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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56

Prisoners' Appeals

Prisoners' Appeals.

The strong representations made by the Howard Association, as to the need for some effectual provision for securing attention to the appeals of prisoners, especially convicts, appear to have received serious notice from the Home Office. Sir William Harcourt, at any rate, has given personal attention to such appeals, to an extent unknown to his predecessors. Indeed the Committee have of late received complaints, from trustworthy sources, that the freedom of appeal has been carried too far in some instances, and that both superior and subordinate officers have had false charges brought against them, with impunity, by prisoners, to their serious detriment and annoyance. Such charges also, when in various instances proved to have been false, have not brought upon their authors the restrictions or the punishments which were deserved. This appears to call for practical attention by the Home Secretary. It is obvious that if reckless and revengeful convicts are allowed, with impunity, to send to the Secretary of State, not merely frivolous but wholly false complaints, they will both injure the character of meritorious officers and also inflict serious wrong upon those of their fellow-prisoners who may occasionally have real causes for complaint. For the permission of impunity to a number of false representations tends to bring into discredit and neglect the statements of others absolutely deserving attention by their truthfulness.

It is impossible that any Secretary of State, or indeed any body of Commissioners resident in London, can give adequate and discriminating attention to the details of many hundred prison appeals. Hence further provision should be made for their examination and disposal by impartial local visitors, or referees, willing to give due time and effort to such duties.

The recent appointment of two or three official visitors to each Convict Prison was a step in the right direction, but for certain obvious reasons it has only been partially successful, as yet.

It may be noted that in Scotland there is some considerable degree of local selection and responsibility as to Prison Visitors. And in Scotch prisons consequently, there have been fewer inconveniences resulting. But the attention of the Government is requisite to the circumstance that two of the chief Scotch prisons, those of Perth (General Prison) and Barlinnie (Glasgow) have no "visitors."This should be promptly remedied.