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CHAR 12/4 Official: Home Office: Prison Reform. Correspondence and papers.

  Reference Description Date range  
CHAR 12/4/1

Letter from Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (37 Chapel Street, Belgrave Square [London]) to WSC congratulating him on his appointment as Home Secretary. He remembers that WSC had said he would reform prison discipline if made Home Secretary and promises to provide WSC with a memorandum on the subject of prison reform. He adds that by announcing that he was considering such reform, WSC would avoid persecution by the suffragettes. Signed manuscript.

1 folio
15 Feb 1910
CHAR 12/4/2

Letter from Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (37 Chapel Street, Belgrave Square [London]) to WSC enclosing a memorandum [see CHAR 12/4/3-12A] on the subject of prison reform, adding "Don't leave it too long in your pigeon holes, for I feel that your official soul may be required of you at any moment". Signed manuscript.

1 folio
25 Feb 1910
CHAR 12/4/3-12A

Memorandum from Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (Newbuildings Place, [Southwater, West] Sussex) [to WSC] on the subject of prison reform and the treatment of political prisoners. Blunt stresses the need for prison reform caused by the imprisonment of suffragettes. His observations are based on his experiences in Galway [Connaught, Ireland] and Kilmainham [Meath, Ireland] gaols in 1888. He describes the gaols' physical conditions and advises that solitary confinement should only be inflicted on the most serious criminals. The conditions he experienced in solitary confinement in Galway prison are described as quite humane compared to those in Kilmainham, "a gaol of the scientific modern type". He also describes the indignity of prison dress, and encloses a photograph [marked "w 12B"] of himself wearing a "skirted dress" which he was given after objecting. Blunt proposes that there should be three categories of prisoners, each treated differently. Hardened criminals would receive severe corporal punishment; a second class of prisoners would be treated less harshly and be given time for instruction; and political prisoners would be treated similarly to prisoners of war. Blunt advises that forcible feeding should be stopped. Signed typescript with handwritten corrections, dated 24 February 1910 with note that it was sent on 25 February. Covering letter at CHAR 12/4/2.

12 folios
24 Feb 1910 - 25 Feb 1910
CHAR 12/4/12B

Letter from Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (37 Chapel Street, Belgrave Square [London]) to WSC expressing pleasure at the debate over Somaliland [Africa] and asking whether WSC has received his memorandum on prison reform [see CHAR 12/4/3-12A]. Signed manuscript.

1 folio
04 Mar 1910
CHAR 12/4/13

Letter from William Stead, editor of "The Review of Reviews" (Bank Buildings, Kingsway, London) to WSC enclosing a copy of "The Review of Reviews" [not present] in which he makes a suggestion concerning the Home Office and Prison Officials. He suggests that WSC makes his "prison people" see a play by [John] Galsworthy ["Justice"] to remind them that they are dealing with human beings, and alludes to WSC's experiences as a prisoner of war [during the Boer War]. Signed manuscript with a note in the hand of WSC on the dorse.

1 folio
14 Mar 1910
CHAR 12/4/14

Letter from Lord Gladstone [former Home Secretary, earlier Herbert Gladstone] (7 Grosvenor Place [London]) to WSC saying that he is pleased that WSC is implementing his [Gladstone's] proposals regarding prison reform. He objects to WSC's announcement of the proposals in the House of Commons, which inferred that WSC had initiated the proposals, and had done "the obviously right thing, and that I from foolishness and inhumanity did not", as he had asked [Sir Evelyn Ruggles] Brise [Chairman of the Prison Commission] to draw up the proposals which WSC is now enacting. Signed typescript.

1 folio
16 Mar 1910
CHAR 12/4/15

Letter from Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (Newbuildings Place, Southwater, West Sussex) to WSC saying that he has received a letter from Henry Hyndman about prison life, in response to WSC's announcement [of proposals for prison reform], and asking whether WSC would like to meet Hyndman on his next visit to Sussex. Hyndman was a friend of [Lord Randolph Churchill] and Blunt describes him as "a kind of William Morris, but without Morris' literary or artistic side". Signed manuscript.

1 folio
19 Mar 1910
CHAR 12/4/16

Letter from Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (Newbuildings Place, Southwater, [West] Sussex) to WSC saying that he had written a letter to [Henry] Hyndman [to invite him to Sussex] but has not yet sent it, and hopes that [?John] Redmond may come instead. He expresses pleasure about the situation in Somaliland [Africa]. Signed manuscript.

1 folio
23 Mar 1910
CHAR 12/4/17

Letter from Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (Newbuildings Place, Southwater, [West] Sussex) to WSC saying that unfortunately [?John] Redmond will not be able to come to Sussex to meet WSC. Blunt wonders whether WSC would be "afraid" to meet Constance, Lady Lytton to hear her prison experiences [she was imprisoned under the name of Jane Wharton for her support of womens' suffrage and subjected to forcible feeding in a Liverpool prison], and adds that Lady Lytton is not "dangerous" having just finished her rest cure, but would like to discuss WSC's proposals for prison reform with him. If WSC agrees to meet Lady Lytton, Blunt will also invite Victor, [2nd] Lord Lytton. Signed manuscript.

1 folio
25 Mar 1910
CHAR 12/4/18

Letter from Walter Raleigh [Professor of English Literature, Oxford University] (The Hangings, Ferry Hinksey, Near Oxford) to Edward Marsh saying that he will be glad to provide assistance in the "fascinating task" proposed by WSC. He recommends Basil Thomson's ideas on prison discipline, as he had successfully instituted prison lectures as a form of discipline at Wharton gaol. In recommending reading matter for prisoners, Raleigh speaks of his own lack of experience of prisoners, and suggests newspapers, and books by a police magistrate, H Fielding. Signed manuscript.

1 folio
01 Apr 1910
CHAR 12/4/19-20

Letter from Walter Runciman (8 Barton Street, Westminster [London]) to WSC marked "private" concerning Wemyss Grant-Wilson, a friend of his, who is to see WSC about extending the work of the Borstal Association to cover adult convicts, at a meeting with "some of the religious folk". Sir Walter suggests that WSC should meet Grant-Wilson before this as he is the owner of one of the Haydock collieries in Lancashire and is well informed about industry and "young ruffians". Signed manuscript.

2 folios
24 Apr 1910
CHAR 12/4/21

Letter from John Galsworthy (Wingstone, Manaton, Devon) to WSC marked "private" asking for information on any proposed reforms regarding the amount of time prisoners are subjected to solitary confinement. His play "Justice" is shortly to be published in the United States and he would like to add an author's note on this point. Galsworthy hopes that his play may reach countries in which "this form of punishment is still carried to the pitch of excruciating torture". Signed manuscript annotated by WSC " Tell him changes are in contemplation &will be announced shortly".

1 folio
15 May 1910
CHAR 12/4/22

Copy of a letter from [a Home Office official] to John Galsworthy thanking him on behalf of WSC for his letter [see CHAR 12/4/21] and informing him that the issue of solitary confinement is under consideration and that WSC hopes to make an announcement shortly. Unsigned typescript.

1 folio
23 May 1910
CHAR 12/4/23

Letter from Thomas Holmes (The Howard Association, 43 Devonshire Chambers, Bishopsgate Without, London) to WSC concerning WSC's intentions to consider the "present procedure". He asks whether he may make public the "proceedings of yesterday". Signed typescript annotated with "payment of fines" and a note dated 19 June that the issue is to be kept private.

1 folio
15 Jun 1910 - 19 Jun 1910
CHAR 12/4/24

Letter from Ralph Blumenfeld [editor of the Daily Express] (St Bride Street, London) to WSC concerning their agreement over prison reform, which is described as a non-partisan issue. Signed manuscript.

1 folio
22 Jul 1910
CHAR 12/4/25

Note from [a Home Office official] to Edward Marsh informing him that [WSC] would like Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise [Chairman of the Prison Commission] to prepare him materials to reply to a letter. Unsigned typescript annotated by Edward Marsh (25 June) and Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise (27 June).

1 folio
23 Jun 1910 - 27 Jun 1910
CHAR 12/4/26-31

Memorandum from Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise [Chairman of the Prison Commission] to [WSC] on the growth of prison expenditure. Sir Evelyn stresses that he is comparing expenditure, not estimates, and that Charles Hobhouse [Financial Secretary, Treasury] has drawn misleading comparisons [see CHAR 12/4/32] between the estimates for 1910-11 and 1900-1: two years in which there were no changes in policy. He points out that estimates may be misleading as they do not take account of unexpected savings and that the true indication of a department's expenditure is through comparison of expenditure. Sir Evelyn details specific examples of policy changes which have contributed to the rise in expenditure, including the establishment of reformatories for inebriates. He proposes that the gratuity system in convict prisons should be gradually discontinued to offset the cost of the establishment of a central agency for convicts. Typescript signed with initials with handwritten corrections.

6 folios
25 Jun 1910
CHAR 12/4/32

Letter from Charles Hobhouse [Financial Secretary, Treasury] to WSC concerning Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise's [Chairman of the Prison Commission] proposals for increased assistance to discharged prisoners. Hobhouse expresses surprise at the rise in prison costs of the last decade. He draws comparisons between the expenditure of the years 1910-11 and 1900-1 and their prison populations; and highlights increased spending in various sections of the budget particularly "gratuities to prisoners and charities" in which a further increase is proposed. Hobhouse asks WSC to ask the Prison Commissioners to examine these areas of expenditure in order to suggest possible savings to fund the implementation of the new scheme, and says he is aware of WSC's personal interest in this issue. Signed manuscript annotated with note dated 23 June that an early reply had been promised.

1 folio
23 Jun 1910
CHAR 12/4/33-35

Copy of a letter from WSC (Home Office) to Charles Hobhouse [Financial Secretary, Treasury]. WSC says that although he appreciates the need for economy in public service, he disagrees with Hobhouse's conclusions [see CHAR 12/4/32] on the cost of the prison services. He points out that the prison services often make unexpected savings; and that the estimates for 1910-11 and 1900-1 are misleading. WSC maintains that the true indication of a department's expenditure is through comparison of expenditure and details specific examples of policy changes which have contributed to a rise in expenditure. In the area of "gratuities", WSC says that the increase since 1900 has not been large and is due to increased numbers of discharged prisoners, and is not a great deal in relation to the state's legal powers in this area. WSC is glad that Hobhouse has been considerate towards these proposals, as the large numbers of persistent offenders demonstrates the inadequacies of the aid currently given to prisoners on discharge from prison. WSC concedes that he is prepared to discontinue the "gratuity" system. Unsigned typescript.

3 folios
Jun 1910
CHAR 12/4/36

Letter from John Heaton (Schifferstrasse, 82/86, Frankfurt [Germany]) to [?Edward Marsh] concerning a speech by WSC on prisons and prisoners. He offers to use his influence to ensure the publication of the speech; asks [Edward Marsh] to secure WSC's consent; and says that his own name would not appear in connection with the publication. Signed manuscript, annotated by [? Edward Marsh] (30 July).

1 folio
26 Jul 1910 - 30 Jul 1910
CHAR 12/4/37

Letter from John Heaton (Schifferstrasse, 82/86, Frankfurt [Germany]) to WSC expressing pleasure that WSC has agreed to revise his speech on prisons and prisoners for publication. He explains that his objection to his name being associated with the publication is that he is not an authority on the issue. Signed manuscript, annotated by Sidney Harris that [WSC] is expecting a proof to correct (8 July).

1 folio
02 Aug 1910 - 08 Aug 1910
CHAR 12/4/38

Letter from Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise [Chairman of the Prison Commission] to WSC thanking him for "kind words" at the end of the Annual Report. Sir Evelyn says that he will discuss action to be taken on WSC's minute on prison reform with Sir Edward Troup [Permanent Under Secretary of State, Home Office]. He describes WSC's proposed reform as "tremendous". Signed manuscript annotated by Edward Marsh.

1 folio
18 Aug 1910
CHAR 12/4/39

Letter from Sir Edward Grey (Balmoral Castle) to WSC concerning two capital cases and the execution of Pickman. He describes this aspect of WSC's post as "beastly" and says that he thought a great deal about the men who were to be hung. He ends by hoping that WSC is having a good time and adds a postscript "You: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven". Signed manuscript.

1 folio
21 Aug 1910
CHAR 12/4/40-41

Letter from WSC (Honor, Off Mytilene [Mitilini, Greece]) to Sir Edward Grey thanking him for taking over his "painful duties" [see CHAR 12/4/39]. WSC describes a decision over a capital case which he regrets, and speaks of the departmental work he has accomplished while on holiday. He describes the places he has visited (including Monte Carlo where he won o160), a meeting with Governor Mahmoud Muktar, and an incident in which de Forest [Count de Bendern] shot a seagull with a Mauser pistol. He says that he would like to discuss his extensive plans for the reform of prisons and punishment with Sir Edward. He ends with an observation based on his experiences "Why can't England and Germany come together in strong action &for general advantage?" Signed manuscript.

2 folios
09 Sep 1910
CHAR 12/4/42-43

Letter from [Edward Marsh] (Home Office) to WSC including the following points: the reaction to WSC's memorandum on prison reform by Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise [Chairman of the Prison Commission] and Mr Blackwell (who criticised the plans for a board to ensure uniform sentencing policy and the system of classified institutions); WSC's proposed visit to Dartmoor [prison, Devon] and the remaining preparation of the Shop Hours Bill. He also encloses two novels by [Elizabeth] Arnim [not present]. Signed manuscript.

2 folios
23 Aug [1910]
CHAR 12/4/44

Letter from Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise [Chairman of the Prison Commission] to [WSC] in response to a letter from [WSC], saying that he has prepared a draft letter to the P[rime] M[inister] and a memorandum on prison reform, and has left instructions concerning [WSC's] visit to Dartmoor [prison, Devon] and Borstal. Signed manuscript.

1 folio
09 Sep 1910
CHAR 12/4/45

Letter from Herbert Asquith (Archerfield House, Dirleton R S O, East Lothian, Scotland) to WSC approving of WSC's interest in penal reform and including: mention of his own efforts at prison reform when Home Secretary; commendation of Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise [Chairman of the Prison Commission]; and agreement with WSC's opinions on short sentences and the classification of offences. Asquith expresses reservations concerning the abolition of imprisonment for debt, although he agrees that the present law is harsh. Signed manuscript, annotated "seen by Sir E[dward] Troup" [Permanent Under Secretary of State, Home Office].

1 folio
02 Oct 1910
CHAR 12/4/46

Letter from Henry Massingham [editor of the Nation] (14 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London) to WSC asking him to write an article on prison reform for the Nation. He suggests several possible subjects including young offenders and solitary confinment, and says that the fee would be 20 guineas. Signed manuscript annotated by WSC.

1 folio
31 Oct 1910
CHAR 12/4/47

Letter from William, 7th Lord Beauchamp (Privy Council Office) to WSC congratulating him on his prison reforms. Signed manuscript.

1 folio
31 Oct 1910
CHAR 12/4/48

Letter from John Heaton (33 Eaton Square, London) to WSC thanking him for replying to him about the Shops Bill, and informing him that the pamphlet about prison reform [see CHAR 12/4/36 and CHAR 12/4/37] has been well received "in all thoughtful circles". He also suggests that WSC establish a prison farm, as this idea proved successful in Jamaica. Signed manuscript.

1 folio
11 Nov 1910
CHAR 12/4/49

Letter from Constance, Lady Battersea [earlier Constance de Rothschild], a member of the Prison Board of Aylesbury [Buckinghamshire] (The Pleasaunce, Overstrand, Norfolk) to WSC expressing appreciation for the "spirit of reform" in prison management. She mentions the provision of chairs in prison cells, plain glass windows, lectures and concerts. Signed manuscript annotated with a note to Edward Marsh.

1 folio
20 Dec 1910
CHAR 12/4/50-61

Memorandum from Sir Edward Troup [Permanent Under Secretary of State, Home Office] marked "confidential" to WSC concerning Mr Simpson's criminal statistics. He makes several observations on the trends shown by the statistics including: the decrease in numbers of prisoners convicted on indictment and in crimes "known to the police"; interpretation of the figures; the increase in crimes against property (which is attributed to the spread of "crude socialistic ideas"); and increased leniency towards short sentences. Typescript with handwritten corrections, signed with initials.

12 folios
09 Feb 1911
CHAR 12/4/62-65

Telegram from Sir Charles Mathews [Director of Public Prosecutions] (East Grinstead [East Sussex]) to WSC concerning a statement about habitual criminals which is due for publication in the press. He considers that one paragraph, which, if it were justified, would force his resignation, is a "misrepresentation of the facts" and urgently advises that it should not be included. Manuscript.

4 folios
12 Feb 1911
CHAR 12/4/66

Confidential report entitled "Abatement of Imprisonment Committee: Report" addressed to WSC concerning a proposed Bill covering imprisonment for minor offences and prison treatment. Annotated with handwritten corrections [in the hand of Sir Edward Troup, Permanent Under Secretary of State, Home Office].

1 21, [1] p