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Crime in a Convict Republic

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‘It is much easier to extirpate than to amend Mankind.’

Sir William Blackstone

Five stages in the history of regulation are derived from the literature as a starting framework for this essay. These stages are outlined in the first section. This five-stage model is then confronted and revised in light of the neglected case of the Australian penal colony. It is juxtaposed throughout the paper with the history of the regulation of crime in the US. Australian convict society is found to be brutal yet forgiving. We conclude that surprisingly high levels of procedural justice and reintegration in Australian convict society drive down crime rates at a remarkable rate in the nineteenth century. In contrast American slave society is characterised by procedural injustice, exclusion and stigmatisation, which delivers high crime rates. Following Heimer and Staffen's theory, reintegration and procedural fairness are found to arise in conditions where the powerful are dependent on the deviant. Acute labour shortage is the basis of a reintegrative assignment system for Australian convicts to work in the free community. While convicts change Australia in very Australian ways, we find that many of these developments are not uniquely Australian and so a revision of the five-phase model is proposed. The revision also implies that Foucault's distinction between governing the body versus governing the soul (corporal/capital punishment versus the penitentiary) is less central than exclusion versus inclusion (banishment versus restorative justice) to understanding all stages of the history of regulation.
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Keywords: Australia; Criminology; Regulation; Slavery; Transportation

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: Australian National University

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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