John Howard and the Peniteniary Act of 1779

face of a prisoner

Just as for the prison acts of 1774, John Howard was associated with the Penitentiary Act of 1779. After The State of the Prisons had been published and after the second draft of the bill that became the Penitentiary Act had been introduced in the House of Commons, William Eden credited Howard with contributing extensively to drafting the Penitentiary Act. Careful historical review indicates that Howard contributed nothing to the first draft of the Penitentiary Act and probably little afterwards. Through the insistence of William Blackstone, Howard was appointed one of the three penitentiary supervisors after the bill was enacted.^ The Penitentiary Act of 1779, like the prison acts of 1774, had little effect on prison conditions. Howard’s association with these national legislative acts linked his information about prison conditions with national authority. Information with authority are central attributes of public knowledge.

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