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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 10. 24 May 1972

...Still with Us

...Still with Us

Bentham was so sure of the reformative effect of his measures that he undertook to pay damages to the government for any prisoner who re-offended after leaving his prison. At the heart of his faith in reformation lay his faith in seclusion, punishment, and education. To varying degrees, these are still the basis of the modern English, and New Zealand prison systems.

Playfair is at pains at all stages of this book to emphasis that there has been almost nothing new introduced into the penal system since the days of Bentham. An emphasis at one stage on seclusion gives way, perhaps through overcrowding or even humanitarian motives, to almost free integration of prisoners. An emphasis on education is replaced by repetitive hard labour, in a reaction against prisoners being treated too softly. Hard but productive work is replaced by such boring and exhausting tortures as the treadmill or the crank, because the prisoner does not seem to be suffering enough for his sins. A reasonable diet is reduced to starvation level, because the prisoner is eating better than his fellows outside. And so on. When there is a reaction, it tends to be towards a more punitive regime; but an advance is never directed solely towards reformation.