This prison is situated in Tothill Fields, Westminster. The first yard you enter is for felons, tried and untried, boys and men; at the end of this is an open iron railing, within is the narrow airing-place of the infirmary; beyond is the vagrants' court, equally connected with the infirmary by open iron-work. Thus, the patients communicate with the vagrants on one side and the felons on the other. Many of the wards in which the prisoners sleep are sunk below the level of the ground, and this level is considered to be below high-water mark. The up-stairs rooms of the governor's house are much affected with damp. The prisoners complain bitterly of the cold and moisture of the cells. To obviate these inconveniences, as many as possible crowd together at night into the same cell : how injurious this must be to the health can be conceived by the statement of the gaoler, that having occasion lately to open one of the doors in the night, the effluvia was almost intolerable.
The average number of persons daily in this prison may be taken at 97; but the greatest number that the present gaoler (Mr. Nodder) has ever had at one time was one hundred and fifty-eight: 121 males and 37 females. In the year 1815, there passed through this prison 1,503 persons; in 1816, 1,835; and in 1817, 2,652.
This prison has been declared to be insufficient and inadequate by the Grand Jury. Independent of the bodily suffering inflicted on each individual committed to this prison by the want of necessary food; the overcrowding of many persons in one small room; the mixture of prisoners of all habits together, the diseased with the healthy, the dirty with the clean, debtors with felons, the moral evils are more distressing than the physical; and the Commons' committee averred it to be unbecoming and unseemly, in a civilized and christian country, to have in the heart of its metropolis a prison, which should annually contain within its walls 2,652 persons of both sexes, of whom it could be said by the chaplain, that the punishment of imprisonment made them much worse, and corrupted and debased their characters in a higher degree than they were before their commitment. Instances have been cited of persons who pass ten months out of twelve within its walls. The insufficient classification; those committed for re-examination with the sentenced felon; the entire absence of all employment; the want of every species of work; all these departures from those wholesome rules and regulations which ought to be established in a place of confinement, fully satisfied the Commons that a radical and substantial change of system is necessary; and that this prison, like many others, contributes most materially to promote and augment that deplorable increase of crime which exists throughout the metropolis, and which is no where better exemplified than by the fact, that the commitments here were, in 18l5,-1,503; in 1816,-1,835; and in 1817, 2,652 persons.
Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819