6. Oct, 2016



Great Yarmouth Quarter Sessions
April 14th 1830
Sentenced to 14 years transportation for stealing herrings…CHARLES FARMAN.

Yes, the very same! So much for deterrence! Charles in fact had served nine instead of seven years in New South Wales, presumably for some further offence. Given his ticket of leave in 1829, he made his way back to England, probably as crew on a sailing vessel. He arrived in Great Yarmouth and within months had been caught and tried … “for the theft of some herrings!” As a second offender this time he got the statutory fourteen years.
Accordingly on 26th June 1830 Charles embarked from Plymouth on his second stretch in New South Wales, this time in the “Burrell” under the command of John Metcalfe and accompanied by 191 other passengers. They docked six months later on 3rd January 1831.
By chance, the medical journal of The Burrell for the 1830 voyage, written by William West M.D, Surgeon R.N., has survived. He first lists accidents and injuries to crew and prisoners alike. He then adds some telling comments about the voyage….
Medical journal of the Burrell male convict ship carrying 192 prisoners, from 26 June 1830 to 3 January 1831, sailing to Sydney, New South Wales by William West, surgeon and superintendent.
.Folio 23: General remarks.
(1) There was scarcely one of the 192 prisoners isethat was not affected with some symptoms of scurvy
(2)The Guard which consisted of 30 soldiers were as long on board as the prisoners and equally unaccustomed to sea life yet not one of them had a symptom of scurvy.
(2a)Their provisions were of the same nature and quality as the prisoners.
(2b) We must attribute the difference to greater exercise and occupation of mind.
(3) Every attention was paid to the cleanliness of the prisoners but still they were confined 13 hours of the 24 in the prison where in hot weather the thermometer ranged from 800 to 900.
(3a) It was impossible under such circumstances to keep them as clean as one could wish.
(4) Many obstacles are thrown in the way of the surgeon when he attempts to give trouble or interfere with the comforts of those who ought to assist him.
(5) An idle report of mutiny was eagerly seized on to put the previous state under further restrictions which in the end turned out to have been entirely unnecessary.
(6) It is not to be concealed that these unfortunate men are considered little so much live lumber that are to be carried out with as much profit and as little inconvenience as possible (7) I think the mortality in these ships would be little less than slave ships if the surgeon-superintendant had not the power of enforcing his authority.
[Signed] William West M.D, Surgeon R.N.

So, putting together the two unbiased and supporting primary sources of Dr. Reid and Mr. West RN., an inhumane picture presents itself… lack of exercise, boredom, lack of sanitation, little value placed on the lives of the prisoners by those in Authority, supervision being by competitive tender-the cheapest being selected, overcrowding, the easy spread of disease, alcohol dependence, violence and of course the cross-exchange of criminal techniques.
This was in the early nineteenth century now we are in the early twenty-first, this must surely have significantly changed ! REALLY?
Firstly, the man with the strongest motive for claiming that it had…David Cameron, then Prime Minister… From a speech delivered on: 8 February 2016 Location: Policy Exchange, Westminster, LondonFirst published: 8 February 2016. He was adamant that there were some inmates who had to be locked up to protect the rest of us but drew a sharp line between them and less serious perpetrators. However in outlining what needed to be done, he effectively outlined what is NOT being done at present….
1). We adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude to the 121 prisons in our country, where our social problems are most acute and people’s life chances are most absent.
2) The failure of our system today is scandalous. 46% of all prisoners will re-offend within a year of release. 60% of short-sentenced prisoners will re-offend within the same period.

3). Current levels of prison violence, drug-taking and self-harm should shame us all. In a typical week, there will be almost 600 incidents of self-harm; at least one suicide; and 350 assaults, including 90 on staff.
4) Prisons are often miserable, painful environments. Isolation. Mental anguish. Idleness. Bullying. Self-harm. Violence. Suicide. These aren’t happy places.
This pessimistic view is supported by Prison Watch (https://prisonwatchuk.com/2015/01/06/10) who have said, “many experts and politicians have said Britain’s prisons are in crisis. They might be right.”
They go onto list ten pressing problems from the 2014 Prison Inspectorate annual report…
Budget cuts; Prison assaults; Overcrowding; Staffing recruitment; Suicides; Mental Health; Self harm; Sexual Assault; Drugs and alcohol and “Incidents of Height” whereby inmates climb onto roofs in the hope they will be transferred to safer jails.
Of course there will be those who say “so what? If you can’t do the time don’t do the crime!”
However, Cameron was not some way out left wing idealist, but a Conservative Prime Minister who countered that attitude on practical and humanitarian grounds…
1)This failure really matters. It matters to the public purse: this cycle of re-offending costs up to £13 billion a year.
I’m clear: we need wholesale reform.
2).But I also strongly believe that we must offer chances to change,
3). We need a prison system that doesn’t see prisoners as simply liabilities to be managed, but instead as potential assets to be harnessed.
4). And the truth is that simply warehousing ever more prisoners is not financially sustainable, nor is it necessarily the most cost-effective way of cutting crime.
5). Worse than that, it lets the other parts of the criminal justice system that are failing and being let off the hook. It distracts us from the job of making prisons work better. And it fuels prison overcrowding, which hampers rehabilitation.
Of course, there are plenty of other problems facing the prison system ranging from reintegration into the community to excessive time locked in cells to educational facilities to privatisation. Can you think of any others
system ranging from reintegration into the community to excessive time locked in cells to educational facilities to privatisation. Perhaps you know of that famous piece of graffiti found on a cell wall…”While prisons exist there will be men to fill them. It is regrettable.”

But what of Charles Farman? He duly did his 14 year stretch in New South Wales before incredibly, and for the second time, working his way back to Yarmouth. He died there in 1875 aged 87 in the town’s Northgate Street Workhouse.