ABSTRACT

A major problem for all societies is how to punish its criminally deviant element, for although there is rarely agreement on how it should be done, no society has yet ventured to suggest that crime should go unpunished. This universal problem was exacerbated for our Victorian forebears by the fact that three of its principal modes of punishment were simultaneously under threat of abolition -hanging, transportation and confinement upon the prison hulks. These were, moreover, the punishments allotted to the more serious offences, so it was imperative to find an efficacious substitute, one which criminals would dread, and one in which the general public could place its confidence. The substitute devised to fulfil these aims was penal servitude.