Crime is often described as a
behaviour which conflicts with the norms and law of society, punishment can
vary from society and counties. When individuals commit crimes, they can be
punished in different ways, the methods of punishment have changed overtime.
Within this essay I am going to overlook how punishment change throughout the
centuries, looking at different periods of time, such as roman times and
Victorian. Not only did punishments change overtime, but so did crime. What is punishment definition?
There were many different crimes
during the early modern period; the changes in society and new opportunities
for different crimes. This was because of many different reasons, such as;
increase in population, increased wealth and poverty, change in religion etc. England became a
protestant country, which meant that anyone who had different religious
beliefs, could end up being executed.
There were different attitudes
towards crime and punishment during this time. Many people thought that crime
was caused by idleness. People also though that all crime was increasing
because there were lots of fears towards crime, which was specifically inflamed
by the media. Because the increase in most crime, people wanted the punishments
to be harsher, so less people would commit crime. However, juries and
magistrates were unwilling to sentence people guilty of crimes as they knew the
punishments were far too harsh.
Many people became vagabonds,
these were because they were unemployed. People became vagabonds out of desperation,
due to the rise in population and increase in poverty. Punishment for vagrants
were seemingly harsh, such as; whipping, 2 years slavery. If they didn’t change
after these punishments, they could face more serious punishments, such as
banishing them or executing them.
In the 15th century
Britain built a purposeful prison, which was used to punish poor people who had
broken the law and it housed poor children who were often homeless and
orphaned. They were made to do hard labour, so they would have a good mind-set
of working hard if they came out of the prison. Similar prisons were opened
during the 17th century, for similar reasons.
In the early 16th
century prisons were a holding place for convicts whilst they awaited trail. It
wasn’t seen as a punishment, like today. Prisons were in bad conditions and
full of diseases and illnesses. It was normal for inmates to die in prisons, as
conditions were so harsh.
There were around 50 capital
crimes in 1688, some of these could be so minor, for example poaching fish or
rabbits to eat. This was the harsh making of the Bloody Code.
“The intention at this time was
to create a strong deterrent so that crime rates would be reduced, but the
system was flawed and ineffective.”
sometimes criminals could receive
pardons if they previously have had a good character or nature. Which therefore
showed the public that the message of the Bloody code was very unclear.
Punishments during the middle
ages consisted of; stocks, pillory and whipping. These were mainly used for
minor crimes, such as stealing etc. what are these?
Punishment and crime
across the world- usa still have death penalty and uk don’t
Industrial rev entering
the modern world
Theories of social change-late modernity and risk society.
was a form of capital punishment for millennia. In some cultures, in ancient
Rome and Greece, beheading was regarded as a honourable form of death. And was
also used during the French Revolution, as a form of punishment towards
Britain, beheading was typically used for noblemen and commoners would be
hanged. The last beheading was 1747, and a person would be beheaded for mainly
the crime of treason.
The Victorian period was from
1837 to 1901, during this era was the industrial revolution, there was new
technology and machines, which were developed, this had a great impact on Britain’s society. The
factories were making goods that many people wanted and couldn’t afford, so
they ended up stealing these.
The crime rates during the
Victorian era were seemingly high, as many people didn’t have a choice, but to
commit crimes, for example; individuals stealing food so they can feed their
family. When people were unemployed they would often turn to work in
workhouses, which the conditions were very bad and many people often died or
ended up sick; Which they needed medicine for, so ended up stealing medicine. There
were different motives for a person to commit crime, such as gain; where a
person has intended to sell an item, which is stolen and belief; where an
individual believed that the law was wrong, so they decided to rebel.
Because there was a high density
of people during this period it increased the crimes rates, people were very
jealous of richer people as they could afford lots of luxury items and
therefore turned to shop theft.
Towards the ned of the 17th
century people could be hanged for “petty crimes” was causing public
disturbance. Because the major increase in crime, it was decided that the
punishment for minor crime should be extremely harsh, so therefore would try to
stop other individuals for committing any crimes.
“There were many reasons why the
English legal system was so harsh at this time. Attitudes of wealthy men who
made the law were unsympathetic. They felt that people who committed crimes
were sinful, lazy or greedy and deserved little mercy. As the rich made the laws
they made laws that protected their interests. Any act which threated their
wealth, property or sense of law and order was criminalised and made punishable
The bloody code is a name for the
increase in the number of crimes committed which could be punishable by death,
wealthy individuals; who often owned lots of land were worried about crime and
wanted to make the legal system harsher in order to protect themselves, for
example; their property and money, so no one could steal from them. Because
there was a dramatic publicity increase in the high number of crimes, it
prompted the bloody code. Crime prevention was achieved through general
In the 18th century,
highway robber was very common, most people carried their money on them, as
there weren’t such things as banks and there weren’t many police to stop the
robbery or chase them. So, stealing money from people on the streets was a
common form of crime. The punishment for highway robbery was the death penalty.
In 1803 Sir Robert reduced the
number of individuals who would have been hanged for these crimes and finally
in 1830 Lord Russell then abolished the death penalty for any minor crimes. It
wasn’t only the public who felt like the punishments for the crimes was too
harsh, but so did the magistrates and judges. So, they sometimes gave
individuals lighter sentencing, such as transportation or imprisonment, this
happened because they felt like the compulsory death penalty was far too harsh.
Between the years of 1800-1900 it is estimated 3924 people were sentenced to be
hung however only 1353 were for murder, so the rest were for other crimes.
At the beginning of the Victorian
era, the executions were carried out in public places, normally the atmosphere
at an execution would be very festive. A factor that influenced crime was
public hangings as they were full of criminals, and encouraged thieves and pick
pockets. Because the number of crime at executions was increasing the 1868
Prisons Act made it mandatory for any further executions should be carried out
within the prison walls. And then in 1874, judges were looking for a more human way of executing
individuals and different ways of hanging people, so It was quicker and less
Major crimes, such as murder, treason and rape always
ended up with the death penalty. Its said that “during the 1800 more than 200
types of crime would result in death.”
industrial revolution, is wasn’t a huge deal when individuals died because it
happened more often with illnesses, which is why a death punishment was so very
of punishment which was an alternative to the death penalty was transportation.
Convicted criminals were transported to other countries to serve their prison
sentenced. This was a very popular option as it removed the criminal from the
society and also made people scared to commit crimes as they could be sent to
another country. It was very cheap for Britain to send criminals overseas, as
all they had to pay for was the cost of the journey.
transportation started to the first penal colonies in Australia. Over the years
around 160,000 people were sent there; men, women and children, sometimes as
young as 9 years old.”
transportation was seen as the answer to the problems of overcrowding
and spreading of diseases. The more people who were in poverty in Britain were
exposed to damp houses and not eating properly, which increased illness.
Its predicted between 1788 and 1868 around 165,000 convicts were
transported to Australia.
The sentencing for transportation were normally from 3 years to
life. The most common sentencing was from 7-14 years. Once an individual’s
sentence expired, there was no arrangements for them to come back home, so
normally stayed put. Only a very small number of individuals came back to
Britain. Individuals who were transported, there was a possibility of
rehabilitation, so criminals had a chance to change their life. It moved them
so far from home, a change in location may help the individual start fresh.
Britain was transporting so many convicts, countries started to refuse to take
people in. Sir Molesworth, who was a member of the house of commons in the
1830’s concluded that transportation it didn’t work of deterring crime and it
should be stopped. The 1853 Penal Servitude Act finally abolished the use of
transporting criminals to other counties. Britain found that they had to start imprisoning
individuals over transportation and executions.
was another form of punishment, it was the removal of an individual’s freedom
and have been used since ancient times as a form of punishment. Only until the
late 18th century it wasn’t normal to imprison convicts for a long
period of time. Prison was mainly a place to people to be whilst they await
trail, but during the Victorian era, prison had become a place for convicts to
stay and not be involved within society instead of transporting them. It
started to become the main form of punishment for most offences. 90 prisons
were built between 1842 and 1877, because imprisonment was becoming the most
popular form of punishment.
many differences in the way we punish today compared to centuries ago. Back in
medieval times, more crimes were committed because it was so hard to find jobs
and many people lived in poverty, but had no choice to steal for survival. Now,
individuals who want a job just needs a good mind set, so they can earn money.
in history, would always be punishable by death. However now, it all depends on
an individual’s age and weather it was intentional murder or manslaughter?
There are so many more factors to think about when someone has committed a
crime. Are they a juvenile, have they had a traumatic upbringing, which made
them commit this offence; so therefore, should the parents go to jail?
penalty is illegal in the UK, however some counties still are in favour of the
death penalty, such as USA, Japan and China.
offences in the USA, include; treason, murder and aircraft hijacking etc. the
main form of the death penalty is lethal injection. However, there are still
states in America which allow a prisoner to be executed by gas chambers,
electric chair, firing squad or to be hung.
report by the National Research Council, titled Deterrence and the Death
Penalty, stated that studies claiming that the death penalty has a deterrent
effect on murder rates are “fundamentally flawed” and should not be used when
making policy decisions (2012).”
During the middle ages,
witchcraft was dealt with church courts. In 1542, it was known as a criminal
offence during the reformation period. Punishment became harsher for
witchcraft, instead of going to a church court it would be taken to an ordinary
court; which is seen to give more harsher punishments. Mainly women were executed because people
thought they were witches and had supernatural powers. They were normally hung
or burnt. Its predicted from 1500 to 1700, around 1000 individuals were
executed as witches.
“1717 was the last trial for witchcraft and
from 1736, it was no longer considered a crime. Belief in witches didn’t
disappear but educated judges became less suspicious as prosperity levels rose.”
Matthew Hopkins in 1645 was a witch hunter, he created a panic in
eastern England, which then left around 300 individuals to be investigated for
crimes involving witchcraft. Approximately 112 of these individuals were
executed. Hopkins would interrogate individuals into getting a confession. He
did this by; starving them, deprive them of sleep or find birthmarks on them,
which he could then use as guilt.
Not all individuals who were accused of witchcraft were women,
however an overwhelmingly amount were women. In the early modern era, by law
women were seen as property of her father or husband. So therefore, when women were separated or
divorced etc. this didn’t conform with the norms of society. Which gave people
indications that single women had supernatural powers.
Religious attitudes toward women also influenced people’s
opinions, the church believed that women were suspects of the devil.
during the 17th and 18th century,
people started to use science and logic when looking into witchcraft. It was
the philosophical movement and focused on using reason, so demanded courts to
show more evidence when accusing an individual of guilt. Witchcraft started to
be more superstitious rather than a punishable crime. The last recorded
execution of witchcraft was in 1716.
Women stereotypically tend to not commit many crimes, and
are far less likely to commit crimes than men. However, it is reported the
female violence has increased through the years. The number of women arrested
for violence has increased during 1999-2000 and 2007-2008.
Since the 1970s there has been more of a focus on male
violence against women, therefore characterizing violence, particularly
domestic violence. Women are stereotyped as victims by the media. So many
people think its unusual for women to commit serious crimes, such as murder.
There is one theory, called the masculinity theory about
more women being arrested and sentence. This theory suggests that masculinity
and crime are linked. Researchers conducted a self-perception measure
masculinity, femininity and their links to crime. Results found that violent
offenders perceived themselves as very masculine.
In the 1500-1750 women were involved in around 10-15% of
petty theft crime and it was also a crime to fail to attend church. Stereotypically
women were expected to be respectful and obedient, so therefore during these
times when women committed crimes, they were punished harshly. Women were also
seen as a lot weaker than men, and were expected to look after the children and
their husbands. So, women could not be constables, lawyers and members of the
“The perception that women
may be mad because they ‘dared to go against their natural biological
givens such as ‘passivity’ and a ‘weakness of compliance’ ‘ appears to
originate from the view that women who conform as pure, obedient daughters,
wives and mothers benefit society and men (Feinman, 1994: 16)”
There suffragettes were members of a women’s organisation
in the late 19th century. Which was a movement which tried to get
women to have the power to vote. Millicent Fawcett was the main women during
this movement, and she believed in peaceful protests, she felt like violence
and trouble could show that women are not capable enough to vote.
However, the suffragette movement change from peaceful to
violent, they burned down churches, chained themselves to Buckingham palace,
refuse to pay tax, politicians were also attacked- their homes were set on fire
etc. because of this a lot of women suffragettes were punished and went to
prison, which they were very happy to do. However, they refused to eat and went
on hunger strike. The government were becoming increasingly concerned that they
could die in prison. Because of this prison forced fed the women
“Prison governors were
ordered to force feed Suffragettes but this caused a public outcry as forced
feeding was traditionally used to feed lunatics as opposed to what were mostly
Because of this the government introduced the Cat and
Mouse Act. When a suffragette was sent to prison, it was presumed that they
would go on hunger strike, so the government refused to feed them- so therefore
they got very week. And then they were released and would often die outside of
prison, which was less embarrassing for the government. If they didn’t die, and
regained their strength they would most often be sent back to prison.
Feminist theories on
crime and deviance
During the 16th century,
a German priest called Martin Luther protested against the teachings of the
catholic church, he and his followers became known as protestants however
others stayed loyal to the catholic church. It was crucial for leaders, such as
Elizabeth I, for their subject to follow their religion. For example, Elizabeth,
I followed Protestantism and Mary I and Henry VIII were Catholics.
Changes to religion during this
period really did show how influential the monarch was at this time. This was because
the monarch, could change the definition of what crime meant at this time. Depending
who the ruler was, a criminal offence could be completely different.
There were two different ways of committing
crime during this time, either through treason or heresy- this was a crime
against the Church. People who committed these crimes were seen as very
dangerous and consequently were punished by being burnt at the stake.
Treason was seen as challenging
the monarch, individuals who were guilty of treason were punished in many
different ways, depending on their social status. For example, nobles, would
have been beheaded, whereas peasants could be hung or hung, drawn and