Designing criminal policy

David Garland

  • Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law and Policy in England, 1830-1914 by Martin Wiener
    Cambridge, 391 pp, £30.00, February 1991, ISBN 0 521 35045 X

Until relatively recently, criminal justice history was written not by professional historians but by the system’s practitioners – retired prison officials, civil servants, criminologists, reformers of various kinds. The widely shared conviction that the penal system was being shaken free of the irrationalities of the past and brought closer to the professional wisdom of the present tended to permeate even the best of these accounts and to impart an onwards-and-upwards structure to their narrative. ‘Progress in Penal Reform’ was the name of a collection that appeared as late as 1974, but it could well have served as a collective title for the historiography of the post-war period.

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