The first british governor thomas maitland claimed

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and related practices within the British Empire. The first British governor, Thomas Maitland, claimed buildings built by the Knights for the crown, including prisons in Valletta, the capital city. The Castellania palace became the law courts and place of detention for those awaiting trial, and the Great Prison, built by the Knights to house Turkish slaves, the destina- tion for those sentenced to imprisonment. The first decades of colonial justice sent men, boys, vagrants, debtors, women and girls to the Great Prison. John Richardson, who wrote on the Great Prison in his report on development of a criminal code for Malta, included figures for women. On 25 April 1825, there were 211 prisoners, nine of whom were women. Maddelena Mallia was serving an eight-day sentence for assault, Dianora Xuereb was serving one month for stealing, and Anna Bonello and Caledonia Maemara six months each for stealing and receiving stolen goods. Others had received far longer sentences. Rosa Saliba was serving three years for assault, M. Di Paris Muscat and Teresa Haber 10 years for domestic robbery, Angela Calea, five years for robbery and Ursola Tabone, a life sentence for attempt to poison. Two of the prisoners were noted to have a family, and two were described as girls. All of the women were put to spinning cotton (Richardson 1825). In 1831, Governor Frederick C. Ponsonby directed an enquiry into Valletta’s prisons. The enquiry, led by Hector Grieg, found much room for improvement throughout the Great Prison. Overall, the pursuit of separa- tion, labour and religious instruction (regarded as essential elements of prison discipline) needed attention. Women at the prison presented a special concern. Grieg’s committee described insufficient space and inappropriate sleeping arrangements: 12 women crowded into a room about 15-feet square, extremely dark and poorly ventilated. They had no means of taking exercise, except for a small yard. Women with children under five years of age were allowed to keep them, contributing further to crowded conditions. The committee expressed concern at the failure to separate the women into classes and they proposed that children should not be allowed to spend the night in the company of ‘persons whose habits are only those of infamy, vice and crime’. Grieg recommended the construction of a new prison, suit- able for maintaining adequate separation, appropriate labour and proper supervision. In the meantime, the women should be moved out to free space for the confinement of boys separate from the men. A place could be estab- lished for a women’s penitentiary, at a small expense, within the Ospizio (Charitable Institutions, 1831). Following the report of the Greig committee in 1831, women prisoners were moved from the Great Prison to the Ospizio . By proclamation on 18 July 1831, Governor Ponsonby declared it necessary to make ‘several new arrangements in the classification of prisoners’ and issued his revision of Maitland’s prison regulations (Government Gazette, 1831). R. Montgomery Martin, who commented on the arrangement in his History of British Possessions in the Mediterranean (1837), was impressed. ‘The Ospizio is a by guest on December 8, 2012 tcr.sagepub.com Downloaded from
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