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Victorian Crime and Punishment
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Daily Life

An Overview of Instruction

Prison Chapel
Prison Chapel

John Howard, the Prison reformer in his his book, "The State of the Prisons", published in 1777 suggested that all prisoners should have the opportunity to benefit from moral guidance and education.

This resulted in many prisoners being offered the chance to learn to read and write in gaol. In the Bedford House of Correction, for example, a 1821 report to the quarter sessions describes how, after prisoners had finished their time on the discipline mill, they could go the school run by one of the turnkeys, to learn to read and write. The turnkey was paid 3/- (15p) a week for this.

At this time attendance was optional. Later in many gaols all prison inmates had compulsory instruction in reading and writing with an emphasis on religious text to encourage inmates see the error of their ways.

Visits from the chaplain were also seen as important offering prisoners the chance to repent of their sins. In Bedford gaol, as in many others, prisoners attended services in the chapel where they sat apart from each other facing the preacher. There were daily prayers and a sermon on Sunday.