Sentences and Punishments
The Victorians were very worried about crime. Levels rose sharply towards the end of the 18th century and continued to rise through much of the 19th century. Offences went up from about 5,000 per year in 1800 to about 20,000 per year in 1840.
Although the Victorians firmly believed in punishing criminals, they faced a problem: what should the punishment be? One attempt to stop the growth of crime had been through making punishments severe (hanging or transportation). However, since the end of the 1700's, many people had become more and more angry at the number of people hanged for petty crimes.
By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne, fewer crimes carried a compulsory death sentence. There were fewer hangings, and sentences for petty crime were getting lighter. In their place other ideas were being tried out. These included building new gaols and looking at how these could be used to stop criminals from re-offending in the future. transportation was often used instead of hanging for more serious crimes.