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The Evolution of UK Penal System: Impact of Criminology Theories

May 23, 2023 | 0 comments

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May 23, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

The history of the UK penal system is extensive and its development from the beginnings up to the present day shows the direct impact of theoretical viewpoints. Historically, more traceable forms of justice in the medieval period are drowning. The UK penal system has evolved over the periods from the 10th century where there was a specific use off hanging. Everybody, the old, pregnant mothers, small children, and even the mentally impaired were hanged for their crimes. Later around 1300 prisons evolved and quickly became populated and dangerous. The overcrowding and other challenges, including acts of inhumanity led to the development of the humanitarian approach to revolutionizing prisons.

Mainly, prisons in the UK aimed at coercion and custody of criminals where people accused of crimes were detained without trials, and coercion ensured that criminals paid fees and fines before redeeming their freedom. Men and women were locked together in same prisons in the 1800 with dreadful conditions with the lack of sanitation, no beddings, light, and other human support facilities. Later in the 20th century, prisons in the UK began to focus on rehabilitation programs to offenders through political influence. Despite the dreadful history, UK is currently providing punishment, redistribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, public safety against criminals. However, theoretical developments, criminology theory, in particular, have led to numerous influences to the penal system worldwide.

The study of criminology focuses on the reasons cited by criminals in justification of their criminal acts. Different criminology theories attribute crime to various attributes, including individual, community, and environment. As such, their approaches have promoted significant changes in the penal system. First, the classists theorists argues that criminals have intelligent to make rational decisions to commit or disengage in crime. It also provides that discouraging individuals from crime requires equitable, prompt, and minimal punishment. Classicism adopts a legal crime definition that concentrates on the criminal act. Classicism asserts that offenders should be punished and that punishment should be dispensed according to principles of proportionality and parsimony. As such, classism theory has promoted restorative justice in prison systems through deterrence.

The sharpness of offence restorative justice and classism makes an easy bedflows. Restorative justice (RJ) demands for a complicated and subjective process in the prison system. Also, RJ and classism have a shared concern for the future of the offender as they advocate for a return to law-abiding citizen where the classicist aim to achieve it through simple deterrence and RJ adopting a complex route. Classists and RJ have changed the prison system because they provide for punishment of the offender, thus deterring him or her from committing crime in the future. Likewise, classism has promoted deterrence because punishment has been used to discourage or caution individuals intending to commit crime. Therefore, classist crime theory has provided a mechanism of treating criminals to evolve from hanging to minimal punishment based on the presumption of innocence.

Meanwhile, the positivist theory rejects the notion that individuals are rational thinkers and makes a conscious choice to commit a crime. Rather, it argues that some individuals are of low social acceptance and less intelligent that perhaps makes them commit a crime. While positivism and RJ is based on personal responsibility, both promotes mediation that encourages offenders to take a responsibility for crime, reassess their future behaviour and offer appropriate reparation. Positivism encourages rehabilitation of offenders because mediation is based on RJ that aims to offers solutions for both the victims and offenders alongside the involved community rather than satisfying legal principles of punishing the lawbreaker. Therefore, the positivists advocate for scientific investigation on the cause of crime to enable development of counter policies. The introduction of policies to criminals would in turn deter individuals from committing a crime. Criminal justice policies are often based on the foundations of deterrence effect of punishment hypothesis that remains an intelligent foundation of prison system. Overall, positivists through their idea of scientific investigations have promoted research on crime studies leading to more changes in the penal system to include services such as rehabilitation.

Criminology theories have a different basis to explain why individuals engage in criminal activities, yet some overlap. Theories such as social theory give the society a greater responsibility to maintain stability in lives of individuals. Critical theory observes the society in terms of classism where the elite decide the law and define crime. Therefore, it sees crime as a result of oppression of laborers and less affluent groups in the society. Irrespective of the assertions of a particular criminology theory, the common end goal is that they have contributed to various approaches of lessening crimes in the society. Criminology theory helps individuals understand reasons given for committing a crime. Likewise, it enables the readers attempt and comprehends dissimilar courses of action to reduce or eliminate crime in overall.

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