Women and the penal system
Prison is still central to our system for dealing with offenders. Imprisonment has historically functioned in three ways: custodially to hold prisoners (and some witnesses) awaiting trial, coercively — for example, to secure repayment of a debt — and penally as a punishment. Historians disagree as to when the last function, which is currently the most important, developed (McConville, 1981, p. 1). What is not in doubt is that the centralised, State-run prison system to which offenders are sentenced as a punishment is a product of modern capitalist society and is less than two centuries old.
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