Modern Liberal Christianity and Criminal Justice- A Little More Background

England had a lot of social and religious change starting in the 1600’s, but later it had accelerating economic change as well. As an agricultural society it became overpopulated, and as an industrializing society it couldn’t provide for an increasing number of destitute people.

Since imprisonment wasn’t widely used then, that left corporal punishment and the death penalty for serious crimes. But if people are desperate enough, even the death penalty doesn’t work. If you are going to starve, you are going to steal. Hanging might be a merciful way out.

However with the establishment of overseas colonies, excess people convicted of crimes could be sent elsewhere. The Caribbean, North America, and after US independence Australia. Sending destitute people with no possibilities for work to a place where labor was needed made a lot of sense. Robert Hughes, author of “The Fatal Shore”, a history of transportation (as the punishment was called) as the most successful rehabilitation project in history.

These conditions have not applied for a long time, however. Modern times brought more welfare, and people don’t need to commit economic crimes to survive. A person committing a crime is not doing so to eat, he is doing it for some other reasons.

Thus “job training” and “education” are not going to stop people from committing crimes. People get free education through high school, which will equip them for basic entry-level work. If they don’t have the motivation to seek out an entry-level job of some kind, they are not going to have the motivation to do the work necessary to benefit from provided education or training.

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