HMP Nottingham.HMP Nottingham.

His Majesty's Prison. His Majesty's Prison was opened in 1891 for the reception of  206 males and 31 females, and to supercede the Southwell and St. John Street Houses of Correction. It is satisfactory that not more than two-thirds of the numbers given are usually confined there. This is one of several prisons selected as a centre for the modified Borstal system, which places, under the Act of 1909, are defined as "places in which young offenders while detained may be given such industrial training and other instruction, and subjected to such disciplinary and moral influences, as will conduce to their reformation and the prevention of crime," in other words "State Reformatories for boys and girls convicted between their 16th and 21st years." This prison receives all cases between the ages of 16 and 21, with sentences of three months and over, from Derby, Leicester and Lincoln. Here the lads are employed at steady hard work in the carpenter's shop, or the garden. They are physically developed by drill, and mentally developed by systematic school instruction. They are taught to rely upon themselves, trained in habits of self-respect, cleanliness and discipline, and supplied with healthy and robust literature. They attend lectures of general knowledge and bible classes, and have talks with the chaplain weekly, and it is pleasant to add that a large measure of success in reclamation has been achieved.

It is clear that efforts at reformation are better than mere punishment, and it is gratifying that whereas in the olden time after the jail delivery twice a year there was usually a hanging on Gallows Hill, (to which the victim was taken in a cart with a rope round his neck), now four years have passed without an execution.

We must not pass without recording that the Rev. W. O. White, the chaplain, is heart and soul engaged and engrossed in his work, not merely in the Prison, but in following hopeful cases after discharge.

We gain a better insight into the state of affairs when we compare and contrast the old methods with the new. Here is the Calendar of Prisoners presented for trial at the Spring Assizes, by the Sheriffs of Nottingham, Francis Hart, and James Fellows, Esqs., in March, 1825. There were 32 prisoners. In the following three cases the prisoners were sentenced to be hanged, but were reprieved—(1) stealing '2 coats, and other clothes; (2) stealing 31/2 yards woollen cloth ; (3) burglary, and stealing shoes. The following had sentences of 14 years imprisonment—(1) two men stealing 8 cheeses and 2 towels (one of them 7 years only); (2) stealing a silver watch and key. In each of the following the sentences were for seven years—(1) assaulting, and stealing a bag of copper coins, value 10/-; (2) stealing cloth, etc., three cases; (3) stealing 12 pairs of pattens; (4) stealing bracelets; (5) stealing silver watch and chain; (6) stealing 12 silk handkerchiefs, value 50/-; (7) stealing cloth and shoes. In two cases the sentence was for 1 year, and to be whipped—(1) stealing a copper kettle ; (2) embezzling £1 1s. 11/2d.

The population of Nottingham in 1821 was 40,415, in 1911 it was 259,942. The Magistrates had not then, at the earlier date, summary jurisdiction. Now nearly all the like cases would be dealt with at petty sessions, or at quarter sessions, and a few months imprisonment would be given where years were awarded. It is a question if we have not now gone to opposite extremes, in goodness of diet, and in short sentences, the latter being, for young offenders, very undesirable. The preventive system of police supervisor! has many advantages over that of the old parish constable. The 7 or 14 years imprisonment probably involved transportation to Botany Bay, or Van Dieman's Land, which is no longer available or desirable.

Institutions. We have seen what a number of institutions, churches, schools, hospitals, and other agencies are located in the district, all of them designed in some form to promote the good of the people, and we shall do wisely to aid rather than disparage them, or to complain of the poverty of the results, or to occupy ourselves with the imperfections of the agents. They all indicate that there is work to be done, and it may be we can do, it; it is the nearest to us, and neglected it will be to our loss. The whole district may be happier, brighter, better, by the exercise of energies we possess, and that very exercise will aid in developing our characters, and sympathies, till we feebly imitate the breadth and unceasing efforts of God.

A fine illustration is here supplied of what good old Ichabod Wright called "The glory of our holy religion," and which, while it adorns and resorts to the temple for the beauty of holiness in worship, rests not there, but—as the old Seer sang—"through the tender mercy of our God the day-spring from on high hath visited us," not merely "to guide our feet into the way of peace," but to shine upon "them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death," the loving-kindness of God has begotten and developed the same virtues in men, and the compassions of the Christ for the multitude because of their various forms of human woe, which—

"Excite our softest sympathy,"

and that sympathy has taken the practical form at Bagthorpe and other parts—of institutions for the best medical skill and nursing care for poor women in child-birth, for children bereaved of their parents, for the victims of virulous diseases requiring isolation; for the aged who crying to God and man say—"When I am old and grey-headed forsake me not," and a home from home has been found for those who through a variety of misfortunes have lost their own homes ; and at Sherwood, in the three sets of almshouses, the kindness of God is shewn to those who are worn out with work and sorrow, and suffering but must linger yet awhile.

While however we rejoice in the provisions made by and for mercy, knowledge, and every other requirement, we must not forget that justice is an absolute necessity for society, that there must be laws, and that laws without punitive penalties for their breach are useless, that to nemesis of conscience must be added punishment for vice and crime, and hence His Majesty's Prison is a safeguard and a blessing.

The value however of institutions depends upon the individual effort of using and working them. The Factory, and the Railway will not work themselves, and the Charitable Institutions require the service of men and women whose one object is to be of use to their fellow men, and in the absence of vigilant care society becomes afflicted and cursed by "Weary Willies," the born tireds, the malingerers. The churches and religious institutions are entrusted with the message of Infinite Love, but the messengers may sleep, or the message may be neglected, with fatal results.

The great disideratum is an increased class of men and women acting for the public good under a sense of profound conviction. In the early days of Christianity the absence of silver and gold hindered little with men who were filled with human sympathy, self-effacement, and the energy of God. With a definite conviction of duty they cared little for man's praise, or blame. To their own Master they stood or fell. If they were convinced that He approved, they worked, and if need be suffered, with a tenacity of purpose which nothing could daunt. The accumulation of property did not attract them, the mere pleasures of life did not allure them from their path, their joy was in knowing and doing God's will. Their efforts were spent in trying to save their fellow men, in making known the gospel of the grace of God, in comforting bleeding hearts, in lifting up the fallen, in bringing back the wanderers, in ministering to the sick, and all this was individual not institutional work. It made little noise, and cost little money, it depended not upon the patronage of wealth, or nobility, or official position. It required only personal consecration, the service of heart and hand, the devotion of the life. It succeeded. What is the lesson for us; We have the institutions, and the money. Are there corresponding results in the public good? If not, why not? Is it the lack of individual, personal, persistent effort?