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Habitual Criminals

Habitual Criminals Returns Book
Habitual Criminals Returns Book

Habitual criminals were those that had committed more than one offence. With the gradual cessation of transportation after 1857 and restriction of the number of capital offences, most Prisoners committing a second offence (or more) were sentenced to Penal Servitude.

In 1863 a commission recommended that the minimum sentence for Penal servitude should be 7 years and principle of subjecting re-convicted criminals to severe punishment should be more fully acted upon.

The first nine months were spent in solitary confinement and then labour on public works. For long term prisoners on Penal Servitude the conditions in prison were deliberately harsh.

Sometimes penal servitude was followed by police supervision for a specified number of years. This was because there was concern about increasing numbers of 'ticket of leave' convicts re-offending.

In 1869 the 'Habitual Criminals Act' act was passed. Anyone on a ticket of leave could be summoned before a magistrate. If they could not prove that they were making an honest living they could be sent back to prison.

Following the 1869 act, a system was set up for centrally recording details of criminals and better ensuring better supervision. A central register was kept in London and gaolers or governors of county and borough prisons had to make returns containing such evidences of identity and other information of criminals

Anyone committing a second felony, but not given penal servitude, would be subject to seven year's police supervision.