The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 56
British Prison Officers
British Prison Officers.
The Committee have recently learnt, with much regret, that in various cases where Warders or other Officers have, on quitting the prison service, applied for employment elsewhere, they have been rejected, from a mistaken page 15 idea that from the mere fact of their having been employed in the custody of criminals they must have been so harsh and brutal as to be unfit for ordinary civil occupations. It affords the Committee pleasure to bear testimony to the fact that there are to be found amongst the officers, both higher and subordinate, of British Prisons, many of the kindest and most considerate of persons. Of course there are also "some black sheep "there, as everywhere; but, especially of late years, a marked improvement has taken place in the selection of these officers. Their duties, especially those of the Warders, are of the most harassing and often very irritating character. Hence the Committee would afresh express a hope that the Home Office authorities will further consider what may be done to lessen this strain and friction.
And on the other hand, the attention of the Warders themselves may also be usefully directed to the importance, even in their own interests, of cultivating such a conscientious and considerate mode of discharging their duties as may raise their reputation as a class, both within the prison walls and amongst the public in general.
The Chaplains in particular can render important services to the Warders, and through them to the prisoners, by devoting more sympathetic attention to the former than has hitherto been generally the case. The duties of the Chaplains are often perhaps even more influential through the Warders and other Officers than as directly influencing the prisoners.
It is however to be noted that at present the unintermitting pressure of the Warders' duties does not afford time for such attention on the part of the Chaplains. It is well deserving the consideration of the Home Office authorities whether they cannot devise arrangements whereby the moral and intellectual improvement of the Warders may not receive more definite and more leisurely attention than hitherto. (A little progress is being made, in the direction of Officers' reading-rooms.)
Lectures to the subordinate officers by some experienced Governor, or other authority, are also very desirable. On one occasion something of this nature was tried and with decidedly good effect. Amongst the wise counsels then given, by a veteran officer, was the supremely practical one of a daily regard to their own individual responsibility to God, with the suggestion that it would tend to afford them peace, on laying their heads on their pillows at night, to reflect that during the past day they had each done some service for God by a conscientious endeavour to cherish a merciful consideration towards those, who, however erring, are still His creatures, objects of His Divine compassion.