Report on Female Factory

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
12 May 1843


Extract from the Government Gazette.

“STATE of the Female Factory, Parramatta, on the 1st May, 1843:

Under Colonial sentence, 67

Not under Colonial sentence, 470

In solitary confinement, 5

In hospital, 27

Confined by order of the Matron, 0

Total number of women, 569

Total number of children, 146

The totals on the 1st April last were, Women 654; Children 182.”

By comparing these numbers it will be seen, that there is a decrease on the last month, of eighty-five women, and thirty-six children; which may be attributed to the tickets-of-leave granted, and the numbers which have been placed in private service under the new regulations at small wages, upon the principle which has been so successfully adopted in a neighbouring Colony. It was, we believe, through the representations of the heads of the Parramatta Factory, and who were both theoretically and practically cognisant of its various ramifications, that his Excellency was induced to resort to the expedient of placing the most deserving females in private service, and by allowing them a trifling wage, yield an additional impulse to good conduct. The result has fully justified these predictions, as by the reduction in numbers, above quoted, it is clear that very few have returned through misconduct. In fact, we know from personal observation, and representations on which we can rely, that the deportment of these individuals has been highly satisfactory. This is as it should be, nor shall we fail to add our humble eulogy to any system which tends directly or indirectly to render those who have been under the ban of the law, useful members of society, a consummation devoutly to be wished, and much more easily attained by distributing them, under proper controul, throughout a whole community, than by immuring them in an establishment, which, however well-conducted, (and that the heads of this place are indefatigable and efficient no one will deny,) must increase in an alarming ratio that fitful irritation of mind so subversive of reformation and lasting propriety of conduct. In fact it would be unreasonable to suppose that confinement could destroy those vices to which it naturally and incessantly gives birth; in such a state it would be impossible to hear the opinions, to witness the virtues, or practice the habits, which form the stable and enduring basis of freedom. That the punishment of a prison population is not to be overlooked, or merged in Utopian schemes, (philanthropy miscalled!) we are fully aware; yet health, economy, labour improving to the prisoner and beneficial to society, a condition which shall admit of reflection, and likewise afford some scope for the discharge of relative and social duties, are objects, we conceive, of paramount importance, and which the late alternative system is eminently calculated to carry out.

In these opinions we are borne out by an eminent English writer on Penal Discipline, who says,

“When a person is sentenced to a long imprisonment, two things are proposed; that his principles shall be reformed, and that when released, he shall pursue an honest course of life. If neither of these objects be attained by limited imprisonment, however it may avail to deter others, it is, as regards the particular offender, an absurdity. Failing reformation, it only restrains him for a given time, at the end of which he returns to a criminal course. If it were right to incur the expense of imposing this temporary restraint, it seems no less so to continue it. We imprison the insane until they return to reason. Why? Because the safety of society requires it. How absurd it would be to imprison a Bedlamite for twelve months, and then let him out raving mad upon the public. We say no—jealous as we are of the liberty of the subject, we are no less jealous of the order of the community, and he must stay until he is cured. Upon the same principle, we ought to say to the unreformed thief: you have shewn that you are not to be depended upon, a liar and a thief you still continue: you have lost your character, and you have no means of living but by theft when you go from hence.

“Now the true way of meeting this difficulty is not by perpetual imprisonment, which would involve prodigious cost, and to which there are many other objections, nor by accepting every prisoner’s professions and temporary conformity to prison rules as a proof of reformation, which would only encourage hypocrisy; but by placing them in social circumstances which afford some trial of their industry and fitness for society, and presenting some honest resources, however humble, to the discharged.”

To accomplish this, can any means be so fitting as those which his Excellency is now applying?

See Original: “FEMALE FACTORY, PARRAMATTA,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 12 May 1843, p.3