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Omagh Gaol Co. Tyrone Statatable Inspection 12 October 1876

Transcribed by Teena
Thirty-two male and 16 female prisoners were inmates of this prison when I inspected it, of whom 7 males and 3 females were for trial.
Fifteen males and 1 female were under various sentences tried by juries at assizes and quarter sessions, and 10 males and 12 females summarily convicted by justices sitting at petty sessions.
Nine males were under sentences of imprisonment for twelve months each, 1 for a term of eighteen months, 1 for nine, 2 for six, and 5 for three and four months respectively, 4 were for two months, the remainder were ior short periods, 9 were under sentences for offences against property, viz., larceny and cattle stealing ; all the other convicted prisoners in custody had been sentenced for assaults, drunkenness, and disorderly conduct.
Four females had been convicted of larcenies and sentenced for terms of imprisonment, 1 of twelve, and 2 of three months each, 1 for fourteen days.
The remaining females in custody had been convicted of drunkenness, vagrancy, and assaults, 1 sentenced for six months, 1 for four, and 6 for periods of from fourteen days to two months. Three females were for trial two for concealing birth and one for larceny.

Amongst the male offenders for trial at the time of my inspection was a youth P. L., aged eighteen years, who had been convicted in 1871 at Sligo of robbery, and sentenced to an imprisonment of fourteen days and five years in a reformatory, but who had absconded from the latter institution. The young offender after his escape from the reformatory committed another robbery, and having been arrested was for trial at quarter sessions; he has since been convicted of the latter offence before the chairman of the county, and sentenced to penal servitude at my suggestion, as my experience satisfies me that a young offender who has not improved under the mild treatment of a reformatory can only be arrested in his career of crime by being subjected to the more stringent and severe discipline enforced in the convict prisons of this country.

Eight males and 1 female under sixteen years of age were committed Juveniles. to this prison up to date of my inspection in 1876. The female, aged thirteen years was sentenced to an imprisonment of one month for leaving service ; 1 male was sentenced to an imprisonment of one mouth and to be whipped for larceny, and 4 others, 1 aged eleven, and 3 fourteen years, were sent to reformatories. One was sentenced to an imprisonment of seven days for leaving service, the others were discharged.

Number of Prisoners of all classes in gaol on the day of Inspection, and on the corresponding date in the three preceding years.
1873 Males 32 / Females 20
1874 Males 46 / Females 18
1875 Males 28 / Females 15
1876 (day of Inspection), males / 32 females 16

Number of Vagrants in Gaol on the day of Inspection, and on the corresponding date in the three preceding years.
1873 1 male / 3 females
1875 1 male / 4 females
1874 - / 3 females
1876 (day of Inspection), - males / 1 females

One female committed in 1876 had from ninety to 100 previous convictions recorded against her on the prison books, another had between sixty and seventy, a third between forty and fifty, and 2 males and 5 females had been between twenty and thirty times convicted within the prison district.
A young man, W. M., in custody when I visited, has since been convicted (at the October Quarter Sessions) of obtaining money by false pretences, and has been sentenced to an imprisonment of eighteen calendar months. This young man, although only twenty-three years of age, has for many years been practising a system of swindling, sometimes in the garb of a Roman Catholic clergyman, at another time as a Christian Brother, and sometimes as an Inspector of National and other schools, and of other institutions, and has thereby collected large sums of money. He was sentenced some years since by the Chairman of the county Clare to penal servitude, but having been since discharged he has resumed a system of swindling, and it is to be regretted that he has not been again consigned to a convict prison.

I found the prison on my inspection in a creditable condition of order and cleanliness, the prisoners usefully employed ; the buildings in sound repair and well kept, and the appliances for separation in excellent order, but the fire in the heating apparatus was not lighted on the day of my visit as is required by the 7th rule of 109th section of the Prisons Act, the weather was not cold, but the law leaves no discretion on the subject. The sewerage still continues to be faulty, and typhoid fever which attacked some of the officers during the spring of the past year may fairly be attributed to that cause. The crank-pump has been badly repaired, and the improvements which were made some years since at considerable trouble to render the handles of the pump safe, and which would have prevented accidents, have not beeu preserved in the repairs. Water is raised by this pump from the river for the supply of the prison, and is distributed through the different yards and sections of the gaol. Gas has been laid on to the outside of the prison, and to the corridors, but not to the cells unless to some few in which artisans (shoemakers and weavers) work. Sufficient baths, lavatories, and water-closets have been provided for the inmates, and the prisoners are regularly bathed on admission, and afterwards (I am informed) weekly. There is a well arranged chapel in this prison in which the sittings for the use of the prisoners are properly isolated.

I found the bedding in use clean and well kept; it was of a fair description. Sheets of beds in use are changed weekly. The prisoners in custody on the day of inspection were generally well clad, but a few had clothes not in a good state and which required repair. Warm clothing of Lisbcllaw frieze has however been provided for winter use. It is of the best description. The prison stores are remarkably well kept; they are well regulated, and the private clothing of prisoners is separately made up in bundles, and properly labelled after being cleansed. The fumigating arrangements in the prison for disinfecting the clothes of prisoners are satisfactory. In the female prison a small cell is used for the purpose, and a box in the store of the male prison. The photographing of prisoners is well and carefully carried out in this prison with the best results. When a prisoner is suspected to be an habitual offender his photograph is at once taken before trial, and it is sent to the different gaols in order that his antecedants may be ascertained before trial. In consequence of the vigilance of the Governor many habitual criminals have been traced, and some grave offenders have received heavy sentences during the year; in two instances penal servitude, and in three other cases twelve months imprisonment have been awarded on offenders who would probably have otherwise received short sentences of imprisonment.

Vacancies in the staff since last Inspection, how earned, and how filed up. Miss M. HAMILTON resigned ; Mrs. L. HOLMES appointed in her stead. William ELLIS, Turnkey, superannuated; James HALL appointed in his stead. David JOHNSTON appointed a Turnkey. D. JOHNSTON resigned; William George ELLIOTT appointed in his stead. James DONNELL resigned; James HALL promoted to be Schoolmaster in his stead. William LIVINGSTON appointed Turnkey in room of HALL promoted.

On my inspection of the gaol in October, 1876, I endeavoured to ascertain the cause of death of a prisoner, Benjamin M'CAGHY, who had died in the prison in the previous June, and I could not find any reference to the man's death or to his treatment in the journal of the Medical Officer. I felt it my duty to call the attention of the Medical Officer to the fact that he had not complied with the rules of the prison in this matter. He informed me in reply that it was the first time since his appointment that his attention was called to the subject.

The cells used for hospital patients are flagged, are not artificially lighted, and are without any appliance for the sick unless that there is a slipper bath in the prison. The cell in which the prisoner Benjamin M'CAGHY died in June last (1876) measures nine feet in length, six feet in width. It is six feet high from the floor to the springing, and seven and a half feet to the centre of the arch of the ceiling. It contains 374 cubic feet of air.

On inquiry into the circumstances of this man's death I was informed by the Governor that he had died in consumption. In the absence of the Medical Officer from Omagh at the time of my visit I had no other means of ascertaining the cause of death, as the journal of the Medical Officer was perfectly silent on the subject.
I now learn from the Medical Officer that the cause of death was emphysema of the lungs, complicated with asthma, and that a fellow-prisoner was kept constantly with the patient during his last illness, and further, that although the cell is not artificially lighted by gas a candle was kept burning in the cell. It thus appears that a cell containing only 374 cubic feet of air was occupied by the two men, one of them dying, and a lighted candle in the cell further consuming the air in it. The Governor informed me that the cell door was left open, but I feel satisfied that the Board will see that the arrangement was insufficient.
The Medical Officer informs me that he has frequently pointed out to the prison authorities the insufficiency of the medical arrangements of their gaol but without effect, and he adds — " that it would save him an infinite amount of trouble and annoyance could some change be made in a system which has remained unaltered for thirty years, and which docs not come up to the requirements of the age. The Surgeon has no surgery, no instruments or appliances, no one able to carry out his instructions, or to nurse a sick prisoner."

I trust that the facts which have come to light in connexion with the death of this poor man will be sufficient to satisfy the Board that it is a trifling with human life to continue a system so fraught with mischief to the health of the inmates of the prison.
NOTE.— Since this report was in type the Local Inspector has informed me that, by order of the Medical Officer of the Gaol, all patients are now treated in the prison hospital, where there are large and well-ventilated wards with fire-places.

JOHN LENTAIGNE, Inspector-General.
Extracted from-
Parliamentary Papers By Great Britain, House of Commons 1876