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Punishment and Rehabilitation

Report on The Treadmill at Bedford Gaol 1822

Report of the Chaplain on the benefits of the use of the treadmill at Bedford County Gaol and House of Correction.

Midsummer Quarter Sessions 1822

Ref: QSR 25/414 Report of the Chaplain of the Gaol and Houses of Correction G H Bowers 17 July


" I have much pleasure in being able to remark the present good effects of the Stepping Mill in the New House of Correction, and of the New System of discipline generally, which has been introduced within the last Quarter. Whatever else may be the benefits arising from it, it certainly contributes very much to promote good discipline among the prisoners during the period of their confinement, and lessens considerably the difficulty which formerly existed of preserving regularity of behaviour. Whether it be the means of repressing crime, and inducing habits of industry among those who are now wearied with its labour, we have not yet had experience enough to determine. All that can be said at present is, that for a time it subdues the mind and fatigues the body without at all affecting the general health of the prisoners or in any way injuring their frame. In the last Quarter, as well as in the preceding one, there has been a greater number of prisoners in custody than was ever known in this County at this season of the year and some of these have been men whose habits and general characters are of the worst description. With the present means of employment however, it has not been found difficult to govern them, and they have all been for the most part submissive and peaceable; tho; I fear, little hope can be entertained of their effectual reformation. On the other side again there have been those imprisoned upon whose minds this discipline has in all appearance had a salutory effect; and we may trust, that in this p[lace they have imbibed principles and acquired habits which will make them good members of Society. It becomes me however to speak with great caution upon this subject, since the conduct of these men has come under my observation in a place only where they have very little incitement to do good, and little temptation to do evil. With regard to the religious and moral instruction of prisoners, that plan has been adopted which interferes least with their labourious occupations. Every one is taught the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments: and those who are more seriously disposed, and can read, are, at the recommendation of the Governor (which is founded upon his knowledge of their disposition and their marked good behaviour for a month) provided with books, short and easy catechisms, and encouraged to learn them, after working hours, and to repeat them publicly whenever they are prepared. There is Permitted not the least relaxation from hard labour for the purpose of learning these things; but whatever is done in this way, must be done when their hours for labour have expired. In the Old House of Correction, it is pleasing to state that there are several examples in which this method has been of great service? There have of late been two or three instances in which convicts sentenced to imprisonment in the common gaol, who are both clothed and maintained at the expense of the County have refused to work, on the plea that they were not sentenced to hard labour; but happily, there was little difficulty in restoring order, and inducing them to return to their ordinary employments."