Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

3 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

FORTY SHILLINGS FOR THE FRANCHISE.

Newyddion
Dyfynnu
Rhannu

FORTY SHILLINGS FOR THE FRANCHISE. BY MARIE WINTON EVANS. IV In the grey dawn of the following morning the ringing of a bell in the distance roused me from my slumbers, and I awoke to the consciousness that it must be the signal for rising. Having been deprived of my watch, and there being no means of knowing the time—for no sound penetrated into the cell from the outside world-I deemed it best to dress as quickly as possible, to be in readi- ness when a wardress came to deliver instruc- tions for the daily routine. On the previous night I had been too tired and worn out to take much interest in either the appearance or the furniture of my cell, and had been glad to lay myself down in utter weariness. Even now, after some hours' sleep, the weariness remained my body was bruised from constant tossing on the hard mattress, and the luxury of remaining in bed for the customary five minutes after waking was easily foregone. The toilet service was of the most primitive kind, and made of tin. These, I concluded, had to be kept bright by the prisoners, for I found a roll of dusters, containing a piece of bath brick, placed on the floor in a corner. The wash- hand basin was very small, and the shelf which served as a washstand uncomfortably low, so that the ordeal of washing was a trying one, especially as the water was scarce and very hard, and the soap refused to lather. The towel was a piece of coarse, hard canvas, about twenty-seven inches long by eighteen inches wide, so that, with the materials at hand, the chances of cultivating a "com- plexion at the expense of the State were of a slight character! In the absence of a mirror, the process of dressing was con- siderably shortened, for it necessitated the discarding of every little accessory to appearance that required adjusting for effect! On another shelf, above that used for a washstand, I found a case containing a copy of rules for first division offenders, and a dietary card, a slate, an earthenware mug, a tin plate, rather battered and rusty, a small wooden salt cellar filled with salt, and a wooden spoon. An examination of the rules left me some- what uncertain as to what was expected of me in the matter of cleaning my cell, for the phraseology was, like that of all official regulations, so involved that it might mean anything or nothing. The cell itself was a good deal larger and cleaner than the one we had occupied on the previous evening. It measured about ten feet by eight feet, and was about nine feet in height. The window was also larger, and, like all the prison windows, secured with strong iron bars on the outside. Immediately underneath was a small ventilator, which I kept open day and night, and even then the atmosphere was never fresh. The hot-water pipe, which ran along one side, beneath the window, may have accounted for that; the ventilator was not sufficient to counteract the stifling effect produced, and I found the atmosphere extremely enervating. The floor was of cement and the walls whitewashed, so that, when I unconsciously rested myself by leaning against it, I became covered with a coating of lime. The furniture was of the crudest and most uncomfortable kind. In addition to the two stone shelves already referred to, a small table was fixed into the wall close to the door, and a short, narrow wooden bench was the only seat accommodation. Everything was clean, and told of constant scrubbing. There was, however, no convenience for hanging any article of clothing which might not be required for indoor wear, and the only alternative to keeping my coat on was to leave it on the floor this I found rather trying, for the weather happened to be warm in addition to the heat from the hot-water pipe. The whitewash on the walls, too, was irritating, and might well be substituted by paint, which would not. rub off whenever anyone came in contact with it. The cell was lit with electricity, and was fitted with an electric bell, both of which were improvements on the badly fitted cell into which we had been placed on arrival. The most massive part of the cell was the heavy door, studded with great iron nails. In the upper part was an oval shaped concave, painted black, in the centre of which was an inspection hole, through which the Law might keep a watchful eye upon the occupant in her solitude. A little disc covered this hole on the outside, so that the prisoner could not make use of the opportunity that might otherwise be afforded for seeing what was going on outside her cell. While conducting an examination of my surroundings, the cell door was flung open, and a wardress called out lavatory," which was the signal for washing out the toilet neccessaries and re-filling our water cans for the following day. There was only one lavatory, and one water tap, on each side of each tier of cells, and as each of these had to serve the covenience of seventeen prisoners, great inconvenience and delay was occasioned. These conveniences were situated one above the other, on opposite sides of each tier of cells, so that each lavatory overlooked the others on the opposite side, and the absence of privacy thus obtained was a rude shock to all of us. Every human being has a sense of decency and of propriety that no prison system has a right to violate, and a system that further demoralises a criminal by compelling sub- mission to such unneccessary indignity should not be tolerated in a civilised com- munity. No prison can reform while its regulations include enforced obedience to brutal, demoralising rules, and of all the regulations, those pertaining to the use of the lavatories I found to be disgracefully objectionable, and a crying injustice that should not be inflicted upon the most de- praved criminal. The dregs of our social system, that find their way into our prisons, are further brutalised by living in an atmo- sphere that crushes what is left of self- respect, and enforces coarse, vulgar habits that no one would hesitate to condemn in any person outside a prison. (To be continued.)

-----"---Holloway. *

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