Laws & Prisons In Victorian Era
· Victorians were worried about the rising crime rate
o 1800-5000 offences per year
o 1840-20000 offences per year
· What should the punishment be?
Who was Sent to Prisons?
- those awaiting trial
- sentence of death
- minor offenders
By the Victorian period, prisons held a wide range of offenders serving long sentences as well as petty criminals. However they were classified into different groups.
· Current prisons were small, old, and badly-run
· Prisons served as lock-ups for debtors (Debtor’s Prisons) and places where the accused were kept before their trial
o Debtor: person or institution that owes a sum of money (families usually accompanied them to prison)
· Common punishments:
o Transportation: sending offenders to America, Australia, or Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania)
§ By the 1830s, Australia had begun to refuse to be the ‘dumping ground’ for British’s criminals
o Execution: included hanging and the guillotine (hundreds of offences carried the death penalty)
· 1830s-people began to have doubts
· Answer: build lots of new prisons and extend the sentences (before late 18th century in England it was unusual to imprison people for long terms)
· 182-1877 90 prisons built or added
· New Prisons
o Unpleasant places-to deter people from committing crimes
o Prisoners made to face their faults by doing hard boring work (Ex. Walking a tread wheel or separating strands of rope were most common)
Two Types of Prison Systems
· County Goal: small lock-ups (‘Houses of Correction’)
o administered by Justices of the Peace
· Convict Goal: held prisoners as part of the process of transportation to other countries
o run by central government in London
o Newgate was the main prison in this system
· Hulks: decommissioned naval vessels used to house prisoners (part or the Convict Goal system)
o at one point, 2/3 of all prisoners were on the hulk
o Conditions were terrible: outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, and many prisoners died due to unsanitary conditions and polluted water from the Thames was used for all purposes
o During the day most worked ashore, usually on hard labour
o Last of hulks burned in 1857
- VERY common for the wealthier inmates to pay for better accommodations
"A Victorian Prison - The National Archives." The National Archives. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/victorian-prison/.
"Types of Punishment - Imprisonment - Victorian Crime and Punishment from E2BN." Types of Punishment - Imprisonment - Victorian Crime and Punishment from E2BN. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. http://vcp.e2bn.org/justice/page11361-types-of-punishment-imprisonment.html.
"Life in Nineteenth-Century Prisons as a Context for Great Expectations." Life in Nineteenth-Century Prisons as a Context for Great Expectations. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/ge/convicts3.html.