Examining The Historical Scholarship On Crime Criminology Essay


The seventeenth century and the Industrial Revolution brought about many societal changes in the United Kingdom and across Western society. Changing attitudes to crime and punishment spawned dramatic changes to the law and order; perhaps none so great as the shift from public capital and corporal punishment to forms of punishment hidden behind the walls and locked doors of prisons.

The specific aims of punishment may be separated into four factors. Deterrence aims to discourage or restrain individuals from committing crime, for example by causing the potential criminal to consider whether the crime or murder is worth the likely punishment of life imprisonment for his offence. Retribution speaks of the message the punishment sends to society whether as a further deterrent or an acknowledgement of society's attitudes to crime for instance, 'an eye for an eye' where the death penalty is used. Rehabilitation may involve the offender facing his crimes and making adjustments to himself so as not to reoffend, through instances such as skills training or Drugs Rehabilitation Orders. Incapacitation is the extent to which the offender is unable to reoffend, whether through loss of freedom owing to incarceration or loss of life by way of execution (Godfrey, 2008, p151-152).

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Shaming, whether in a formal punishment or by unofficial societal means, involves the expression of disapproval intending to invoke remorse of the 'deviant' and/or condemnation by others (Braithwaite, 1989, p100).Braithwaite outlines two forms of shaming; stigmatizing and reintegrative. Reintegrative shaming, shames the individual whilst maintaining the bonds of love and respect (1989, p12), examples being the shaming of a child by the tears of the disappointed mother whom they have 'let down' and the reintegration with a hug (1989, p77) or the training offered to prison inmates to provide skills for employment in the outside world on completion of their sentence. Conversely, stigmatizing shaming outcasts the individual and confirms the deviant 'master status'; this is who the individual is (1989, p12). Stigmatized individuals are negatively labelled by society and this can (although not always) lead to internalization of the label and 'acting up' to this pigeonholing; a 'self fulfilling prophecy' (1989: p18).

Pratt takes a Whig approach to the history of punishment, arguing that the use of both stigmatizing and reintegrative shaming in punishments has declined since the late eighteenth century only to see a renaissance in the last two decades. This correlates with the strength of the control of the state in question and public anxieties regarding crime (Pratt, 2003, p178-194). The concept that shaming in punishments has declined will be assessed in a revisionist stance with regards to the movement from capital and corporal punishments to forms of imprisonment and later probationary means. Using other historical works on penality, it will be shown that shame has always been a fundamental aspect of the rationale of punishment and has never declined. However, a continuing dichotomy between the concepts of stigmatizing and reintegrative shaming is occurring. The link between shaming and the anxieties of society will also be reviewed with regards to particular historical rises in crime rates and respective punitive responses to show that penality and subsequent shaming in the twenty-first century has largely followed a trend of growth. Theories of the politicisation of crime will be utilised to illustrate that the rising of punitive responses in the United Kingdom to crime in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century are not the result of a weak government but of a political reassertion of power and control against the criticisms of the Opposition.

Capital and corporal punishments- manifest methods of stigmatizing shaming

In the eighteenth century, indeed for centuries earlier, execution was a heavily used method of punishment in Europe and subsequent colonies. Executions were public and "regarded as a matter of entertainment" (Parliamentary Papers 1866, vol. XXI, p. 220-21in McGowan, 1994, p269) for the crowd. Such a "spectacle of suffering" (Spierenburg, 1984 in Pratt, 2003, p180) was far from uncommon and Pratt cites further examples of public punishments including whippings, ducking stools and the pillory. However, it has been argued that such punishments, particularly the death penalty, were not so widely used as one might expect. The 'Bloody Code' offences were many but 'obscure' and often did not lead to punishment by death as juries were often reluctant to use the penalty. Moreover, the judge could remit the sentence to transportation or even free the accused if there was a minor error in documentation (Godfrey, 2003, p256). The instance of 'Sixteen-string Jack', the alias of John Rann, is used by Shoemaker to illustrate that there were occasions where a person could be tried many times; seventeen times in the case of Rann, before a sentence of execution would be passed (2006, p401). Likewise, Henry 'young gentleman Harry' Sims was tried 'several times' (2006, p391) and 'Civil' John Turner was tried four times (2006, p393) before their executions. Likewise, Henry Fielding was said to set free a murderer brought before him at the Bow Street Courts because he felt the man 'made his innocence appear so evident' (Briggs, Harrison, McInnes and Vincent, 2001, p49).These punishments were therefore more like the sword of Damocles, hanging over society, than 'Draconian' in their application (Hay, 1975 in Godfrey, 2008, p155-156).

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In addition to the level of usage of execution, two further points must be considered; the extent to which execution could be shaming and the timing of its eventual abolition. That public capital and corporal punishments did not involve a rationale of shame is not the case. Foucault suggests that changes in public punishments reduced the shame imposed on the prisoners, including the illustration of the execution of Benoit in France in 1832, who was executed with black veils covering his face and thus 'escaped the gaze of the silent crowd' (Gazette des tribunaux, 30th August 1832 in Foucault, 1977, p 14), comparing to his earlier example of Damiens whose face during the brutal execution was seen (1977, p3-6). However it has been suggested that the mind of the convict is often not the primary concern although, even on the gallows the convict could seek repentance (McConville, 2003, p238). A historical example of this was the crying out of Damiens during his execution of 'Pardon, my God! Pardon, Lord.' to have his cries unacknowledged by the priest, (Foucault, 1977, p4)or the more recent execution of Stanley 'Tookie' Williams who had written anti-violence children's books whilst on death row for murder during gang activity (Knight and Ayres, 2005). Conversely, there are historical reports of convicts such as Richard Cooling who said to his father prior to execution 'it can't be helped now, it is no use making a fuss about it.' in stark contrast with his accomplice Thomas Motley who prayed and repented and who 'obtained comforting assurances of pardon' (The Times, 5/8/1831 in Barrett and Harrison, 1999, p305-306).Henry Fielding questioned whether in the last moments of the convict's life he would be feeling shame or simply terror as he approached his fate when such convicts were described as 'pale and trembling' (1751, p450 in Foucault, 1977, p61). Emsley notes that the eventual removal of execution from the public sphere 'robbed the felon of any moment of glory or martyrdom' (1996, p279) for in modern society an individual can segment himself within different social groups and need not feel shamed by all of society, merely the social groups with which he holds the most social ties (Braithwaite, 1993, p15). Such public acts of punishment may therefore be considered to be less concerned with this internalisation of the criminal label by the condemned but of 'didactic' purpose, encouraging a widespread, public condemnation necessary for deterrence (McGowan, 1994, p273-274).

Executions in the eighteenth century were a stigmatising punishment and corporal punishments were no less so. Placards worn by those subjected to public humiliation or torture detailed the nature of their offences to those around them however two historical arguments exist as to the reasons why such punishments were abolished. Firstly, public violence punishments were seen to be 'equally inconsistent with reason and humanity; they degrade the man to the brute, and only serve to obliterate the sense of shame.' (John Scott, Observations on the Present State of the Parochial and Vagrant Poor (London, 1773), pp. 97-99, in McGowan, 1994, p134). This can also be seen in Hugo's historical novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, based on historical research and observations of his own time (Sturrock, 1978, p8), when Quasimodo is flogged and put in the pillory for attempted kidnap. Despite the very public nature of his punishments, 'only now and again did a sigh of rage swell all the cavities of his chest. On his face there was neither shame nor blushes...But anger, hatred and despair slowly descended on that hideous face' (Hugo, 1977 p241). Secondly, such methods did not have the desired effect of 'deterring offenders from the further committing of crimes and offences but on the contrary, such offenders, being rendered thereby unfit to be entrusted in any service or employment to get their livelihood in any honest and lawful way, become the more desperate' (Pike, 1876, p280-1 in Braithwaite, 1989 p60).

However, not all punishments at this time were, as Foucault suggests, directed at the body (1977, p10) or violent. Briggs et al offer examples of a woman standing in a workhouse yard once a week for a month for the theft of a sheet and of a woman standing on a stool in a public street in Wandsworth for an hour for the theft of a turnip (1999, p79). Similarly, religion had an impact on punishments where offenders could be forced to stand before the congregation with their head bowed, wear a placard or make a 'declaration of sorrow' detailing the offence to the listening audience (1999, p79).

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Such public punishments acted as a deterrent in their severity (Haines, 1992, p126) and to restore the authority of the 'injured' sovereign (Foucault, 1977, p48). However, capital and corporal punishments did not always invoke the support of the masses to act as a deterrent or indeed to shame. The character of Quasimodo may have been jeered and stoned during his punishment (Hugo, 1977, p240), but Duhamel notes the expressed anger of spectators at some public punishments, resulting in the imprisonment in Avignon of an executioner to protect him from mob violence (1890 in Foucault, 1977, p52).

Finally, to explore the timings of the eventual abolition of such physical punishments does little to support Pratt's arguments for a decline in shaming. Pratt lists various public shaming punishments and their dates of decline, including the pillory which fell into decline after 1815 and the ducking stool and stocks which were last used in 1817 and 1860 respectively (2003, p180). However, Pratt's explanations for this are flawed in that he claims such punishments were not 'in keeping with the spirit of the age' (The Times, 14 August 1868, p12 in Pratt, 2003, p181) but this is not qualified by philosophers such as Beccaria or Bentham. It is also offered that local communities and subsequent interdependencies were lost or broken down by urbanisation and industrialisation and this strengthened the state's 'monopolistic control' to punish (2003, p181). Braithwaite conversely argues that within the later, urban, Gesellschaft communities there were no fewer interdependencies between individuals than in the pre-modern, rural, Gemeinschaft communities. It may have been more likely that one would be shamed by one's neighbours but today's individual has ties across employment, multiple social groups, through parenting and the extended family; and we can choose who to seek approval from and who we avoid shaming by (1993, p13).Similarly, Pratt neglects that the last public execution in England was in 1868 and the last execution was in 1965 but the possibility of execution for particular offences was not rescinded from statute until the Human Rights Act 2000. Staggeringly, the last public execution in France was of Weidmann in 1939 (Foucault, 1977, p15) and of the remaining states employing the death penalty in North America, the process is not entirely private as there are often witnesses. For instance there were fifty witnesses, including relatives of his victims, at the execution of Stanley Williams in 2008 (Knight and Ayres, 2005).

Penitentiaries, transportation and modern none-incapacitating Punishments- latent stigmatizing and the emergence of reintegrative shaming

The practice of incarceration has been in place since the ninth century with attempts to create a gaol in every county commencing in 1166 and completed by the thirteenth century (Pugh 1968 in Muncie p159). Their primary function however, was not to punish but to detain until trial or the repayment of a debt. Houses of correction were established, the oldest being the London Bridewell which opened in 1555, intended to counteract the idleness of particular social groups, including vagrants and prostitutes, to be of social benefit and to create industrious habits so that upon release they would be of benefit to the labour market (Spierenburg, 1991, p12 in Muncie,2003, p161). These were not dissimilar to the workhouse, indeed they were arguably stratified between the workhouse and the county gaols with regards to their punishments and focus on reformation (Godfrey, 2008, p175). The use of incarceration fell in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with the rise of capital and corporal punishments however this pattern began to reverse by the end of the sixteenth century (Muncie, 2003, p160). Beccaria's criticisms of the brutality of capital and corporal punishments and conception of proportionality between offence and punishment were becoming heavily influential by the 1770s (Emsley, 1996, p263). In combination with the civil war in America in 1795 and no subsequent transportation destination yet found, such criticisms resulted in the 1779 Penitentiary Act (Spierenburg, 1998, p55). The act was intended to instigate the building of two prisons for holding and reforming inmates as opposed to transportation or execution; with permanently docked ships, called 'hulks', operating as temporary institutions (Emsley, 1996, p263-265).

Pratt's arguments for further declining in shaming in prisons are based on the concepts of creating a more 'private' environment. Firstly, prisoners were not to be viewed by the public during transportation between institutions, quoting Oscar Wilde in his description of his journey to Reading gaol (Pratt, 2003,p182)as a shaming experience, or by the 'curious and insensitive public' (Pratt,2003, p181)whilst in prison. Secondly, the standard of living including hygiene and clothing was dramatically altered using examples of changes to prison uniform and improved dining facilities (Report of the Prison Commissioners, 1949 in Pratt, 2003, p183). In this way, Pratt overlooks various means of stigmatization and reintegration, some of which remain resonant in prison culture and penal policy to this day and are arguably no less shaming than the pillories or execution.

Goffman describes 'total institutions', including prisons, by their barriers to the social world by means as 'locked doors, high walls [and] barbed wire' (1991, p15) and thus prisons became a far less public form of punishment. The most notable design for a prison is that of Jeremy Bentham's 1791 Panoptican; a circular building with cells around the outer wall, opening towards the centre where an 'inspector's lodge' would be built. Each cell would be fronted by bars and the central building would employ a system of blinds so that guards could, without being seen, scrutinize the prison population so that the prisoners may have felt as though they were being watched but could never know if this was the case (Godfrey, 2008, p143). Although this Orwellian style prison was never built, elements of the design were incorporated into Pentonville prison and others in the United States (Godfrey, 2008, p158). With the prisoner's life under constant scrutiny from his eating and sleeping to defecation, it was hoped that this would alter the prisoner's self (Godfrey, 2008, p158).

It was the likes of John Howard and Elizabeth Fry who brought about some of the most radical penal reforms in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Such 'philanthropic visions' to alleviate the suffering of the poor and incarcerated date back to the thirteenth century practices of alms-giving by Catholics (Muncie,2003, p169). Howard's key themes for reformation, following his involvement in the draft of the aforementioned 1779 Act, were a strict routine of prayer and work, total segregation from society, uniforms, impersonal treatment and the separation of prisoners to avoid the contamination of 'novices' by more experienced criminals. However only an improvement in prison conditions and the abolition of gaolers' fees, monies paid by the prisoner to the guard for his upkeep, were introduced as a result (Muncie, 2003, p170). Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker, campaigned for prison reforms after a visit to Newgate Gaol in 1813. Her key reforms were to improve the overcrowding, separate the sexes and improve education to 'introduce them to a knowledge of the holy scriptures and to form in them...those habits of order, sobriety and industry which may render them docile and peaceable whilst in prison, and respectable when they leave it.' (Dobash et al., 1986, p44 in Muncie, 2003, p170).

As a result of these legislative and penal reforms, modern penality was born and punishments shifted from a wholly stigmatizing punishment system to including reintegrative measures to allow the offender to be reintegrated back into society following their punishment. Prisons were no longer intended to hold the accused until trial or further punishment. Muncie argues that the forced labour aspect of the prisoner's reformation was less about teaching useful skills for the future and more focussed on disciplined routine and strict regimentation (2003, p175) and to force the poor in the houses of correction to accept the conditions imposed on them by their later employers (Piven and Cloward, 1972, p33 in Muncie, 2003, p170). One example of such forced labour was the 'crank' where the offender was required to make a certain number of revolutions of the machinery per day to 'encourage habits of willing and steady industry and a cheerful obedience' (Report of the Commissioners, 1854, p.iv in Muncie, 2003, p183) to reinforce society's new capitalist and industrial values for 'if a man will not work, neither shall he eat' (Report of the Commissioners, 1854, p v, in Muncie, 2003, p183)

In the 1700s, what was defined as right and wrong was largely, although not exclusively, defined by religion (Godfrey, 2008, p157). Likewise, penal reform in the 1830s drew largely from religious philosophies of repentance. The 'separate system' of solitary confinement was 'specifically designed to lead the inmates to a religious rebirth' (Godfrey, 2008, p160) where the inmate would reflect on their sins and character, with only the occasional visit from the priest to discuss religious matters. To work and visit chapel were to be seen as opportunities. Unlike earlier gaols where prisoners could be held within one room and were able to drink and gamble (Godfrey, 2008, p155), this system prevented the prisoners from communication and silence was to be strictly observed; 'even the guards wore padded shoes so that they would not disturb the silence' (McGowen, 1995, p101 in Godfrey, 2008, p161). The 'silent' system incorporated the same facets but they were to be used as punishments over the reformatory ideals of the separate system.

Garland argues that in the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century, a 'positivistic' or scientific approach to crime and criminals became more prevalent than the previous religious ideals of reformation for one's sins (Garland, 1985). This was partly a result of the work of Lombrosso who studied the skulls of the insane and criminals and believed he found similarities (1911, p xiv in Garland, 1985, p111). Such theories of the causes of crime resulted in new ways to 'cure' the offender, described as 'correctionalism', 'penal tutelage' (De Quiros, 1911, in Garland, 1985, p127), 'moral orthopaedics' (Hall, 1917, p409, in Garland, 1985, p127) or simply 'reformation'. Theories for the 'treatments' for criminality included the prevention, reformation or extinction of the individual (Garland, 1985, p127). This new scientific method of punishment was, however, similar to the previous theories of reformation in that the individual was still stigmatized and removed from society to a 'total institution' but some could be reintegrated back into society.

However, the stigmatizing aspects of prison life and culture remained prevalent. Braithwaite argued that prisons are little more than 'warehouses for outcasts' and may break down the social ties with those close to them; those who might reintegrate them (Braithwaite, 1989, p179.) Oscar Wilde describes himself and another incarcerated man at Reading gaol as being 'outcast men' (1997, p157), meeting 'in the shameful day' (1997, p157) when prisoners might see one another. During an inmate's time in prison, he passes through a 'moral career', where he is systematically 'admitted', 'mortified', and eventually 'released' (Goffman, 1991). Where the methods of the 'Bloody Code' and the continuing death penalty literally removed life from the convict, Goffman argues that the admission process brought about a 'civil death' through dispossession (1991, p25) and through the loss of identity. Not only is the inmate's physical identity of clothing removed and replaced with a uniform, he may lose his name to be replaced by a number (Goffman, 1991, p27). Oscar Wilde discussed the 'suit[s] of shabby gray' (1997, p152) and 'shaven head[s]' (1997, p158) of offenders during his time in Reading gaol. Similarly to the black crepe worn by the executed in France, inmates' faces could be hidden from fellow inmates by the use of masks or hood (Ignatieff, 1978, p70). Such physical 'branding' was designed to humiliate the wearer, hinder socialising between prisoners, and aid in their discovery should they escape (Ignatieff, 1978, p94).

The inmate's role in society is lost and he is degraded still further by labels such as 'fish' or 'swab' to accustom him to the knowledge that he is in an especially low social standing in the already low social group (Goffman, 1991, p27). Furthermore the inmate may be subjected to an 'obedience test' where defiance receives immediate, visible punishment until the inmate 'cries uncle' and 'humbles himself' (Goffman, 1991, p26). Such ceremonies are, according to Goffman, to break the spirit or resistance of the inmate and force him into submission (1991, p85). Moreover, Foucault argues there was a transition from punishment of the body to punishment of the soul (1977, p10), however Goffman acknowledges that the body remains physically punished by means of a loss of a sense of personal safety where beatings or birching could be administered at will (1991, p30). Inmates are forced to use 'verbal acts of deference' such as calling a guard, 'sir' and humbly ask for items or permissions. Goffman argues that this stripping of one's identity and reinforced, lowly status constantly presses home the offender's 'fall from grace' (1991, p66).

Penal complexes and transportations to distant colonies do not immediately appear to be altogether similar however, as Goffman notes, the label of 'total institution' also encompasses the use of water (1991, p15) and ships (1991, p16). Those convicted of a crime could be interned on a hulk or held there as an alternative to a prison (Briggs et al, 2001, p162). The practices on board such a vessel are arguably not dissimilar from those of prisons. Poorly behaved transportees and recidivists could expect a uniform of 'party-coloured dress, half black and half white' to 'brand their ill conduct with a public mark of disgrace and to distinguish them from the better behaved' (Government and General Orders S2 p295 in Barrett and Harrison, 1999, p298).

Physical contamination is noted by Goffman to be a key factor in the mortification of inmates of a 'total institution'; rape possibly being the model example in wider society and 'sexual molestation' is far from unheard of (1991,p35). Such 'unnatural crimes', or homosexual activity as the modern definition would give, were prevalent onboard the hulks and amongst transportees in the Australian colonies. Evidence given to the select committee on transportation in 1838 suggests that young boys were 'taught' the crimes and were often referred to by female names and as many as two-thirds of the population of Norfolk Island were in some way implicated with the acts (Evidence of The Very Revd William Ullathrone S4, in Barrett and Harrison, 1999, p302).

Even those on a ticket of leave system following 'release' from their servitude in Australia were called back once a week to be accounted for (Government and General Order, New South Wales, Appendix to The report of the select committee on the state of gaols, etc., P.P. 1819, vol. Vii, pp407-9, in Barrett and Harrison, 1999 p297). Similarly, in 1907 courts began to employ probation services as a means of keeping offenders out of prison but whilst still punishing and monitoring their behaviour for recidivism. This was later extended to include those returning from prisons or borstals as exemplified by Lillian Barker, the governor of the only borstal for girls in England and Wales who, following the release of girls from her institution would have them placed under a supervisor (Barker, 1929, p291). In the twenty-first century, the National Probation Service supervises approximately 175,000 offenders per year, enforcing community service orders and acting as a means of public protection should an offender be deemed to remain dangerous ('About' n.d.) In such ways, even those who completed a period of penal servitude in Australia or a prison sentence continue to experience stigmatizing shaming in that they continue to be labelled as a criminal and reintegrative shaming in that they are then assisted in their rehabilitation back into society.

Modern reintegrative shaming takes many forms. It has been argued that Braithwaite's approach to shaming and its impressions on restorative justice are 'unfashionably optimistic' (Johnston, 2003 p25) however they have arguably been profoundly influential on current policy, for example David Cameron's speech in July 2006, later criticised by the Labour party as a 'hug- a-hoodie' plan' ('Cameron defends hoodie speech' 2006), advocated understanding and patience for deviant adolescents (Cameron, 2006). Restorative justice is said to be grounded on the values of 'democracy', 'social support', 'caring', 'love' and 'non-dominated speech' (Braithwaite and Strang, 2001 p12 in Johnstone, 2003, p5); and 'compassion', 'redemption', 'forgiveness' and 'reconciliation' (Johnstone, 2003, p5). The main aims of restorative justice are for offenders to repair the harm by undertaking reparative acts, experiencing and expressing repentance, reintegration back into law-abiding society and the healing of victims from their traumas (Johnstone, 2003, p4). One form of restorative justice might be the sentence of community service, where the community has been 'victimised' and the individual pays a compensatory service (Walgrave, 2003, p257); another form may be mediated meetings between victims and offenders. Indeed, as Strang notes, victims often do not require monetary compensation, rather the symbolic act of an apology (2003, p287). This can perhaps be related back to Braithwaite's notion of the reintegration between the disappointed mother and the naughty child.

'Social anxieties' and 'state weakness'

Having assessed Pratt's argument that shaming penality declined to experience a renaissance in the last twenty years, the focus must turn to his further argument that this is a result of a loss of authority by the state and the anxieties of the wider society.

The term 'moral panic' was coined by Stan Cohen to describe a period where a person or group is defined as a social threat, stereotyped by the media, solutions are sought and the situation diffuses (1980, p9). Although Cohen used this terminology for the relatively modern 'Mods and Rockers' of the 1960s, the phrase is applicable to many historical periods of 'panic' or anxiety.

Emsley shows marked alterations in conviction rates and the use of capital punishment. The Transportation Act 1718 had offered an alternative punishment to execution, where convicts were transported to North America for a period of seven to fourteen years of hard labour. However the American war for independence in 1775 effectively ended this. The 1780s saw a panic about the rate of crime (Rawlings, 1999, p64) until 1787 when a substitute destination was found in Australia where the first 778 convicts landed in Botany Bay. (Emsley, 1996, p250-251) However, during the period of no transportation, the number of capital sentences rose from approximately 70,000 in 1775 to 175,000 in 1784 on the London and Middlesex Assize circuit and from 45,000 to 140,000 over the same period on the Western circuit (Figure 10.1 in Emsley, 1996, p252-254). The crime panics between 1690 and 1720 instigated the prospering of thieftakers (Rawlings, 1999, p56). Corporal punishment was abolished in 1861 for a time of two years, only to be reinstated during a panic over street thefts (Briggs et al, 1999, p80) and the garrotting panic in London lead to the centralization and ultimately the nationalisation of the prison system in 1877 (Godfrey, 2008, p164).

Pratt cites only one example as to the causality of such anxieties or the loss of authority by the state- sex offenders- however these alone cannot account for the many examples of stigmatizing punishments he cites. Pratt also states that as the shaming of individuals has increased, the 'shaming of societies (in relation to high, previously unthinkable prison populations) has been relaxed' (Pratt, 2003, p191). Statistics however, show further increasing of imprisonment as a means of punishment. At the time of Pratt's publication in 2003, the prison population of England and Wales had increased by 77% over a decade (Office for National Statistics, 2005). Similarly, in the USA, the prison population rose by 2.1% during 2003 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004) This is in comparison with the crime levels which have been falling in England and Wales since 1995, with a 10% drop in crimes between 2007and 2008 (Home Office, 2008) and with the USA where crime statistics have also been seen to fall since 1973 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009)

One rationale for the increasing punitiveness is the politicisation of crime as a social issue (Downes and Morgan, 2002, p286-321). Having defeated the Conservative Party in 1997, 2001 and 2005 the Labour Party were arguably strong and the economy was in an unprecedented boom, but the state continued to increase penality. The politicisation of crime arguably began in 1970 when the Conservative Party manifesto argued that 'the Labour government cannot entirely shrug off responsibility for the present situation'; that is, 'the serious rise in crime and violence' (Conservative Party, 1970, in Downes and Morgan, 2003, p288). What followed was a series of assertions from both Labour and the Conservatives that neither party were tackling crime effectively. However Downes and Morgan argue that prior to the mid-twentieth century, crime was largely seen to be beyond political influence as once laws were enacted, the enforcement was in the realms of the police and judiciary (2003, p287). The modern penal responses to crime may therefore be a result, not of a weak state but of continued reassertions of the government, and opposition, being seen to be 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime' (Downes and Morgan, 2003, p296) and not 'soft and flabby on crime' as former Conservative Home Secretary, Kenneth Baker once labelled the Labour Party (Downes and Morgan, 2003, p290).

Throughout the Industrial Revolution and to the present day, it is possible to track the varying penal responses to crime. However this has not resulted in a decline in shaming punishments, rather a continuing struggle between stigmatizing and reintegrative shaming. Capital and corporal punishments, particularly in their function as a public deterrent, may be more stigmatizing in their approach to outcast the individual from society; but transportation and imprisonment, although intended to help reintegrate the individual, with the assistance of probation, also contains strong elements of stigmatization.

Punitive measures in England and Wales and across Western society may have increased dramatically over the latter half of the twentieth and early twenty-first century, however this cannot be entirely attributed to public anxieties or 'moral panics'. Furthermore, with the strength of the Labour government in the early twenty-first century, that such responses are the result of a weak state, as Pratt suggests, are incorrect.