Front Page Titles (by Subject) Proposal for a new and less expensive Mode for Employing and Reforming Convicts. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 11 (Memoirs of Bentham Part II and Analytical Index)
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“ Proposal for a new and less expensive Mode for Employing and Reforming Convicts. - 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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“Proposal for a new and less expensive Mode for Employing and Reforming Convicts.
“It did not escape your Committee, that Mr Colquhoun, in pointing out the errors of the present mode, speaks of an improved system for the employment of convicts, as one of the chief means by which the expenses of the police are to be diminished.
“Your Committee were therefore induced to inquire whether that gentleman had any particular system in view in making that observation; and they learnt, with considerable satisfaction, that Mr Colquhoun (who appears himself to have submitted a plan to the Secretary of State for this purpose) did allude to a particular system, from which, according to his decided opinion, if adopted and carried into execution, infinite advantages would arise to the public, not only in the diminution of the expense at present incurred, but in the improvement of the morals of the convicts who may be placed under such an establishment; your Committee have therefore annexed to this report a sketch of that plan, contained in a printed paper, intituled, ‘A Proposal for a new and less expensive Mode for employing and reforming Convicts.’
“Impressed with the advantages, of which the perusal of the heads of the plan appears to justify the expectation, your Committee were gratified in finding that it had already attracted the attention, and obtained the encouragement of his Majesty’s Government.
“That so long ago as the 11th of June 1794, the sum of £2000 had been actually granted to the proposer, Jeremy Bentham, Esquire, under warrant from the Treasury, ‘to enable him to make the necessary preparations for the custody of the convicts to be confined in the oroposed Penitentiary Houses.’
“That an act of Parliament received the royal assent on the 7th July 1794, 34 Geo. III., c. 84, not only authorizing but requiring the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, as soon after passing the act as conveniently might be, to fix upon ground therein described, or upon any other convenient and proper spot, within certain limits, for the erection of one or more Penitentiary-Houses, and giving the usual compulsive powers for purchasing the ground that should be so chosen.
“That articles of agreement were thereupon drawn up by the Solicitor to the Treasury, and approved by the Attorney and Solicitor General, for the purpose of carrying the proposal into effect, reciprocally binding upon the proposer, and upon the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty’s Treasury.
“That, encouraged by these proofs of confidence and approbation, and by these assurances of support, Mr Bentham had proceeded to the performance of his part of the contract, and had incurred an expense of many thousand pounds of his own money, in addition to that advanced by the Treasury, in consequence of the preparations which he had made; but that his further progress has been impeded, and the contract has remained without execution, from difficulties in regard to obtaining a spot of ground proper for the purpose.
“Your Committee, however, are informed by the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty’s Treasury, that they have always felt a disposition to carry into effect the contract intended to be executed, whenever a proper spot of ground could be obtained; and that the contract intended to have been entered into has been delayed, because an essential part of such contract was to be the giving possession of the land upon which the Penitentiary House was to be erected; but that they are ready to enter into the contract whenever the preliminary difficulties relative to the ground are removed.
“Upon further inquiry, your Committee find that a spot has been pointed out, which appears well adapted to the object, and against the appropriation of which to a purpose so interesting to the public no solid objection occurs; and that the preliminary difficulties above alluded to have arisen from the rules and orders of the House relative to bills of enclosure, which are supposed to be applicable to the ground in question. The difficulty is, therefore, one which may be easily removed before the next Session of Parliament; and your Committee were glad to receive from Mr Bentham himself the assurance of his perfect readiness to proceed with his part of the business.
“It is, in the judgment of your Committee, no small recommendation of the plan alluded to, that the contractor proposes to employ the prisoners on his own account, receiving a proportionably smaller sum from the public for their maintenance.
“But it must be noticed and remembered, that the great and important advantages which distinguish that plan from any other which has been hitherto suggested, consist in the certain employment and industrious livelihood which it ensures to those whose terms of confinement are expired; in the responsibility which the contractor proposes to take upon himself for the future good behaviour of the criminals intrusted to his care, even when they shall no longer be under his control; in the publicity which is meant to be given to the whole conduct and effect of the establishment, moral, medical, and economical, as well by an Annual Report of its state and proceedings, as by that constant facility of inspection which will in an unusual manner be afforded by the very form and construction of the building, upon which the prompt and easy exercise of the superintending powers of the governor himself principally depends.
“Your Committee are led to dwell the more on the importance of these advantages, when they contemplate the accounts which have been furnished to them of the periods of enlargement of the several convicts now confined in the hulks, to which they desire to direct the most serious attention of the House, bearing in mind, as they do, the evidence given by an experienced magistrate of the pernicious effects produced upon the unfortunate persons who are confined in those seminaries of vice; recollecting, too, not only that New South Wales is at the present moment fully supplied, but that it affords no security for the future good behaviour of those who, having outlived the periods of their sentences, may return again to afflict the society from which they have been separated.
“It appears, that of 1534 convicts on board the hulks, on the 5th of June 1798, 93 will be enlarged in this year, 346 in the next, and 1411 within the period of seven years.*
“If a similar progress be made in the enlargement of those who are still confined in the different gaols, the whole number of felons that will be turned loose on the public, will amount to 1791, a discharge at the rate of 254 per annum, continuing for a period of seven years.
“Of the 2934 unemancipated and unsettled convicts existing in New South Wales and Norfolk Island, on the 22d of October 1796, it is probable from a consideration of the years in which they have been severally sent thither, that the periods of discharge of a still greater number will have expired in the same seven years; and if it could be supposed that the whole or the greater part would endeavour to avail themselves of that circumstance to return to the scene of their former delinquency, the prospect would indeed be dreadful, when viewed through the medium of the experience which the magistracy of this metropolis has already had of the effect of such returns.
“Mr Colquhoun’s testimony on this point is, That all of the delinquents that have returned from these settlements, who have come within his knowledge, are either at this moment thieves on the town, or have been executed for new offences.
“Your Committee therefore trust, that no further delay will interfere with the execution of the contract above mentioned, not only because any such delay would add to the loss already sustained by the contractor, and thereby enlarge his claim to compensation, but because it would deprive the public for a longer time of the benefits of a plan which they cannot but look to as likely to be productive of the most essential advantage, both in point of Economy and police. A mode of compensation has indeed been proposed by the contractor, which, so far as it goes, has the advantage of not being attended with any expense to the public, and to which it does not appear to your Committee that any substantial objection can be made.”
“June 23, 1798.
[* ] There is here an evident misprint or miscalculation in the Report.—Ed.