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INDIAN JAIL INDUSTRY,
Art. II.-1. Report on the Jails of the Lower Provinces of the
Bengal Presidency for 1855-56. 2. List of Jail Manufactures executed in the Prisons of Bengal
and the North Western Provinces. 1856. . 3. Report of the Committee on Prison Discipline, to the Governor
General of India. 1838.
HE elaborate and able report which stands last in our list of
Prison Documents, may be said to have formed the groundwork of nearly all that has been accomplished, or attempted, in the reformation of Indian Jails. Occupying about four hundred folio pages, examining every detail and subject, from Transportation to Tobacco, and emanating from such men as Sir Edward Ryan, Mr. Macaulay, Mr. Cameron, and Mr. Grant, this valuable State Paper is well deserving of notice by those who take any interest in the important questions of criminals, their punishment and reformation.
It is not our intention in the present paper to discuss any portion of the general subject, other than that relating to the employment of prisoners under sentence in the Jails of India. The recent exhibition of Jail manufactures in the Town Hall of Calcutta, has been the means of bringing this mode of employing the inmates of our prisons so prominently before the public, and the objects there exhibited attracted so much attention from some portions of the community, that it is thought preferable to treat our Jail industry apart from the larger question of “ crime and its repression.” We believe it to be in contemplation to hold a second Jail exhibition towards the close of the present year : this alone would induce us to treat the matter as a separate question, having a care to consider in what manner such a public collection of Prison Industry may be susceptible of improvement, and how most likely to conduce to the end in view.
Previous to the date of the Prison-Committee's Report, the only active occupation for the inmates of our Jails, with the exception of a few menial employments about the Prison, was road-work, either contiguous to, or at a distance from, the respective Jails, under Engineer officers. At that time, there were about thirteen thousand thus employed in Bengal alone, out of twentythree thousand six hundred criminal prisoners. These prisoners worked in fetters, guarded by one Burkandaz to every five convicts, supervised by Duffadars and Jemadars. Women do not appear to have performed any description of labour; whilst in the great Jails of the three Presidency towns none of the prisoners were called upon to work,
INDIAN JAIL INDUSTRY.
The report proceeded to shew that in the Bengal Presidency, there was, properly speaking, no system of in-door labor for male convicts, excepting for those sentenced to imprisonment for life. Of these, there were in 1838, one thousand and fifty-two committed for murder, attempt at murder, homicide, and gang-robberies with wounding and torture. The only labour exacted from these desperate characters, was spinning flax and jute-yarn for the manufacture of gunny bags, which seldom occupied the most indolent after mid-day, whilst the more active were engaged for a much shorter time. The productive result of this labour was not more than 2,500 rupees per annum. The life-prisoners in fact appear to have performed just as much work as suited them; the jailer having but little command over them, owing to their being congregated in one vast yard, and the few sepoys placed as a guard on them, having only unloaded muskets, a fact of which the prisoners were perfectly aware.
There were, however, even at that period, some few exceptional cases, where the Magistrates had, as mere experiments, put a certain number of prisoners to in-door labor. At Beerbhoom, a few were placed at cloth-weaving, with very questionable results as to profitableness. At Allahabad, sixty prisoners were employed in a similar manner without success. A small carpet manufacture had been attempted at Benares, but eventually abandoned. In like manner, the convicts of Gurruckpore, Hameerpore, and Meerut, were put to labor, but with somewhat better results.
The Committee reported that, so far from in-door labor being generally preferred by prisoners, they sought for work on the roads, with the knowledge that they could nearly always command intercourse with friends and relations by means of bribes to the guards, with the savings of their monthly allowance money. This however could only be done when they were employed under the civil authorities, for when transferred to the military, for work on the Grand Trunk Road, they were much more strictly kept and watched over.
“This system was commenced in the Lower Provinces on the lst March, 1833, when every prisoner sentenced to labor, for whatever crime, whose unexpired period of imprisonment
exceeded one year, was sent to Captain Thompson. But we o believe that, except on the first occasion, none but those
sentenced for murder, dacoity, highway robbery, burglary, • theft, receiving stolen goods, forgery, perjury, arson, rape
and other offences, for which the term of imprisonment has 'been five years or more, have been sent.
“By day, the prisoners in these road-gangs work in iron fetters, and at night, they sleep sometimes in huts, and sometimes in • tents, secured in gangs,--secured by means of a long iron chain,
INDIAN JAIL INDUSTRY.
' passed through a ring in each man's fetters, or between the legs
above the fetters, and fastened at each end. The executive ' officer has power to handcuff refractory prisoners, or to put
extra irons on them, to stop one-third of their allowance, or to flog them on the spot with a ratan. “ There is no doubt, the prisoners dislike working under the executive officers away from their districts. The removal from the neighbourhood of their friends is greatly disliked, for when on the roads in their own district, they are visited by them and receive money from them. The loss of this intercourse is particularly felt by prisoners in good circumstances."
The exposure to weather, and the frequent unhealthiness of certain localities, where road-making had to be carried on, induced a much heavier rate of mortality amongst the out-of-door gangs under the military than elsewhere. In some instances, the losses from disease were excessively severe. The average mortality amongst the in-door prisoners, was at that date 7.28 per cent., whilst the road-gangs showed losses averaging 11.16 per cent. “In one gang employed under Captain Thompson, Ramghur
division of the Trunk Road, the number of convicts who died whilst actually belonging to the gang, averaged for ten months,
at the rate of 34.25 per cent. per annum. In one month, the · deaths in that gang were ten per cent.”+
This mortality does not appear to have arisen in any way from defective clothing, or bad or insufficient food. They had ample clothing, and more rations than they usually consumed. An analysis of the comparative cost of Jail prisoners, and gang convicts on the roads in Bengal, shews that whilst the former cost the State, Rs. 32-13-2 each, per annum, the charge for the latter was, Rs. 46-4-6 a head : the principal increase was under the heads of clothing, and guards, the amount of which in the latter instance, was double that for in-door prisoners. The keep of a prisoner in Jail, without labor, and therefore not needing nearly so much overlooking, is not more than Rs. 24-2 a year.
The Committee went into very elaborate details to shew that the State were absolute losers by employing convict labor on the roads, and that it would be preferable to feed the prisoners in idleness in Jail, and to employ hired laborers for the roads.
- The extra cost of a convict, when he is put to work on the roads, ' is two rupees a month, whilst the work he does could be con" tracted for everywhere at considerably less, in some places at
two-thirds, and in some places, at one-half of that price.” I
Report on Prison Discipline, 1838, page 47.
In conclusion, the Committee reported their opinion, that the employment of convicts on the roads was the worst method of treatment that could be resorted to. Without any proper Jail Discipline, the Engineer officers, anxious to obtain as much work out of the prisoners as possible, fed them highly, gave many holidays, and presents, as well as other privileges inconsistent with prison regulations. In short, the better an executive officer discharged the duties of his own profession, the less fit he must be for a Jailor.
Upon this strong evidence, the Governor-General in Council decided that “ the entire system of employing the convicts in s
road-gangs, or otherwise under Engineer or Executive Officers, at a distance from the Jails of their respective districts, should ' immediately be put an end to throughout the Presidencies."
The convicts transported beyond the seas from Bengal, were, in most cases, employed in road-making, or let out to private individuals as domestic servants. At Singapore, there were 901 Bengali convicts, of whom 857 were placed in road-gangs; the rest remained with private individuals, or, in some instances, were permitted to live free from any restraint, and to provide for themselves, somewhat on the Ticket-of-leave system. At Penang, there were 566 Bengal convicts, and at Malacca, 284, of whom very trifling use appears to have been made, whilst the discipline amongst them amounted to nothing. In the former settlement, a wealthy Bengali, transported for a heinous offence, was carrying on trade to a very considerable extent on his own account, and in his own name, as freely as any merchant could do. In the Tenasserim Provinces, the prisoners from Bengal were placed on the roads or at similar work, and employed from day-break until 4 P. M., with one hour allowed for breakfast, but otherwise with very las discipline.
An analysis of the cost of keep and productive labor of these transported convicts, gives the following results :
“At Singapore, their cost amounted to Rs. 3-12-4 per month, " whilst the value of their labor was put down at Rs. 5-8.9.
At Penang, the monthly cost was from Rs. 2-12 to Rs. 4, and ? the produce of their labor was said to be Rs. 2-8 to Rs. 3. At
Malacca, the keep of the convicts amounted to Rs. 4 monthly, s whilst their labor was estimated at Rs. 6. In the Tenas. 'serim Provinces, their cost was Rs. 4-8, and their monthly
work yielded Rs. 5. But these figures, or at any rate, the productive side of the account, must be taken with some degree of caution, as they were supposed to be very roughly estimated.”
The Report under notice is dated January, 1838. In October of the same year, an elaborate “ "minute on the subject appeared, in which, amongst many other improvements suggested, the abandonment of road-gangs, at a distance from the respective
Jails, was determined upon, and at once carried out; whilst an extension of in-door occupation, especially as regards manufactures, was ordered. The energy thrown into the subject by the Committee of that day, appears to a great extent to have died with their labors, and it was not until the year 1843, that any beginning was made with the regular introduction of manufactures into our Jails.
The Report for 1855-56, by the present Inspector of Jails for the Lower Provinces, gives evidence of new vitality infused into this department of the public service, by one who is able, and thoroughly resolved, to render the Jails of Bengal effective both as reformatories, and as places of punishment, with as little cost to the State as possible. The elaborate character of Dr. Mouat's first Report is a proof of what may be accomplished even in India by an indefatigable man. In his enquiries and suggestions of reform, he doubtless encountered prejudice in some, ignorance in others, especially amongst the inefficient subordinates; yet already he has accomplished several striking reforms, not the least note-worthy of which has been the prohibition of tobacco amongst the convicts. His labors must not be the less valued, that he has had to struggle against “a corrupt ' and inefficient subordinate agency, and a construction of pri' sons, which, in many cases, invites escape, defies classification, "renders penal servitude impossible, and unites every quality " that is undesirable in a place of incarceration."*
Of the fifty-five Jails now under his supervision, from Assam to Arracan, Dr. Mouat contrived to inspect and report upon thirty-three during the first year of his tenure of office. The tabular returns in the Appendix give ample, and on the whole, accurate details as to the present working of those establishments. It could be wished, however, that regular periodical returns of the number of prisoners confined in the various Jails, were given, instead of the one statement of those incarcerated on the 30th April
. This is acknowledged in the Report, for we are told that “the result of this imperfect plan is that the quarterly,
half-yearly, and annual, returns, all differ in their results, and • the discrepancies are so hopeless that I have in despair abandoned the attempt to reconcile them.”
A daily return is recommended, by which monthly averages could be arrived at. He cordially agrees with our suggestion where the report says: “ there is no mention in the enumeration
of the number of recommitments, nor is any information fur' nished as to the causes of crime, its increase or diminution in
particular districts, the number of previous imprisonments the i criminals have undergone, or any other circumstances to show
Report on Jails of the Lower Provinces, 1855-56. Page 19.