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Victorian Crime and Punishment
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Punishment and Rehabilitation

Account of the Punishment of a Prisoner

A description of the infringements to gaol rules committed by one prisoner and the punishments given.

S.D., aged 30, a single man, who could read and write imperfectly, was convicted in a south-eastern county, in January 1858, of larceny. He had been convicted five times before of begging, vagrancy, and stealing. His conduct in previous prisons had been good, and he arrived from Pentonville on the 21st January, 1859 at Portland. He was punished fourteen times; his offences were - the use of insubordinate language; trying to keep a fellow prisoner from his work; refusing to work at various times; refusing to turn out for labour; refusing to attend chapel; threatening an officer who had reported him; trying to open his cell window by removing the putty; carrying a piece of iron bar to his cell; breaking his cell window, and removing the screws from the iron work. After one of these offences, while in the separate cells, where he could not very well commit any offence, he behaved decently, and was allowed to return to labour. But his punishments were various - forfeitures of remission days, amounting in all to ninety-four, half-diet, or bread and water, and the wearing of cross-irons, with particoloured clothing; one shoulder and one leg being clothed in yellow for those prisoners who attempt escape, and in black for those who use violence towards their officers. "I consider this prisoner," says the Governor in the general remarks on his record, "to be a man of very low intellect." The man has not yet worked out his time. I observe that his conduct at work has for some time latterly been very good.