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Punishment and Rehabilitation

A Chaplain's View 1819

The Chaplain of Bedford County Gaol and House of Correction reporting to the Quarter Sessions 1819 on the regulation and management at the gaol and the impact of the reforms on the prisoners.

Quarter Sessions 1819
Ref: QSR 24/370
Report of the Chaplain of the Gaol, G H Bowers.


" I have great satisfaction in being able to state to your Worshipful Bench, that the regulations which you were pleased to order relative to the management of the County Prisons, have been introduced into them, and acted upon during the last quarter; and that there is fair prospect of very beneficial consequences resulting from them: The actual reformation of the offenders may be hoped for; from the constant employment and separation which is now observed, the confinement is, we trust, rendered such as will not only deter themselves, but the companions to whom they return, from being committed to what is now really a House of Correction, restraint and discipline.

Where there is a promiscuous association of the prisoners, little real benefit can be expected to arise from exhortation or advice: A system of classification therefore has been adopted by which the obstinate and old offenders have been separated from the better disposed:- but it is to be feared, from the probability of an increased number of prisoners that the limits of the prison will not admit all of this system of classification during the ensuing winter season. A school has been established in the Chapel of the Gaol, which I feel a great pleasure in observing, has certainly been productive of much good. The conduct of all who have attended it has been orderly and highly becoming, and the progress that has been made in reading and repeating lessons has exceeded my expectations.

The attendance at School is not compulsory; but is granted as an indulgence after the prisoner's labour at the Mill is ended, and as a reward for good behaviour in the yards and day rooms. The greater part of the prisoners (particularly those who are confined under sentences of long imprisonments) have been found desirous to be instructed; whilst others have objected on account of age and ignorance; though I much fear that the true cause of their refusal is a love of idleness.

The Master of the School, I have the happiness to observe, is well qualified for the situation which he fills. His mildness of manners, and steadiness and regularity of conduct deserve commendation. It is humbly submitted to your consideration, whether the morning only during the short days of the Winter season, may be thought sufficient for the employment of the better disposed at the Mill; and whether to such men an indulgence to attend the school in the evening may not be granted. I also beg leave to state that the conduct of the prisoners generally, has been, during the whole of the last quarter, orderly, peaceable, and submissive; and that their attendance at Divine Worship has been regular and becoming."