Tag Archives: the ballad of reading gaol

Prison Conditions During The Victorian Era

While reading The Ballad of Reading Gaol, the part in which Oscar Wilde discussed the conditions of prison struck me. He questions how one man could place another man in such an awful setting. His true feelings are evident when he states “that every prison that men build is built with bricks of shame, and bound with bars lest Christ should see how men their brothers maim.” As soon as I read this ballad, I was reminded of the journal titled “The Effects of Solitary Confinement on Prison Inmates: A Brief History and Review of the Literature.” In Group 4, we read and did a writeup on Charles Dickens’ feelings about the prison system. As soon as he visited Cherry Hill Prison, he remarked “I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment… inflicts upon the sufferers… I hold this slow and daily tampering… to be worse than any torture of the body.” Both of these men were taken aback by prison conditions. They understood that the people in prison were criminals, but they questioned how people could treat other human beings in such a torturous way. Sadly, prison conditions are still pretty horrendous today and it has been almost 200 years since Wilde and Dickens wrote about their experiences with the system. It causes me to wonder if the circumstances will ever improve.