The Man, the Machine and the Myths: Reconsidering Winston Churchill’s Prison Reforms

  • Jamie Bennett


It has been argued that the modern penal system emerged during the last years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, a system that recognised prisoners as frequently being the victims of social circumstances and sought to ameliorate harsh conditions in prisons and provide reformative services including education and training (Garland, 1985). This more liberal and humane prison system was controversial and contested as it was in marked contrast to previous ideas and practices, based on a moralistic view of offenders and the predominance of harsh punishment and segregation acting as both a deterrent, and an opportunity for personal reflection. Despite the momentous nature of the battle of ideas that was taking place during that period it has been subjected to relatively little research. In contrast, one individual from this period has attracted significant popular attention as a person who not only symbolised the changes taking place, but has been credited by many as single-handedly transforming the prison system in less than two years. That man was Winston Churchill.


Criminal Justice Historical Perspective Corporal Punishment Prison Population Prison System 
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© Jamie Bennett 2008

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  • Jamie Bennett

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