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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56

Convict Classification

Convict Classification.

The Committee have reason to know that their Reports and their communications to the newspapers, during the past two years in particular, have received respectful attention from influential authorities. Amongst the points to which they have directed special attention, is the necessity for a further classification of convicts; and in this some progress is now being made by the Directors of the Prisons.

Whilst the recommendation of this Committee that convicts not previously convicted should be placed in prisons wholly devoted to that class has not yet been fully acted upon, yet it is being approximated to by the formation of a "star "class in certain prisons, for those convicts only who are undergoing their first committal. A further step in the right direction is also being taken by removing many of these to one particular prison, at Chattenden, near Chatham, which has thus practically become an establishment for a distinct category of prisoners.

The Committee are reliably informed that this experiment has so far worked well. They therefore now recommend that the process be carried still further, and that the next class of convicts, those with only two committals, or at least those of decidedly less criminality than the worst and habitual offenders, should also be separated from the latter.

But whilst the Committee thus gratefully acknowledge the action of the authorities in this direction, they remain of opinion that a still better mode page 14 of classification, and, indeed, the only truly successful one, is that which consists in the total separation of prisoners from each other, but accompanied by the essential concomitant of a great increase of useful intercourse both with the official custodians and suitable volunteer visitors.

Of course this would necessarily involve a revolution also in the length of sentences. Two or three years' separate (but not solitary) confinement would be incomparably more deterrent, more reformatory and more economical, than five, seven, ten, or more years in the existing gangs.

The frequency of burglaries and murderous attacks upon the Police by discharged convicts during the past year, points to the absolute necessity for further attention both to classification in the prisons, and to oversight after discharge.