Jeremy Bentham’s Influence on the Criminal Justice System: Past and Present
The delivery of punishment has changed significantly over the centuries. Up until the 19th century in England, imprisonment was not regarded as a punishment, it was merely used while the offender waited to be sentenced to their ‘real’ punishment (Bull, 2010; Hirst, 1998). Corporal punishment such as flogging, branding and mutilation, death by hanging, and transportation to other continents such as America and Australia were common punitive measures through the ages, until well into the 1800’s (Newburn, 2003). Although these extreme penalties are no longer acceptable or practised by criminal courts in England or Australia, in some ways, the past has shaped delivery of sanction at present. In fact, Australia was founded with Britain’s intention to send their worst criminal there (Jackson, 1998). Theorist Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was particularly influential to the cessation of the controversial tactic of transportation to Australia, and catalysed the beginning of the modern day prison systems (Bull, 2010). Bentham was a philosopher who rigorously opposed the transportation of convicts to other continents (Bentham, 1789). He had strong ideals relating to criminals and the best way for them to be punished. Forming the criminological theory of Utilitarianism, Bentham argued that incapacitation, rehabilitation and deterrence were the three pillars essential to fighting crime (Hopkins Burke, 2011). In the course of this essay, Bentham’s philosophy on punishment and the reasons why he opposed transportation will be discussed. Furthermore, an examination of Bentham’s specific contribution to the end of transportation and the continued influence his ideas have had on shaping our contemporary punishment practises will be conducted. Bentham’s understanding of crime and criminals was simple. His perspective classed people as rational beings, whose behaviour is...
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