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FEASIBILITY OF CONDITIONAL LIBERATION.
number, who gave a conditional release, would do so at his own peril.
And now mark, that all the evidence forthcoming to prove the safety and advantages of the “intermediate system,” proves, still more conclusively, the safety and advantages of this system which we would substitute for it. What we have described, is nothing more than an intermediate system reduced to a natural instead of an artificial form-carried out with natural checks instead of artificial checks. If, as Captain Crofton has experimentally shown, it is safe to give a prisoner conditional liberation, on the strength of good conduct during a certain period of prisondiscipline; it is evidently safer to let his conditional liberation depend not alone on good conduct while under the eyes of his jailers, but also on the character he had earned during his previous life. If it is safe to act on the judgments of officials whose experience of a convict's behaviour is comparatively limited, and who do not suffer penalties when their judgments are mistaken; then, manifestly, it is safer (when such officials can show no reason to the contrary) to act on the additional judgment of one who has not only had better opportunities of knowing the convict, but who will be a serious loser, if his judgment proves erroneous. Further, that surveillance over each conditionally-liberated prisoner, which the “intermediate system” exercises, would be still better exercised, when, instead of going to a strange master in a strange district, the prisoner went to some master in his own district; and under such circumstances, it would be easier to get such information respecting his after-career as is found desirable. There is every reason to think that such a method would be workable. If, on the recommendation of the officers, Captain Crofton's prisoners obtain employers “ who have on many occasions returned for others, in consequence of the good conduct of those at first engaged;
still better would be the action of the system when, in stead of the employers having “every facility placed at their disposal for s tisfying themselves as to the antecedents of the convict," they were already familiar with his antecedents.
Finally, let us not overlook the fact, that this course is the only one which, while duly consulting social safety, is also entirely just to the prisoner. As we have shown, the restraints imposed on a criminal are warranted by absolute equity, only to the extent needful to prevent fur. ther aggressions on his fellow-men; and when his fellow men impose greater restraints than these, they trespass against him. Hence, when a prisoner has worked out his task of making restitution, and, so far as is possible, undone the wrong he had done; society is, in strict justice, bound to accept any arrangement which adequately protects its members against further injury. And if, moved by the expectation of profit, or other motive, any citizen sufficiently substantial and trustworthy, will take on himself to hold society harmless, society must agree to his proposal. All it can rightly require is, that the guarantee against contingent injury shall be adequate; which, of course, it never can be where the contingent injury is of the gravest kind. No bail could compensate for murder; and therefore in this, and other extreme crimes, society would rightly refuse any such guarantee, even if offered ; which it would be very unlikely to be.
Such, then, is our code of prison-ethics. Such is the ideal which we ought to keep ever in view when modifying our penal system. Again we say, as we said at the outset, that the realization of such an ideal wholly depends on the advance of civilization. Let no one carry away the impression that we regard all these purely equitable regulations as immediately practicable. Though they
OBSTACLES TO AMELIORATION.
may be partially carried out, we think it highly improbable, or rather impossible, that they should at present be carried out in full. The number of offenders, the low average of enlightenment and morality, the ill-working of administrative machinery, and above all, the difficulty of obtaining officials of adequate intelligence, good feeling, and self-control, are obstacles that must long stand in the way of a system so complex as that which morality dictates. And we here assert, as emphatically as before, that the harshest penal system is ethically justified, if it is as good as the circumstances of the time permit. However great the cruelties it inflicts, yet if a system theoretically more equitable would not be a sufficient terror to evil-doers, or could not be worked, from lack of officers sufficiently judicious, honest, and humane-if less rigorous methods would entail a diminution of social security; then the methods in use are extrinsically good, though intrinsically bad: they are, as before said, the least wrong, and therefore relatively right.
Nevertheless, as we have endeavoured to prove, it is immensely important that, while duly considering the relatively right, we should keep the absolutely right constantly in view. True as it is, that in this transition state, conceptions of the ultimately expedient must ever be quali fied by our experience of the proximately expedient; it is not the less true that the proximately expedient cannot be determined unless the ultimately expedient is known. Before we can say what is as good as the time permits, we must say what is abstractedly good; for the first idea involves the last. We must have some fixed standard, some invariable measure, some constant clue: otherwise we shall inevitably be misled by the suggestions of immediate policy, and wander away from the right, rather than advance towards it. This conclusion is, we think, fully borne out by the facts we have cited.
In other cases, as
well as in the case of penal discipline, the evidence shows how terribly we have erred from obstinately refusing to consult first principles, and clinging to an unreasoning empiricism. Though, during civilization, grievous evils have occasionally arisen from attempts suddenly to realize absolute rectitude; yet a greater sum total of evils has arisen from the more usual course of ignoring absolute rectitude. Age after age, effete institutions have been maintained far longer than they would else have been; and equitable arrangements have been needlessly postponed. Is it not time for us to profit by past lessons ?
RAILWAY MORALS AND RAILWAY
ELIEVERS in the intrinsic virtues of political forms,
might draw an instructive lesson from the politics of our railways. If there needs a conclusive proof that the most carefully-framed constitutions are worthless, unless they be embodiments of the popular character-if there needs a conclusive proof, that governmental arrangements in advance of the time will inevitably lapse into congruity with the time; such proof may be found over and over again repeated in the current history of joint-stock enterprises.
As devised by Act of Parliament, the administrations of our public companies are almost purely democratic. The representative system is carried out in them with scarcely a check. Shareholders elect their directors, directors their chairman ; there is an annual retirement of a certain proportion of the board, giving facilities for superseding them; and, by this means, the whole ruling body may be changed in periods varying from three to five years. Yet, not only are the characteristic vices of our political state reproduced in each of these mercantile corporations-some even in an intenser degree—but the very