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prisoners, and for transmitting their answer to authorities in London, from which, I knew, attention could be alone commanded, and are the Gaoler and Visiting Magistrates to escape all censure, wbo have not only suffered this affair to be carried on for years, ever since Thomas Bunn has been in the Gaol, and for aught that appears to the coutrary, ever since the Gaol has been inhabited; but have positively encouraged it, by confining the ollicers of the Gaol to mere nominal wages, which implied, that they were to make what they could from the prisoners ?
I detected the Matron of the Gaol in 1821, in taking a profit of two pence per pound on the sugar which she bought for me and Mrs. Carlile, and I also know, that this was not a solitary instance.
I examined her upon the subject, in as delicate a manner as I could, and she confessed, that, since she and her husband had been interrupted in keeping a shop in the Gaol, the Grocer bad allowed them a penny discount, in every shilling in the discount I saw nothing wrong; but cautioned her not to put on more profit on mine, or any other prisoner's errands, and that she was bound to supply us, as we could purchase for ourselves if at liberty. I did not make the open charge; but it was so done, that she understood my meaning and pleaded guilty, with the excuse, that their wages were merely nominal, and that they could not live without a profit on their shoppings. I enquired her wages, as matron, and, to my great astonishment, she said, only five shillings per week! Immediately, I felt, that all the blame or crime that there was lay with the Gaoler or Visiting Magistrates. I felt, that the tax on the prisoners was, by one or more of them, encouraged. It was not only their duty, one and all, to see, that the prisoners were fairly dealt with; but to see, that the officers of the Gaol had competent wages to raise them above these petty thefts.
Public officers, we must have, and it is the duty of those who appoint them, not only to see that they are competent to the duties of their offices, but that they are respectable, and that they have means or salaries sufficient to keep them respectable. Without those means, defaults lie at the doors of those who appoint and pay them. With those means, defaults become n.ost serious crimes--crimes that should be punished in the most deterring manner : for they are not only robberies or unjust oppressions, but breaches of trust, the most dishonourable of all crimes.
I am about to shew, that, in the case of Thomas Bunn and his wife, they are almost faultless, and that the fault committed lies wholly with the Gaoler or Magistrates : I think with both.
At the time, that I thus detected and received the excuse oi the matron as to her wages, she informed me, that Mr. Morton Pitt had many years before examined her about her wages, and would scarcely believe that she had wages so small as five shil
lings per week, and asked her if she did not also get her board from the Gaoler. He was told no. He must have seen and the Gaoler must have seen, that, with this five shillings a week, she, had a young increasing family or a child every other year, and, in consequence of her office of matron, was obliged to keep a servant girl. He also knew, that, with such wages, in such a condition, in the course of five or six years, Thomas Bunn was able to bank a hundred pounds, or two years complete wages for himself and wife. An arithmetical head might have easily seen how this was done: the poor prisoners suffered for it.
I called the attention of Mr. Morton Pitt to the circumstance in November 1823, in a printed letter, and did the same with the High Sheriff, Mr. Garland, in August 1824; but I cannot learn, that any alteration has been made in the wages of the matron and other turnkeys of this Gaol ; though the Gaol Act of 1823, requires, that the Magistrates shall fix the wages of the turnkeys, &c. The matron of the Cold Bath Fields Prison, in London, has £150. per year, and, to my knowledge, has not the half of Mrs. Bunn's work or the work of the matron of this Gaol.
I have never heard, that the wages of any man employed in this place exceeded 14s. per week.
These are not wages to keep an honest man honest in such a a place. Indeed, if I'may follow the expenditure of the county, as I have seen it printed in the county papers, I should say, that the Gaoler has no salary adequate to his situation. I have seen it printed at £312, per year for self and all his subordinate officers, including the matron with her five shillings a week. Here is the evil. You, the Magistrates, farin the management of the Gaol to the Gaoler, at the lowest price, that a mean spirited man will take it; he screws his wages to servants down to the lowest turn and all screw what they can from the prisoners and every other way. This should not be.
Detestable in manners as I hold this Gaoler to be, I have no scruple to say, that, if he continues a man to your taste, he ought to have a clear salary of four or five hundred a year, and not to be allowed to make a sixpence in any way from the prisoners. The old system of fees is justly getting its explosion. It has been one uniform system of extortion and oppression. Every public officer ought to have a salary equal to his labour and responsibility and have no dependance on fees.
I notice, that the Magistrates of Lincolnshire have bought up the beds wbich the Gaoler of that County hired out to prisoners, and I would recommend the same thing to the Magistrates of Dorset, Let the prisoners, as to their expenditure, have the same benefit of competition, as when at large. The present charge of 3s. per week for a bed by the Gaoler of this Gaol is extravagant.
My inference from these circumstances is, that both Gaoler and Magistrates have been perfectly aware, that the officers of the
Gaol extracted the bulk of their incomes from the prisoners : and that this truly industrious and honest couple, Thomas Bunn and his wife, have been made the victims of an accidental exposure; the mere scape-goats for the sins of others, who should have remedied the matter before, or never have suffered it to exist.
The Chaplain of this Gaol has, alone, a salary adequate to his office, and he, a wholly useless and mischievous officer, a man appointed to preach vice to vicious men.
Had the magistrates ever treated me in a decent manner, had they ever done any thing for me, by which I could respect them, had they ever done their duty to me, I would never have carried a complaint out of the Gaol, until it had remained unredressed after a respectful submission of it to them; but I feel with them as with the Gaoler and Doctor, that I cannot respect them and myself at the same time, and my duty, I take to be, to respect myself at all hazards.
In August last, I had sketched the draft of a letter to the magistrates, to transmit to them first copies of the papers which one of the smugglers had put into my hand, and which I have learnt have come back to the Magistrates from London, as I expected and wished; but the circumstance of interrupting the cleaning of my room, in the manner in which it had been done above a year, dissuaded me from an application, where every thing in the shape of a complaint has been scouted, and where I see a disposition to suppress by terror all complaints, that Mr. Peel may continue to call this the best managed Gaol in the country, which, from my secret thoughts, I think to be the worst managed Gaol in the country.
The uncouth, the miserable disposition of the Gaoleris enough to ensure bad management, whatever may be the regulations of the Magistrates. So long as the Magistrates and Gaoler can suppress complaints, they say well; but I think it well only when they can say to any respectable enquirer, you are welcome to come and see how we manage matters. There should be no secrecy in a public institution of this kind; for, in all public institutions, secrecy implies that which will not bear the light.
If this Gaol be well managed, why should the Magistrates exhibit a dread of my getting a knowledge of that management? If well managed, why should they order the turnkeys not to answer me a question, and to keep so close to my heels, that no prisoner shall by possibility make a communication to me? If well managed, why all this dread, all this secrecy. What am I to think; and what will others think of that policy that imputes to a turnkey, that,' to take a newspaper from my hand to look at, an offence scarcely pardonable, next to the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. If well managed, how is it that I could never hear either turnkey or prisoner acknowledge it during six years residence? And why should the Magistrates now fear a
visit from Thomas Bunn to me, when perhaps, his bread depends upon that visit. .
Stevens, the turnkey, who was lately discharged, had been a turnkey in two other prisons; that of Fisherton and that of Devizes. This man was in the Gaol many weeks before I exchanged a dozen words with him. But one day while in the garden with me he thus addressed me. “ Sir, I hope no offence, but, last night, after I had been out with you, I was standing at the door, looking for a word in a pocket dictionary, that there had been a dispute about in the bakehouse, and the Governor came up and asked me if Carlile had given me one of his books. I said no, it was a dictionary of my own. Oh, says he, I thought he might bave given you one of his books. Sir, I dont know what these books of yours are, I hear a great deal about them, and should like to see one of them.” Well, Stevens, said I, now the Gaolers rankling suspicions have roused your curiosity, and you say that you wish to see and to know what my books are, I will take care that you shall be supplied ; but, observe, that with you, as with every other person, I have not intruded them. No, Sir, says he I should not have thought of asking you if the Gaoler had not asked ine if you had given me one."
This same turnkey, from that time, became anxiously communicative, and your worships may be assured, that, he is the only turnkey who ever did make any particular communication to me, as to the management of the Gaol. Had he stopped a few months longer, I would have shewn Mr. Peel a pretty specimen of bis 6best managed Gaol.”
Stevens, at different times, said, that he saw, almost daily, things done in this Gaol, which would not have passed in those in wbich he had lived before. He stated two specific cases, which he thought illegal, and to which I now call the attention of the Magistrates in Session; cases which, I engage, are not to be found in the report of the Visiting Magistrates.
The first case is that of William Hookey, who, he informed me : was kept by the Gaoler, wilfully, a day beyond his time. He stated the case thus:-Hookey's time was up on the Monday, as I understood. He was not duly discharged. Robinson, the turnkey, spake to the Gaoler towards the afternoon about this man, saying, that he believed his time was up that day and that he had not been discharged. The Gaoler's answer was, in his usual sullen way, for he can be civil to no one under him. Oh. well, I shall keep him until to morrow now.” I state the affair precisely as it was communicated to me unasked: and what I have seen of the Gaoler makes me easily credit it; for I do not hold him fit to be a keeper of dogs, if improvement be sought.
The second case is, that a man of the name of Hooper was kept in a refractory cell forty hours without food. On further inquiry, I was told, that the man certainly was in the refractory
cell forty hours without food; but that he ate his three pound loaf in the first eight of forty-eight hours. Still, though the rules of the Gaol would not have supplied him with more bread for the next forty hours, if he remained in bis yard, I submit, that he was entitled to a pound or a pound and half on the day that he was locked up withont any. Had he remained in the yard, he might have eaten his two days bread in one day, with a view of buying more on the second; but as he was locked up, he became a new prisoner in that condition, and his means of buying, borrowing or begging food were removed. He was entitled to a new consideration as to food. I asked, if the Gaoler was informed by a turnkey of this man's case, and was answered in the affirmative, and that he would not allow him bread in the cell, until the forty-eight hours were up from the delivery of the former loaf.
These are statements, of the truth or falsehood of which, the Magistrates have an easy means of enquiry, and if true, they shew, for they are but two of almost daily occurrences with this Gaoler, that he is totally unfit to have any power entrusted to him in such a place. I have long made up my mind upon this subject, and have long proclaimed it, and could I have had a Stevens to communicate to me the real management of this “ best managed Gaol," I would have had the Gaoler out of it years ago.
Whilst in the heat of communication, I will mention another little matter, which adds to the same species of illustration of his character. Mrs. Wright, who has been identified with me in my publishing career, lately came to visit me. She is a little mild and particularly civil woman, unless insulted. On meeting the Gaoler to ask admission, he said, you must send a letter to Mr. Carlile to know if he wishes to see you. Oh, Sir, she said, Mr. Carlile wants no letter from me; I know he wishes to see me. Ah, but I want a letter from him to that effect was his answer. Well, Sir, will you allow me to write my name in your office to send to Mr. Carlile ? Certainly not, certainly not, I shall allow no such thing, was his answer. She knew, beforehand, the character she was about to meet in the Gaoler; but here was a woman, a perfect stranger to all in Dorchester, puzzled what to do. Every turnkey at hand blushed for his master, a dog would have blushed had he understood it: Mrs. Wright had to go back into the town, to buy paper and beg ink and pen, to tell me that she was at the gate ; when the person, who brought her name on paper, might have brought it verbally, if that ridiculous custom were necessary. I have never asked it, and look upon it as a designed annoyance.
Let us suppose Mrs. Wright incapable of writing and an entire stranger in Dorchester, running from house to house, asking strangers to write her a letter, and lastly obliged to resort to an attorney, who are the only professional letter writers, What a fuss to gratify a base fellow! Suppose a little further, that she had