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An Overview of Mental and Physical Health

Prison could take a high toll on the health of inmates. In the early years of the 19th century this was through disease and the insanitary conditions but as conditions improved other problems became apparent. The strict regimes of separation, isolation and silence in some gaols had a very negative effect on the mental health of some prisoners. In Pentonville convict gaol several prisoners went mad.

Inmates also came loath soul destroying and useless occupations of the treadmill and crank. In 1846 one group of visiting inspectors to Bedford gaol wrote to the home office objecting at punishment without improvement. They said that it hardened criminals and caused a distaste for labour rather than industriousness. It was also bad for the health. By the turn of the century, many people were saying that the hearsh prison regimes were inhumane.