Rethinking the origins of the British Prisons Act of 1835: Ireland and the development and planning of prisons throughout the ‘four nations’ of the United Kingdom, 1820-35
journal contributionposted on 30.10.2015, 15:44 by Richard J. Butler
British Penal Reform 1 Re thinking the origins o f the British Prisons Act of 1835 : Ireland and the development of central - government prison inspection, 1820 - 35 1 Second revised manuscript, 9 June 2015 Abstract While t he introduction of c entral - government inspectors for prisons in a British a ct of 1835 has been seen as a key Whig achievement of the 1830s , alongside the new factory and poor - law inspect orates, the Irish precedent enacted by Charles Grant, a liberal Tory chief secretary, in the early 1820s has gone unnoticed by scholars. The essay sets out t o trace the Irish prefiguring of this later reforming measure and in the process to consider prison reform in the United Kingdom in the early nineteenth century in a transnational manne r in line with recent scholarship that has stressed the many connectio ns between social reforms in the four nations of the British Isles . A new analysis of the critical years between 1823 and 18 35 in both Britain and Ireland based on a detailed examination of p arliamentary inquiries and l egislation will show how developments in the two countries overlapped and how reforms in one jurisdiction affected the other. This essay explores the channels through which this exchange of knowledge and ideas occurred both in parliament and through voluntary philanthropic societies such as the Association for the Improvement of Prisons and of Prison Discipline in Ireland and its sister organisation in British. In doing so this essay highlights inadequacies with the theory s upported by some scholars that Ireland functioned as a laboratory for British social reform at this time, and instead suggests a more fluid exchange of ideas in both directions.