The prison for debtors is in Rue de Clichy, and is in an airy situation, is well constructed, and holds three or four hundred persons. The officers of this prison still remember the modest-faced American editor, who spent a few memorable days in it—I mean Horace Greeley of the Tribune. France is not sufficiently enlightened yet to abolish imprisonment for debt, but the time will soon come. Such a barbarity cannot for any great length of time disgrace the history of any civilized nation.
The prison of St. Pelagie, in Rue de la Chef, was formerly a prison for debtors, but is now used for the imprisonment of persons committed for trial, or those persons sentenced for short terms. Nearly six hundred persons are confined in it.
Connected with the prisons of Paris are two benevolent institutions, the object of which is to watch over and educate the young prisoners of both sexes during their terms of imprisonment, and after they have left prison. As soon as they have left prison they are cared for, and if they conduct themselves well, they are generally furnished with good places. Prisoners are also taken from the Correctional House before their terms have expired, in cases of excellent conduct, and the government pays the society a sum toward the expenses of such persons until the time of their sentence shall have expired. Lamartine, the poet, was at one time president of one of these truly benevolent societies.
The prisons of Paris, take them as a whole, compare favorably with those of any city in the world. Their administration is characterized by an enlightened liberality and philanthropy, and though it may seem strange, yet it is true, that Paris abounds with the most self-sacrificing philanthropists. The prisoner, the deaf and dumb, the blind and the idiotic, are cared for with a generosity and skill not surpassed in any other land.
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There are at least one hundred and fifty foundling hospitals in France, and Paris has a celebrated one in the Rue d’Enfer. It was established by St. Vincent de Paul, in 1638, but has been very much improved since. The buildings are not remarkable for their architectural beauty, for they are very plain. The chapel contains a statue of the founder. It is now necessary for a mother who desires to abandon her child, to make a certificate to that effect before the magistrate. The latter is obliged to grant the desire of the woman, though it is a part of his duty to remonstrate with her upon her unnatural conduct, and if she consents to keep the child, he is empowered to help her to support it from a public fund. The infants received at the hospital are, if healthy, put out at once to nurse in the country, and the parentage of the child is recorded. Unhealthy children are kept under hospital treatment. Nurses from the country constantly present themselves for employment,