« AnteriorContinuar »
THE RIGHT TO COERCION LIMITED.
of nuch the same pleasurable emotions. When we thus see that the beneficent arrangements of things, are no less uniformly sustained in his person than in that of another are we not bound to respect in his person such of these beneficent arrangements as we have power to thwart? are we not bound to interfere with the laws of life no further than is absolutely needful?
If any still hesitate, there is another lesson for them having the same implication. Whoso disregards any one of those simpler laws of life out of which, as we have shown, the moral laws originate, has to bear the evil necessitated by the transgression-just that, and no more. If, careless of your footing, you fall, the consequent bruise, and possibly some constitutional disturbance entailed by it, are all you have to suffer: there is not the further gratuitous penalty of a cold or an attack of small-pox. If you have eaten something which you know to be indigestible, there follow certain visceral derangements and their concomitants; but, for your physical sin, there is no vengeance in the shape of a broken bone or a spinal affection. The punishments, in these and other cases, are neither greater nor less than flow from the natural working of things. Well, should we not with all humility follow this example? Must we not infer that, similarly, a citizen who has transgressed the conditions to social welfare, ought to bear the needful penalties and restraints, but nothing beyond these. Is it not clear that neither by absolute morality nor by Nature's precedents, are we warranted in visiting on him any pains besides those involved in remedying, as far as may be, the evil committed, and preventing other such evils ? To us it seems manifest that if society exceeds this, it trespasses against the criminal.
Those who think, as many will probably do, that we are tending towards a mischievous leniency, will find that the next step in our argument disposes of any such objection; for while equity forbids us to punish the criminal otherwise than by making him suffer the natural consequences, these, when rigorously enforced, are quite severe enough.
Society having proved in the high court of absolute morality, that the offender must make restitution or compensation, and submit to the restraints requisite for public safety; and the offender having obtained from the same court the decision, that these restraints shall be no greater than the specified end requires; society thereupon makes the further demand that, while living in durance, the offender shall maintain himself; and this demand absolute morality at once endorses. The community having taken measures of self-preservation; and having inflicted on the aggressor no punishments or disabilities beyond those in volved in these necessary measures; is no further con cerned in the matter. With the support of the prisoner it has no more to do than before he committed the crime It is the business of society simply to defend itself against him; and it is his business to live as well as he can under the restrictions society is obliged to impose on him. All he may rightly ask is, to have the opportunity of labour. ing, and exchanging the produce of his labour for necessaries; and this claim is a corollary from that already admitted, that his actions shall not be restricted more than is needful for the public safety. With these opportunities, however, he must make the best of his position. He must be content to gain as good a livelihood as the circumstances permit; and if he cannot employ his powers to the best advantage, if he has to work hard and fare scantily, these evils must be counted among the penalties of his transgression—the natural reactions of his wrong action.
On this self-maintenance equity sternly insists. The
THE CONVICT SHOULD EARN HIS SUPPORT.
rousons which justify his imprisonment, equally justify the refusal to let him have any other sustenance than he earns. He is confined that he may not further interfere with the complete living of his fellow-citizens—that he may not again intercept any of those benefits which the order of Nature has conferred on them, or any of those procured by their exertions and careful conduct. And he is required to support himself for exactly the same reasons -that he may not interfere with others' complete living—that he may not intercept the benefits they earn. For, if other wise, whence must come his food and clothing ? Directly from the public stores, and indirectly from the pockets o. all tax-payers. And what is the property thus abstracted from tax-payers? It is the equivalent of so much benefit earned by labour. It is so much means to complete living. And when this property is taken away-when the toil has been gone through, and the produce it should have brought is intercepted by the tax-gatherer on behalf of the convict—the conditions to complete life are broken: the convict commits by deputy a further aggression on his fellow-citizens.
It matters not that such abstraction is made according to law. We are here considering the dictum of that authority which is above law; and which law ought to enforce. And this dictum we find to be, that each individual shall take the evils and benefits of his own conduct —that the offender must suffer, as far as is possible, all pains entailed by his offence; and must not be allowed to visit part of them on the innocent. Unless the criminal maintains himself, he indirectly commits an additional crime. Instead of restitution, he makes a new aggression. Instead of repairing the breach he has made in the con. ditions to complete social life, he widens this breach. He inflicts on others that very injury which the restraint im posed on him was to prevent. As certainly, therefore, as
such restraint is warranted by absolute morality; so cer tainly does absolute morality warrant us in refusing bim gratuitous support.
These, then, are the requirements of an equitable penal system :—That the aggressor shall make restitution or compensation; that he shall be placed under the restraints requisite for social security; that neither any restraints beyond these, nor any gratuitous penalties, shall be inflicted on him; and that while living in confinement, or under surveillance, he shall maintain himself, not prepared to say that such dictates may at once be fully obeyed. Already we have admitted that the deductions of absolute expediency must, in our transition state, he qualified by the inductions of relative expediency. We have pointed out that in rude times, the severest criminal codes were justified by morality; if, without them, crime could not be repressed and social safety insured. Whence, by implication, it follows that our present methods of treating criminals are warranted, if they come as near to those of pure equity as circumstances permit. That any system now feasible must fall short of the ideal sketched out, is very possible. It may be that the enforcement of restitution or compensation, is in many cases impracticable. It may be that on some convicts, penalties more severe than abstract justice demands must be inflicted. On the other hand, it may be that entire selfmaintenance would entail on the wholly-unskilled criminal, a punishment too grievous to be borne. But any such immediate shortcomings do not affect our argument. All we insist on is, that the commands of absolute morality shall be obeyed as far as possible—that we shall fulfil them up to those limits beyond which experiment proves that more evil than good results—that, ever keeping in view the ideal, each change we make shall be towards its realization.
EFFECTS OF HUMANE TREATMENT.
But now we are prepared to say, that this ideal may be in great part realized at the present time. Experience m various countries, under various circumstances, lias shown that immense benefits result from substituting for the old penal systems, systems that approximate to that above indicated. Germany, France, Spain, Eng. land, Ireland, and Australia, send statements to the effect that the most successful criminal discipline, is a discipline of decreased restraints and increased self dependence. And the evidence proves the success to be greatest, where the nearest approach is made to the arrangements prescribed by abstract justice. We shall find the facts striking: some of them even astonish ing.
When M. Obermair was appointed Governor of the Munich State-Prison
“He found from 600 to 700 prisoners in the jail, in the worst state of insubordination, and whose excesses, he was told, defied the harshest and most stringent discipline; the prisoners were all chained together, and attached to each chain was an iron weight, which the strongest found difficulty in dragging along. The guard consisted of about 100 soldiers, who did duty not only at the gates and around the walls, but also in the passages, and even in the workshops and dormitories; and, strangest of all protections against the possibility of an outbreak or individual invasion, twenty to thirty large savago dogs, of the bloodhound breed, were let loose at night in the passages and courts to keep their watch and ward. According to his account the place was a perfect Pandemonium, comprising, within the limits of a few acres, the worst passions, the most slavish vices, and the most heartless tyranny."
M. Obermair gradually relaxed this harsh system. Ile greatly lightened the chains; and would, if allowed, have thrown them aside. The dogs, and nearly all the guards were dispensed with; and the prisoners were treated with such consideration as to gain their confidence. Mr. Baillie.