English Society and the Prison

English Society and the Prison

Time, Culture and Politics in the Development of the Modern Prison, 1850-1920

Alyson Brown


Boydell Press



Prison disturbances during the period reveal inadequacies of the practice and philosophy of custodial sentencing.
This social history analyses a period in which the modern prison experienced some of its most serious challenges both on a practical and philosophical level. These include the way in which prison was utilised to deal with poor, disaffected and political sections of society, and the failure to establish in the prison a legitimate means of punishment. English prisons have been the site of continued struggles over power, waged between prisoners, prison staff and prison authorities. Such struggles have been strongly influenced by social, political and penal contexts. These dynamics are examined from a perspective which emphasises the forms of disturbances that occurred within English prisons between 1850 and 1920 and the consequences of a custodial sentence for those subject to it. For many offenders, the taint of imprisonment closed down their choices and instituted a pattern of "revolving door" custody for repeated petty crimes. For some convicts, the physical and psychologically undermining effects of penal servitude, and in some cases extreme acts of self-injury, could incapacitate them for life.

Dr ALYSON BROWN is lecturer in the history of crime at Edge Hill College of Higher Education, Lancashire.


October 2003
2 black and white, 3 line illustrations
213 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843830177
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
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This is an interesting addition to the history of the English penal system. EHR
An important contribution to ongoing debates about the transformation of penal theory and its impact on the lives of prisoners. JOURNAL OF SOCIAL HISTORY, (US)
An interesting, if depressing, discussion of the disturbances in English prisons and the structural problems that lay behind the tensions. ALBION
An important contribution to our understanding of the development of the modern prison. (...) It also contributes to our still relatively fragmented knowledge of local prison practices before and after nationalization. BRITISH JOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGY
A welcome contribution to the history of English penology. (...) Instructive and provokes reflection on the full complexities of the subject. SOCIAL HISTORY (Canada)