The State of Prisons in Britain 1775 - 1900
Edited by Bill Forsythe
Introduction by Bill Forsythe
Routledge – 2001 – 3,896 pages
Reprinted here are eight classic texts illustrating a major British project of the Enlightenment: the reform of prisons. A new introduction places the texts in the context of the philosophy that underpinned the changing new penal policies, and the extreme difficulties to which their implementation gave rise.
The set supplies a unique insight into changing British attitudes to criminals over a period of immense social change. John Howard's famous State of Prisons, published in the 1770s, maps a radical critique of prisons that was in line with the Quaker and Anglican Evangelist ideal of a redemptive and reformatory prison system. By the end of the nineteenth century however this attitude had been superseded by a neo-Darwinian view of the criminal as mentally and morally inferior, and therefore beyond reformation by Christian teaching, represented here by W. Griffiths's Memorials of Millbank and Chapter in Prison History . A natural conclusion is reached with a reprint of the Gladstone report of 1895, representing the emergence of the turn of the century's New Liberalism; an attempt to design a prison system which would achieve a fusion between individual reformation and character typology for a more optimistic attitude to prisoners.
A fascinating research tool and social document, this set will prove indispensable to sociologists, criminologists and social historians.