Separate Treatment, also known as the ‘silent system’, was a means of segregating and isolating recalcitrant women by controlling their exposure to exercise and outside communication. It was a psychological form of punishment designed to promote reflection on behaviour and reformation through religious and moral influences. Silence was an integral part of the separate treatment; in its extreme forms, as practiced in Pentonville Prison and Port Arthur, it was ultimately viewed as a failed experiment due to the high numbers of mental breakdowns resulting from the punishment.
Historically there has been some confusion between the punishments of ‘Solitary Confinement’ and ‘Separate Treatment’, which may have arisen because cells were inconsistently labelled as ‘solitary apartments’, ‘separate apartments’, ‘solitary working cells’ or ‘separate working cells’. The News, Saturday 17 October 1925 - explains that “Separate Treatment” and “Solitary Confinement” were interchangeable terms at the women’s prison, carried out in the Separate Apartments  The confusion continues when The Colonial Times 9 October 1856 mentions a women who ‘was placed in a light cell under separate treatment, which is convict-department language for solitary confinement’, while 2 days later the same newspaper describes ‘solitary confinement, which is Convict Department language for something worse than separate treatment’. The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 31 July 1841 when, in printing the New Probation Regulations for men, clears up the confusion: ‘The Third Class will be subjected to the separate system of confinement; but care must be taken not to confound it with solitary confinement in cells’. Separate Treatment was a psychological process based on reflection and reformation, involving isolated cells over an extended period of time (usually several months). Solitary confinement, in comparison, was the ultimate in short-term deprivation and isolation punishments.
The punishment of Separate Treatment for female convicts was first introduced in Van Diemen's Land (VDL) during the Probation period around 1845. It was implemented as an alternative to corporal punishments, including the stocks and hair cutting, which had fallen out of favour. It was also a much more publicly acceptable punishment than solitary confinement in a dark cell on a bread and water diet; the horrors of this punishment had been exposed by the 1838 Coronial Inquest into the death of Barbara Hemmings (per Atwick).
Introducing Separate treatment as a punishment was first suggested at the 1841 Enquiry into Female Convict Discipline as a means of segregating the better-disciplined women under magisterial summons from the incorrigible Crime Class women for as long as possible. Josiah Spode, Principal Superintendent:
… Females who are sent under punishment should have to serve a regulated portion of such sentences in those separate cells before they are allowed to intermix with the other women in the probation yards, for the coercion in the Crime Class Yard is now rendered inefficacious by the great numbers that unavoidably are congregated together.
Separate Treatment was already operating in Britain in some format prior to its introduction in VDL, as Mary Haigh per Arab 1836, at the 1841 Enquiry into Female Convict Discipline, mentions being held in the Wakefield Gaol and kept under the silent system. The system gained prominence in 1842 when Pentonville prison built a ‘separate system’ for isolating prisoners incorporating the omniscient ‘panopticon’ design - a design based on separation and discreet observation by the gaolers. (By 1848-49 the Port Arthur silent model prison was completed along the same panopticon design and using the same silent treatment philosophy as Pentonville - exploring the benefits of isolation and reform through a psychological approach as opposed to harsh physical punishments. The Port Arthur silent model prison took the silent treatment punishments to psychological extremes not experienced by the female convicts.) The Pentonville Prison was built to replace the downgraded Millbank prison, built in 1816, as the National Penitentiary. Millbank was built on the banks of the River Thames and was convenient for holding convicts awaiting transportation and near the moorings for convict transport ships heading to the colonies. The original design suggestion was in the panopticon style, however the design was modified, and by incorporating six pentagon cell blocks it still contentiously allowed for the supposedly 'silent treatment' of inmates. James L Clarke M.D. Surgeon R.N. on the female convict transport ship Navarino in 1841, while waiting to sail, remarked in his journal on the “silent treatment” at Millbank prison, blaming it on the manical behaviour of some of the convicts under his charge:
On joining the Navarino a Female Convict Ship, I found the prisoners, in a very unsettled condition and one in a state of furious mania. I have not the slightest doubt, from the description given me by Mr Jeffrey Surgeon whom I superseded that the transition from the silent system pursued in the Penitentiary at Millbank to one where all control for that kind must necessarily cease, when so many abandoned Female are suddenly placed together in a Ship, was the sole cause of their riotous behaviour, I trust that the Government on a mature reflection of the case, will cease to pursue the silent system, with those prisoners who are destined for the Colonies. It being found necessary to remove the Female with mania to the Penitentiary, it induced several of the Prisoners to pretend the same disease. For the first three weeks three of the prisoners simulated mania in the hope of being sent back to the Penitentiary and even after the Ship had sailed, they endeavoured to keep up the character and committed the most abominable and filthy acts, that it was found absolutely necessary to have recourse to corporal punishment.
The medical journal of Surgeon J. Sloane of the convict ship Tory in 1845 also noted the impact of silent treatment at Millbank Prison:
the silent system adopted at Millbank Prison preyed severely on the younger classes, and their embarkation was hailed as a bright era in their lives, for where confinement is long persisted in, both the mind, and body yield to despondency, the beneficial impression produced by the change of scene gives them fresh impetus, they are cheered by the prospect of better days even in the land of their captivity, there appeared an almost universal expression of pleasure at the prospect before them.
Separate Treatment was introduced at Cascades Female Factory in 1845 with the construction of 112 purpose-built separate apartments (also referred to as separate treatment cells or separate working cells) in Yard 3 (Crime Class). They were built in two rows of two tiers; limited space may have dictated the linear design rather than the panopticon design used for separate treatment in British prisons such as Millbank and Pentonville, and later adopted at Port Arthur.
21st July, 1845,
Sir,-In obedience to my instructions have the honor to transmit, for the information of the Right Honorable the Secretary of State, my periodical report upon the state of the Convict Department in this colony, accompanied by the following returns: (5)
The Cascade Factory is in good order, the women in full work, and their labour made productive to the wants of the convict service. When the newly erected building, containing 112 separate working apartments, is occupied, more work will be done, more instruction given, and prison discipline much improved. I expect 56 of these apartments to be inhabited in about a fortnight.
(signed) M. Forster, C.G.
His Excellency Sir Eardley Wilmot, Bart.
OFFICIAL PAPERS ILLUSTRATING SOME PROPOSED CHANGES IN PENAL DISCIPLINE. Printed by order of the House of Commons, February 9, 1846. ENCLOSURE 1, IN NO. 10. Comptroller-General's Office...
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 29 July 1846 p 7
In 1846 separate treatment cells were also incorporated into the existing Panopticon-designed Launceston Female Factory. The Launceston Examiner of 15 August 1846 reported:
The Factory.—Twenty-four cells have just been completed at the female factory, where it is intended to make an experiment of the separate system.
The separate accommodation at the Launceston Female Factory ‘combined with omniscient surveillance was expected to transform the chaotic and squalid conditions of eighteenth-century gaols into places of order, productivity and reform’. However, over-crowding and lack of supervision ultimately contributed to the failure of this ambition. 
Regulations, issued July 1, 1845 by M. Forster, Comptroller-General, included instructions to the visiting magistrates to use separate or solitary confinement as a last resort:
Advice, admonition, and kindness, will in most cases be found effectual; but if these fail, and it should be found necessary to resort to punishment, extension of the allotted period of probation—or separate or solitary confinement—will, it is hoped, in most cases, be found sufficient. 
The benefits of the Separate System for convicts were, perhaps simplistically, explained in the Launceston Examiner in 1845 by Mr F.M. Innes, a regular newspaper contributor, anti-transportationist and eventual politician: 
Article - Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 7 May 1845 - Page 7 (Extract)
BY MR. F. M. INNES.
Separate imprisonment differs from what is ordinarily understood by solitary imprisonment-in the following particulars :—' In providing the prisoner with a large, well ventilated, and lighted apartment, instead of immuring him in a confined, ill-ventilated, and dark cell: in providing him with everything that is necessary to his cleanliness, health, and comfort during the day, and for his repose at night, instead of denying him those advantages; in supplying him with sufficient food of wholesome quality, instead of confining him to bread and water; in alleviating his mental discomfort by giving him employment; by the regular visits of the officers of the prison, of the governor, surgeon, turnkeys, or trades' instructors, and particularly of the chaplain, instead of consigning him to the torpor and other bad consequences of idleness, and the misery of unmitigated remorse; in separating him from none of the inmates of the prison except his fellow-prisoners, instead of cutting him off as far as may be from, the sight and solace of human society; in allowing him the privilege of attending both chapel and school for the purposes of public worship and education in class (securing on these occasions his complete separation from the sight and hearing of his fellows), instead of excluding him from divine service and instruction; in providing him with the means of taking exercise in the open air, whenever it is necessary and proper, instead of confining him to the unbroken seclusion of his cell.' (Inspector's report, 1838.) It is contended by the advocates of the separate system, that as a mode of punishment it prevents contaminating intercourse among criminals, without requiring for that purpose the addition of those punishments which are attached to breaches of regulation in prisons on the silent system; and that it obviates the necessity of that minute supervision by prison officers likewise characteristic of the silent system, and which, in its operation, is found to be humiliating and degrading without being effective: that it diminishes the probability of a prisoner being recognised after his restoration to society as having been the subject of penal infliction, and thereby favours his permanent reformation; that it presents the mind' of the prisoner in the most favourable circumstances for receiving new and right impressions; that it does not disturb these impressions in their progress to becoming settled habits; that labour being given as a mitigation, not an aggravation, of confinement, in a separate cell, it is ever afterwards associated in the mind with what is agreeable, instead of with what is degrading and repugnant, as in the case of those prisons where it is imposed as a punishment.
Read full transcript in Appendix 1 (below)
The views of Innes were published three years before Port Arthur opened its Separate Prison in 1848, which took the punishment of Separate Treatment to an extreme level: ‘The prisoners had to study and attend chapel, and when outside their cell they had to wear a hood to hide their face…They would be put into an individual cell, they would have to undertake some form of cell-bound labour, and they would stay there for about 23 hours a day. They weren't allowed to communicate with anyone...They were no longer called by their name, only a number. It was a silent place — mats were laid in the corridor so even footsteps went unheard’.
The extremes of the system, as practiced at Port Arthur, were not followed through with female convicts. Separate Treatment cells at the Cascades Female Factory had 2 sections, a completely dark inner room when the inner door was shut and locked, and a light outer room which allowed for task work, such as needlework, which was seen as a means to relieve mental anguish and a pathway to rehabilitation. The prisoners were kept apart and a strict regime of silence was supposed to be maintained in these apartments. This was not always achieved: the Punishment Book maintained by the Superintendent of the Cascades Female Factory (1851-55) contains many incidents of women talking in the Separate Apartments. The resulting punishments included admonishment, to up to 3 days in solitary confinement, 3 days on bread and water and a combination of 3 days solitary and 14 extra days separate treatment. The women could also be required to wear items of punishment dress, which consisted of a black cap and black short-sleeved jacket, and could also be deprived of any exercise for up to seven days. (They were normally allowed to take half an hour exercise per day in the Crime Class yard where the apartments were situated).
The separate apartments, which must not be confounded with the solitary cells, as Mr. Hall so disingenuously attempts to do, were in point of fact the most comfortable rooms in the prison : so much so that the better class of sentenced women occasionally solicited permission to occupy them in preference to the general rooms. The women under- going separate treatment usually occupied a double cell, the inner one or sleeping room being boarded and protected from draughts by a small door. The outer room was perfectly light The dimensions of each room, (I speak from personal knowledge) were 9 feet by 4, and 9 feet 6 inches in height, containing therefore 324 cubic feet in single cells were much larger, containing 585 cubic feet. The door of their apartments were kept open at intervals during the day, and the in-mates were allowed to take exercise in the enclosure. The detention of the mothers in these apartments was never of long duration, they were never placed there except with the consent of the medical officer, and while there received precisely the same food as the other nursing women, not half rations as so pertinaciously insisted on by the Editor of the "Daily News".
Colonial Times, Wednesday 26 September 1855 p 3
Inquest into the death of Ellen Parker aged 22 Years, per “Sea Queen”.
On the 7th February 1849, Ellen Parker was sentenced to a punishment of 9 months hard labour and every alternate month in separate apartment at the Cascades Female Factory . She was immediately imprisoned in a cell in the Separate Apartment block where, six days later she died of Apoplexy. At the ensuing Inquest Mrs Hutchinson, the Matron, described: ‘Deceased was a woman of violent temper – and was inclined not to obey any orders that were given her’. Ellen had previously spent several spells of hard labour and solitary confinement at the Female Factory and was known for her violent temper. The Inquest describes some of the daily routine of the Separate Apartments, such as the sewing Ellen was doing prior to her death. The transcript of the Inquest is available here:
Isabella McKenzie per Emma Eugenia 1846:
Isabella M'Kenzie, was charged with having played the truant for six days from Capt. Loughran's service, at O'Brien's Bridge. This lady was ordered one month in the factory for each day she thought proper to absent herself, one half of the six months to be in separate working cells.
Hobarton Guardian, or, True Friend of Tasmania, Wednesday 3 May 1848 –
AN ACT for the Summary Punishment of disorderly Conduct in Female Offenders in the Service of the Government,1826-1830 specifies three months as the maximum time a convict could be confined with hard labour. However, this was sometimes exceeded with Separate Treatment: [‡] numerous records, including those of Biddy Reilly, Mary Winkle (1845) and Catherine Hagan (1848) note periods of up to 4 months, and Mary McCann received 6 months for refusing to attend school at the Anson Probation Station.
Catherine Henrys per Arab 1836:
Kate Henry, alias 'Jemmy the Rover,' was at length disposed of, when her Police character was handed to " his worship" who heaved a heavy sigh at the black catalogue of crime, which that precious record exhibited —she was sentenced 9 months' to the Factory, 5 months separate treatment, and " to be removed from Hobart Town, never more to return to annoy Mr. P."
POLICE REPORTS. TUESDAY—JANUARY 11TH.
Hobarton Guardian, or, True Friend of Tasmania, Saturday 15 January 1848 p 3
Other instances of female convicts sentenced to Separate Treatment at Cascades:
- Mary Hines (per Nautilus) : in 1841, for misconduct for trafficking in the Factory, was sentenced to six months hard labour in the House of Correction, the first two months in the Separate Working Cells then to be sent to Launceston for assignment.
- Janet McLean (per Nautilus): in 1842, for being out after hours and using improper language, was sentenced to 12 months hard labour in the House of Correction, the first 3 months in the Separate working rooms.
- Alice Armstrong [per Sea Queen 1846] : was charged with being out after hours…the prisoner admitted that she had taken twelve or thirteen glasses of wine with a friend, and that she was not aware the time flew so rapidly. She was sentenced to be imprisoned five months at the factory, three of which she was to have separate apartments.
- Catherine Hagan (per Emma Eugenia) : was charged with absconding from her service on the 15th July, and remaining illegally at large until apprehended on the 10th August, by constable Hand, in a house in Collins-street. Sentenced 8 months to the factory, 4 of which she was to be accommodated with a separate apartment. (Hobarton Guardian, or, True Friend of Tasmania, Wednesday 16 August 1848 p 3)
Rather than phase out Separate Treatment as a convict-era punishment, it was adapted within the colonial prison system as the ‘most merciful and beneficial system yet devised’.  The benefits of Separate Treatment were discussed in the Daily Telegraph in 1897:
Sir F.M. Darley points out that the separate treatment of prisoners, if properly carried out, is the most merciful and beneficial system yet devised. It makes reformation possible, and it operates as a powerful deterrent to crime in the case of those confirmed criminals whose reformation is hopeless. It does away with that great blot upon all other prison systems which permits the association of prisoners with each other, which enables the more vile to corrupt the less vile, and favors the growth of a sort of esprit de corps in crime which is unspeakably detrimental to future good behaviour.
Separate Treatment Building c. 1868 source Libraries Tasmania
[‡] ‘… and upon conviction to punish such female offender, either by solitary confinement on bread and water, in any place appointed for safe custody, for any term not exceeding Fourteen days, or by confinement and hard labour in such place for any term not exceeding Three calendar months, according to the nature and degree of the misbehaviour or disorderly conduct.’ AN ACT for the Summary Punishment of disorderly Conduct in Female Offenders in the Service of the Government,1826-1830.
 Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland “He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place”: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5944833/
 IN THE BAD OLD DAYS OF A CENTURY AGO Story of the House of Correction GRIM HISTORY OF AN ANCIENT RUIN Treatment of Women under “The System” The News, Saturday 17 October 1925 - Page 7
 Colonial Times, 9 October 1856 - Page 2
 The Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 31 July 1841 - Page 1
 AOT CSO 22/1/50 pp 303-323
 Victorian Crime and Punishment: Separation – Pentonville, http://vcp.e2bn.org/justice/page11642-separation-pentonville.html accessed 12/05/2020
 Surgeon’s Journal of His Majesty’s Female Convict Ship Tory 1845 https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs3/ships/SurgeonsJournal_Tory-1845.pdf
 Lucy Frost and Alice Meredith Hodgson, (eds) Convict Lives at the Launceston Female Factory, Convict Women’s Press.
 H. Dower in Port Arthur's Separate Prison punished convicts with psychological torture, ABC Radio Hobart By Georgie Burgess, 2019. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-03/inside-port-arthurs-notorious-separate-prison/11293564
 ATTACHED CORONERS INQUEST
 Archives Office of Tasmania, Inquest SC195-1-24-2028
 Tasmanian News, Friday 30 September 1898 - Page 4
 Daily Telegraph, Thursday 19 January 1911 - Page 4
 Daily Telegraph, Saturday 30 January 1897 - Page 6
“He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place”: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52
By E. Crawford (Sept.2021)
PRISON DISCIPLINE. SEPARATE SYSTEM.
Launceston Examiner, Wednesday 7 May 1845 - Page 7, BY MR. F. M. INNES.
Separate imprisonment differs from what is ordinarily understood by solitary imprisonment-in the following particulars :—' In providing the prisoner with a large, well ventilated, and lighted apartment, instead of immuring him in a confined, ill-ventilated, and dark cell: in providing him with everything that is necessary to his cleanliness, health, and comfort during the day, and for his repose at night, instead of denying him those advantages; in supplying him with sufficient food of wholesome quality, instead of confining him to bread and water; in alleviating his mental discomfort by giving him employment; by the regular visits of the officers of the prison, of the governor, surgeon, turnkeys, or trades' instructors, and particularly of the chaplain, instead of consigning him to the torpor and other bad consequences of idleness, and the misery of unmitigated remorse; in separating him from none of the inmates of the prison except his fellow-prisoners, instead of cutting him off as far as may be from, the sight and solace of human society; in allowing him the privilege of attending both chapel and school for the purposes of public worship and education in class (securing on these occasions his complete separation from the sight and hearing of his fellows), instead of excluding him from divine service and instruction; in providing him with the means of taking exercise in the open air, whenever it is necessary and proper, instead of confining him to the unbroken seclusion of his cell.' (Inspector's report, 1838.) Itis contended by the advocates of the separate system, that as a mode of punishment it prevents contaminating intercourse among criminals, without requiring for that purpose the addition of those punishments which are attached to breaches of regulation in prisons on the silent system; and that it obviates the necessity of that minute supervision by prison officers likewise characteristic of the silent system, and which, in its operation, is found to be humiliating and degrading without being effective: that it diminishes the probability of a prisoner being recognised after his restoration to society as having been the subject of penal infliction, and thereby favours his permanent reformation; that it presents the mind' of the prisoner in the most favourable circumstances for receiving new and right impressions; that it does not disturb these impressions in their progress to becoming settled habits; that labour being given as a mitigation, not an aggravation, of confinement, in a separate cell, it is ever afterwards associated in the mind with what is agreeable, instead of with what is degrading and repugnant, as in the case of those prisons where it is imposed as a punishment.
By the opponents of the separate system the compatibility of the enforcement of that system with the maintenance of the sound state of body and mind of the prisoners has been questioned. The assumption that all association of criminals must necessarily be degrading has been disputed; and it has been urged that it is the object for which men are associated, and the principles by which their association is regulated, not the original character of the individuals brought together, which determines the effect of this association on the individuals. Accordingly it has been contended that while it may be perfectly true that association for exemplary or vindictive punishment is deteriorating, it remains to be proved that association for reform would be so; and it is further con tended, that in a process contemplating reform, success will be aided by association, as in the case of societies for the promotion of temperance and the like. In reply to the argument respecting the recognition of the criminal after release, it is said the argument may be allowed all its assumed weight if it can be shown that, consistently with justice, the conviction of an offender may take place without the knowledge of more than the parties immediately concerned in his prosecution, or that his release will not involve a renewal of any of the connections of place or person which subsisted before imprisonment. That solitude is favourable to the inculcation of new principles is allowed, but it is urged that the cultivation of principles in the mind is only one-half of a process of conversion, and that without a sphere of action they can neither be matured nor satisfactorily tested. These and other objections have been urged by writers to whose works the reader is referred; but it is generally agreed that a satisfactory determination of the question at issue can only be derived from experiments, to enter on which there is less reluctance, seeing that every mode of secondary punishment which has yet been tried has disappointed the expectations in which it originated. (Australiana; or Thoughts on Convict Management; and A General View of the Social System of Convict Management, 4c., by Captain Maconochie; The Merits of a Home and of a Colonial Process; of a Social and of a Separate System of Convict Management, by F. M. lnnes; Reports of the Inspectors of Prisons.) The separate system originated in this country in the year 1790, and was first tried in the county gaol, Gloucester. A model prison on the separate system has just been completed, and no less than 14 more are projected in different parts of England; the success or failure of which will determine whether the system shall or shall not become general.
EMPLOYMENTS OF PRISONERS UNDER THE SEPARATE SYSTEM.
In reference to the occupations which will be pursued by prisoners in separate confinement in this country, there appears to exist some uncertainty. At Millbank penitentiary the males are employed in weaving, shoemaking, tailoring, bed-making, and junk-picking; the females in needle-work. In the report of MM. de Metz and Blouet (Paris, July 5, 1837) the following list of trades which may be pursued in prisons on the separate system is introduced :—Manu factures of polished steel, clasps, hooks, scales, whalebone, jewellery in copper, bon nets, boots and shoes, purses, buttons, bronzes, brushes, picture-frames, cages, canes, pasteboards, baskets, girdles, chains, woollen shawls, footstools, shoes, chimney pieces, carving, corslets, stays, spun and twisted cotton, cutlery, pencils, glasses, breeches; thimbles, ebony-work, fans, tin work, fringes, scabbards, lace, gloves, wood engravings for types, laces, lamps, spectacles and eye-glasses, mother-of pearl ornaments, tea and coffee services, umbrellas, combs, pearls, rackets, paper-rulers, cloth and paper bags, sandals, bellows, mousetraps, snuff-boxes, and aprons.
EXPENSE OF THE SEPARATE SYSTEM.
Any estimate of the expense per prisoner of the separate system must, until that system has been for some time in operation, be liable to dispute. At Millbank penitentiary (which is allowed to be an imperfect criterion) the net annual expense of each prisoner, deducting his earnings, is said to be £24 6s. 6d. (Lord John Russell's Note on Transportation and Secondary Punishments.) It is urged by the advocates of the system that the sentence of imprisonment in a separate prison need be only a half or two-thirds the duration of a sentence to any other prison for it to be as severe and as much dreaded, and that the difference of expense will be thus made up.