Institutionalised offenders : a study of the Victorian institution and its inmates, with special reference to late nineteenth century Warwickshire
This study is concerned with the nature and function of institutional confinement in late Victorian society. It consists of an analysis of incarceration at the local level, focusing on the county asylum and prison of Warwickshire, based on case-history and administrative records. The first chapter sets prison and asylum detention within the broader pattern of confinement in Warwickshire, discussing whether a cohesive systemI of incarceration existed. Next is examined the key role played by county magistrates in the provision of public and private institutions and their reluctance to follow national policy to the letter. A study of inmate labour demonstrates that the principle of self-sufficiency allowed local authorities to economise, with a mitigating influence on the ideologies of 'moral treatment' and penitentiary punishment. The remaining chapters concern the inmates. Workhouse, prison and asylum entrants are compared with the source population of the County. Social isolation was a factor common to entrants to all three institutions, but asylum inmates included many who were far from destitute. The last two chapters extend the theme that asylums were not functioning as places for Victorian society to offload its deviant and 'marginal' members. Study of the mentally disordered offender and the mentally handicapped indicates that opposition to the extension of segregative control persisted both locally and nationally. In conclusion it is argued that late Victorian institutions were less efficient at quarantining the deviant from the rest of society than previous studies have suggested. The conclusion also points out, however, that the fear of incarceration remained an important theme in the poor's relationship with the State, to which the experiences of institution inmates contributed. Further research into the role played by incarceration in this world-view, might avoid the pitfalls of an over-emphasis on 'social control', while acknowledging the inmate perspective.