The costs of imprisonment: A longitudinal study

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hull
Department Name: Social Sciences

Abstract

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Description * What were the financial costs of imprisonment?
Between 1856 and 1940 the costs of the convict system averaged £218k per year. In the decade from 1880 to 1890 the cost per prisoner rose from £32 to £42. Each prison had a budget, which varied considerably, but were all under pressure to reduce costs. Aside from the disruptions around WWI, the figure stayed at around that rate until the late 1920s. After the prison closures that happened then, the costs was an average of £140 per prisoner throughout the 1930s). By the start of WWII the costs of the whole system was still £240k per year, not far off the £226k it had cost in 1856, despite the vast reduction in convicts over that period. The prison system has always been (and continues to be) very expensive.

* Did the licence system act as a financial pressure-valve?
The increase in the numbers of prisoners between 1856 and the 1880s were unsupportable without an early-release scheme being in operation. Without licensing, the average daily prison population would have been increased by one-third (and almost all prisoners were licensed, even those imprisoned for manslaughter and rape). The pressure-valve was opened more when the crisis became acute in the 1870s and 1880s, and, in fact, after 1882, the convict establishments became net exporters of prisoners (aside from a `blip' between 1900 and 1903). The license system was a pressure valve which operated in order to make the prison system manageable (and operating at a much-reduced cost).

* What impact did imprisonment/licensing have on re-offending? Did the licence system `work' at the individual level?
The licensing system reduced the period in custody and therefore allowed more time for desistence factors to be put in place; it also reduced the impact of processes of institutionalisation. At the level of the individual, the licensing system itself was of no intrinsic value, except to act as a temporal window which allowed more supportive processes to get to work outside of the prison gates.

* What was the impact of short/long sentences on re-offending rates?
Until 1885 the average sentence for indictable offences was steady (10-12 months per offence). After 1885 the average fell to around 8mths by the 1890s. From 1885, the average sentence for summary offences rose from 0.8 months to 1.2 months. The vast number of prisoners served short sentences. The speed of reconviction was generally high. 65% of offenders who received a short sentence reoffended within 5 months. For convicts, over the course of their lives, there was a reconviction rate of 80%. Convicts who were imprisoned for longer than ten years tended to not-reoffend, and the effect of 20 year sentences was marked, but only because of their age/infirmity on release, and because they were incapable of either continuing their offending, or any semblance continuing a normal life. Their lives were broken by that stage.
Exploitation Route In particular our further use and development of whole life methodology in the reconstruction of the lives of offenders in the nineteenth century may be taken forward or used by others.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description Primarily we have been accessing three audiences: Academics: We will make a contribution to the field in the next 24 months by publishing a book (proposal to be submitted Palgrave); we have been invited to contribute to two edited collections; and we will submit articles to major history/criminology journals. Conference papers were presented at the Social Science History Association (Boston, USA), British Crime Historians Conference, European Society of Criminology (Bilbao, Spain), European Social Science History Conference (Glasgow). Seminars papers on research findings and methodologies were also given at the Universities of Victoria, NZ; Leeds; Sheffield; Cambridge; Keele; Liverpool and Hull. We also organised three postgraduate workshops (Keele, Hull, Liverpool). Campaigners/Policymakers We organised a four day international conference 'Modern Activism' at St George's Hall, Liverpool, June 2012 which linked historians with policymakers and campaigners. Speakers included: Frances Crook (Howard League for Penal Reform), Lesley Adbela (Shevolution Consultancy), President and President-elect of Magistrates Association, Richard Monkhouse & John Thornhill, environmental activist Mike Leach as well as representatives from Police Federation, Liverpool Cathedral Constabulary, the Prison Service (NB location was Liverpool rather than London due to high costs during Olympics). The findings were presented to the Cabinet, MPs, and policy makers at the Ministry of Justice, NZ. We have worked with the Magistrates Association and the Howard League for Penal Reform, Denbighshire Magistrates, Willaston History Society, Womens' Register and the WI. We have produced short accessible articles aiming at the public linking this project to contemporary penal issues (http://www.liv.ac.uk/law-and-social-justice/news/). We have also produced a piece on short sentences which will be distributed to Howard League for Penal Reform members, and a `Counterblast' essay for the Howard Journal for Autumn 2013 publication. Public: Organised one day conference for the public, 'Researching Criminal and Prison Lives', London Metropolitan Archives. This was a well received event with 40-50 people attending and one day event with the Black Country History Society (again 40/50 attendees). We also produced short accessible articles aiming at the public linking this project to contemporary penal issues (Viewpoints by Godfrey, http://www.liv.ac.uk/law-and-social-justice/news/), and a piece on 'Convict Prison Lives' (London Metropolitan Archives website at http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/london-metropolitan-archives/news-and-events/Pages/Convict-prison-lives.aspx) which links this research to family history and accessing historical documents on imprisonment and crime. We have now produced a 'popular' history book aimed at the public and published by Pen & Sword / Wharncliffe in 2016 titled, Victorian Convicts: 100 Criminal Lives. In addition case studies of convicts lives from this project have been used in the following publication, Johnston, H. (2015) Crime in England, 1815-1880, Abingdon: Routledge.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grants
Amount £8,600 (GBP)
Funding ID SRG\170334 
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2018 
End 10/2019
 
Description English prisons at war: Imprisonment during national crisis
Amount £53,597 (GBP)
Funding ID RF-2019-311 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 08/2020
 
Description 'Caught in the act' : researching criminal ancestors 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation on researching criminal ancestors given to Willaston History Society, Cheshire.

Advice and help to the public on helping to research criminal ancestors and the use of historical records on crime and punishment
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description A 'Persistence from the Past': The Prison in Historical Perspective 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Morris and Rothman observe that for some people the most novel contribution of their work 'may well be to demonstrate that prisons do have a history' (1998: vii). In this paper, Yvonne Jewkes (University of Leicester) and Helen Johnston (University of Hull) will discuss the importance of history to an understanding of contemporary issues of imprisonment and will outline some of the methodological challenges to conducting historical research on prisons. In doing so we will draw on examples from ESRC project on 'The Costs of Imprisonment' and British Academy project on Holloway Prison for women, 1902-1945.

Dissemination of the key findings of the project and particular focus on the methodological approach of the project to a group of prison researchers, postgraduates and academics at the Prisons Research Centre, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Assessing the impact of criminal legislation : methods and challenges in whole life research 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Seminar paper which examines the possiblities and pitfalls of using bureaucratic criminal records in whole life history research on the problems of offending, recidivism and punishment. Part of event entitled: 'Histories of Crime in the Digital Age', 25 June 2011, London.

Potential to write a chapter for an edited collection
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Convict Life, Penal Servitude and Prison Licensing in Victorian England 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on Convict Life, Penal Servitude and Prison Licensing in Victorian England, 1853-1900 to public audience at East Riding Archives, Treasure House, Beverley (February 2018).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Convict experiences of imprisonment, 1853-1900: Long term sentences and licensing schemes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This paper draws on findings from recent ESRC project which examines the costs of imprisonment from 1853 to 1940. One aspect of the research has been to reconstruct 'whole-life' histories of over 650 convicts who were long term prisoners under penal servitude and who were released on license in the second half of the nineteenth century. what prison regimes were the convict subject to? Did their behaviour in prison impact on early release mechanisms and how? How successful were early release schemes in assisting convicts to reintegrate into society?

Stimulating discussion on the use of whole life methodology in crime history research and the early release mechanisms in the Victorian penal system.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Convict prison lives 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Short accessible article on Convict Prison Lives in Victorian London, contribution to newsletter of the London Metropolitan Archives.

Interest from members of the public reported by the London Metropolitan Archives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/archives-and-city-history/london-metropolitan-archives/n...
 
Description European Social Science History Association Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Panel proposer and speaker: 'Crime History and the Life Course: New Findings and New Dialogues' at European Social Science History Association conference, Valencia, Spain, 30 March - 2 April 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Heroes & villains : Midlands crime & policing history day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact One day event co-organised with the Black Country History Society for local historians and archivists interested in crime, policing and punishment in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Successful one day event which engaged a range of interested members of the public and local historians.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description History of justice quiz 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Quiz for the Magistrates Association AGM 2011

History of crime quiz presented at Magistrates Association AGM to challenge preconceived ideas about crime and punishment in the past as well as provide stimulation and enjoyment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Inside the bureaucratic prison machine: penal servitude, licensing and release in mid to late nineteenth century England 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Paper presented to academic conference funded by the AHRC Digital Panopticon project, The Digital Panopticon conference, St George's Hall, Liverpool, 13-15 September 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Long term prisoners and release: convict experiences of imprisonment and licensing schemes, 1853-1900 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This paper will draw on our current ESRC project which examines the costs of imprisonment from 1853 to 1940. One aspect of the research has been to reconstruct the 'whole life' histories of over 600 convicts who were long term prisoners under penal servitude and who were released on license during the second half of the nineteenth century. What prison regimes were the convicts subject to? Did their behaviour in prison impact on mechanisms of early release and how? How successful were early release schemes in assisting convicts to reintegrate into society?

Detailed discussion about the use of whole life methods in crime history research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Making History, Affecting Change (ESRC Festival of Social Science) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This project was one of a number of research projects featured at the Making History, Affecting Change, ESRC Festival of Social Science event at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, Hull on Saturday 9 November 2013.

Exhibition / display featuring research project and highlighting findings
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Modern activism 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The research team co-organised a large conference on Modern Activism, leading the stream on Criminal Justice, History, Activism and plenaries with Magistrates Association and Howard League for Penal Reform.

This was a large conference on the theme of Modern Activism, we organised, facilitated and led the strand on Criminal Justice, History, Activism, particular highlights of which were plenaries led by the Magistrates Association and the Howard League for Penal Reform.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description On license : convict early release schemes : what use were they? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This paper explains how we have attempted to account for the personal and systemic impact of an early release scheme which operated in the Australian penal colonies; was transferred to Britain in 1853; and which still operates today. Using data from 1853 to 1940, this paper will report back on questions posed by our ESRC research project - why was the system used? How did it work? Did it facilitate desistence from offending? Was it a cost-cutting exercise? What did happen to "ticket-of-leave" convicts when they were released from prison?

Discussion of how can we understand early release mechanisms in the past and how successful were they in addressing reoffending?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Postgraduate Research workshop: Criminology and Historical Criminology 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This postgraduate workshop on criminology and historical criminology encouraged researchers to present, discuss and reflect upon their research ideas, methodological approaches and data collection / field work.

This workshop was to facilitate and support discussion with postgraduate students in the field of the history of crime and punishment and to encourage postgraduates at various stages of their research as well as early careers researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Punishment and release: power, surveillance and the monitoring of offenders lives, 1850-1880s 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Paper given at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Social Science History Association Conference in Chicago, USA, 21-24 November 2013.

Paper on the impact of punishment within prison on the prospect of release for convicts during the late nineteenth century.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Punishment inside: Convict prison regimes and the effect of punishment on individual offenders lives, 1850-1880 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Paper given at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Social Science History Association Conference in Chicago, USA, 21-24 November 2013.

Presentation highlighted the methodological approach of the project and the use of case studies to understand the experience of imprisonment and the use of punishment inside prison regimes and the consequences of such practices for prisoners in terms of release.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Reading and writing lives : postgraduate research workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact First postgraduate research workshop, held at Keele University on 11 May 2011, concerned with life-history methods in historical/ criminological research - attended by a range of postgraduates from the fields of social sciences, history and english.

Facilitated discussion with postgraduates across a range of disciplines using life-history method in historical and social science research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Researching criminal and prison lives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This one day event held in conjunction with the London Metropolitan Archives focused on the use of different types of criminal and prison records in historical and family history research. The sessions demonstrate the ways in which we can illuminate the lives of criminals and prisoners in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In presenting case studies and documents from London prisons and the Home Office that were used to construct them we can comment both on how the lives were affected by imprisonment and other engagements with the criminal justice system.

Workshop we organised to engage with the public about the use of criminal and prison records and their uses in historical and family research. Attracted 40-50 members of the public and some positive feedback received to organisers and to the host venue (LMA).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Sentencing and offenders 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited Speaker at AGM of Denbighshire Magistrates

Invited to speak about the project to the Annual General Meeting of the Denbighshire Magistrates, the particular focus of this talk was sentencing and offending and drew on parallels and contrasts between the historical and current operation of the criminal justice system.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012
 
Description The costs of imprisonment, 1850-1950 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This paper examines the financial costs of imprisonment in the Victorian period. How much money was actually spent on

maintaining a relatively large prison estate in the mid-nineteenth century? What was the money spent on (costs per

prisoner, maintenance of the physical fabric of the penal estate, etc)? How did the government attempt to reduce costs

through prison labour schemes and also through the parole system, and what impact did this have on individual offenders?

Outlining the proposed research and challenging preconceived ideas about how the Victorian penal system operated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description What if? : the future of the magistracy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Lecture given for the Howard League for Penal Reform

Challenging preconceived ideas about the Victorian penal system, particularly sentencing and release in the twenty-first century and in the nineteenth.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Women, crime and criminal justice : historical perspectives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This workshop brings together a group of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers examining the lives of female offenders in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The papers presented here examine the interactions women had with various stages of the criminal justice system and their experiences of punishment asnd aftercare. The session will also explore the methodological approaches and challenges of reconstructing criminal lives historically.

Discussion of the range of work being undertaken by the attendees on female criminality and understanding the lives of women offenders historically.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012