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THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTS
CAPT. WILLIAM JOHN WILLIAMS, INSPECTOR,
Appointed to visit the different Prisons of Great Britain. And also a Letter from that gentleman, in answer to one announcing Miss Martin's death.
Moral and Religious Instruction.—With regard to this branch of my inquiry, the particulars are of so singular a nature, that it may be better to transcribe the notes made at the time.
Sunday, November 29, 1835, attended divine service in the morning at the prison. The male prisoners only were assembled; a female, resident in the town, officiated; her voice was exceedingly melodious, her delivery emphatic, and her enunciation exceedingly distinct. The service. was the Liturgy of the Church of England; two psalms were sung by the whole of the prisoners, and extremely well, much better than I have frequently heard in our best appointed churches. A written discourse, of her own composition, was read by her; it was of a purely moral tendency, involving no doctrinal points, and admirably suited to the hearers.
During the performance of the service, the prisoners paid the profoundest attention and most marked respect, and, as far as it is possible to judge, appeared to take a devout interest. Evening service was read by her afterwards, to the female prisoners.
This most estimable person has, for the long period of seventeen years, almost exclusively given up her time to bettering the wretched condition of the prisoners who are confined in the gaol. She is generally there four or five times every week, and, since her first commencing these charitable labours, she has never omitted being present a single sabbath day. On the week-days she pursues, with equal zeal, a regular course of instruction with the male and female prisoners. Many of the prisoners have been taught to read and write, of which very satisfactory examples were produced; and the men are instructed and employed in binding books, and cutting out of bone, stilettoes, salt spoons, wafer stamps, and similar articles, which are disposed of for their benefit. The females are supplied with work according to their several abilities, and their earnings are paid to them on their discharge; in several instances they have earned sufficient to put themselves in decent apparel, and be fit for service. After their discharge, they are, by the same means, frequently provided with work, until enabled to procure it for themselves.
Only a single instance is recorded of any insult being offered her, which was by a prisoner of notoriously bad character; upon this she gave
up her attendance upon the ward to which he belonged after his discharge, the other prisoners came forward and entreated most earnestly that she would be pleased to resume her visits.
There are several cases where her attentions have been successful, and have apparently reclaimed the parties, if the continued good conduct of the discharged be admitted as satisfactory proof. That of four smugglers is singular, from the fact, that upon their discharge, after a long imprisonment, they addressed the felons, and entreated them to listen to her advice, and treat her with respect.
Trifling pecuniary donations from charitable persons in the town of Yarmouth, and from the British Society of Ladies in London, enable her to dispose of the female prisoners' work at reduced prices to the poor. The Hon. and Rev. Mr. Pellew considers the services of this person in the prison as invaluable; he has read several of her sermons; her tenets are strictly those of the Church of England. She obtains books and tracts through him, which are generally those published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. The keeper and matron are also strong in their testimony, as to the beneficial effects of her interference. She is about fortyfive years of age, and has to earn her own livelihood by her business. Mr. Pellew thinks that if, in prisons similar to this, a school-master were appointed, subject to the approval of the resident clergyman, much benefit would ensue.-p. 69.
The benevolent female, who has for so many years devoted herself to improving the moral and physical condition of those confined here, still continues her exertions with undiminished energy. Independently of her performing divine service, with a sermon on the Sunday mornings, not a day passes without her visiting the prison for the purpose of instructing both sexes in reading and writing, and superintending the work provided by her. Nor are her good offices limited to the time of their imprisonment; her active philanthropy extends itself to furnishing prisoners, on their discharge, either with the means of temporary subsistence; of re-joining their distant families; or procuring them situations and if residing in the neighbourhood, satisfying herself, by frequent visits, as to their good resolutions. It is very pleasing to see how much good has been effected by personal exertion, and a trifling expense. The donations of a few humane individuals at Yarmouth, and a small sum annually from the British Society of Ladies, in London, under the auspices of Mrs. Fry, are the only resources, besides her own, of which this estimable person has to avail herself. The whole of the pecuniary transactions are accurately entered and balanced, in books kept by her for the purpose. She also keeps a journal of the progress made by the prisoners under her tuition, arranged under the heads of name; crime; for trial or convicted; whether able to read or write when committed, neither; whether taught in prison; school days,
and conduct in school. She notes down all the information she receives from time to time, relating to the conduct of the liberated prisoners.— p. 171.
That most estimable female, whose charitable offices I have with much pleasure recorded in former reports, still continues to follow, with untiring zeal, her truly benevolent endeavours for the reclamation of her fellow creatures from ignorance, crime, and misery. Some idea of the extent, and the results of her labours, may be formed from the extracts which I make from the journals and tables kept by her, and which afford much information upon the habits, and pursuits, of the classes most prone to criminal acts, and also upon the discipline of the prison.-p. 124.
Although there is no chaplain specially appointed to the spiritual care of the gaol, the wants of the prisoners in this respect, are still most carefully and energetically attended to by that most excellent female, whose exertions I have pointed out in former reports, and who, with an unwearied zeal, undisturbed temper, and the purest benevolence, devotes her days, not only to the moral and religious instruction, but also to the employment and reclamation of its inmates.-p. 156.