Chapter 23 » 23.95

Friends and state authority

Crime and punishment

The essential idea behind these first tentative criticisms [of early prison conditions by George Fox and William Penn] was a completely new one: that imprisonment should be looked on as a means of reforming criminals and not merely punishing them. No man is ever utterly lost, and however deep he is sunk in evil, the only just approach to him is to work for his recovery. This principle led John Bellers, the earliest Friend to pay serious and systematic attention to social reform, to plead for the abolition of the death penalty [in 1699]. Society had done enough for its own protection, he argued, when it had rendered a murderer harmless by putting him in prison; if it did more it was acting in a spirit of revenge.

Harold Loukes, 1960

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