e2bn E2BN
Victorian Crime and Punishment
HomePrisoner case studiesPrisoners19th Century JusticeTeachers Area

19th Century Justice homepage

Punishment and Rehabilitation

Earned Benefits in Parkhurst Gaol

A description of the system of reward for young offenders in Parkhurst, which from 1835-1862 was a convict prison for boys awaiting deportation, mainly to Australia.

As soon as any boy has passed four entire months in the general wards without having been punished for any offence against the rules, a good conduct badge is granted to him in the shape of a shield of red cloth with the number 2 cut out and shown on white cloth underneath. This badge is sewn on the right sleeve of the boy's jacket; and so long as he wears it without disgrace, he is allowed to correspond with his parents or other friends once in every three months; to have threepence per week credited to his account; to have a goodly hunk of baked plum-pudding added to his dinner every Sunday, and to attend a sort of reading and writing party from seven till eight o'clock P.M. on each week day.

When a boy has worn the first badge for three months without any prison punishment, it is exchanged for a similar badge with 1 in white cloth on a red shield. When badge "1 red" has been worn for three clear months without disgrace, it is exchanged for "2 blue", the numeral on a blue shield, and sixpence a week is credited to this boy's account.

At the end of six more months he may obtain number "1 blue". It is understood that every report for misconduct involving punishment carries with it a privation of these privileges, or suspension for a time. When number 1 blue has been worn for eight months, and the lad arrives within eighteen months of the expiration of his sentence, if he has behaved well he is placed in "the second division of the liberty class," where he is allowed to write to his friends once a week, and threepence a week extra is accredited to his gratuity. In nine months more he is advanced to the first division of the liberty class, and here the change is very marked. The boys are allowed to lay aside the prison garb, and to dress in a plain mechanic's working suit, and also to have some little variations from the ordinary diet of the prison. To each of the boys with the highest badge is allotted a small garden, in which he is allowed to work in summer evenings and at recreation times during the day.

Thornton Smith, "The English Convict System", in Cornhill Magazine, Vol. III, June 1861