‘Victorian-style’ justice for young offenders really worked, says new research by Professor Pamela Cox of Essex University

'Victorian-style' justice for young offenders really worked, says new research
Victorian London prison, Newgate. Prisoners in the exercise yard, 1872 engraving (Picture: Getty Images)

It appears that your granddad was right, they don’t do justice like they used to.

That’s according to new research, which found that young offenders in Victorian times were three and a half times less likely to re-offend than their present-day counterparts.

After analysing 500 children committed to reformatories or industrial schools, only 22 percent went on to commit other crimes during the rest of their lives compared with today’s figure of 73 percent re-offending within a year of release.

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Essex university’s Professor Pamela Cox said: ‘We found the rate of re-offending among the young people coming out of these institutions in Victorian and Edwardian times was dramatically less than it is today.

‘This wasn’t because it was harder to catch offenders in those days – we know from other studies the re-offending rate among adults released from prison during Victorian times was 80 percent, for example.’

British prison life, 1907. Treadmill for hard labour, and punishment with the cat-o-nine-tails. France was suffering from gangs of thugs called the Apaches at this time, and some thought the prisons should be made less comfortable and more like British ones. From Le Petit Journal. (Paris, November 1907). (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)
British prison life, 1907. Treadmill for hard labour, and punishment with the cat-o-nine-tails (Picture: Getty Images)

She explained further: ‘In part at least it seems it is connected with the requirement that all those leaving the industrial and reformatory schools go into some kind of apprenticeship, or into the military.

‘This set them up with a skill and gave them the routine of working that stood them in good stead in the future. Even among the 22 percent or so who did re-offend – only six percent were persistent criminals.’

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Professor Cox, who presented her findings to a British Sociological Association conference in Glasgow, said the seven to 14 year-olds sentenced to institutions in Merseyside and Cheshire between 1870 and 1910 were typically boys from poor backgrounds or broken homes.

They had committed relatively minor offences such as petty theft, vagrancy or public disorder and had been put into industrial and reformatory schools until they were 16.

Upon release some went into apprenticeships such as hat or shoe making, railway work or the military.

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15 April 2015 | 11:01 pm – Source: metro.co.uk

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