Visiting Prisoners: “Respectable” Friends to “Reputable” Friends

face of a prisoner

In 1929, the International Prison Commission adopted the following rule for the treatment of prisoners:

31. Prisoners should have the opportunity of communicating with their relations and respectable friends, under necessary supervision. Arrangements should be made to allow this communication at regular intervals, both by receiving visits and by correspondence.^

In 1955, the United Nations adopted a similar rule:

37. Prisoners shall be allowed under necessary supervision to communicate with their family and reputable friends at regular intervals, both by correspondence and by receiving visits.^

The 1955 rule used “reputable friends” in place of the 1929 rule’s phrase “respectable friends.” British members of Prison Commissions drafted the 1929 rules.^ “Respectability” was a central Victorian concept of social status.

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