VISITS TO CONTINENTAL PRISONS.
Contrary to the general practice of mankind in matters of pure benevolence, Mrs. Fry looked around for new worlds to conquer, in the shape of yet unfathomed prison miseries. Many, if not most people, would have rested upon the laurels already won, and have been contented with the measures of good already achieved. Not so with the philanthropist whose work we sketch. Like an ever-widening stream, her life rolled on, full of acts of mercy, growing wider and broader in its channel of operations and its schemes of mercy. In pursuance of these schemes she visited prisons at Nottingham, Lincoln, Wakefield, Leeds, Doncaster, Sheffield, York, Durham, Newcastle, Carlisle, Lancaster, Liverpool, and most other towns of any size in England. She extended these journeys, at different times, into Scotland and Ireland, examining into the condition of prisons and prisoners with the deepest interest. It was her usual custom to form ladies’ prison-visiting societies, wherever practicable, and to communicate to the authorities subsequently her views and suggestions in letters, dealing with these matters in detail.
But her fame was not confined within the limits of the British Isles. Communications reached her from St. Petersburg, from Hamburg, from Brussels, from Baden, from Paris, Berlin, and Potsdam; all tending to show that enquiry was abroad, that nations and governments as well as individuals were waking up to a sense of their responsibilities. Both rulers and legislators were beginning to see that preventing crime was wiser than punishing it, that the reformation of the criminal classes was the great end of punitive measures. This conviction reached, it was comparatively easy for the philanthropists to work.
Before proceeding to the Continent, however, we find notes of one or two very interesting visits to the Channel Isles. Her first visit was made in 1833, and, to her surprise, she found that the islands had most thoroughly ignored the prison teachings and improvements which had been gaining so much ground in the United Kingdom. The reason of this was not far to seek. Acts of Parliament passed in England had no power in the Channel Isles; as part of the old Duchy of Normandy, they were governed by their own laws and customs. The inhabitants, in their appearance, manners, language, and usages, resemble the French more than they do the English. Nothing deterred, however, Mrs. Fry made a tour of inspection, and then according to her custom sent the result of her inquiries, and the conclusions at which she had arrived, in the form of a letter to the authorities. That letter is far too long for reproduction in extenso, but a few of its leading recommendations were:—