Superintendent of Jails

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The employment of Assistant Surgeons, and sometimes Surgeons as Jail Superintendents seems curious, but was the usual practice.


Reports on Jails, Hospitals, Public Health Departments and much more can be found in the IOR/V/24 series. As with the Service Histories they are searchable on Access to Archives and available to view at the British Library.

Daily Life

Here are some reports of daily life:

  • Burma. Jail Department: Report on the prison administration of Burma, 1905-1913 IOR/V/24/2105 1905-1913
1908 - Mumps caused 139 admissions against 113 in 1907. 'In connection with this, the following extract from a report by Dr McCarthy of Henzada jail is worth noting:-”The highest group of admission under any one disease was 18 for mumps, which occurred amongst prisoners employed extramurally or on other forms of hard labour. This disorder only showed parotid swellings without any febrile disturbance or other constitutional ailment, and the suddenness of the onset without even slight fever suggested the possibility that prisoners self-induced these swellings. Acting on these suspicions, prisoners having parotid swellings were employed on soorkie pounding and on thus being employed, in four instances the disorder seemed to vanish.”.
  • Burma. Jail Department: Report on the prison administration of Burma, 1914-1922 IOR/V/24/2106 1914-1922
1914 - At Akyab a convict of the habitual class assaulted, with a coir pounding mallet, his convict night watchman, who had opened the cell door, striking him on the back of the head and inflicting injuries which resulted in his death on the following day from a fracture of the skull and extensive haemorrhage. Death sentence commuted to transportation for life.
1915 - Extracts from the account given by the Superintendent of Akyab Jail, where a small training class was started in July last, are reproduced below: “The progress made by them within a few months was very satisfactory. Small articles of furniture such as hat-racks, small plain teapoys, stools, photo frames, notice boards etc were turned out by them, besides repairs to certain furniture....At the close of the year one of the 5 remaining was capable of turning out an office arm-chair without assistance. Every effort will be made to increase and improve the class during the ensuing year”
Akyab Jail - 77 admissions with malarial fever. The Medical Officer of the jail writes as follows: “The apparent increase under this cause is the entry in the admissions register of all cases of malarial fever occuring, irrespective of the duration of the disorder being only 24 hours or otherwise. Particular attention was paid to the inclusion of such cases in connection with experiments that were being conducted with Amorphous Cinchona Alkaloid. ” This drug, he finds, has proved a failure as a prophylactic, and less efficient as a remedy than quinine.
1919: Filariasis – Major McCarthy Superintendent of the Akyab District Jail, having noticed a large number of cases of hydrocele in the town, looked for filaria among the prisoners and started routine examinations of the blood. He found 72 infections in 633 prisoners, a percentage of 1.37. It is unlikely that the infection is confined to Akyab. Examinations in Rangoon however proved negative.