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 The work of Elizabeth Fry and Joseph Gurney: a transcript

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Durham Old Gaol, House of Correction and New Jail*

The Old Jail is built over a gateway in the middle of the city. We found it clean, and it as much order, with respect to its arrangements, as the excessive contraction of the building will admit. Classification and inspection are impossible in this prison, nor is it capable of any accommodations for the employment of its inmates. The criminals are allowed 4s 6d per week for each person, together with a little clothing on particular occasions.

*Visited eight month (August) 24th, in company with Thomas Henry Faber, Esq, one of the county magistrates, and Jonathan Backhouse, jun. of Darlington.

They find their own firing. They are ironed only when refractory. At this time they had all their fetters on, in consequence of an attempt which they had made the evening before to escape from prison. The chaplain visits this prison once every week.

The women prisoners are so ill accommodated that they pass both day and night in one apartment, nor are they at all classified. In the men's day-room, which is small, we observed several prisoners, two of them under sentence of death, and two detained merely for want of bail. This lamentable want of classification was, however, owing partly to the temporary disuse of another small room, not in a condition of security. You descend from the felons' day-room and from the daylight, by thirty steps, to the sleeping cells, which are perfectly dark, and without any ventilation except from a hole in the ceiling. From these cells there is a still deeper descent into a horribly close dark dungeon, far under ground. This dungeon is not longer used; it is the dreadful relic of obsolete barbarity.


That jail is a handsome and extensive building on the outskirts of the town; its situation airy and convenient. In the middle of it is the governor's house, from which there will be inspection over all the airing grounds; and, if certain arrangements now in contemplation are carried into effect, over the work-rooms also. On the right if this house is the debtors' prison; on the left, the house of correction; and, in front of it, a large building not yet finished, intended for the reception of felons. The two former buildings are already partly occupied, chiefly by convicts

sentenced to temporary confinement, some of whom beat flax and pick oakum. The day-rooms and sleeping cells in these divisions of the prison are of a sufficient size, dry and airy. From the unfinished state of the felons' prison we were unable to form any accurate judgement of it; at th same time, we could easily perceive that it would not, on the plan then laid down, admit of any provision for work-rooms, or for the complete classification of the prisoners. We have since had the pleasure of learning that the magistrates propose making in this plan some important alterations, by which both these objects may be accomplished.

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