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Gaol Routine
 

Gaol Routine

Prison Gate
Prison Gate

This section looks at gaol routine in the 19th century. It includes general information as well as examples from specific gaols and archive records to illustrate the material.

At the start of the century prisons were mostly small, old, badly-run places. Each prison was run by the gaoler according to his own rules. If you could pay, you could buy extra privileges, for examples, better food or more visitors. By the Mid Victorian period things had changed greatly and the daily life of the prisoners was much more structured and controlled.

Prisons were paid for through the local rates. Throughout the century the routines in gaol were gradually made the same in every prison. Lots of new prisons were built up to the 1840s. The aim was to make gaols that were clean and efficient, and would reform criminals and, later in the century, act as a deterrant.

There were procedures for prisoners arriving and leaving the gaol (either being released or transferred to another institution). A set daily routine (depending on the type of sentence and prison). Prisoners rose at set times, worked for set periods (either in their cells or in silence in workshops or on the discipline mill), ate regular meals, exercised at set times and attended regular chapel services and prayers. Visits from friends and family were strictly controlled.

There was very little contact with the outside world, with the exception of the convict gaols such as Portland or Dartmoor or the prison Hulks, where (after serving time in a prison specially built for solitary confinement), prisoners serving sentences for Penal Servitude or awaiting transportation would carry out public works.

In 1877 all prisons were placed under government control, through the Home Office. Old, small prisons were shut down. By this time the normal sentence was one year in solitary confinement, followed by three years hard labour. Even time off for good behaviour was stopped.

Daily Routine

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Prisoner Details and Classification
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Distractions and Visitors

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Removal or Release

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Arrival