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Victorian Crime and Punishment
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Sentencing and Prison Reforms

Sentencing and Prison Reforms

Changing face of prison
Changing face of prison

During the 19th century, many changes occurred in the regulations convering sentencing and prison regimes. The main changes are listed here.

DatePrison ReformSentencing/Conditions
1815Gaol keepers to be paid out of the rates. Prisoners no longer to pay for their keep.
1823Prisoners classified according to type, kept separate and treated differently. Women prisoners to be supervised by women warders.Remission for good behaviour introduced.
Capital punishment abolished for over 100 offences.
1830The government started to pay part of the cost of local prisons.Capital punishment abolished for horse stealing and housebreaking.
1835Gaols Act introduced inspection of prisons.
1838Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight opened as the first prison for juveniles, and Young Offenders' wings were set up in some prisons, but the treatment was the same penal system as in adult prisons.
1839The first standard rules for treatment of prisoners, to ensure that they were all punished for their crimes.
1843Dietary code introduced for prisoners.
1850National prison department set up to oversee the running of prisons.
1853 Penal Servitude Act that retained only long-term transportation
1854 Reformatory Schools were established for young offenders instead of prison.
1857 Penal Servitude Act abolished the sentence of transportation
1861 Private individuals were allowed to become bankrupt, and so could escape imprisonment for debt.
1864 Penal Servitude Act (the Garrotters' Act) specifying strict punishment of prisoners as a deterrent to re-offending.
1865Local prisons had to use to the national system established for national prisons in 1864 - harsh punishments and unproductive hard labour. Houses of Correction and prisons were regarded as the same.
1866 Industrial Schools, with strict discipline and industrial training, were set up for orphans, children of prisoners and badly behaved children.
1869 Imprisonment for debt was abolished, except for fraud or refusal to pay.
1870/80 Education Acts first provided schools for all, then made attendance compulsory, so reduced crime by taking young offenders off the streets.
1877All prisons were taken over by the government - Bedford Gaol ceased to serve the local area.
1900 Reformatory prisons (borstals) were set up for serious juvenile offenders.
1907 Probation and fines became the usual punishment for young offenders.