No. 374.
Mr. Mathews to Mr. Evarts.

No. 331.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your circular dispatch No. 13, under date of 10th June last, the instructions of which will be carefully complied with.

I beg to inclose herewith for your information a copy of my reply, transmitted to Mr. Wines, president of the International Penitentiary Commission, to his letter requesting information on the state of prisons, and the administration of criminal justice, &c., in Morocco.

I have, &c.,

[Page 845]
[Inclosure in 331.]

Mr. Mathews to Mr. Wines.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your circular letters hearing date September 6, 1877, and November 8, 1878, relative to the state of prisons and the administration of criminal justice, &c., and requesting information on the subject as regards the country where I am residing.

Reformatory institutions for the prevention of crime in the young have no existence in Morocco. The administration of criminal justice is radically bad, and is conducted on no principle of improving the moral character of the people, and owing to injustice of the executive, the innocent being punished almost as frequently as the guilty; punishment loses much of its influence as a deterrent from the commission of crime.

A criminal who has the means of purchasing by bribes his liberation from prison finds greater facility in obtaining his freedom than a poor innocent man who has been unjustly condemned to imprisonment.

The prisons in Morocco are in the most lamentable condition of barbarism. No care or attention whatever is bestowed upon the prisoners, no medical assistance is afforded them when sick, and they are left dependent on the charity of their friends for their subsistence; a small ration of the poorest bread being all that is supplied to those who would perish were it withheld from them.

There is one useful custom, however, which obtains generally in Moorish prisons, and that is that poor prisoners have facilities afforded them by their jailers to learn or practice some trade by which they may maintain themselves; basket and rope making are the industries most commonly practiced. The jailer gives them instructions and often supplies material, and he is paid by a part profit when the articles are manufactured and sold.

Little is known of the state of the prisoners in the interior of Morocco. The prison at Tangier (this town being the seat of the foreign representatives) is situated in the Kasbah, or citadel. Part of the interior can be seen from an aperture in the den, from which at all times issues an affluvium that makes a long inspection undesirable; it is a damp, dark chamber, as dreary and dreadful a place of confinement as can ever be conceived.

The prison at Fez, the capital, although not very extensive, is always much crowded, at times containing over a thousand inmates, and as the food supplied to those who have no friends is very limited in quantity and very bad in quality, and the sanitary condition of the place is bad in the extreme, the mortality among the prisoners is appalling.

Little is to be learned from the prison system, or more probably want of system, in such a country as Morocco, unless it be the experience of what a wretched state of things can exist in uncivilized and barbarious countries, and under the most arbitrary and despotic system of government.

There is no code of laws in the Empire of Morocco, but instead of a civil they have a religious code. The practice of jurisprudence is reduced to the application of certain principles to be found in the Koran, and is the practical knowledge of the precedents established in the various jurisdictions. There are kadis and governors in the cities and countries for the administration of justice and notaries or talbes to certify deeds, and all which relates to the security of property. The laws of the Koran admit no evidence but from those professing the Mohammedan religion.

All litigations concerning property, succession, and the various claims of interest are brought before the kadi of each town or district of the province.

The kadis or judges are appointed by the Sultan, with a salary barely enough for subsistence.

The governors of cities are also appointed by the Sultan, and are entirely unpaid by the state. It is their duty to maintain order, and they can punish by fine, imprisonment, and the bastinado. Capital punishment alone is inflicted by direct order of the Sultan.

The governor also levies taxes for the imperial treasury, and it is in connection with this part of his duties that he is induced to exercise his functions of inflicting tines in a most arbitrary and irregular fashion. Sheikhs and umkadams are also unpaid officials.

The result of such a state of things is that the unpaid governors and sheikhs squeeze the people committed to their charge as much as lies within their power. Pillage, extortion, corruption, and injustice are universal; so with the almost unpaid kadis or judges the longest purse invariably prevails. Justice is not administered; it is sold. Even the police are unpaid or receive only a slender allowance, which is supplemented by what they can extract from those who come within their clutches. The judgments of the governors are always arbitrary, and generally consist in distributing [Page 846] the bastinado with equal liberality to the guilty and innocent, committing them to some days’ imprisonment, whence they are released by money. The rich, therefore, rarely suffer any great punishment, though they should have been concerned in criminal affairs.

To this wretched system of administration the chronic state of disorder which always exists is in greater part to be attributed.

I have, &c.,