Changing Types of Punishment in English History

face of a prisoner

Imprisonment rapidly increased among punishment sentences in London from 1835 to 1855. Among offenders sentenced to punishment from the Old Bailey, London, the share sentenced to imprisonment grew from a plateau of roughly 40% from 1780-1835 to a plateau of roughly 90% from 1855 to 1913. From 1776 to 1822, imprisonment was commonly combined with another punishment, such as a fine. Two decades later, such punishment combinations were rarely used, and imprisonment was the single punishment sentence for about 90% of criminal offenders. Measured by absence in punishment, persons in prison did not reach 90% of total persons absent in punishment until 1877. A high share of imprisonment in punishment sentences developed about two decades earlier than the dominance of prison in the disposal of persons.

Other major changes in English punishment occurred from the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries. Old Bailey judges nearly stopped sentencing defendants to branding about 1780. Those judges nearly stopped sentencing to whipping about 1842. Sentences to penal servitude (hard labor) began replacing transportation in the mid-1850s. At the Old Bailey, only one sentence to transportation occurred in 1858, and none subsequently. The last transportation of a convict from the United Kingdom occurred in 1867.

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