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Title: 'Inspection, the only effective instrument of reformative management': Bentham, surveillance, and convict recidivism in early New South Wales
Contributor(s): Allen, Matthew  (author)orcid ; Roberts, David Andrew  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2022-04-28
Open Access: Yes
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Related DOI: 10.14324/111.9781787358188
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In 1802–3, Jeremy Bentham produced an extended critique of penal transportation in general, and of the colony of New South Wales in particular, in a series of public letters to the Home Secretary, Lord Pelham.1 By that date Bentham had been advocating for the construction of panopticon penitentiaries under his management for over a decade. On this occasion his tirade was inspired by a Home Office review which found that the 'improved state' of the colony made his proposals unnecessary.2 Dissenting strongly from the Home Office's position, Bentham argued that New South Wales was inferior to imprisonment, especially in a panopticon, in relation to five 'ends of penal justice'. These were: setting an 'Example' to others, 'Reformation' of the offender, preventing recidivism through 'Incapacitation', providing ‘Compensation’ to the victim, and ensuring 'Economy' for the state.3 In particular he stressed that 'Inspection' was 'the only effective instrument of reformative management’, and he contrasted the 'frequent and regular inspection' of penitentiaries in general, perfected in his ideal panopticon, with the penal colony's 'radical incapacity of being combined with any efficient system of inspection'.4 In his view, the nature of convict life and labour in the distant colony made systematic surveillance impossible, not least because it depended on the rigour of private masters who were not subject to meaningful oversight.5 Drawing on David Collins's published accounts of the colony, Bentham found abundant evidence that 'reformation [was] replaced in New South Wales by corruption' and that this explained the persistent viciousness and criminality of the convicts.6 Concern about reform and recidivism was thus essential to his attack on the penal colony.7

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Jeremy Bentham and Australia: Convicts, utility and empire, p. 137-161
Publisher: University College London Press (UCL Press)
Place of Publication: London, United Kingdom
ISBN: 9781787358188
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 430302 Australian history
430304 British history
430311 Historical studies of crime
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 280113 Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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Editor: Editor(s): Tim Causer, Margot Finn and Philip Schofield
Appears in Collections:Book Chapter
School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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