What was the modernist idea of science in rehabilitation, welfare and criminal justice policy of the twentieth century?

Prior to enlightenment, religion was the major influence on crime and punishment. Criminality was committed by the wrongdoers’ selfish exploitation of free will and sentencing was based on the bible of God and crime poisons the religious morale at the time. The enlightenment created repulsion against traditional forms of authority and witnessed the emergence on the notion of human rights (Valier 2002: 5). The Gladstone Committee Report named after Harold Gladstone, the chairman of the Home Office played a vital influence on the revolution of the British penal policy (Harding 1988: 591).The report has criticised punishments for promoting barbarism and dehumanizing wrong doers rather than deterring them from re-offending (McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 190).

They (McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 190) also noted that the report should heed the concepts of deterrence and rehabilitation and suggested a scientific approach towards motives of criminality and the treatment should aim to meet the psychological and social needs of offenders. Harding (1988: 607) argued that the Gladstone committee report suggested the idea of borstal institutions for young offenders which was implemented in the early 20th century. Cohen (1985 cited in McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 167) has criticised the old strategies of crime control for being weak and the law was fully dominated by religion.

A century later, policies have been improved with more state involvement, places of crime control was formed into separate institutions for women, young offenders and the mentally ill. The control of justice system was added with many divisions including welfare, science and rehabilitation. Cohen also acknowledged that theories of punishment have been influenced by the principle of rehabilitation as it  begins to concentrate on understanding criminality. Dave Garland (2001: 40) believed that modernity is obligated to social engineering, where science is used to reform offenders, the mentally unbalanced and their social surroundings by interventions of government agencies, probation, police and experts and strategies on therapy and education intervention.

He (Garland 2001: 40) also argued that Durkheim sees retributive punishment as illogical and believes crime promotes social cohesion and the justice system seem to aggravate than deter criminality. Modernist thinkers criticise that classical thinkers neglect social pathology, as they believe criminality is largely influenced by social pathology. The rise of modernity, the social structure was mechanically engineered. In clarity, laws were heavily dependent on religion and the opinions made from the ruling class ( Valier 200 2: 27).

Durkheim argued that modernity created an organic solidarity, where members of the public gallery are becoming independent and social cohesion is a mix of different beliefs and values. He (Durkheim) was considered to be a humanitarian who loathed the idea of physical punishment because it was dehumanising and promotes the glorification of violence. Dave Garland (2002: 43) argued that the birth of the new criminology in the 20th century relied on topics of psychology, sociology and psychiatry and used those studies to explore the traits of prisoners which concludes that those who are exposed to external negative stimuli are likely to exhibit traits of criminality.

Welfare first emerged in the early 19th century, triggered by the problem that young offenders are being treated as adult criminals. The purpose of youth justice was to deal with those who were at risk of offending. McLaughlin and Muncie (2002: 267) argued that the 1960s was considered to be the age of organisation of the youth justice welfare state. During this period, the welfare approach undertook a major change when custodial sentences were criticised for degrading offenders and  it was expensive (McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 264).

They (McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 264) noted that juvenile justice system was to provide community based treatments and therapeutic interventions. Social scientists and welfare reformers started to see that juvenile delinquency stems from poor parenting rather than social deprivation and the lack of legitimate opportunities (McLaughlin and Muncie 264). Imaginatively, the foster care system was launched which favours the interest of the bourgeoisie and members of authority to tackle poor parenting issues. Recommendations in the welfare state included rising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years.

However, that recommendation was not implemented when the conservatives came into the office in the 1970s (McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 267). The Children and Young Persons Act 1969 represented many of the welfare interventions in contrast with the Social Work Act in Scotland (McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 267). However, these objections went further in Scotland as the Kilbrandon Report (Scottish Home and Health Department and Scottish Education Department 1964 cited in McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 267) argued that social work intervention was effective in tackling the emotional and social issues among children and concentrated on the needs of vulnerable children and young people (Pitts 1996 cited in McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 269).

The idea of probation stems from religious volunteers who attended courts to assist and befriend adult offenders in an attempt to rescue them and free their spirits from sin, vagrancy and crime in the late 19th century. The first half of the 20th century which was referred as the second age of probation was led by scientific diagnosis (McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 275). A report conducted by the Home Office in 1962 recommend that workers in the criminal justice should concentrate more on the offenders’ psychological needs (McLaughlin and Muncie 2002: 275).

Garland (2001: 37) noted that politics parties had their own perceptions towards crime. The Liberal party emphasised that crime was a symptom of inequalities and criminals needed to be treated with empathy whereas the conservatives stressed the needs of lengthy tougher sentences and believe that criminal offenders should take responsibility for their actions. Although the idea of welfare intervention seems to become optimistic, it was subjected to various criticisms in the 1970s. The Labour may see crime is an outcome of class conflict between the proletarians and the bourgeoisie.

One criticism about rehabilitation and welfare interventions is that they were ineffective. As Garland noted that research in America revealed that the police were less serious of preventing and apprehending criminals  (2002: 61 -2) . A study on the Kansas City Police concluded that there was limited effect of police costs and patrols. Clarke and Hough (1980 cited in Garland 2001: 61 – 2). Martinson (1974 cited in McLaughlin and Muncie 2002) that: 275) concluded from his analysis of 230 research studies on treatment programmes in the US that there was no significant effects of recidivism. Andrew Von Hirsch, the author of Doing Justice: The Choice of Punishment – The Report of the Committee for the Study of Incarceration urged for indefinite sentencing and restrictions on parole use and recommended that incarcerating offenders is the only solution (Von Hirsch 1976 cited in Garland 2001:59).

In conclusion, science provided answers for the causes of crimes and criminality which religion neglected. Science contributed to the initiatives used in welfare interventions especially, in children and young people. Modernity had created spaces for scientific research, punishment and penal policies were favoured by social engineering on converting the ill – minded individuals into healthy law-abiding citizens. Former policies which were previously influenced by religion is now heavily dependent on scientific evidence on a subconscious level. Political parties became involved with crime and punishment through discussions on crime and punishment. The new criminology has drifted from religion to the application of science which constantly changes at present.


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