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Title: Life and conditions in Scottish prisons from earliest times to the present
Author: Cameron, J.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1978
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In early and mediaeval times in Scotland there was no imprisonment in the modern sense. Prison was mainly custodial, where the wrongdoer was housed until claimed by execution, banishment, punishment by mutilation or public humiliation. The object of authority usually was to get rid of the wrongdoer as swiftly and permanently as possible. Prison did not loom large in the scheme of things. The sixteenth century found Scotland a lawless, turbulent society. The absence of a strong central authority meant that the power of pit and gallows yielded by the barons in their heritable jurisdictions was virtually unlimited. Following the Reformation the Presbyterian Church took over the functions of the temporal authority, such as it was, and their jurisdiction operated in parallel and in competition with the jurisdictions of the barons. They were concerned less with law and order than with the enforcement of a religious code of behaviour, so that the emphasis on punishment shifted from crimes secular to offences against a moral and religious code. In the early eighteenth century the Presbyterian dynamic petered out and the influence of the Church had waned. The Union of 1707 brought Scotland under a strong central authority, and the abolition of heritable jurisdictions resulted in a unified system of administration of justice. Nevertheless the theory of the offender as a disposable nuisance remained a convenient expedient, and the Colonies took the place of the next parish as a dumping ground for undesirables. In the eighteenth century reformers like Howard, Elizabeth Fry, Neild and Gurney, appalled at the squalor of the congregate system, attempted to alleviate prison conditions but had to contend with a public opinion apathetic or at times hostile. The insane led lives of misery and degradation, chained in darkness in the prisons or hidden away in lofts and box-beds in their homes, until the establishment of Lunatic Asylums in the early nineteenth century. The problem of housing and securing French and American prisoners-of-war led to the building, for the first time, of prisons on a scale familiar today. With the end of transportation in 1867, imprisonment became the normal penalty for most serious crimes, and the influence of American advocates of solitary confinement meant the replacement of the promiscuous congregate system by grim isolation in the nineteenth-century fortresses with their emphasis on repression and punitive deterrence. The twentieth century places emphasis squarely on rehabilitation and reform. Alternatives to imprisonment are suggested for many offences and there is an increasing tendency to "treat" the criminal within the community and to use non-custodial methods. The public's attitude is changing towards particular types of behaviour, with the result that acts called "crimes" in one age become permissible in another.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available