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CHAPTER VI.

THE INTERMEDIATE PRISON AT LUSK.

WHEN Sir Walter Scott was accused of filching another man's story, and telling it his own way, he good-humouredly acknowledged the theft, and said he never thought it could have been detected with the new cocked hat he had put

upon it.

The intermediate prison of Lusk is the new cocked hat of the English convict system.

The cocked hat is just now in great repute.

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The most distinguished members of the Social Science Congress-held in Dublin, in August, 1861, were invited to Lusk, to see the new cocked

hat.

We often saw the hat at Camden Fort, where it was not as much cocked as it is at present, and we could discover but little difference between it and the Spike Island hat; but we have lately seen it in full feather at Lusk, and must confess it is a most attractive article.

Lusk is fourteen miles from Dublin, on the line of the Dublin and Drogheda railway. Here, on what was lately a common, we have two long iron houses, like long barns, and two or three out offices for farming purposes.

I visited Lusk common in September, 1862, and found forty convicts engaged in various farming occupations; some were trenching, one was ploughing, some were reaping, and one or two were at mason work. I never saw forty thieves looking more like honest and industrious agriculturists.

80

A FARM FOR CONVICTS.

The principal warder, Mr. Gunning, told me that he had not a pair of handcuffs in the establishment.

“Well, how do you like the change," I inquired of one of the forty, who saw me at a distance, and ran to open the gate.

Very much, sir, indeed; it is very comfortable-just like living with a farmer."

And I must confess that my heart opened to the scene, and that I enjoyed the new milk and nice bread and butter.

The prisoners take their meals together, in the long iron house, where they sleep, in association. They are well clothed and fairly fed, and are allowed half-a-crown a week, sixpence of which they may spend.

They get lectures from the Instructor in Agriculture, and from Mr. Organ.

They have a library, to which they subscribe a halfpenny a week each. They are marched to church and chapel, where they put their halfpence into the box, the same as other people ;

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but most of the sixpences are spent on a good breakfast on Sunday morning.*

One of their number is deputed to go to town on the Saturday to purchase the extra materials.

The conduct of this steward or caterer is generally all that could be desired, but one poor fellow was tempted to spend a portion of the prisoners' sixpences on whisky. He got drunk, and was found the next morning fast asleep at the prison door, looking very sheepish when roused. “ The ox knoweth his owner, and the

ass his master's crib."

Some one speaks of the reins being left loose on their necks. This is very poetical, but neither horses nor asses are in the habit of leaving good stables and well-filled mangers.

Besides all this the stable door is securely locked and well barred at night; and as they sleep together in a large

* There was nothing remarkable in this. Mr. Gibson Black carried eighty-four prisoners from the cells of Mountjoy-of which he was chaplain—to church, through the streets of Dublin.

VOL. II.

G

82

A TEMPTATION TO THE POOR.

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apartment, one could not escape without the aid and cognizance of the rest. They watch one another by day and night.

As Mr. Gunning says, their security is their association; "the only time I fear a prisoner is when he is alone,'' —developing Sir Walter Crofton's principle of Individualization.

It must have been a most delightful and refreshing sight for the members of the Social Science Congress, to mark the condition and conduct of the prisoners at Lusk; but it is a sight that no poor man should be allowed to see. We should treat our prisoners kindly, and if we work them, we must feed them and clothe them, but it is not wise to parade their improved condition before the eyes of the poor. It is too great a temptation to the poor.

“Prison life,” says Baron Holtzendorff, “must appear deterrent to all living in honest industry.”

Whose farm is that, sir?” inquired a poor hind, as he looked on a number of convicts at work on Lusk Common.

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