Report on Female Factory

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
6 September 1836


[Part I in a series of articles. See Part IIPart III, Part IV]

THIS Establishment, the faults of which are too well known to the Australian Public to require our pointing out, is now, we hear, under the superintendence of MR. BELL late of the Carter’s Barracks; it is said that certain reforms are to take place under his management — and we further hear that there are persons so simple as to expect great things from the coming changes.

For our own parts, not being of the simple ones, we see no hope in any partial change that may be adopted; it is possible that the women sentenced to that place for punishment may be compelled to work — even to work hard; they may be debarred, supposing that the wisest possible regulations are rigidly adhered to and enforced, from all kinds of indulgences, and feel, in short, that their situation is irksome and unpleasant, infinitely more so than in service; but all this will avail nothing to the purpose — which purpose we take to be the turning of the present numerous inmates of the Factory, to some better account than intractable and mischievous atoms vibrating in pretty equal periods between private service and a public penitentiary—in each of which ultimate points of rest they are equally useless, mischievous or troublesome.

We have nothing to do with the pros and cons of the system lately followed at the Factory—whether there was inattention, negligence, or greater culpability on the part of any former manager, or whether all was done that could be done with the appliances and means afforded. We contend that nothing effectual will ever be done so long as the class who now fills its every chink and corner continues to be assigned to private service. This is the system which requires alteration: not the employment, or the degree of labor. It is not that the Factory attracts—but that private service sends willing inmates—and so long as assignment is the order of the day with intractable, demoralized, and ignorant persons of this class, so long will every Penitentiary, no matter of what character, be crowded.

It is infinitely more difficult to deal with females than with males, as every body will acknowledge; what is good for the gander is not good for the goose in this instance; assignment works differently with respect to the two sexes, and the reason is obvious; reformation as it is termed, that is, good conduct, has more good fruit in prospect for the one than for the other; it would detain us too long on this occasion to prove this contrary operative, though we shall do so on an early opportunity.

On this topic, as well as on others relating to prison discipline, we shall be told that all reasoning that is based in a greater regard to the reformation of the convict than to any other object of punishment, is unsound; experience however as well as our reason teaches us that the most humane, or the least cruel, is the best policy; that its fruits are most productive of good to all parties, and that any other fails, and even worse, is injurious.

See Original: “THE FEMALE FACTORY,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 6 September 1836, p.2.