Another reformer was the English lawyer Jeremy Bentham. Like Beccaria, he also believed that the happiness of the community rested in the foundation of morals and legislation. Bentham supported the idea of a "benevolent despot" in the shape of legislators and gaol keepers who can reform private law without endangering his authority: For this reason, the penal code ought to precede the civil code, and the constitutional code.... In the first, the legislator exhibits himself to every individual; he permits, he commands, he prohibits; he traces for every one the rules of his conduct; he uses the language of a father and a master.
In the other codes, he has less to do with commandments than with regulations and explanations, which do not so clearly address themselves to everybody.... (Mack, 1963, p. 381) Critics of Bentham's reform ideas however point out that Bentham seems to have left out personal prejudices on the part of the authority figures. Some also say that Bentham puts too much faith on the goodness of people and the ability of man's nature to change. (Nussbaum, 2004) Sheriff John Howard (1726-1790)
One reformer who has made most significant changes in the penal system was John Howard. Appointed as High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, England, John Howard personally visited and was able to see for himself the deplorable conditions of the county prison. This prompted him to conduct a personal inspection of every prison in England. He was shocked to see the unsanitary conditions the prisoners were kept in as well as the plight of some prisoners who remained imprisoned because they could not pay the jailer's fee:
Two dirty day-rooms; and three offensive night-rooms: That for men eight feet square: one of the women's, nine by eight; the other four and a half feet square: the straw, worn to dust, swarmed with vermin: no court: no water accessible to prisoners. The petty offenders were in irons: at my last visit, eight were women. He compiled his findings and later was called to present evidence at the House of Commons select committee in 1774 where he was also commended for his humanity. Executive director for the Howard League for Penal Reform Terry Carlson states:
Howard's detailed proposals for improvements were designed to enhance the physical and mental health of the prisoners and the security and order of the prison. His recommendations pertaining to such matters as the prison location, plan and furnishings, the provision of adequate water supply, and prisoner's diet promoted hygiene and physical health. Recommendations concerning the quality of prison personnel, rules related to the maintenance of standards of health and order and an independent system of inspection, reflect the need for prison personnel to set a moral example.
Howard's work has inspired many other people who wanted reform in the penal system. About 80 years after his death, the Howard Association in London was born. The group's aims includes the promotion of efficient penal treatment and crime prevention as well as propose programs that may help reform and prevent criminals and repeat offenders. The group also pushed for the abolition of capital punishment as well as remuneration for prison labor. In 1921, the group joined up with the Penal Reform League to become the Howard League for Penal Reform (Mcrobbie, 1994, p.
115), one of the largest penal reform organizations in Britain even up to present time. Conclusion Order, peace and happiness are three things that most human societies would like to have. In the pursuit of such, society must have laws with subsequent and proportionate punishment in order to safeguard the rights of the greater majority. Looking at the history of punishment through the ages, there are a few points that immediately grabs attention:
The leaders of a specific society, may it be Emperor, legislator, king or philosopher, have much influence in the way societal institutions such as culture and legal systems are shaped. 2. Punishment however one would like to look at it, has the potential to fulfill the purposes of retribution, deterrence and reformation. 3. There is no absolute way of measuring the reformatory effect of imprisonment as people vary from one another in terms of education, prejudice and nature. 4. There is no perfect system be it legal, social, or judicial.
Reforms are possible if one should so will to do something concrete about it such as what Sheriff John Howard did.
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