Attitudes to crime and punishment
Attitudes Towards Crime: c500 to Present Day
Early and Medieval Perspectives
- During the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods, crime was primarily viewed as offences against individuals or their property.
- Reputation was a prominent factor, and challenges to one’s honour often resulted in personal feuds or vendettas.
- Crime was perceived as a significant breach of the religious and moral code of society.
- Punishments were harsh, often involving physical torture or death, for deterring others and maintaining social order.
The Age of Enlightenment
- The 18th century brought a change in thinking, questioning the harsh physical punishments.
- There was an increasing focus on rehabilitation, owing to the influence of Enlightenment thinkers.
- Prisons began to be seen as institutions for reform rather than just punishment.
Industrial Revolution to Early 20th Century
- With the Industrial Revolution, came a significant increase in urbanisation and poverty, leading to an increase in crime rates.
- Society increasingly recognised the social causes of crime, like poverty and lack of education.
- The 19th century saw the Penitentiary Act which established a national, state-controlled prison system, emphasized on prison as a place for punishment and reform.
- Attitudes towards capital punishment began to change in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to its eventual abolition for most crimes.
Post-War to Present Day
- In the late 20th and 21st centuries, legislation has focused on individual rights and rehabilitation.
- Society has become more understanding of underlying causes of crime like mental health issues and addiction.
- Modern views consider punishment to be a last resort, preferring to concentrate on crime prevention and reintegration of offenders into society.
- However, ongoing debates over deterrence versus rehabilitation, and arguments for tough-on-crime policies demonstrate the continuing evolution of societal attitudes towards crime.
Remember, attitudes towards crime and punishment have always been shaped by societal norms and values of the era. Understanding these shifts can provide rich context to the comprehension of changes in crime and punishment over the centuries.