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By Roger Matthews

The re-creation of Doing Time brings this widely known e-book up to date and gives an available and expert dialogue of present debates round prisons and penal coverage. Drawing on a variety of foreign fabric the booklet presents a serious sociological research of advancements in imprisonment.

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The Whipping Act abolished whipping for virtually all offences. The Carnavon Committee was appointed to re-examine discipline in local jails. The Prison Act formally amalgamated the jail and the house of correction. Transportation ended. Public ceremonies of execution ceased. The Prison Act transferred control of local jails to central government. The Gladstone Committee on Prisons reported. The Prison Act introduced new categories of imprisonment based on the characteristics of the offender. A borstal scheme was established in Rochester Prison.

The Panopticon, he felt, provided the ideal structure, since a guard positioned in the tall, central control tower could exert continuous surveillance around the prison. Narrow viewpoints in the tower would make it impossible for prisoners to see the guard and to know at any one particular moment whether or not they were actually being watched. Space, Time and Labour 31 For Bentham, the dual attraction of the Panopticon lay, first, in the possibility that regulation could operate independently of any particular controller and, second, in that those upon whom control was exercised were caught up in a power relation in which they themselves were the bearers.

The cells themselves were small, and confinement in these restricted spaces for long periods of time was increasingly seen as being detrimental to the physical and psychological well-being of inmates. Reports of brutality were widespread, although there was evidence of greater professionalism and accountability among prison staff. Many prisons were dirty and the food was poor. There were breakdowns of security and control, with repeated escapes and riots. In the word of the Gladstone Committee in 1895, the evidence of the operation of the prison system was that it had demonstrably failed, and that ‘a sweeping indictment had been laid against the whole of the prison administration’.

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