the prisoners, that, on the original and supposed highly-finished Penitentiary plan, as per 19 G. 3, c. 74, were to have been confined in the town that was to have been built for that purpose at Battersea Rise: and, as to houses, nine hundred, (being the number of separate houses, which, over and above such as were to be occupied in common, were to have been included in that town,) was assuredly too great a number for good management: two thousand, consequently, in a much greater degree too great.
“On every as yet exemplified plan of construction and management, the natural and naturally prevalent apprehension of unwieldiness has, therefore, very just grounds to stand upon.
“But upon the Panopticon principle, whether it be for paupers or for convicts, for free and innocent men or for prisoners, though the number of the inhabitants be 2,000, the house is but one: and that one house is capable of being pervaded in all directions, pervaded by a single glance, and without so much as a change of posture.
“Of the difficulties which, upon any ordinary plan of construction, for want of that source of simplification, attends the business of management, even in the case of a poor-house, and of a moderate size, an exemplification may be seen in Pauper Management improved, p. 43, [Works, vol. viii., p. 378;] in Panopticon, Letter VI., and in various parts of the postscript; and, in the case of a prison, in the instance of several American prisons, in the tract intituled Panopticon versus New South Wales, Letter II. pages from 54 to 61 [Works, vol. iv., p. 238-240.]—I have the honour to be, &c.,
“George Holford, Esq., Chairman of the Committee on Penitentiary Houses.”
In a communication addressed to a noble Lord—probably Lord Sidmouth—Bentham combated the arguments of the Committee. From an impression of the letter made by a copying machine, I extract the following passages, omitting a portion of the argument addressed to the private ear and understanding of the recipient of the letter, and bearing on a view of the arrangements which is supposed to have influenced the Committee in their decision, but is not referred to in the substance of their report:—