While trying to decide what to write for my blog this time, I remembered an episode on BBC's Robin Hood that I'd seen recently. (Just to let you know, I'm totally hooked on Robin Hood and this is my second time going through the episodes on Netflix in less than a year.)
For anyone who has seen this, you know how cruel and heartless the Sheriff of Nottingham is and doesn’t care how young or old the person is, the sheriff is going to kill them if he feels like it. On the episode I watched, Little John’s son is taken to jail, and the sheriff is going to torture the lad…just to prove to the people the sheriff follows through with his threats about paying taxes. Of course, this lad didn’t do anything but try to stop the sheriff, which of course landed him in jail. So that made me think about what happened to children when they really committed a crime.
Before Victorian times no distinction was made between criminals of any age. If someone was caught breaking the law – whether they were six years old or sixty years old they were sent to an adult prison. (I’m picturing the dungeon in Robin Hood right now) I wish I knew why the Victorian people looked at this situation differently than in the early ages, but Victorians realized that putting a child in prison was not helping him / her at all. The Victorian people could see that locking up children wasn't likely to make them lead honest lives in the future. However…they did believe in stiff punishments.
In 1854, Reformatory Schools were set up for criminals under sixteen years old. The people who ran these schools were strict and enforced discipline with frequent beatings. Some of these children were there for several years.
In England, the country’s magistrates wielded considerable power. These men presumably saw to justice, but the poor suffered greatly and biased magistrates had children transported to Australia for stealing bread for their families. Poaching, carried on to feed starving families whose land had been enclosed by their wealthy neighbors. (Once again, I’m thinking of Robin Hood)
Public flogging was one form of torture. This punishment started way before Robin Hood’s time – way before Jesus was born – and carried on through the years. During the 18th century, the number of crimes punishable by death rose to about 200. A death sentence could be passed for pick-pocketing, stealing bread or cutting down a tree. In 1823 Sir Robert Peel reduced the number of offenses for which convicts could be executed by over 100. Lord John Russell abolished the death sentence for horse stealing and housebreaking in 1830.
Prisons during the 18th century were overcrowded and filthy. Often prisoners were herded together with no privacy. Prisoners had to provide their own food, and had little access to fresh water. They even had to pay their gaoler for every service! Now…if you ask me, this is punishment enough!
Hmm…there is the question of the day. Your thoughts?
About the author:
Marie Higgins is a multi-published author of romance; from refined bad-boy heroes who makes your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. Visit her website / blog to discover more about her – http://mariehiggins84302.blogspot.com
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