A Century Of Progress Jn Prison Reform In Great Britain. -- By: Albert H. Currier

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 067:266 (Apr 1910)
Article: A Century Of Progress Jn Prison Reform In Great Britain.
Author: Albert H. Currier

A Century Of Progress Jn Prison Reform In Great Britain.

Rev. Albert H. Currier

The narrative of the beginnings, various efforts, and progress of Prison Reform makes a story of thrilling interest. It presents pictures of misery surpassing even those of Dante’s Inferno, and examples of self-denying labor and saintly goodness in behalf of the sinful and wretched population of jails and prisons equal to the brightest in early Christianity.

In this philanthropic movement John Howard (born 1726) is conspicuous as a leader. His interest was awakened in the subject, and he was started on his career, in the following manner. Being a gentleman of independent fortune, and highly esteemed for his piety and benevolence, he was chosen sheriff of Bedfordshire, England. It was one of his official duties to inspect the prison of his county, which in this case was the famous jail in Bedford, where John Bunyan had been imprisoned for twelve years, a hundred years before, for the crime of absenting himself from the parish church and for being, as the indictment said, an “upholder of unlawful meetings and conventicles, to the great disturbance and distraction of the good subjects of this kingdom,” etc. Though “The Pilgrim’s Progress” was not conceived and written in this county jail, but, as Dr. John Brown shows, in the smaller municipal jail on the bridge, in which he was subsequently imprisoned for six months; yet in this county jail some of his

best works were composed, and it had the great honor, besides, of being the birthplace of Howard’s great mission of mercy for the improvement of prisons and of the condition of prisoners.

In the discharge of his duty of sheriff, he discovered some cases of injustice which filled his benevolent soul with righteous indignation; viz. the cases of prisoners who had been wrongfully accused, but who, instead of being promptly discharged from custody as soon as their innocence was established in court, had been dragged back to jail and locked up again till they should pay certain customary fees to the jailor and other prison officers, who were supported by these instead of a regular salary from the state.

“In order to redress this hardship [says Howard], I applied to the justices of the county for a salary to the jailor in lieu of his fees. The bench were properly affected with the grievance, and willing to grant the relief desired: but they wanted a precedent for charging the county with the expense. I therefore rode into several neighboring counties in search of a precedent; but I soon learned that the same injustice was practiced in them; and looking into the prisons, I beheld scenes of calamity, which I grew daily more and mo...

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