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Punishment and Rehabilitation
 

Punishment and Rehabilitation

The Crank
The Crank

This section looks at how prisoners were punished and rehabilitated. It includes general information as well as examples from specific gaols and archive records.

By the mid Victorian period 90% of serious offenders were sent to prison as punishment. However people disagreed about whether prisons were there just to punish offenders or to also reform them. Several systems were tried including the 'separate system' where prisoners were kept in isolation and the 'silent system' where prisoners were not allowed to talk to each other. These systems were meant to provide prisoners with time to reflect on their crime away from the influence of others.

Inmates were given religious instruction and in some gaols the opportunity to learn to read and write. All prison sentences involved work or hard labour. There were additional punishments for those caught breaking the rules and some prisons also had reward systems for model, or well-behaved, prisoners.

In the latter part of the 19th century, after the 1865 Prisons Act, prisons were made even tougher. Hard plank beds replaced hammocks, food was deliberately boring and inmates had to work hard on boring, often pointless tasks. The idea was to make prison the sort of punishment that would deter prisoners from further crime. The regime was described as 'hard bed, hard board and hard labour' and had little to do with rehabilitation.

Separation and Silence

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Hard Labour

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Punishment and Reward

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Rehabilitation and Reform