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The proposal for a period of solitary confinement was to resurface in the 1860s, not as a belated attempt to blend the American systems of penal discipline or to respond to the movement in favour of the separate system that Pentonville had heralded in England; rather, it marked the first phase of the 'Crofton' system of prison discipline developed in Ireland. This system of 'reformatory prison discipline' was strongly favoured by the Board of Inspectors of Asylums, Prisons and Public Charities which, from 1859 to 1868, was charged with 'the direction and control of everything relating to the administration of public charity and with the punishments inflicted by justice. '34

The Crofton system was based on a phased prison experience in which money incentives, a progressive easing of punitive conditions, and the prospect of conditional release before the expiry of the full term of imprisonment were used to achieve reformatory purposes. For the first eight or nine months of his sentence the Irish prisoner lived under a strict regime of solitary confinement at Mountjoy Prison, labouring in his cell at work intentionally made hard and monotonous. As one commentator put it, 'Mountjoy aimed at the infliction of just punishment and the subduing of the spirits at war with society. '35

After his punitive initiation, the prisoner was transferred to one of two other congregate prisons to begin the second or reformatory phase of his imprisonment. Here he was required to work his way through four classifications, his progress determined by a system of marks awarded in the categories of discipline, school and industry. The third phase, 'designed to test the work previously done, as the crucible tests gold,'36 saw the prisoner transferred to an intermediate or open prison with more privileges and a far less restrictive regime. Thereafter he became eligible for release on a ticket of leave in the fourth and final phase in the system.37

The Canadian inspectors, perceiving the existing provincial penitentiary regime as 'one of rigid repression, of uncompromising coercion, one which admits no change or improvement in the condition of the convict as a consequence of good conduct ,'38 advocated a modified Crofton scheme for Canada. In 1861 they recommended that the classification of prisoners be expressed by distinctive badges and money gratuities, and that a scheme of remission of a portion of a sentence be introduced as an inducement to good behaviour.39 In 1862 they endorsed the idea that an undefined initial portion of the prison term be spent in solitary confinement so that 'every convict who enters the penitentiary may learn those salutary lessons which this portion of prison discipline is so well calculated to teach.'40

Although the period of initial solitary imprisonment proposed by the board was to be shorter than the terms in England and Ireland, it was to be 'equal to them in moral and religious appliances, and in strictness of discipline.'41 The inspectors' recommendations also embraced a third phase modelled after the Crofton system in which additional privileges could be earned for exemplary conduct, but they refrained from endorsing the ticket-of-leave concept.42 Moreover, in contradistinction to the Irish system, the modified phase system suggested by the inspectors was to be carried out within the confines of a single institution rather than in separate institutions.43

The first Penitentiary Act passed after Confederation was drafted by the chairman of the board of inspectors, E.A. Meredith, and sought to provide the legislative framework for the introduction into Canada of the modified Crofton scheme. The act of 1868, stating that 'no system of discipline in Penitentiary can be effective for punishment or true reformation of the criminal unless it be combined with strict separate confinement during some period of the time for which the Court has sentenced him,' authorized the construction of penal cells and the separate confinement of each convict within these cells for a portion of his sentence.44 The act also introduced a remission system whereby a prisoner could earn up to five days a month off his sentence for good behaviour45 and enabled prisoners 'of exemplary conduct' to work overtime for money that would be paid to the prisoner's family or to the prisoner on his release.46

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