In his book 'A Visit to Newgate,' Charles Dickens tries to unfold the situation of the London prison that is unbearable to prisoners. Charles wonders whether prisons are correction centers or place to end offenders' hope of life. Charles describes the victimized having somber moods, no hopes, pathetic state of cells, guilt, and misery among inmates, Satirically, government officers who are responsible for reforms in the prisons do not correct their conditions, pure escape of responsibility. Charles is sympathetic about prisoners who are taken to custody while in good health, only to die in prison under mysterious circumstances like diseases acquired in prison, corruption, among others.
In their beginning of the tour, Charles describes every corner they visit, beginning with governor's office that is non-spacious, where they took their conductor, (Collins, 2013). Inside the next room were skulls of infamous murderers, probably to scare prisoners. Further inside are heavy metals that were used to execute Dick Turpin and other notorious offenders. Additionally, Charles explains that security begins with the construction of conjoined wards that may hamper escape. Again, gates are countless within the prison and iron bar barrier that separates men and women. On reaching the female prisoners, Charles and his group realize that some prisoners have adapted to the environment while many others are extremely affected by weather conditions, age as well as malnutrition. It means that they lost hope in life and the only option is to welcome what may add upon their lives. They also observed a few visitors who come to interact with their friends and relatives in prison, among them are victimized children who may have succeeded in life, while many prisoners do not receive any visitor, complete isolation. At night, women prisoners lay mats on the floor where they sleep. However, they are lucky to bathe and get heat from the fireplace within the hall. Furthermore, women also get skills like knitting, according to Charles.
Then begins, a yard for male prisoners with sleeping hall resembling that of females. Conversely, men are given limited communication with friends, which is a violation of gender equality, as well as little attention to hygiene. Married men are given little space to see their couples while the remaining men-only communicate through iron gratings. There is no freedom as everyone is confined within a small area with limited access to sunlight and other basic needs.
Charles also describes the chapel condition, that is, no windows to the prison interior, scanty pulpit, old paint and the building design that looks unimpressive, very ironical to church norms. Coffins of prisoners to face execution are put inside the chapel by their side before fellow prisoners. Immediately after execution of their fellows, coffins are brought back for last respect before burial.
In other cells, some men are isolated, waiting for their execution. There is little hope as every appeal avenue is exhausted. They are manned by most experienced turnkeys. The entrance to a cell is by a narrow and dark staircase, with a charcoal stove, to minimize escape. Inside the cell is a neglected man with no hope of any life who tries to take the risk and find a way to escape from his waiting death situation. He is so confused that his concentration is no more. The only hope lies with his God who may forgive his sins. Fortunately, he escapes and leaves behind other prisoners in death trouble. It means that the condition is extremely hostile to bear, (Dickens and Thomas, 2013).
Dickens, C., & Thomas, D. A. (2013). A visit to Newgate. ProQuest LLC.
Collins, P. (2013). Charles Dickens: The Critical Heritage. Routledge.
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