Initial views from the Digital Panopticon : Reconstructing Penal Outcomes in the 1790s
Law and History Review
Cambridge University Press (CUP) for American Society for Legal History
© the American Society for Legal History, Inc. 2016
Extract: The criminal justice system of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England has been likened to a corridor of connected rooms or stage sets. At each stage in the judicial process—from detection and apprehension through to trial, sentencing, and punishment—decisions were made that might remove the accused from the system entirely, or propel that person further along the process into a number of possible outcomes. That decision making (including the identity of the decision makers and the criteria upon which their decisions were based) has been the subject of much historical study. Less attention has been given to the individual experiences—the singular journeys—of the accused through this labyrinthine process. This is in large part because of the inherent evidential and methodological difficulties of reconstructing judicial pathways and the wider criminal lives of offenders. As Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker note, the archives of criminal justice were created to manage the bureaucracy of prosecution and punishment, not to reveal the criminal's navigation of that system. Tracing an individual offender's journey through the judicial process (and that person's life beyond) therefore entails piecing together fragments spread almost randomly across hundreds of thousands of pages.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from CUP via the DOI in this record
Vol. 34 (4), pp. 893 - 928