Introduction of Critical History of Crime and Punishment
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- The 1834 amendments in the Poor Law had a deep impact on the life of the poor and it changed the outlook towards crime and punishment. Poor people were allowed to claim relief but the rules were more stringent and conditions in workhouses were worse than before. People saw approaching the workhouse as their last resort due to atrocities that were promoted implicitly through these workhouses. Crimes increased as a result of punitive Laws and punishments were stricter and lacked moral sense. Poor people had no place to go because the workhouse conditions were too harsh and mirrored with those in prisons (Chandler, 2019). Unemployment due to the recession forced these people to commit crimes like theft. People in workhouses were abused and made to work for long hours to earn basic food. Hunger, and inability to meet daily requirements increased the number of crimes and it was becoming difficult for the guards and police to surveillance such a large number of people who were now breaking the rules out of their need.
- The insolent and atrocious disposition of workhouse paupers dreaded poor people in the UK and exhorted them to rebel and commit crimes. Conditions in prisons and workhouses were the same. The gap between the poor and the elite was rising and the old poor law was expensive for the government which was sourcing it from the elite group who demanded these amendments. It led to catastrophic conditions and raised the crime rate in the country which raised the concern about the ineffectiveness of the law in meeting the objective. Punishment was immoral and baseless. To keep the poor away from claiming relief, the conditions were worsened and the innocent who were not at fault but were poor and unable to provide themselves with necessities (Bayly, 2021). The inmates of these workhouses were starved beyond capacity, were made to work long hours, and orphans were sent to mines and factories to work. Paupers also beat them if they didn't complete their works or were seen resting for a while. People adopted the illegal means because they were frustrated and had no place to go. Such harsh punishments. There was a vague difference between the treatment of prisoners and workhouse inmates and poor people felt that it was better to do something illegal and get punished rather than getting punished for being poor. The rising crime rate was alarming and the state understood the need to intervene as the law was immoral and inhuman towards the poor. People understood that the crime rate in the state was consequential to the 1834's Poor Law. Punishment was atrocious and the state realized that it has a prominent part to play in the mishappening across the state and the condition of poor and prisoners (Chandler, 2019).
- The model of the panopticon developed by Jeremy Bentham was based on the aspect of surveillance of a maximum number of prisoners from a centralized location with the fewest guards. This was done to reduce the cost of security by recruiting minimum security guards. From the central tower, the guards could monitor the cells in a ring-shaped building surrounding the central tower (Hendrix et al., 2018). The cells in which prisoners were locked up was made of one thick cell wall and the front side of the cell facing the central tower was made up of bars that gave access to the guards over each prisoner's activities. this made prisoners aware and more alert about the presence of the guard and they felt vulnerable to carry out any unethical and illegal activity (De Moya and Pallud, 2020). this model reduced reliance on physical power for disciplining prisoners and established internalized omniscience. Managing a large number of prisoners simultaneously was possible with this model. This exhorted social control and internalize authority over the everyday life of prisoners. By this model, the rules became self-imposed and more rigid.
How conversation tubes were used to communicate with prisoners?
Conversation tubes were used by the guards to communicate with the prisoner. This also disallowed the inmates to see the inspector from their cells. It came to be known as 'Inspection House' which was circular and cells were arranged around the outer wall (De Moya and Pallud, 2020). This model was based on mind authority where the inmates sensed that a governor is always watching them and this let the governor or guard have power over the minds of prisoners (Hendrix et al., 2018). These are used quite widely across the world because of its features discussed above. This reduces security costs and establishes greater control over a large number of prisoners. It gives the power to the guard to watch the activities performed by prisoners from distance and control them through communicating from the central unit. This architectural reform is said to strengthen moral reforms and preserve health conditions in prisons. This significantly changed the outlook of prisoners and they started working hard and become less aggressive. The model of the panopticon was quite deceiving for inmates as they didn't know that they are being watched or not because they were unable to look into the tower (Hendrix et al., 2018). Even if there was no guard in the tower, the inmates would behave properly for 24 hours because they fear that they are being watched. This fear is necessary for prisoners because this helps in the self-control and self-regulation of inmates. Following this model, the prisoner becomes his guard as they have an innate conscious of continuous visibility. This model is widely used because of the idea it is based on. Communication through tubes enabled the guard to have greater control and exercise power. Surveillance becomes rigid and easy at the same time for the guard. It brought change from within in prisoners (De Moya and Pallud, 2020).
The mental Deficiency Act 1913 was passed by the parliament of the UK to treat people with moral defectiveness and who were deemed as 'feeble-minded'. The act was insufficient to provide for those who belonged to the distinct sect of the mentally deficient group. It was argued that the care provided by such regimes was inappropriate. The unsuitable general institution like prisons and workhouses were opposed by campaigners who tried to curtail its use. however, in practicality, the institutionalization of the Act was hampered due to scarcity of resources like beds and accommodation. Poor organizational structure and high cost of Institutional care was adjunct rather than providing for the mentally disabled group (Mitchell, 2019). Financial constraints led to the failure of the law and were more of a punishment rather than care. It marked a period of hostility towards the mentally disabled. These mentally disabled people were looked down on as inferiors and were never respected as argued by scholars. Mental hospitals were overcrowded and did not provide holistic care to patients (Ismail, 2020). These patients are wrongly handled and mistreated due to their criminal record and extreme measures were taken to treat them.
The main aim of the act was to make mentally deficient people social and get back to their normal life. These people were criminals who were not treated as normal humans and experiments were carried out on some patients. It was not ethical but some of the scholars argue that it was necessary to treat these patients before sending them back to society. Criminals were treated with hostility and little consideration was given to their socialization skills and their understanding (Mitchell, 2019). Carrying out experiments was allowed and it was argued that it was the society's benefit but this was similar to the punishment of the person who was not in the right frame of mind (Mitchell, 2019). This act included prisoners on whom the punishment had no deterrent effect and showcased criminal propensities. These prisoners were brutally treated in mental hospitals. The inhumane treatment of these prisoners was justified on several grounds such as their criminal record and propensity to harm society. These prisoners needed to be treated with utmost caution and care but little effort was made to make their condition better. Hence, it can be discerned that the object of the Law was not fulfilled but it was modified to suit the condition of prisoners and use them as mere objects (Ismail, 2020). But punishing people with no sense of rational decision-making and sense of right and wrong is unethical and immoral. This was an implicit aspect of punishing the prisoners in the name of care. Experimenting and ill-treatment of these prisoners were not even considered by the government as an issue. Morally, it was not appropriate to treat prisoners with mental conditions with atrocities and treat them like objects rather than humans (Ismail, 2020).
Bayly, M., 2021. The Loes and Wilford Poor Law Incorporation 1765–1826:‘A Prison with a Milder Name’. Rural History, 32(1), pp.115-119.
Chandler, M., 2019. The Welsh were'extremely resistant to an English imposition'. How distinctive was pauper provision in Anglesey and its implementation of 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act?.
De Moya, J.F. and Pallud, J., 2020. From panopticon to heautopticon: A new form of surveillance introduced by quantified?self practices. Information Systems Journal, 30(6), pp.940-976.
Hendrix, J.A., Taniguchi, T.A., Strom, K.J., Barrick, K.A. and Johnson, N.J., 2018. The eyes of law enforcement in the new panopticon: Police-community racial asymmetry and the use of surveillance technology. Surveillance & Society, 16(1), pp.53-68.
Ismail, N., 2020. Rolling back the prison estate: the pervasive impact of macroeconomic austerity on prisoner health in England. Journal of Public Health, 42(3), pp.625-632.
Mitchell, D., 2019. A century of learning disability nursing. Learning Disability Practice, 22, pp.1-11.