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Synopsis

Victorian Prison Lives is the first account of the process of imprisionment in England between 1830 and 1914 to be drawn largely from the writings of prisoners themselves. The period was in some ways one of great change, beginning with an astonishing penitentiary experiement when prisons were seen as moral hospitals. But this approach eventually gave way to the idea of penal servitude and created a legacy of harshness and suffering still preserved in the reputations of Portland Chatham and Dartmoor. It was only towards the end of the period that the concept of modern prison administration began to emerge. But while statutary changes where taking place there was an underlying continuity. This is examined in a series of chapters on every aspect of prison life - from admission procedure, fellow prisoners and the nature of hard labour, diet and discipline to the process of release, which for a long-term prisioner could be as daunting as entry into prison.

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