Prison Reform
after Nick Hardwick and Thomas Archer

portland prison

Findings at this inspection were
mixed. Purposeful activity was poor:
no trades were taught; men laboured
in St Paul's quarry where stone blocks
Wren rejected cumbered the ground.

Although greater attention should be
paid to self-inflicted deaths, this prison
was mostly safe, with fresh air, friendly
guardianship, wholesome restraint
and low numbers of violent incidents.

However, teaching and learning were
inadequate, achievement weak; teachers
instruct by means of books and slates.
Men may read in their cells until eight,
when legal highs become available.

Few performance indicators have been
achieved. Whilst this report is critical,
changes to convict prisons are planned;
when implemented they should mitigate
the defects of this system of servitude.

Sharon Phillips

This poem mixes statements found in two reports on prison conditions, published a century and a half apart.

Thomas Archer (1865), ‘The Convict Establishment at Portland’, in The Pauper, The Thief and the Convict.
Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons (2014), Report on an unannounced inspection of HMP and YOI Portland

The illustration shows Portland Prison in the late nineteenth century.

If you have any thoughts on this poem,  Sharon Phillips would be pleased to hear them.