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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56

Prison Architecture. — Wormwood Scrubbs

page 13

Prison Architecture.

Wormwood Scrubbs.

English Prison Architecture has hitherto been, on the whole, the best of its class in the world. And one of the very best instances is to be found in the new prison for convicts at Wormwood Scrubbs, near London—a prison of which also it may be remarked that it is under the management of a Governor, Captain W. Talbot Harvey, so efficient and firmly humane, that if all prison officers were like him there would be little need for either Home Office interference or Howard Association criticism. Yet the congregate system of that, as of other prisons, is open to serious objection. But Captain Harvey is one of those men, too rarely found, who can administer any system with success. Wormwood Scrubbs has been almost entirely constructed by convict labour. Its lofty gateway is ornamented with large medallions of John Howard and Elizabeth Fry—figures at least not inappropriate in connection with the present administration of this establishment.

But a retrogression appears to have recently commenced in some other places. For example, the new wing at York Castle prison is, especially in respect of light and ventilation, a very inferior construction. Even the generally well-built new prison at Barlinnie, near Glasgow, is defective as to insufficient light in the cells. The sanitary influence of sunshine and light is very important, both in prisons and everywhere else. Some prisons, however, are excellently lighted, but many English prison cells are so dark that their inmates can hardly see to read. Even criminals may justly claim a sufficiency of light and air. At Wormwood Scrubbs, Sir E. Du Cane has introduced a praiseworthy improvement by substituting transparent glass in the upper portions of the windows, instead of the very opaque glass too common in other prisons.